Daily Kos
Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Archives: August 2002

Saturday | August 31, 2002
Jeb's tactics backfire

So there I was, searching through Florida papers seeing if the Kathleen Harris decision had been handed down (As far as I can tell, it hasn't), when the following caught my eye:

Republican attack ads may be bolstering McBride
St. Petersburg Times

"People are remembering the name McBride," one observer says, questioning the GOP tactic.

Those dancing feet ads, aimed at derailing Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill McBride, may be having the opposite effect.

In fact, they seem to be elevating McBride's stature in his primary race against Janet Reno and Daryl Jones.

"People are remembering the name McBride. In fact some people thought it was a McBride ad," said Dom Cabriele, Hernando Democratic chairman.

He said McBride supporters staffing a phone bank in Hernando keep reaching Democrats who like McBride and remark on the dancing feet ad.

"Whoever in the Republican media department authorized this did McBride a favor," Cabriele said.


"I was taught many, many moons ago that you didn't mention the other person's name unless you absolutely had to," said longtime Republican Ken Plante, a lobbyist and former state senator. "I would have to think there are a lot smarter people running that campaign than me."

Bush clearly wants to face a far less effective Janet Reno, thus the attempt to use Gray Davis tactics against the strongest of his potential opponents.


    | 06:49 PM | Link | Comments (2) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

A look at Georgia politics

New blogger Dwight Meredith has a comprehensive look at the Georgia Senate race.

Given the strong position Cleland occupies, why does Karl Rove rate the race “strong possibility of Republican pickup”? How does Chambliss plan to overcome the many political assets held by Cleland? Traditionally, Republicans have attacked Democrats in the South with a charge of “too liberal.” It appears that “Max is too liberal” will be the theme of the Chambliss campaign as well. Chambliss' campaign argues that “Cleland is out of touch with much of Georgia, racking up an extremely liberal voting record while most of the state is conservative.”
Meredith goes on to argue that Cleland has mostly innocculated himself against the "too liberal" charge.

Also courtesy of Meredith's blog, I came across this great Atlanta Journal-Constitution column explaining why a conservative state like Georgia, in which Bush beat Gore by 12 points, has Democrats in control of the governor's mansion, both branches of the state legislature, both Senate seats, and -- after November -- the state's House delegation.

Republicans, of course, blame Georgia Democrats for their predicament, and there's some truth to the complaint. State Democratic leaders do work the levers of power well, as demonstrated in the craftiness of their redistricting maps. Still, it's downright comical to hear Republicans essentially accuse Democrats of playing politics with politics.
And, ultimately, the writer blames the RINO (Republicans In Name Only) phenomenon:
In recent years, Republican primary voters have been more interested in ideological purity than the ability to win or govern. As a result, they have rejected strong candidates...
Ironically, Georgia Democratic senator Zell Miller is a top target of the Democrat's nascent DINO movement -- a tactic I have previously rejected as counterproductive to progressive interests. If anyone doubts the damange INO-ism can wreak, Georgia is exhibit A.

    | 05:09 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Taking stock of Bush priorities

Krugman recently wrote about efforts by the Department of Veterans Affairs to give our nation's vets the shaft. Tipped off by a memo posted by Joshua Marshall, Krugman wrote:

Citing "conservative OMB budget guidance" for spending on veterans' health care, the memo instructed subordinates to "ensure that no marketing activities to enroll new veterans occur within your networks." Veterans are entitled to medical care; but the administration hopes that some of them don't know that, and that it can save money by leaving them ignorant.

In other words, there's a budget crunch, so let's save money by enrolling fewer vets. While utterly lacking in Bush's supposed "compassion", there could theoretically be some logic to the move. Probably not, but let's give the administration the benefit of the doubt. The message: saving money is paramount in these tough budgetary times.

So how to explain this?

One of Bush's top campaign promises was to help religious organizations compete for federal money to run charitable programs, including soup kitchens, homeless shelters and treatment for addiction. The House passed such a bill last year, but this fall's crowded legislative calendar makes passage of a Senate version problematic.

So the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives is pursuing a new agenda that does not depend on the consent of Congress, starting with the development of proposals to change a host of federal regulations to lower the barriers encountered by religious groups in dealing with the federal government.

The administration also plans to stage seminars around the country over the next seven months to teach more than 5,000 religious groups how to use current law to win federally funded contracts.

So, while the White House has ordered VA officials to cease all outreach efforts for our nation's veterans, as well as blocked congressionally appropriated funds to alleviate shortages in the nation's VA hospitals, the administration will conduct seminars all around the country to teach religious groups to spend (supposedly scarce) federal dollars?

Ultimately, this is symptomatic of Bush's skewed priorities. Bush expects its armed forces to do the dying in pursuit of his 2004 re-election effort. Yet, when it comes to their health care, Bush would rather they suffer in silence rather than jeopordize his faith-based initiative or precious tax cuts.

    | 03:04 PM | Link | Comments (2) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Friday | August 30, 2002
It's about the fans

Okay. It's been a slow couple of news days, and frankly, I need to take a break from writing about war, or deficits, or corporate malfeasance. Campaign polls released the past few days have been uneventful. Sure it's interesting that MA's Mitt Romney and FL's Jeb Bush are both trying to pick their primary candidates (a la Gray Davis), and maybe I could've chatted about the first declared presidential candidate for 2004, but those topics could wait another day.

You see, I can't concentrate on anything but the baseball strike.

The debate has been shaped by the media and both sides as "Players v. Owners". So, you hear "Millionaire players are greedy bastards", and "Billionaire owners are greedy bastards", and then people are asked to choose sides (owners are winning the PR battle this time).

However, the issue really isn't about who gets baseball's billions in revenues. I don't think most people give a rat’s ass about either side. What fans truly want, and what they hope to see out of the new labor agreement, is a mechanism that will bring some real competition into the league.

In football, a team from Green Bay (pop. 30,000) can be a powerhouse and win Super Bowls. Even the Kansas City Chiefs can be perennial contenders. In basketball, teams from San Antonio, Portland, and Sacramento can compete with the New Yorks and Los Angeles. Yet in baseball, it's the Yankees, and no one else. There is about a $50 million difference between the Yankees and the second highest payroll in the game.

In baseball, about 19 of the 30 teams were eliminated before the first game was played. Revenue disparities are killing the game. Why should a KC fan watch the Royals get crushed by the Yankees (with a $125 million payroll differential) when they could look forward to NFL season, where their Chiefs actually have a fighting chance? Despite what Steinbrenner might think, the Yankees need other teams. They're called opponents, and if the economic disparities in the game persist, there won't be any left for the Yankees to play.

"But," say the Yankee boosters, "the Yanks haven't bought their World Series, they develop great talent in house like Bernie Williams, Alfonso Soriano, and Derek Jeter!" True, but every team develops great talent. The A's developed a great talent named Jason Giambi, but their piddly $35 million payroll couldn't afford to hold off the $155 million Yanks. The Yankees, on the other hand, don't have to worry about ANY other team coming in and taking Soriano from them. Or Jeter. Or Williams, or anyone else on the team.

And in any case, the cornerstone of the team -- it's pitching staff -- doesn't have a single Yankee farmhand. It's all been bought and imported from other teams. Left to their own farm system, the Yanks would be competitive, but wouldn't be the juggernaut it is today.

"But," say the Yankee boosters, "teams like the A's are competing on a fraction of the Yankees' payroll!" True, but the A's have no chance of keeping any of its superstars. Last offseason it was Giambi. Is there any doubt the A's would be the runaway favorites had Giambi stayed? Star shortstop Tejada will be the next A's to hit the jackpot elsewhere.

So the solution? Institute a salary cap, AND a salary minimum. The player's union has a bad habit of representing it superstars at the expense of the scrubs who fill out the rest of the rosters. Institute revenue sharing, but force the low-payroll teams to reinvest that money on the team by instituting a salary minimum (something the player's union inexplicably opposes). Sure, players might make even more money, but so what. If the money is there, and the market bears it, good for them (no one complains about Julia Roberts bringing in $20 million per movie, or Jerry Seinfeld bringing in $90 million in annual syndication royalties).

The only thing that matters is creating an even playing field for all of baseball's teams. Every game has a set of rules instituted to ensure that neither side gets an unfair advantage. That notion is non-existent in baseball, where money gives a handful of teams an immediate and difficult to surmount advantage.

Update (8 a.m. PST): ESPN is reporting the strike should be averted -- they're only an hour from finalizing the agreement. They are also reporting that three teams are refusing to strike, meaning the owners may have finally cracked the union.

    | 08:10 AM | Link | Comments (12) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Wednesday | August 28, 2002
Bredesen next TN governor?

Reader William Burton, a TN native, writes:

Add Tennessee to the states the Republicans will almost certainly lose control of in Nov. While [Democrat] Clement is likely to get smoked by Alexander in the Senate race, [Democrat] Phil Bredesen is the favorite to beat Van Hilleary for Governor.

Part of this is due to Bredesen's rep as a pro-business moderate who brought the Titans and Predators to Nashville while making downtown Nashville a safe place to go at night. He's been endorsed by a lot of moderate Republicans who are afraid of his wingnut opponent. He'll benefit from the same thing helping Kirk in Texas: midstate Republicans and independents have seen his performance up close and won't be prone to vote for an unknown quantity from elsewhere (West, Middle, and East Tennessee don't like each other very much).

Most Tennessee papers have taken to openly questioning Hilleary's intelligence and competence for the job. His opponent for the Republican nomination (Henry) was mailing out articles about Hilleary as promotional materials for his own campaign. I doubt Henry will even endorse Hilleary.

The one thorn in Bredesen's side is the black minister running as an independent. He's polling about 5%, and every one of those votes is coming from Bredesen. Most likely, his support will collapse when it actually comes time to vote and he'll pull less than 2%. If he gets 5%, it could cost Bredesen the election. He seems like a decent guy, I just don't want Tennessee to get Nadered and stuck with an incompetent wingnut.

It's great to get first-hand reports from the political front lines. I've got California covered, but if you live elsewhere and you've got 'em, send 'em in. Given enough interest, I could start a second blog -- "State Political Report" or something of that nature...

Back to TN. While encouraged by the governor's race, I'm still optimistic about the state's Senate race. Much will depend on whether the state's large and influential wingnuts embrace the relatively moderate Alexander. The first post-primary poll, whenever it is released, should do much to confirm or crush my current optimism. Still, Clement doesn't have to win to grievously wound the GOP. By making the race competitive, it forces Republicans to spend money and maybe even some of Bush's time protecting what should otherwise be a safe GOP seat. That's time and money that would otherwise be spent in MO, or MN, or TX. The Dems don't need to win this race, but it is critical that Clement be competitive.

    | 11:51 PM | Link | Comments (2) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Refreshing moment of candor

So will the upcoming election be a referendum on Bush? As one of the top GOP strategists, Ed Gillespie, admitted:

If we have a big election night and we take the Senate and hold the House, we'll say it's a reflection of Bush's popularity. If it's a bad night, we'll point out the truth: That in this environment, it's up to every candidate to get themselves across the finish line or not.
The article says Gillespie chuckled as he said these words, and his quote is actually really funny. Seldom is the absurdity of the political game so candidly expressed.

    | 09:43 PM | Link | Comments (1) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Prior leaving Hutchinson behind

Good news! An independent poll shows that Dem challengers Mark Pryor leads GOP Sen. Tim Hutchinson 51-41 percent. The double-digit lead is the first showing Pryor outside the margin of error.

The poll was conducted prior to yesteday's televised debate. Prior Kicked some serious butt, too. Okay, I have no way of knowing that, but sometimes I just have the urge to be blindingly partisan. If anyone has actual analysis of the debate performances, please let us all know in the comments section.

More good news: the poll also shows the Arkansas governor's race tightening, with challenger Jimmie Lou Fisher only seven points back, 49-42 percent. That means Fischer has cut his deficit in half since the last independent poll two months ago. I'll happily be updating the Arkansas races on the right side of this page.

More good news III: Dem chances of picking up a house seat in South Dakota are suddenly looking good. The lone at-large House seat in this heavily Republican state (Bush took 60 percent of the vote in 2000) is currently held by Republican John Thune, who us running for Senate. Thus, while the seat should be safely GOP, it has become anything but. In the latest independent poll on the race, the Democratic candidate Stephanie Herseth leads 44-41 percent against Gov. Bill Janklow. The results are within the margin of error, but if Republicans have to defend seats in their "safe" states, it doesn't bode well for their chances in November.

    | 05:03 PM | Link | Comments (3) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Bush's one idea

From today's Alterman:

Let us note, also for the record that when Bush I went to war in 1991 it had:
  • A Congressional resolution
  • A Security Council resolution
  • The support of all of our allies in Europe and Japan
  • The support of most of the Arab world, either passive or active, including an invitation from Saudi Arabia to base our troops there.
  • A president who had served honorably in war himself
W has none of this. He does not even, apparently, have the support of his own party or much of his own military. He just has an idea stuck in his head and lord help us, there doesn’t seem to be room for another one.

    | 05:01 PM | Link | Comments (1) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Ghengis Bush

One day after implausibly declaring the US is not "beating the war drums" for an Iraq invasion, Bush's top defense official, Rumsfeld, beat the drums of war.

It's less important to have unanimity than it is to be making the right decision and doing the right thing, even though at the outset it may seem lonesome. Leadership in the right direction finds followers and supporters.


We believe that we will ultimately able to make a compelling case and, in the course of time, will be moving forward. It is our view that an Iraq left unattended is a threat to its neighbors and a threat to ourselves.

This all follows in the heels of Cheney's increasingly infamous anti-Iraq outburst:
What we must not do in the face of a mortal threat is to give in to wishful thinking or willful blindness. We will not simply look away, hope for the best, and leave the matter for some future administration to resolve. As President Bush has said, `Time is not on our side.'
Yet Bush says, "we are not beating the war drums"? Does he think we are stupid?

Aware of the difficulties of selling an unprovoked attack against an impotent enemy, people like Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Perle are feeding Bush's pretensions, telling him that to be a great leader, he needs to act. That so long as he acts, people will approve of his actions and praise him and stick his head on Mt. Rushmore. Perhaps they tell him how no renowned historical figure has ever been remembered for peace and prosperity. That it's war and conquest that cements a leader's place in history -- Genghis Khan, or Alexander the Great, or Caesar. And, as poppy Bush and the wiser wing of the GOP watch in horror, Kid Bush is blindly heading down the path of disaster with visions of sugarplums dancing in his head.

It's clear the war mongers, controlling the debate in Bush's office, don't want to bother explaining themselves outside the oval office. They have already declared that Congress is irrelevant to the debate. But, on a smaller, yet more poignant level, witness the following paragraph, describing an exchange between a marine and Rumsfeld:

When a Marine asked whether Rumsfeld thought victory in Iraq would take long to achieve, he refused to answer directly. "The frenzy on this subject, it seems to me, is not useful," he said.
Thanks to the warmongers, that marine could be dead in a year, yet the secretary of defense wouldn't dignify his question with a response? So questioning by those who will be doing the fighting, and dying, is not "useful?

As already noted, Rumsfeld says the US is ready to invade Iraq without international support. Yet the majority of Americans oppose unilateral US action. Indeed, the latest Gallup poll found that just 20 percent of respondents supported unilateral action. And as things are shaping up, any US invasion will be nothing if not unilateral. Following are links to those nations that are overtly opposing a US invasion. Note the list includes all of Iraq's neighbors:

Saudi Arabia
United Arab Emirates
Not only would international support provide diplomatic and legal cover for the US invasion, but would also allow for less risky military invasion strategies. As is, the logistics of any invasion will be terribly complex -- a strong reason the US military establishment opposes any invasion. (See previous posts on the logistical problems here and here.)

In any case, here's an idea. How about we get Osama Bin Laden first, and then worry about indulging Bush's fascination with perpetual war?

    | 08:10 AM | Link | Comments (1) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Tuesday | August 27, 2002
Battle for Congress roundup

Democrats need six House pickups to take control of the chamber. Four of those seats come from Iowa, while Georgia could provide another four.

Of course, those pickups would be offset by losses in other states, especially PA, but it does demonstrate that Iowa and Georgia will play a huge rule in determining the outcome of the House.

Business Week takes a look at some of the most contested House races.

On the Senate side, the latest poll has the SD race in a dead heat, 40-40 percent. While the article has no details on the poll or its methodology, it still confirms all polls conducted in the race. This one will come down to voter turnout, as the polls should remain dead even up to election day.

Some additional good news, and then some bad news.

On the good news front, the GOP appears to be surrendering hope of picking up the Louisiana Senate seat from Mary Landrieu. Hoping to take advantage of the "open primary" format of Louisiana elections, Republicans hoped to flood the field with candidates, pushing Landrieu below 50 percent and forcing a runoff election in late 2002. However, those plans fell apart when the state's highest-profile Republican, Gov. Mike Foster, declined to join the race. The gaggle of Republicans on the ballot have neither the name ID, nor the political acumen to offer much competition. This race has been sealed and delivered.

On the other hand, MO Democrat Sen. Jean Carnahan is in the fight of her life, statistically tied with GOP challenger Jim Talent. The latest Zogby poll paints a more pessimistic image than a recent poll that had Carnahan 8 points ahead. Zogby says:

What makes this particularly stunning is that we're capturing a Democratic-leaning mood in the rest of the country. She's got to do something now to stop the slide.
GOP Senate hopes are almost exclusively tied to the Midwest. In addition to Missouri, Dem incumbents are feeling heat in aforementioned South Dakota, as well as Minnesota and Iowa.

Business Week also has a scorecard of the tightest races around the nation.

And for a good ranking of the Senate races, visit MyDD's Senate 2002 Analysis Page. MyDD also maintains a Governor 2002 Analysis page.

    | 07:50 AM | Link | Comments (3) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Monday | August 26, 2002
Bush on MLB Hall of Fame ballot???

George Bush, our less-than-highly esteemed president, had two major accomplishments while part owner of the Texas Rangers:

  1. He traded away Sammy Sosa, and

  2. turned a $600,000 investment into a $13 million profit.
Apparently, that's enough for Major League Baseball's Veteran Committee to consider Bush for the 15 non-player ballot slots on the Hall of Fame ballot.

As if baseball doesn't have enough problems, it's now trying to suck up to the president? Sigh...

    | 08:53 PM | Link | Comments (1) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Once upon a time in the playground...

This cartoon strip is making the rounds on the Net. Simply brilliant. Click on image to enlarge.

    | 07:34 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Bush afraid of Congress

The Bush Administration has ignored calls to build support for the invasion of Iraq at the UN Security Council. The reasons are obvious -- the US would be hard pressed to pick up a couple of votes, much less the full support of the council.

For the same reasons, the administration is now trying to claim it doesn't need Congressional approval to invade Iraq.

If Bush felt confident he had the votes, he wouldn't be trying to shirk his duties. Congress is the only national branch of government currently occupied by elected officials (Bush and the Supremes were all selected). As such, Congress is the only branch with the moral authority to commit our youth to possible death. Yet in another example of Bush's disdain for democracy, he's hiding behind his legal team's vapid opinions.

The gist: the 1991 Gulf War resolution and the 9-11 resolution give the president all the authority he needs.

Many observers believe Congress would likely pass a Gulf War II resolution, but with restrictions unpalatable to Bush. For example, the resolution could prohibit a strategy of "regime change," limiting US forces to eliminating Iraq's WMD. There's something to this theory.

If Bush were confident he had the votes to endorse his strategy of "regime change", he wouldn't be performing legal gymnastics to avoid facing a potentially hostile Congress. And the dangers to the nation are real, as one Yale law professors points out:

The constitutional structure tries to make war hard to get into, so the president has to show leadership and make his case to the elected representatives. This argument [avoiding Congressional authorization] may permit them to get us into the war, but it won't give them the political support at home and abroad to sustain that effort.

    | 01:15 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Karma not on Ryan's side

Funny how current events can sometimes resurrect ghosts from the past.

In 1996, as a college journalist, I made a cause out of the plight of Rolando Cruz, a semi-retarded Latino on death row for the 1983 rape and murder of 10-year-old Jeanine Nicario. Convicted on the basis of a fabricated 'confession', Cruz was tried three times for the murder, was sentenced to death twice, only to have the Illinois Supreme Court reverse the convictions due to gross prosecutorial conduct. On the third attempt, the state was successful. Cruz's conviction stood. That is, until a Northwestern University journalism class was able to prove his innocence.

At the center of this firestorm was the DuPage County State's Attorney. He knew of evidence that would've cleared Cruz and another co-defendant, but suppressed the evidence and pushed for each of Cruz's murder trials. The State Attorney's name? Jim Ryan, the current GOP candidate for Illinois governor. At the time, I wrote that Ryan was clearly using the case as a springboard to the governor's office. The case received wide media attention, and Ryan basked in the limelight.

Unlike most politically motivated capital trials, this one had a sort of happy ending. Cruz was exonerated and received a multi-million dollar settlement. The case was a major reason Illinois instituted a moratorium on all executions. Surprisingly, some of the prosecutors and sheriff deputies involved in Cruz's frame-up where indicted, though a jury (not surprisingly) acquitted them in the face of overwhelming evidence of guilt.

Why do I rehash this now? Because I believe in Karma. The latest poll has Ryan trailing by 15 points, 49 to 34 percent.

(Incidentally, Trib columnist Eric Zorn, who made the Nicario case one of his causes, has archived all his Nicario columns here. Information on the shameful acquittal of the DuPage seven is on the last of five pages of columns, here.)

Update: TalkLeft adds some good additional information on the case I was too lazy to include.

    | 10:51 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (1)

Sunday | August 25, 2002
DeLay grasping at straws

Tom DeLay made an impassioned defense of war mongering on Fox News Sunday. Following on the heels of Wednesday performance, when he called war critics "appeasers", DeLay now thinks Bush has some kind of "spider sense":

I hope Americans all over the country will start speaking out. The president instinctively knows what needs to be done here.
Setting aside DeLay's faith in the president's instincts -- instincts that have brought us economic malaise, deficits, and the collapse of confidence in corporate America, DeLay is completely off the mark.
  1. I feel very comfortable about going in because if you look at the Gulf War as an example, tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers immediately surrendered.

    Iraqi troops did engage in mass surrender in the Gulf War. However, they had no interest in giving their lives in order to defend their invasion of Kuwait. They were never called upon to defend their country, Iraq, from foreign invaders.

    Thus, there is no guarantee Iraqi troops will engage in mass surrenders a second time around. Indeed, their morale should be boosted by the fact their new tactics will even the playing field a great deal. (See this old post for an examination of Saddam's new urban guerilla tactics. And this one.) We can certainly assume that Saddam won't leave his troops in the desert, exposed to US airpower, any more.

  2. They don't want to lose their lives in support of this evil man. I have every expectation that you'll see a huge surrenders of troops, including his most elite troops, as soon as we start moving.

    Iraqi soldiers wouldn't be defending the "evil man" Saddam, they would be defending their nation. That could make all the difference.

    If US strategy is predicated on the mass surrender of Iraqi troops, no wonder the Pentagon is worried. The US so outclassed the Iraqis in the dessert, that they had no choice but to surrender. US airpower, artillery and armor will be next-to-useless in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities. This will be an infantry war, and the AK-47 matches up nicely to an M-16.

  3. But the point is that I believe in President Bush's leadership. I believe that he knows how to go in there and get Saddam Hussein and I'm going to support him in that and I'm going to help the House of Representatives understand that.

    Funny how the Chickenhawks have all the faith in Bush's leadership, while the veterans and current military leadership do not. And in the international arena, the US stands alone in its stated goal of "regime change".

  4. The question is not whether to go to war, for war already has been thrust upon us.

    Iraq has done nothing to instigate Bush's insistence on war. It has not posed a credible threat to its neighbors in over a decade, has not threatened the use of any WMD it may have, and has not gassed anyone for over two decades (and when it did, it was with US acquiescence).

    The no-fly zone has effectively contained Saddam -- protecting minority groups in the northern and southern parts of the country. Any notion of protecting Iraq's neighbors is silly, considering that none of Saddam's neighbors feel particularly threatened. In short, NOTHING has changed in the past year that would indicate that "war has been thrust upon us".

    That is, nothing except the 2000 selection of Dubyah.

  5. Every generation must summon the courage to disregard the timid counsel of those who would mortgage our security to the false promises of wishful thinking and appeasement.

    When all else fails, summon the ghosts of Nazi Germany. Only difference, Axis armies were marching across Europe and Africa while Western powers stood idly by:

    In 1935, Germany takes French-occupied Rhineland. There was no international outcry.

    In 1936, Italy invaded Ethiopia. Ethiopia appealed to the League of Nations: "It is us today. It will be you tomorrow". The League of Nations imposed weak sanctions on the Italians but scrapped them soon thereafter.

    In 1938, the Munich Pact was signed, ceding four Sudeten Czech districts to the Germans. The transition was overseen by western powers.

    In March 1939, Hitler violated the Munich Pact by conquering the remaining parts of Czechoslovakia.

    In September 1939, Hitler invaded Poland.

    I would love to see how the Iraqi status quo is anything like the WWII policy of appeasement.

        | 11:12 AM | Link | Comments (2) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

    Friday | August 23, 2002
    Public's support for Iraq war plummets

    Slightly more than half of Americans support going to war against Iraq, a drop of 8 points from two months ago. However, even more significantly, the number drops to 40 percent if combat troops will be in Iraq longer than a year (a decade would probably be most accurate), and just 20 percent support an invasion Bush-style -- without any support from our Western allies.

    While Bush's team maintains the fantasy that Britain would automatically back the US, signals from the Blair administration suggest otherwise, hinting broadly that reintroducing weapons inspectors would negate British support for war:

    "If Saddam Hussein allows weapons inspectors back without condition, without restriction on them, if they're able to do their job properly, then the circumstances will change," [UK] foreign secretary [Jack Welsh] told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
    Back home, the voices rising up against war continue to increase. Chris Mathews, in one of his usual hyperbolic opinion columns, argues against war:
    This invasion of Iraq, if it goes off, will join the Bay of Pigs, Vietnam, Desert One, Beirut and Somalia in the history of U.S. military catastrophes. What will set it apart for all time is the immense - and transparent - political stupidity.
    I don't know if an Iraq invasion would be the military catastrophe Mathews argues. I think the U.S. is more than able to handle Iraq militarily. The important questions are whether we are 1) willing to suffer the inevitable casualties from urban warfare, and 2) whether the US wants to evolve into a belligerent, offensive, first-strike nation (thus encouraging nations to acquire WMD as a deterrent against US attack). But regardless, an irrational shrill voice against war still makes more sense than one calling for Gulf War II.

    Former secretaries of state Lawrence Eagleburger and Madeleine Albright are also counseling against war. Albright might not be a big surprise. She is an intelligent, sane, rational human being, with a keen understanding of the responsibility of being a good international citizen. Eagleburger is more significant, as he served under Bush I and is still a good, loyal Republican.

    Interestingly enough, this "debate" has been pretty one-sided lately, with very few people willing to stand up for war (other than Perle's "We need to kill to protect Bush's reputation"). Expect public support for war to continue to erode as more and more prominent Republicans (and a few Democrats) make strong and persuasive arguments against the invasion.

        | 08:06 AM | Link | Comments (2) | Email this post | Trackback (1)

    Taking the big states

    Dem candidate Jennifer Granholm has maintained a comfortable lead over GOP candidate Dick Posthumus in Michigan's governor's race, 55-42. The race to succeed Republican governor Engler is just one of several that threaten GOP control over the country's largest states.

    Dems are also poised to take over the governorships of Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Wisconsin. Florida and Texas are not out of reach.

    While often overshadowed by the sexier battle for Congress (did I just call Congress "sexy"???), governorships are key for the Dem chances in '04. Governors control the state's political machinery and bully pulpit, giving their party's candidate a real and coveted boost.

    Assuming current trends play through November, the twelve biggest state governorships will look like this in '04:

    California (D)
    Texas (R)
    New York (R)
    Florida (R)
    Pennsylvania (D)
    Illinois (D)
    Ohio (R)
    Michigan (D)
    North Carolina (D)
    Georgia (D)
    New Jersey (D)
    Virginia (D)
    The top twelve states split for Dems 8-4. When Bush lost in 2000, the split favored Republicans 9-3. And if the Dems can come together and take out Jeb in Florida...

    Update: as a reader kindly pointed out in the comments, I originally forgot to include Ohio, which will definitely remain Republican. I have updated the post above to reflect this oversight. I also expanded the list to include the top 12 states, as opposed to just 10. NC, GA, and NJ are all tied for 8th on the list with 15 electoral votes. That would give us 11 states in the 'top 10' list -- quite a bit confusing. And 11 is just too weird a number for me anyway, so I went with an even dozen. Much neater.

        | 07:46 AM | Link | Comments (3) | Email this post | Trackback (1)

    Thursday | August 22, 2002
    War doesn't equal electoral success

    The information below is from a reader comment, but I thought it highly enlightening, and worthy of main-page exposure:

    (demtom): For reasons unknown, people persist in believing high war ratings provide an electoral boost for the president's party. There is NO evidence to support this, at least since the Spanish American war. Consider this:

    1918 -- Election Day comes a few days before the Armistice. Democrats lose Congress. Two years later, they lose the presidency.

    1942 -- 11 months after Pearl Harbor, FDR's numbers are in Shrub-range. Dems get clobbered in the midterms, losing 50 seats in the House and c. double-digits in the Senate (Arthur Schlesinger pointed this out last Fall, urging those suddenly dropping out Dem candidates to reconsider)

    1944 -- Probably the best wartime election of the 20th century, but 1) the timing was perfect (war still on but victory more or less assured); 2) Dems made only minor gains, compared to the losses of '42; and 3) FDR was re-elected by his SMALLEST margin ever.

    1946 -- First post-war election: Dems lose both houses.

    And those were our big victories.

    1952 -- Korea stalemate; Ike beats Adlai, and Dems lose both houses.

    1966 -- Vietnam just underway. Dems lose more House seats than they'd won in the Johnson landslide. Two years later, they lose the presidency.

    1992 -- We know what happened after the great Gulf War victory.

    And I assume most people know what happened to Churchill within weeks of VE Day.

    Why do people cling to this "war trumps everything" delusion? Was Wag the Dog that influential a movie?

        | 08:19 AM | Link | Comments (1) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


    The White House has a new worry: that the double-dip recession we might be facing will look like a "W":

    The economics of it would be bad enough, but the perils of political parody would be even more nightmarish for President George W. Bush. The Dubya recession. The Dubya-dip downturn.

    It would be fresh meat for every late-night comedian, right on the eve of national elections in November that will decide which party controls Congress.

    The Letterman-Leno-Jon Stewart potential for trouble was almost certainly on the minds of at least some White House staff members as they organized President Bush's feel-good economic forum last week.

        | 08:13 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (1)

    Oregon Senate race tightening up

    A reader asked me this morning if I saw the Oregon Senate race as competitive. I responded that nothing I had seen indicated that Bradbury was giving Smith any real competition. I may have spoken too soon.

    The DSCC has released a poll showing Democrat Bill Bradbury within the margin of error, trailing 45-41. The DSCC claims GOP Sen. Smith is falling because of the corporate malfeasance mess:

    These numbers confirm that Gordon Smith's campaign is on the run. Gordon Smith is dropping in the polls at a time when Corporate CEO's around the country are feeling the heat on corporate fraud. Bill Bradbury is well positioned to take out one of this cycles most vulnerable incumbents.
    If independent polls confirm the race is tightening, it would mean better financing for Bradbury's campaign as the national party and campaign donors open their wallets.

        | 08:05 AM | Link | Comments (2) | Email this post | Trackback (1)

    Happy days ahead for Dems

    Here's the first of what should be many commentaries on Judis and Teixeira's new book, The Emerging Democratic Majority:

    From all indications, this fall's midterm elections should confirm the Judis-Teixeira thesis. The Democrats have gained seats in the three most recent congressional elections. They could win back the House on Nov. 5 and are favored to win key governorships. For the Democrats, happy days may be here again.
    I previously discussed the book's preview article in the New Republic, but expect it to cause a major splash as the book finally makes into print.

    MyDD has some compelling additional thoughts:

    [I]t's arguable that parts of the Upper Midwest has been trending toward the Republican Party over the last decade or so-- IA, WI, MN are not near as Democratic strongholds as they once were. Although, without the Green Party's Nadar, WI & MN would probably have not been as contentious in 2000. The other trend is that the Democratic Party is emerging in the Sun Belt states-- AZ, NM, and NV. This is in large part due to the coalition that Judis and Teixiera present.

        | 07:53 AM | Link | Comments (4) | Email this post | Trackback (1)

    Wednesday | August 21, 2002
    Bush will publicly avoid Simon

    Woa! Any more doubts that Simon is history? Bush will avoid public appearances with Simon when he visits California on Friday. He will do five fundraisers for the struggling GOP candidate, but won't stand next to him for the cameras. That, my friends, cannot be spun in any positive way. Simon is toast.

        | 10:04 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

    Quick flashback to Rove's presentation

    Remember that Rove presentation a few months ago? In the leaked strategy presentation, Rove made the following observation (slide 17):

    President's Standing Matters

    Average House Seats lost by WH Party in Mid-Terms:

    Presidential Approval <50% ---------- 41 lost
    Presidential Approval 50%-59% ----- 20 lost
    Presidential Approval 60%+ ---------- 5 lost

    This chart bears watching as Bush's numbers float consistenly lower. Bush is already hovering in the low 60s, with numbers in the mid-50s likely come November. I doubt the Dems could gain 20, but 8-12 is not an unreasonable prediction.

        | 09:50 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

    Iraq story won't distract from economy

    Democrats have sounded alarmed lately about the Iraq debate, worried that it will distract from the economy come election time. Let's assume the Iraq story, even without an actual honest-to-goodness invasion, still has legs. That's not necessarily a given, considering the press' short attention span. But let's make that assumption.

    Would the American public

    1. be so distracted by the war talk that it would forget the nation's dire economic straits? and

    2. would voters respond to said war talk by voting GOP?

    Let's think about this. Nov 4, 2001. The US had just been viciously hit by a terrorist attack. Emotions were running high, Bush had approval ratings in the high 90s, and the nation was gearing up for a real, JUSTIFIED war. Given those facts, it would stand to reason that the voters would have rallied behind the president's party. Yet, the exact opposite happened.

    The Dems picked up two previously GOP governorships, in NJ and heavily Republican Virginia. They also captured over a dozen mayorships from the GOP in some of the nation's largest cities (including LA, San Antonio and El Paso), as well as two state legislatures (NJ and WA). The Dems did not lose a single office they controlled. Indeed, the only race of national import Republicans were able to win was the NYC mayor's office, and Bloomberg ran and governed to the left of Giuliani.

    All this less than two months after 9-11.

    So, even while the nation rallied around the president, pocketbook issues dominated the 2001 elections, and nothing indicates 2002 will be any different. Indeed, 2001 was pre-Enron, Halliburton, Harken, WorldCom, and stock market crash. There are more unemployed and underemployed now than in 2001. More people think the country is headed in the wrong direction now than in November 2001.

    And, the president's veneer of competence wore off months ago (along with his high approval ratings). So much for any presidential coattails.

    Fact is, while Democrats have been AWOL in the national debate on Iraq, their absence has immunized them against charges of being weak on terrorism. On the question of Gulf War II, there is less differentiation between Bush and the Democrats than between Bush and the more rational half of his party.

    And if bombs start flying prior to the first Tuesday in November? It would make no difference. The economy will trump all. Undoubtedly.

        | 09:15 PM | Link | Comments (1) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

    Chickenhawks push war

    I served in the US Army, 1989-1992, as an artilleryman for an MLRS battalion (it's a deadly rocket system). My time in the service was dominated by the Gulf War. My unit never deployed -- our equipment was waiting for us in Saudi Arabia, but the war ended too quickly -- but we spent over a year training for desert warfare (including hideous chemical war training).

    As some of you may remember, there was a five-month buildup before the air war started, and another three months or so before ground troops entered Kuwait and Iraq. That was a long time for me and my uniformed colleagues to dwell on our mortality. To wonder whether we would still exist a year later. We had difficulty communicating with our friends and family back in the 'real world'. They couldn't relate to what we were going through.

    Make no mistake. We were ready to serve. In fact, we were eager to put our training into action, but we couldn't mask our fears. War is dangerous business, and death is final. It is impossible for non-veterans to fully understand. A good soldier will do his or her duty, but it's a heavy burden and should not be imposed lightly. Not only does war kill, but it destroys families, and scars survivors. Thus, war is ultimately a tool of last resort, to be used when the cause is just and all other options have been exhausted.

    But the fools in our country's governing junta see things differently. For them, war is a political tool, to be wielded when expedient. It's no surprise that almost none of the "invade Iraq" cabal have served: Bush, Cheney, DeLay, Wolfowitz, Perle, Fleischer, Rice, Barnes, Hannity, Kristol, Lieberman, and the master tactician himself -- Rove (Rumsfeld is the exception).

    On the other hand, the veteran contingent in both parties have led the anti-war effort -- Powell, Hagel, Kerry (MA), Scowcraft, Schwarzkopf, Clark, and the entire uniformed cadre at the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Armey is the exception). This is significant.

    As Perle has said, this war is no longer about achieving any notable strategic considerations. It's no longer a military campaign. It's a political effort, all about saving face:

    "The failure to take on Saddam after what the president said would produce such a collapse of confidence in the president that it would set back the war on terrorism.
    Frank Rick wrote in the NY Times:
    If Mr. Bush doesn't get rid of Saddam after all this saber rattling, he will look like the biggest wimp since -- well, his father.
    As the vast majority of the Bush Administration's veteran contingent have determined, saving Bush from his own overheated rhetoric can't justify the death of a single US servicemember. The rest of the world is also uninterested in sacrificing its youth to Bush's 'credibility campaign'. (Canada is out, as is Bahrain, home of the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.)

    There have been some indications Bush might be looking to back down, but every step back has been followed by two steps forward. As one analyst put it:

    "They have invested so much political capital in the claim that they are going to get him (Saddam Hussein) that it does become a self-fulfilling commitment.

    The real issue becomes that we would lose face. So we'll go to war, we'll slaughter however many thousands of Iraqis and put at risk however many young American men and women GIs because somebody doesn't want to lose face.

    Update: In a just-published column, Maureen Dowd touches upon the Chickenhawk arguments I made above. Her version is much more effective, but that's why she makes the big bucks.

        | 08:55 AM | Link | Comments (4) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

    Tuesday | August 20, 2002
    Road to the House runs through Iowa

    The Des Moines Register's political columnist rates four of Iowa's Congressional races as toss-ups, making the state ground zero for control of the House.

    [T]he factor that will tip many close races is that turn-out business. Democrats find and turn out more weak-voting Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents than Republicans do on their side of the ledger.

    Republican leaders promise a better turn-out operation than in the past, but if the GOP can't match the Democratic effort, Iowa Democrats will have a great day Nov. 5.

        | 08:10 AM | Link | Comments (1) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

    NRO's love affair with Simon

    Check out this hillareous piece in the National Review arguing the California governor's race is Simon's to lose. Not too shocking, the author was a campaign staffer in Simon's primary campaign, and this piece is just the latest in a long string of fantasy pieces by a magazine desperate for GOP victory in the union's largest state. (Witness this now-famous William F. Buckley piece comparing Simon to Reagan.)

    Simon backers are loathe to admit this, but Simon never won the GOP primary -- Gray Davis did. Had Riordian won, Davis would be on the ropes. But a vicious anti-Riordian ad campaign launched by the Davis campaign swung the primary Simon's way. And Simon will now have the unenviable distinction of getting slaughtered by an unpopular, sleazy governor.

    Incidentally, it looks like the Florida GOP is borrowing page from Davis' playbook, running anti-McBride ads to improve Reno's chances. Kind of betrays who Jeb fears most, huh?

        | 08:00 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

    Monday | August 19, 2002
    Poll: GOP controls congressional agenda

    Bush has been traveling through the nation, urging voters to elect Republicans to Congress so that he can "get control of the agenda." However, a new Ispo-Reid poll suggests the president's efforts are wasted. Voters believe, 55-32 percent, that the GOP controls the congressional agenda. Why is this significant? I'll quote wholesale:

    “This demonstrates why it is always a hard sell for the President to travel out to a state and ask voters to help him by electing fellow partisans so that he can ‘get control of the Congressional agenda.’ Even in the 50-50 political world we live in, voters assume the President and his party already control the Congressional agenda,” says Thomas Riehle, President of Ipsos-Reid US Public Affairs, which conducts the survey the first and third weekend of every month. “Most don’t agree with the President that obstructions created by the other party’s control of Congress are a problem. In fact, most don’t agree that the other party controls the agenda in Congress.

    “Democratic voters think that Republicans control the agenda, and are not likely to be persuaded to cross party lines to help out even a popular President if they believe his party already controls the Congressional agenda. Independent voters assume that, too, although many confess they do not know for sure.

    “In fact, it is mostly frustrated Republican voters, who won a Presidential election in 2000 and have not yet seen enough of the Republican agenda passed into law to satisfy their tastes, who now say Democrats control the Congressional agenda—and probably think that’s a problem—but Bush probably already has their votes in the midterm elections,” Riehle concludes.

    One can speculate further. Since the GOP controls the congressional agenda, they are at fault for lax corporate oversight, the failure to pass any prescription drugs, and of growing deficits. Regardless of how the numbers are analyzed, they do not look good for congressional Republicans.

        | 12:35 PM | Link | Comments (1) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

    War momentum fizzling

    Not a single high-ranking military man has yet to publicly support an invasion of Iraq. Former NATO Supreme Commander Wesley Clark is the latest to counsel against Gulf War II.

    Clark joins Powell, Schwarzkopf, and the current Joint Chiefs of Staff as opposing an Iraq invasion on both diplomatic and military grounds. Furthermore, prominent Republicans such as Kissinger, Armey, Hagel and others are leading the charge against an unecessary and costly war.

    There has been speculation that these Republicans are giving Bush political cover for a withdrawl -- having talked war for so long, any retreat would be viewed as a sign of weakness. Thus, the argument goes, Bush can gracefully back down as he "considers" the advice from members of his own party.

    The administration says otherwise:

    [A]dministration officials said that because they have not formally elected military action against the Iraqi dictator, it would be premature and politically dangerous to lay out a lengthy justification for an American military strike -- particularly without a war plan in place to back up the talk.
    This is laughable at best. The Bush Administration and its minions over at the National Review have been trying to justify an Iraq campaign for almost a year. Saddam has WMD. He gasses his own people. He threatens his neighbors. Etc., etc. Truth is, those arguments have rung hollow and have failed to provide adequate justification for Gulf War II.

    Bush has now backed himself into an ideological corner. If he fails to act, after railing against Saddam's evils, then he appears weak. Thus, many argue, Bush has no choice but to attack.

    But that ignores real military concerns -- now voiced publicly by the nation's most accomplished war-time generals. While it would be difficult to insert massive numbers of troops into Iraq without the support of any of its neighbors, that problem pales in comparison to the logistical nightmare the operation would pose. Military forces gobble up war material at frightening rates -- food, water, diesel fuel, and ammunition. Supplying a massive force from the air is not feasible (not for the hundreds of thousands of troops this operation would require), and would be impossible in a contaminated (biological or chemical) environment.

    Again, military men see these difficulties and cringe from moving forward. Many Republicans have arrived at the same conclusion. But boxed in by his own rhetoric, will Bush risk a dangerous operations and put lives needlessly at risk, if only to save face?

        | 08:35 AM | Link | Comments (6) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

    Sunday | August 18, 2002
    On the defensive again

    Poor Simon. The GOP guv candidate in California is once again on the defensive, this time trying to justify firing half his staff. The move was clearly necessary, and buys Simon an extra week of ads in the expensive California markets. However, the press prefers writing juicy stories about his struggling campaign, rather than regurgitating Simon's daily talking points. Thus, Simon's poll numbers are plummeting as his campaign is perpetually on the defensive.

    It's clear that Simon's people hope Bush's visit later this month gives his campaign a boost. That would not be a bad thing. Every dollar spent on a futile CA race is one less dollar that the GOP can spend on a real tossup elsewhere. And having Bush and Simon on the same stage will be brilliant -- there'll be no better proof that the GOP is the party of corporate malfeasance. One anonymous GOP strategist sighed:

    The lousy part for the White House is having the president stand next to someone in the middle of a corporate fraud case two weeks after Bush signed a zero-tolerance corporate responsibility bill."

        | 10:29 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

    Friday | August 16, 2002
    Cuban embargo on its last legs

    As support for the Cuban embargo crumbles across the entire political spectrum, die-hard holdout Ileana Ros-Lehtinen blames "money". As in, the lobbyists are buying votes to end the embargo.

    So bizarre. The reason the embargo has lasted this long has been, in large, part, to the prolific campaign contributions doled out by the Cuban American National Foundation -- the far-right, anti-Castro outfit that supports terrorist tactics against Cuba as well as stage managed the Elian Gonzales fiasco.

    For decades, CANF was almost unchallenged in its support for the embargo. The left argued against the embargo for many years, but they were marginalized because of more pressing (and compelling) Cold War concerns. Thus, CANF dedicated itself to efforts to tighten the embargo, preaching its message of anti-communism and the "horrors" of the Castro regime.

    At the conclusion of the Cold War, American sentiment toward Castro seemed to shift as the threat from the island diminished. And, the Elian saga confirmed that to Americans, Castro was no longer an evil figure. Opinion polls nationwide showed dramatic support for returning Elian to his father (even amongst Republicans!), proving two things: 1) politicians nationwide could safely oppose the embargo without being branded 'communists'; and 2) the Cuban-American exile community in Miami was incapable of rationally debating its emnity against Castro.

    At this point, sensing blood, agricultural interests began spending money to kill the embargo. Given increased public support for better US-Cuba ties, these ag interests struck at the perfect moment. Farm state support for the embargo vanished overnight. Libertarian Republicans, freed from having to be anti-communist, could rail against unconstitutional travel restrictions on US citizens, and even the Dick Armeys of the world recognized the futility and utter failure of the embargo. Now, Armey, a former supporter of the embargo, has proclaimed this year to be the embargo's last.

    While many embargo supporters expect Bush to veto any easing of the embargo, he may not be able to do so -- the provision is buried within the treasury department's appropriations bill. A veto would also affect billions of dollars in unrelated programs.

    So Cuban-American congresspersons, like Ros-Lehtinen, rant about 'money'. It's true -- Ag dollars are working hard to change the status quo. But the embargo exists because of Cuban-American money. And given their performance during 40 ineffective years of embargos and the Elian saga, CANF and its ilk inevitably dug their own grave.

        | 10:10 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

    Mexico no longer Bush's prop

    In this article, the question is thus asked: ''Mexico has never had a president in the White House more pro-Mexico than George Bush, so why gratuitously offend him?''

    The answer is simple. It is true that Bush seems to have an affinity for Mexico, his southern neighbor in Texas. However, it became clear to everyone in Mexico that there was no substance to the relationship. Fox would hang out with Bush, get his picture taken, and make joint appearances in heavily Mexican-American neighborhoods. In short, Fox became Bush's political prop in his efforts to woo the Latino community.

    As one Mexican legislator said:

    ''It seems there is much giving, and we get nothing but smiles in return. Things are going to be taken seriously now.''
    I doubt the Bush Administration can take any other nation seriously. But if nothing else, at least Mexico regains its dignity.

        | 09:06 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

    Thursday | August 15, 2002
    Suit aims to boot Harris from ballot

    Well, I don't think anyone saw this coming. After expending digital ink debating whether the Dems should sue to boot Harris off the ballot, it was all academic in the end. Harris' GOP primary opponent has taken matters into his own hands.

    Harris called the suit "frivolous" without any apparent hint of irony. Truth is, Harris broke Florida law by running for Congress while still holding state office. Harris sees nothing wrong with this, despite having held Gore to an impossibly narrow interpretation of Florida election law.

    I can't imagine Harris losing the case, but regardless, it's always nice seeing two Republicans tear each other to shreds (while wasting time and money in a courtroom).

        | 11:51 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

    Veterans pile on Bush

    Fire fighters were first to the punch, but veterans are not far behind -- the top official of the American Legion blasted Bush for cancelling $275 million to reduce backlogs at the nation's veteran hospitals.

    [American Legion National Commander Richard Santos] recalled how Bush, as a presidential candidate, pledged to the Legion's 2000 national convention that he would, if elected, "work with Congress to raise the standard of service not just for veterans, but for our military retirees."

    Now, said Santos, "we feel we've been let down. A verbal promise in front of 6,000 people is something you have to keep."

    What was Rove thinking? Granted, you underestimate Rove at your own peril, but why kill a terrorism-related bill providing much-needed funds for fire fighters and veterans -- two of the moment's most beloved constituencies. Didn't they expect veteran groups and fire fighters to line up and blast Bush? Rove and Co. seem to think it's still 9-12, when no one dared challenge the president. Those days are long gone.

    Jeez. Talk about giving empirical support to Joshua Marhsall's Washington Monthly piece, "Confidence Men: Why the myth of Republican competence persists, despite all the evidence to the contrary."

        | 10:25 AM | Link | Comments (2) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

    Alienating our allies

    Mexican President Vicente Fox snubbed Bush today, cancelling a visit to Bush's "ranch" to protest the Texas execution of a Mexican national.

    Most commentators and news accounts are focusing on Mexico's opposition to the death penalty. That's significant and laudable, but frankly, not the key to this story.

    What's key is that Bush's best foreign leader friend, Vicente Fox, rejected an invitation from the world's most powerful leader. Not only rejected the invitation, but did so last minute, with a metaphorical slap in the face. If Bush can't get even Fox to visit him in Texas, it doesn't bode well for his standing in the world.

    USA Today took a look yesterday at rampant anti-Americanism around the world, while even our European allies can't stand the sight of Bush. (Indeed, they trust Russian leader Putin more than Bush. Shouldn't be too surprising. Bush looked into Putin's soul and gave the thumbs up!)

    The Blair government is distancing itself from Bush, as private polls indicate Bush is radioactive. And the German Chancellor is making opposition to the US the cornerstone of his reelection campaign.

    Now Fox has joined that group. Bush has been unpopular with Mexicans for some time now, and Fox, bowing to domestic pressures, used this high-profile snub to prop himself up at the expense of Bush. (So much for wooing the Latino vote by using Fox as a photo-op prop.)

    Bush's international image will hamper the administration to the end of its four years -- from prosecuting the war on terror to negotiating a Pan-American free trade zone.

        | 09:47 AM | Link | Comments (1) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

    Still against Iraq invasion

    MaxSpeaks reports that Gen. Schwarzkopf, speaking on Imus this morning, came out against Gulf War II. No surprise there. There hasn't been a single prominant military figure who was yet to support an Iraq invasion. All such support comes from the civilian chickenhawks over at the Pentagon and Veep ChichenHawk Cheney. People who know how to wage war -- not only the logistical and tactical considerations, but who are also entrusted with real lives -- can easily see the folly of an Iraq invasion.

    On another note, the guy behind the Just One Minute blog points me to this interesting article in the National Review. The author of the piece tries to minimize the dangers and risks of a Saddam entrenched in his urban centers:

    Cities are fairly complex systems. They require fresh water, food, and electricity to function effectively. Furthermore they cannot be defended equally well everywhere at all times. Attackers can avoid most of the pitfalls of urban fighting by cutting off cities, knocking out electricity and other elements of the infrastructure, and then making small-scale attacks in key areas when opportunities present themselves to do so with minimal risk.
    The author then concludes that the US would still defeat Iraq, despite their urban defense strategy.

    I don't think anyone argues that the US wouldn't win. The question has always been "at what cost". Sure, the US could take Iraq's oil fields and lay siege to its cities, cutting off their energy, water and supply lines, starving them over time. But the human toll would be disastrous as Saddam horded his supplies for the benefits of his fighters. Civilians would die by the thousands providing CNN and Al Jazeera with plenty of fodder for outraged viewers around the world.

    Saddam wouldn't be playing for a military victory. His strategy would be to draw out the conflict for as long as possible, inflicting myriad paper cuts on the American behemoth. He would try to draw Israel into the conflict, sparking a wider war in the Middle East, one replete with nukes, bio and chemical weapons. And ultimately, US forces would have to enter the cities. If Saddam has to go down, he'll want to do so causing as much pain on the US and Israel as possible.

    So why invade? Because Bush harbors a grudge against Saddam? Because he might have WMD, that he might then use against his neighbors? Let his neighbors deal with it, then. Given the fact that they refuse to allow US troops to launch an attach from their soil, those neighbors can't be too concerned. Neither should the US.

        | 08:51 AM | Link | Comments (2) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

    With fire fighters, or against them

    In an effort to appear "tough" on the deficit, Bush has killed $5 million in emergency spending related to homeland defense. Not only is the amount a pittance compared to the deficits his tax cut has wrought ($150 billion this year alone), but it targeted programs seriously needed by the nation's security and emergency response agencies.

    Bush felt the first political repercussion this morning, and it was a bombshell. the International Association of Fire Fighters voted unanimously to boycott Bush's 9-11 tribute. The fire fighters are angry that Bush killed $340 million to fund fire departments nationwide. The Virginia fire fighter who suggested the boycott said:

    "The president has merely been using firefighters and their families for one big photo opportunity. We will work actively to not grant him another photo op with us."
    The fire fighter's union president added:
    "Don't lionize our fallen brothers in one breath, and then stab us in the back by eliminating funding for our members to fight terrorism and stay safe. President Bush, you are either with us or against us. You can't have it both ways.
    Fire fighters are national heroes. It is sweet irony to have fire fighters turn Bush's own words against him ("You are either with us or against us"), and they should wreak serious political damage.

    Update: The original story I link above seems to have been a bit inaccurate. Instead, as this updated story says, the fire fighter union is "considering" a boycott. Apparently, the unanimous vote was to tell the union's president to protest Bush's decision:

    At its convention in Las Vegas, the union voted to ask its president to formally protest Bush's decision. Among the options: Boycotting the annual service in memory of fallen firefighters, scheduled for Oct. 6 in Emmitsburg, Md. Bush has been invited to speak at the event.

    "I did get the message loud and clear," said Harold Schaitberger, the union's general president. "My members are angry about this veto and they do not want to let the president use their image for his political benefit any longer. This veto is a slap in the face to every firefighter across this country."

    Other options include writing a letter to the White House, lobbying Congress to override Bush's decision, or holding a protest in Washington.

    Delegates to the convention also voted to return Bush's videotaped message to the meeting.

        | 08:11 AM | Link | Comments (2) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

    Wednesday | August 14, 2002
    Bush's economic non-policies

    Bush has hit the road to promote his economic policies. Yet reading through the article, it was hard to figure out exactly what those policies are. Let's start with:

    Bush was set to celebrate his recently expanded authority to negotiate international trade agreements and to point out the difference trade can make to farm states with bountiful harvests ready for the world's markets.
    Bush has thrown the concept of free trade out the window when it has suited his political needs. But every nation in the word has a protectionist lobby, and those lobbies must be defeated to pass any free trade treaty. Yet Bush has set a bad example -- caving to the steel and agriculture lobbies and maintaining or instituting protectionist measures on their behalf. As the pro-free trade CATO institute wrote:
    The root of the problem is the administration’s unwillingness to stand up to protected U.S. industries. Consequently, its credibility in urging other countries to face down their protectionist lobbies is abysmally low. The U.S. trade negotiating posture with Latin America currently boils down to “do what I say, not what I do.” Unsurprisingly, this is not going over well.
    Now that it is politically expedient for Bush to be seen "doing something" about the economy, he suddely backs free trade again. The rest of the world, facing its own set of economic and political problems, is not ready to prostrate itself before Bush's insencere trade efforts.

    And they are insencere. Bush is only interested in appearing engaged, and negotiations are a good way to accomplish that goal. In practice, Bush is more than happy to maintain protectionist subsidies for politically powerful industries. African nations recently called on the developed world -- including the US -- to open their markets to African agricultural goods. Canadian PM Chrétien echoed the sentiment, calling US agricultural subsidies "stupid". But there's no way Bush wants to further upset the ag industry. Indeed, he's already angering them over...

    Cuba. If Bush was concerned about opening up the world's markets to us agricultural exports, then why the opposition to lifting the Cuban embargo? Farm state legislators, both Republican and Democrat, see the value in selling food to Cuba, but once again, Bush is a hostage to political pressures from a narrow (and irrational) special interest group (anti-Castro Cuban Americans). In Bush's White House, domestic politics will always trump trade. Other nations see this and are thus emboldened to follow suit.

    Bush's other economic "initiative" is the refusal to spend $5 billion allocated to homeland defense. I'm confused about this measure -- as far as I thought, Bush either 1) could veto the bill; or 2) was required to spend allocated moneys. Perhaps someone out there could clarify this...

    Regardless, $5 billion in the face of a trillion dollar plus budget is beyond inconsequential. And the money was earmarked for homeland defense issues, some very legitimate (like new computers for the FBI, and better communication for emergency response agencies). Killing the funds, which also included money for veteran's medical care, seems politically misguided. (Josh Marshall says the move was politically "stupid".)

    Of course, the move makes a lot more sense in the face of this latest news nugget:

    The U.S. federal budget is headed for a deficit of $157 billion this year, Congress' nonpartisan fiscal watchdog estimated on Friday in the latest report illustrating the sharp reversal in the nation's fiscal position as tax revenues plunged.

    After 10 months of the current fiscal year -- which ends in September -- the government was running a deficit of $150 billion, a sharp reversal from the $172 billion surplus recorded over the same period last year, the Congressional Budget Office said in its August monthly budget review.

    That's a $322 billion shift from last year. Or almost $400 billion from Clinton's last year in office.

    So to recap Bush's bold economic initiative, designed to show the country he is on top of the situation, and "doing something", he has:

    1. proposed a new free trade pact, even though he lacks credibility on the issue domestically and internationally; and

    2. boldly tackled the squandered surpluses by killing $5 billion in homeland defense spending.
    Am I being partisan, or is this really, really sad and pathetic?

        | 09:21 AM | Link | Comments (3) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

    Tuesday | August 13, 2002
    GOP leads attack against attack

    How's this for bizarre? While Dem hopefulls remain circumspect on an Iraq invasion, it has been up to Republican skeptics to quiet the beating of the war drums. Robert Novak reports that Bush has cooled on war plans after an in-depth briefing by Colin Powell and Richard Armitage. In addition, words of warning have come from Brent Scowcroft, Jack Kemp, House Majority Leader Dick Armey, and Sens. Chuck Hagel and Pat Roberts. And these dovish sentiments from the Right are empowering more rank and file Democrats to oppose the war.

    Another sign that war talk is on the wane: the rabidly pro-war National Review published an anti-war piece (from a Cato Institute senior fellow, no less). The magazine has reverted to form today, publishing a piece blasting the GOP naysayers while lauding pro-war Democrats like Biden and Lieberman (apparently he's no longer "Loserman" to the National Review). However, the fact that at least one of NRO's contributors opposes the war betrays the lack of unity from the right on the issue.

    Of course, political pressures force Dems to play it safe on the war. Traditionally viewed as the party of doves (despite leading the country into both World Wars and Vietnam), it is difficult for Dems to play the peace card with a hawkish electorate. War is considered a GOP issue, and they can oppose it without risking political damage. Kind of like Nixon visiting China. Or Clinton slamming Sister Souljah.

    But as far as the war debate is concerned, Democrats are all but irrelevant. The Republicans have the votes necessary to approve any resolution in Congress, while commander-in-chief Bush has absolute power to send in the cavalry (War Powers Act notwithstanding). Thus, the fate of Gulf War II will be decided by the GOP, and those within that party courageous enough to stand up against unbridled warlust.

    Update: I've read some intriguing theories that Armey is simply doing Bush's bidding. It goes like this: Bush has painted himself into a corner. The war drums are beating, but war is actually not a good option. If he backs down, he looks weak and lacking resolve, if he moves forward, he risks catastrophe. Thus, he gets a leader in his own party to publicly oppose the war. Bush takes the warning under counsel, and is "convinced" by the wisdom of Armey's words.

        | 09:19 AM | Link | Comments (1) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

    Trade with Cuba, the terrorists have won

    It's become DC's biggest political cliché. If you can't get what you want, make a connection, however tenable, to the war on terror.

    Supporters of the Cuban embargo, seeing their ranks dwindling rapidly, are charging that Cuba harbors terrorists. The charge is laughable, resting on the fact that a handful of suspected terrorists are exiled in Cuba.

    And if providing sanctuary to terrorists warrants measures as harsh as an embargo, look no further than Miami, where convicted terrorist Orlando Bosch has been lionized by anti-Castro wackos. Miami's Radio Progreso summarizes:

    Back in 1989 Orlando Bosch, one of the two most notorious Cuban-American terrorists (the other is Luis Posada), was in prison in Florida.  He had returned from Venezuela and was being held on a parole violation.  The United States Justice Department ruled that Bosch should be deported because of his terrorist activities.  The deportation order cited FBI and CIA reports that Bosch "has repeatedly expressed and demonstrated a willingness to cause indiscriminate injury and death," including 30 acts of sabotage in the United States, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Panama from 1961 through 1968.  In the worst charge against Bosch, 73 people were killed when a bomb blew up a Cuban passenger jet. Acting Associate Attorney General Joe Whitley wrote in his decision to deport Bosch: "The October 6, 1976, Cuban airline bombing was a CORU operation under the direction of Bosch. CORU is the name of Bosch's terrorist outfit."  That bombing marked the first time that a civilian passenger jet was turned into a weapon of terrorism.


    By 1989 George Bush the elder had become president.  A campaign was launched to get his administration to reverse the Justice Department's decision to deport Bosch.  That campaign was successful and Bosch walks free today in Miami.  Among the leaders of that effort to turn the convicted terrorist into a hero were Republican Ileana Ros Lehtinen, who was running for Congress, and her campaign manager, Jeb Bush, son of the president.

    Convicted terrorist Bosch is pardoned by Bush I, and is considered a hero on the streets of Miami. Now Ros Lehtinen charges that Cuba is a terrorist state. And there's much more, as detailed in this op/ed piece in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:
    Ros-Lehtinen has also urged the release of Valentine Hernandez, whose principal crimes were the murder of other exiles -- exiles who dared to advocate a dialogue with the Castro government. But Ros-Lehtinen thinks he should go free. And neither she nor Gov. Bush, by the way, have ever backed away from their support of Orlando Bosch.

    And then there is the case of Luis Posada Carriles, who along with Bosch master-minded the 1976 bombing of the Cuban airliner. He, too, spent time in a Venezuelan prison, but escaped in 1985 and turned up in Central America working in Oliver North's secret Contra operation, along with Felix Rodriguez, a key figure in the Iran-Contra scandal with close ties to then Vice President Bush.

    In 1998, Posada Carriles acknowledged in an interview with The New York Times that he had directed the bombing of a number of hotels in Havana the previous year which had resulted in the death of an Italian tourist. Though Posada Carriles confessed his culpability, no charges were ever filed against him in the U.S. Today, he is in prison in Panama, accused of involvement in a recent assassination plot against Fidel Castro.


    Thankfully, no one seriously believes Cuba is a terrorist state, and the momentum is clearly with the embargo foes. The House has already voted to end the Cuba embargo, and the Senate should soon follow suit. Even House Majority Leader Dick Armey -- a staunch anti-terrorism, anti-communism conservative -- argues the embargo should be lifted (even though he voted against doing so out of loyalty to the GOP's Cuban-American House contingent).

    Embargo supporters have one last line of defense -- Bush's threatened veto. While Bush has yet to veto a single bill, Florida politics demand he make this his first. And it will be interesting to see how this plays. Bush will override the will of the vast majority of Congress -- a strongly bipartisan majority no less, to protect the narrow (and irrational) interests of a small special interest group for the benefit of his his and his brother's reelection campaigns.

        | 12:10 AM | Link | Comments (2) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

    Monday | August 12, 2002
    Email and comments

    A quick housekeeping announcement. I have eliminated the "email" field in the comments section. I had no use for the email addresses. However, SPAM bots troll the web looking for email addresses to add to their spam lists.

    I never leave my email address at a public site, so it was stupid for me to host a comments page asking for it. Eliminating the field altogether was the best solution.

    I encourage other webloggers out there to do the same and delete the "email" field. At the very least, the email address should not be required and clearly marked as "optional". If you are a MT user and need help doing this, drop me a line and I'll be happy to help.

        | 10:33 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

    Kirk's got the mojo

    Quite simply, there is no more compelling race this election cycle than the Texas Senate race. Democrat Ron Kirk has galvanized a level of excitement missing from just about every other race currently underway. And the media, knowing a winner when it sees one, has been fawning. The latest is this week's Time Magazine:

    Kirk's candidacy poses a real threat of Election Day humiliation for the President on his home turf. Some polls this summer have given Kirk an edge, and all show an extremely tight race. He has mobilized heavy political backing from Dallas' conservative business elite and raised more money than Cornyn in Bush's old Dallas zip code. One contributor is Bush's own media consultant, Mark McKinnon, who counts Kirk among his former clients.

    The Wall Street Journal showers Kirk with good vibes:

    A business-friendly moderate with a megawatt personality, Mr. Kirk has deep ties to the city's GOP establishment that date back to when he held the nonpartisan office of mayor in the Republican stronghold. He smoothed over racial tensions, cut taxes and delivered two business priorities: a downtown professional-sports arena and a riverside development project. The city's Republican elders were impressed, and many so far have stuck with Mr. Kirk, helping him to raise slightly more money than Mr. Cornyn in the most recent fund-raising cycle. "There are a lot of Republicans who have done business with him for years, and so they are conflicted," says David Hill, a GOP pollster working for the Cornyn campaign.
    Demographic trends in Texas resemble those of California ten years ago. The massive growth of the Latino community spells trouble for state Republicans, no doubt. But the following paragraphs portend an even more serious problem for the Texas GOP:
    Lucy Billingsley, a Dallas developer who hosted [a Kirk] fund-raiser, has been a friend of Mr. Kirk's for years. The daughter of real-estate magnate and GOP donor Trammell Crow, she is a Bush supporter. But the GOP's case for Mr. Cornyn -- that he would help to usher Mr. Bush's agenda through the Senate, while Mr. Kirk would thwart it -- makes no impression on her. "I don't approach these things in a strategic way," she says.

    For her friend Donna Rohling, supporting Mr. Kirk signals a shift in her political thinking, away from the rock-ribbed Republicanism of her upbringing, to more nuanced ground. "I'll take his common sense any day," she says. It is a notion Mr. Kirk says he has detected across Texas, and it could be his ace in the hole.

    Fact is, the Texas GOP has been taken over by the wingnuts. While white Texans have traditionally been averse to the Democratic Party, that aversion has been whittled away the past several years. Now Kirk offers them the chance to break free from tradition and support a centrist, moderate Democrat. And once they cross that taboo, it'll be easier to continue voting Dem, and could even benefit Dem gubernatorial candidate Tony Sanchez and the rest of the Democratic statewide candidates (important because Texas will do its congressional redistricting in 2003).

    While on the subject of Sanchez, check out MYDD's look at the first negative ad in the Texas governor's race.

        | 01:46 PM | Link | Comments (4) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

    O'Neil: There's no recession!

    In the latest installment of "Talk Up The Economy", treasury secretary O'Neil promises the economy won't fall back into another recession.

    But, here's the kicker -- the economy won't recover at full speed unless, among other things, Congress makes last year's tax cuts permanent. Is it any wonder no one respects the man?

        | 01:15 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

    Sunday | August 11, 2002
    Are we in a 'recession'?

    56 percent of Americans think the US is in a recession, which probably has the White House in full panic mode. The administration is avoiding the word "recession" like the plague, instead lauding the "fundamentals" that indicate the economy is set for growth.

    In effect, administration officials continuously point to certain economic data that, supposedly, offer proof the economy is sound. That may well be true, but it is irrelevant. The technical definition of 'recession' is nearly incomprehensible to all but learned economists -- and even they will disagree 99 percent of the time.

    When people on the street talk about 'recession', they mean something entirely different. The word describes the prevailing economic zeitgeist -- an emotional term, not a scientific one. It's the way we feel when we see our friends and family lose their jobs, when the markets are in the gutter, when CEOs are being led away in 'cuffs, when the trade deficit hits record highs, when storefront after storefront has a “For Lease” sign on the window, when the dollar gets pounded in the currency markets, when big business continues its unabated mass layoffs, when job insecurity rules the day. Thus when faced with this economic malaise, we give it the one name our language provides: recession.

    There's nothing the president can do about it, short of massive stimulus spending -- but that would be political suicide. Best he can do is try and shirk responsibility. Unfortunately, his fingerprints all over the situation. Forget Harken and Halliburton for the moment. Let's go back to the tax cuts. This is what Bush, circa 1/2001, had to say about them:

    President Bush's agenda will [...] improve the performance of the economy. His tax cut will help prevent a prolonged economic downturn, and it will encourage innovation. His plan will also allow workers to pay down consumer debt, while leaving growing surpluses to pay down a record amount of public debt.
    Bush made a clear promise: pass the tax cut, and the economy will rebound. We will avoid a 'prolonged economic downturn'. We will 'encourage innovation' (whatever the heck that meant).

    Bush could claim with justification that the 2001 recession wasn't his fault. But the tax cut was going to solve that. It was the solution to the nation’s economic woes. One year later, not only is the economy worsening, but the “growing surpluses” are history, as are any chances of paying down a “record amount of public debt.” Enron, Harken, Halliburton et al are the whip cream and cherry on top. The War on Terror has taken a backseat to personal economic security.

    Thus Bush is left performing cheap parlor tricks to appear "concerned", while dedicating his real energies to starting an unprovoked war and this.

        | 09:21 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

    Friday | August 09, 2002
    Not your father's Gulf War, Part II

    Eric M, in the comments section, responds to my last post:

    [Y]ou are on to something again if your objection to Gulf War 2 is mainly military. In the invasion of Kuwait, the population such as it was, did not support the Iraqi army. In the invasion of Iraq, there is more reason to believe that A. the Iraqi Army might actually fight for their own country, not just for the occupation of Kuwait, B. the Iraqi people might support their sons in the Iraqi Army and conduct a Vietnam-style insurgency. Add to this the strategic interest Iran will have in fomenting just such an insurgency in Southern Iraq and the occupation is looking more West Bank-like all the time. Except it would be a West Bank the size of California.
    Well said, but let me elaborate.

    My objections to Gulf War II are more than military. I simply fail to see any rational to take a (militarily) offensive approach to dealing with our enemies without reasonable justification. That Iraq "might" have WMD is weak. The argument can be made that nations like Iraq NEED such weapons to defend themselves against an aggressive US that scoffs at international norms of common sense and decency (such as respect for self-determination or international borders).

    According to the US, it is Iraq that ignores UN resolutions and threatens its neighbors (etc., etc.). Yet Iraq hasn't threatened anyone in a decade. The US, in the past year alone, has threatened Afghanistan, Venezuela, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Syria, Libya, and any nation that might be harboring terrorists. Afghanistan was justified, the others are not. And let's not get started about US contempt for international treaties...

    That being said, I think Eric is right about Iraqi morale. Not only would they be defending their own country against a foreign invader, but their tactics would allow for greater successes. I don't think the US would lose, but it would have to pay a high and continuing price for its occupation. Another distinction: during Gulf War I, the world community was clearly and openly against Saddam. It must've been devastating for Iraqi troops to face incoming Syrian armor. Today, the world community is clearly siding with Saddam, giving the Iraqi leader a veneer of legitimacy, in the eyes of his people, that he lacked in 1990.

        | 10:48 AM | Link | Comments (3) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

    Thursday | August 08, 2002
    Not your father's Gulf War

    The Gulf War was a seminal moment in warfare, perhaps the last of the great tank wars. The US was so dominant, so outclassed its Iraqi enemy, that many surrendered any illusions they could confront the US with conventional weapons. Libya, for example, reportedly reorganized its army into guerilla units, recognizing the futility of conventional warfare against better-equipped foes.

    The next lesson was provided courtesy of the Chechens. Sent in to quell secessionist rebels, Russian tank and mechanized infantry columns easily swept across the northern Chechen plains. Yet Russian euphoria quickly changed to horror as they attempted to occupy the capital, Grozny. Thousands of men died in a series of well-orchestrated ambushes. Russian artillery and air power methodically leveled the entire city, yet to this day, Chechen rebels continue to bedevil the occupying Russian forces. Snipers can hide behind rubble just as well as behind standing buildings.

    Lesson #3 is ongoing -- the Palestinian resistance. I won't wade into the morass of who is right -- the Palestinians or the Israelis. I hold them equally in contempt and abstain from supporting either side. They reap what they sow. But from a military standpoint, the Palestinians seem to have the upper hand. The Israelis have modern weaponry, armor, attack jets operating from airfields just minutes away from their targets, attack gunships, night-fighting capabilities, and some of the best military training in the world. Yet, they are hamstrung by Palestinian guerilla tactics and a masterful PR operation by Arafat and his cronies.

    Here's how it works: place a sniper in a populated building. Shoot at occupying Israeli troops. The Israelis call in air strikes, turning the building into rubble and a graveyard for dozens of civilians including women and children. Arafat comes out and weeps his crocodile tears for the dead, and the (non-US) world is outraged at the carnage and "heavy-handed" Israeli tactics. This is a refinement on the Chechen strategy, adding an effective public relations element to the strategy of urban resistance.

    Of course, urban resistance is as old as warfare itself. I don't mean to imply that Chechnya and Palestine are pioneers in any way. But, both are examples of how urban guerillas can still fight technologically superior foes to a standstill by using age-old tactics. Regardless of how good US technology is, there is still no easy way to ferret out snipers without house-to-house combat. And like it or not, that will cost lives.

    (And if any of you are wondering, Somalia is not analogous -- US troops were trying to arrest associates of warlord Aidid, not subjugate and occupy the country.)

    Hussein may be a bit loony, but he's not stupid. He knows he cannot hope to defeat the US in the open desert. Thus, he plans to abandon the open desert for the relative security of his cities. The US would be forced to attack civilian targets to eliminate Saddam's forces, inevitably causing horrific civilian casualties. And CNN and Al Jazeera would be there to capture Hussein shedding tears for his martyrs, turning world opinion sharply against the US. Even a successful occupation of Baghdad could be met with years of casualties as Saddam loyalists engaged in hit-and-run guerilla tactics.

    There was a reason Bush I didn't march on Baghdad.

    Despite all the war talk, nothing is inevitable. While Democrats are too afraid to oppose war, many influential Republicans are fidgeting. When House Majority Leader Dick Armey opposes war, along with influential foreign policy wonks such as Lugar and Hagel, things are not looking good for Bush. No doubt things are bleak for the Democrats when Armey is the voice of reason:

    My own view would be to let him bluster, let him rant and rave all he wants. As long as he behaves himself within his own borders, we should not be addressing any attack or resources against him.

    If we try to act against Saddam Hussein, as obnoxious as he is, without proper provocation, we will not have the support of other nation states who might do so.

        | 11:34 PM | Link | Comments (12) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

    Iowa key to Dems' house chances

    Heading into the redistricting season, Republicans claimed they would net about 10 seats in their redistricting efforts. Those predictions failed to materialize, as the Democrats battled them to a near-standstill.

    Iowa was key to the Dems redistricting efforts. The state's Republican-led legislature could've drafted a GOP-friendly map protecting its four GOP incumbents (out of five total seats), but it practiced good government, crafted sensible districts without any gerrymandering, and delivered the state's congressional delegation to the Democrats. Indeed, Democrats have a real chance to pick off three of the four incumbent Republicans, giving them almost half the seats they would need to retake the House this fall.

        | 07:34 AM | Link | Comments (4) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

    Cheney disses Simon

    As if things weren't bad enough for GOP Guv candidate Bill Simon, he was completely ignored by Cheney during the Veep's one-day swing through California. At one point, they were only several blocks apart, but Simon was clearly instructed to keep his distance.

    In fact, Cheney didn't even mention Simon by name. The Bush Administration claims it still supports Simon, but the real test will come later this month during the first of several scheduled Bush visits.

        | 07:20 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

    Wednesday | August 07, 2002
    Don't call the lawyers!

    Uh oh. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee just issued a press release stating the following:

    Florida Democratic Party Chair Bob Poe and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee last Friday convened a high level conference call between national Democratic legal and political strategists and Democratic candidates running in FL-13 to explore legal options regarding Katherine Harris' recent forced resignation as Florida Secretary of State.
    According to the release, Democratic lawyers will spend the weekend researching the issue, mulling a potential challenge to her candidacy.

    While I would love to see Harris relegated to the dustbin of history, the Democrats should leave this alone. They only need to look toMassachusetts to see the folly in calling in the lawyers. In MA, GOP gubernatorial candidate Romney faced legitimate issues over his Massachusetts residency -- issues that threatened to derail his campaign. Yet rather than let Romney twist in the wind amidst falling poll numbers, state Democrats challenged his residency.

    Romney won the challenge, defused the issue, and successfully portrayed himself as a victim of dirty Dem tactics. Net result? Romney was back on track and leading in the polls.

    The Democrats should focus on Harris' incompetence, exemplified by her inability to follow the rules of her own office. Anything else, especially calling in lawyers, smacks of desperation.

        | 04:40 PM | Link | Comments (5) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

    Stay out of Iraq

    The Saudis have flat out refused to allow an US invasion of Iraq from their soil. That's about par for the course, following similar rejections from Jordan and Turkey. Kuwait has been cool to using its country as a staging ground, while Iran is obviously out.

    That leaves US planners with few options -- either an amphibious assault and/or an airborne assault. Both are extremely high-risk options, much more difficult than driving tanks across a line in the sand.

    The only US ally to offer even tepid support is the UK, and what little support they are offering would evaporate if Iraq allowed UN weapons inspectors back into the country. Thus, a US attack of Iraq would instantly transform the US into a pariah state. Colin Powel understands it, the Joint Chiefs understand this, but Bush and the Pentagon's civilian Rambo-esque "leadership" don't care.

    Every US war this century has been undertaken with some justification in mind. Even at its most cynical, US military actions at least pretended to uphold some notion of justice, or liberty, or higher ideal. And with such justifications, the US was able to rally at least some international support for its actions.

    If the US attacks Iraq with no justification, it will become an obnoxious, dangerous, belligerant bully. Iraq gassed its own Kurds? Yes. Horrible. But that wrong has been partially rectified. The Kurds have a prosperous de facto state in northern Iraq, and no one else has been gassed in decades. Iraq is belligerant toward its neighbors? That was ten years ago. The US, with broad international support and participation, went to war and put an end to that. Presently neither Kuwait, nor any other Iraq neighbor fears Baghdad.

    What about Iraqi support for terrorists? No such link has been shown, especially support for Al Queda. Somewhat ironically, the secular Saddam has been a strong opponent of Islamic fundamentalists. Hussein and Bin Laden are at opposite ends of the Islamic ideological spectrum and share little more than their hatred of the US. And what of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction? Many nations harbor such weapons. Will the US mount its own Jihad against nations such as India, Pakistan, South Africa, Russia, Ukraine, Brazil and Argentina? Saddam has shown no inclination to make use of any such weapons he might have. However, an invasion seeking to topple his regime would clearly invite their use.

    With all the recent war talk, it was interesting to see Bush carefully back off from the edge. His aides claimed Bush wasn't trying to back off recent threats, but he was. Nothing is inevitable yet.

    More on this topic later....

        | 11:30 AM | Link | Comments (2) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

    Tuesday | August 06, 2002
    Maine Sen. Collins looking strong

    Democrats had hoped to make a contest out of the Maine Senate race. However, the latest poll numbers show GOP Sen. Susan Collins with a substantial lead over her Democratic rival Chellie Pingree.

    Pingree has been a successful advocate of health care issues in the Maine Senate, and she hoped to ride those issues to victory in November. However, Collins, aided and abetted by Senate Democrats, has done an excellent job coopting those issues by sponsoring and passing several health care-related bills, including one making generic drugs more widely available. It is thus more difficult for Pingree, if not impossible, to differentiate herself from Collins. Arguing "I will fight harder for health care issues than Collins" is just plain weak.

    Pingree has also tried to gain traction on the corporate governance issue, even garnering the support of a high-profile Maine Republican (now ex-Republican), but fact is, her signature issue -- health care -- has been effectively taken off the table by Collins.

        | 01:46 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

    Congress finally checking Bush's powers

    After nearly a year after giving Bush carte blanche over US foreign policy, Congress is finally reasserting its authority. Now, Bush faces a reenergized Democratic Party, as well as criticism from his own party.

        | 07:43 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

    Vacation politically unwise

    I don't begrudge the president for taking a one-month vacation. I would take one if I could. Yet why would Rove give the president's critics an opening in the runup to the Fall elections? Politically, it's not the wisest decision.

    White House spinmeisters are frantically trying to rationalize the vacation: Bush is bringing the White House with him, he'll still be making policy decisions, he'll be making campaign swings through nearly a dozen states, he'll only have 2 weeks of actual vacation, etc. But that's not what the press will be beaming back to Americans nationwide. They'll film him playing golf, playing with horses, and chilling at the ranch while the nation wrestles with a weak economy.

    Given that a majority of Americans now think the country is headed in the wrong direction, Bush's hands-off approach will not play very well with voters. It'll reinforce the notion that the president couldn't be bothered by Washington or running a country, and is unable or unwilling to provide the hands-on attention needed to pull the country from its economic malaise.

        | 07:10 AM | Link | Comments (3) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

    Republican financiers back Davis

    Knowing a loser when they see one, business interests in California have shifted their donations from Republican candidate Simon to Gov. Davis.

    Davis has raised over $50 million, and has over $31 million at hand. Simon has raised $22 million ($5 million coming from his own bank account), and has about $5 million at hand. $5 million is clearly not enough money to wage an effective California campaign, especially since the GOP's traditional donor base has cast its lot with the governor.

        | 06:55 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

    Monday | August 05, 2002
    Market performance hurts GOP

    There is no doubt Republicans are running scared, facing a hostile electorate just months before the mid-term elections. Despite rumblings of war with Iraq, expect no invasion until next year at the earliest (though I still doubt an invasion will happen at all). So congressional Republicans are suddenly left exposed -- the rosy glow of the War on Terror long gone, replaced with the stench of corporate corruption and the shattered investment and retirement portfolios of millions of voters.

    Congress rushed through a set of "reforms", and the president signed the bill in a high-profile ceremony. And then the GOP sat back and waited for voters and the markets to reward them, giving them props for doing the "right thing". Yet the markets are still downward-bound, inching ever closer to that sub-8,000 mark. And as the Dow drops, so does voter confidence in the GOP, party of business.

    So what's going on? A variety of factors -- just one of which is corporate malfeasance -- are pummeling the markets. It didn't help that the Bush Administration announced a lax interpretation of the corporate reform bill just hours after Bush signed it. But ultimately, the economy is in bad shape, and the markets will reflect that. Unemployment is high. Corporate profits are down. And consumer spending, which led the way in past economic revivals, has remained surprisingly strong. That means any recovery would have to be led by higher business spending, and that’s clearly not in the cards for the near future.

    In the past, elections did not hinge on market performance. No one but the richest class invested, and they were reliably Republican. However, that has obviously changed with the advent of the "investor class". In 2000, small investors voted Republican by a 10-point margin. Now, they back Republicans and Democrats evenly. Given that non-investors are heavily Democratic, it spells real dangers to the GOP.

    Congressional Republicans who thought that passing the corporate reform bill would inoculate them against the falling markets were wrong. Not only was the bill essentially toothless, but it didn’t (couldn’t!) address all the root causes of the current investor malaise. Yet in their eagerness to appear busy, they oversold the bill. As a result, the richest class is angry at the GOP for its betrayal of their cause (they want more tax cuts and less regulation), while small investors see nothing but empty rhetoric and empty actions as their portfolios and 401(k)s continue to plummet.

    Now the Bush Administration, in its infinite wisdom, is pushing for a belligerent, offensive, and unprovoked war with Iraq. While people’s savings and retirement funds melt away, the president remains obsessed with a distant and powerless dictator.

    Congressional Republicans have every reason to be afraid.

        | 08:31 AM | Link | Comments (2) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

    Saturday | August 03, 2002
    Illinois GOP collapsing

    Illinois' moderate GOP is disintegrating before our very eyes. The nation's longest uninterrupted string of Republican administrations (26 years!) is about to end. The GOP lucked out in 1998, when the Democrats nominated a candidate to the RIGHT of Gov. Ryan. But their luck has run out.

    And unlike other parts of the country, the wingnuts have little do with it. This is all about corruption. While in office those 26 years, every top GOP leader used the trappings of power to feed at the trough. Federal investigators and the press are now wading through the GOP's cesspool of corruption, and the party faces an avalanche of indictments and near-certain voter backlash. And in a cruel twist of fate, the GOP nominee shares the same last name as the embattled governor. (Heck, the governor's name is George Ryan, while the current GOP nominee is Jim Ryan. I still get the two confused, even though I have followed both their careers since the late 80s.)

    In any case, conventional wisdom has the Dems sweeping all state offices, retaking control of the state senate, and handily winning the governor's mansion. In the governor's race, Ryan's war chest is below $700K, less than a fifth of Dem candidate Rod Blagojevich's total.

    Incidentally, the story link above sports poll numbers showing Blagojevich leading Ryan by 18 percentage points. Those numbers are bunk -- the poll was conducted by Survey USA. I have already explained why these polls are next to useless. Ryan's campaign argues their internal numbers show them behind by "about half as wide" as the Survey USA poll. I would tend to believe them, though I'm not sure saying "we're 10 points down" is a brilliant idea.

        | 06:14 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

    Rejecting DINO-ism

    In a quest for ideological purity, the Republican Party has methodically purged its rank and file of its more liberal members. While the liberal Republican lives on in New England -- barely, the Midwest variety seems to be in mortal danger (keep an eye on the spectacular collapse of the Illinois GOP). The California experiment ended with Riordian's loss to wingnut Simon.

    We'll see in November how this purge has affected GOP electoral chances, but all indications are that not only will the GOP get slapped around, but it will lose races it could've easily won with more centrist candidates.

    I kept that in mind as I read this article in today's Washington Post. To summarize, the Arkansas senate race (considered the best chance for a Dem pickup) is being defined by religious and family values themes. In one ad, Dem candidate Mark Prior, saying grace with his family at the dinner table, holds up his Bible and says, "The most important lessons in life are in this book right here."

    Prior, like many Southern Democrats, is a populist -- strongly pro-union and pro-consumer (Prior has been a popular state attorney general who, amongst other accomplishments, won battles on behalf of Arkansas residents against obnoxious telemarketers). He is also a strong supporter of the Dem health care agenda, such as prescription drugs for seniors and the protection of social security. But unlike mainstream Democrats, Prior follows the family values script straight out of the Christian Coalition (except for abortion, where he is wishy washy).

    When ideologue Republicans face a centrist candidate, they label him a RINO (Republican In Name Only) -- an effective kiss of death in many GOP primaries. While the notion of DINOs is starting to creep into leftist circles, it hasn't gained traction. I hope it never does.

    Prior, like GA Sen. Miller and LA Sen. Landrieu, can sometimes seem worlds apart from the more traditional Democrat (e.g. Gephardt). If the left sought ideological purity, those democrats would have a more receptive home in the GOP. (As is conversely the case with the shrinking cadre of northeastern Republicans.)

    And the issues that define southern democrats are often anathema to the Democratic Party's rank and file -- things like abortion, and gun control, and the role of religion in government. Instinctively, many on the left want to make pariahs of these southern Democrats (Buzzflash and Democratic Underground, though I love them dearly, often fall into this trap).

    However, while the Republican Party talks about being the "Big Tent" party, the reality is quite the opposite. The Democratic Party is the party of the people, thus it abounds with a mass of conflicting agendas. Democrats can never be as united as the GOP. Their stated agenda is simple: lower taxes, smaller government, a public role for religion and religious ethics, and less business regulation. That's pretty much it.

    Democrats have labor and the environment (not always compatible as the battle over ANWR demonstrates), gun control and blue collar workers (again, often contradictory), blue collar workers and immigrants ("they're taking our jobs!"), African Americans and American Jews (not always a harmonious relationship), etc. That's not even counting the general "undesirable" elements of society that make the Democratic Party their home, like homosexuals and atheists -- who are easily demonized by society in general (though I suppose the GOP has David Duke racists and Pat Buchanan).

    Point is, it is difficult to square the agendas of the myriad and competing interests in the Democratic Party base. It is far more difficult to campaign or legislate as a Democrat than a Republican.

    But therein lies the strength of our party. Just as we preach diversity, we practice it. Sen. Miller, who votes with Bush 3/4 of the time, may make our skin crawl, but he represents a valid and valuable point of view. Ultimately, he stands with Democrats in some of the most important issues, if only when he cast his leadership vote for Daschle. He and other southern Democrats may be subversives, but they are our subversives.

    Thus Prior can flash his Bible all he wants. Miller can keep gazing lovingly at Bush. Landrieu can vote to drill in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge. I will disagree with them on these and many other points, but politics is about compromise, and this is one that we should all be willing to make.

        | 11:18 AM | Link | Comments (7) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

    Friday | August 02, 2002
    Another blow against administration secrecy

    A federal judge has ordered the Justice Department to release the names of those arrested and detained in its 9/11 investigation. This order will likely get appealed, but it is further evidence that the courts are stripping the Bush Administration of the extraordinary powers it seized in the wake of the terrorist attacks.

        | 01:41 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

    Cheney loses another round

    Judicial Watch and the Sierra Club have scored another victory in their joint battle against Veep Cheney. A federal judge ordered the Bush Administration to release documents related to Cheney's energy task force. The administration has 30 days to object or comply with the order.

    The administration will wait until 5 minutes before the deadline and then file their objections. Cheney's strategy is to stall the lawsuit, which he has no chance of winning, until after the 2004 elections. Yet each courtroom loss keeps the controversy alive and in the news, which can't be good for the embattled administration.

    Since Cheney faces far more serious problems at Halliburton, it makes you wonder why they don't settle the lawsuit, release the energy task force documents, endure whatever embarrassments emerge for a news cycle or three, and then put the whole controversy behind them. Everyone assumes the meetings were dominated by Enron and Halliburton. What else could they possibly be trying to hide?

        | 11:45 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

    Simon in deep trouble

    The Republican gubernatorial candidate from California is suddenly radioactive, as his big donors and the Bush Administration keep clear of Simon in the wake of the $65 million fraud verdict against an investment firm he cofounded.

    Simon has lamely attacked the verdict as politically motivated. But no one is buying it, definitely not his donors or the national Republican Party. In fact, Bush is reassessing plans to make three campaign visits to the state on behalf of simon, while his fundraising totals are down by two-thirds the past month.

    Bush, especially, now faces an interesting predicament:

    If he doesn't go [to California], conservatives will scream foul and Simon supporters will say the president promised to help him and broke his word [...] If he goes, then the president has painted a target on his forehead for Democrats to say he talks about punishing white-collar criminals and corporate executives who commit fraud, but raises money for them.
    The irony, of course, is that Davis is despised by Californians. A Riordian/Davis contest would've been no match. Yet the GOP quest for ideological purity has foisted a despicable choice on the California people. A SF Weekly columnist put it succintly:
    A sleazy right-wing loony named Bill Simon is running against an equally sleazy, visionless fund-raising savant named Gray Davis.
    On Gray Davis:
    The most important ramification of Davis' fund-raising expertise is his policy agenda: He has none, apparently by design. To remain a tabula rasa for the wishes of campaign contributors, our governor has created an apparent miracle: He's a politician with no discernible forward vision whatsoever. In place of attempting to realize such a vision, Gray Davis spends his energies seeking the perfect balance between benefiting campaign contributors and pandering to voters.
    On Simon:
    As horrid as Gray Davis might be, the incredible lightness of being gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon cannot be exaggerated. If we Californians are willing to elect a tax cheat whose dodges earned him a front-page spot in the Wall Street Journal, we're fools. If we support a wealthy scion who runs his family foundation as a revenue-producing tax-evasion scheme, we're ingénues. If we elect a man who has boasted on the radio about his eagerness to curtail government services for Hispanic immigrants, then lamely rescinded the boasts during the gubernatorial campaign -- may God save our mortal collective soul.

        | 09:12 AM | Link | Comments (2) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

    Thursday | August 01, 2002
    Loyal to a fault

    During Bush's 2000 campaign, Cheney was charged with interviewing vice presidential candidates. He went through the motions of interviewing a half dozen top Republicans, before concluding that he, Cheney, was the best option. Bush happily went along with that underwhelming recommendation.

    Now that the administration faces its "Cheney problem", it is fun to wonder whether Bush is bitter about his decision. This is not to imply that Cheney is under fire. If there's one thing that Bush has shown (and I admire this) is that he's loyal to a fault. While his administration is more nakedly political than even Clinton's, Bush has shown time and time again that personal trust and loyalty trumps all political considerations.

    Some argue that Bush simply cannot admit to making a mistake, thus he sticks with Ashcroft, White, Pitt, and O'Neil even as the press, pundits, and congressmen scream for their resignations. Bush is clearly incapable of admitting a mistake, but his loyalty goes deeper than simple CYA. It is genuine. Perhaps the only part of Bush that isn't stage managed or reek of hypocrisy. How else can anyone explain Army Secretary White? He would've been long-gone in any other administration.

    So Cheney soldiers on, fundraising away, steering far clear of any reporters, SEC investigators, or Judicial Watch process servers. Bush will defend Cheney to the death, but one can't help but wonder if Bush ever regrets taking his friend's VP recommendation.

        | 09:27 AM | Link | Comments (3) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

    Torch in trouble

    NJ Sen. Bob Toricelli is in a statistical dead heat with his Republican rival. The poll is partisan (R), but still, it is clear that Toricelli's ethical problems are plaguing his campaign.

    Toricelli was "severely admonished" by the Senate Ethics Committee for accepting thousands of dollars in gifts from a campaign supporter. Now, the committee refuses to release any documents from its investigation beyond the final report. This is a mistake. While it may help Toricelli and the Dems in the short term, it smacks of hypocrisy -- how can Dems demand the SEC release documents of its Harken/Bush investigation, or of the Cheney energy task force, when they refuse to play by the same rules?

        | 09:01 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

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