5/29/2004

It's Been Fun

Purple States has moved to Oveis.com

5/25/2004

Obama for VP

Could Barack Obama be Kerry's VP? I'm overstating it (his 1999 Congressional run failed when he "decided to challenge four-term Representative Bobby Rush"), but he's hot right now. For months he has been the darling child of bloggers everywhere, but he's now starting to make waves in mainstream media.

Polls show Obama with a solid lead in the Illinois Senate race-the latest figures give Obama an eight point lead. And when your opponent claims victory with an eight point deficit, you know things are looking good.

TNR praises Obama, saying his speeches “would make John Edwards blush. Obama's success, according to Noam Scheiber, comes from his popularity among both black and white voters.

And finally, his opponent has had enough. “Republican Jack Ryan has assigned one of his campaign workers to record every movement and every word of the state senator while he is in public.” That includes following Obama to the bathroom door, and waiting at the exit. Hmm, maybe things have gone too far.

Zinni on Bush

Gen. Anthony Zinni, former head of U.S. Central Command and Middle East special envoy for the Bush administration, has come out with Battle Ready, a critique co-authored by Tom Clancy. Read Zinni's insightful remarks from the Director's dinner at the Center for Defense Intelligence on May 12. It's a lesson in mismanaged nation building.

"Abu...Guh...rrab"

Ouch. It seems everyone else noticed Bush's mangled "Abu Ghraib." "[W]orst of it was the way Bush got stuck on the word, parsing out the syllables lamely, as though he'd never read or heard them before."

Forget Reggie the Registration Rig

More on Strippers for Kerry. The Campaign Desk has this synopsis of the Wisconsin strip club/voter registration story. They point here and here.

Bush's Fall

The headlines should read: "Bush Falls to 'Beautiful Mind.'" Hopefully we'll see that in November, but nonetheless, it was true last night when all the networks aired their previously-scheduled programming, including "Beautiful Mind" on ABC.

Daily Kos noticed that the Bush administration felt it was even necessary to lie about the bike fall. White House spokesman Trent Duffy told reporters, "It's been raining a lot and the topsoil is loose. You know this president. He likes to go all-out. Suffice it to say he wasn't whistling show tunes."

Each sentence is sillier than previous one. But Kos points out, "May 13th saw some serious rain, but other than some sprinkles on the 14th, Crawford saw nothing but sun. In the last week alone, the temperature was in the high 80s the entire time."

Swing State Update

The American Prospect has this detailed analysis of the swing states. Despite those reports that say Bush leads in swing state polls, the Prospect's report looks good for Kerry.

Jersey Goes Red

What's going on with New Jersey. Polls are showing and neck-and-neck race in the garden state, and it's now being considered an official swing (or purple) state by pundits.

How? Please tell me, how did this happen? And will it last?

This Reuters piece checks out Jersey and some of the weak spots on the Democratic side:

"Republicans are looking at New Jersey, a Democratic state that Gore won by more than 16 percentage points in 2000, and tiny Delaware, which Gore carried by 13 percentage points.

"Bush has been running even with Kerry in the polls in both states, giving his campaign new hopes there, and Bush has been running advertisements in Delaware, which is relatively cheap and sees many of the ads that are run in nearby Philadelphia.

'"As long as you're advertising in Pennsylvania, you might as well throw some money at Delaware," Rebovich said."

But then read this brilliant analysis from The Campaign Desk at the Columbia Journalism Review:

"To begin with, a number of other polls have shown Kerry ahead of Bush. In early April the Newark Star-Ledger found that, counting leaners, 49 percent of registered voters supported Kerry, while 40 percent supported Bush. Then in late April, a Rasmussen Report poll showed Kerry with a double-digit lead over Bush, 51 percent to 39 percent.

"More importantly, however, the New-Jersey-as-battleground hype ignores the fact that, in 2000, while Gore ultimately crushed Bush, early polls 2000 depicted a close race. In early May of that year, American Research Group found Gore receiving 45 percent, Bush 44 percent, and 11 percent undecided. In June 2000, a Quinnipiac poll had Gore at 41 percent, Bush 37 percent, and Nader 7 percent. That same month Mason-Dixon Polling & Research released a poll that measured Gore's support at 42 percent, Bush's at 40 percent, and Nader's at 4 percent, and a Gannett New Jersey Poll suggested a Bush victory with the Republican out dueling Gore 35 percent to 34 percent (29 percent were undecided).

"Then, in August 2000, Gannet measured Bush's lead at 8 percent, before the numbers miraculously shifted in the middle of month giving Gore a 10 percent lead.

"Simply stated, the early polls out of New Jersey have not proven to be accurate forecasts of the November vote. Rather, they have proven to be entirely unreliable. (This holds for non-presidential elections also. For example, in 1996, a Star-Ledger/Eagleton-Rutgers Poll administered just days before the election depicted a dead heat between the Republican candidate Dick Zimmer and the Democratic candidate Bob Torricelli at 41 percent and 42 percent, respectively. But, when the votes were tallied on Election Day, Torricelli defeated Zimmer by a ten-point margin, 53 percent to 43 percent.)

"New Jersey is a "weird state," according to John Hassell, the chief political writer for the Newark Star-Ledger, who added that "polls show things close and tend to break Democratic in the end." Likewise, Cliff Zukin, director of the Star-Ledger/Eagleton-Rutgers poll said, "New Jersey has been considered a solid Democratic state in the last few presidential contests, and it looks like that will probably be the case this year ... Unless there is some dramatic foreign happening that causes a rally for the president, Kerry will probably increase his lead as he becomes better known after the Democratic convention."'

Fox News, Again

The Pew Research Center released today the findings from a study on the liberal-conservative presence in the media. According to the report, journalists were five times more likely to identify themselves as liberal (34%) than as conservative (7%).

But one item in particular caught my eye:

"The poll also discovered that while the reporters, editors, producers and executives have a great deal of trouble naming a "liberal" news outlet, they had no problem seeing a "conservative" outlet, with an incredible 69 percent readily naming the Fox News Channel."

Yes, Fox News the proud source of so much conservative propaganda. Looks at this example taken from Dave Copeland. Mr. Copeland found this entry on ProfNew, a site where news agencies can find "experts":

TODAY/EDUCATION: LIBERAL BIAS AT COLLEGES - FOX NEWS CHANNEL (US)
I'm looking for academic "experts" who can speak about the "liberal bias" at college campuses and/or the dominance of liberal professors at colleges. I prefer someone who has written a book about this topic. No phone calls, please.
Need leads by 03:00 PM US/Eastern MAY 20
Monitored by eWatch

Elisa Cho elisa.cho@foxnews.com

Wow.

5/24/2004

Cheney's News Source

The Washington Post reports that Cheney endorsed Fox News in a conference call to tens of thousands of Republicans on Thursday night:

"The comment came as Cheney took questions from supporters at 5,245 parties that were held in 50 states to energize grass-roots volunteers building a precinct-by-precinct army for President Bush's campaign.

'"It's easy to complain about the press -- I've been doing it for a good part of my career," Cheney said. "It's part of what goes with a free society. What I do is try to focus upon those elements of the press that I think do an effective job and try to be accurate in their portrayal of events. For example, I end up spending a lot of time watching Fox News, because they're more accurate in my experience, in those events that I'm personally involved in, than many of the other outlets."'

It's an unusual move for a public official to endorse a specific news source, but it's even more unusual for a public official to endorse a news source that's been known to mislead its viewers. One study from the University of Maryland showed that Fox News viewers had a disproportionately higher rate of misunderstanding the ties between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. Eighty percent Fox News views had inaccurate impressions of the war, as oppose to the 23 percent of PBS viewers. Thanks to the Center for American Progress for pointing this out.

Need a Job?

If you're wondering why the CPA has mismanaged so much in Iraq, read this article from the Washington Post. The piece looks at the recruiting practices for the lower-level positions within the CPA. Instead of recruiting experienced "nation builders," the U.S. government has selected a bunch of young, untested twenty-somethings who are looking for some overseas experience. And surprise, surprise...they're Republicans:

"For months they wondered what they had in common, how their names had come to the attention of the Pentagon, until one day they figured it out: They had all posted their resumes at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative-leaning think tank."

The rest of the article is just as fascinating. Thanks to Atrios for picking up on this. He also points to this story in Slate and this Washington Monthly article.

Outsourcing Bush

The Bush administration has had a less-than-stellar history with outsourcing. Earlier this year, the White House's chief economic advisor Greg Mankiw suggested that outsourcing was healthy for America's economic growth (he was probably right, but the timing of his statements were disastrous). Then in March, it was announced that the Bush team was using outsourced labor to manufacture campaign merchandise. What made this story even worse was that the Bush/Cheney fleeces in question were made in Myanmar, a country that's on the list of banned importers. According to this New York Times piece:

"The merchandiser, Ted Jackson, said his company, the Spalding Group, sold up to 10 Bush-Cheney pullovers made in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. Each cost $49.95.

"Last summer, Mr. Bush signed legislation that barred imports from Myanmar to pressure that country's military dictatorship to take steps toward democracy."

The Hindustan Times now reports that Bush-Cheney fundraising and out-sourcing was performed out of call centers in India. From New Dehli:

"[T]his was handled by two call centres located in our own friendly neighbourhood in Noida and Gurgaon.

"For 14 months between May 16, 2002 and July 22, 2003, HCL BPO Services —the 100 per cent-owned subsidiary of Shiv Nadar-promoted HCL Technologies — had some 125 agents working in seven teams soliciting financial contributions for the Republican Party. US presidential elections are slated for November 2004.

"The mandate for the teams was to mobilise support for President George W. Bush and solicit political contributions ranging between $5 and $3,000 from lakhs of registered Republican voters. The voters' database was provided by the Republican National Committee (RNC), the party's premier political organisation."

Strippers for Kerry

I've seen this mentioned in a few paces: Wisconsin strip clubs are entering this political fracas this year. They're asking their patrons to fill out voter registration forms and to vote for Kerry.

5/21/2004

A Misunderstood al Qaeda?

Jason Burke addresses some common misperceptions of al Qaeda in this article for Foreign Policy. It's worth reading.

The Paper of Record

Whoops. From the New York Times' Corrections page:

"An article on Monday about the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling that ended school segregation misstated a word in a paraphrase from President Bush, who attended a ceremony in Topeka, Kan. He called for a continuing battle to end racial inequality — not equality."

Bush's Standing

Bush trekked up the Hill yesterday to shore up support among Republicans, and the visit couldn't have come at a better time. Reports say moderates and conservatives are both dissatisfied with the administration, and Bush will have to work hard to earn their allegiance in November. The New York Times had this story, in which Trent Lott pleads for the return of Karen Hughes. (Is she insane? Salon thinks so.) According to the paper of record, Republicans can only find reassurance in the fact that it's May and not October.

And conservative stalwart Robert Novak issued an equally discouraging assessment. Here are his comments:

"...Furthermore, he is one of about 20 percent of Republicans that polls classify as not committed to voting for Bush's re-election.

"The conventional wisdom portrays the latest Zogby Poll's 81 percent of Republican voters committed to Bush as reflecting extraordinary loyalty to the president by the GOP base. Actually, when nearly one out of five Republicans cannot flatly say they support Bush, that could spell defeat in a closely contested election. When Don Devine is among those one out of five, it signifies that the president's record does not please all conservatives.

...

"What most bothers Devine and other conservatives is steady growth of government under this Republican president. If Devine's purpose in devoting his life to politics was to limit government's reach, he feels betrayed that Bush has outstripped his liberal predecessors in domestic spending. A study by Brian Riedl for the conservative Heritage Foundation last December showed government spending had exceeded $20,000 per household for the first time since World War II. Riedl called it a "colossal expansion of the federal government since 1998."'

Two weeks ago, liberal pundits were screaming over Kerry’s silence. (And yes, he has finally settled on a campaign slogan: "Let America be America again." Hmm, we'll see if that one lasts.) But no matter what happens with Kerry, it seems Democrats are more united than ever been before. This report from the American Prospect demonstrates this point: a liberal and a New Democrat unite to write a piece on the fusion of the two groups. Read Donkey Rising's review of the piece.

Censorship Runs Rampant

Common Cause has just issued a report examining the improprieties and misconducts surrounding last year's Medicare bill. Much of what's said in the report has already been reported elsewhere: the vote was left open for three hours, instead of the normal 15 minutes, as Republican leaders begged for votes. The most damaging account came from Rep. Nick Smith (R-MI), who said Republican leaders had offered him a bribe on the floor of the U.S. Congress. Smith claims he was offered $100,000-plus in contributions to his son’s campaign, if he were to switch his vote from nay to yea.

But there was one new element that surfaced in this report:

"In an interview on the 25th anniversary of C-SPAN’s television coverage of Congress, the head of C-SPAN, Brian Lamb, noted that the congressional leadership has always controlled the cam-eras in the House and Senate chambers, generally focused on whoever is speaking, but also panning across the chamber to show activity on the floor. Lamb pointed out how the leadership’s control of the cameras can subvert C-SPAN’s studiously nonpartisan, objective coverage of Congress.

"Lamb said:

'"You saw what happened in the middle of the night over the vote on Medicare on the floor of the House of Representatives, when they controlled the cam-eras. And I noticed that the camera wasn’t moving from — it usually moves constantly from side to side. For almost the entire two or three hours that they had it open, the camera was showing the Democratic side. And that’s where people don’t get a fair shot."

"In other words, the Republican leadership of the House intentionally diverted the C-SPAN cameras away from the Republican side of the House floor. Consequently, there is no visual record of who was talking to who that night while votes were sought by the leadership."

In other censorship news, Tim Russert was involved in yet another instance of interrupted interviews. This time, it was Russert's people who were cutting the interview short. You'd think they'd be more sensitive to this sort of behavior.

How to Get Fired with a Blog

This story finally breaks into the printed media. A woman known as Washingtonienne had maintained a blog that detailed her sexual escapades through the nation's capital. Hot stuff, that is, until her employer found out. The staffer in Sen. Mike DeWine's office was fired shortly after Wonkette broke the story.

5/20/2004

Jews for Bush

I've discussed in earlier posts the weak spots in Bush's support. Some people are saying that conservative voters have doubts over Bush's Iraq policy; others say that moderate Republicans could jump ship, and join Kerry.

A few reporters a now flipping the analysis and are looking at the Democrat’s soft underbelly: the Jews.

Over the weekend, the New York Times had this piece on the Bush campaign's efforts to court Jewish voters. And the Los Angeles Times followed that up with its own analysis.

From my perspective, the threats of a Jews for Bush campaign are exaggerated. First, Jewish voters have other concerns than just Israel. They consider a host issues, including healthcare and education—issues on which Kerry is seen as the stronger candidate.

If you do accept that some Jewish voters will slide to right, the distribution of Jewish voters favors Kerry, or at least does not help Bush. Most Jewish voters live in the Northeast, which will undoubtedly go to Kerry. Were those Jewish votes to live in swing states, I’d be more concerned.

But wait. You may ask, what about those retired Jewish voters in Florida? Healthcare is a top concern for the elderly, and Bush's Medicare package has been thoroughly thrashed by liberals and conservatives alike as a big pharma aid package.

All in all, I say, don’t worry.

More History

There are three ways to look at this informal, unscientific survey of historians conducted by George Mason University's History News Network: either, A) Bush will be left with a miserable legacy; B) historians are inherently liberal; or C) the pollsters only spoke to historians from Berkeley or Hampshire College.

Obviously, I appreciate the results of the study, but I'd be wary of what they say. There's a reason why historians study the past and not the present.

Here are some of the study’s findings:

"Of 415 historians who expressed a view of President Bush's administration to this point as a success or failure, 338 classified it as a failure and 77 as a success. (Moreover, it seems likely that at least eight of those who said it is a success were being sarcastic, since seven said Bush's presidency is only the best since Clinton's and one named Millard Fillmore.) Twelve percent of all the historians who responded rate the current presidency the worst in all of American history, not too far behind the 19 percent who see it at this point as an overall success.

"Yet it seems clear that a similar survey taken during the presidency of Bush's father would not have yielded results nearly as condemnatory. And, for all the distaste liberal historians had for Ronald Reagan, relatively few would have rated his administration as worse than that of Richard Nixon. Yet today 57 percent of all the historians who participated in the survey (and 70 percent of those who see the Bush presidency as a failure) either name someone prior to Nixon or say that Bush's presidency is the worst ever, meaning that they rate it as worse than the two presidencies in the past half century that liberals have most loved to hate, those of Nixon and Reagan. One who made the comparison with Nixon explicit wrote, "Indeed, Bush puts Nixon into a more favorable light. He has trashed the image and reputation of the United States throughout the world; he has offended many of our previously close allies; he has burdened future generations with incredible debt; he has created an unnecessary war to further his domestic political objectives; he has suborned the civil rights of our citizens; he has destroyed previous environmental efforts by government in favor of his coterie of exploiters; he has surrounded himself with a cabal ideological adventurers . . . ."

"Why should the views of historians on the current president matter?

"I do not share the view of another respondent that "until we have gained access to the archival record of this president, we [historians] are no better at evaluating it than any other voter." Academic historians, no matter their ideological bias, have some expertise in assessing what makes for a successful or unsuccessful presidency; we have a long-term perspective in which to view the actions of a current chief executive. Accordingly, the depth of the negative assessment that so many historians make of George W. Bush is something of which the public should be aware. Their comments make clear that such historians would readily agree with conclusion that then-Democratic presidential hopeful Richard Gephardt pronounced a few months ago: the presidency of George W. Bush is “a miserable failure."

"The past presidencies most commonly linked with the current administration include all of those that are usually rated as the worst in the nation's history: Nixon, Harding, Hoover, Buchanan, Coolidge, Andrew Johnson, Grant, and McKinley. The only president who appeared prominently on both the favorable and unfavorable lists was Ronald Reagan. Forty-seven historians said Bush is the best president since Reagan, while 38 said he is the worst since Reagan. Almost all of the historians who rate the Bush presidency a success are Reagan admirers. Indeed, no other president (leaving aside the presumably mostly tongue-in-cheek mentions of Clinton) was named by more than four of the historians who took a favorable view of the current presidency."

The Truman Factor

A few days ago I made a pathetic attempt to compare George Bush's current standing to Harry Truman's in 1948 (the thought was inspired by Mary Matalin's comments on "Meet the Press.").

Well, Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center of Politics, has made a much intelligent analysis of the Bush-Truman comparison in his Crystal Ball memo:

"Overall, George W. Bush is battling history. First, the Adamses, the only other father-son pair to hold the presidency, were each defeated for reelection; the Bushes are already halfway there. Second, all three previous Presidents who lost the popular vote (John Quincy Adams in 1824, Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876, and Benjamin Harrison in 1888) served a single term in the White House. And, every President since 1932 has either been well ahead in the polls by May and won reelection handily--or been defeated in November. Oh wait, there's one exception: Harry Truman. The patron saint of underdogs, Truman was so far behind throughout almost all of 1948 that the key pollsters of the day stopped surveying in early autumn, so certain was the victory of Republican Thomas E. Dewey. Yet a late surge by a determined "Give 'Em Hell" Harry produced one of the most eye-popping surprises of presidential campaign history. Truman beat Dewey 49.6% to 45.1%, with 2.4% each for Henry Wallace of the Progressives and Strom Thurmond of the Dixiecrats. (The electoral vote was 303 Truman, 189 Dewey, 39 Thurmond, and 0 Wallace.)

"How did Truman do it? Partly, the FDR Democratic coalition was still strong and dominant--with no parallel on either side in 2004. But there was another, perhaps more critical, factor. Truman took to the campaign trail with an intensity and heartfelt belief in his record that overwhelmed the opposition and won him grudging respect from voters who had earlier concluded that, in the phrase of the day, "To err is Truman." Like Bush, Truman was controversial and considered not up to the job of President. Like John Kerry, Thomas Dewey projected a bloodless chill and aristocratic bearing."

5/19/2004

And That's the News

Once again, I've amassed too many links to post separately, so once again, I'll let you, the reader, sift through the mess.

1. Two months ago Ted Kennedy declared that Iraq would be Bush's Vietnam. To find out what's accurate and what's not among all the comparison, why not consult the experts? Two researchers from the U.S. Army War College have put out a 76-page report on the similarities and differences between Vietnam and Iraq. Their findings suggest that the military dimensions of the two wars are worlds apart. But they say the parallel political situations are worth noting.

"It is, of course, far too early to predict whether the United States will accomplish its policy objectives in Iraq and whether public support will 'stay the course' on Iraq. But policymakers should be mindful of the reasons for U.S. failure to create a politically legitimate and militarily viable state in South Vietnam, as well as for the Johnson and Nixon administrations' failure to sustain sufficient domestic political support for the accomplishment of U.S. political objectives in Indochina. Repetition of those failures in Iraq could have disastrous consequences for U.S. foreign policy."

2. In case you haven't heard this yet, conservatives have been out-maneuvering liberals for the past 30 years. (I would point to Barry Goldwater as the decisive moment in conservative mobilization.) This outstanding editorial from the New York Times looks at the history of the movement and comments on how far liberals are behind their conservative counterparts. However, there is a smaller glimmer of hope:

"Now, perhaps, a few liberals are waking up to the task that confronts them. Americans Come Together, a group backed by the billionaire George Soros, already has 20 offices and 450 employees in Ohio alone. John Podesta, a former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, has founded the Center for American Progress, which Democrats are calling "the liberal Heritage." But it still seems that liberals are purely reactive. Barry Goldwater may have been strong meat, but at least he had ideas. By contrast, Americans Come Together's entire raison d'etre (like that of the John Kerry campaign) remains negative: to send Mr. Bush back to Texas.

'"There is no such thing as spontaneous public opinion," Beatrice Webb, the great British leftist, once said. "It all has to be manufactured from a center of conviction and energy." The American Conservative Union is just one of many such centers on the right; it's a lesson that liberal America seems unable to learn.'

The piece correctly points out that Bush's defeat will not solve the problem of conservative hegemony. Conservatives have worked for 30 years on building a formidable infrastructure, and it won't vanish with a Kerry victory. But liberals are starting to catch up (the liberal 527s I think are encouraging).

3. Oh, the irony. Last April, President Bush visited the Timken Company in Canton, OH to speak on the successes of his economic policy. And on Monday, the company announced that it would be cutting 1,300 jobs from its workforce. A number of sources have commented on this story, but I’ll take this from the Progress Report:

"On 4/23/03 President Bush visited the Timken Company in Canton, OH, and touted the company as a demonstration of the success of his economic policies. Bush said "the future of employment is bright for the families that work here, that work to put food on the table for their children." Yesterday Timken announced it is slashing 1300 jobs from its work force, a quarter of its employees in Canton. Bush said that Timken would be successful because "high productivity that comes from steady innovation and skilled workers gives our economy a tremendous edge." But, announcing the layoffs Timken revealed that "production at the Canton bearing plants has declined 27 percent over the last five years." Timken employee Shawn Higgins said "How can I afford to get married, afford a house payment, maybe kids, if I don't have a job?" Timken went forward with the massive cut even though the major "job creation" programs the President highlighted in his speech last year – an income tax cut, a dividend tax cut and a small business tax cut – subsequently became law. The Timken announcement was "just the latest in a northeast Ohio area hit hard by the loss of manufacturing and other jobs." Overall, Ohio "has lost about 155,000 manufacturing jobs since Bush took office."

4. Is anyone surprised by this? The Boston Globe reports that professors favor Kerry over Bush. According to the piece, employees from four-year colleges have given $1.32 million to the Kerry campaign, whereas Bush has received only $512,000. "Strong antiwar sentiment on campuses appears to account for at least some of the shift in contributions away from Bush and also for the overall increase in contributions from those who work in higher education, which still represents a modest sum for a presidential campaign."

Here are some interesting points I noticed in the article: Though Bush only raised $512,000 this year from college professors, it marks a significant improvement over 2000's $355,020.

Also, the Ivy League has shown remarkable dislike for Bush. "Kerry enjoyed big fund-raising advantages over Bush in the Ivy League ($269,385 to $28,851) and the Big 10 Conference ($134,861 to $31,500), which is dominated by large state universities in the Midwest. About half of Kerry's Ivy League money came from Harvard. From Yale University, which both candidates attended, Kerry collected $33,800 in contributions, Bush's $1,000." I wonder if that $1,000 came from the soon-to-be alumna Barbara.

5. Finally!!! The U.S. government has stopped its $335,000 monthly payments to the Iraqi National Congress, the group headed by Ahmad Chalabi. Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress were the sharks that fed the CIA and Pentagon a whole bunch of trumped up intelligence in the lead up to the war.

6. More Iraq comparisons, but this time with the intervention in Kosovo "Of all the historical precedents that paved the way for President George W. Bush's war against Iraq, the most directly relevant was Bill Clinton's 1999 bombing of the rump Yugoslavia." Matt Welch in this review for Reason asks why the architects of Kosovo are so opposed to the war in Iraq. Thankfully Welch dismisses most of arguments put forward by the formerly pro-interventionist critics.


7. The House International Relations Committee rarely meets to discuss African issues. However, last Thursday, the committee spoke with Acting Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Charles R. Snyder on the Darfur crisis. According to this article from all.Africa.com, "the unusual and powerful coalition of conservatives and liberals that keep a watchful eye on that beleagured east African nation is now calling Darfur's conflict 'the world's worst humanitarian crisis.'"
Also on Thursday, Human Rights Watch issued a 77-page report on the Darfur region. The report accused Sudan’s government of "extensive use of attack aircraft - mainly Antonov supply planes dropping crude but lethal 'barrel bombs' filled with metal shards, but also helicopter gunships and MiG jet fighters - in many areas of Darfur inhabited by Masalit, Fur, and Zaghawa civilians. It has bombed not only villages, but also some towns where the displaced have congregated."

8. Here are two items from Amazon. First, you can play out your own presidential campaign with this new board game.

The author of this book may have confused President Carter with the devil. From the review: "Jimmy Carter: America's best ex-president? Only if you're not bothered by the resurgence of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism (which started on his watch), the shamefaced foreign policy of Bill Clinton and John Kerry (ditto), and think that ex-presidents should travel the world coddling dictators and bad-mouthing America a la Jesse Jackson. Jimmy Carter has been given a free ride from the liberal media, liberal historians, and even the American people, who excuse his political delinquencies and disasters on the grounds that he is a "good" man. But as bank robber Willie Sutton said of Carter: "I've never seen a bigger confidence man in my life, and I've been around some of the best in the business." It's time to set the record straight."

9. None of this should come as surprise to readers. The Washington Post reports on how Bush contributors have profited from their donations to the campaign. Perhaps the most shocking portion of the piece:

"Of the 246 fundraisers identified by The Post as Pioneers in the 2000 campaign, 104 -- or slightly more than 40 percent -- ended up in a job or an appointment. A study by The Washington Post, partly using information compiled by Texans for Public Justice, which is planning to release a separate study of the Pioneers this week, found that 23 Pioneers were named as ambassadors and three were named to the Cabinet: Donald L. Evans at the Commerce Department, Elaine L. Chao at Labor and Tom Ridge at Homeland Security. At least 37 Pioneers were named to postelection transition teams, which helped place political appointees into key regulatory positions affecting industry."

10. The Hill explains how Republican legislators plan to smear Kerry's record in upcoming votes: make Kerry's vote useless, and blame him for the outcome.

"The one-vote defeat of an extension of unemployment benefits last week has sparked fear among Democrats that Republicans have developed a legislative model that will cast Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) repeatedly in a bad light before the election.

"The extension needed 60 votes to pass in the Senate, and 12 Republicans made sure the final tally was 59-40, with only one absentee, presidential candidate Kerry.

"At least one Republican senator, Elizabeth Dole (N.C.), was prepared to switch to a "no" vote to make sure the measure was defeated even if Kerry returned to cast his vote, a Democrat charged.

"Even if Dole had stood firm, observers on both sides believe the GOP leadership would have been able to turn other Republicans to ensure defeat.

"But by calculating the vote to a nicety, the GOP managed to make Kerry appear to be responsible for the defeat because he was a no-show."

Evangelicals and Bush

What sort of access do Christian evangelicals have to the Bush administration? For the answer, read this piece in the in the Village Voice. Rick Perlstein cites an email summary he received that discusses a two-hour meeting between NSC Near East and North African Affairs director Elliott Abrams and the Apostolic Congress. (If I’m thinking of the same Rick Perlstein, he also wrote this outstanding biography of Barry Goldwater.)

Read on:

“It was an e-mail we weren't meant to see. Not for our eyes were the notes that showed White House staffers taking two-hour meetings with Christian fundamentalists, where they passed off bogus social science on gay marriage as if it were holy writ and issued fiery warnings that "the Presidents [sic] Administration and current Government is engaged in cultural, economical, and social struggle on every level"—this to a group whose representative in Israel believed herself to have been attacked by witchcraft unleashed by proximity to a volume of Harry Potter. Most of all, apparently, we're not supposed to know the National Security Council's top Middle East aide consults with apocalyptic Christians eager to ensure American policy on Israel conforms with their sectarian doomsday scenarios.

“But now we know.

‘"Everything that you're discussing is information you're not supposed to have," barked Pentecostal minister Robert G. Upton when asked about the off-the-record briefing his delegation received on March 25. Details of that meeting appear in a confidential memo signed by Upton and obtained by the Voice.

“The e-mailed meeting summary reveals NSC Near East and North African Affairs director Elliott Abrams sitting down with the Apostolic Congress and massaging their theological concerns. Claiming to be "the Christian Voice in the Nation's Capital," the members vociferously oppose the idea of a Palestinian state. They fear an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza might enable just that, and they object on the grounds that all of Old Testament Israel belongs to the Jews. Until Israel is intact and David's temple rebuilt, they believe, Christ won't come back to earth.”

Vanishing Support, Part II

Last week I wrote on the dissatisfaction that’s building among conservative Republicans over the Bush administration’s record. Surely the Bush campaign remembers the nightmare of 1992, when conservative voters decided to stay home rather than vote for the moderate, internationalist, Episcopalian, Bush I. But still, the campaign continues to hemorrhage their conservative support.

From Reuters:

“Concern among evangelical Christians over the course of the war in Iraq (news - web sites) is opening a crack in their strong bond with President Bush (news - web sites) and the Republican Party, political analysts who track this powerful voting group said.

...

‘"I know there are a lot of evangelicals who are disillusioned with the war and worried about a lot of things, the Woodward book, the Clarke book ... (and) how we got into this thing," said Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., referring to recent books on the al Qaeda threat and the Iraqi war and occupation.

“Compounding that is the growing scandal about prisoner abuses by U.S. troops in Iraq.

“Evangelical Christians are still expected to vote overwhelmingly for Bush, but the erosion of support could reduce their turnout on election day, a potentially ominous development for the incumbent president.”

5/17/2004

What's Going On

I've been meaning to post a number of these items for the past week.

1. The latest installment from Seymour Hersh is up on the New Yorker’s website. Each week Hersh takes the Abu Ghraib scandal one step further, and this time he points directly to Rumsfeld, saying the Defense secretary encouraged “physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners in an effort to generate more intelligence.” He also writes that Rumsfeld's interrogation policies were part of his “long-standing desire to wrest control of America's clandestine and paramilitary operations from the CIA.”

Newsweek also blames Rumsfeld.

2. With the Reform Party’s endorsement of Ralph Nader, the Independent Party candidate receives a spot on the ballot in seven states, including Michigan and Florida. At the same time, he’s struggling to find his place on the ballot in some less relevant states, like Texas (hmmm, I wonder how that state will vote in November?).

Nader says he’s offering free, weekly advice to the Kerry campaign. Meanwhile, the Kerry team looks to schedule a sit-out with the Nader people.

3. Ever pseudo-historian is offering their interpretation to this year’s election. Will it resemble Carter’s failed reelection campaign in 1980? Or will conservatives stay home again this year, as they did with Bush I?

Conservative strategist Mary Matalin said something on last week’s “Meet the Press” that reminded me of another election: Truman’s 1948 reelection campaign.

From the transcript:

“MS. MATALIN: This is a contest and the campaigns are about a choice. So yes, the American public is disturbed right now, they're anxious right now about the war in Iraq, about the global war on terror. But this is the first president--this has been a problem for two decades, and this is the first president that's doing something about it. So we have to stay the course. He's being steady in the face of turbulence around the world.

"So we have an education challenge in front of us to explain how Iraq fits into the global war on terror. It's not enough to just go to Afghanistan and close down the camps, which had we done that decades ago, there wouldn't have been tens of thousands of these terrorists running around the world. But we have to transform a region that is breeding this kind of terror and extremism. That's going to require a generational commitment. That's gonna cost a lot in terms of treasure and American sacrifice.”

What struck me was the line, “...this is the first president that’s doing something about it.” Truman was the first Cold War president, and he faced the challenge of “educating” the public on the threat of the Soviet Union. He also had the problem of constructing a comprehensive policy to address the threat of a new type of war, while trying to convey that policy to the American public. Sounds like Bush, doesn’t it? Truman, of course, squeaked through with a slim victory. Thankfully as John Gaddis says in his new book Surprise, Security and the American Experience, history rarely repeats itself.

4. From the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. This is far and away the most intelligent discussion I’ve seen on the Abu Ghraib fallout.

5. McCain resurfaces as a top contender for the VP spot, despite the senator’s Sherman-esque rejections. It began again with the Abu Ghraib scandal, when some pundits thought it would be wise for Kerry to have a former POW on the ticket. Then the New York Times had a cover article on the possibility of a draft McCain movement. And yesterday, on “Meet the Press” Senator Joe Biden directly asked McCain to serve his country once again.

In other “Meet the Press” news, a State Department aide tried to pull Secretary Powell in the middle of an interview. Powell apologized later to the Russert.

6. The New York Times took a look at Kerry’s high school days, in Saturday’s paper. Apparently, Kerry had a reputation as an outsider and an over-achiever. His blatant ambition and middle-class, Catholic upbringing didn’t make him popular among his classmates. Too bad the Times piece was almost an exact duplicate of the New Republic’s “Teen Wasteland,” article from April. Both piece suggest that Kerry's high school habits could haunt him in the 2004 election.

7. GOP 527s are now trying to catch up with their liberal opponents like moveon.org.

8. Some New York papers have updates on convention plans. First, the New York Post says some business near Madison Square Garden are telling their workers to either work from home or at satellite locations during the convention. And Newsday claims that “Democratic operatives are buzzing that the Boss has been talking about staging a free concert somewhere on Sept. 2, when President Bush is due to address the Republican National Convention."

Dean's Dozen

Democracy for American (the offshoot of Dean for America) has announced its endorsements for the 2004 elections. There are some obvious choices, like Barack Obama, who has generated a lot excitement over his Senate campaign in Illinois. But there are also some odd ones on the list; read DailyKos’ reaction.

Compassionate Conservative a.k.a We Like Blacks

If you take a look at the Bush/Cheney campaign website, you’ll notice that the administration has confused “compassion” with “giving a nod to African-Americans.” Nearly all of the 21 photos in the “Compassion Photo Album” relate in some way to African-Americans. There’s George reading to a classroom of black children. There’s George visiting an African hut. There’s George speaking to the Urban League. Nineteen of the 21 pictures relate in some way to blacks.

Thanks to Lawrence Weschler, head of the New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU, for picking up on this remarkable presentation. In the Los Angeles Times, he writes:

“And now, there he is again, reading to a different roomful of black schoolchildren. It's amazing — photo after photo, 19 in all, and almost every single one of them giving further testimony to the astonishing capaciousness of the guy's Compassion, by which we are given to understand: He just has no trouble at all touching black people! Hammering with them, bagging groceries, tottering alongside them on weirdly high stools.

”It's like Ben Hur among the lepers — the guy doesn't hesitate, he just goes and does it! Why, the Compassion page even includes a photo of him standing next to his own secretary of State, Colin Powell!

”I mean, bracket for a moment some of the actual facts concerning the fate of blacks and other people of color across the years of the Bush administration. How, for instance, tax cuts massively skewed toward the wealthy favor whites, while the huge resultant deficits necessitate service cuts massively disfavoring the poor, a group that includes proportionally more blacks.”

5/14/2004

Bush's Vanishing Base

Liberals aren’t the only ones unhappy with Bush’s record. In recent months, both moderate and conservative Republicans have voiced (or mumbled) their concerns over the direction of Bush’s policies. This Knight-Ridder article looks at some of the disparaging remarks that have been made by influential conservatives:

“President Bush is facing sharp dissent from his conservative base that could force him to change course on the war in Iraq and other issues or risk losing critical support for his re-election campaign.

"The complaints are rising from the traditional conservative wing of the Republican Party — including such influential voices as Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois and columnist George Will, who are challenging the "neo-conservative" doctrine that the United States can remake the Middle East by toppling Saddam Hussein and nurturing a democracy.

"It would be foolish, not to say ruinously arrogant, to believe that we can determine the future of Iraq," Hyde, chairman of the House International Relations Committee, said yesterday.

...

“Days earlier, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, suggested Bush's vision of America's role may be unrealistic and unwise.

'"We need to restrain what are growing U.S. messianic instincts, a sort of global social engineering where the United States feels it is both entitled and obligated to promote democracy, by force if necessary," Roberts said in a speech.

...

‘"There's a growing split between conservatives and neo-cons," said a senior House Republican aide who spoke on condition of anonymity. "From day one, traditional conservatives did not believe that the United States could deliver democracy to Iraq."

“Unlike traditional conservatives, who are wary of big government, budget deficits and foreign entanglements, so-called "neo-conservatives" believe that America has an opportunity and even a duty to export its concept of liberty. Some in the administration thought Iraq would be Exhibit A of how readily Western democracy would take root.

“Will, who is influential with traditional conservatives, recently scorned such neo-conservative thinking. Conservatism, he wrote, means seeing the world as it is, not as it should be.

‘"Traditional conservatism," Will wrote. "Nothing 'neo' about it. This administration needs a dose of conservatism without the prefix."’

And from the center, this Salon piece makes the case for a moderate backlash among centrist Republicans in the 2004 election. “[T]here's little doubt that behind the scenes, some moderate Republicans are rooting for the other side. If Bush wins, one aide to a moderate Republican says privately, "that would be the worst possible situation."

The Bush campaign has been working to reassure its core constituents (the memory of the Bush I reelection fiasco is still fresh in their minds) by having Cheney speak at NRA and Right to Life conventions. And last night, Bush delivered a speech at the 40th annual meeting of the American Conservative Union in Washington.

No wonder so many Republicans taken issue with the Bush agenda. Look at the Republican Party Platform from the 2000 convention. These clips were compiled by MattS at DailyKos, and they illustrate how Bush resembles Clinton in the eyes of some Republicans. (Can you believe it? Bush mirrors Clinton?)

"The arrogance, inconsistency, and unreliability of the administration's diplomacy have undermined American alliances, alienated friends, and emboldened our adversaries." [ed. this is referring to Clinton's administration]

"Gerrymandered congressional districts are an affront to democracy and an insult to the voters. We oppose that and any other attempt to rig the electoral process."

"Nor should the intelligence community be made the scapegoat for political misjudgments. A Republican administration working with the Congress will respect the needs and quiet sacrifices of these public servants as it strengthens America's intelligence and counter-intelligence capabilities and reorients them toward the dangers of the future."

"The current administration has casually sent American armed forces on dozens of missions without clear goals, realizable objectives, favorable rules of engagement, or defined exit strategies. Over the past seven years, a shrunken American military has been run ragged by a deployment tempo that has eroded its military readiness. Many units have seen their operational requirements increased four-fold, wearing out both people and equipment."

"The rule of law, the very foundation for a free society, has been under assault, not only by criminals from the ground up, but also from the top down. An administration that lives by evasion, coverup, stonewalling, and duplicity has given us a totally discredited Department of Justice."

"Sending our military on vague, aimless, and endless missions rapidly saps morale. Even the highest morale is eventually undermined by back-to-back deployments, poor pay, shortages of spare parts and equipment, inadequate training, and rapidly declining readiness."

Visit DailyKos to see more examples.

The Digital Age



I try to avoid making the Vietnam comparison, but sometimes it fits too well to pass up. Take the case of “war in the digital age.” We’re just beginning to understand what it means to fight in a world of instant communication. First, we were hit by the digital photographs from Abu Ghraib. Next, it was the video of Nick Berg’s decapitation fed to us over an al Qeada-allied website. And today, “senators…read despairing e-mails from U.S. soldiers in Iraq…Troops are sending emails home to their congressmen, and they don't tell happy tales. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois read Rumsfeld an e-mail from a career officer in Iraq, saying troops were "appalled and ashamed" over Abu Ghraib. "Nobody wants to compare this to Vietnam," the email said. "But it's starting to feel that way on the ground. Everybody just wants to finish their year, get the hell out and forget they were ever here."’

Thirty years ago, the American public was dealing with a similar struggle. At that time the new medium was television, and each night families would turn to the nightly news to see American soldiers killed in their living room. It was difficult to swallow, and those images helped galvanize the American opposition to the war.

In other digital-age news, the June issue of Reason magazine will be dedicated to “the database nation.” Each subscriber will receive a customized cover that features a satellite photograph of their home. “Inside, the personalization continues. Subscribers can find out how many of their neighbors are college educated and what percentage of kids in their zip code are being raised by their grandparents.” Supposedly the purpose of theme is to educate readers on the disappearance of privacy in the digital age. Good to know.

Fantasy Camps

I found this on Wonkette. Is this a sick joke, or is it real? Either way, it's almost as offensive as the real Abu Ghraib prison.


Torture

Months ago I read this fascinating article in the Atlantic Monthly on the use of torture and intimidation in interrogations. The subject of article is obviously quite relevant to today’s discussions on Abu Ghraib.

While re-reading the piece, this question came to mind: what would happen if Osama bin Laden were captured before the election? This topic has disappeared from the media in recent weeks, but it’s certainly worth considering. Is this the only thing that can save Bush from his plummeting poll numbers? Or would there be a backlash? Would people ask, “Why didn’t we catch him three years ago instead of chasing after Saddam Hussein?” Who knows.

5/13/2004

Hip-Hop

Hip-Hop enters the presidential campaign. First, Dan LeRoy writes in the Weekly Standard on the Democrat Party’s absurd history with rap. Meanwhile Kerry tears up listening to a song dedicated to him. These stories are pretty embarrassing for the Democrats; they come off as middle-aged white guys who don’t understand the genre but pander to the community anyway for their votes. Still, I’d say it’s better than pandering to the NRA and to fundamentalist Christians, as the Bush campaign has.

Kerry in Florida



Kerry as he lands in Jacksonville, Fla. on May 11, 2004. From CJR Campaign Desk.

5/12/2004

Swing States

The New York Times tells us again that the battleground states will be important in November. Is this news? Tell me, who did not this?

According to the Times, twenty-two states are up for grab this election, including a few unusual ones like Arizona, Colorado and Louisiana. This map is one-third larger than the one that existed during the 2000 election. Here are some interesting excerpts (and it looks good for Kerry):

“Arizona is one of the states that has caught the early attention of the candidates as they adjust to this new terrain. The changing demographics here - in particular, the increasing number of Hispanic voters - has made it more Democratic since 2000, when Mr. Bush defeated Mr. Gore by six percentage points, campaign aides said. A poll of Arizona voters conducted by KAET-TV and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University in late April found that Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry were effectively tied.

“Ms. Napolitano said that in 2000, Mr. Gore virtually ignored Arizona, which for a generation was identified with the conservative icon Barry Goldwater. She said the only nod to Arizona she could recall from the Gore campaign was a visit by Hadassah Lieberman, the wife of Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, who was Mr. Gore's running mate.

“By contrast, Mr. Kerry was here for two days last week, and he and Mr. Bush are running television advertisements. "Bush has been here twice since the primary," said Ms. Napolitano, who has tracked the moves by the Republican opposition since the state's Democratic primary in February.



“Analysts outside the campaigns said there appeared to be less feinting than in any recent election. Mr. Kerry, for example, spent nearly $2 million last week on advertising in Colorado and Louisiana. Those are two states that had not been considered particularly competitive because Mr. Bush won them by more than seven percentage points in 2000. And Mr. Kerry campaigned in Louisiana on Friday and Saturday.

‘"It's an objective fact we have expanded the battleground," said Tad Devine, a senior adviser to Mr. Kerry. "And we intend to further expand it."’

Personals

More from the dating front: “Brutally Honest Personals.” Thanks Elise.

The Ilusion of War...

It’s difficult at times to determine what’s accurate and what’s not among all the pessimistic view of Iraq. John Brady Kiesling, a 20-year veteran of the Foreign Service who resigned in protest to the war in Iraq, had an intelligent piece in this Sunday’s Washington Post.

“The deadliest illusion about warfare is that the aim of war is military victory. The true aim of war is to accomplish the political, economic or security goals for which it was fought. In a war competently waged for rational ends, one could rationally expect that America's aims would best be achieved through dominance on the battlefield followed by the dignified establishment of a new and better order. But in a war like the one in Iraq, which is based on assumptions since proven false, we cannot win by being victorious.

“Any selfish motives aside, America's war aim remains the creation of a viable Iraqi state. Ideally, that state would serve as a democratic model to its repressive neighbors, but at a minimum American interests require that the new Iraqi state not harbor terrorists or pose a threat to its neighbors; that it renounce nuclear weapons, long-range missiles and nerve gas; and that it exercise an effective monopoly on violence within its own territory.

“My resignation from the U.S. Foreign Service in February 2003 was driven by my conviction that this minimum aim was unachievable. I was certain that the Iraq of 2004 would bear no resemblance to the Germany or Japan of 1946. Long before the publication of the awful photos from Abu Ghraib, we Americans lacked the legitimacy in the eyes of the Islamic world to be accepted as liberators rather than occupiers. Nor did we possess any magic toolbox of democracy-building to substitute for the slow, bloody evolution of democracies elsewhere. There was no external enemy -- no Red Army at the gates -- to validate us as the lesser of two evils. Iraq's internal schisms were too deep for quick fixes, and the highly touted Iraqi George Washingtons who trailed behind our tanks were irrelevant or fraudulent.”

The rest of the piece is worth reading.

The only part that I disagree with is the line: “Nor did we possess any magic toolbox of democracy-building to substitute for the slow, bloody evolution of democracies elsewhere.” Many people including myself believed that Saddam Hussein’s regime was a “slow, bloody evolution.” And we believed that the Iraqis were a people starving for democracy.

These things are still true. Iraq was “ripe” for democracy; the Bush administration, though, completely mishandled the war’s aftermath.

The Election is Kerry's to Lose

Zogby has made some pretty memorable blunders in the past, but in my mind he restored all credibility with his predictions in Iowa. He has just made another prediction: “John Kerry will win the election.” Let’s hope he’s right again.

From Zogby:

"I have made a career of taking bungee jumps in my election calls. Sometimes I haven't had a helmet and I have gotten a little scratched. But here is my jump for 2004: John Kerry will win the election.

"Have you recovered from the shock? Is this guy nuts? Kerry's performance of late has hardly been inspiring and polls show that most Americans have no sense of where he really stands on the key issues that matter most to them. Regardless, I still think that he will win. And if he doesn't, it will be because he blew it. There are four major reasons for my assertion:

"First, my most recent poll (April 12-15) shows bad re-election numbers for an incumbent President. Senator Kerry is leading 47% to 44% in a two-way race, and the candidates are tied at 45% in the three-way race with Ralph Nader. Significantly, only 44% feel that the country is headed in the right direction and only 43% believe that President Bush deserves to be re-elected - compared with 51% who say it is time for someone new.

"In that same poll, Kerry leads by 17 points in the Blue States that voted for Al Gore in 2000, while Bush leads by only 10 points in the Red States that he won four years ago.

"Second, there are very few undecided voters for this early in a campaign. Historically, the majority of undecideds break to the challenger against an incumbent. The reasons are not hard to understand: voters have probably made a judgment about the better-known incumbent and are looking for an alternative.

"Third, the economy is still the top issue for voters - 30% cite it. While the war in Iraq had been only noted by 11% as the top issue in March, it jumped to 20% in our April poll as a result of bad war news dominating the news agenda. The third issue is the war on terrorism. Among those who cited the economy, Kerry leads the President 54% to 35%. Among those citing the war in Iraq, Kerry's lead is 57% to 36%. This, of course, is balanced by the 64% to 30% margin that the President holds over Kerry on fighting the war on terrorism. These top issues are not likely to go away. And arguably, there is greater and growing intensity on the part of those who oppose and want to defeat Bush.

...

"Finally, if history is any guide, Senator Kerry is a good closer. Something happens to him in the closing weeks of campaigns (that obviously is not happening now!). We have clearly seen that pattern in his 1996 victory over Governor Bill Weld for the Senate in Massachusetts and more recently in the 2004 Democratic primaries. All through 2003, Kerry's campaign lacked a focused message. He tends to be a nuanced candidate: thoughtful, briefed, and too willing to discuss a range of possibly positions on every issue. It is often hard to determine where he actually stands. In a presidential campaign, if a candidate can't spell it out in a bumper sticker, he will have trouble grabbing the attention of voters. By early 2004, as Democratic voters in Iowa and elsewhere concluded that President Bush could be defeated, they found Governor Howard Dean's message to be too hot and began to give Kerry another look. Kerry came on strong with the simplest messages: "I'm a veteran", "I have the experience", and "I can win". His timing caused him to come on strong at the perfect time. As one former his Vietnam War colleague of told a television correspondent in Iowa: "John always knows when his homework is due."

Trans-Gender Golf Pros

The headline pretty much says it all: “Man Raised As a Girl Commits Suicide.” I try to avoid posting novelty news items, but there’s something about this case that shocks me.

Henry Hyde's European Adventure

It seems Republican Representatives aren’t as concerned about discretionary spending when it comes to their own traveling expenses. Here’s an egregious case of a “staff-heavy, seven-day, two-nation jaunt”

Commencement

This is all too typical. I give the Bush administration a bit of credit for some honorable deed, only to find out later that their actions were politically motivated.

Take the case of the Bush daughters’ commencements. When it was announced last week that neither Bush parent would attend the ceremonies, “White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said the president and first lady decided to spare families the rigorous security measures that go along with a presidential visit.”

However, this gesture is not as honorable it appears. Unfortunately for the Bush daughters, neither Connecticut nor Texas is a battleground state. Bush will instead be dedicating his commencement-related activities this year to Louisiana, Colorado, and Wisconsin—all states that will be close in November.

“Mr. Bush turned down an invitation to speak at the Texas ceremony. But he will give a commencement address at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge and at Concordia University in Mequon, Wis.”

Single Republicans

If you’re a lonely conservative, you may find this dating service helpful. Unfortunately, for lonely Democrats, www.singledemocrats.com only offers this message: Meet quality conservative American Singles at SingleRepublican.com. Is being "American" a common prerequisite among single conservatives?

VP Update

Bloomberg says it knows who the top-five VP choices are for the Kerry campaign:

“Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry is focusing on five potential running mates, including former party nomination rivals Senator John Edwards and retired General Wesley Clark, according to campaign and party officials familiar with the selection process.

“The others under consideration are Representative Richard Gephardt of St. Louis, Senator Bob Graham of Florida -- both of whom also made bids for the Democratic nomination -- and Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said. Kerry won't name his choice until next month, the officials said.”

UPDATE: Here’s a piece on last weekend’s VP auditions.