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Leading With The Left
January 12, 2003 PERMALINK
The latest Ipsos-Reid/Cook Political Report poll -- taken Jan. 7-9 as the stimulus plan was rolled out -- reports that Dubya's approval rating has fallen to 58%.
That's an 8 point drop from his post-election rating in that particular poll.
While there are other polls that have Bush in the 60s, as LiberalOasis noted earlier this week, it's becoming clearer that:
-- the overall trend is downward
-- the stimulus plan is not helping his standing
-- the muddled foreign policy is weighing him down
LiberalOasis expects that the mainstream media will still resist this finding, even though media sages love Charlie Cook.
Until some of their own polls -- CBS/NYT, ABC/W. Post, CNN/USA Today/Gallup, NBC/WSJ -- have Bush in the 50s, we are unlikely to see headlines.
But the pundits should be on notice: to state as undisputed fact that Bush is widely popular is simply wrong.
(UPDATE Jan. 12 12:15 PM ET -- MyDD is on top of this as well.)
January 10, 2003 PERMALINK
Notably, soon after reports surfaced that Turkey is balking at letting US ground troops attack Iraq from its bases, the Bushies are saying that there is no rush to war.
...Bush has no timetable for determining whether to forcibly disarm Iraq, the White House said Thursday after hinting for weeks that a decision would quickly follow a U.N. report at the end of the month.
The final report from the U.N. weapons inspectors...is due Jan. 27. U.S. officials had indicated Bush would decide shortly thereafter whether a military confrontation was necessary...
...On Thursday, Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer termed the deadline merely "an important reporting date."
This could mean three things.
1. They know they can't line up their ducks in time before the winter window closes, so they're beginning the "talk down" process.
2. The Turkey problem caught them off-guard, so they're buying themselves some time. But pushing off the war until the fall is not a serious option.
3. This is all part of the bogus "We don't know what we're going do, but war is only a last resort" routine.
LiberalOasis is extremely doubtful that "1" is the reason.
They must realize that to turn back now would mean screams from the Left that the ╬02 war drums were nothing but politics, and screams from the Right that they wimped out on both North Korea and Iraq.
They're in a rhetorical box. After swearing up and down that the threat from Iraq was imminent, they can't face the public and act like it isn't.
So that means plowing ahead. What does that entail?
American officials said...that they can conduct a successful attack...without access to land bases in Turkey.
But they acknowledge that such an attack would be, as one ranking official put it, "harder and uglier."
One wonders if Dubya is thinking to himself, "Why isn't this easy like Daddy's war?"January 9, 2003 PERMALINK
Leave No White Judge Behind
(posted Jan. 9 12 AM ET)
Dubya opted to send up again the nomination of Charles Pickering.
He did so even though the party is trying to get over the Lott affair and Pickering was previously rejected for his troubling record on race.
It would be appear to a patently stupid political move.
Bush just received a fair amount of favorable coverage for his oh-so-brave stand against segregation. And Lott got dumped for a guy who provides free medical services in Africa.
This is the GOP's chance to put the racist past behind them for good, right? Why piss that away if you want to expand your share of the African-American vote?
Because you really don't.
What you really care about is the suburban white women vote, who are generally more liberal on civil rights than most GOPers.
But while the Pickering nod will likely be a big story in the black media, it's largely a Page 14 story in the mainstream media.
Federal appeals court nomination fights are of intense interest to hard-core ideologues, but that's about it.
If Bush renominated every failed nominee but Pickering, the Right would scream that Bush caved, since they're practically incapable of accepting 98 percent of a loaf as a victory.
Since Karl's plan is to keep the base happy at all costs, that just wouldn't do.They knew the kind of invective they would get from Dems. They must have suspected a filibuster was likely. They may even lose.
But in their mind, taking on the fight simply serves to further forge Bush's bond with the Right.
Since the mainstream media interest will be relatively small, those suburban voters will barely notice.
And to the few that are watching, they think Bush has enough warm-fuzzy credibility to say "we're not playing the race card, the Democrats are."
Ari Fleischer implied as much yesterday:
I submit to you, this has nothing -- nothing -- to do with race and everything to do with the ideology of a few liberal Democrats who oppose a man who has bipartisan support.
Does this mean that Bush and Rove are geniuses? Hardly.
Bush needs to shore up his moderate credentials in advance of 2004, because he can't expect his numbers to be buffered by war footing forever.
And he has a huge reservoir of support from the Right already, so he can stand to occasionally rattle their cage.
Finally, while they surely think that they can get away with substance-free PR strategies until the end of time, eventually, a president's actual record does matter.
And with Dems starting to show a little more life, the Bushies should prepare to deal with a tougher media that will actually look at that record.
But the early indications are that the Bush cockiness remains. They think the media will always be soft, and the middle of the country can always be played.
We shall see.
In yesterday's column, LiberalOasis wrote that "the early polling shows the public thinks ...that dividend tax cuts will not help."
As backup, a link to a USA Today poll was offered because of question 8B:
For each of the following, please say whether you think it will mostly help, mostly hurt, or do you think it will not make much difference?
"Reducing the taxes people pay on dividends they get from stocks they own"
Help -- 38%
However, after receiving a couple of emails, LiberalOasis realized it hastily overlooked Question 7B, which is the exact same question but with different results:
Help -- 50%
January 8, 2003 PERMALINK
The Dems have Bush where they want him. Now they just have to act like it.
[Former Treasury Secretary Paul] O'Neill also was adamantly opposed to assembling a package designed more as a negotiating position than a final proposal, according to one tax lobbyist close to the administration and congressional GOP leaders.
Several lobbyists and congressional tax aides said the Bush package is just that.
"They're being bold, knowing in the end they're not going to get everything through," the lobbyist said. "In classic Bush fashion, they're getting ready to declare victory with two-thirds of a loaf."
This tells us two things:
1. Bush needs Dems more than Dems need Bush.
2. Bush thinks Dems are truly stupid and weak.
Back in 2001, the Bushies were so brazen in their pursuit of tax cuts, that Dems got spooked, then divided, then rolled.
Those up for re-election who supported the cuts probably were hoping that Bush wouldn't campaign against them, since he didn't campaign against supportive Dems when he was Governor.
But Dubya took their votes and proceeded to crap on them.
And now he thinks he can sucker them again. Dems should know better than to get fooled twice.
As LiberalOasis has already said this week, Pelosi has the House Dems united in opposition. It's the Senate that's in question.
With Daschle back at the helm, he absolutely has to hold the caucus together, resist whatever goodies Bush offers, and deny Bush a victory.
To pull it off, Daschle will likely need to stroke Sen. Zell Miller (GA), who votes with Bush more than any other Senate Dem, among others.
Zell has been complaining for months that his party needs to get behind tax cuts in order to win.
Guess what Zell? You won. Check the AP:
Democrats offered a rival tax-cutting plan and said Bush's favors the rich.
If he can't accept that, then Zell needs to reconvene his famed "focus group" at Mary Ann's Restaurant in Young Harris, GA, and ask them how excited they are about eliminating taxes on dividends.
You can bet not much at all.
Amazingly, despite the November blowout, it's Bush that's starting from a weak position.
This is the time to go for the jugular, not to let him get back up.
If Zell cares about his party, he'll stand with Daschle and condemn the Bush plan publicly.
And if Daschle wants to make his decision not to run for prez worth while, he'll do everything he can to keep Zell and his kin on board.
Bush Poll Roundup
While the controversial, mostly buried Time/CNN poll had Bush's approval rating at 55% -- a 9-point fall from November to December -- the latest polls show a mixed trend.
Gallup: a 5-point slide from Nov. to Jan., landing at 63%.
Fox News: a 3-point decline from Nov. to Dec., ending up at 65%.
Zogby: essentially flat from Oct. to Jan., at 63%.
CBS/NYT: up three points from Nov. to Jan.., reaching 64%.
And Ipsos-Reid has his "definitely vote to reelect" number down 5 points from Nov. to Dec., resting at 43%.
Overall, it still appears that Bush's election victory did not boost his approval, and may have unnerved enough people to set it back slightly.
But he is not yet in the tepid realm of the mid-50s.
The reaction to the economic plan could still hurt him, but with war around the corner, that won't matter in the short-term.
Newsflash: Black People Are Not Mindless Lemmings
Here's George Will on "This Week" last Sunday, talking about the ╬04 primaries:
...go to South Carolina, where 40 percent of the turnout...will be African-American. Who wins? Al Sharpton.
Will is not alone among white pundits in thinking that blacks are lemmings that will only vote for blacks when given the chance.
But the facts don't back it up.
Yesterday, CNN's Inside Politics showed data from a new Gallup poll of African-Americans that gives Sharpton just 16%.
It's a solid second place, but far from monolithic support.
Who's in first among blacks? Jewish Joe Lieberman, with 24%.
January 7, 2003 PERMALINK
After the election blowout, LiberalOasis offered up a 9-Point plan For a Dem Majority.
Was anybody listening? Possibly.
Yesterday's rollout of a Dem stimulus package followed some of the 9-Point Plan key points:
-- Getting into Government-In-Exile mode
-- Not waiting for Bush to claim ownership of issues
-- Establishing coordinated leadership (somewhat, more later)
And the early results are promising.
In fact, the Dem plan is now on almost equal footing as Bush's in the eyes of the press.
The Republicans now have to argue their plan on its own flimsy merits, instead of just chastising Dems for being void of substance.
And their basic argument is a dud. Here's how Reuters summed it up:
Republicans accuse Democrats of engaging in class warfare and argue that the well-off pay a disproportionate share of taxes.
Good luck turning that into an ad.
Having said that, is everything now good and right in the world? Not exactly.
On the point of coordinated leadership, Dems still have a problem.
The House is now coordinated. Pelosi appears to have essentially everyone in her caucus on board, and she is speaking for the party in a clear voice.
But the Senate looks like a mess.
With Daschle gearing up for a prez run, he isn't focused on working with Pelosi and getting his caucus behind a singular plan.
And as LiberalOasis alluded to yesterday, right-leaning Dems may be tempted to negotiate with the GOP and score some political points for themselves, while providing Bush with a victory.
The Minority Leader's job is to keep folks in line and the party strong, and it's highly questionable that Daschle's on top of things.
It doesn't bode well.
(UPDATE Jan. 7 12:40 PM ET -- Scratch that. Daschle's not running. Now keep Bayh, Nelson and Miller in the fold and kick some Frist ass.)
Regardless of how things play out in the end, the early debate has been framed well.
Ari Fleischer is doing his best to mask the true nature of the tax package, offering "average" tax cut figures that ignore the wealthy skew.
Fortunately, enough conservatives have been whining about the wealthy's high tax burden that Ari's attempt is undercut.
Bush still has the bully pulpit, but thanks to Pelosi (and the upper-class apologists), the playing field is a lot more level than it was a few months ago.
For the moment.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
We don't believe it's the role of government to manage the economy.
FROM THE MAILBAG
Krugman vs. Newt
Reader Arthur Young writes in to note LO's oversight yesterday -- not discussing the Krugman-Gingrich showdown on Sunday's "This Week":
I'm surprised. Nothing on Krugman's kicking of Newt's ass on This Week?
It's was great watching Paul slap down every talking point that Gingrich tried to pass off. Especially, when Gingrich spoke of 401K's as part of the dividend related tax cut and Krugman pointed out that 401K's aren't taxed.
Also the best line of the encounter was when Krugman said that Bush is only pushing the "double taxation" [on dividends] issue because he heard Charles Schwab mention it at the Crawford economic summit.
In LO's view, the best parts were Krugman's confident, condescending chuckles at every Newt distortion.
Big kudos to ABC for booking Krugman. It's good for the truth, and its damn good television to boot.
Now keep it up, and maybe we can put Russert out of business.
Reader Chris F had a decidedly different take than LO on Sen. John Edwards' "This Week" interview:
Your perceptions certainly don't match the perceptions of this working-class liberal.
I thought John Edwards' performance on 'This Week' was terrible. He doesn't project much real self-confidence or maturity; he reminds me of any over-eager puppy dog...
...Most importantly, Edwards doesn't have that "straight-talk" personality that Americans are desperate for. He exudes phoniness and political calculation.
Bringing Back The Draft
Another reader wrote in to point out that while LO credited a number of bloggers for leading discussion on whether to reinstate the draft, Seeing The Forest called for it before even Rep. Charlie Rangel proposed it.
January 6, 2003 PERMALINK
Back in November, LiberalOasis casually referred to Sen. John Edwards' presidential hope as a "pipe dream."
Some of his appearances last year made his hype seem unwarranted, prompting observers to stress his inexperience.
Of course, he still is inexperienced. But based on his performance on ABC's "This Week," yesterday, it doesn't show.
And in politics, perception is always the equivalent of reality.
Meanwhile, over on CBS's "Face The Nation," Gov. Howard Dean put in another solid performance, continuing to make his case that he belongs in the top tier of candidates.
How did these two stack up against each other yesterday? Let's break it down issue by issue:
On North Korea
EDWARDS:...the Bush policy in North Korea has been a failure...disengagement has really cost us.
We need to rebuild our relationship with South Korea. It's deteriorated...
...I would send [the Secretary of State] personally [to South Korea, China and Russia]. I think we need to show that we really are engaged on this issue. We care about what's going on...
If...that coalition has been built, and we're in a place in putting maximum pressure on North Korea, then I would sit with North Korea, in a very tough way, and negotiate...
...But the starting place of that negotiation would be they have to stop what they're doing now, they have to discontinue the development of this nuclear weapons program.
DEAN: I concur with most of the President's policy on North Korea...
...I believe in the idea of multilaterals and the President is pursuing a policy in cooperation with the Chinese, the Russians, the South Koreans and the Japanese, which we ought to see [to] fruition.
The one criticism I have of the President's policy is that we have to directly negotiate with the North Koreans.
This idea that the South Koreans are putting forward may be a good idea and it may not. We're not going to know that until we have direct conversations with the North Koreans...
EDWARDS: If it's clear that Saddam is not in the process of disarming, we ought to be willing to use military action...
...I'm not there yet. I think we have to wait and see what [chief weapons inspector] Hans Blix says [in his upcoming report on 1/27].
But we cannot allow Saddam Hussein to have nuclear weapons, and he has to disarm.
DEAN: I do not believe the President has made the case to send American kids and grandkids to die in Iraq.
And until he does that, I don't think we ought to be going into Iraq...
...Iraq does not posses nuclear weapons...it will be at least a year before he does so and maybe five years.
So I think putting enormous pressure on Iraq is a good thing because we can't permit them ever to develop nuclear weapons.
But I think we have a much more serious and immediate crisis with North Korea.
On Bush's economic stimulus plan
EDWARDS: From what I've read, I think the President's trying to pull a fast one.
He's trying to use the Bush Recession to put money in the pockets of the richest Americans over a long period of time, while providing very little help for regular people.
If this is what he thinks is going to help regular people in times of an economic downturn, it just shows how out of touch he is....
...I think he's about to propose reduction of the tax on dividends...by 50 percent if I remember correctly...There are two things wrong with that.
Number one: 42 percent of those benefits go to the richest one percent of Americans...
Number two: 90 percent of the cost of that reduction in taxes is not in this year...
...if our goal is to stimulate the economy now, we ought to do things that get money into the economy now.
DEAN: You know, it's interesting. I saw the President complain that the Democrats were talking about class warfare.
But I really think it's the President that's practicing class warfare, because all of his tax cuts are aimed at the class of people that don't need that kind of help.
And there's very little relief for middle-class people and working people...
...The problem with the elimination of the tax on dividends, which in and of itself is not a bad idea, but the problem is...half of all stocks in this country that pay dividends are held in 401Ks and retirement plans, which are not subject to tax anyway.
Those are the stocks that are held by middle class people. The people who live on the dividends, by and large, are people who are in the upper income brackets which are always the folks that get favored when the President has any kind of tax proposal...
Edwards is right to say "Bush Recession," and his summation of Bush being "out of touch" was cutting -- conjuring up memories of his dad at the supermarket checkout counter.
Dean gets points for reversing the class warfare attack and for a better takedown of the dividend tax cut scheme.
But Edwards' first sentence is a near-perfect sound bite, and a brutal slam as well. Give Edwards the edge.
On what they would do to stimulate the economy and provide tax relief
EDWARDS: First, I would give a $500... refundable energy tax credit to every family in America.
We know we're going to have increased energy costs. That money goes directly into the economy.
Second, I would provide help to the states specifically to help them with homeland security.
We're seeing police and firefighters laid off we're seeing property taxes raised. We can't allow the states to undermine what we're trying to do at the national level.
I would allow a bonus depreciation for business, trying to create an incentive, but short-term, like nine months...if they're considering making a capital expenditure, we want them to make it now...
And I would extend unemployment benefits.
DEAN:...the best possible economic relief to middle class people, small business people and working people...in this country [is] health insurance for every American.
I want to do it by subsidizing people who work for themselves, small businesses and working people to help them buy health insurance...
....that affects 40 million people directly, and nearly every small business in the country.
Why not do that instead of running up enormous deficits with tax cuts that don't help average Americans?
Dean doesn't want to play the tax cut game, which is immensely laudable and gutsy.
And he smartly turned the question around and sold something else that people want to buy.
For Edwards, this was his wonkiest moment, and that's fine.
Unlike John Kerry, who needs to learn to distill his thoughts in a sentence or two, Edwards needs to show he knows his policy. He did what he had to do.
However, he should have at least explained the impact of a tax credit being "refundable," -- which means that even if your income tax bill is zero, you would still receive the credit.
Therefore, making credits "refundable" ensures that lower-income Americans benefit.
On medical malpractice premiums and the recent walkout by W. Virginia doctors
EDWARDS: I think the doctors are right, I think the fact that their premiums are going up is a serious problem...[but] what is it that needs to be done?...
...there is a direct correlation between rising malpractice insurance premiums and what's happening in the stock market...
...when [insurance companies] aggressively invest in the stock market...and the stock market goes down...they raise the premiums on doctors...
...we need to take a hard look at what insurance companies are doing...
...[Also,] there's a real possibility...that the filing of frivolous malpractice lawsuits, that should not be filed, could be contributing to this.
My belief is we need to set up rigorous standards for investigation and proof before some lawsuit is filed against a health care provider...
...and I would hold the lawyers, my colleagues, the people I worked with for 20 years ...responsible for that.
DEAN: In Vermont we don't have a problem like that. In some states there's a very severe problem...
...I don't see that as a federal problem, I see that as a state problem. It's up to the governor of West Virginia...to enact the necessary reforms...
Edwards does a good job at placing the bulk of the blame on the insurance companies, which no one will want to defend.
And he found a way to criticize some in his profession, without selling consumers down the river by backing a cap on damages.
But the overall answer was way too long. If this issue keeps coming up, he's going to need to shorten it.
Dean essentially dodged, but in a sound, reasonable, to-the-point way.
Slight edge to Dean on style. Slight edge to Edwards on substance.
On Bush's plans for Medicare reform
EDWARDS: I've seen some reports indicating that what he's suggesting is driving people...into HMOs.
I think that's wrong, if that's the plan.... it will have increased costs and they'll get less in the way of benefits.
DEAN: [Bush's plan] won't work...
...the truth is that the private sector does not run health care plans as cheaply as the public sector...
...I know the Republicans have made their political careers beating up on government, but one thing the government does is run health care plans more efficiently.
So I'm not in favor of privatizing Medicare, which seems to be what the President is suggesting.
I think he ought to lay off that stuff, because I think it's going to hurt a lot of seniors.
Dean gets props for hanging "privatizing Medicare" on Bush's head, and for a proud defense of government, but Edwards gets the edge.
Does Bush Have The Votes?
While not explicitly stating how he would vote, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) positioned himself on Face The Nation in opposition to Bush's economic stimulus plan:
The reason why I opposed the last round [of tax cuts] was because what I felt was a disproportionate favoring of the wealthiest 1 percent [or] 10 percent of Americans.
If that's continued, obviously, then I wouldn't support that.
If liberal-leaning Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) follows suit, Bush would need to pick up one Dem to be able to ram his plan through (assuming no filibuster).
On CNN's "Late Edition," conservative Dem Sen. Evan Bayh (IN) appeared, in tepid fashion, to take himself out of the running.
I think you'll see some bipartisan support for some major elements [of the Bush plan]...
Where you may see some difference of opinion is on the upper brackets, because those individuals, I mean, Bill Gates, Donald Trump, they're fine people, but they're unlikely to take an additional tax cut and spend it to put it back into the economy to create jobs and get the economy moving.
If he can't get one Dem, Dubya will have to decide between compromise and finger-pointing.
Dems shouldn't give him the option.
They should hang tough and make him pay for proposing a ridiculous plan, not bail him out and help him tack towards the middle.
But Bayh may be thinking the opposite, looking ahead to a possible compromise, perhaps with himself as arbiter:
...you may see some fine-tuning of the president's program to make it more effective, to actually get more bang for the buck.
Daschle, can you rein this guy in?
BEST OF THE BLOG LAST WEEK
Testify looks at how the currency market is the hidden motive behind war in Iraq
The Better Rhetor launches a campaign to fire John Ashcroft
Leaving John Ashcroft's "Let The Eagles Soar" far off in the dust at Number 24.
To mark the occasion, the lyrics are reprinted below. You can also download the MP3 at Iuma.com.
Total Collapse of Dick's Heart
(Come around, Big Dick)
(Come around, Big Dick)
(Come around, Big Dick)
(Come around, Big Dick)
And I need you now tonight
I lost the number for Condi Rice
And I can't call my Dad for advice
Together we can make it to the end of the term
I really need you tonight
Once upon a time it was parties and brew
Don't know what to do
Once I was the dumbest guy in the room
Don't know what to do
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July 26, 2002
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