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January 17, 2003 PERMALINK
NEWSFLASH
The Latest Drudge Smear

(posted Jan. 17 12 PM ET)

The Drudge Report today posted a bogus story about Sen. John Kerry to embarass him in advance of an Iowa campaign trip. Writes Drudge:

Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts holds hatred for having to travel through heartland spots like Iowa to raise cash, it can be revealed.

Drudge pulls this 1996 Kerry quote:

I hate going to places like Austin and Dubuque to raise large sums of money. But I have to.

But when you read the full story where that quote came from, it's quite clear that Kerry was lamenting the need to fundraise out of state for a US Senate race because he refused to take political action committee money.

He was not complaining about heartland America.

Someone needs to tell the Kerry-haters that planted this piece: weak attempts at mockery will only backfire. Give it a rest.

January 17, 2003 PERMALINK
Loving Your Base Too Much
(posted Jan. 17 12:45 AM ET)

In the last two weeks, that adorable scamp George W. Bush has:

-- Backed anti-patient malpractice tort reform

-- Trashed affirmative action

-- Declared Sunday to be National Sanctity of Life Day

-- Sent to the Senate a truckload of right-wing judicial nominations

-- Proposed a major tax cut giveaway to the wealthy

-- Insisted that fully funding his own education bill wasn't necessary

That's some long, lingering wet kiss for the Right.

But life could be worse. Bush, and Rove, could be smarter.

After Dubya's resounding victory in the midterms, he might have signaled to the public that he would govern with restraint and keep the Right in check.

In fact, there were early reports indicating that was Bush's plan.

But apparently, keeping the Right in check means saying, "Please hold off on the constitutional amendment banning abortion until I finish stacking the federal bench."

And yesterday's rightward sop, malpractice tort reform, might end up as one of their biggest miscalculations.

Dubya's speech, pushing stiff caps on jury awards for severely injured patients, was billed to reporters as a "whack John Edwards" event.

Could've been a joke, but jokes can be telling.

It means the Bushies aren't listening to the Washington Monthly, or the National Review for that matter.

As both pubs noted, the public may not have a high opinion of lawyers in general, but that doesn't mean they won't root for a sympathetic plaintiff.

Nevertheless, Bush went after lawyers with a vengeance yesterday, with an eye towards tarring Edwards with a broad anti-lawyer brush.

But Edwards can return fire with pretty powerful ammo.

His former clients.

Said W. Monthly's Joshua Green:

More than half his cases were medical malpractice suits.

Many involved infants born with brain damage or other serious conditions that entail a lifetime of expensive medical care...

...[One involved a girl who] became caught in an uncovered [pool] drain so forcefully that the suction pulled out most of her intestines.

She survived but for the rest of her life will need to be hooked up to feeding tubes for 12 hours each night.

Does Bush really want to be the guy who wants to shortchange folks who have suffered so much?

The Bushies are also forgetting that Edwards was not just a lawyer, he was an excellent lawyer.

More from Green:

"After trials," recalls Howard Twiggs, a Raleigh lawyer and former president of [Association of Trial Lawyers of America], "jurors would approach Johnny and ask him for his card."

It is said that insurance companies would suddenly become interested in settling when Edwards' name was added to a plaintiff's team.

This guy can't wait for Bush to come at him, so he can remind people who are the real victims in malpractice cases, as well as hook Bush to the even more loathed insurance companies.

(As the National Review noted, at least they make TV shows about lawyers.)

You might think Bush would know better than to underestimate opponents, when his whole political career is based on low expectations.

But that's where cockiness and arrogance can take you, that sense that you're untouchable.

It's a dangerous place politically, but that where Dubya seems to be.

January 16, 2003 PERMALINK
Affirmative Prevarication
(posted Jan. 16 1 AM ET)

Whether it was politically deft or politically dumb, one thing for sure: Bush's affirmative action speech rested on phony and disingenuous arguments.

Let's review:

At their core, the Michigan policies amount to a quota system...

The key verb of spin is "amount." Bush didn't just say the policy is a quota system, because it isn't.

The policy calls for a "critical mass" of minorities to be admitted, but there is no specific percentage required.

...the University of Michigan's admissions policies, which...establishes [sic] numerical targets for incoming minority students, are unconstitutional.

Except that the university says it does not use, "quotas, targets or other numeric goals...".

At the law school, some minority students are admitted to meet percentage targets while other applicants with higher grades and better scores are passed over... ...[The] result is discrimination and that discrimination is wrong.

Put aside the "targets" fallacy for the moment.

The rest of the argument describes the essence of affirmative action for higher education, accounting for the reality that test scores aren't as fair and objective as they seem.

While Bush is loathe to state flatly that he is against affirmative action, in that statement, he shows that he is.

Systems in California and Florida and Texas have proven that by guaranteeing admissions to the top students from high schools throughout the state, including low income neighborhoods, colleges can attain broad racial diversity.

In these states, race-neutral admissions policies have resulted in levels of minority attendance for incoming students that are close to, and in some instances slightly surpass, those under the old race-based approach.

All three states have policies that ensure admission to public colleges for a fixed percentage of top high school graduates for each school.

But the success of the plans is nowhere near as certain as Bush insists.

The US Commission on Civil Rights said just the opposite last November: "If [the] percentage plans [of California, Florida and Texas] grow in popularity, it is inevitable that the number of minority students attending the most prestigious public universities will decrease."

And just yesterday, the U. of Texas president said that whatever progress has been made at his school, it's not necessarily because of that policy: "The law itself is not enough. You have to build on the law ..."

Our government must work to make college more affordable for students who come from economically disadvantaged homes

Of course, Bush did not explain how that could happen if Bush doesn't give states the fiscal help they need.

And because we're committed to racial justice, we must make sure that America's public schools offer a quality education to every child from every background, which is the central purpose of the education reforms I signed last year.

Reforms for which Bush is holding back funds.

January 15, 2003 PERMALINK
A SOTU Disaster?
(posted Jan. 15 12:30 AM ET)

The upcoming State Of The Union address on Jan. 28 may be the hardest one to pull off since the post-Monica SOTU of ╬98.

Granted, two weeks is an eternity in politics -- as the cliche goes. By then, Saddam could be in a Tuscan villa and North Korean diplomats could be hugging US diplomats.

But, putting such scenarios aside, consider the following:

-- Bush needs to prepare the country and make the case for war in Iraq.

-- Bush needs to figure what hurts the Iraq case more: mentioning the meandering Korea policy, or ducking it.

-- Bush needs to show he cares about -- and can fix -- the economy, even though the economy remains anemic and his stimulus plan is sputtering.

-- Bush may be compelled to kick off a subtle "We Love Black People" initiative, possibly after coming out against affirmative action.

-- Bush has to decide whether or not to put Social Security and Medicare modernization (read: privatization) on the table for this year.

-- And if the speechwriters didn't have enough pressure on them, as of yesterday, the SOTU will be expected to get Bush's approval rating back in the 60s.

-- And on top of all that, pundits will be sorely tempted to make unfavorable comparisons to last year's "Axis of Evil" SOTU.

LiberalOasis is not deluded. Dubya has pulled off big speeches before, and may do it again.

But those two measly approval rating percentage points make it so much easier for reporters to criticize.

And more than ever before, he has a record to defend, one that's not a simple sell.

That's a big reason why Bush is scrambling to get North Korea on the back burner.

The humiliation of completely going back on his word -- dangling food and fuel for no nukes -- is an affordable price if it pushes the crisis off the front pages in time for the big speech.

But if it doesn't work in time, then it's just humiliation.

With so many potential pitfalls, a ludicrous notion becomes dark horse possibility:

Might this be the rare SOTU that actually hurts the President's poll numbers?

And if so, will David Frum laugh?

January 14, 2003 PERMALINK
CNN, USA Today Announce Bush Poll Drop
Third Major Poll With Bush in 50s

Have The Media Turned a Corner?
(posted Jan. 14 12 AM ET)

The CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll, taken Jan. 10-12, found Bush now has a 58% approval rating.

That joins this month's Ipsos-Reid/Cook Political Report poll (58%) and last month's CNN-Time poll (55%), firmly placing Bush in the mid- to upper-50s.

Both USA Today and CNN came through with their initial coverage.

The news led the USA Today homepage yesterday:

Bush Approval At Post-9/11 Low
Falls below 60%; economy and war worry Americans, poll finds

And CNN's Inside Politics gave the poll a full airing.

The most telling stat: Dubya dropped 5 points in just one week, the week in which he introduced his stimulus package.

That should put an end to the marveling at how "bold" Bush's plan is.

And it should also quiet those pundits (see here, here, here, here and here) who have assumed that the so-called "class warfare" attacks from the Dems are not resonating with the public.

For example, CNN's Bill Schneider last week said:

Democrats have what I'd call a "so what" problem. People know Bush's policies favor the rich, but support them anyway. So what?

And yesterday? He gave a thorough, spot-on analysis of the poll, rhetorically asking:

Is this President Bush in danger of turning into his father?

Even Media Whore of the Year also-ran Howard Fineman threw this out last night on MSNBC's Hardball, while discussing Dubya's arrogant leadership style:

Bush thinks, "Look I'm popular," although his popularity, you know, may be a little thinner than he thinks...

What does this mean for Dems? What lessons should they take? Here's a couple.

1. Dems cannot rest. There are more voters to win over.

58% is in shooting distance, but it is not tantamount to victory.

Roughly speaking, it means the Dems have gotten their base back, but still need to fully capture the swing.

As it pertains to the stimulus debate, a slight shift in tactics is in order.

It's time to de-emphasize, but not discard, the "favors the wealthy" line, and amplify arguments centered on deficits, job creation and economic growth.

2. Dems must keep aggressively seizing issues.

As LiberalOasis has stated before, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi deserves enormous credit for getting her caucus behind a plan and announcing it before Bush unveiled his.

That, more than anything, led to balanced coverage in the media, allowing voters to make up their own minds.

And it also sent a message to other congresspeople that Bush was not getting a free ride, stiffening the spines of fiscally responsible Republican centrists.

All of which weakened Bush's bargaining position and contributed to his sinking poll numbers.

QUICK HIT

Drudge Peddles Phony Penn Piece

On Saturday, The Drudge Report ran the following special report -- SEAN PENN: IRAQ NOT POLITICAL IS HUMAN!

The link led to this Drudge story based on a CNN transcript of Sean Penn on Larry King Live Weekend, talking about his trip to Baghdad.

Drudge offered excerpts from the interview that made Penn sound like a drug-addled, babbling moron, along with a link to the full CNN transcript.

The problem? The full CNN transcript bore little resemblance to Drudge's "excerpts."

To LiberalOasis' knowledge, Drudge has offered no correction or apology for his false smear job.

January 13, 2003 PERMALINK
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted Jan. 13 12:30 AM ET)
(minor edits Jan. 13 9:15 AM ET)

Frist Has A Big Breakfast of Russert

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (TN) graced the Sunday circuit for the first time since his ascendancy, hitting NBC's Meet The Press and Fox News Sunday.

Last month's 10 Things About Frist Unsaid essentially still applies, although Fox's Tony Snow -- not Tim Russert -- touched on the Eli Lilly controversy.

In fact, yesterday was an especially egregious performance for Russert.

Last week, pundits David Broder and Robert Novak (both regular MTP panelists) furthered the notion that Russert is a tough interviewer, particularly when compared to ABC's George Stephanopoulos.

Yet Russert missed three big opportunities to hit Frist with tough follow-up questions.

Example 1

RUSSERT: Will the Republican Party position on race change under Bill Frist?

FRIST: ...I am confident that we have an opportunity we can seize to not rely just on rhetoric and not just pass a series of bills sort of reflexly [sic] that might say, you know, for this or against that.

But to establish a dialogue that we in this country have not seen among our nation's leaders, but have that continue all the way down again to the dinner table and homes around the country...

Tim apparently did not realize that starting conversations is not the same thing as changing one's political positions on, say, affirmative action, federal contracts for minority businesses, employment and housing discrimination, or the right of Congress to pass laws on civil rights matters.

So he moved on.

Example 2

RUSSERT: This is how the Los Angeles Times covered the issue of Judge [Charles] Pickering:

"...the Justice Department turned over files [that] showed that Pickering was upset about the seven-year sentence proposed for Daniel Swan, then 20, who drove his pickup to the home of a mixed-race couple and joined two other men in burning an 8-foot-tall cross...

"[Judge Pickering] clashed with a Justice Department civil rights lawyer about whether Swan deserved the seven-year prison term called for by federal sentencing guidelines. ...

"[And] Pickering met privately with the prosecutors and threatened to order a new trial unless they agreed to a lesser sentence.

"When they refused, Pickering contacted a top Justice Department official in Washington and said that Attorney General Janet Reno should intervene."

Does that trouble you?

FRIST: Well, what it doesn't mention, that in 1967, this same Judge Pickering¸again, with a well- qualified endorsement by the ABA¸was the one who testified against the imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

This is how Russert gets his largely undeserved rep of being a hard-nosed questioner.

He throws out a seemingly tough question, but surely one that a well-prepared subject would be ready for.

Then he lets the subject say almost anything without challenge.

In this case, the bogus argument that Pickering bravely testified against the KKK in defense of racial equality is shredded once one realizes the context.

Pickering was not standing up for threatened blacks. The KKK was attacking the white establishment of Pickering's Mississippi town at the time. (See Seattle Medium, via Nathan Newman)

But Russert let Frist's claim stand.

Example 3

RUSSERT: Abortion¸what will happen with abortion on this session?

FRIST: Well, I don't know exactly what will happen...

...I think things like partial-birth abortion -- and I can tell you as a physician who has been in the operating room for thousands of days and hundreds of thousands of hours, the whole concept of partial-birth abortion offends the sensibilities of me as a physician.

It's a rogue procedure. It's not in the medical textbooks.

Something like that where we've got -- not consensus -- but broad, broad support among the American people, I can see that coming very, very quickly.

Russert could have responded that there is another doctor-politician that does not consider it a "rogue procedure," but simply a "rare procedure."

Presidential candidate Howard Dean:

The notion of "partial birth abortion" is nonsense. This is a rare procedure used only to save the life or health of the mother...

Abortion is a deeply personal decision which ought to be made between the patient, the family and physician. It's none of the government's business.

The end result?

Thanks to Russert's gentle questioning, Frist came off looking reasonable, moderate and well-positioned to mask the real substance of the Republican Party.

Waiting For Breaux

Now that it is clear that Bush's stimulus package cannot clear the Senate as is, all eyes are on the Dem centrists to see if a deal will get cut.

Leading centrist Sen. John Breaux (LA), on Face The Nation, gave a mixed-message performance.

He was very critical of the Bush plan:

On dividends:

Over half the president's package is a so-called dividend tax elimination. Most dividends are not taxed now.

In my state of Louisiana...only about 8 percent of the people are even touched by a tax on dividends that are declared, so that doesn't help a lot of people. So let's pare that down...

On accelerating the last round of tax cuts:

...the president's package...about 33 percent of it go to the top 1 percent of the people in the country earning over $374,000 in annual income.

And to accelerate that 1 percent in addition to that, I think is not a good idea. It's much more expensive than we can afford...

On big deficits

...We finally got to a surplus and now they're talking about a deficit not being that big of a problem.

Well, I think we can work with a deficit that is not too large, but this certainly is reflective of a major change in Republican Party philosophy to say, "We can live with a deficit."

But he reached out to Bush, describing what he could accept:

I think you could maybe make the first $500 in dividends that a person receives tax-free. Everybody would benefit from that.

And then on other earned income, why not just make the first $6,000 of income that everybody earns tax-free? Everybody would benefit from that.

It would be particularly helpful to those in the middle and bottom end of the chain who will use the money and actually stimulate the economy.

It appears that what Breaux is offering is far away from what Bush is proposing.

And if Breaux is serious about keeping the deficit in check, that won't give Bush a lot to work with.

But Breaux loves to cut deals.

LiberalOasis has said before that cutting a deal will only help Bush politically, and it won't help our short-term or long-term economy.

In turn, Breaux's comments make LO cautiously optimistic, with a wary eye.

QUICK HITS

Angling for Veep?

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson begun his road back from scandal-scuffed Secretary of Energy back to his old place as diplomatic whiz with a pitch-perfect reassuring turn on ABC's "This Week."

He did not say what he must have surely been thinking: "Can you believe these Bush people? They call us appeasers, then they beg us to clean up their mess!"

He will surely be in play as a possible VP pick in ╬04, but he may hold out for a prez run of his own in ╬08 or ╬12, after building up a solid gov record.

ABC Loves Liberals?

Last week, "This Week" has Paul Krugman debate Newt. Yesterday, Todd Gitlin from Mother Jones joined the roundtable.

No one can accuse ABC of tilting left as long as George Will has his "Andy Rooney" slot at the end of each show.

But "This Week" is doing the best job of late of getting a true liberal viewpoint in its mix.

Careful Who You Praise

A lesson for Frist: always assume a reporter is in the room.

Here's Frist on Fox:

I have no question in my mind, having been in politics aggressively the last two years as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Democratic party takes African-Americans for granted. And I'll guarantee the Republicans don't.

I wish you could have been at my Republican caucus just three days ago, when [Kansas Senator] Sam Brownback stood up and gave a passionate speech about the outreach to minorities, African-Americans...

But George Stephanopoulos had his own report about the caucus meeting:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Last month...Brownback proposed a plan to calm the Trent Lott controversy.

BROWNBACK [CNBC clip]: So I'm hoping we can have a select committee within the Senate, maybe even bipartisan [and] bicameral with the House and Senate, to really focus on the issue of race relations.

Specifically, what can we do to pull together as a nation, and be one nation on race relations?

STEPHANOPOULOS: But when the Republican conference met behind closed doors earlier this week, Brownback's plan was quickly killed.

Several of his colleagues were certain the committee would become a club for beating up Republicans on the race issue.

Not passionate enough perhaps, Dr. Frist?

BEST OF THE BLOG LAST WEEK

Skippy leads the charge to syndicate liberal talk show host Randi Rhodes

Nathan Newman tackles the myth of double taxation on corporate profits

BusyBusyBusy on how the Commander-In-Chief issued an APB for five non-existent terrorists

Seeing The Forest on the new GOP Congress "ethics" rules

Body and Soul on Gov. Ryan's emptying of death row after concluding the system was broken

January 12, 2003 PERMALINK
NEWSFLASH
Second Poll Pegs Bush In The 50s

What Will Media Do?
(posted Jan. 12 11:30 AM ET)

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.

And it's the second major poll (third if you count ARG) that has Bush in the tepid 50s.

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.)

The Sandbox
Humor By John Cougarstein

Oldies & Oddities, a weekly program of San Diego's KKSM radio, recently announced that John Cougarstein's hit, "Total Collapse of Dick's Heart," was the Number 1 requested song of 2002.

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
Lyrics by John Cougarstein

Sung to "Total Eclipse of the Heart"

(Come around)
Every now and then I get a little bit worried that you're never coming 'round

(Come around)
Every now and then I get a little bit tired memorizing nuclear codes by myself

(Come around)
Every now and then I know I'll never get the budget without all the cartoons you draw

(Come around)
Every now and then I need you to remind me not to dance in front of John Ashcroft

(Come around, Big Dick)
Every now and then I fall apart

(Come around, Big Dick)
Every now and then I fall apart

(Come around)
Every now and then I mix up King Hussein of Jordan and Saddam Hussein of Iraq

(Come around)
Every now and then I tell a racist joke in front of Colin Powell 'cuz I forget he is black

(Come around)
Every now and then I get a little bit edgy and I need you to score me some blow

(Come around)
Every now and then I wonder why did they cancel "Small Wonder," that was such a good show

(Come around, Big Dick)
Every now and then I fall apart

(Come around, Big Dick)
Every now and then I fall apart

And I need you now tonight
and I need you more than ever

I lost the number for Condi Rice
and I lost a rematch with Grenada

And I can't call my Dad for advice
'cuz he's cutting me off

Together we can make it to the end of the term
I promise not to stain Lynne's dress with my sperm

I really need you tonight
Grenada kicked my ass tonight
Grenada kicked my ass tonight

Once upon a time it was parties and brew
now they make me work until dark

Don't know what to do
Total collapse of Dick's heart

Once I was the dumbest guy in the room
[silence]

Don't know what to do
Total collapse of Dick's heart

For more Cougarstein, check out The Cougarstein Ramble and download Cougarstein songs at Iuma.com

**************

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