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February 14, 2003 PERMALINK
Liberals for President!
But Will This Be a Good Thing?
(posted February 14 12:45 AM ET)

Former Senator and Ambassador Carol Moseley-Braun is looking like a prez candidate. And Rep. Dennis Kucinich is supposedly announcing this weekend.

Based on their past voting records and open opposition to the war, both can be expected to run as proud liberals.

Is that good?

Will this help or hurt the liberal cause?

How will it impact the overall race and the Democratic Party?

It all depends on how they carry themselves.

Here's the fear.

Assuming they run, that will be eight candidates. If every person who is publicly pondering runs, it will be 13.

If all those candidates stay in the race up through the first primary and caucus contests, the winning candidate may only need 25% of the vote to win.

[Some NH primary history.

'76: Carter won with 28% in a field of 8.

╬84: Hart with 37% in a field of 8.

╬88: Dukakis with 36% in a field of 7.

╬92: Tsongas with 33% in a field of 5.]

That's a powerful incentive for candidates to cater to niches, and not to the broader public.

Which, by the way, could work for a Kucinich or a Lieberman.

As far as it could help a liberal get the nomination, why isn't that necessarily a good thing?

It is, but...

It won't be good in the long-run if said liberal doesn't invest the creative energy to craft a message -- that's true to liberal ideals -- but will appeal to those who don't define themselves as liberals.

To get that 25%, you might not have to do that. To win in November, you do.

And to reclaim the good name of liberalism, it's crucial.

As Robert Reich once said:

It takes no conviction and no courage to move to the Center. You want to be president, you campaign from the Center.

But if you want to be a true leader, you define the Center.

Easy to say. Hard to do. Essential for liberal policies to ever prevail in America.

Carol and Dennis. You two have the chance to reshape the race and the country.

Granted, you will be attacked. You will have things to explain, and perhaps apologize for.

For example, Carol, you have to convincingly address your earlier meetings with the (now deceased) brutal dictator of Nigeria.

And Dennis, you may get hit with your new age ties to Marriane Williamson and Shirley MacLaine (a suggestion: hit back with Bush's ties to Rev. Moon).

But in the end, this comes down to how you perform, not your critics.

If you are eloquent.

If you are inviting and uplifting.

If you display a sincere understanding of the daily lives of real Americans, and what they need to succeed.

If you instill confidence that you can protect human rights in America and protect America itself.

Then win or lose, you will have done liberals good.

QUICK HIT

Fox Says: Falling Numbers Mean "War Now!"

Several polls, following Colin Powell's UN show, have given Dubya a slight bounce back into the low 60s.

But two polls that came out yesterday show that the bounce was short lived.

CBS pegs Dubya at 54% approval, an astounding 9-point drop from last week.

And in the Fox poll, which never showed a bounce, he's down 2 to 57%.

Fox's Special Report with Brit Hume noted that Bush's numbers on handling Iraq were relatively low, with 50% approving and 38% disapproving.

Hume also cited higher support, 69%, for military action against Iraq.

While other polls still raise questions about the depth of support for war, Hume's panel of "All-Stars" offered this insightful analysis:

Mort Kondracke: My theory is that the country -- this is way I feel, I know -- let's get on with it...the public wants to go and win.

Michael Barone: I think that's possibily it.

Fred Barnes: I don't know of any other interpretation you could see there.

Well, they should take a real close look at the CBS poll (via Thinking It Through). For example:

DO YOU FAVOR MILITARY ACTION:

To remove Saddam Hussein from power
66%

...But if there were substantial U.S. casualties
45%

...But there were substantial Iraqi civilian casualties
46%

...But U.S. military involved for months or years
47%

IS THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION:

Trying hard enough at diplomacy
45%

Too quick to involve military
48%

IS IRAQ'S DEVELOPMENT OF WEAPONS:

A threat requiring military action now
46%

A threat that can be contained for now
44%

Not a threat
7%

SHOULD U.S. WAIT FOR UNITED NATIONS APPROVAL:

Yes, wait
56%

No, take action without U.N. approval
38%

TAKE ACTION OR GIVE INSPECTIONS MORE TIME:

Take action soon
37%

Give inspectors more time
59%

February 13, 2003 PERMALINK
Preparing For War, Politically
(posted February 13 1:45 AM ET)
(edited February 13 9:30 AM ET

In normal times, Dubya would be seen as suffering from 1000 tiny cuts.

Alan Greenspan just trashed his "deficits don't matter" budget.

His favorite right-wing person of color, Miguel Estrada, is stymied by a surprisingly strong filibuster.

His plan to lure seniors to HMOs with prescription drugs fell flat.

And his re-elect numbers are at 50% and below.

But are there signs of panic at Bush Inc.? Not exactly.

In fact, reading yesterday's pre-cooked speech on the economy by Dubya, you'd never know how weak congressional support is for major tenets of his plan.

The dividend tax cut is unabashedly there.

As is the lie about "If you pay taxes, you ought to get relief," though Bush excludes those who pay payroll taxes, but not income taxes.

As is the wild distortion about the "average" tax relief.

And what isn't there: any mention of deficits.

(Furthermore, Dubya praised his choice to head the SEC, William Donaldson, as (can you guess?) a "good man," despite his love child from an extramarital affair with a congressman's wife.

This is restoring "honesty and integrity?" Paging Rush Limbaugh...)

The stated rationale for this "bold" approach by the White House, and their pundit appendages, is Dubya's 2001 success.

No one thought he could get the tax cut done then, yet everyone rolled over. Same thing now, right?

That should be faulty logic.

The key Dems that were peeled off last time around don't wish to get played again.

And the moderate GOPers who weren't worried about deficits before are plenty worried now.

Politics 101 says Bush should be bending over to cater to their concerns.

But there's that war thing scheduled for March.

One would assume that the Bushies are thinking: either no one will dare get in our face while the bombs are dropping, or no one will want to once we're done kicking ass.

The same logic has to apply to the Estrada nomination as well.

Will that be the way things play out? Hard to say. This is pretty unprecedented stuff.

Has there ever been such a controversial domestic agenda to grapple with in the midst of war?

In any event, the question Dems need to answer is: how will they conduct themselves during war?

One possible route, a variation of the old Trent Lott strategy: "We can support the troops without supporting the President," he said during the Balkans war.

Sen. Tom Daschle and Rep. Nancy Pelosi can remind the public of Lott's old quote, while embracing a similar, but less belligerent, view.

Such as, "We can support the troops and the President, while sticking to our principles on domestic issues."

There are no guarantees, but hopefully that attitude will allow Dems to hold fast on issues like Estrada, arctic oil drilling, Medicare and Social Security.

The overall budget is another matter.

LiberalOasis has previously recommended that Dems should provide no political cover, and not participate in any sort of compromise.

Unlike Estrada, the budget can't be filibustered. A bad budget will be passed.

But the important thing is making sure that the inevitable fiscal train wreck is solely a GOP responsibility.

That should still be doable, even in wartime.

As Buzzflash noted, the Dems are just starting to find their spine.

The stiffness of that spine will be sorely tested in a matter of weeks.

It's uncharted political waters, but convictions are always in style. Hopefully, Dems are already planning how they can keep them.

QUICK HIT

Lie of the Day

The first three-quarters of the year 2000 were recessionary. They were negative growth. Fortunately, we passed tax relief...
-- George W. Bush

Let's check those numbers again.

GDP Growth, Annual Rate

Year 2000 (President Clinton)
1Q: +2.6%
2Q: +4.8%
3Q: +0.6%

Year 2001 (President Bush, as of Jan. 20)
1Q: -.6%
2Q: -1.6%
3Q: -.3%

February 12, 2003 PERMALINK
Why Powell Stays
(posted February 12 1:45 AM ET)

First, it appeared that Colin Powell was the only sane member of the Administration, just chronically submissive.

Then, as he gradually moved to the attack-Iraq camp, his stature and savvy painted him an enlightened realist -- doing his best to buttress the UN, maintain our alliances, while dealing with Saddam.

Today, following his comments about the bin Laden tape, it is clear what Powell really is.

A manipulative liar.

A fake.

A phony.

With blood on his hands.

Just like the lot of them.

He sealed his place in the annals of prevarication once he used the bin Laden tape to back up last week's suspect assertions of a Saddam-Osama connection.

When the exact opposite was proven.

Before examining bin Laden's words, recall what NY Times' Thomas Friedman wrote on Sept. 14, 2001:

...these Muslim terrorists did not just want to kill Americans. That is not the totality of their mission. These people think strategically.

They also want to trigger the sort of massive U.S. retaliation that makes no distinction between them and other Muslims.

That would be their ultimate victory -- because they do see the world as a clash of civilizations, and they want every Muslim to see it that way as well and to join their jihad.

Yesterday's statement is clearly part of that master plan.

Much like bin Laden has tried to exploit Isreali-Palestinian tensions to unify Muslims behind Al Qaeda, so is he with Iraq.

Bin Laden called on Iraqis to fight the American "Devil" -- not to salvage Saddam's "infidel," secular government -- but in the name of Islam.

...the sincerity of intentions for the fighting should be for the sake of Allah only, no other, and not for the victory of national minorities or for the aid of the infidel regimes in all Arab countries, including Iraq.

The political strategy is obvious.

He is positioning himself as the uber-cleric, protector of the faith, who will only enhance his legitimacy in the Arab world once the nonbeliever Saddam falls and a power void is created.

Yet Powell ignored the obvious, in deference to his and the Administration's ideological war scheme.

He said the tape showed Bin Laden "is in partnership with Iraq." And his spokesman said that it showed "that bin Laden and Saddam Hussein seem to find common ground."

That is true only on the barest of technicalities, completely ignoring the fundamental rivalry between the two.

The slim straw Powell can cling to is this bin Laden passage:

...it doesn't harm in these conditions the interest of Muslims to agree with those of the socialists [Saddam's Ba'ath Party] in fighting against the crusaders, even though we believe the socialists are infidels.

For the socialists and the rulers have lost their legitimacy a long time ago, and the socialists are infidels regardless of where they are, whether in Baghdad or in Aden (ph).

And this fighting about to take place resembles the fight with the Romans earlier and the collusion of interest doesn't harm, for the Muslims' fight against the Romans was due to the collusion of the interests with the Persians.

Some partnership. Saying even though Saddam is an illegitimate infidel, America is worse, so go fight America.

That is just an exhortation to get regular Iraqis to fight and not surrender.

It offers zero evidence of direct collaboration with Saddam, and in fact, argues the opposite.

What is most troubling, astonishing, and terrifying about all of this is -- as Friedman's past words suggest -- this war is exactly what Osama wants.

Yet the allegedly reasonable Powell doesn't counsel caution, but urges us to ignorantly forge ahead.

Even though everyone knows, thanks to our good pals at the CIA, that this war is raising the risk of terror, and making us less safe.

While Powell surely has undisclosed locations to keep him secure, LiberalOasis -- as well as Iraqi blogger Salam Pax -- apparently are both looking for duct tape to seal their windows.

Why should anyone have expected more of Powell?

After all, he was part of Iran-Contra.

He happily milked the Gulf War for personal acclaim, despite lobbying against it behind the scenes.

He supported the discrimination against gays in the military.

He chastised opponents of affirmative action, then covered for one to salvage his own career.

LiberalOasis is as guilty as anyone for thinking that there was some intelligence and decency in Powell.

But, Colin "McNamara" Powell, is nothing but morally bankrupt.

And that's why he doesn't quit.

February 11, 2003 PERMALINK
Don't Forget The Poor
Bush Isn't
(posted February 11 12:45 AM ET)

George W. Bush's attention, according to the Wall Street Journal, is "consumed with the prospect of war with Iraq."

Nevertheless, he seems to have found time to throw the poor to the ground and step on their collective neck.

As both the NY Times and W. Post recently reported, Dubya wants add layers of bureaucracy to the Earned Income Tax Credit program -- which rewards the working poor -- and the federal school lunch program.

The stated purpose: to deny assistance to those that are ineligible.

The real result: cutting off those in desperate need.

It's a crafty, and cruel, money-saving maneuver.

Why, who would be in support of people fraudulently obtaining benefits?

Of course fraud is bad, just like Saddam is bad.

But, as always, the problem is a proposed solution that will hurt far too many innocents.

The fact is, it's not so simple for the poor to document their poverty.

From the NYT:

In a report to Congress last month, the [IRS] ombudsman, Nina E. Olson...said that some legitimate claims for the [EITC] were "erroneously denied."

Moreover, she said, some taxpayers who pressed their claims found themselves in an "endless loop" of audits and delays.

[She] emphasized "how complicated it is for taxpayers and I.R.S. employees to determine eligibility" for the credit.

The documentation requirements create a hardship in large cities...where many of the working poor live in rented rooms and pay their rent in cash...

And, once a program becomes a time-consuming hassle, you can be sure that many needy people will conclude that they are wasting their time with paperwork and phone calls.

Take, for example, every politician's favorite initiative: welfare reform.

Welfare reform has supposedly saved us money because of the plummeting caseload: 56% fewer welfare recipients since reform was enacted (from ╬96 to ╬01).

But look a little closer at the government data.

The percentage of people eligible for welfare, and actually getting benefits, has also plummeted: from 84% to 52% (from ╬95 to ╬99).

That means while the caseload dropped by 2.2. million families (╬95 to ╬99), the number of eligible families who are not getting benefits went up by 1.4 million.

And that doesn't even count those families who were kicked off of welfare for using up the 5-year time limit on assistance.

As you can see, welfare reform is not succeeding by helping people escape poverty.

On the contrary, it is failing by making it harder for the poor to get help.

And it's that kind of "success" that Dubya wants to bring to the EITC and school lunch programs.

As a candidate back in 1999, Bush criticized a GOP move to defer EITC payments, saying:

I don't think they ought to balance their budget on the backs of the poor.

You can't call him a hypocrite.

He's just piling up massive deficits on the backs of the poor.

QUICK HITS

Alterman Tonight

Be sure to watch Eric Alterman, author of LiberalOasis Book-of-the-Month "What Liberal Media?", take on Bill O'Reilly on tonight's O'Reilly Factor.

Hopefully, this will just be a one-on-one matchup, not the three-on-one pile-on Alterman faced this weekend on MSNBC. (Are they trying to prove his point?)

SF Chron Coming Up?

If you work in the media, or if you ever lived in the SF Bay Area, you know the SF Chronicle doesn't get much respect.

But the Chron had two recent pieces worth checking out.

One on the inherent subjectivity of foreign intelligence.

And one on the training that journalists about to cover the war are being given by the Pentagon.

February 10, 2003 PERMALINK
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted February 10 12 AM ET)

The attack-Iraq PR offensive continued today as Bush sent Sec. Colin Powell and Nat'l Security Adviser Condi Rice to cover all five shows.

They were in broken record mode, killing time and filling up media space until the troops are fully in place.

The main message: it's not about inspectors, it's about compliance.

Which is an easy, knee-jerk retort for any progress the inspectors achieve or alternate French-German plan.

No interviewer drew much blood yesterday, and follow-up questions were (as usual) scarce.

But there were some moments.

Meet The Press' Tim Russert stood alone as the only host to mention the plagiarized British dossier, which received less attention in the US than in Europe.

Though the follow-through was weak, he raised the issue in smart fashion, giving historical context:

RUSSERT: As you remember in 1991, the Persian Gulf War, the Kuwaiti ambassador to the U.S.'s daughter came forward with a fake story.

There were suggestions of satellite photos showing 250,000 Iraqi troops on the Saudi border, which the St. Petersburg Times demonstrated was not correct.

And now this headline about Britain's intelligence dossier. "Britain Admits That Much of Its Report on Iraq Came From Magazines," in fact, a cut-and-paste job of magazines, something you called a fine report.

Are you concerned that there's a sloppiness with evidence and a rush to war?

POWELL: No, I don't think so. I think Britain stands behind its document.

They have acknowledged that they used other sources that they didn't acknowledge or attribute.

But I think the document stands up well...I don't think it was presented as an intelligence document....

RUSSERT: You stand by every word?

POWELL: It's not my document. I'll let them --

RUSSERT: Of your presentation?

POWELL: Oh, yes.

Also, ABC'S This Week, Fox News Sunday and MTP all challenged Powell on the Al Qaeda affiliate training camp he alleged is in Iraq.

All asked: if we know of this camp, why didn't we bomb it out of existence already?

George Stephanopoulos went as far as to throw at Powell this LA Times quote from an "intelligence official":

If you take it out, you can't use it as a justification for war.

And on all three shows, Powell gave a stern, yet weak, response: he wouldn't discuss it public.

A camp that he brought to the public's attention, no less.

Never mind that, as Stephanopoulos mentioned, pro-war Sen. Dianne Feinstein said his private answer wasn't so great either.

Aside from the Bushies, ABC and Fox did the best job yesterday of booking real critics of the coming war.

This Week interviewed Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who was billed as a potential prez candidate.

Kucinich has his message down, wisely tying prospective war with a less safe America:

When you consider the bellicose rhetoric that comes from the Administration.

When you consider Administration pronouncements that they're talking about using nuclear weapons against Iraq, an 8,000 missile strike against Baghdad.

It certainly creates more unsettling conditions in the world.

And thereby, makes the United States even more vulnerable to the intentions of terrorists.

He's scheduled to hit Iowa on Saturday, and will likely announce his candidacy that day or soon after.

Meanwhile on Fox, Sen. Carl Levin laid out a strong case against Bush's handling of Iraq:

BRIT HUME: Senator, in what sense has the administration failed to act through the U.N.?

LEVIN: I'd say two or three ways. We've not supported the inspection regime.

Right at the beginning when the inspectors were proposed by the U.N., the administration said they were useless, at least some of the high-level administrators said it was useless.

HUME: Well, in the end though, the U.S. helped write and voted for and strongly backed Resolution 1441, did it not?

LEVIN: Right, it backed 1441. And just as recently as last week at the White House, Condi Rice said inspections are doomed to failure...

Secondly, the inspectors have asked us for the U-2 surveillance planes.

We have not taken steps at the U.N. to say we are flying those surveillance planes whether Saddam likes it or not.

And third, we have not given the inspectors all the information that we have, that we're going to be giving to them over time...

...

HUME: Not even Hans Blix believes that [inspectors] can succeed, absent a cooperative government.

LEVIN: I disagree with you. I talked to Hans Blix for an hour last week.

Hans Blix wants a cooperative government. Obviously, we want them to cooperate.

But inspections are relevant...We ought to be supporting them.

And it's amazing to me that we have not given the inspectors the information that we have.

And I want to be very precise on this. We've only given the inspectors a small percentage of the suspect sites.

Meet The Press might have thought, when it booked Madeline Albright and Ret. Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, that it was getting some critics.

But Albright proved a mild critic at best, saying she supported "the why" but questioned the "timing."

And Schwarzkopf used the appearance to say he's changed his mind since his interview with the Washington Post that positioned him against war.

However, he didn't really retract his comments about Rumsfeld from that interview (though he toned them down), notably saying:

I think it was Napoleon who said, "You've got to be very careful of war because it's so exciting that you may grow to love it."

And that's what we don't need. OK?

Maybe Schwarzkopf and Kucinich need to get together over some ten-pin and kielbasa.

BEST OF THE BLOG LAST WEEK

Liquid List on Powell's presentation

Left In The West looks at the impact of Carol Moseley Braun on the prez race

The Hamster, Oliver Willis, The Pontificator and Eschaton all nail Bill O'Reilly for using a racial slur on the air.

WampumBlog dissects the latest unemployment figures

Bloviator reminds us about patients' rights

The Sandbox
Humor By John Cougarstein

The Colin Powell UN Presentation
Now on DVD!

With Extra Scenes!
Too Hot for Cable TV!

Here's just some of the extra scenes that you didn't get to see on TV when Colin Powell made the case against Iraq to the United Nations.

More Recorded Conversations!

Powell: What you're about to hear is a conversation that my government monitored between two senior officers from Iraq's elite military unit following a visit from UN inspectors.

[tape begins]

Iraqi 1: So?

Iraqi 2: What?

Iraqi 1: What did you think?

Iraqi 2: What did I think about what?

Iraqi 1: About that inspector?

Iraqi 2: What inspector?

Iraqi 1: The one with the ass.

Iraqi 2: The ass?

Iraqi 1: The ass.

Iraqi 2: The nice ass or the big ass?

Iraqi 1: The nice ass.

Iraq 2: That is one nice ass.

Iraqi 1: You know, I think that's the inspector who's into all of that S&M.

Iraqi 2: Really?

Iraqi 1: Yeah, really.

Iraqi 2: Boo-yah!

[tape ends]

Powell: That was not a David Mamet play, but a manifestation of the lack of seriousness Iraqi officials bring to the issue of disarmament.

More Strained Links To Al Qaeda!

Powell: There is a sinister nexus between Iraq and Al Qaeda that the United States can prove.

The Speaker of the Iraq Parliament Saadoun Hammadi has a second cousin Saeb.

Saeb's brother-in-law's nephew Massoud Abram is currently enrolled in an American university.

Abram is dating an Indian Brahmin named Moneshia Rajiv, although Abram reportedly resists the term "boyfriend."

Rajiv was recently spotted at an after-party for the premier of the movie "The Guru," and, unbeknownst to Abram, was quite friendly with the British-born lead Jimi Mistry.

Before Mistry became a notable actor, he was in a chess club in his native Britain.

That club included several members of the Brixton mosque attended by shoe bomber Richard Reid and other Al Qaeda followers.

How much more evidence do we need?

More French Jokes!

Powell: And then the French guy says, "If I could learn to speak German, how hard can Iraqi be?"

France Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin: Sacre bleu!

The Colin Powell UN Presentation on DVD. Buy it today!

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

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

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