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February 20, 2004 PERMALINK
Beltway Dems: Learn From Gavin Newsom
(posted Feb. 20 1:15 AM ET)

You might not figure a mayor of liberal San Francisco to be fawned over by the corporate-backed Democratic Leadership Council.

But DLC chief Al From called newly inaugurated Mayor Gavin Newsom "a star in the making."

In fact, pretty much the whole Beltway Dem establishment shares the sentiment.

And they came to his aid (in particular, Bill Clinton and Al Gore) when a fierce Green Party challenge almost cost Newsom the election.

Why do they love him?

He's young, good-looking, well-funded, tight with business interests, and willing to propose policy solutions that antagonize liberals (most notably, his homeless initiative).

In short, he's their vision of "electability".

So when a guy like that does something so "unelectable" as breaking the law (arguably) to marry thousands of homosexuals, and then brashly suing the state to defend the move, it warrants notice.

At least, his fans in the Beltway should take notice.

The established storyline (smartly fed by Newsom to the SF Chron and NY Times) is that he was inspired to strike a blow for equality after suffering, in person, Dubya's State of the Union address.

The cynical take, established by SF Chron's political gossip hounds, is that Newsom wanted to grab support from the left that eluded him in the mayor election, and avert a possible recall attempt.

Both could well be true. Idealism and political calculation are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

But don't for a minute think Newsom didn't also factor in his long-term political future.

The Beltway Dems surely didn't think this move would help his larger ambitions. (Newsom indicated that heads-up calls to state and national Dems did not go well.)

However, it would appear that Newsom recognized two things.

1. He is on the right side of history.

2. People like and respect politicians that exhibit principle and conviction.

That includes liberal principle and conviction.

The move obviously plays well locally.

But Newsom likely is also betting it will play well nationally 10 years or so from now, if not sooner.

That's not the kind of call you make from polling and focus groups (which have their place), but from your own head and gut.

Smart politicians have good heads and trust their guts

And Newsom is looking like a smart politician.

As Dems could use more smart politicians at the national level, here's hoping this isn't the last exhibition from him of liberal principle.

*** Share your thoughts at The LiberalOasis Soapbox ***

February 19, 2004 PERMALINK
It's Not Our Party, Yet
(posted Feb. 19 1:15 AM ET)

On Dec. 24, LiberalOasis argued that Dean's probable nomination would put liberals in charge of the party.

Now, Dean is no longer "actively pursuing the presidency" (not the same as dropping out, by the way).

However, it has become widely accepted that Dean's campaign made its mark, in that several other campaigns co-opted his messages, issues and attitude.

Does that mean liberals are in charge of the party anyway?

Not even close.

As said here in Dec., Dean's rise was an extension of the assertion of liberal strength that arguably began when grassroots Dems spontaneously withheld donations to the party following the war vote.

That strength was directed to Dean, in money, foot soldiers, ideas and energy.

In turn, Dean was poised to run a campaign the way many liberals wanted.

With unapologetic messages, rooted in liberal principles, articulated in a fashion that would appeal to the broad electorate.

Seeing where the primary action was, John Kerry and John Edwards emulated Dean, scooping up some of the messages, making clearer distinctions with Dubya, and displaying feistier, crisper styles.

Some of the stylistic aspects may continue, but don't expect that much of the substance will linger.

Both campaigns are controlled by Washington consultants, financed by large donors, and have little connection to the grassroots.

This does not make Kerry and Edwards bad people or fake Democrats. It doesn't mean they have no liberal views or qualities.

It does mean, in all likelihood, the eventual winner will run a general election campaign out of the old Beltway playbook.

That means the Clinton way, playing a linear game of keeping liberals at a distance in an attempt to work the center.

You already see Kerry doing this, playing up his opposition to marriage by gays, for example.

What about Edwards' "Two Americas" speech, a rare effort by a politician to spotlight poverty?

Sounds refreshingly liberal now.

But LO would be very surprised if that was still around in an Edwards campaign come fall, when "middle-class" issues will crowd out the "poor" issues.

(In fact, the original version of the "Two Americas" speech, which is still a good speech, is more geared to the middle class.)

You might say, what's the big deal? Priority number one is beating Bush, and we should do whatever works.

That is true.

And the Clinton way worked in 1992 and 1996.

It could well work again. Elections are often won in the middle, no doubt.

Still, we liberals cannot assume that we are the burden of the party, and not the key to long-term strength and success.

We will only inflict long-term harm if we suffer a crisis of confidence.

The problem with the Clinton way is that it's a short-cut way to win.

You may get the short-term results you want, but by neglecting the base, you won't strengthen the party in the long-term.

Basking in the wins of the 90s, the Beltway Dems felt the base was something to be kept at arms length.

But when the Dems ignored the base's concerns, and too often capitulated to the GOP, the party began to look soulless and small, lacking in conviction and principle.

That contributed to the loss of Congress in 2002, and the loss of funds from its base.

That's the two big things we can give: principle and bucks.

Right now, these Beltway guys are more interested in the bucks.

That's fine for now.

Either Kerry or Edwards will have won fair and square (with plenty of liberal votes, if less liberal money than Dean).

The winner will have earned the right to lead, and we should generally follow, giving constructive advice along the way.

But the party will never be as strong as it can be unless it cultivates a savvy, generous energized base.

As noted here last month, that kind of powerful base is what most frightens the GOP, which is why they are trying so hard to demonize the base's biggest success, MoveOn.org.

Granted, the base will be energized in 2004 on its own accord, for no other reason than Bush.

But after 2004 is over, for the good of the party and the country, we can't stop pushing the party to embrace and leverage its base.

In that respect, what LO said in December about how far liberals have come is still valid, in that we showed how potentially potent we can be.

And with grassroots outlets like MoveOn, TrueMajority, the liberal blogosphere, and possibly the new organization Dean has in store, we will have the tools we need to press on.

*** Share your thoughts at The LiberalOasis Soapbox ***

February 18, 2004 PERMALINK
What Even A Mild Vetting Can Do
(posted Feb. 18 1 AM ET)

People thought Howard Dean was crazy to think you could jumpstart a campaign in Wisconsin, after a string of losses.

He was right, though once again, being right hasn't gotten Dean very far. Instead, John Edwards was the beneficiary of Dean's strategy.

He was right because being a frontrunner throughout this campaign has been somewhat illusionary. No one has become the frontrunner with truly solid support.

Back in December, Dean had big poll numbers, but a good amount of that support was relatively soft.

So when the inevitable pounding came, and Dean's response to it was too coarse, the support collapsed.

Kerry's support is arguably even softer, as he's gone from single digits to 40s and 50s in a couple of weeks, pretty much on his military medals and the look of a winner.

Now, the degree of negative media that Kerry has received recently is very mild compared to what Dean dealt with.

But he did get some.

The controversial side of his Vietnam record, the special interest raps, the smear (now debunked), the "hypocrisy" charges.

So far, Kerry handled all of these fine, which is why his campaign is still on track, why he still won Wisconsin.

But some negative press is worse than no negative press.

John Edwards had no negative press.

He hasn't been near the wringer. His face was the freshest of the three.

And he scored legitimacy from two big newspaper endorsements and a strong debate performance on Sunday.

Therefore, to some, Kerry didn't look so obviously inevitable and perfect, and Edwards offered a compelling alternative.

While Dean, already facing an uphill battle, screwed himself by sending mixed messages on whether he'll drop out -- ensuring a week of negative headlines on whether he'll drop out.

What can't be predicted between now and Super Tuesday in two weeks is:

Who will get the rougher media treatment? Whose weaknesses will get more attention?

Kerry has over Edwards a money advantage and an organization advantage, and a delegate advantage.

But no one's support is rock solid, and a bad media run could be decisive.

*** Share your thoughts at The LiberalOasis Soapbox ***

February 17, 2004 PERMALINK
*** SPECIAL EDITION ***
Exclusive Interview With Eric Alterman
(posted Feb. 16 11 PM ET)

"The Book On Bush," by Eric Alterman and Mark Green, is true to its title.

It's a comprehensive indictment, issue by issue, of the Bush presidency.

The book methodically combs through the specifics in the Bush record regarding the environment, energy, health care, economics, poverty, civil liberties, race relations, education, the judiciary, crime, labor and foreign policy.

It looks to be the ultimate reference book for 2004.

"The Book On Bush" will be the LiberalOasis Book Of the Month for March. On Feb. 11, 2004, Mr. Alterman joined LiberalOasis for an exclusive interview.

Here are some of the highlights:

-- It's hard to fathom just what an extreme group of people [they] are, how little regard they have for what we think of as the public interest, until you examine the details. And in this case, the devil really is in the details.

-- I think there's a real healthy understanding among all sensible people right now that there is only one hope for the future of this country and that is to get rid of this man, no matter who replaces him. I would very happy to vote for Bob Dole or George Herbert Walker Bush. He is the most dangerous man ever to occupy the American presidency in the past 100 years.

-- The one bright spot of the complete and total lack of responsible planning for the entirely predictable aftermath of the invasion of Iraq is that they're not in a strong position to take this show on the road.

Click here for the full interview.

*** Share your thoughts at The LiberalOasis Soapbox ***

February 16, 2004 PERMALINK
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted Feb. 16 2 AM ET)

Watching GOP party chair Ed Gillespie of NBC's Meet The Press, it's clear the GOP is feeling about, trying to figure out exactly how they're going to run at John Kerry.

As MTP pundit Gwen Ifill said after the interview, the charge of "hypocrisy" will be the underpinning of the attack campaign, similar to how "serial exaggerator" fueled the anti-Gore effort.

But Gillespie, the lead GOP attack dog, hasn't concluded what specific charges they will use to make that hypocrisy label stick.

On MTP, Gillespie (emulating Kerry perhaps) gave long-winded answers as he attempted to shoehorn in every possible line of attack they have on Kerry so far.

The flashiest attempt so far was to hit Kerry for taking special interest money while railing against special interests, using a well-produced, web-only ad.

That blew up in Gillespie's face.

Tim Russert pulled out an editorial from the pro-war W. Post assailing Bush for having the "chutzpah" to attack Kerry for taking special interest money, when Bush's take "dwarf[s]" Kerry's.

Now, the GOP doesn't want to make an argument that taking special interest money is bad, for exactly that reason.

They want to say Kerry is a hypocrite for taking such money while condemning it.

But Bush is so drenched in special interest money -- especially Enron money, as Russert noted -- they can't cleanly make the hypocrisy charge on that specific issue.

On the contrary, they'll be the ones who will look like hypocrites, which Gillespie found out yesterday.

Nevertheless, you better believe the hypocrisy line is here to stay.

Kerry's long record of nuanced positions are vulnerable to being distorted into "says one thing, does another" attacks.

But they haven't concluded which specific issues cut best on that score.

That indicates they're unable to really hit the ground running, if Kerry sews up the nod in the next few days.

That's no reason to smile and relax.

That is a reason to keep the pressure on Bush.

Last week, pressure kept Bush off his game, as his team had no choice but to scramble and defend the Bush-AWOL charge (which was delved into on CBS' Face The Nation).

That distraction probably contributed to their inability to come up with a strong offensive game plan.

Kerry appears uninterested in the jugular on the AWOL issue, as he ducked commenting on it once again in yesterday's Dem debate.

But if he's going to turn down the heat on Bush on that, he'd be wise to turn up the heat on something else.

Otherwise, the Bushies are going to get some sorely wanted time to regroup.

*** Share your thoughts at The LiberalOasis Soapbox ***

The Sandbox
Humor Column by Mark Spittle

Tax The Rich...Celebrities

"Taxing the rich" is an old Liberal platform plank that generates far too much partisan conflict to get broad appeal.

Face it, conservatives are never going to get on board with this one, even if it would mean a permanent end to deficits and an increase in tax revenue.

But one thing that every American can agree on is that Hollywood celebrities deserve more pain.

Failing the implementation of any plan to drop them into deep pits filled with poisonous vipers (something that would be inhumane to the vipers), I propose we begin an aggressive program for the taxation of celebrities that aims to accomplish two main goals:

First, that the taxation be so severe that the nation's deficit is not only converted to a surplus within 18 months, but that by 2006 all government programs, including defense, Social Security and the Antique Library Card Restoration Program, are fully funded.

Second, that the taxation be so outrageously punitive that the current crop of celebrities are slowly reduced to whimpering, panhandling beggars on street corners.

Sure, local laws would have to be revised to allow the "formerly famous" to roam the streets like bums kicked off of freight trains, but this is a small price to pay for fully-funded fire, police and critical services.

Why, the taxation on Jay Leno alone could pay for universal health care.

And additional monies could be generated by selling tickets to watch Kelly Ripa sort through trash for a meal, or paying ten dollars to have a disheveled Sharon Stone clean your car's windshield with a grimy squeegee.

I'm sure many of you can come up with creative and lucrative "spectator events" for Rosie O'Donnell or Robin Williams, some which may involve turpentine and a Zippo.

If the country is again forced to face the harsh realities of military conflict, let our rich and famous do their patriotic part by paying for the defense budget.

Oprah could focus her fortune on making sure our Navy is well-armed, while Martha Stewart could make sure our boys in the Marines get a deserved pay increase.

If Steven Spielberg is really so enamored of war heroes, let him personally pay veterans' benefits for the next decade or two.

Some of you may see this a harsh, Draconian proposal aimed at fellow Americans whose only fault is their fame and wealth.

And you would be right.

In light of the behavior of celebrities these days, paying for our entire government and social prosperity on the backs of Tom Hanks, Madonna and Michael Jackson seems only fitting.

They are, after all, apparently above the law and immune to any form of justice, able to murder (OJ Simpson), expose themselves to children (Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake), and generally act like asses (Carrot Top) with impunity.

If the courts cannot reign in these miscreants, then let the IRS do it. It's how we eventually nailed Capone, after all.

I call this plan the Reallocation of Assholes' Wealth Initiative.

The disgust we feel when we see Ben Affleck and Matt Damon receive an Oscar for a movie they didn't actually write (Good Will Hunting), or the horror at watching a mannish Diana Ross grope Li'l Kim's boob on national television, can now be used as a vehicle to unite both Left and Right in a sound fiscal policy that will improve the lives of the non-famous.

Furthermore, taxation under this plan will be directly proportional to the amount of fame each celebrity has, with additional penalties assessed for particularly annoying public stunts.

Like dangling babies in front of angry crocodiles (Steve Irwin) or getting six face lifts and then crediting your new look to a line of cosmetics you just happen to sell (Naomi Judd and Victoria Principal.)

Republicans might have a hard time with this concept because they've thrown in their lot with Arnold Schwarzenegger who, because of the damage he's done to society by releasing Terminator 3, Last Action Hero and Kindergarten Cop, would have to be taxed into obscurity.

But neocons could rest easy knowing that Liberal icons like Barbra Streisand would be similarly drained, and I'm sure a majority of conservatives would surrender the Austrian Oak to poverty in exchange for a future free of Babs' grating warble.

Okay, so we may have to toss in Susan Sarandon as an incentive, but it'd be worth it.

The United States needs leadership that can come up with fresh ideas that unite its citizens and solve its problems permanently.

Taxing celebrities, along with my other plans for enslaving the Dutch and legalizing home invasions of record industry executives, present a positive, structured path towards a prosperous economy and responsible society.

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

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