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February 21, 2003 PERMALINK
Constructive Criticism Friday
(posted February 21 12:45 AM ET)

LiberalOasis always prefers to focus its fire on the conservatives who aim to harm America.

But sometimes a little constructive friendly fire is necessary.

Three possible presidential candidates -- each who have the potential to elevate the quality of the race -- all made minor, but troubling, slip-ups this week.

Howard Dean

Overall, Dean just gets hotter and hotter, impressing local activists, and big money donors in New York and Los Angeles.

However, increased attention from the media and politicos means Dean needs to pay more attention to his public comments.

This is particularly tricky for Dean, because his appeal is firmly rooted in his candor, his avoidance of weasel words.

But it's not on issues where Dean's bluntness is a worry. It's when he talks about himself.

For example, check this from yesterday's Salon.com profile:

"I'll probably dispense with some of the more rhetorical flourishes," if he wins the nomination, he says.

"One time I said the Supreme Court is so far right you couldn't see it anymore. Next summer I won't be talking like that. It's true and I'm not ashamed to have said it, but it doesn't sound very presidential."

This is not an isolated case. Another is when he told the NY Times, "I do rural really well."

Such self-awareness undercuts the sense that you're fresh and candid. It makes everything feel calculated.

It may be unfair that mindlessly repeating empty slogans somehow leads to perceived sincerity, while expressing a conscious understanding of the realities of politics doesn't.

But that's the way it is.

Dean doesn't need to dumb himself down. 99% of what he's doing is working great.

But save the insider strategy for when you talk to the insiders. Stick to the issues and the biography for the media.

Gary Hart

Earlier this month, Gary Hart criticized:

...Americans who too often find it hard to distinguish their loyalties to their original homelands from their loyalties to America and its national interests.

Soon after, ABC's The Note and both Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson on CNN's Crossfire, implied that Hart was speaking in anti-Semitic code.

So Hart did the smart thing, talked to the Jewish newspaper The Forward, and nipped it in the bud by stressing his long pro-Israel record.

But along the way, he made two rookie mistakes.

Earlier, The Note asked him what people was he referring to. He gave as examples Irish-Americans and Cuban-Americans. An unnecessary move.

Then, when The Forward asked him about that, he deemed his response to The Note as "a throwaway."

After running for president twice before, Hart should know better. This is not the playground. There are no takebacks. Every word counts.

As the candidate with the deepest experience on homeland security issues, his presence in the debate would do much to position Dems as the homeland security party.

Let's hope he doesn't sabotage his nascent candidacy with silly stuff like this.

Dennis Kucinich

As LiberalOasis mentioned last week, Kucinich has ties to New Age types like Marianne Williamson.

A little easy to lampoon, but there are worse things.

But Kucinich made the lampooning a little easier when participated in a public teleconference call co-sponsored by the Natural Law Party.

The Natural Law Party's biggest idea is that Transcendental Meditation can stop crime.

Again, if a reporter ever brings this up, it's a great opportunity to raise the GOP's ties to Rev. Moon, a far more insidious relationship.

Nevertheless, if Kucinich wants to be the face of American liberalism and help the cause, he's gotta cut the fringe loose. Plain and simple.

QUICK HIT
(posted Feb. 21 8:45 AM ET)

Earlier this week, LiberalOasis said the antiwar protests had a positive impact on the internal politics of the UN.

Yesterday on CNN's Inside Politics, Bill Schneider said that the most recent CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll showed that the protests helped move American public opinion:

In the past week, we've had Hans Blix's report and massive anti-war protests around the world.

Now, the number who say invade Iraq even without the U.N. has dropped to 30 percent [from 39 percent].

Once again, the prevailing opinion is get a new U.N. vote. And the number who oppose sending any troops at all is up slightly, to just over a quarter.

The past week has seen another momentum shift, this time, away from war.

FROM THE MAILBAG

Mark from Britain takes issue with LiberalOasis pegging the London antiwar protest at 750,000 people:

C'mon guys, don't go with the lowball Metropolitan Police number! There were roughly double that... The Sunday Mirror said "2 million", The Guardian said "over a million"...

All British newspapers now refer to the numbers as "over a million" or thereabouts. That's without even taking into account the estimates of the organisers. Don't sell swinging London short!

Tim from Bear Left offered this on Bush's likening of the protests to a focus group:

Speaking of focus groups, the President per curiam needs to remember that there is a legislative branch. Shouldn't Congress be the one focus group involved in policy?

Chris S. thinks LiberalOasis and others are focusing too much on the protests:

I think the protests and the invective have created in the American people an air of dread about the war itself and not the reasons behind it; not the lies that were told leading up to it; and not the flawed world view that allowed it to happen.

As a result, a quick victory (not an unlikely scenario) will make Bush a hero in the minds of many. He will have become the master wielder of the proverbial big stick...

...If we truly want to discredit the policies that put us in this situation and avoid further and redoubled efforts in that direction, we unfortunately need to downplay the importance these protests. We need to use the resulting solidarity to focus worldwide attention on the long-term effects of the war and the policies that created it.

February 20, 2003 PERMALINK
The Estrada Staredown
Dance, Ari, Dance!
(posted February 20 12:45 AM ET)

This is what those in the biz call "desperation."

From Ari Fleischer:

No, the [Miguel Estrada] nomination is alive and kicking. And it remains to be seen whether or not the obstructionist Democratic tactics, which are exceedingly rare and never before been successful, will be continued...

...Some Democrats view the lesson of the last election is to go out and to run as far to the left as possible.

The reemergence of the liberal wing of the Democrat Party is in full swing, which is making many of the moderates in the Democratic Party increasingly uncomfortable.

Actually, it's the "spine wing" that's in full swing.

As for the few left in the "sucker wing" -- Sens. Zell Miller (GA), John Breaux (LA) and Ben Nelson (NE) -- who cares.

What the spine wing seems to finally get is that few regular Americans give a damn about who is named to the U.S. Court of Appeals.

As far as the political implications go, these nomination battles are strictly Beltway -- page A14 material.

They get the base uppity, they're helpful for fundraising. That's it.

Once you get that, you lose any incentive to capitulate. You'd only anger your core supporters, but pick up no swing voters.

Of course, that logic works both ways. In turn, the White House won't walk away either.

So to shake some Dems loose, Ari dropped the L-bomb, the Dukakis-Killer, the all-purpose slur.

And much like how Darth Vader tried to cajole Luke to join the Dark Side, he reached out his cold hand to the "moderates" and offered false shelter.

Yet no one's boots seem to be quaking.

So far, most Red state Dems see no need to take political advice from the enemy.

Perhaps they remember how much support they got from Dubya after backing the '01 tax cut.

And perhaps those plummeting approval numbers don't help Ari's cause.

In fact, the folks who seem to be on the verge of cracking are the Senate Republicans.

From Bob Novak's column:

...Republican senators, at their weekly luncheon Tuesday [last week], decided to call for a Friday cloture vote before beginning their recess ÷ an effective death sentence for Estrada. The White House protested...

...Sen. Rick Santorum, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, and some 10 other GOP senators urged Frist not to bring the cloture vote Friday, and he agreed.

Info from Novak, a borderline gossip columnist, should always be taken with a little skepticism.

However, to take it at face value, it would appear that many Senators don't see Estrada as their fight, just Bush's fight.

Therefore, not only do we have a real chance to bottle up this nomination for good.

But such a victory will mean Dems looked the "liberal" slur right in the eye and didn't blink.

That would be a small step in disarming conservatives of their Number One attack line, and ending the ideological imbalance in our public discourse.

February 19, 2003 PERMALINK
Live By The Focus Group
Lie By The Focus Group
(posted February 18 11:45 PM ET)

First of all, you know, size of protest, it's like deciding, well, I'm going to decide policy based upon a focus group. The role of a leader is to decide policy based upon the security -- in this case, the security of the people.
-- George W. Bush, on antiwar protests, 2/18/03

As we roll out the broader communications strategy, [we] have done quite a bit of work with professionals around the country -- who include focus groups -- as a way to communicate the message that really helps people feel empowered and educated rather than alarmed.
-- Tom Ridge, on homeland security, 2/14/03

[emphasis added in both]

Ah, sweet hypocrisy. The mother's milk of Republican politics.

It was already the short-term White House strategy to treat the protests with condescension ("it's fine to protest" said Condi Rice).

But it's a deeply embedded strategy to bash the Clinton presidency whenever possible.

And "focus group," to the Bushies, is just another way to say "Clinton."

Recall this tale from the W. Monthly last year, about a bipartisan lunch of WH press secretaries:

President Bush dropped by unexpectedly and launched into an impromptu briefing of his own, ticking off the items on his agenda until he arrived at the question of whether it was preferable to issue vague warnings of possible terrorist threats or to stay quietly vigilant so as not to alarm people.

At this point, former Clinton press secretary Dee Dee Myers piped up, "What do the poll numbers say?" All eyes turned to Bush.

Without missing a beat, the famous Bush smirk crossed the president's face and he replied, "In this White House, Dee Dee, we don't poll on something as important as national security."

This wasn't a stray comment, but a glimpse of a larger strategy that has served Bush extremely well since he first launched his campaign for president---the myth that his administration doesn't use polling.

As Bush endlessly insisted on the campaign trail, he governs "based upon principle and not polls and focus groups."

Too bad for Bush that he didn't have Dee Dee on staff.

Because one can only assume they didn't focus group the color-coded "vague warnings" system, which has been mocked ever since.

So now, they have turned to the focus groups to try to Band-Aid the screwup.

If they did the focus groups in the first place, much embarrassment could have been avoided, and maybe we'd have some useful information by now.

And as the W. Monthly told us, it would be far from the first time they relied on pollsters.

Yet the lie continues. And it's a sophomoric lie at that.

There's a reason why politicians poll and focus group. They are simply ways to talk to cross-sections of the public in an organized manner.

Should they be gospel? Of course not. Can data be misinterpreted or misused? Absolutely.

But to govern without them is foolish.

The Bushies are not so foolish to try, but they are pathetic enough to lie about it.

Well, Tom Ridge isn't.

He may be wrong man for his job, but he was big enough to lay it out to the public, to move beyond the reflexive Clinton-bashing.

Obviously, he didn't get the memo. In this White House, Clinton-bashing never goes out of style.

February 18, 2003 PERMALINK
The World Shouted "No!"
And It Mattered
(posted February 18 12 AM ET)

Let it not be said that regular people can't make a difference.

Millions of people hit the streets on Saturday and changed the political dynamics concerning Iraq.

Back in August, LiberalOasis said the only way we don't go to war is for Tony Blair to refuse to participate.

Since then, Blair made it clear he was essentially on board with Bush.

But on Saturday, 750,000 Brits threw their best punch, and popped Blair in the puss.

It rattled 10 Downing Street enough that Foreign Secretary Jack Straw acknowledged yesterday that war would be "very difficult" without public support, and that:

It was a very, very large demonstration, probably the largest one we've seen in our recent democratic history in London. We have to take account of public opinion.

Still, in all likelihood, the antiwar movement's best punch won't be good enough. Blair has carried Bush's water for too long.

In fact, Straw was compelled to partially walk back his comments later in the day.

But even though Blair is still with Bush, Blair is weakened.

And with Blair weakened, French Prez Jacques Chirac is strengthened.

Neocons have pooh-poohed France, claiming it is no longer a great power deserving of a Security Council veto.

France may not have as many guns and bombs as the US, but it is now the default leader of world public opinion, its position greatly bolstered by the protests.

Now, when Chirac threatens a veto of a possible US-British war resolution, he's not being merely petulant. He's speaking for the masses.

That also makes it harder for him to wilt in the face of US pressure, since switching positions would severely disappoint the masses.

Where does that leave us? Still with war, but probably one without a new UN resolution.

The protesters can fairly take partial credit for such an outcome.

Perhaps it will be small solace in the short-term. The bombs will still drop. Innocents will still die.

But the movement has shown it can have an impact.

And if it can alter the internal politics of the United Nations, before a war even starts, think of what it can do in the future.

QUICK HIT

Dean Steps Up

Howard Dean took LiberalOasis' advice, gave a full-blown foreign policy speech yesterday, (via MyDD) as well as posted some foreign policy info on the Dean web site.

It was intelligent, comprehensive and fearless -- sure to make the Beltway candidates wonder just what are they getting from their high-priced consultants.

Just read it.

February 17, 2003 PERMALINK
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted February 17 1:45 AM ET)

The march-to-war-by-March PR plan was derailed on Friday by Hans Blix, and on Saturday by millions of antiwar demonstrators.

Condi Rice, sent to Meet The Press and Fox News Sunday, couldn't get it back on track on Sunday.

Simply put, the Bushies are looking clueless.

Their evidence was called into question. They've completely lost world opinion.

And what do they have Condi do?

On Fox, she called for a new UN resolution that would:

...reaffirm 1441 [the most recent UN resolution] because we believe that we have all of the authority necessary under 1441 and several other U.N. Security Council resolutions, to impose serious consequences on Iraq if necessary.

But at the same time, she complained that:

...if we continue to talk about process rather than substance, that indeed we will play into Saddam Hussein's hands...

Isn't calling for a resolution, that says essentially the same thing as the last resolution, the ultimate in BS process?

Also, according to the NY Times, the US will insist that Iraq meet certain benchmarks during the next two weeks, then push the resolution after the US insists Iraq failed.

(The shows did not delve into that component very well, so just read the NYT piece.)

Does Bush really think that anyone will view this as a serious opening for Iraq to avoid war?

This, of course, plays into his problem.

As ABC's Fareed Zakaria noted on This Week:

[The White House is] losing ground over time, diplomatically. There's a greater incentive to act fast.

But Dubya can't act fast. The troops aren't in place, and aren't expected to be until mid-March.

So even though securing UN backing has become a long shot, he's forced to find ways to go through the motions.

However, empty gestures are not a good way to build support -- abroad, in the UN, or at home.

QUICK HITS

John McCain: Not Ready For Primetime

Sen. John McCain has done a lot of impressive things.

He's done yeoman's work on campaign finance reform. He's speaks the truth on tax cuts and class warfare. He's come around on the environment.

And he's a general irritant to Bush.

But his reckless belligerence on foreign policy -- a subject dear to his heart, no less -- should flat out disqualify him for national office.

Here's McCain on Face The Nation yesterday:

...let me just say a word about the French. They remind me of an aging movie actress in the 1940s who's still trying to dine out on her looks, but doesn't have the face for it...

...The cynical role that France is playing proves that....you cannot be a great nation unless you have great purpose. And they've lost their purpose.

And it's very unfortunate, and perhaps Churchill and Roosevelt made a very serious mistake when they decided to give France a veto in the Security Council...

France is by no means a perfect nation, but they are an ally, a democracy, and right now, far closer to world opinion than the US is.

McCain's words are beyond gratuitous and unproductive. They're pathetic and childish.

Both Sen. John Kerry and Sen. Joe Lieberman are reportedly considering McCain as a potential veep.

If his virulent pro-war views, spoon-fed by Bill Kristol, weren't enough to bar that, his French insult should be.

It shows that he can't be trusted to be a professional when representing his country.

Of course, McCain wasn't the only one being unprofessional in regards to France.

MTP's Tim Russert asked Condi Rice this hard-hitting question: "What's with the French?"

Gen. Wesley Clark Takes a Baby Step

Former NATO Supreme Commander Wesley Clark said on MTP that he's "thought about" running for Prez, and the wires ran with it.

What kind of candidate would he be?

Nearly impossible to say, because Clark can barely stop being an analyst long enough to talk about his own ideas.

But at the tail end of the interview, he started to show signs of being in the race, as he discussed how he would have handled the aftermath of 9/11:

Why not focus on al-Qaeda and then work that very intensively, work it diplomatically? Go into the United Nations and start with indicting Osama bin Laden as a war criminal.

That way, you can use international legitimacy and pressure against some of these so-called coalition partners like Syria and others that are sort of sitting on the fence and playing both sides...

...when you're contemplating a $100 billion resource expenditure against Iraq, but you can't put another $5 billion into Homeland Security to protect the American people, you have to ask: Which strategy best protects America?

Not a bad start.

We still know practically nothing about his domestic views. And he may not even be a Dem; he could run as an independent.

But you have to admit. It would be fun watching Dubya struggling to out-macho a Supreme Commander.

BEST OF THE BLOG LAST WEEK

Intervention on the tremendous NYC rally

Walter Brasch notes as we mourn those lost in the Columbia shuttle, we forget those killed in Afghanistan (also, check out Brasch's book, The Joy of Sax: American During the Bill Clinton Era)

Mfinley and the perfect antiwar poem

Daily Kos has a grassroots plan to pool financial resources and influence the DNC, while Nathan Newman is pushing Progressive Majority instead

Better Rhetor says instead of Shock and Awe, how about Build and Heal?

Ruminate This on "the perfect crime" -- modern ballot tampering

Balkinization and MyDD pick apart PATRIOT II

Roger Ailes says Laura Bush is off-message

Calpundit reminds us the Smirk is back

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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Domini Social Investments

Greenmoney Journal

Parnassus Investments

GET UNIONIZED

AFL-CIO

SEIU

UAW

GET LAID SAFELY

Advocates for Youth

Nat'l Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

Planned Parenthood

Scarleteen

GET REPRO CHOICE

Center for Reproductive Law & Policy

NARAL Pro-Choice America

GET ABORTION

National Network of Abortion Funds

GET HAPPY ANIMALS

Alley Cat Allies

ASPCA

Best Friends

Stop Declaw

Wildlife Waystation

GET GOD

American Islamic Congress

The Ba'hai Faith

Buddhist Peace Fellowship

Catholic Worker

Center for Progressive Christianity

Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy

Interfaith Alliance

Noble Causes

Sojourners

Tikkun

Unitarian Universalists

Universal Life Church

GET GODLESS

American Atheists

Infidels

GET MOONIE

Moonie World

GET ANN COULTER

Ann Coulter Is a Bitch

Anti-Coulter

CoulterWatch

Dr. Limerick's Slannder

GET EQUALITY

American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee

Anti-Defamation League

Human Rights Campaign

NAACP

Nat'l Conf. for Community and Justice

National Council of La Raza

National Urban League

NOW

GET JUSTICE

ACLU

Brennan Center for Justice

EarthJustice

Lambda Legal Defense

Mexican American Legal Defense

NAACP Legal Defense

National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium

Native American Rights Fund

NOW Legal Defense

Southern Poverty Law Center

GET RADIO

Bush Recession Radio

Democracy Now

Free Speech Radio

i.e. America Radio

Meria Heller

Mike Malloy

New Black City

Radio Free Exile

Radio Left

Radio Nation

Randi Rhodes

Ski & Skinner

Peter Werbe

GET AMERICAN

Americans for Democratic Action

Campaign for America's Future

Americans United for the Separation of Church and State

People For the American Way

A Prayer For America

GET SOMEONE ELECTED

Democratic National Committee

Emily's List

MoveOn.org PAC

Progressive Majority

21st Century Democrats

Young Democratic Candidates Network

GET PRESIDENTIAL

Joe Biden

Wesley Clark

Howard Dean

Chris Dodd

John Edwards

Dick Gephardt

Al Gore

Bob Graham

Gary Hart

John Kerry

Dennis Kucinich

Joe Lieberman

Carol Moseley-Braun

Ralph Nader

Al Sharpton

GET PRESIDENTIAL BLOGS

Howard Dean 2004

Howard Dean in 2004 (R. Klau)

Americans For John Edwards

John Edwards For President

Students For Edwards

Texans For Joe

GET ORGANIZED

Dean 2004 Meetup

Edwards 2004 Meetup

Gephardt 2004 Meetup

Gore 2004 Meetup

Kerry 2004 Meetup

Lieberman 2004 Meetup

Sharpton 2004 Meetup

GET VPs?

Max Baucus

Evan Bayh

Bill Bradley

Tom Daschle

Gray Davis

Richard Durbin

Russ Feingold

Dianne Feinstein

Mary Landrieu

John Lewis

Gary Locke

John McCain

Jim McGreevey

Bob Menendez

Janet Napolitano

Nancy Pelosi

Bill Richardson

Kathleen Sebelius

Tom Vilsack

Mark Warner

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