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Leading With The Left
The daily view from the oasis

April 16, 2004 PERMALINK
Tax Cut Myths
(posted April 16 2:15 AM ET)

Normally, April 15 is the day where the GOP crows about its love of tax cuts.

And while they did it again this year, they were also greeted with two polls that exploded the tax cut myths.

Simply put, America believes Dubya is wrong on taxes.

Poll results from the Associated Press and Money magazine questioned Bush's priority of tax cuts.

From the AP:

...61 percent chose balancing the budget while 36 percent chose tax cuts when they were asked which was more important...

From Money:

76% of Americans said they would have preferred the government devote resources to job programs instead of tax cuts in 2003...

...[And] more Americans say they would also have chosen reducing the federal deficit (49%) over tax cuts (42%) last year.

Furthermore, Bush's assertions of tax relief for all taxpayers were undercut in both polls:

From the AP:

49 percent said their overall tax burden -- including federal, state and local taxes -- had gone up over the past three years.

That's almost four times the 13 percent in the poll who said their overall taxes had gone down.

And from Money:

60 percent said they didn't benefit personally from the tax cuts of 2003...

...[And] Less than one-third (27%) report they are better off [than at this time last year].

There was a seeming paradox in the Money poll, in that a slight plurality of 48% said "the 2003 tax cuts were successful at stimulating the growth of the U.S. economy."

But that stat was propped up by GOPers, 79% who agreed with that sentiment. Whereas 65% of Dems disagreed, as did 52% of Indys.

This all confirms that Kerry is pursuing the right tax message.

He has taken on Howard Dean's "Bush Tax" terminology, to explain that the bottom line of Bush's policies is more money out of your pocket.

And he wisely pushed that theme on Tax Day yesterday.

The polls indicate those messages should resonate, as did the findings of a recent round of swing voter focus groups by Democracy Corps:

People undeniably appreciated the money -- primarily felt through the child tax credit -- but generally said that it was not enough money to make a difference, while questioning whether it did more harm to the economy than good.

But Kerry has more work to do to get his message heard over the Bush attacks.

Both the Democracy Corps focus groups, and another by the Annenberg Public Policy Center (written up by the Philly Inq.), have voters parroting back Bush's charges and showing unease that Kerry is a "tax raiser".

But the two reports also indicated that opinions of Kerry aren't nearly as firm as with Bush.

Democracy Corps said:

Perceptions of Kerry are forming and most participants had some opinion of him...

...Their knowledge of Kerry reflected a surface understanding and there was a lot of interest in learning more about him.

Where the Philly Inq. story on the Annenberg results was more blunt:

...many of these voters still don't know much about Kerry.

Furthermore, according to MSNBC.com, Bush has outspent Kerry on ads so far by a 4-1 margin.

So it's understandable that some negatives would have filtered through.

But the fact that the race is still essentially a dead heat after that onslaught is not making the GOP happy.

Now, Bush is scaling back his ad buy for the time being, and Kerry is going to ramp up big over the next two weeks.

You never know what curveballs Karl Rove will have up his sleeve.

But it looks like Kerry will have a good opening this month to show what he's capable of, and neutralize or mitigate the GOP smears.

QUICK HIT

The $100 Revolution Is Working

Earlier this week, the NY Times reported that a major Silicon Valley businessman, a Dem donor, is turning his back on Kerry and the Dems this year.

Why? Because the Dem position to minimize the outsourcing of American jobs would hurt his bottom line.

What you don't hear right now is the giant sucking sound of Dems kissing this guy's ass.

Because Kerry is raising so much money from the grassroots, he doesn't have to kow-tow to this rich guy's concerns.

That means the $100 Revolution is working.

Keep it up. Help Kerry get as many ads up as possible by donating via LiberalOasis.

April 15, 2004 PERMALINK
Fred Barnes Knows Real America
(posted April 15 1 AM ET)

How did Bush's prime-time show go over with the people?

Ask The Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes. He knows real America:

Bush was heroically on message, relentlessly repetitive, but effective in his own way...

...His audience is outside the Beltway--the mass--and he does surprisingly well in appealing to it.

How does he do it? By being plain spoken and amiable and down to earth.

By sounding more like Midland, Texas, than like Georgetown or Chevy Chase.

By honing in on a single message and not giving reporters much else to write about.

Hmmm. Let's see what some real Americans think about that.

From Reuters:

"I voted for Bush in 2000, but I'm having some second thoughts about him now," said 82-year-old Clarence Hammel, a retired jewelry company sales executive from Montgomery, Ohio...

..."He's got us in a terrible mess in Iraq and doesn't seem to have a good plan for getting us out of it. It has to be in an honorable way. We can't just cut and run," Hammel said on Wednesday.

"At his press conference, he (Bush) just kept saying the same things over and over again. I can't buy into what he had to say," he added.

From Capital News 9, Albany, NY:

After watching President Bush's news conference Tuesday night, the mother of a soldier who served in Iraq said she's disappointed.

Barbara Bartoletti's son was just recently placed on alert for possible re-deployment.

Bartoletti said she expected specific answers, and the president did not deliver.

She said President Bush has failed to outline the U.S. policy on Iraq since the war began.

She explained, "I did not hear any plan. I did not hear a plan when we went into this country for peacekeeping. I did not hear a plan for who is going to take over in Iraq on July 1, and that scares me very much."

From the Wichita Eagle:

"It doesn't help him that it always looks like he's got a smirk on his face," Karen Hope said as the president walked to the podium to talk.

Dean Hope talked to the television. He shook his head as the president denied parallels to the Vietnam War.

At 19, he began 17 months of service in the Marine Corps in Vietnam...

..."To see that man stand there and lie to Americans... it hurts in here," he said, tapping his chest. His voice cracked.

"I might be wrong. God, I hope I am. Our kids are dying over there, and I don't think he gives a damn."

From the Birmingham (AL) Post-Herald:

"I felt like he was hiding a lot of stuff," [Yolanda Lewis of Powderly] said after viewing the press conference. "He wasn't truthful in a lot of things."

For example, Lewis, 42, said Bush was asked whether he had made any mistakes about the war in Iraq. Bush did not acknowledge he made any mistakes, she said.

"That's a lie. I believe he did make a lot of mistakes," she said...

From the Seattle Times:

Contacted after Bush's press conference, Dick Beske, 67, whose son Joel Beske, 41, is a staff sergeant stationed near Baghdad in the 81st Armored Brigade, said the president's performance was "pathetic."

He said he believed the president knew in advance the questions he would be asked.

"It was a dog-and-pony show. ... It was just a photo op for him," said the Seattle resident and former CIA intelligence officer.

From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

...Larry Palazzola, a sales manager who backed Bush last time but is on the fence today, lamented, "We jumped into Iraq, and Americans were mislead. Now we got the tiger by the tail, and we can't let go.

["]What are (the Bush people) gonna do about it? They don't know."

Later Tuesday night he heard Bush's press conference on the radio but he remains angry.

"A couple of times they asked him something, and he just changed the subject. I didn't care for that at all."

From KSL-TV in Utah:

On a day when there is still more bad news from Iraq, people are looking for reassurance from their President.

Here in Utah, some feel like they got it. Others don't feel like they got enough of it.

And some still feel no different than before...

...there are lingering questions---even among Bush supporters---about HOW the President plans to stabilize Iraq, and about how long that may take.

From the Muskegon (MI) Chronicle:

Local reaction to President George Bush's press conference Tuesday was mixed, as residents variously praised or pooh-poohed his presentation...

..."I thought Bush was rather awkward and evasive," [Bill Karis, 51, of Norton Shores] said.

Karis, a graphic artist who recently lost his job due to downsizing, said Bush "didn't directly answer a lot of questions that were put to him.

"I think he would have been better off not going on television than giving the presentation he gave. I didn't learn anything new."

Of course, you can find a number of quotes that are positive about Dubya's performance, in some of the above articles and others.

(The media's favorite word to describe voter reactions yesterday appeared to be "mixed.")

But what you can't find much of are quotes from people who were unsure about Bush before the presser and were subsequently won over by the performance.

Bush's positive reviews seem to only come from his die-hards.

Bush went on TV to grab the spotlight in hopes of changing the political dynamic and recouping some of the swing vote that recently swung away.

The anecdotal evidence says he failed.

And that Fred Barnes, from his elitist Beltway perch, doesn't know what the hell he's talking about.

April 14, 2004 PERMALINK
Clinton Kill Order Cover-Up?
And Other Nuggets
(posted April 14 2:45 AM ET)

You may recall that on 4/2, the NY Times reported that the White House was withholding docs that Clinton turned over in response to the 9/11 Commission.

The day after that story, the White House caved.

Well guess what was in that stack? In all likelihood, a Clinton order to kill Bin Laden.

Whether this order existed has been a point of dispute.

A commission report released at last month's hearing detailed how Clinton's national security team insisted there was a kill order, while the CIA contended the order was to capture, not assassinate.

And yesterday, as Ashcroft and others referred to Clinton's capture policy, commissioners Richard Ben Veniste (D) and Fred Fielding (R) sought to correct them.

Ben Veniste referred to a "memorandum of notification," (MON) which, as described by a CIA witness yesterday, communicates "covert action authorities."

The still-classified MON, according to Ben Veniste, was "made available to us until very recently. It was in the Clinton archived materials and was held very closely."

And in response to Ashcroft, Ben Veniste said:

I believe in your statement...with respect to the failed capture policy of the prior administration that you may be incorrect.

I don't believe that you have seen the MON that we have recently received...

...we've got to tip-toe around it for obvious national security and classification reasons.

But you may be enlightened by reviewing that document.

Soon after, Fielding, in what appeared to be an attempt to protect Ben Veniste from seeming partisan, said to Ashcroft:

I must advise you that we have received recent information in regard to MONs which I believe may alter your evaluation of existing authorities in February of 2001.

This has received a bit of media attention today from W. Post, LA Times, Knight Ridder and Dallas Morning News. But no headlines.

Perhaps our passive media can't bear the thought of another work-intensive investigative matter.

But wouldn't it be interesting to find out if there's any evidence that someone in the White House tried to cover-up how aggressively Clinton treated the terrorist threat?

QUICK HITS

Why Pickard Won't Become A Household Name

Thomas Pickard, acting FBI director in the summer of '01, humiliated Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft yesterday, but LiberalOasis is not confident his charges will get traction.

Pickard publicly confirmed that he relayed to Ashcroft that the CIA was worried about a terrorist attack, and that Ashcroft responded, as paraphrased by a commissioner "that he did not want to hear about this anymore."

Ashcroft flatly denied this. Someone is lying.

Should be great copy for the media, right? Uncomplicated conflict usually is. (No labor-intensive investigative work!)

Yet the media, while not totally ignoring the dispute, isn't going into frenzy mode on this either.

(Exceptions: today's W. Post, and Friday's NBC Nightly News which first broke this story)

Why?

Unlike Richard Clarke, Pickard has no book, and hence, no media tour to call attention to his charges.

The irony being that it's Clarke's promotional efforts, which pushed the story of Bush's inaction to the forefront, that also gave the Bushies an opening to undermine his credibility.

Pickard appears to only want to tell his story to the 9/11 Commission, and call it a day.

That ensures it will essentially be a one-day story.

Unless the commission sticks it to Ashcroft in its final report.

Strike Against Gov. Bill Richardson for VP

Dubya just completed a prime-time news conference where his long-winded, stammering, meandering answer-dodges made John Kerry look like a sound-bite machine.

And how did Gov. Bill Richardson sum-up the performance?

I thought the president was strong, he was resolute. He obviously has a lot of convictions and he's to be commended for that.

(He then followed with some mild criticism.)

If you didn't believe Richardson before when he said he's not auditioning for VP, believe it now.

April 13, 2004 PERMALINK
How To Talk Terror
(posted April 13 1:30 AM ET)

Recently, John Kerry has totally avoided the 9/11 investigation and has been sparing in his Iraq commentary. Why?

From the 4/7 W. Post:

[John Kerry faces] competing pressures...of trying to discredit Bush's foreign policy stewardship without appearing to politicize the twin issues of war and terrorism at a time when events in Iraq and the work of the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks have brought both to the forefront of the news.

Some Kerry advisers and Democratic strategists say there is little to gain from daily attacks on Bush by the candidate himself, particularly when events are bad for Bush politically.

"The campaign has exactly the right strategy on this," Democratic strategist Jim Jordan said.

"Bush's numbers are moving south on terrorism, he's caught in a quagmire of his own making and there's no reason for Kerry to be seen as illegitimately politicizing this."

This approach is not ideal for two key reasons.

One, for Kerry to close the national security gap, people need to hear him talk about national security.

And when Bush's national security failures are on the front pages, you have "teaching moments," where the public is paying attention and looking for fresh solutions.

That gives you a platform to provide them and be heard.

Two, to simply bank on Bush shooting himself in the foot cedes control of the situation.

Yes, Bush's numbers took a short-term hit this past week in the Newsweek poll, without Kerry doing much.

And in the end, if people are dissatisfied with Bush's performance, Kerry won't need to do much.

But by staying on the sidelines, Bush gets the bully pulpit to himself, which maximizes his ability to reverse short-term poll dips.

In this case, Bush, by calling a prime-time news conference for tonight, can give himself the opportunity to reframe the issues in a dramatic way.

It's not a risk-free move.

There's a chance that some reporters won't want to repeat their slobbering East Room performance last year, where they reduced themselves to propaganda pawns.

And Bush's messages the last two days have been wanting. Amplifying them in prime-time could well backfire.

But he's in as much control as he possibly can be, because Kerry has largely gotten out of his way.

Having said that, hitting Bush recklessly, particularly on 9/11, has its problems too.

From yesterday's LA Times:

...based on the information available so far most Americans recoil from efforts to blame Bush for the attacks.

One leading Democratic interest group recently asked a focus group in Florida to respond to a potential television ad accusing Bush of negligence in failing to stop the attacks.

The result was volcanic ¸ against the ad.

"They were so angry I thought they were going to turn the tables over," said a Democratic operative who watched the session.

"It was a very polarizing ad, and it pushed people who were on the fence decidedly away from us."

One would want to see the quality and tone of this ad before drawing too many conclusions.

Nevertheless, it seems reasonable to assume that swing voters are put off by a blame game regarding the past, and more interested in the future.

But it doesn't follow that Bush's pre-9/11 inaction can't be used at all.

It just means that it should only be used in the context of the future.

For example, Kerry could say something like:

It's not what George Bush did or didn't do in August 2001 that should concern us.

The question is, what did he learn from the tragic experience?

He said recently, that back in 2001, when he was told that the FBI was investigating bin Laden, he was "comforted."

And that if "they found something, I'm confident they would have reported back to me. That's the way the system works."

He seems to see nothing wrong with how the system works.

Which begs the question -- Is that still his attitude? That you can just sit back and wait for the reports?

Does he still think he can be that passive when it comes to terrorism?

What will he do during the next threat spike? Does he think calling for an Orange Alert is enough?

Or will he learn from past success, get his national security team to hold daily action meetings, break down bureaucratic barriers, and proactively press people to connect the dots?

(UPDATE 4/13 10:30 AM ET -- Kerry is stepping up his Iraq criticism, with an op-ed in today's W. Post. Good.)

April 12, 2004 PERMALINK
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted April 12 2 AM ET)

Dubya's weak comments on the declassified PDB may be bigger news today, but the Sunday shows were more focused on the chaotic situation in Iraq.

Viceroy Paul Bremer's hang-dog beaten-down mug, delivering a litany of non-answers on Fox News Sunday, NBC's Meet The Press and ABC's This Week, did little to rally support for the current strategy.

And the center-right Establishment, both Dem and GOP, cried out for the John Kerry solution: Internationalize It.

On This Week, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Kerry adviser Rand Beers and even George Will ("If they want that mess, let them have it") all called for the UN to take control of the political transition.

Leaving fellow panelist former Defense Policy Board Chair Richard Perle looking delusional as he insisted we stay the current course.

On CBS' Face The Nation, Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) committed news (though it's not clear at this writing if much media noticed), announcing France told him directly it would provide troops under NATO if the "the permanent five members" of the UN had control and a UN rep replaced Bremer.

Hearing that, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), who had been hewing fairly close to the Bush line, said he was "a little stunned" and:

If, in fact, that is the case and the president of France is certainly willing to do that, that is a real breakthrough, and... Joe certainly deserves a lot of credit for that.

Over at Fox, Sen. Dick Lugar didn't go quite as far as explicitly backing UN control, but did say that as part of any June 30th handover of power:

U.N. Security Council resolutions have to cover all of this [the transfer of authority], so there's international legitimacy.

A great number of other countries have to be invited, strong diplomacy to get them in, difficult as that may be.

So it appears that the center-right internationalist voices are getting more Beltway attention than the hard Right voices saying the solution is more brute force.

Still, it's hard to see how such increased pressure will substantively matter, since the Bushies are so fervently anti-UN.

But if Iraq continues to degrade and Bush continues to be stubborn, having a collection of bipartisan figures echoing Kerry's vision will help Kerry make the case that there is a better way.

However, it would help Kerry more if Dems got a little coordinated and regularly cited Kerry's "plan" or "vision" when discussing their Iraq views.

Biden is a particularly egregious case.

At least twice -- on the 3/21 This Week and to the 4/7 Wall Street Journal -- he has publicly called on Kerry to be more specific about his Iraq strategy.

Yet Biden's main idea -- internationalize it -- is the same as Kerry's.

And instead of going on TV to say Kerry has it right on Iraq, Biden goes on to say he's right about Iraq, never mentioning Kerry's name once.

Though it's not just Biden who is being unhelpful.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), a veep wannabe no less, failed to work Kerry's name in while discussing Iraq on CNN's Late Edition.

And even Kerry's own aide Rand Beers didn't say "Kerry" once on This Week, as he sounded more like a pundit than a surrogate.

Kerry is being dinged for, as that WSJ piece said, not having "laid out a comprehensive plan for tackling Iraq."

Which is silly, because he has offered as much as one could for one who is out of power and for such a highly fluid situation.

But Kerry can't beat back the criticism if his allies, especially those with strong foreign policy cred, don't carry some water for him.

The Sandbox
Humor Column by Alexander Pierre Luboknovich

Iraq: A Water Comedian's Solution

Born in 1957 in Byelorussia, Alexander Pierre Luboknovich, a Soviet in exile, is a political commentator, water comedian, diplomatic impersonator, and importer of international wives.

He is currently at work on a book of essays entitled "Power to the Peephole: Lewd Propositions for a New Sexual Revolution" and is an associate fellow at the Ruzzzivixxxxxxen Importing Co., Brighton Beach, NY. He is one of the leading practitioners of the high Russian art of "water comedy" and a regular humorist for LiberalOasis.

Now, let's look back to the point of this whole thing from Day 1. If the point was to unappoint our appointed dictator and appoint a new one, well, we're not quite there yet!

If the point was to point out lapses by our intelligence agencies and expose how inefficient they are, then we have succeeded!

If the point was to ask Dennis Kucinich what a vegan Passover Seder consists of...oh wait, sorry, that's from another column.

Look, who cares what the point was. At this point it probably wasn't worth it. It makes no sense to point fingers. I mean, look at what happened in Fallujah!

There's no point in going on with a war after something like that happens. How can we expect to negotiate with a population who "just don't get it."

If you missed it, I am referring to U.S. Army spokesperson Brigadier General fellow Mark Kimmitt's insight that "Fallujah remains one of those cities in Iraq that just don't get it."

In less reported comments, he continued:

"They don't understand it. They need to get with the program. Do the locomotion. They need to start playing by the rules. They need to apologize to us and we'll give ╬em a pat on the back.

"They need to consider the consequences of their actions, lest people get the idea that Fallujah isn't really a safe place to hang out anymore. The Fallujahns are not really cooperating very well, and cooperation's what it's all about.

"It's mildly depressing, in a way. We were supposed to give them an advanced screening of "Jersey Girl" and, well, even if they get a screening at this point it won't be before everyone else. There won't be anything ╬advance' about it.

"And how do they expect the production crew for "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" to get anywhere near their city, much less infiltrate the place.

"Ty Pennington is considering asking for a day off that week, after he saw what the Fallujahns did to those unfortunate contractors. We can't have this! We can't have the show without Ty!

"In a few months the world's gonna forget about those contractors. But the Fallujahns will never forgive themselves for jeopardizing their chances at a ╬Makeover.'

"And I say ╬jeopardizing' because there's still a small chance that if they can right the ship in the next couple of weeks, Ty and the rest of the ╬Makeover' crew will still make the trip over.

"It just leaves a bad flavor in your mouth when you see something like that. It makes you feel uncomfortable. That's not what this war is all about."

Why can't we just say "nevermind" about the whole thing. It's, frankly, too scary to continue.

I mean, Luboknovich was never one to admire Ukrainians, but the tone that their army sent by their recent desertion is actually kind of honorable and admirable (never thought I'd say that a Ukrainian is honorable!).

So that's why I say, the situation in Iraq has gotten so dire, so dicey, so desperate, so chancy, so dubious, so inclement, so unpalatable, so incommodious, so un-enjoyable, so pong, so execrable, so diuretic, so diarrhetic...that it seems like we have only one option left!

That is, to return Saddam Hussein to power!

The advantages, as I see it, are manifold!

Reason 1: Preservation and Preserves

First off, we could preserve our military resources. Sure, preservation is a really liberal idea, I know, but if we saved our weapons of mass destruction and our helicopters instead of using them, we could eventually make strawberry jam.

Secondly, we could take the Presidential campaign focus off of this horrible war, and focus on the real issues...like all of the people heading to D.C. later this month determined to castrate Bush.

It's astounding that us liberals look right through the feminists, embrace them as partners, and buy their hair care products. Sure, social equality and abortion rights are nice things, but these are obvious fronts for the feminists' real primary goal: to neuter junior!

And if Luboknovich is to march along with the feminists later this month, it will be for that goal and that goal alone.

Yes, a castrated Prez would be hilarious, and it would also void the Levitra endorsement deal Dear Leader had locked up for 2005.

Reason 2: Freedom and Freon

Every day it becomes more and more obvious that Hussein was a better leader than Bush. Although that is like saying that Mussolini made a better calzone than Papa John!

Look, I know that re-installing Hussein isn't what Bush had in mind one-year into this whole thing. And of course, I know that the failure of our operation in Iraq can mostly be attributed to bad luck and some unexpected weather.

But we need to reflect deeply, fellow Americans, feel inside of ourselves and make contact with our organs.

Only then can we acknowledge that putting Saddam back in the womb is the best solution we've got. And at the very least there is precedent!

Every summer Americans take their air conditioners up from the basement and reinstall them. Now, I'm not saying that Hussein is like an air conditioner, but let me tell you, he is in a basement somewhere probably, and when we reinstall the air conditioners in the Luboknovich house it always works flawlessly.

Reason 3: Momentum and Mentos

Look, Hussein is probably really mad right now that we shaved off his beard. It had to have taken him months to grow that thing.

The key for us is to tap into that anger. To use his fury for good and for peace!

We need to use his momentum. Clean him up some. Fatten him up again, and give him some mints.

Throw him a few billion to put an army together to defend one of his palaces and tell him "What the hey? You can handle it, big guy!" Then we get the hell out of there!

What is better? Democracy? Haha! Like elderly liberals, Iraqis simply lack the computer skills to work an electronic ballot.

Instead, we need to teach the Iraqis that even America makes mistakes. And if they agree to embrace us, by God, at their own will, then we will give them as much Levitra as they need and as many Mentos they need to operate a stabile government.

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

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