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April 25, 2003 PERMALINK
Trying To Thread The Needle
(posted April 25 12:30 AM ET)

You probably thought LiberalOasis was kidding around after satirically suggesting Karl Rove and his disciples wanted Bush's poll numbers to drop.

Apparently, that was not far off the mark.

Dubya's top pollster, Matthew Dowd, sent around a memo to prepare his party and the media for a ratings plunge.

Most notably, he expects Bush to fall behind the Dems in trial heats relatively soon.

It's one thing to play the low expectations game, but this is ridiculous. Show a little confidence!

Dowd hangs his analysis on selected historical examples.

But every term is different. There's nothing stopping the Bushies from at least trying to keep their approval in the 60s.

Except that it would require abandoning their fealty to the party's right-wing.

If you recall, some conservatives worried aloud when Dubya's approval soared into the 80s after 9/1l.

They feared the WH would get hooked on the high numbers and wouldn't push for a polarizing, ideological agenda.

So silly they were.

Now, right after another ratings spike, Bush wasted no time in dusting off his unpopular economic plan.

Last week, LiberalOasis said that would precipitate a ratings drop.

That's looks even likelier, as the plan still polls badly, even when Bush's name is associated with it.

In a new CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll, a plurality of Americans said, "the tax cuts being proposed by George W. Bush are...a bad idea..."

Furthermore, 57% said the tax plan would either "hurt the U.S. economy" or "have no effect."

This is probably no surprise to the Bushies.

They know this plan is a political dud. They know it will erode his popularity.

But it does keep the base energized and unified.

They think the "Look Busy" strategy will trump substance.

And they hope "national security" will trump the economy.

They right on one of the three. The base will be pleased.

But a "re-election" campaign hinges on performance. If the economy is bad, then the economy is bad. Spin becomes futile.

And the new poll raises the question if national security will be that important in 18 months.

At the moment, 53% say the economy is more important.

That may be because of Bush's own fallacious arguments.

He pushed hard the Saddam-0sama link. Now 58% of people say beating Iraq has made us safer from terrorism.

If people think the job is mostly done, they'll be more likely to focus on the economy again.

Of course, a whole lot of things can and will happen between now and the election (like say, another Korean war?)

But it's looking more and more as if Bush Inc. isn't trying for a landslide in 2004.

Instead, by relying on a smile and an unpopular, ideological agenda, they seem to be plotting a 50%-plus-one, thread-the-needle strategy to save the day.

QUICK HITS

Um, Back To The Drawing Board

Another GOP game plan that didn't quite work out, siphoning off some of the gay vote:

From Newsweek.com, Dec. 13, 2001:

As for the gay vote, some argue it's fluid. "We could get 40 percent of the gay vote if we play it smart," [uber-conservative Grover] Norquist says.

More Interesting Poll Results

From that CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll. Prez candidates take note:

Which comes closer to your opinion of this situation:

The Bush administration is mostly picking the best company for the job and some just happen to have ties to the Republican Party.

[Or] the Bush administration is mostly trying to reward companies with ties to the Republican Party and is not necessarily picking the best company for the job?

Picking the best company -- 45%
Trying to reward -- 44%

Which comes closer to your view:

The government should take all steps necessary to prevent additional acts of terrorism in the U.S. even if it means your basic civil liberties would be violated.

[Or] the government should take steps to prevent additional acts of terrorism but not if those steps would violate your basic civil liberties?

Take steps, but not violate civil liberties -- 64%
Take steps, even if civil liberties are violated -- 33%

April 24, 2003 PERMALINK
The Wonk Primary Begins
(posted April 24 12:45 AM ET)

The unveiling of Dick Gephardt's universal health care plan is the unofficial beginning of the Wonk Primary.

And LiberalOasis is not terribly excited.

Why? Two reasons.

1. No matter who gets elected, none of these detailed plans will be enacted as is. Congress always gets a big say.

2. The spectacle of Democrats trying to outwonk each other does not make for great TV.

This is not to say that candidates shouldn't be giving specifics.

The public needs something to go on, and without details, a campaign platform is nothing but a snow job built on platitudes. (See George W. Bush, 2000).

But details can be overdone. An overemphasis on facts and figures can drown out the broader themes and principles that have the most potential to resonate with voters.

And the immediate problem is: we have 9+ Dems trying to break away from the pack, and only Al Sharpton can do it with humor.

That inevitably leaves detailed policy proposals. That generally leads to a lot of eyes glazing over.

When what the Dems need to do is communicate, without forcing it, that "I'm one of you," "I can lead you," and "I can protect you."

Debating the finer points of federally subsidizing an employer-based universal health care system won't do it.

And what about those finer points? Will they really make that much of a difference in who you choose to vote for in the primary?

Right now, three of the candidates have made their health care strategies clear: Gephardt, Howard Dean, and Dennis Kucinich.

Kucinich is an exception to the above, because his plan is ideologically clear and distinct: a government-run single-payer system.

Unless Sharpton, Carol Moseley Braun, Gary Hart or Wesley Clark do the same (Sharpton being the only likely possibility), Kucinich will own that position.

So if supporting a single-payer candidate is really important to you, Kucinich is your man.

But for the most part, the wonky debates will center on plans like Dean's and Gephardt's.

In sum, Gephardt wants to mandate businesses to provide health insurance, while giving business a greatly expanded federal subsidy -- in the form of tax credits -- to partly cover the cost.

Dean forgoes the mandates, and backs a mix of tax credits for small biz and vouchers for individuals.

Both aim to cover all kids and teens with an expansion of Medicaid. For Gephardt, he'd expand the Children's Health Insurance Program too.

Gephardt says repealing all of the Bush tax cut will pay for his plan. Dean says his costs half of that.

Why the cost difference? One reason, "universal access to health care" does not speak to the quality of the care.

Dean's will likely rely more on less-comprehensive catastrophic coverage than Gephardt's.

Whose is better? That depends.

Gephardt's level of care is probably better. But since it costs more, than means less money for other things.

But do you want to have a nuanced debate over fiscal priorities and policy specifics at this stage of the game?

Or do you want fight over who is displaying the most dedication, competence, principles and political savvy to get the job done?

April 23, 2003 PERMALINK
Memo To Karl Rove
(posted April 23 12:30 AM ET)

To: Karl Rove, Senior White House Adviser
From: LiberalOasis
Subject: Thanks!

Surely you knew that your wartime poll bounce was destined to drift back to Earth.

But we liberals are quite impressed with all you and your party are doing to snuff out that public opinion honeymoon as soon as possible.

And all in one day!

So elegant it was, you must have planned it.

(We both know this was far too complicated for Bill Frist to pull off. This ain't cat surgery.)

First, you let Newt out of the cage after five years. Wow, he didn't learn anything about politics since his electoral career self-destructed!

And you sent him after the most popular guy in the Administration. And you leaked it to the W. Post a day in advance for maximum PR effect. Pure genius.

(Don't mean to get greedy, but any chance Newt's Defense Policy Board colleague Dan Quayle will be next?)

Second, you had Sen. Rick Santorum NOT apologize for saying, "I have no problem with homosexuality. I have a problem with homosexual acts." -- among other nuggets of wisdom that will perplex the many Will & Grace fans in the blue state of Pennsylvania.

"My comments should not be misconstrued in any way as a statement on individual lifestyles." Did you get Newt to write that?

(Nice try earlier with Rep. Barbara Cubin, but you know a House backbencher can't do what someone in the Senate leadership can. Even with a creative tack like:

One amendment today said we could not sell guns to anybody under drug treatment. So does that mean that if you go into a black community, you cannot sell a gun to any black person?)

Finally, you get your staff to readily admit to politicizing Sept. 11 to try to win in 2004.

We knew you Republicans like to overreach, as you masterfully did with Clinton's impeachment.

But exploiting the deaths of 3000 people? With a complete lack of subtlety? That is truly impressive.

And, lest we forget, effort points for hiring a follower of the Bush family's favorite religious cult for a high ranking trade post.

Too bad you could only score a gossip item for it though.

Of course, the coup de grace was that yesterday was the first day that US-imposed chief of Iraq Jay Garner actually was cheered by some northern Iraqis, after you practically had to sneak him into Baghdad.

You masterfully stepped all over that story. (Though maybe those pesky Shiites had something to do with that.)

But who are we kidding? No one's paying attention anyway. Iraq is so over.

What are you going to do? Embed Bechtel? Who wants to watch water systems get privatized?

So thanks again. It's great to see that the same political geniuses that shoveled $20M into California in 2000 are bringing the same amount of brain power to 2004.

QUICK HIT

The best part of that AP interview with Santorum:

SANTORUM: In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality.

That's not to pick on homosexuality.

It's not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing. And when you destroy that you have a dramatic impact on the quality --

AP: I'm sorry, I didn't think I was going to talk about "man on dog" with a United States Senator. It's sort of freaking me out.

April 22, 2003 PERMALINK
Some Things Can't Be Spun
(posted April 22 12:15 AM ET)
(edited April 22 9 AM ET)

In case you needed the reminder, the NY Times smacked you upside the head yesterday -- government budgets affect real people:

The states are desperate, struggling with their worst financial crises since World War II...

...as states scramble to find ways to cut nearly $100 billion this year and next from budgets that must by law be balanced...their effects [are] profound.

It is not just that states are withdrawing health care for the poor and mentally ill.

They are also dismissing state troopers, closing parks and schools, dropping bus routes, eliminating college scholarships and slashing a host of other services that have long been taken for granted.

NYT was following the lead of Stateline.org, which, last month, published an important, overlooked, five-part series on the impact of the budget crunch.

Thirty-six states are dealing with shortfalls, red states and blue states.

That's a whole lot of bone being cut, a lot of pain, spread out over a lot of electoral votes.

How should the presidential challengers react?

By speaking to the strain that individual citizens are feeling and directly connecting it to Dubya.

By stressing that it was Bush's fiscal recklessness and twisted priorities that deprived states of the help they needed.

Remember that most folks feel far removed from what is bandied about in Washington, and its impact on their day-to-day lives is not always evident.

But if it's their school shutting down, their kid who can't afford state college, their prison letting out prisoners early, their first responders getting the shaft, their Medicaid that is no longer there -- that's felt.

And when that happens, you want help as soon as possible.

You don't want to be told, "we're going to give stockholders this big dividend tax cut, which will magically stimulate the economy, create jobs, turn the economy around, and then the state budgets will improve, and then you can get your medicine."

You can't spin that kind of strain anyway, no matter how many tax cuts Bush can ram through Congress.

However, one NY Times piece is nowhere nearly enough to inform people that this is not just your individual state, and by no means solely the fault of your individual governor.

Someone's got to connect the dots, clearly and often.

The first Dem prez debate is a week from Saturday. That's a good place to start.

April 21, 2003 PERMALINK
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted April 21 2 AM ET)

At the risk of stating the obvious, there is a real possibility that in Nov. '04, we will be forced to choose between George Bush and somebody that voted to give him a blank check for war.

It's a long way away, but it's LiberalOasis' guess that such a scenario will not prompt a significant defection to a Green, or Green-like, candidate.

Two reasons.

1. The hatred and fear of Bush among liberals is too deep.

2. No Dem will subscribe to the heart of Bush's pre-emptive, imperialist foreign policy.

Unless, the nominee is Joe Lieberman.

Lieberman does diverge with Bush on North Korea, and on certain aspects of reconstruction.

But on CBS' Face The Nation yesterday, Lieberman formally signed up for the complete Rummy-Wolfowitz-Perle imperialist package:

In fact, we may, over the long term, with the consent of the new Iraqi government, establish some permanent bases in Iraq.

And wouldn't that be a dramatic change.

Where we have an ally government there in Iraq at the center of the Middle East.

Where we may have -- not a permanent police presence -- but one or another military base [sic] that's working in cooperation with the government there.

It's one thing for a candidate to foolishly buy the notion -- perhaps via willful blindness -- that the war was about eliminating the threat of weapons of mass destruction.

It is most certainly another for a candidate to rave about an expanded military presence that will feed the terrorism beast.

Not to mention hinder the ability of Arabs to achieve political self-determination and true democracy.

Fortunately, Lieberman has little chance of surviving the primary.

He is simply too far to the right for most primary voters, and as such, his high name ID has not yet translated into big poll numbers or big money.

But a lot can happen in a nine-way (ten? eleven?) race. So LiberalOasis is not ready to sleep soundly.

Lieberman was not alone Sunday. The shows were brimming with the war's intellectual architects, taking their premature victory laps.

Richard Perle and Jim Woolsey -- both tied to the Project for the New American Century -- covered three shows.

Both had a similar message: Iraqi democracy will be fabulous. And we would never dream of imposing our will.

Perle said on FTN:

...If we want, as I believe we must, democratic rule in Iraq, then we will have to accept the consequences of freely chosen leaders by the Iraqis...

...they are unlikely to choose another source of oppression, which the theocracies, unfortunately, of the Muslim world are, in fact...

...given a choice, the Iraqis, after a quarter of a century of brutal oppression, will opt for freedom, for pluralism, for something that represents the interests of all Iraqis, not just one group.

Woolsey, a Lieberman donor by the way, told us on NBC's Meet The Press not to worry about those crazy fundamentalists getting in the way:

Those [Shiite clerics] who say [radical] things...tend to be the ones who are allied with the mullahs in Tehran, who are theocrats and terrorists...

But that is not the history of most of the Shia tradition...The Shiites have quite frequently, normally, kept the mosque separate from the state.

So we need to work with the Shia majority in Iraq and help them bring about a state where everyone can live in freedom and democracy...

To take them at face value, they're living in a fantasy land.

Where there are no ramifications because of the US occupation.

And the only people against us are agents of terrorist states and organizations.

In reality, much of the world has become suspicious of America's motives.

And it's not inherently because we are America. It's because of Bush himself.

From yesterday's NY Times, regarding how Latin America is reacting to recent events:

While the current attitude evokes a long tradition of blaming the United States whenever dark times come, part of it is less anti-American than specifically anti-George W. Bush.

Jimmy Carter is remembered fondly in many quarters for his emphasis on human rights[.]

[A]nd anti-American sentiment was also muted under Bill Clinton, whose humble origins, gregariousness and even sexual escapades endowed him with a quality much valued by Latin Americans, that of "calor humano," or human warmth.

Mr. Bush, in contrast, is seen as cold and callous, and many in Latin America harbor harsh views of how he took power, comparing the 2000 election to their own experience with elections...

...Such sentiments are strongest among those on the left.

But even some right-wing Latin Americans who once allied themselves with Washington are complaining that the United States has been hypocritical...

...Indeed, a remarkable thing about the current mood is how little sympathy there is for the United States even among the pro-free-enterprise and pro-democracy moderates...

It's another part of the world, but it's still a bad omen for how things will play out in Iraq.

Often the question in a presidential campaign is: Are you better off than you were four years ago?

In 2004, we should also be asking: Is the world better off than it was four years ago?"

BEST OF THE BLOG LAST WEEK

Avedon, channeling Atrios, on liberal infighting

Liquid List takes on the Bush mythology

Seeing The Forest asks "Was The Looting Planned?"

The Left Coaster explores the pitfalls of electronic voting

The Sandbox
Humor by John Cougarstein

A Sandbox Flashback
From 10/6/02

NEWS OF THE FUTURE
Bush Promises Attack on Armenia “Is the Last One”

WASHINGTON, April 24, 2004 -- President George W. Bush prepared the nation for his 11th pre-emptive strike by insisting that the impending invasion of Armenia will be his last.

“I gotta tell ya, after your first military strike, it’s hard to stop. The rush is incredible,” said Bush, “But believe you me, these Armenians are nothing but trouble.”

In his address to the country, Bush wistfully remembered several of his more successful attacks, including “Operation This Really Isn’t About Islam” and “Operation Who You Calling Hitler.”

At the same time, his did not address some of the costly failures. Left unmentioned was the Italian War, part of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness’ War on Obesity.

And the Guam Quagmire -- which ended only after it was explained to Bush that the island was part of America even though it was not a state -- received just a passing mention.

Nevertheless, Bush was clearly fired up when talking about Armenia.

“We gave them 60 days to change their name,” said Bush, “as our Patent Office found that the name Armenia sounded too much like America, and therefore was a trademark violation.”

“But them Armenians have been crawfishin', po'daddyin', and skeepalunkin' for too long. And so they shall feel the brunt of American justice.”

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

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

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