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Leading With The Left
July 25, 2003 PERMALINK
So it looks like the Green Party will put up a presidential candidate in 2004.
If you‚re a Dem, should you worry? Should you be upset? Has Bush been handed a victory?
Not in the least. The Green vote will likely be a non-factor in 2004.
That‚s not intended as an attack on the Greens. They have a right to run and make their case.
Greens have no obligation to vote Dem if they disagree on principle.
And they have a legitimate interest in trying to build up their party.
If the Dems want to put the Greens out of commission, they need to do it by earning their votes.
They are simply unable do it with anti-Green invective.
But the reality is, the Dems largely did that in 2000. Ralph Nader had a fairly poor showing, just 2.7% of the vote.
It was middling by third-party candidate standards: far worse than Ross Perot‚s 18.9% in ‚92, mildly better than Libertarian Ron Paul‚s 0.47% in 1988.
And it was a tiny portion of the Green vote -- a handful of votes in Florida and New Hampshire Ų that allowed Nader to just barely make an impact on the final outcome.
It‚s a weak starting point. And today‚s presidential political dynamics indicate it will get weaker.
Their overall vote total will likely decline, making it near impossible for them to throw the election to Bush.
While some Green voters are no doubt dedicated ones, there‚s also a notable „repentantš camp.
It‚s extremely difficult to envision how Greens hold on to those „repentantsš and expand their vote next year.
Last time around, the Green message was that Clinton-Gore didn‚t do enough liberal good, and that there was no substantial difference between Gore and Bush.
Bush was masquerading as a centrist then.
That charade is long gone. And hatred of Bush is far deeper than three years ago.
The dangers of Dubya are now blindingly stark: unilateralism, tax cuts, the courts.
And pretty much every Dem is putting significant distance between him or herself and Bush.
So if the Greens want to expand their base, the 2000 message needs to change.
Easy to say. Hard to do.
For example, Perot, who had a stronger base to work with, lost more than half of his support in his 1996 run.
For the Greens, unless Bush opens up a wide lead as the election grows closer, nullifying pragmatic concerns and allowing Greens to appeal to idealism, they won‚t have many openings.
It‚s improbable that Bush will get that lead.
The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that the GOP‚s „leading demographer∑sees Bush‚s maximum share of the vote at around 53%.š
Furthermore, not only are Greens unlikely to threaten Dems, they could easily help Dems.
A Green in the race would make it harder for the Dubya to paint his main rival as a representative of the political fringe, especially if the nominee is Dean or Kerry.
American Prospect‚s Michael Tomasky, who overall is one of the smartest and most insightful political writers around, recommends that a Dem aggressively attack Nader now.
LiberalOasis strongly disagrees.
The Dems need to bring people together, the self-described liberals and moderates, to maximize their chances.
And alienating folks who could potentially be in your fold, and who are unlikely to pose a serious threat, is simply unnecessary.
Howard Dean is showing how a winning coalition can be forged, not with mushy empty rhetoric, but with a proud, positive vision and a fearless, can-do attitude.
And the other Dems appear to be learning the lesson.
As such, they should be able pick up enough of 2000 Nader vote naturally, without any attacks.
Bottom line: Dems, don't stress. Greens, take your best shot.
Who You Gonna Recall?
[He] created the deficit by overspending, lied about it in the budget process last year, and had no plan to fix it after it re-emerged in January.
And that‚s the reason we‚re having a recall.
So Darrell, if creating giant deficits and lying about them is the standard, when does the Bush recall campaign kick off?
July 24, 2003 PERMALINK
The media may not have been able to give the Hadley „apologyš the full-blown scandal coverage it deserved.
But they didn‚t roll over either.
The contradictions in Hadley‚s account led to a rough session yesterday with press secretary Scott McClellan.
The underwhelmed press corps, combined with continued criticism from the Dems, has prevented the Bushies from killing the story.
Even Bill Clinton‚s appallingly self-serving attempt to give Dubya cover couldn‚t stop it.
Witness USA Today:
It's not over yet.
The White House can't seem to put an end to questions about disputed intelligence on Iraq's nuclear weapons program.
And the Associated Press:
∑the [GOP] effort is being hampered by an ever-changing White House story --
from first blaming the CIA and then the British to new revelations by Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley that contradict earlier statements by his boss, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.
And NBC Nightly News wove what it called „the intelligence controversyš into its Iraq coverage yesterday, saying, it „is not going away.š
Notably, NBC expanded the story beyond the „16 words,š hinting at a larger issue with Dubya‚s general credibility.
The president‚s critics charge he is still distorting the facts with statements like this today:
„A free Iraq will not be a training ground for terrorists.š
The president suggesting substantive ties between Saddam and Al Qaeda, a connection many, even in the Bush Administration, don‚t believe exists.
And Talking Points Memo posts bombshell „insiderš info from the Nelson Report, saying that a „showdownš of „crisis proportionsš may soon wrack the Administration over the scandal.
The big exception? That liberal NY Times.
After burying the Hadley story on page 11 yesterday, today it writes:
With the deaths of Saddam Hussein's sons∑[s]uddenly the big summer story was no longer whether Mr. Bush had misled the nation in his State of the Union address.
Uh, you‚re wrong. (See above.)
July 23, 2003 PERMALINK
If you‚re a member of the press, you should just feel insulted.
The Bushies think so little of you, that they think you‚ll fall for the oldest political trick in the book.
Will the media let themselves be played like that?
The W. Post, to its enormous credit, put the story on page 1 Ų a story that pointed out the incredibly blatant contradictions in the official party line.
(Really, it's laughingly bad. Nixon would be most unimpressed.)
But the W. Post has been driving this story from the beginning. We‚ll have to wait and see whether or not the rest of the press follows suit.
The Bushies are betting that netting the depraved Uday and Qusay will be a turning point in the media.'p>
Their game plan from the beginning was: embrace the ends, get the public to forget about the means.
It may work on some level.
But two weeks of scandal stories has already inflicted significant damage to the Bush image as a straight-talker. That‚s not so easily repaired.
Furthermore, much of the Bush strategy is dependent on Iraq significantly turning around: American deaths ceasing, Iraqi democracy flourishing.
These are assumptions on the part of the Administration that are by no means certainties.
The CW is that taking out Saddam and his sons will lift the fear of their re-emergence, and dissipate attacks on our soldiers.
Plausible. But White House predictions of Iraqi behavior (some more plausible than others) have been exposed as wishful thinking before.
Saying that getting Saddam is the key has been a useful talking point for war boosters so far.
However, if we do get Saddam, but the Iraqi people continue to chafe under occupation, and the guerrilla attacks persist, then Dubya will be out of talking points and out of excuses.
Saddam is important game, no doubt.
But the Bushies would do themselves far more good if they tended to the fundamentals in Iraq, and stopped thinking there's a silver bullet.
Regardless of what happens in Iraq, public hearings on IntelliGate are still expected in the Senate come September.
And the intelligence community clearly has an interest in defending their rep, and there‚s no reason to think that their leaking, which has driven this story, will let up.
So even though much of the media may allow themselves to get suckered with this oh-so-obvious damage control ploy, it will take a lot more than a head fake to bury this story for good.
July 22, 2003 PERMALINK
On the issue of peacekeeping, there are two basic positions.
Either you believe that it is in our long-term security interest to have US troops enforce peace in hot spots, even if there is no short-term national interest.
Or you believe that American lives should not be risked in far-flung areas where chronic battles are difficult to resolve.
There are legitimate arguments for each.
But a White House Administration doesn‚t have the luxury to believe both.
It‚s gotta pick one, explain early on the rationale to the American people (particularly if peacekeeping is the policy), and follow through.
Bush‚s „superstarš foreign policy team hasn‚t.
And Liberia is suffering because of it. As is our thin reservoir of global goodwill.
When the fighting in the Liberia flared up in June, not only did African leaders and the UN‚s Kofi Annan said America is needed to restore calm, Liberians themselves (unlike in Iraq) openly called for US intervention.
At that point, Bush should have made a call, up or down. I‚m there for you, or you‚re on your own.
If Bush said we‚re committed, late June's tenuous cease-fire might have held, and peace negotiations might have begun.
If Bush said peacekeeping is not our thing, bad things in Liberia might have still happened.
But at least the UN and regional African leaders could have emabarked on a Plan B.
Instead, Mr. Moral Clarity half-assed it.
Caught, once again, between unilateralist Rumsfeld and multilateralist Powell, the mixed messages flowed.
Now, the Bushies hint at support, but stress that it would be „limited,š and put no date on action.
Nobody expects the current pause in the fighting in Liberia to last very long.
Unless bold and decisive international action is taken to bring lasting peace to this troubled country, a devastating humanitarian catastrophe is all too likely.
The warning wasn‚t heeded.
We played politics, looking for way to minimize our commitment.
And so Liberia blew up again. A window of opportunity was missed.
It‚s not fair to blame every attack in a civil war on a US president. And it‚s not fair to expect perfection in the complex world of foreign policy.
What is fair is to expect a White House to have a clearly articulated policy that can be executed in an agile fashion.
Peacekeeping can be a tough policy for Americans to support. Like war, lives are still at stake.
If you‚re going to do it, even in a limited capacity, the public needs to understand the big picture in advance, not just when its crunch time.
But Bush never prepared the public for the burdens of peacekeeping.
He pooh-poohed it in the 2000 campaign. Now he‚s struggling to defend it in Iraq.
In turn, he‚s in a politically precarious situation with Liberia, potentially risking more lives while occupying soldiers in Iraq are shot all too frequently.
Once can see why Bush would flinch. But flinching is the worst thing a president can do.
July 21, 2003 PERMALINK
With viceroy Paul Bremer in Washington, it appears the Bushies saw a Sunday show opportunity.
Since Bremer had nothing to do with the 16 Words, by sending him to all the major talkshows, the interviewers lacked a target on which to pound the scandal.
And so, the Bushies had a chance to lower the scandal‚s intensity.
The maneuver had a downside however.
It shifted the focus to the messy occupation, arguably a tougher long-term political problem for Dubya than IntelliGate.
Also, every show Bremer was on had a prominent Dem follow him.
That mitigated Bremer‚s spin and allowed for more criticism of the phony uranium charge.
Bremer delivered his talking points in workmanlike fashion:
-- Those killing our soldiers are just „bitter endersš in a small area between Tikrit and Baghdad
-- The occupation is already internationalized; we have troops from 19 other countries involved
-- What troop morale problem?
On the first and third points, there‚s not much else Bremer can say.
While the „bitter enderš argument may satisfy your average gruff armchair conservative pseudo-realist, no sound bite will mollify most Americans when soldiers are being killed every day.
And no one in the Administration will ever acknowledge a troop morale problem.
But on the internationalization of the occupation, Bremer‚s clearly knew how bad his „19 countriesš point was.
Because he carried a secondary, contradictory point in his back pocket.
On both Meet The Press and Face The Nation, interviewers pointed out to Bremer that the ratio of US to foreign troops is a tad askew -- more than 10 to 1.
Bremer clearly expected that, as he responded similarly on both shows, though more bluntly on FTN:
Well, we're the world's great power. We're going to have to keep having most of the responsibility with our British colleagues there∑
Of course, that essentially negates the „19 countriesš point.
Assuming „most of the responsibilityš means it‚s not truly international in nature, and sends the signal that we have selfish motivation.
Whereas a fundamentally international effort would take away the stigma of occupation and lessen local opposition.
On MTP, Sen. Joe Biden Ų who put on one his better performances Ų made a clear argument:
We're providing 90 percent of the troops, 90 percent of the money, 100 percent of the deaths, almost.
Either we do it that way, number one, or we bring in and supplant them in part with international forces, or we leave and we lose Iraq. There are the three options.
And, for me, it's a very simple answer. Very difficult to do. The middle option is the only option.
Biden didn‚t get at the heart of why this is „very difficult.š
But former Secretary of State Madeline Albright did in a W. Post column yesterday:
∑it's unlikely we will get substantial help without yielding significant authority, something the administration is loath to do.
To give up authority is to give up the dream of a puppet government in the heart of the Gulf, which was the real point of this war.
Ain‚t gonna happen.
WMD: What Really Matters
CBS‚s Bob Schieffer gets what matters about the WMD:
SCHIEFFER: We heard a lot about weapons of mass destruction. Obviously, we haven't found any.
Do you think what it will come down to is that we will find that they had a program to build weapons of mass destruction?
Or do you think they actually had weapons of mass destruction?
[Because you can‚t launch a biological attack in 45 minutes when you have a program with no weapons.]
BREMER: Well --
SCHIEFFER: We know they did back a long time ago, but --
BREMER: Right. It's been, as you know, the consistent view of the last two administrations, both parties, all of the members of the Security Council that he had the programs.
SCHIEFFER: But talk about now.
[Finally someone pushes the point. It‚s about 2003. Not what he had in 1991 or 1998. But March 2003.]
BREMER: My belief is we will find evidence of programs in biological and chemical weapons when the job is done.
[Where did that nuclear program go?]
SCHIEFFER: But not necessarily the weapons themselves?
BREMER: Well, let's wait and see what--what the team comes up with.
Speaking Of Nukes∑
Speaker Denny Hastert is still hyping.
On MTP, trying to defend the Administration on IntelliGate, he stressed how much uranium Saddam supposedly had.
RUSSERT: ∑do you believe that the potential nuclear threat of Saddam Hussein was overstated?
HASTERT: You know, we don't know.
First of all, we do know that Saddam Hussein possessed, even today, that it's there.
Barrels, as a matter of fact tons, of plutonium, some of it this yellowcake plutonium from Niger, that they had purchased, you know, previously.
[Note: he must mean „uraniumš here, not „plutonium,š as yellowcake is a form of uranium.]
RUSSERT: Where is it?
HASTERT: Well, it's there; it's contained. I mean, it's of record that it is there, and it's stored, it's in barrels and it's marked.
And, you know, that is there. There's no question about it.
But, you know, this was purchased years ago. So they do have capability.
Hastert contradicts his own point here, but very subtly.
∑all nuclear material known to exist in Iraq (mostly natural uranium) remains under IAEA control at a storage location in Iraq.
Natural uranium, by the way, is not weapons grade. It needs to be highly enriched for that.
(If those aluminum tubes were for real, that‚s what they help do, enrich it.)
So Hastert‚s right. There is uranium. It‚s contained. It‚s marked. And it‚s under IAEA control.
That also means there likely was no nuclear weapons „capabilityš when the war began.
Graham Turns Up The Heat On Cheney
This statement made on FTN by prez candidate and former Senate Intelligence Cmte Chair Bob Graham speaks for itself:
The figure that is interesting to me is the vice president.
The vice president is the one who went to the CIA on several occasions.
He asked specifically for additional information on the Niger-Iraq connection.
The United States sent an experienced ambassador, who came back after a full review with a report that these were fabricated documents.
You cannot tell me that the vice president didn't receive the same report that the CIA received, and that the vice president didn't communicate that report to the president or national security advisers to the president.
The Day Has Come
How long have you waited to see this on national television? And from these two?
RUSSERT: If a Democratic president stood up in the State of the Union and uttered 16 words which they said were mistaken about national security and intelligence, what would be the reaction of the Republicans?
BIDEN: ∑you know the answer, I know the answer, the whole world knows the answer.
They would have ripped his skin off.
Have You Forgotten?
But what was it again
What about those weapons?
Think I was more threatened
They say we‚ve made Iraq
While we wait for that election
Like the day when Iraq had nukes
Have you forgotten
Bush don't say his name no more
On that carrier you said "Mission Accomplished"
Have you forgotten?
We now return you
And those free Iraqis
They keep killing our troops
Some say we won
But Osama Bin Laden
We‚d be greeted with flowers
Have you forgotten
Not Saddam, or Scott Peterson
We once vowed to get the ones behind Bin Laden
Have you forgotten?
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