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August 8, 2003 PERMALINK
Will Arnold Be The "Terminator"?
Or Will He Be "Gigli"?
(posted August 8 1:15 AM ET)

The media, proving again how much they enjoy being manipulated, have deemed Arnold Schwarzenegger the „instant frontrunner,š and the Democrats in „disarray,š for the CA recall election.

Is it that simple? Of course not.

Mind you, the media has some ground to stand on.

Schwarzenegger did lead in a recent Field Poll, (when not pitted against former LA Mayor Richard Riordan).

And Dems have not settled on a strategy or a singular candidate.

But∑

1. Arnold‚s poll numbers are not scary.

His lead in the poll was an underwhelming 20%, with fellow GOPer Bill Simon in second with 15%.

And that was a poll with no Democrats in the mix, just four GOPers and one Green. (It was taken in mid-July, when Gray Davis was going for the united Dem front.)

If Dems were given a place to go, Arnold‚s numbers would have surely dropped.

Furthermore, only 31% of likely voters said they were „inclinedš to vote for Arnold, 62% were not.

Simon, who ran an inept campaign against Davis last year, polled similarly: 30% inclined, 62% not.

Overall, not exactly „Terminatorš levels.

2. Dems are no more in disarray than GOPers.

Yes, the Dems are splintered right now, with disagreements over whether or not to put up a replacement candidate, and no consensus over who the best replacement would be.

But is the GOP 100% behind Arnold? Nope.

Amidst the Arnold hoopla, it‚s easy to forget that Simon and state legislator Tom McClintock are still planning to run.

There‚s a reason for that.

Right-wingers think Arnold‚s not pure enough, since he has (seemingly) expressed support for abortion rights and gay rights.

This has been the state GOP‚s problem for years. The party leadership is hard-right, and refuses to back moderates that have a shot statewide.

It appears that (with White House help?) Washington pols, moderate and conservatives, are trying to close ranks behind Arnold (such as Reps. David Dreier, Dana Rohrabacher and Mary Bono).

But it remains to be seen if conservatives who live in CA year-round will play along.

Arnold‚s already trying to curry right-wing favor with some quiet clarification of his so-called „very liberalš social views.

And Pat Buchanan wrote back in June that Arnold:

∑has begun to reach out to the right to cut a deal where it plays a lead role in balancing the state budget and is given concessions on partial birth abortion.

But as long as Simon and McClintock stay in the race, and NewsMax.com is whipping up the anti-Arnold fervor, you can assume the outreach isn‚t working.

On top of that, you still might see another GOP moderate cut into Arnold‚s support, Peter Ueberroth, a former Time Man of the Year.

So that‚s not quite a party in „array.š

Surely, Schwarzenegger has some things going for him.

The media frenzy will likely goose the next round of polls, further solidifying the perceived frontrunner status.

And he‚ll have plenty of personal cash with which to flood the airwaves.

But this will be a rough, nasty campaign, and it‚s not at all certain that a good box-office record will be able to deflect fierce political attacks.

He can‚t sneak in the back door without the requisite grilling, the way the last successful celebrity candidate, Jesse Ventura, did.

And he‚ll have to do more than recycle catch phrases to avoid becoming another Bill McBride, the '02 FL gubernatorial candidate.

McBride too was a fresh political face, and a well-financed moderate, who supposedly was the strongest candidate on paper.

Yet McBride was soundly beaten by Jeb Bush.

The lesson: when you‚re dealing with the untested, anything can happen. You can catch fire, but you can just as easily burn.

July 30, 2003 PERMALINK
Do You Have To Be For The War To Win?
(posted July 30 1:45 AM ET)

Yesterday‚s column concluded that the DLC won‚t go nuclear and truly divide the party.

But DLC leader Al From also said at this week‚s DLC convention:

There has been some talk in the corridors about why we're having this fight in the Democratic Party right now.

I'll tell you why we are having this fight...it's because we need to have it, because the nominating process is the time you have fights in a political party, because the stakes are so high.

Fair enough. Let‚s have it.

The centerpiece of the event was a poll by Lieberman pollster Mark Penn. In his analysis, he writes:

Swing voters are unlikely to vote for a Democrat unless he can offer a vision to compete with Republicans when it comes to national defense and homeland security.

Can‚t argue there. It‚s more than just the swing that needs to hear the Dem vision of defense and security.

From followed up, and said:

The problem∑is that we're not in the debate∑

∑You've got to tell people how you can make the country stronger and safer.

Sounds about right. No one wants to be weak and unsafe.

From also said:

The right position on the war is to be for the war. What's really at stake is our way of life.

But wait. Is that what Penn‚s poll said, that you have to be for the Iraq war to win?

No. It didn‚t.

Here‚s what it said.

It emphasized the „security gapš between the parties in the eyes of the electorate.

On the question, „who does a better jobš on several issues, the Dems trailed GOPers on the following:

National Security: -35 percentage points
Homeland Security: -33
Iraq: -28
War on Terrorism: -28
Foreign policy: -13

Not so hot. But there is a little contrary data.

Another question asked if you agree or disagree with this statement:

The Democratic Party is not tough enough to take on the problem of national security and keep America safe.

The result? A 48-48 tie.

And notably, swing voters, whom Penn was very focused on, disagreed with it Ų swing women by 8 points, swing men by 1.

Well, how does Penn analyze all that? He doesn‚t.

Frankly, it‚s a bit of a mess to analyze.

LiberalOasis has three big questions.

1. Do the weak Iraq numbers have to mean that the antiwar position is the problem?

It's not like the Dem leadership was antiwar. The party was split and its message was muddled.

Could it then speak to a perceived lack of confidence and conviction in how the party leadership handled the matter in Congress?

2. Why are Dems doing a little bit better on Iraq than they do on the larger issue of „homeland securityš?

The homeland security message from the Dems has been pretty consistent, and has DLC support -- more funding good. What‚s not working?

Might it not be the position that‚s the problem, but, going back to the Iraq debate, the perception of tentativeness?

3. Perhaps most importantly, how do you explain how Dems do considerably better on „foreign policyš than on „Iraqš?

(Interestingly, women give Dems a 3-point edge on „foreign policy.š)

Could that mean that the platform of pro-multilateralism, pro-UN, and anti-preemption, isn‚t a political liability?

And with a more forceful articulation, the gap could be closed further?

(Note that those three prongs are not necessarily areas of division between liberals and the DLC.)

Furthermore, could the data showing Dems doing OK with swing voters on being „toughš indicate that multilateralism and toughness are not at odds?

Penn doesn‚t explore any of these questions.

In fact, his only attempt to crystallize these findings is when he tests „New Democratš statements to prove that a candidate who embodied those statements could win in 2004.

On security matters, he only tested the following:

The United States must maintain a strong, technologically superior defense to protect our interests and values.
(73% agree, as do 65% of „liberal Democratsš)

America needs a foreign policy that is committed to the bold exercise of U.S. leadership to foster peace, prosperity, and democracy throughout the world.
(49% agree, as do 50% of „liberal Democratsš)

What Penn didn‚t test was the standard he himself set out:

∑a vision to compete with Republicans when it comes to national defense and homeland security.

There isn‚t much in those two statements that makes up a competing vision.

There isn‚t any questioning that explores the ideas of multilateralism and pre-emption, the flashpoints that divide the parties and the public.

And there isn‚t any questioning that directly addresses whether someone like Howard Dean, who made clear his case against this war, would be given a fair shake by voters.

So all we get out of Penn‚s poll, as far as national security is concerned, is that Dems have ground to make up, but no real analysis on how to do that.

And no acknowledgement that the „me-tooš tack was tried already by the Dem leadership, and may well be contributing to some of these low numbers.

Yet the DLC shotgun analysis is that only a „me-tooš position on the war will lead to victory.

The „security gapš is a problem. And, most likely, a competing vision is needed to win in 2004.

But there are different ways to do it. The DLC has no lock on the solution.

And its poll does not make the case that a Dean candidacy does not hold the key.

July 29, 2003 PERMALINK
The DLC Won‚t Be A Problem
(posted July 29 12:45 AM ET)
(minor edit July 29 9:45 AM ET)

As the corporate-backed Democratic Leadership Council met in Philly yesterday, the headlines from the wires made it sound like the Dem party rift was getting wider.

AP: Centrist Democrats: Don‚t Vote For Dean

Reuters: Moderate Democrats Warn Party on 2004 Prospects

But that‚s not the story.

It‚s old news that the rise of Howard Dean riles the DLC.

The new news from the DLC meeting is that the olive branches are slowly emerging, as indicated in this MSNBC.com report.

DLC leader Bruce Reed, referring to Dean‚s comments at the recent NOW forum, sought to lower the temperature of the spat (which Reed and the DLC started):

We‚re grateful that he defended us to Al Sharpton. We‚re not looking to have this become personal.

Other DLCers defended Dean on the issues.

Ohio Senate candidate Eric Fingerhut:

His health care proposals are excellent∑I also appreciate his approach to budget balancing.

And PA Gov. Ed Rendell:

You can be against a particular war and still be strong on national security.

Most importantly, DLCer Dan Kogovsek said if Dean‚s the nominee, even though he‚s worried about the result, „we‚d support him.š

That is key.

As LiberalOasis has stressed, George McGovern didn‚t lose because of ideology.

But because the party's moderate-conservative wing deserted him (in addition to McGovern‚s own non-ideological missteps.)

Therefore, if the DLC and other moderates stand by a Dean nomination, then Dean will not be McGovern redux.

With that scenario effectively brushed aside, the DLC complaining is less of long-term concern.

Their dismissive tone towards liberals generally is still unnecessarily divisive and self-defeating.

But the DLC has a right to make its case about strategy and policy in 2004 and beyond. As do liberals.

The Dem primary voters will decide. We will all stand together in the end. And that‚s the way it should be.

July 28, 2003 PERMALINK
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted July 28 12 AM ET)

As IntelliGate continues to simmer, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz was the latest to be given pushback duty, appearing on Meet The Press, Face The Nation and Fox News Sunday.

And he laid down the most brazen argument yet for the Administration‚s actions. From FNS:

∑it's the nature of terrorism∑that intelligence about terrorism is murky∑

∑I think the lesson of 9/11 is that, if you're not prepared to act on the basis of murky intelligence, then you're going to have to act after the fact.

And after the fact now means after horrendous things have happened to this country.

And from FTN:

∑stop and think about what the 9/11 report is saying. It's saying we should have connected these murky dots ahead of time.

Well, you can't have it both ways.

If you wait until you have absolute certainty about terrorism, you're really saying we'll wait until after the fact and deal with it.

And I thought the lesson of September 11th is that approach doesn't work any more.

He surely knew such statements would grab some headlines and kick up controversy.

He had to assume that the „murkyš defense would lead to this kind of Dem response from Sen. Carl Levin, on FTN:

Boy, it sure didn't sound murky before the war.

There were clear connections, we were told, between al-Qaeda and Iraq. There was no murkiness, no nuance, no uncertainty about it at all∑

∑So now, when we're told that it∑ is a murky picture when you're dealing with this kind of an issue.

It's a very different tone, very different statement.

And that's really the issue here, as to whether or not the evidence∑was exaggerated∑

Of course, Levin said what needed to be said, and he is right on the facts.

But the Bushies know that emotion Ų garnished with lies and half-truths Ų can trump facts, especially when the emotion is fear.

And so, knowing that the „murkyš defense would be bait too good for Dems to pass up, Wolfie has drawn them into a dare:

Go ahead and send a message that you won‚t be as quick to pull the trigger as we are.

That‚s the Bush game. Is it sure to work?

Not exactly.

The Bushies have two major obstacles.

1. The media are playing less and less softball

Case in point:

Tim Russert, who tends to be deferential to high-level Bushies, was pretty rough on Wolfowitz yesterday (though more follow-ups would have been useful.)

It‚s too much to excerpt here -- be sure to read the whole thing.

But his finest moment was when he nailed Wolfowitz with his own words -- that liberating Iraqis and the disputed ties to Al Qaeda were not sufficient reasons for war.

Russert summed it up nicely:

So if you don‚t have weapons of mass destruction.

And you don‚t have a direct link to terrorism.

And you do have the third, which the administration has been emphasizing, but you yourself said it‚s not a rationale to go to war.

What now is the rationale for having gone to war?

As the lies and half-truths are now under more scrutiny, it becomes harder for the Bushies to glide by with emotional arguments.

Simply put, eventually the record catches up with the lies.

2. If you can‚t find any weapons, then you didn‚t connect the right dots

Wolfowitz is right about the lessons of Sept. 11, in that we should have done a better job connecting the dots.

But connecting any old dots isn‚t doing a better job. It‚s doing a reckless job.

On MTP, Wolfowitz echoed Dick Cheney‚s earlier argument that, „it would be irresponsible for an American leader to ignoreš the judgment of the intelligence agencies.

What‚s irresponsible is risking the lives of American soldiers and another country‚s civilians because of a shoddy, politicized assessment of „murkyš intelligence.

If the Bushies found significant stockpiles of actual weapons, their assessment would be proven correct, and they‚d have an easier time arguing they can be counted on to make the right call.

Instead, they‚ve left the Dems with an opening: who can you trust to competently handle intelligence?

QUICK HITS

Is Saudi Arabia the Enemy?

The Bushies took bipartisan flak yesterday for covering up the Saudi Arabian connection in the new 9/11 congressional report.

On FTN, the GOP chair of the Senate Intelligence Cmte, Pat Roberts was critical:

∑part of [the report] was redacted to protect the Saudis∑

∑I think at some future date it will be made public.

[But] I was upset with the process, and I was upset with the amount of material that was redacted.

On MTP, where they danced around naming the Saudis, GOP Sen. Richard Shelby also took his shots:

RUSSERT: Shouldn‚t the American people know who are the foreign sources of support for the hijackers?

SHELBY: Absolutely. They should know.

And I figure the American people will figure out who‚s supporting who and who‚s our real ally and who has a transactional relationship with us∑

∑My judgment is 95 percent of that information could be declassified, become uncensored, so the American people would know.

RUSSERT: Why are they classified∑?

SHELBY: Well, I think it might be embarrassing to some international relations.

Obviously, it‚s a good thing politically to have public see Bush bend over backwards for his Saudi oil pals.

But Dems must also be careful not to unwittingly bolster the case of the neocons who are pushing for „regime changeš in Saudi Arabia.

As LiberalOasis noted in May, there‚s a tendency to oversimplify Saudi Arabia, and overlook the split in the governing royal family.

Surely, seeing those 28 classified pages could help shed light on what parts of the Saudi government are sympathetic to, and supportive of, Al Qaeda.

And Bush‚s Saudi ties impede our ability to properly deal with the situation, and make it easier for even reform-minded Saudi officials to look away.

But to pronounce the entire Saudi government culpable in Sept. 11, and deem them our enemy, probably exaggerates the case.

And feeds those who seek more imperial conquests.

Having said that, note what Sen. Bob Graham, who helped write some of those 28 pages, said on FNS:

I am saying high officials in this government, who I assume were not just rogue officials acting on their own, made substantial contributions to the support and well-being of two of these terrorists and facilitated their ability to plan, practice and then execute the tragedy of September the 11th.

Serious stuff. We desperately need to know more.

The Sandbox
Humor by John Cougarstein

Have You Forgotten?
(Reality Remix)
Sung to Darryl Worley's "Have You Forgotten?"

VERSE 1
I hear Bushies saying
That was one cool war

But what was it again
That we were fighting for?

What about those weapons?
The W-M-D?

Think I was more threatened
by Avril Lavigne

They say we‚ve made Iraq
safe for democracy

While we wait for that election
Let me ask you just one thing

CHORUS 1
Have you forgotten
What they used to say

Like the day when Iraq had nukes
Was just six months away

Have you forgotten
About that Osama guy

Bush don't say his name no more
Hmm, I wonder why

On that carrier you said "Mission Accomplished"

Have you forgotten?

VERSE 2
Who cares about weapons?
Iraqis are now free!

We now return you
To who killed Laci

And those free Iraqis
Their memories do seem short

They keep killing our troops
The ones that we support

Some say we won
since Saddam‚s no longer a threat

But Osama Bin Laden
don‚t seem all that upset

CHORUS 2
Have you forgotten
What they used to say

We‚d be greeted with flowers
Then we‚d all be home by May

Have you forgotten
Who attacked us that day

Not Saddam, or Scott Peterson
Or even Natalie Maines

We once vowed to get the ones behind Bin Laden

Have you forgotten?

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

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

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