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The daily view from the oasis

October 17, 2003 PERMALINK
The Petulant One
(posted Oct. 17 1 AM ET)

The line from this Knight Ridder piece was so deliciously cheeky that it zipped through the blogosphere yesterday:

Bush told his senior aides on Tuesday that he "didn't want to see any stories" quoting unnamed administration officials in the media anymore, and if he did, there would be consequences, a senior administration official who asked that his name not be used told Knight Ridder.

But there was much more worth chewing on in that KR story.

1. The MBA President becomes Mr. Out of Touch

Used to be that reporters would marvel at Bush‚s ability to delegate tasks and not sweat the details.

Now, KR may be exposing the real Bush, a guy out of touch with the inner-workings of his Administration.

KR reports:

The infighting, backstabbing and maneuvering on such major foreign-policy issues as North Korea, Syria, Iran and postwar Iraq have escalated to a level that veterans of government say they have not seen in years.

At one point, the senior official said, Bush himself asked how bad it was.

"This isn't as bad as [George] Shultz vs. [Caspar] Weinberger, is it?" he asked, referring to a legendary Reagan administration rivalry between secretaries of state and defense.

One top official reportedly nodded and said it was "way worse."

Where‚s this guy been?! Every news junkie in America knows that State and Defense have been at odds practically since the beginning of the Bush Nightmare.

Obviously, Bush wasn‚t kidding when he said he only „glance[s] at the headlines.š

More importantly, it looks like he has little control of his own Administration.

The stunning lack of knowledge of his team, combined with the barking of orders that are immediately ignored, gives the impression of a figurehead leader who only thinks he‚s „in chargeš.

More stories like this, and the perception of Bush as having great „leadershipš qualities will diminish considerably.

2. He‚s becoming an ineffectual brat.

The second part of the KR piece wasn‚t about leaks, but about his dealings with the Senate to win support for the $87B for Iraq.

In a meeting with a bipartisan group of Senators this week, when he heard stuff he didn‚t like, he literally pounded the table:

[Bush] demanded that the aid to Iraq be in the form of grants, not loans, as some of the senators have urged∑

∑At one point, as he discussed the question of providing some of the money as a loan, Bush slammed his hand down on the table and said: "This is bad policy."

It didn‚t work. KR reported that „Bush failed to sway any of the pro-loan Republicans.š

Why weren‚t they scared straight? CNN‚s Jonathan Karl, which also reported on this meeting, said:

One Republican senator that was at that meeting told me -- quote -- "The president was very forceful and condescending. This is old-style politics, and it made me mad."

These GOPers weren‚t bluffing. Just last night, they formally rebuked Bush and converted $10B of the request to loans.

Again, that ain‚t leadership. That‚s petulance.

3. This is further evidence the Washington press corps isn‚t afraid of Bush anymore.

It‚s quite evident the KR reporters had little use for spoon-fed Rovian spin.

That‚s what happens when you‚re at 50% instead of 70%. The fawning stops. The spin is turned on its head.

And note that Knight Ridder pieces are not read by elites in NY, DC and LA.

They‚re read in many parts of Red Country: South Carolina, Mississippi, Montana, Kansas, Kentucky, Ohio, to name a few.

When Bush talks of going around „the filter,š he‚s means he‚d rather deal directly with these kinds of regional papers instead of the supposedly harder NY Times and the W. Post.

But as LiberalOasis said earlier this week, Bush‚s play at regional TV didn‚t work out as planned.

And now it seems the regional print media isn‚t going to play nice either.

The filter isn‚t going anywhere.

*** Share your thoughts at The LiberalOasis Soapbox ***

October 16, 2003 PERMALINK
Can Anyone Stop Dean? (Part II)
(posted Oct. 16 12:15 AM ET)

In August, after Dean shot ahead of Kerry in the NH polls, LiberalOasis posed the question, „Can Anyone Stop Dean?š:

If Dean wins Iowa and NH∑and has the most money∑he‚d be damn near unstoppable.

Of course, since then, Dean has faced more attacks and rougher press treatment.

And Wesley Clark jumped in, and leads Dean in some (not all) national polls.

Yet despite all that, Dean is incredibly well-positioned as the candidates enter crunch time: less than 100 days until Iowa.

With Third Quarter fundraising reports filed yesterday, the big headlines are that Dean raised the most money.

But that‚s not the most important thing.

Dean also has the most cash in the bank by a healthy margin, showing he hasn‚t spent recklessly. Approximate figures as reported by Reuters:

Dean -- $12M
Kerry -- $8M
Gephardt -- $6M
Lieberman -- $4M

Also notable, Dean is the only major candidate (excluding newbie Clark) who made money ($5.6M) this past quarter. At the end of June, it was:

Kerry -- $10.9M
Dean -- $6.4M
Gephardt -- $6.2M
Lieberman -- $4M

(We don‚t seem to know Edwards‚ current cash on hand just yet.

But he raised a paltry $2.6M last quarter, and he‚s running TV ads.

So it‚s a safe bet that he has dropped from the $8.1M he had in the bank as of June 30.)

(UPDATE Oct. 16 8:30 AM ET -- NY Times and W. Post report that Edwards now has $4.8M in the bank. Ouch.)

It‚s one thing to lose net money, or stay in place, while building significant popularity. That‚s a good investment.

But Dean‚s rivals can‚t seriously argue that.

Kerry and Edwards can argue they‚ve shown some movement.

Kerry can say he‚s moved into decent third in Iowa (about 6-9 points off the lead), and his trailing of Dean in NH isn‚t as bad as it was (but still in double digits).

And Edwards can at least point to his first place position in South Carolina.

But neither are terribly strong arguments. Kerry still doesn‚t lead in any poll, anywhere.

And Edwards is still in the weeds everywhere but SC.

Yet those arguments are stronger than anything Gephardt and Lieberman can offer.

Gephardt‚s standing still. Granted, he‚s in a tie for first in Iowa.

But that‚s where he has been for a while, and he‚s shown no movement anywhere else.

And Lieberman is nowhere, everywhere.

In of all this, most everyone can make a long-term case for themselves, that they can win some key contest that will give them the crucial spark.

And they can argue that Dean has been somewhat frozen since the attacks have stepped up.

But he‚s frozen in a very good spot, tied for first in Iowa, and a strong first in NH.

On top of that, Dean currently has the most money, is only one making money, is only one raising more and more as the race progresses.

That means his money advantage, already good, is almost sure to increase.

That will make it very hard for his rivals to get their attacks out, since Dean is positioned to, in effect, shout over them.

(Outside of cash, it‚s questionable that the attacks are substantively working where it counts. At an AARP forum in Iowa, Reuters reports:

„Kerry was the first to raise a recurring criticism of Dean for siding in 1995 with congressional Republicans, led by House speaker Newt Gingrich, who were trying to cut the growth of Medicare by $270 billion, drawing groans from the audience.š)

Of course, all of that analysis excludes Clark.

And his backers are stressing that he raised $3.5M in only two weeks, which is impressive.

But that still leaves him, for the moment, with just $3.5M vs. Dean‚s $12M.

And it‚s not at all clear that Clark can keep up anything close to such a pace.

So you have keep Clark in the wild card category for the time being.

The bottom line:

To win, you have to pass Dean in Iowa or New Hampshire.

If you haven‚t done it yet (and you haven‚t), it will be exceedingly hard to do without ample cash.

And it‚s very hard to see where that cash is going to come from.

*** Share your thoughts at The LiberalOasis Soapbox ***

October 15, 2003 PERMALINK
For Bush, The Bad Polls Don't Stop
(posted Oct. 15 12:15 AM ET)

Yesterday, LiberalOasis addressed the headlines trumpeting Bush‚s Gallup poll bump, noting that actually „we have contradictory data, we need to see some more to figure out what‚s going on.š

Before the day was out, we got some. And it wasn‚t good for Bush.

The latest poll from Ipsos-Reid/Cook Political Report (from Polling Report, scroll down) showed a four-point drop since mid-Sept., falling to 51% job approval.

And the new ABC-W. Post poll had Bush at 53%, one point down from the end of Sept., five points down from mid-Sept.

Both of those are far closer to what we saw in last weekend‚s Newsweek poll (down one to 51%) than the aforementioned Gallup (up six to 56%). Gallup is the outlier, not the benchmark.

Also, the re-elect numbers are bad for Bush in both new polls.

ABC-W. Post has Bush losing to a generic Dem 49%-44% among registered voters.

(W. Post reported a narrower loss 47%-46%, but that‚s for all adults, not just RVs, a more relevant stat. Only ABCNews.com and the AP reported the RV number.)

Ipsos-Reid shows a dead heat, 36% definitely for Bush, 35% definitely against, 26% would „considerš someone else (from Polling Report, scroll down).

Perhaps the most troubling data for Bush is in the demographic breakdown of the ABC-W. Post Bush-Dem trial heat (for all adults).

Among Independents
Dem Ų 47%
Bush Ų 41%

Among Moderates
Dem Ų 53%
Bush Ų 38%

There‚s that swing vote that the supposedly strident, angry, leftist, pandering Dems are allegedly alienating with their primary campaign rhetoric.

Yet it‚s swinging to the Dems.

In fact, that‚s arguably a worse performance among the swing for Bush than in last month‚s NBC/Wall Street Journal poll Ų the one that pegged Bush at 49% approval.

Oddly, the W. Post absorbed all this data, and reported:

President Rallying Support in Polls

Heartened by opinion polls indicating President Bush's six-month slide may have ended, the White House has launched steps to reassure supporters before the 2004 campaign becomes fully engaged.

Bush aides expressed relief at several polls this week, including a Washington Post-ABC News poll released yesterday, that found the president's approval rating stabilizing after a steady drop since Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was ousted in mid-April.

Its partner ABC did not swallow the „reliefš spin.

The ABC web site headline was „Poll: Bush Slippingš and ABC World News Tonight summed up the results with, „The President doesn‚t do that well.š

Furthermore, Charlie Cook, the Beltway‚s favorite political handicapper, analyzed the Ipsos-Reid poll in his email column yesterday:

∑since Labor Day, the decline looks more like a real drop than a settling, and the triple issues of the economy, the deficit and Iraq have become conjoined.

Simply put, Bush doesn't have anything to be relieved about.

*** Share your thoughts at The LiberalOasis Soapbox ***

October 14, 2003 PERMALINK
Selective Filtering
(posted Oct. 14 12 AM ET)

Here‚s a speech you won‚t hear from a Bush official any time soon:

Israel‚s making good progress. I don‚t care what you read about. Sometimes it's hard to tell it when you listen to the filter.

„With 24-hour news, each setback in Israel is repeated and repeated and repeated as if it were 10 or 20 setbacks.

„And the progress that‚s being made is often not deemed sufficiently newsworthy to report.š

„The schools are open. The buses are running. The hospitals are functioning.

„The marketplaces are burgeoning. The entrepreneurial spirit is growing.

„And Israel‚s democracy remains strong.š

As you probably guessed, much of the language above comes from previous Bushie statements about Iraq.

But you would never hear a „Look At The Bright Side!š speech about Israel because you‚d be booed out of the room.

It would completely miss the point. It doesn‚t matter that Israelis somehow find a way to carry on every day.

As long as bombings continue to happen on a semi-regular basis, Israelis won‚t feel safe and secure, and the country will be in bad shape.

Same with Iraq.

Obviously, Bush wants to the media to ooh and aah that they got some lights turned on.

Granted, it‚s a pretty big deal when they‚re your lights at stake.

But it‚s still not as big a deal as rampant terrorist and guerrilla attacks, a much nastier and pressing problem with a far less simple solution.

The media seems to know that. That‚s why they appear to be unimpressed with the latest attempt to intimidate them.

Bush thought he could score some points with the public yesterday by doing a series of interviews with (theoretically) softer reporters from regional media outlets.

But the national media didn‚t look away. They said „I got ya filter right here,š and proceeded to make Bush look whiny.

The AP said he was „annoyedš with the news media, while ABC World News Tonight opened its broadcast saying:

President Bush complains about the news coverage in Iraq. Too much about violence, he says.

Peter Jennings soon noted that three more soldiers were confirmed killed today.

Furthermore, the regional media didn‚t seem to appreciate being treated like mere PR conduits.

For example, an interview with Laurie Kinney of Hearst-Argyle (which owns 24 local TV stations), led to this report on Kansas City‚s KMBC:

The White House has launched a major public relations campaign to counter criticism of its Iraqi operations.

Bush is trying to paint a brighter picture of Iraq. He says the White House has "a very clear strategy" when it comes to rebuilding the country.

However, his message competes with the U.S. failure to find weapons of mass destruction and frequent reports of deadly violence -- both a clear source of frustration for the president, KMBC's Laurie Kinney reported.

Not exactly bypassing the filter.

QUICK HIT

CNN (Inside Politics and Lou Dobbs) and the AP are making a big deal about the latest CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll: a six-point bump for Bush since mid-Sept., up to 56% approval.

But another recent poll from Newsweek doesn‚t show any bump at all: a one-point drop to 51% from two weeks ago.

It doesn‚t seem plausible to LiberalOasis that Bush has reversed the trend. He has had little good press in the last few weeks.

(CNN‚s Bill Schnieder said his data showed movement for Bush among the wealthy, and credited the stock market.)

But since we have contradictory data, we need to see some more to figure out what‚s going on.

One other note: both polls show bad re-elect numbers for Bush.

Newsweek has only 44% saying they would „like to see George W. Bush re-elected,š with 50% saying they wouldn‚t.

And Gallup has a dead heat, with 38% saying they will „definitely vote forš and 38% saying „againstš (24% saying maybe).

*** Share your thoughts at The LiberalOasis Soapbox ***

October 13, 2003 PERMALINK
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted Oct. 13 1 AM ET)

With the new Bush PR offensive on Iraq in full swing, one might think that a blanketing of the Sunday shows would be on tap.

Yet the Administration ducked them completely.

The only plausible explanation: The Leak lurks.

It would thwart the offensive to have to take question after question about the ongoing criminal investigation Ų which is also in full swing, according to yesterday‚s W. Post.

That created an opening for Dems to shove the Iraq PR back down their throats, and push The Leak as well.

The opening was not exploited as fully as it could have been, but it wasn‚t bad.

Unfortunately, the three Dems featured on the bigger shows all voted for the war: Sens. John Kerry (ABC‚s This Week), Joe Biden (NBC‚s Meet The Press) and Jay Rockefeller (Fox News Sunday).

That negated their ability to say, in effect, „we told you so.š

Furthermore, everyone neglected to mention The Leak, just like in last week‚s Dem debate.

Maybe the Dem strategy is to not risk over-politicizing the investigation for fear of backlash, but such a fear is hugely misplaced. They need to ratchet up the pressure, not let momentum fade.

However, when it came to Iraq, the Dems collective effort was a good, if imperfect, one.

Kerry was the strongest, lambasting the PR effort, and not getting seriously tripped up by his pro-war vote.

In this key exchange, Kerry was discussing Dick Cheney‚s Friday speech:

KERRY: He shouldn‚t be complaining∑he ought to be apologizing to the people of this country, because what they‚ve done now is launch a PR campaign instead of a real policy∑

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: ∑what specifically should President Bush apologize for?

KERRY: For having misled America.

For not having kept his promises of working adequately within the international community. Not having built a legitimate international coalition. Not having exhausted the process of the inspections.

And most importantly, not having gone to war as a matter of last resort, which is what he promised to America.

Kerry also indicated that he wouldn‚t vote for the $87B Iraq package:

Depends∑I want to see what happens with all of [the amendments]. I‚m inclined not to∑

∑I think there are serious problems with the way they‚re approaching this, and I think we have to be wary∑

∑By the same token∑we want to make sure the troops have what they need. But I think they‚ll have that no matter what.

Of the major candidates, this is probably the closest to getting it right.

As long as the money would fund a policy of unilateral occupation that continues to put our soldiers in danger, a „yesš vote does nothing but rub the blood on your hands.

A „noš vote would not only be brave, it‚s the right thing morally, and if explained properly, the right thing politically.

Over at MTP, Biden who is arguably the least apologetic pro-war Dem, was ever-so-slowly waking up to reality:

∑what's happened here∑is that Mr. Cheney and Mr. Rumsfeld aren't satisfied that we went in and took [Saddam Hussein] down. They want to establish this new [pre-emption] doctrine∑

∑they want to undermine the international institutions because they feel they're a drag on our capability.

And so now [I am] in this dubious position∑as a Democrat, saying I support the president's effort to try to finish this.

But I am really frustrated by the failure of the president to have listened to the advice that he got from the international community, from a lot of us, Republicans and Democrats alike, and failing to plan on how to win the peace.

It is a most frustrating time of my career.

Yes, he needs a big „I told you soš too, for ever casting even a partial lot with the Bushies. But at least it gives his criticisms some extra weight.

If Biden is the least apologetic pro-war Dem, Rockefeller is staking a claim as the most apologetic pro-war Dem.

When asked on Fox about to explain his floor speech in support of the war -- which seemingly rejected the argument that the threat had to be „imminentš -- he said:

∑the situation turns out not to have been quite like either the intelligence community or the president indicated.

And that would be a vote that I would probably not make today, based upon the revelations that there don't appear, at least at this point, to be any weapons of mass destruction.

Such candor is immensely honorable, even if getting tangled up in his past statements made it harder for him to cleanly attack Bush.

With similar candor, Rockefeller sized up the $87B question:

We don't have the $87 billion that the president needs now.

We're probably going to have to borrow it, and we'll probably end up giving it to him.

But the American people are going to be very resentful about that∑

∑I probably will end up [voting for it], but I may want to put some attachments onto that, and amendments onto that.

Again, points for candor. But instead of pained resignation, how‚s about taking a page from Kerry and putting up a little fight?

There was a GOP presence on the shows also, but it wasn‚t all that helpful to Bush.

The ones spouting the party line, Sens. Mitch McConnell and John Kyl, were on the lower-rated Fox and CNN‚s Late Edition.

While the more independent Sen. Dick Lugar shared the stage with Biden on the top-rated MTP.

He didn‚t quite echo Biden‚s criticisms.

But he did undercut Bush by casually tossing off that about another $50B would be needed on top of the $87B, and by knocking the PR effort.

If there was no Leak scandal, the Bushies would have been executing their PR effort yesterday.

Instead, it was mocked from both sides of the aisle.

And that‚s one of the big reasons why Dems need to talk the scandal up.

The Bushies are afraid of the press now. But they won‚t be if the pressure isn‚t on.

*** Share your thoughts at The LiberalOasis Soapbox ***

The Sandbox
Guest Humor Column by Alexander Pierre Luboknovich

The President Celebrates Columbus Day

Every year around Columbus Day, the President takes a few minutes out of his busy schedule to talk about the day‚s significance. On October 9, President Bush continued the tradition.

„On Columbus Day, you know what I do?,š the President said, „I [think] about all the great Americans. We have a great [responsibility] ... to [think] of [them]. Great Americans ... like the Crocodile Hunter.š

President Bush continued: „In the old days our four fathers [sic] had what they call a one track mind... Figure out what the word ősovereign‚ means, find out what a sovereign nation is, then figure out how to get there.š

Later, the President seemed overcome with Italian-American pride when he said, „You know, the guidos have done a lot. We had one of them as the manager of our team in Arlington. Not Virginia... Arlington Texas,š before a few members of media chuckled nervously.

„But seriously, Columbus Day is a serious holiday because it gives us a chance to celebrate the contributions of Italian-Americans. Like Rizzo, Gloria Estefan, and Hector Boyardee,š the President said to thundering applause.

„And it allows us to recognize a man whose contributions to society are unmeasurable [sic]. Whether Mr. Falk was playing that jovial, wry, comedian, or whether he was simply being himself in the privacy of his own bathroom, Lieutenant Columbo will always be in our hearts on this day.š

Luboknovich‚s take: You know, I wish we had a day like Columbus Day back in Byelorussia.

But I am glad Columbus discovered America instead of Russia. If it weren‚t for Columbus we‚d all still be in Petersburg drinking Borscht out of a Downey jug. And no one would have heard of some kid named Mac Culkin, star of the 1990 smash hit „Home Alone,š directed by Chris Columbus.

I Dated Valerie Plame!

And I have a video to prove it!

Even more shocking is that the video is of Luboknovich and Plame -- who used her married name Valerie E. Wilson -- watching the Pam Anderson-Tommy Lee sex video.

I drank a vodka straight and she drank a White Russian. Then, later, she drank a white Russian. Get it?!

In all seriousness, I was a partner with Plame at Brewster-Jennings & Associates (who do you think the „associatesš were?).

Now, not to put the blame on Plame, but even while at Brewster-Jennings she was not very careful about concealing her identity as a CIA operative.

One time, at a bar in Atlanta, she literally begged me to come back to her hotel room for a nightcap.

After refusing several times -- she was obviously sober and I only sleep with drunk women -- she pulled the old, „Alexander, I‚m a CIA operative... you‚ll do as I say,š out of her verbal pocket.

Now, fine, she wanted to seduce me, fine. But she said it so loudly! Many people around us definitely heard.

Interestingly enough, Bobby Cox and Leo Mazzone were two of them.

Ahhhh, those were the days. Me and Val on the road. We always had a lot in common.

I was once an undercover KGB operative posing as a traditional folk water comedian. When my name was leaked I was forced to gulag in Alaska_ not Siberia... the government in those days refused to recognize Alaska‚s sale to America.

Of course, there are no gulags in Alaska, so I got off scot-free. I could have just gotten on a plane straight for NYC, but I decided to wander around a few months looking for the set of „Northern Exposure.š Didn‚t find it.

Plame always said, „If my name ever gets out there, lord help me, I‚m gonna have to move to Staten Island.š Because Staten Island, according to Plame, was the only place where she would be accepted.

I have no idea why she determined this.

Luboknovich Does Not Mind Lubbock

I was recently asked, „does Luboknovich mind being called Lubbock?š

Luboknovich does not mind Lubbock. There are several wonderful bistros there, and when I visited as a child, I even got to ride a „rocking horsyš in a dive bar.

I didn‚t mind getting burned by cigarette butts or getting Coors spilled on me (intentionally).

You might think there‚s nothing worse than getting burned with something called a „butt,š but Luboknovich doesn‚t see it that way.

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 Revolutionš and is an associate fellow at the Ruzzzivixxxxxxen Importing Co., Brighton Beach, NY. He is one of leading practitioners of the high Russian art of „water comedy.š

For more Luboknovich, check out his blog.

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

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