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Leading With The Left
October 31, 2003 PERMALINK
The hot news of the day is of course the big GDP number.
In case you missed it, LiberalOasis previously put it in political perspective this past Tuesday.
But after taking in the media coverage, here‚s a few additional thoughts.
The quote of day came from James Sanderson of US Steelworkers on ABC World News Tonight:
I don‚t know where they‚re getting those numbers from, but we‚re definitely not seeing that robust economy here in Georgetown, South Carolina.
He‚s not alone.
That‚s the downside for Bush today. That his cheerleading rhetoric will not match the reality that a lot of folks feel on the ground.
His father had the same problem in 1992 when the GDP numbers moved up.
Interestingly, while ABC TV was reporting on the economic underbelly, ABC‚s The Note didn‚t see much of a downside for Bush at all:
For the next three months leading up to the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, and the State of the Union, and seasonal shopping, and Sunday talk show after Sunday talk show, the notion that "the Bush presidency=a failed economy" ain't going to be the dominant storyline.
They deride a counter-response hitting jobs as a whiny „butš. But if people are currently feeling the job losses, it‚s more than that.
For the next three months (assuming no dramatic decrease in the unemployment rate during that time), it‚s a closely-fought battle of the talking points.
Good growth, and be patient because jobs are coming vs. Still worst job performance since Hoover.
With Dems getting more and more face time in the run-up to IA and NH, they‚ll have a lot of opportunities to make their case.
And with people still hurting financially, their case should have the edge.
To bolster the case, Dems may want to revisit the LiberalOasis interview with Paul Krugman from August, after the last GDP number was released:
LO: Second quarter GDP was just revised to 3.1% annual rate of growth. That‚s near the point where many economists say job creation will kick in.
Does that mean the economy is turning around, and Bush can credit the tax cuts for doing it?
PK: Well, it‚s quite possible that we will see some positive job growth.
But, I still don‚t see anything in there that says we‚re going have jobs growing fast enough to keep up with the growth in the population, let alone make up all the ground that‚s been lost.
And the main thing to say is: gosh, if you let me run a 500 billion dollar deficit, I could create a whole lot of jobs. That‚s roughly equal to the wages of 10 million average workers.
So the fact that we‚ve managed to go from a 200 billion surplus to a 500 billion deficit, while losing three million jobs, is actually a pretty poor verdict on the policy.
*** Share your thoughts at The LiberalOasis Soapbox ***
October 30, 2003 PERMALINK
Reading the NY Times on Tuesday, you might have been compelled to give the Bushies some credit for foresight in Iraq:
∑days before the series of attacks on Monday∑Bush's aides debated the trade-off between locking down Baghdad and demonstrating to Iraqis that they now live in an open society∑
„It wasn't much of a discussion,š one of Mr. Bush's senior aides reported. „We couldn't turn the place into a police state for long, even if we wanted to. And if we did, it would be a Pyrrhic victory.š∑
∑ [Potential targets] could be cordoned off with new bomb barriers, new walls, new restrictions on movement.
But then, said one senior official, "you would have Beirut, without the ocean view."
So the decision for now is to avoid a crackdown, especially one so disruptive of everyday life that Arabs could seize upon it as evidence that Iraqis have simply traded one kind of repression for another.
That‚s not the sole answer to securing and reconstructing Iraq, but it is part of it.
But as the article noted, those discussions happened before the recent string of attacks.
And at Dubya‚s Rose Garden presser, just after the article was published, he indicated that a new hard-line may be in the offing.
∑one of the hallmarks of this operation in Iraq, as well as Afghanistan, was the flexibility we've given our commanders∑
∑that's exactly what's taking place on a regular basis inside of Iraq. The strategy remains the same.
The tactics to respond to more suiciders driving cars will alter on the ground; more checkpoints, whatever they decide, how to harden targets will change.
And so we're constantly looking at the enemy and adjusting. (emphasis added)
Whether that‚s a dramatic shift in thinking from the whole Administration, evidence of another fault line within the Administration, or simply an off-hand comment, is unclear.
But it‚s not promising, for all the reasons that the NYT‚s sources said.
Such poor decision-making is not unsurprising when people are desperate, as the Bushies, and the rest of the GOP, seem to be.
The problem for them is that there‚s only value in eschewing the crackdown and staying the course is if you‚re on a good course.
A good course would culminate in a representative, legitimate Iraqi government free of outside influence.
But it‚s highly doubtful that‚s what the neocons have in mind, as their hand-picked Governing Council and selective scrapping of local elections indicate.
This is the spot where Dems need to focus.
As things in Iraq get worse and worse, as is likely, the pressure will increase on Dems to propose alternative solutions.
So far, they have been consistent in pushing for more internationalization of the reconstruction, a smart and popular message.
But the message has received some pushback, with the question: what would you do if you can‚t get international support?
For example, in the Oct. 9 Dem debate, moderator Judy Woodruff pushed the point with Dick Gephardt:
WOODRUFF: ∑you make it sound very simple. We'll go to the U.N∑We're finding out that's been very, very difficult to do.
So what's the answer...?
GEPHARDT: ∑it's incomprehensible that he's not been able to go to the U.N. and get the help we need∑.Give them the civil authority.
You remember on your report card you had your English grade and your history grade, and then it says, "plays well with others"?
He flunked that part of his grade school.
WOODRUFF: But my question is going forward, if you were president starting a few days from now, you would be picking up a situation as it exists, what would you do differently?
GEPHARDT: Judy, you've got to get the help of our friends∑
∑He needs to go to those countries. He needs to go to the U.N. He needs to build the consensus. He needs to collaborate. He needs to communicate.
He doesn't do any of those things. It's an abysmal failure of a foreign policy both there and across the world.
Similarly, on CNN‚s Crossfire on Tuesday, Tucker Carlson took on Dem strategist Lynn Cutler:
CARLSON: what is the [Dem] plan to defeat terrorism in Iraq?
CUTLER: There's a very clear plan∑ It is not only our job to be defeating terrorism and rooting out these people all over the world.
What this president has done is to so alienate our traditional friends and allies, that it's now very difficult to go to them and say: We need money. We need troops∑
∑We have got to rebuild our relationships in this world with our former allies∑
CARLSON: In the meantime. Until Belgium comes around and sees the light --
CUTLER: Belgium? How about France, Germany? Come on.
CARLSON: ∑I want to know, right now, what should we do to fight terrorism?∑Right now.
We don't have Belgium. We don't have France. What do we do?
CUTLER: Well, we continue with trying to root it out. We certainly don't abandon Afghanistan, which we've done for the second time.
Decent responses from Gephardt and Cutler, but both pull back just before getting at the heart of the matter, which probably left the impression with some that they ducked the question.
They just need to take it one step farther.
The basic question assumes that other nations are inherently reluctant to help us out.
But that‚s not the case. They‚re inherently reluctant to help Dubya out.
We received the help we needed in the first Gulf War, in Kosovo and in Afghanistan.
But the unilateral war, and the insistence on US control of the occupation, fed the world‚s fears about American arrogance and ulterior motives.
Which Bush ironically warned about in the ‚00 campaign.
The trust that the world had in Bush after 9/11 was permanently destroyed.
And so, we will not get the help need until we elect an Administration that understands the importance of multilateralism for our national security.
With the world‚s help in money and troops, and a commitment to an open society, Iraq will get a truly representative, independent government.
And the terrorists will have no more targets to strike.
That‚s what the Dems need to say.
Not just point the finger at Bush, but explain why he‚s to blame and why new leadership will make all the difference.
*** Share your thoughts at The LiberalOasis Soapbox ***
October 29, 2003 PERMALINK
Yesterday, the Al Sharpton-Jesse Jackson off-and-on feud appeared to be back on, with Howard Dean in the middle.
As Dean has been rapped for not attracting diverse support, that was huge, giving him a springboard to cultivate more African-American backing.
And it‚s huge for Dems in general.
An undercurrent in this primary has been the weakening bond between white Dem pols and black Dem leaders and voters.
A Dean-Jackson partnership could be a big bridge that revitalizes and expands the party.
Sharpton didn‚t exactly see it that way.
He took it as an opportunity to inaccurately smear Dean and implicitly criticize Rep. Jackson. From the AP:
"Howard Dean's opposition to affirmative action, his current support for the death penalty and historic support of the NRA's agenda amounts to an anti-black agenda that will not sell in communities of color in this country," Sharpton said.
Sharpton also cited a Dean remark from April 9, 1995 in which he was questioned on affirmative action.
Dean said: "You know, I think we ought to look at affirmative action programs based, not on race, but on class and opportunities to participate."
Rep. Jackson didn‚t waste any time firing back, releasing a statement that responded point-by-point, and directly rebuked Sharpton:
∑no contribution of the Rev. Al Sharpton has been greater than the role he has played of statesman in the debates - of urging fellow competitors to 'first do not harm' to one another.
∑Unfortunately, Rev. Sharpton has rejected his own advice∑
∑Clearly, Gov. Dean is not anti-black and it is ridiculous for Rev. Sharpton to compare him to President George Bush in that regard.
When it comes to addressing issues that directly affect African Americans, and indirectly affects all Americans, Gov. Dean clearly has good record.
Rep. Jackson also expressed befuddlement at Sharpton‚s attack:
I don't understand why I am being singled out. Rep. Major Owens, from New York, endorsed Gov. Dean some time ago, but none of these issues were raised. No member of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) has endorsed Rev. Sharpton.
But he knows full well why Sharpton reacted as he did, Because this is another scene in the saga of Sharpton and his father.
As Sharpton put it to longtime reporter Jack Newfield in New York Magazine last year:
I do feel it's time that I share the stage with him as an equal. But his ego is bigger than mine, so he is having a hard time giving me my space.
But Jesse has lost some of his instincts for issues∑Jesse is like Muhammad Ali now. He can't fight no more, but he is still a great champion.
Now, Sharpton is acting surprised that Jackson‚s son isn‚t falling in line behind him.
But Sharpton isn‚t surprised.
Newfield reported that Sharpton was pondering a moment like this in his prez campaign:
Al Sharpton seems to think that by running for president, he can trump his tutor [Rev. Jackson] and gain the advantage in their complex competition.
"When I'm running," Sharpton told me, "Reverend has to react to me.
[„]Does he support me, or does he support Daschle or Edwards? Does he accept some role in my campaign?
[„]What does he do if the Democratic National Committee asks him to stop me from running? Reverend will have to make decisions in response to my candidacy."
While Rev. Jackson hasn‚t reacted to Sharpton yet, his son now has (and some will conflate the two).
And though it wasn‚t the reaction Sharpton wanted Ų Jackson and every black leader rallying around him Ų Sharpton clearly envisioned such a possibility.
Which makes his outburst yesterday appear more calculated than knee-jerk, trying to position himself as the true-blue African-American leader, and not a sell-out (a dynamic that has long been part of the feud).
But that calculation won't pan out if Rep. Jackson succeeds in building significant black support for Dean, marginalizing Sharpton in the process.
This is another display of selfishness, though for him, a particularly damaging display.
As Rep. Jackson alluded to, Sharpton had been belying his reputation for divisiveness by being a force for unification during the debates.
In fact, he had knocked Dean in a recent debate for going after his Dem rivals. From the NYT:
Once again, it fell to the Rev. Al Sharpton to counsel Democrats to stop bickering.
"I hope we don't, in our distinguishing, make George Bush the winner tonight," he said. "I think all of us have disagreed. I think clearly we need to make sure we don't give George Bush the night by getting too personal, Brother Howard."
But today, Dean is the odds-on favorite for the nomination, and he may well get there with the help of the black community.
And Sharpton‚s the one getting more personal than Dean ever did.
That could leave Sharpton, once the primary campaign is done, with his goals unfulfilled, and in a weaker political position than when he started.
*** Share your thoughts at The LiberalOasis Soapbox ***
October 28, 2003 PERMALINK
Should Karl Rove be happy or not?
To answer that, you would need to be able to answer the following:
1. What‚s more important to voters, the economy or the war?
2. How good does the economy need to get for voters to feel it?
Regarding the first question, LiberalOasis‚ operating assumptions to date are not novel:
-- „Re-electionš campaigns are referendums on the incumbent.
-- People are driven by self-interest, and in turn, vote their pocketbook.
-- If voters‚ feel their economic situation is on a good path, incumbent wins. If not, incumbent loses.
One could argue that explains every presidential election in the last 30 years.
What that in mind, last July LO said Bush wasn‚t going to get the good economy he needed.
Because he needed good growth in the middle of this year to get job growth next year, and his own projections indicated that wouldn‚t be the case.
But now, LO and Bush may be wrong.
If the third quarter growth (preliminary figure to be released Thursday) is as high as top economists are predicting, it‚s possible that the year‚s growth will beat Bush‚s projections.
Does that mean it‚s over? The tax cuts worked? Bush is an economic maestro?
For one, a good growth number this quarter only means that Bush put together two decent quarters back-to-back for the first time in his term.
But that does not mean the economy is on sound footing. From the NY Times:
[Economist] Laurence H. Meyer...estimates that the combination of tax cuts and bigger government spending, mostly for the military, essentially doubled the pace of economic growth in the third quarter, to 6 percent from 3 percent.
But Mr. Meyer said that that effect is already wearing off and that the fiscal policy will actually become a drag on growth by the end of next year.
Since Bush has already lost 3M jobs, he needs the economy to really soar to quickly and significantly make up lost ground. A quick slippage like Meyer predicts won‚t do.
Furthermore, there‚s the possibility that the GDP's historical impact on job creation is not in effect. From the LA Times:
The current period has so defied historical norms that it has left many analysts in doubt about when ų or even if ų the economy will start adding back jobs in substantial numbers.
And it has left them equally in doubt about what will happen if it doesn't.
That leads us to the second question posed: how good does the economy need to get for Bush to win?
That‚s hard to define right now. But it certainly has to feel good, like things are on the upswing.
Like with jobs. Bush may not need to get back all the lost jobs to be able to plausibly say to the voters he‚s got America on the right track.
But he surely needs to make up a considerable portion of that. Does that mean 500,000? 1M? 2M? Hard to say.
If it‚s some number towards the low end of that, making the overall economic picture a muddle, that‚s where having a dynamic figure as the opposing candidate can make a real difference.
In the muddled scenario, both candidates will likely have their share of reasonable sounding talking points (Bob Herbert gave the Dems some yesterday).
But the charismatic candidate can tip the balance in his favor.
So does all that mean Iraq doesn‚t matter at all? Will voters definitely place the economy ahead of Iraq?
Not necessarily. LO's operating assumptions may fall prey to the great exception.
The last election where the incumbent party lost when the economy was in good shape (not counting the 2000 mugging), was 1968.
Unemployment was down to 3.4%, the lowest in 15 years.
And annual rates of GDP growth ranged from 2.8% to 8.4% in the 5 quarters before the election. (XCEL file of historic GDP data here)
Yet the country, and the Democratic Party, was in turmoil over Vietnam. That overshadowed the economic successes.
Iraq surely has to get worse than it is now for it to do the same to Bush.
But the attacks of the last two days do not show that the insurgents are getting „desperateš as Bush desperately tagged them.
They show increased boldness and sophistication. This is likely to get worse before it gets better.
And prolonged chaos in Baghdad, with continued loss of American lives, could make W morph into his fellow Texan, LBJ.
*** Share your thoughts at The LiberalOasis Soapbox ***
October 27, 2003 PERMALINK
Not that it did them much good.
But any game plan to put a happy face on Iraq was smashed when Deputy Sec. Paul Wolfowitz‚s hotel was attacked early Sunday morning.
(And Newsweek‚s cover story, „Bush‚s $87 Billion Messš -- mentioned on This Week and Late Edition -- didn‚t help them either.)
It must have been simply too much reality for the standard talking points to handle. Because the new ones are pathetic.
On This Week, Bremer offered:
We certainly had a bad day and as I have stressed all along we‚re going to have good days and bad days.
Fortunately, the good days do outnumber the bad days. This was a particularly unfortunate one.
On MTP, Powell also tried the mixed message with the happy ending:
We didn't expect it [the resistance] would be quite this intense this long.
But Paul Wolfowitz was greeted as a liberator when he went north. I was greeted as a liberator when I went north, and in [other] parts of the country∑
They both also sought to sound realistic about the occupation.
Bremer on Fox:
Look, it can't be fun to be occupied. And it's not very much fun, frankly, being an occupying power.
But the fact is, life is much better for the Iraqis today than it was six months ago and much better than it was a year ago. And they know that.
Of course, it grates on them a bit that we're still there.
And of course one of the ways to fix that is to get the Iraqis more in charge of their own country [and] to show them that the essential services are coming back.
And Powell from MTP:
Do they hope the Americans will leave soon? Sure they do.
But they also know that right now we are the source of security and we are the source of reconstruction efforts. And so we will get through this period.
Clearly, they want points for this shred of forthrightness. But it‚s a little late for that.
In fact, belated half-assed truth-telling is arguably more politically dangerous than consistent lying.
Further worsening their political position -- not a single talkshow guest from outside the Administration, from either party, forcefully defended the Bushies.
From pro-war prez candidates, like Sen. John Edwards on This Week:
As long as this has an American face on it, and it hasn‚t turned into an international effort, this policy is not going to work.
And Sen. Joe Lieberman, on FTN:
Remember, General Eric Shinseki∑said that we would need more than 200,000 troops, not just to win the war but more to secure the peace. He was right.
∑Rumsfeld, the administration∑they disagreed with him. They, in some senses, demeaned him.
The fact is that if the administration had a more multilateral, open, cooperative policy, we'd have foreign troops in there helping American troops to keep the peace.
[And] we'd have foreign countries paying more of the cost∑
To former Clinton and Bush (I and II) counter-terrorism official Richard Clarke, on This Week:
Part of the problem with the rebuilding effort in Iraq is that the Pentagon is dominating it.
The Pentagon is trying to do what CIA should be doing, what FBI should be doing, the State department should be doing.
And here‚s Rumsfeld again [in his leaked memo] asking the question: How should the Pentagon be remodeled to do other people‚s jobs?
When it‚s already failing at doing other people‚s jobs. It should let the experts do them.
GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel, on MTP:
I think the Congress over the last two years has really fallen short of asking these tough questions.
How long is it going to take? How many troops? How much money? Who is going to govern? Give us the plan, give us the numbers.
And we allowed the administration to go into this without getting some very solid answers∑
This is complicated and difficult. We know that. But this is our watch, too. This isn't just a presidential show.
And Dem Sen. Jay Rockefeller, also on MTP, had the gutsiest move of the day -- essentially admitting that he regrets his pro-war vote:
If I had known then what I know today about the intelligence, or maybe the lack of proper intelligence.
If I suspected that there might have been a predetermination to go to war, regardless of the United States, United Nations Security Council, I probably would have voted differently∑
∑I think the central question here is, frankly:
Was there a predetermination to go to war on the part of the administration led by Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, and that group? Or was there faulty intelligence?
And whichever the answer is, it's not a good answer.
Because we put our soldiers in harm's way, we've lost a lot of people, injured a lot of people.
Basically, it was impossible to watch a Sunday show yesterday without hearing someone of stature call into question the Administration‚s strategy and/or competence.
You can be sure that merely acknowledging that occupation is „no funš won't be enough to turn Bush‚s ship around.
Flushing Out The Stovepipe
Both Sen. Rockefeller and GOP Sen. Dick Lugar (on Late Edition) appeared to confirm the main thesis of Seymour Hersh‚s stunning latest in The New Yorker, „The Stovepipe.š
In the piece, Hersh explained what it means to „stovepipeš raw intelligence data:
In theory, no request for action should be taken directly to higher authoritiesųa process known as „stovepipingšųwithout the information on which it is based having been subjected to rigorous scrutiny.
The point is not that the President and his senior aides were consciously lying. What was taking place was much more systematicųand potentially just as troublesome.
Kenneth Pollack, a former National Security Council expert on Iraq∑told me that what the Bush people did was[:]
„dismantle the existing filtering process that for fifty years had been preventing the policymakers from getting bad information. They created stovepipes to get the information they wanted directly to the top leadership.[š]
Rockefeller indicated that he sees credence to that allegation, when he asked rhetorically:
Were there other sources of intelligence coming out of the Defense Department or other places that were being run separately -- quite apart from the knowledge of the CIA or the State Department -- to get the kind of intelligence that they wanted to hear, which would allow them to make a "predetermined" decision to go to war?
Lugar, in strangely blasé remarks, said he figured this out a long time ago.
After first (weakly) trying to exonerate himself by saying, „my vote to support the president on Iraq did not come on the basis of the intelligence,š Lugar said:
I pointed out during those deliberations [before the war,] it appeared to me the Defense Department was starting up its own intelligence operation.
And I asked [CIA] Director Tenet about that, why we had two divergencies.
Now, maybe it was to augment the view, so that there was more to support in the rhetoric.
But at the same time it was obvious to me what was occurring, and I presume that was true to other senators.
Lugar didn't seem all that worked up about it.
But his, and Rockefeller‚s, comments validate Hersh‚s key finding, add therefore add credibility to the rest of his damning investigation.
Additionally, Lugar (intentionally?) raises another question:
How aware was the rest of Congress of these potentially shady practices, and why didn‚t more of them speak out when it mattered?
*** Share your thoughts at The LiberalOasis Soapbox ***
"The Behinder We Get"
FROM: Donald Rumsfeld
SUBJECT: The Behinder We Get
I‚m pretty upset about my last memo getting out to the press. Let‚s hope this one doesn‚t do the same. Are you listening, Bob?
I was also less than overwhelmed with the meeting we had following that memo.
I had asked each of you specifically to come prepared to discuss the fact that despite all the hoo-hah Scott‚s spewing to the press, we‚re getting bogged down in Iraq. Bogged in a slog, you could say.
None of you came up with any good solutions, although Paul‚s idea about invading France has got me thinking.
But specific to Iraq, I‚m disappointed. None of you got where you are today on your looks or ability, so I was expecting you‚d at least have come up with something based on your guile, corporate connections or current medications.
But you‚ve let me down.
So, now it‚s up to me to come up with a way of getting our sorry asses out of Iraq while saving our necks in the media. Well unlike you hapless goons, I‚m up to the job.
Here‚s my plan. First, we need to regain the trust of the American people. And the best way to do that is to lie to them again.
I propose we blame the next California earthquake on the Arabs. Say they have a new subterranean nuclear exploitation device that exacerbates tectonic weaknesses. You know, some long-winded bullshit. I‚ve got a thesaurus ready.
Second. A long time ago I was one of the leading proponents of modernizing the US military beyond the two-war scenario. Now‚s the time to put this thinking to practical use.
Instead of the two-war scenario, I want to launch multiple attacks against all probable enemies.
I want to expand the notion of pre-emptive strikes. I‚m thinking seventeen, maybe eighteen consecutive conflicts. Korea, China, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Syria, Burkina Faso... you name it, they‚re up for grabs. I want a list of the top twenty countries to attack. Alphabetized by natural resources.
Third. I want giant lasers in orbit. Christ, I‚ve been at that one most of my professional career. I feel like Dr. Evil surrounded by frickin‚ idiots. Give me the goddamn orbiting lasers already!
Fourth. Yes, I know this is going to bankrupt the government. For those of you not paying attention, this administration not only doesn‚t care, but bankrupting the government is part of the plan.
I said this a long time ago when I was working on the National Economic Commission for Bush 41, and I‚ll say it again: to break the bank you don‚t use cap guns, you use H-bombs.
I challenge any Democrat to put together a single social program after we‚re done fighting twenty consecutive wars while giving away billions of tax breaks. That‚s how you do welfare reform, fellas.
So, in summary, the new policy is going to be all wars, all the time. Wars on every continent, fought on the ground, fought on the sea, and fought with giant lasers from the sky.
We‚ll have the benefit of the high numbers an administration gets when at active war, but they‚ll be permanent.
No post-war malaise drops, no time for the lefties to stop and think about what‚s going on and intellectualize their way into the op-eds.
The news boys will be so far up to their cakeholes in coverage, there‚ll be no time for anti-American criticism. It‚s a win-win-win scenario.
Whew. I‚m tired. We‚ll discuss this in greater detail next week at our meeting.
Since you hacks have already proven you can‚t provide actual implementation plans, just bring your typical blank stares and blind affirmations. I want to see so many nodding heads, I‚ll feel like I‚m in a bobblehead factory.
PS: Paul, you still owe me 75 cents for the coffee machine. Bring it with you.
(s) Donald H. Rumsfeld
Mark Spittle is one half of the political satire duo Spittle & Ink. He is a former Washington lobbyist and congressional assistant.
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