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November 14, 2003 PERMALINK
Democracy, Interrupted
(posted Nov. 14 12:45 AM ET)

As noted here previously, conspiracies are not as easy to execute as you may think.

For example, the Bushies didn‚t try to plant WMD in Iraq.

Instead, they spun flimsy evidence and tried to change the subject to democracy.

On the other hand, they are trying to install a „friendlyš government in Iraq.

It‚s just a lot harder than it looks.

If they didn‚t care who runs Iraq, and if they really trusted the Iraqi people with self-determination, this would be pretty simple.

The top Shiite cleric, in a country that‚s majority Shiite, wants a national election to choose constitutional convention delegates, who would then establish a form of government that the people want.

So why argue? You wanted to bring them democracy. They want democracy. Done and done.

Is it fair to be worried about such a set-up resulting in an oppressive Shiite theocracy? Not really.

The recent Gallup analysis of a poll of Baghdad residents (posted at the occupation authority‚s website, aren‚t these Bushies supposed to hate polls?) shows a rejection of Iranian and Taliban styles of government.

Gallup says the clear winners are „either a multiparty parliamentary democracy, or a system based on the Islamic concept of shura (whereby leaders work through a process of consultation and public consensus).š

Of course, to let the Iraqis themselves make that call cuts out of the action a little guy named George W. Bush.

So you have to get a little creative.

Part of being creative is keeping your true intentions close to the vest.

So close, that most of the major media couldn‚t agree what the plan is.

The NY Times made it sound like only one plan was being hammered out:

The American plan to hold elections has yet to be worked out in detail.

Administration officials said that voter rolls could be put together for an election in 2004 of some kind of representative body that would, in turn, select an interim government and write a new constitution.

A second round of elections would follow the guidelines in that constitution.

That sounds nice and inoffensive.

So did the W. Post report, though it said two plans were being brought to the Governing Council to be discussed:

One option broadly calls for a national election to choose a new council to write Iraq's first democratic constitution and possibly select a new leadership.

The other proposes the creation first of a reconstituted provisional government that would rule while a constitution is drafted and then conduct elections for a permanent government.

The prime difference is the sequence of events; both options seek to create a formula for transition that will be accepted as a product of Iraqi preferences, not U.S. dictates.

See, each plan is just as nice as the other! Iraqis get democracy either way!

But wait -- the AP said something a wee bit different:

One of the major problems facing the council is how to choose delegates to a convention to draft a new constitution∑

[Viceroy Paul] Bremer and others∑prefer a "partial election" ų with appointed committees in Iraq's 18 provinces inviting legal scholars, tribal sheiks and other dignitaries and then let them elect delegates to the convention.

Hmmm. „Appointed committeesš that handpick another committee that arbitrarily chooses yet another committee which then writes a constitution Ų that don‚t sound like democracy at all.

And yesterday‚s Wall Street Journal most likely hit it right on the head:

It is unclear how the new government would be chosen, but ideas being considered include holding elections by direct popular vote, a caucus of Iraqi notables, or a mixture of the two, [a US] official said.

The caucus idea appears to be a way to insure a continuing role for∑Ahmed Chalabi, who is a favorite of top officials in the Pentagon.

Aaah yes. We wouldn‚t want to leave any Chalabi behind.

Just because, despite the hype, he hasn‚t shown any ability to attract popular Iraqi support, doesn‚t mean he isn‚t the kind of guy the Bushies can do „bidnessš with.

But just as it‚s not so easy to plant WMD, it‚s not so easy to simply install an exile (read: outsider) like Chalabi as president.

There‚s always politics. There‚s always a need for at least some legitimacy, or else you risk popular rebellion.

So if you want to keep Chalabi in the game, you need a little creativity.

Even if it means falling a bit short on your stated Bill Safire-approved goal of „Iraqi democracyš.

(UPDATE Nov. 14 8:30 AM ET -- Additional insight on this point from this NYT op-ed by Reuel Marc Gerecht.)

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

November 13, 2003 PERMALINK
The Smash 'n' Vote Plan
(posted Nov. 13 1:30 AM ET)

I think we‚re going keep getting hit until we smash őem. And we‚re going to smash őem pretty soon.
-- Mort Kondracke, Fox News, 11/12/03

A new, top-secret CIA report from Iraq warns that growing numbers of Iraqis are concluding the U.S.-led coalition can be defeated and are supporting the insurgents∑

∑The report, one official said, warned that aggressive U.S. counterinsurgency tactics could induce more Iraqis to join the guerrilla campaign∑
-- Philadelphia Inquirer, 11/12/03

Which advice do you think Dubya is going to take?

Operation Iron Hammer is in the house, if that‚s any indication. (A "major combat operation," perhaps?)

On one level, you can‚t expect soldiers to not shoot back when they are essentially being shot at.

But on another, if you‚re not dealing with a discrete and finite opposition, then they can‚t be smashed.

New attackers Ų foreign terrorists, and as the CIA says, domestic insurgents Ų will keep coming so long as there is a US target to attack.

In fairness to the Bushies, they seem to sort of get that, as indicated by their moves to get Iraqis in control of their country.

Of course, the establishment of the Governing Council was already supposed to signal that Iraqis were running the country. That didn‚t quite work.

The new plan appears to have elements of the right idea: getting some actual elections to happen, conveniently before Bush‚s next election.

(The NY Times and W. Post reports differ on what the plan is, and how formed it is. And what devils in the details there may be isn‚t clear yet.)

But before any election can happen, the violence looks like it‚ll escalate.

A „smashš military strategy would likely make it escalate even more.

Conducting an election in the midst of that won‚t be so simple.

And the wishful thinking, „re-electionš friendly timetable may not be so easy to keep.

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

November 12, 2003 PERMALINK
Kerry's Better Off
And So Are We
(posted Nov. 11 11:45 PM ET)

Sen. John Kerry may be taking some lumps after two staffers resigned following the firing of Kerry‚s campaign manager Jim Jordan.

But he‚s better off without them, and anyone else who may follow them out of the door.

Why? Because winning campaigns need die-hard, hard-working loyalists, not selfish, short-sighted careerists.

LiberalOasis can‚t know enough about the inner-workings of the Kerry campaign to know whether Jordan should have been let go.

And who cares anyway? No one is going to cast a vote for or against Kerry based on his staffing decisions.

(One expects the media to make too much of such things, but for the NY Times to make the Jordan firing front page news was particularly ridiculous.

And NBC Nightly News, which has offered little in substantive primary coverage, went out of its way last night to say the campaign „appears to be in chaos.š

Hell, write a letter to both and demand real coverage of issues that does readers a service.)

Apparently, some Kerry staffers think they know better, and handled the situation by anonymously disparaging Kerry on petty matters to the AP and NY Times.

Which shows that they are not committed to their candidate.

The media will interpret that as reflecting poorly on Kerry, but more likely, it reflects poorly on this strain of self-defeating Beltway Dem.

The kind that prefers to give blind quotes to the media about how screwed the Dems are, instead of giving private constructive criticism and as much sweat as possible to the party.

The kind that signs up for a campaign because it looks like a meal ticket to the White House, not because they believe in the candidate.

Clearly, too many of them reside in the Kerry campaign. Otherwise, there wouldn‚t be so many stories leaked about staff troubles.

Sure, Kerry will suffer short-term problems from the walkout, since the media will focus more on internal churning and less on Kerry‚s substance.

And it could drag out if more walkouts follow, as the AP hints.

And it‚s true that there‚s not a lot of time left to deal with organizational setbacks, as Daily Kos notes.

But he‚s more likely to have a leaner, meaner, more focused campaign once the deadweight is gone.

He won‚t get bogged down coming up with a new strategy after the turnover. He already has one: beat up Howard Dean mercilessly.

May not be novel, may be unseemly at times. And even if he knocks off Dean, some other „above the frayš candidate may be the beneficiary.

But is any other Dean rival (except Dick Gephardt in Iowa) doing anything proactive to change the „Dean-as-frontrunnerš dynamic and salvage their candidacies?

Make no mistake, his battle is still an uphill one.

However, if Kerry comes back and wins, we‚ll all be better off when he goes up against Bush without the quitters -- the guys who don‚t put their candidate first.

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

November 11, 2003 PERMALINK
Freedom's Just Another Word For "What WMD?"
(posted Nov. 11 12:15 AM ET)

NY Times' Bill Safire said yesterday that everyone should read Dubya‚s Thursday speech defining US foreign policy as „a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East.š

So LiberalOasis did. It‚s pretty good, as far as speeches go.

Safire warned against summarizing it, but here goes:

1. Freedom good. Dictators bad.

2. Spreading freedom is hard.

3. But God is on our side.

According to another NYT report, many in the Middle East were decidedly unimpressed, dismissing it as „empty rhetoricš for „domestic consumption.š

But on that score, the speech is a giant failure.

Realizing that casualties will continue to mount, the Bushies want the public to think the mission is important enough to justify it.

Instead, the media has been stepping up (some could say, catching up) and scrutinizing the flimsy arguments that led us to this mission.

Newsweek‚s cover story this week was about „the inside story of how Vice President Cheney bought into shady assumptions and helped persuade a nation to invade Iraq.š

On Sunday, Hearst Newspapers, one those regional operations that is supposed to help the Bushies skirt the „filterš, nailed Don Rumsfeld on lying about his past statements that Iraqis would „welcomeš the US.

In addition, while Bush warned of the consequences of „the failure of Iraqi democracyš, recent reports show that it is he who is currently failing, with his handpicked Governing Council falling apart.

And Viceroy Paul Bremer and Iraq Stabilization Group chief Condi Rice weighed in yesterday with their own less cheery assessments.

All that is outweighing the „freedomš vision right now.

And it‚s not just the bad news that gets in Bush‚s way.

It‚s that the „freedomš argument comes across domestically as a belated excuse for the war, a futile attempt to explain away the WMD embarrassment.

Having said all that, it does us liberals no good to disparage the Bush vision of a free Middle East.

His sincerity? Sure. His competence? Absolutely.

But liberty, freedom and democracy are liberal principles, and for the good of global society, we cannot cede such principles to those whose motives are less noble.

Plus, as a practical argument, true enfranchisement is only way to win hearts and minds and eradicate the threat of terrorism. (See LO interview with "Al-Qaeda" author Jason Burke.)

But as Bush‚s attempt to unilaterally impose „democracyš at gunpoint unravels, the question that we will need to put to him is:

If you really believed in credible democracy for Iraq, why didn‚t you just let the UN handle it?

QUICK HIT

You May Have Won?

In case you missed it, check out NBC Nightly News' report of a bizarre and shady telemarketing scheme by Rep. Tom DeLay for GOP fundraising.

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

November 10, 2003 PERMALINK
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted Nov. 10 1 AM ET)

Most everyone angling to be the anti-Howard Dean hit the shows yesterday, as Dean news in the Sunday papers swirled in the background.

Both the NY Times and W. Post essentially christened Dean a survivor of the confederate gaffe, noting his forgoing of campaign spending caps and big union nods.

While a Des Moines Register poll dealt Dean a setback, gave a boost to Dick Gephardt, and a lesser boost to John Kerry.

LiberalOasis noted on Friday that one national and one NH poll, both taken as the flag flap unfolded, showed Dean making gains, indicating little damage done.

A second national poll by Newsweek, taken Thursday and Friday, says the same: Dean rising 3 to 16% to move out of a first-place tie with Wes Clark.

The big „butš is the Iowa poll.

Taken Sun.-Wed. in the midst of the controversy, the poll had Dean drop 3 (since July) to 20%, Gephardt up 6 to 27% and first place, and Kerry at a respectable third place with 15%.

Although Dean can take considerable solace in that the poll showed his favorables high, and his supporters more committed to him and more likely to vote.

Plus, the impact of his expected AFSCME endorsement, a big union in IA, is not yet factored in.

So, with Dean still considered the guy to beat, he loomed large in the Sunday interviews with Kerry (CBS‚ Face The Nation), John Edwards (NBC‚s Meet The Press), and Gephardt (CNN‚s Late Edition).

While they all are willing to go negative on Dean, Kerry is by far playing the roughest (perhaps because as a fellow Yankee with a secure Senate seat, he is the least likely to be a Dean VP choice.)

Kerry went after Dean from several angles. For example:

-- Howard Dean has absolutely zero, no foreign policy, military or national security experience∑We need a person who can stand up to George Bush on the national security issue, and I can do it.

-- Howard Dean wants to raise taxes on middle-class Americans. I don't.

-- I don't want to get rid of [the] child tax credit for middle-income families raising their children. Howard Dean wants to.

While Dean supporters would certainly take issue with the spin, all of that is in bounds (if Bushesque).

What wasn‚t in bounds was when Kerry sought to score some more points on the confederate flag issue by seriously mischaracterized Dean‚s words.

Kerry said:

Only a few months ago, Howard Dean said he thought the flying of the Confederate flag in the South was a states‚ rights issue.

I've never believed it's a states' rights issue.

Using the loaded „states‚ rightsš language of course makes Dean sound like a tacit supporter of the flag.

But this is what Dean said back in January on CNN, regarding flying the flag on state government grounds in South Carolina:

I don't like it, but it's not for somebody from out of the state to fix that problem. That's an in-state problem.

Which of course, is technically true. Only South Carolinians can pass a law to get the flag off their state grounds.

But after taking a little heat, Dean sought to make clear he was no fan of the flag a couple of weeks later while in SC:

I don't think you can have symbols like that be flown on the Statehouse.

If someone wants to fly that from their house, that's their private business. But I just don't see how that fits into state government.

Kerry wasn‚t quite lying, but he wasn‚t telling the full story and taking the high road either.

Edwards didn‚t spend much time on Dean in his hour on MTP, but seemed to get more mileage out of what he said than Kerry did.

His criticisms got picked up on the AP wire, whereas the multitude of Kerry‚s attacks were ignored in favor of his acknowledgment that he may join Dean and opt-out of public financing.

However, unlike Kerry, who made a broad, blistering argument that Dean would make a bad president, Edwards‚ criticisms were few and more narrowly focused.

For example, he revisited his dispute with Dean‚s comment about wooing voters with confederate flags:

∑it‚s like saying to any group of voters, including voters in the South:

"You know, you don‚t know what‚s best for you. We know what‚s best for you. Even though you don‚t understand that we‚re better for you, we‚re going to come and make sure you understand it..."

There‚s an elitism and a condescension associated with that attitude that‚s enormously dangerous to us.

Not a wet kiss to be sure, but far from questioning Dean‚s qualifications for the job.

Edwards is surely playing to win, but it also sounds like he doesn‚t want to go so far that he would end up burning a bridge.

And positioning himself as the Voice of the New South, as he did on MTP, could make him an attractive VP for anyone (if he can manage to win a few states).

Meanwhile Gephardt had a lower-profile perch on CNN‚s Late Edition, and stuck to his Iowa game plan:

If we're going to beat George Bush, we've got to have a candidate who can provide real contrast.

Howard Dean, on the other hand, agrees with George Bush on Medicare cuts.

He agreed with the Republicans back in 1995, when we were fighting for our lives and the Republicans were shutting the government down∑

∑And∑we don't agree on trade. I've been the leader in fighting for fair trade.

Howard Dean was for the NAFTA agreement. He was for the China agreement.

That's no way to change our trade policy.

This line of attack isn‚t doing much damage to Dean in most of the country.

But it does seem to have given Gephardt a slight edge in IA, where caucusgoers are heavily skewed to the elderly and the unionized.

The open question: is the attack potent enough to counter Dean‚s money advantage, committed supporters, and infusion of AFSCME support?

Remember, all these guys whose strategies begin after IA and NH don‚t have much of a prayer unless Gephardt can win IA and deny Dean the Big Mo of a deuce leading up to the Feb. 3 contests.

QUICK HIT

Now It Snows

Last Sunday, LO wondered why Bush didn‚t send his Treasury or Commerce Secretaries to talk up the new GDP number.

This Sunday, after a few more decent economic numbers were released, Treasury‚s John Snow was finally sent out.

But he only popped up on the two lowest rated shows: Fox News Sunday and CNN‚s Late Edition.

Was this intentional, because the Bushies don‚t think Snow is good enough on TV to handle the big boys?

Or did they try to book him on more shows and were rebuffed by nonplussed producers more interested in the Dem race and Iraq?

Whatever the answer, the Administration's limited presence made Bush unable yesterday to disseminate the loud, clear message on the economy they surely would have preferred.

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

The Sandbox
Guest Humor Column by Mark Spittle

The Nigerian Scam Letter

[We‚ve all seen the Nigerian scam letters come through our emails and faxes, but here is one a friend of mine in Lagos received recently, originating from --- of all places --- the US! I guess the scam works in both geographic directions.]

Dear Sir or Madam:

I am the wife of a prominent politician within the United States of America. My husband has suffered from significant health problems for many years, and it is expected by many that he will not live to see many more sunsets in our great country.

Your contract address came to me courtesy of your country‚s trade relations department, although I have not spoken with anyone in that department regarding my enquiry.

This is a personal communiqué to you, privately, and I hope dear sir or madam that you understand the personal, confidential nature of my request.

With God‚s help I hope that this is not true, but the doctors believe that my husband may not survive many more years.

But as a leading figure within the United States government for over 35 years, my dearest beloved husband has been fortunate enough to amass a considerable amount of money.

In addition, his most beneficial business dealings with a major construction and engineering company, combined with his powerful government connections, have increased that wealth to proportions of which I cannot manage, should the worst happen.

Complicating things further is the fact that each day our country further destroys that horrible nation of Iraq, our personal wealth grows to even more unmanageable proportions.

My personal lawyer has advised me that should my husband breach this mortal coil, God forbid, that I will require the assistance of an international party to ensure the proper management of his massive wealth, and to ensure that forces within the United States government that were hostile to my loving husband do not obtain that wealth, or even tax it.

Therefore, I impeach you to offer your assistance.

It is expected that I shall inherit over $100,000,000 (one hundred million US dollars) through his eventual estate.

I am requesting that a proper, confidential party such as yourself open a domestic account within your country in the name of myself or my soon-to-be-late husband, where the funds can be safely protected from our political enemies, thieves or internal revenue collectors.

I beseech you, therefore, to open your hearts and do the following:

1) Treat this transaction with utmost confidence, maximum co-operation and absolute secrecy.

2) Allow that the money be transferred to an account where the incidence of taxation would not take much toll.

3) Agree to such in writing, providing me your personal bank records, government identification numbers, routing numbers, transfer numbers, phone numbers, credit card numbers, and any other numbers required to deposit or withdraw funds from your account.

In return for your Godly honesty and compassion, I have decided to give you 25% of the total amount towards your successful assistance to this endeavor.

This means that once we transfer $100,000,000 into the account of your establishment, you will be invited to retain as much as $25,000,000 (twenty five million US dollars) for your efforts. This is a small price for us to pay for the services you will render unto us.

I thank you in the name of God, and may He bless you with all the blessings in His almighty power. Please acknowledge receipt of this letter by replying confidentially.

Thank you, and God Bless.

Ms. Lynne Cheney

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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July 29, 2002
"The Many Faces of Satan© Website of the Week"
Patriotist.com

GET HUMOR

The Boondocks

The Cougarstein Ramble

Get Your War On

Mark Fiore

Political Strikes

Ted Rall

This Modern World

Tom the Dancing Bug

GET A JOB

Idealist

Opportunity Knocks

GET ART

Ginger Young Gallery

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Folkweb

Rapstation

WomanRock

GET FOOD

Eat Wild

EcoFriendly Foods

Get Vegan

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Lasater Grasslands Beef

GET TRANS FATS

Ban Trans Fats

Boycott Hydrogenation

GET COFFEE

Coffee Traders

Counter Culture Coffee

Sacred Grounds

GET MORE HUMOR

Bean Magazine

Betty Bowers

Bloom County

Foundation for a Patriotic America

Grand Old Party

Alexander Pierre Luboknovich

MadKane

Michael Moore

Nothing Like The Truth

Psyclops

The Specious Report

Tammy Faye Starlite

GET BRITISH HUMOR

Lord Bonkers Diary

Private Eye

Viz

GET MEDIA(?)

Faux News Channel

Republican Press

PLAY A GAME

Life as a Blackman

BUY STUFF...

Agitproperties

EcoMall

Global Exchange

Green Pages

Green People

Hybrid Car Dealers

Real Goods

Responsible Shopper

...OR DON'T

AdBusters

Boycott Action News

Buy Nothing Day

GET OFF THE GRID

Back Home

Building Green

Home Power

Off-Grid Living

Solar Panels for Energy

Source for Renewable Energy

GET FUNDING

Ford Foundation

Pew Charitable Trusts

Soros Foundation

Tides Foundation

GET PR

Communication Works

Douglas Gould

Fenton Communications

Hauser Group

McKinney & Assoc.

The SPIN Project

Spitfire Strategies

GET CAPITAL GAINS

Calvert Foundation

Domini Social Investments

Greenmoney Journal

Parnassus Investments

GET UNIONIZED

AFL-CIO

SEIU

UAW

GET LAID SAFELY

Advocates for Youth

Nat'l Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

Planned Parenthood

Scarleteen

GET REPRO CHOICE

Center for Reproductive Law & Policy

NARAL Pro-Choice America

GET ABORTION

National Network of Abortion Funds

GET HAPPY ANIMALS

Alley Cat Allies

Animal Rescue Site

ASPCA

Best Friends

Stop Declaw

Wildlife Waystation

GET GOD

American Islamic Congress

The Ba'hai Faith

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Catholic Worker

Center for Progressive Christianity

Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy

Interfaith Alliance

Liberals Like Christ

Noble Causes

The Religious Left

The Right Christians

Shalom Center

Sojourners

Tikkun

Unitarian Universalists

United Church of Christ

Universal Life Church

GET GODLESS

About Atheism

American Atheists

Infidels

GET ANN COULTER

Ann Coulter Is a Bitch

Anti-Coulter

CoulterWatch

Dr. Limerick's Slannder

GET EQUALITY

American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee

Anti-Defamation League

Human Rights Campaign

NAACP

Nat'l Conf. for Community and Justice

National Council of La Raza

National Urban League

NOW

GET JUSTICE

ACLU

Brennan Center for Justice

EarthJustice

Lambda Legal Defense

Mexican American Legal Defense

NAACP Legal Defense

National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium

Native American Rights Fund

NOW Legal Defense

Southern Poverty Law Center

GET RADIO

AnShell Media

Bush Recession Radio

Democracy Now

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Guy James

i.e. America Radio

Meria Heller

Mike Malloy

New Black City

Radio Free Exile

Radio Left

Radio Nation

Randi Rhodes

Ski Anderson

Peter Werbe

GET AMERICAN

Americans for Democratic Action

Campaign for America's Future

Americans United for the Separation of Church and State

People For the American Way

GET SOMEONE ELECTED

Democratic National Committee

Emily's List

MoveOn.org PAC

Progressive Majority

21st Century Democrats

Young Democratic Candidates Network

GET PRESIDENTIAL

Wesley Clark

Howard Dean

John Edwards

Dick Gephardt

Al Gore

John Kerry

Dennis Kucinich

Joe Lieberman

Carol Moseley Braun

Al Sharpton

GET PRESIDENTIAL BLOGS

Dem Watch

Wesley Clark Weblog

Dean Nation

Howard Dean in 2004 (R. Klau)

Mousepads, Shoe Leather and Hope

One Father for Dean

RI for Dean

John Edwards News Network

Gephardt Grassroots

See Dick Win

CT for Kerry

John Kerry's Unofficial Blog

Dennis Kucinich Blog & News

Texans For Joe

GET ORGANIZED

Dem Party Meetup

Clark Meetup

Dean Meetup

Edwards Meetup

Gephardt Meetup

Gore Meetup

Kerry Meetup

Lieberman Meetup

Moseley Braun Meetup

Sharpton Meetup

GET VPs?

Max Baucus

Evan Bayh

Joe Biden

Bill Bradley

Max Cleland

Tom Daschle

Gray Davis

Richard Durbin

Russ Feingold

Dianne Feinstein

Bob Graham

Gary Hart

Mary Landrieu

John Lewis

Gary Locke

John McCain

Jim McGreevey

Bob Menendez

Janet Napolitano

Nancy Pelosi

Bill Richardson

Kathleen Sebelius

Tom Vilsack

Mark Warner

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