Friday, May 09, 2003

Christian conservatives may crash Rove's party

The GOP, which has prided itself on hardline party orthodoxy for the last ten years, may be slowly unraveling.

First, the NRA went ballistic over Bush's pledge to sign an extension of the sunsetting assault weapons ban. (Which was a canard, by the way. Read this gun owner's account of a recent run-in with Karl Rove for proof.)

And now a crew of Christian conservatives led by Gary Bauer is threatening to "reconsider their loyalty" to the GOP. Fierce conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly has called Team W's defense of Rick Santorum "pretty limp" and "most cowardly." For his part, Bauer shot off a memo to party chair Marc Racicot, warning that the "grassroots will not stand for" further acceptance of "the radical homosexual movement" into the GOP.

So much for uniting and not dividing.

posted by Scott | 5/09/2003 | |

GOPers (quietly) admit tax hikes are necessary to pull out of fiscal crisis

In an effort to help Team W save face on the tax-cut issue, Republicans on the Senate finance committee have stealthily inserted 30 tax increases into their latest supposed tax cut bill.

What's this mean? The GOP has just admitted that Bush's tax cuts are too costly and that the federal budget is running on fumes. So the era of big government may be over, but the era of broke government may be just beginning.

posted by Scott | 5/09/2003 | |

Gephardt's health plan has GOP spooked

Knowing that Team W's weak point is domestic policy, GOPers are out in full force slamming the Democrats -- Dick Gephardt in particular -- for calling for universal health care.

Karl Rove:
In New Hampshire, Rove attacked the Democrat's plans with all of the the chicken-little, sky-is-falling fear mongering he could muster. "We’d have a lot more people out of work and a lot less growth." Rove cited as evidence... uh... nothing.

Bob Novak:
Novak is parroting the line that reversing Team W's tax cuts in exchange for universal health care will put an increased burden on working families. It's not true, of course, as the costs offset each other, but that's the logic that will continue to be used in an attempt to convince Americans that universal health coverage is fundamentally unhealthy.

Desperate tactics from desperate men.

posted by Scott | 5/09/2003 | |

Is Ann Coulter volunteering her services to the Dean campaign?!?!

No. But wouldn't that be something if she was?

Ah, she may be a crazy right winger, but she's fun and no one really takes her seriously, so it's acceptable. Okay, so very little Ann Coulter says is really acceptable. This latest column of hers is an interesting attack on John Kerry that I'm sure has Joe Trippi & Co. slapping their knees up in Vermont.

Why is it interesting? Well, once you get past the tired liberals-are-destroying-America pap, it shows just how closely the right wing hit squad is paying attention to the race for the Democratic nomination. In fact, if I was Bill Bennett, I'd wager that this column -- or some rehash of it -- will be plastered all over the punditry should Kerry win the nomination.

Frankly, Coulter brings up some legitimate criticisms of Kerry that I have made myself. It's not about fundamental issues, mind you, but certainly of credible political concern. Team W and Koach Karl clearly see the difficulty in juxtaposing Bush's boozy party animal youth with Kerry's courageous service in Vietnam. So the answer is to paint the Kerry family as rich and out-of-touch. Should that fail, they will undoubtedly bring out the bigger guns loaded with the question of exactly whose medals you tossed on the Capitol steps back in '71.

For those of you who may read this piece as a pure Kerry bash, it's not. Kerry would make a monumentally better president than W. And if the worst question the GOP hit squaders can ask of Kerry is whose medals he threw, it's understood that Kerry at least has medals that could have been thrown. That kind of criticism will sound absurdly petty when the worst question which could be asked of Bush involves cocaine, community service, and a top-down daddy's boy cover-up.

The one factor being overlooked of late is that Bush will not benefit from the soft-ball, pity-the-underdog treatment allowed him by the media in 2000. He's a hugely popular commander-in-chief who's so far won two wars (I'm playing fast and loose with my definition of "won" here, folks). No longer is he an ex-President's son, a one-term governor, and a failed businessman. He's made his bed and now he must sleep in it... but only if the media chooses to play hardball.

posted by Scott | 5/09/2003 | |

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Say, what's the big idea?

The accepted wisdom is that last year's midterm losses to the GOP were due to a lack of bold new ideas among Democratic lawmakers, candidates, and strategists, a charge the 2004 presidential contenders seem eager to counter. First to step up to the plate was Dick Gepardt, with his "Matt's Plan" for universal healthcare. He was praised by many for coming forth with a bold initiative. His fellow candidates however, were not so generous. John Edwards likened the plan to Reaganomics. Howard Dean defended Gephardt, whom he felt had been "unfairly savaged," before explaining that the plan is "too expensive, and it won't pass." Joe Lieberman piled on, deriding Gephardt's plan as too reminiscent of "big-spending Democratic ideas of the past."

No matter what the candidates have said, it's clear that Gephardt lit a match under the policy wonks of his opponents' campaigns. While Dean has been pledging to work for a universal healthcare system since the start of his campaign, he had never come forth with a well defined plan. At a well-publicized post-Gephardt campaign stop, he laid out the goals of his plan and some rough ideas on how to implement them, but it was not the grand unveiling some expected. But at least Dean makes specific goals known. John Kerry, on the other hand, pledges support for universal healthcare, yet offers nothing more than some vague thoughts on a Patients' Bill of Rights, SCHIP, and pay for nurses.

Outside of healthcare, today's Washington Post ran a story with the headline, "Lieberman Unveils a 'Big Idea'," detailing his proposal for American energy independence. Bob Graham voted against the Iraq war resolution, complaining that it did not authorize the U.S. to broaden the war on terror, and then accused Bush of having "abandoned the war on terrorism."

* * *

So who's got the biggest big idea? Here are some quick links to check out some of the proposals coming from the candidates:

Dick Gephardt
As mentioned earlier, his Matt's Plan for universal healthcare is the current big kid on the block, both in terms of stature and price.

Howard Dean
Still playing catch-up with the Gephardt announcement. Like I mentioned earlier, Dean was first, but Gephardt's proposal is more well-developed. Dean's plan is a bit more incremental and much less costly, but potentially harder to understand for the average voter.

Joe Lieberman
Mentioned above, Joe's talking about energy independence. Funny, this sounds a lot like one of John Kerry's proposals from last year... Lieberman's other big idea seems to be that, since he and Gore got the most votes in the last general election, he can deliver a repeat performance.

Bob Graham
He's going to expand the war on terror to Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad. That's a potential vote-getter in the general election, leading Graham to refer to declare that he's from "the electable wing of the Democratic party." There's probably some truth to that, but first he has to make it out of the primaries.

Graham's other big idea is a two-year payroll tax "holiday" to make up for the Bush cuts he's going to freeze. My advice? Stick with the tax issue for the primaries, jump to national security in the general.

Al Sharpton
Sharpton's made repeated references to the number of voters registered by Jesse Jackson's 1984 campaign leading to the Democrats winning control of the Senate in 1986. Now it seems that he may not be in it to win it, but rather to get people involved in the process. His goal is registering 1.3 million new voters by January 2004. It's an absolutely worthy and honorable goal, unlikely to win him the nomination, but certain to increase his mainstream credibility by miles.

Dennis Kucinich
Repeal NAFTA.

What? Say what you will, but that's a big idea!

posted by Scott | 5/08/2003 | |

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Chinks in the armor

There have been a few positive developments for the Democrats this morning:

1. The field is not getting any larger... yet.
Gary Hart is not running for the Democratic nomination for president, telling the AP, "I've concluded that I do not have sufficient enthusiasm for the mechanical side of campaigning, the money, the media and the polling and so forth to go forward with a campaign."

2. Politically, W's aircraft carrier landing is backfiring.
Team W has been lying and flip-flopping on why the landing was supposedly necessary. Dana Milbank at the Washington Post has the scoop:

White House officials had said, both before and after Bush's landing in a Navy S-3B Viking jet, that he took the plane solely to avoid inconveniencing the sailors, who were returning home after a deployment of nearly 10 months. The officials said that Bush decided not to wait until the ship was in helicopter range to avoid delaying the troops' homecoming.

But instead of the carrier being hundreds of miles offshore, as aides had said it would be, the Lincoln was only about 30 miles from the coast when Bush made his "tail-hook" landing, in which the jet was stopped by cables on deck. Navy officers slowed and turned the ship when land became visible.

3. A GOP convention in New York could backfire.
According to Vincent Cannato, holding the GOP convention in a city with a Republican mayor in a state with a Republican governor may not be such a good idea, especially if the current fiscal crisis does not improve.

Next year, as New York prepares for the convention, there is a good chance the state and city will also have to deal with another round of budget deficits. There could be more ugly battles among the governor, mayor and state Legislature over who is to blame and how to cover the shortfall, more talk about taxes and less about spending cuts, as well as loud protests by labor unions eager to embarrass Republicans.

4. Dick Cheney will not be going away.
Why is this bad news for Team W? There was much speculation on this topic. Will he run? Who will replace him? Many pointed to New York governor George Pataki--a popular moderate Republican who could bring in more swing voters from northern states. Not to mention Cheney's poll numbers, which have never been as high as his boss's.

posted by Scott | 5/07/2003 | |

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Kerry/Dean race still tight in New Hampshire

Much is being made, post-debate, of the new Frankin Pierce poll which has Kerry and Dean running neck-and-neck at 23 points each in New Hampshire. Kerry's got higher favorables and higher name recognition, which seem to be slight tie-breakers when looking long-term.

However, the most interesting information to come out of the poll has nothing to do with Kerry or Dean. Edwards, Graham, Kucinich, and Moseley Braun each had 1 point. Al Sharpton had none. But Wesley Clark and Gary Hart are tied at 2 points each!

Time seems to be ripe for either or both to make their announcements and jump in the primary waters. Although, one wonders if they aren't waiting for the herd to thin out a bit, first.

posted by Scott | 5/06/2003 | |

Bob Graham makes it official

I've felt like I've been having some timeliness problems lately, so Senator Graham is giving me a big ego boost today.

In what is perhaps the second most-telegraphed punch this year--the first being Team W's Iraq Invasion--Bob Graham is set to officially announce his presidential candidacy at 12:15. Check your clocks, faithful readers. What time is it? That's right... 12:15. (Well, not for me. It's 12:02 as I write this, but I don't see it taking 13 minutes to get online.)

This morning, The Note asks readers a "why not?" that John Kerry left out this weekend. Why not Bob Graham? He's a maverick, he's southern, he's a former governor, but he's still not being taken seriously among the punditry.

(Note to The Note: I've been taking Graham seriously!!! What's that? What do you mean, DemWatch who?!?!)

Also this morning, David Broder had similar advice for Graham as DemWatch: Speak up or get lost!

So to recap, Florida Senator Bob Graham is a serious contender. If he manages to convince the party's liberal base that he is indeed "from the electable wing of the Democratic party," then he's got a real chance of winning the nomination as well as the general election. He's just got to work on his charisma (he still beats Bush on a bad day--charisma and swagger are two different things) and his ability to get his message across. But if the selling of his 12:15 announcement is any indication, then he should have no problem with the latter.

And on that note...

Ladies and Gentleman... Senator Bob Graham!

posted by Scott | 5/06/2003 | |

Trouble with the Missus?

Not surprisingly, Drudge posted a link to this as soon as the Post went live. Any chance you get to bash Kerry, right Matt?

Well, in this Reliable Source bit, Mrs. Kerry, or Mrs. Heinz, or is it Mrs. Heinz Kerry... anyway, John Kerry's wife chatted up the good folks at Elle Magazine on just about everything. Botox treatments? "I need another one. Soon." Plastic surgery? "When I need it, I'll get it." Prenuptual agreements? "Everybody has a prenup. You have to have a prenup."

The woman is clearly not living on the same planet where Americans want for jobs, health care, and quality education.

Senator Kerry, for his part, says that his wife is "earthy, sexy, European." European. Probably not the best word at the moment to use for a member of a would-be first family.

Will all of this impact Kerry's electability? You bet--especially if hit squaders like Matt Drudge have anything to say about it.

posted by Scott | 5/06/2003 | |

Krugman takes on Air Dubya

Finally, someone in the mainstream is taking Team W to task for the publicity circus surrounding Bush's triumphalist aircraft carrier landing last week.

...the Constitution declares the president commander in chief of the armed forces to make it clear that civilians, not the military, hold ultimate authority. That's why American presidents traditionally make a point of avoiding military affectations. Dwight Eisenhower was a victorious general and John Kennedy a genuine war hero, but while in office neither wore anything that resembled military garb.
Given that history, George Bush's "Top Gun" act aboard the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln — c'mon, guys, it wasn't about honoring the troops, it was about showing the president in a flight suit — was as scary as it was funny.

posted by Scott | 5/06/2003 | |

Monday, May 05, 2003

Debate Dilemma

Welcome to DemWatch, perhaps the only site on the internet 1. dedicated to nothing but the primary; and 2. that has not yet commented on the Democratic primary debate. Kind of odd, right?

The whole thing left my head spinning. Hell, my head is still spinning! The above link will take you to Liberal Oasis, which has an outstanding breakdown of the whole shebang.

But without further ado, I give you my thoughts:

1. Memo to Kerry and Dean: SHUT UP!!!
The New Englander infighting is ridiculous. The two men have differences of opinion. That is clear. That is acceptable. However, what is not acceptable is Dean's scorched earth strategy to win New Hampshire. Nor is Kerry's refusal to chain Chris Lehane to a tree in the backyard. It is very possible that one of these two men will be on the 2004 ticket. We cannot load Karl Rove's guns for him. Besides, the primary process isn't about you two. It's about beating Team W.

(PS - Howard Dean needs to stop reading his notes. 'Nuff said.)

2. Memo to Lieberman: YOU SHUT UP, TOO!!!
Your lame triangulation attempt, piling on the Dean/Kerry brawl and trumpeting your support for Bush's war policy, is really unbecoming. Stop speaking in platitudes and start putting forth some policies. Sure there were a few, but they seemed to be borrowed from others.

3. Memo to Graham: STOP BEING SO QUIET!!!
I swear you must have something to say! You are hugely popular in a southern bellwether state, having held two offices requiring statewide election. You are just as hawkish, albeit in a smarter way, than even Team W. You have a serious shot at winning the whole enchilada. Speak up!

4. Kucinich and Sharpton get serious.
Were you surprised? I was. Neither of them sounded like your crazy paranoid uncle. I still cannot believe that either of them will be the eventual nominee, but both of them will come out of the race with greater stature in the public arena. But raise the payroll tax, Dennis? Raise it? I don't care how good your haircut is, that's a bad idea. And the rest of the slate would do well to pay attention to Sharpton's rhetoric. It's simple, sharp, and effective.

5. John Edwards has clearly been studying hard.
So this is why Rove is so scared of him. He's clearly mastered the art of being a Blair Democrat.

6. Carol! Can you hear me? Are you out there?
You're smart! You're funny! You're likable! You're... invisible... sorry, Ambassador.

7. Dick Gephardt won the debate.
What's that? You heard me! Gephardt won! How? He defined the debate. I praised him for putting forth a bold, well-defined, easily understood universal health care plan when he put it forth and I'm certainly not going to let the other candidates change my mind. Whenever Howard Dean is attacking you from the right and John Edwards is attacking you from the left, you must be doing something right.

8. Memo to all: Bush is not invulnerable
None of you seem to believe it yourselves. It's true. There were jabs, to be sure, but until you start going after Team W as passionately as you go after each other, you cannot win.

posted by Scott | 5/05/2003 | |
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