Friday, June 13, 2003

General Wesley Clark on Meet The Press this Sunday

NBC is billing it as an "exclusive interview" and they are asking the all important question: "is he considering a run for the White House?"

Just yesterday I wrote that Clark will be delivering a much anticipated speech at next Tuesday's New Democrat Network conference. And exactly a week ago today, I was asking why Clark would be launching a website called Leadership For America if he were not planning on running.

So I go back to yesterday's closing on this very same topic: How clear do I have to be, folks? The man is running for President.

posted by Scott | 6/13/2003 | |

Desperate Democrats

It's looking bad out there for the Dems. No, I'm not talking about the effort to de-elect the President. I'm talking about the House.

There are two stories floating around today which paint a somewhat grim picture for the Congressional Dems. The first, linked above, is the brilliant New Republic article "Oppressed Minority," detailing the disturbing lack of democracy and fairness in the House of Representatives. I'm not going to rewrite Michael Crowley's article because that would do a huge injustice to the scope and profundity of the piece. Consider it as important as the Moyers speech I linked yesterday.

How the second piece fits is not so obvious. A New York Times article this morning finds the House passing new legislation heartily supported by corporate lobbyists that limits the size of class-action lawsuits. An identical bill was passed by the last Congress, but this time 32 more Democrats voted for it.

Why would they do such a thing? It's obvious--especially after reading Crowley's article--that the answer is fear and intimidation. The Democrats who did not support this legislation in the last go around, but just voted for it yesterday didn't have some sort of change of heart. They're scared. They're petrified that their GOP challengers are going to paint them as puppets of the trial lawyers. The GOP has been doing this for years and ramped up its rhetoric to target Presidential contender and former trial lawyer John Edwards.

It's become clear from where I sit that the Democrats need to do something. Does this mean they should consider adopting the Gingrichian tactics that proved so successful for the GOP in the early nineties? Not necessarily, though the Dems do need to get tough. Though the rules in the two bodies are vastly different, it seems to me that the DC Dems would do better to emulate the tactics of their Texas colleagues (the Killer D's) which have proven quite successful in taking on the likes of DeLay and Bush.

* * *


Just finished reading Krugman's opinion piece in this morning's Times. Normally, DemWatch readers know that it's only news when I disagree with Paul Krugman, so I don't usually discuss everything he writes. Today, however, his piece fits so well into the larger puzzle that I feel the need to comment.

He writes of the danger of liberal disinterest in figures like Tom DeLay.

"Who cares what some crazy guy in Congress says?" wrote one liberal economist, chiding me for being alarmist.
There's no point in getting mad at Mr. DeLay and his clique: they are what they are. I do, however, get angry at moderates, liberals and traditional conservatives who avert their eyes, pretending that current disputes are just politics as usual. They aren't — what we're looking at here is a radical power play, which if it succeeds will transform our country. Yet it's considered uncool to point that out.

Many of those who minimize the threat the radical right now poses to America as we know it would hate to live in the country Mr. DeLay wants to create. Yet by playing down the seriousness of the challenge, they help bring his vision closer to reality.

Krugman is absolutely right. Hopefully now will voters wake up to the realities that these writers have been detailing. As Crowley's piece points out, we ignore the extremist GOP at our own peril.

posted by Scott | 6/13/2003 | |

WSJ: good enough for Gore, good enough for Kerry

Yesterday, ABC’s The Note took The Boston Globe to task for the fact that they've been a wee bit overzealous in attacking John Kerry as a prevaricator (read: Gore-ian liar). DemWatch is inclined to agree with their assessment that The Globe should "get some perspective" in all matters Kerry. So wasn't I so pleased to see this morning that Opinion Journal (read: The Wall Street Journal) is picking up this meme and attempting to run it in for a 2004 touchdown.

So let me see if I understand the media rules for the 2004 election. When a Democrat misspeaks, it's a blatant lie. When a Republican blatantly lies, it's just a misstatement. Hey, wait! That's just like 2000! Huh, look at that. Now imagine what would happen if the media wasn't dominated by left-wing hegemony. Then we'd be in real trouble!

OJ also chides "the haughty, French-looking Massachusetts Democrat" for highlighting the fact that he served in Vietnam. Apparently, it doesn't matter to The Journal that while W was coking it up in Houston and skipping Texas Air National Guard meetings, John Kerry was off volunteering his services to the Viet Cong for target practice. Yeah... that doesn't say anything about character.

posted by Scott | 6/13/2003 | |

Thursday, June 12, 2003

I hate to say I told you so...

A few weeks back, I pondered that the GOP was salivating over the possibility of yet another Democratic filibuster as it would allow them to hammer the Dems as obstructionists.

In a fit of oddball braggery, The Washington Times has basically confirmed my worst fears:

"A Democratic filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee is a whole different matter," said one [GOP] staffer. "If they do that, then that puts us in the position of nuclear response. What we'd be contemplating is the net effect of shutting down the Senate for the rest of the year."

I hate to say it (and I know it's going to infuriate some of you), but now might be the time to give up the Estrada and Owens filibusters in order to make the Dems look more accomodating and insulate them from the obstructionist charges should a far-right judge be nominated to the Supreme Court.

posted by Scott | 6/12/2003 | |

Bill Moyers' speech at the Take Back America conference

Many of you have asked about this, so I'm going to go ahead and link it. For the uninitiated, Bill Moyers delivered this speech to huge acclaim from liberals and progressives attending the conference and from those who heard about its message after the fact via word of mouth.

I highly recommend reading it. It's absolutely inspiring and as such, it's the perfect antidote for the Democrats' blues pundits like Howard Kurtz keep telling us we're plagued with.

"Ideas have power," Moyers explained. He ended his speech asking the left to "pass it on." Consider it passed.

posted by Scott | 6/12/2003 | |

If Wesley Clark isn't running for President, then I'm Richard Nixon

Next Tuesday, the New Democrat Network is holding their annual conference in Washington. According to The Note, it's a rebirth of sorts for the organization, which seeks to set out a new, "more inclusive, more focused agenda for Democrats in the next election."

Apparently, Kerry, Dean, Lieberman, Gephardt, Edwards, and Graham were all invited, though only Lieberman and Graham will be in attendence. The others "may provide videos."

Non-candidate Gen. Clark will be giving a speech billed as "America After the War: Setting the National Agenda."

How clear do I have to be, folks? The man is running for President.

posted by Scott | 6/12/2003 | |


The AP's Ron Fournier, as hyped by The Note today, has outlined ways in which the Democrats have charged that Team W are a pile of liars. It's fun stuff and I'm just going to massively blockquote it here to show the full scope.

The candidates say Bush has fudged the facts on issues well beyond Iraq, including:

- Education. While the president promotes his "No Child Left Behind" legislation, state and local officials struggle to pay for the standardized tests and other requirements of the 2002 law. "What kind of education plan tries to add by subtracting?" Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri said.

- Tax cuts. Bush said all families will get a break, but the $350 billion bill he signed excluded many low-income families from a child tax credit. Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts said Bush was "leaving 12 million children behind."

- Deficits. Bush pledged to bring fiscal sanity to Washington, but he "brought back the era of big and bloated government," Gephardt said.

- Foreign affairs. Bush promised in 2000 to have a "humble" foreign policy, but many allies feel bullied by Bush's moves on global warming, trade and Iraq. "Our country is viewed with increased hostility," Graham said.

- Homeland security. State and local leaders complain they have not received enough money from Washington to prepare for future attacks. "We should not cede this issue," said Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina.


* * *

Quick side, er, Note...

What is with The Note making politi-media superstars out of field reporters and correspondents like Fournier?

Sheesh! You'd think they were bloggers or something...

posted by Scott | 6/12/2003 | |

Finally! The Dems get tough on Tom DeLay

I missed this one, but an alert reader hipped me to the story. Thanks, Alfredo!

Reuters reported Tuesday that DNC chair Terry McAuliffe requested that AG Ashcroft "recuse himself from any inquiry into political donations" from Westar Energy. DemWatch readers will recognize Westar as the company who loaded up GOP candidates with campaign cash in exchange for legislative back scratching--classic and blatant quid pro quo.

Well, it seems that AG Johnny A has himself been on the Westar dole to the tune of $2,500.

Yeseterday in New Hampshire, Ashcroft was asked if he would respond to Terry's request. His answer? "No, I really can't." Interesting choice of words with 'can't'. Usually, when you 'can't' answer a question from the press, it's because you aren't really allowed to comment on pending investigations. It's vastly different than if you 'won't' respond to something based on the merits.

Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion of this one, folks.

posted by Scott | 6/12/2003 | |

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Even more GOP influence peddling

The Washington Post ran a story this morning about yet another GOP influence merchant in the House. This time, the guilty party is majority whip Roy Blunt. The Post reports that Blunt has on numerous occasions slipped provisions into pending legislation benefiting many of his big business benefactors.

If I write about each and every GOP influence peddling scam that comes across my desk, you'll be reading for days, so I'll just leave it at this. Philip Morris USA, which has given him over $150,000, would have benefited the most from Blunt's advocacy. FedEx and UPS have also have Blunt's support and together have donated over $120,000 to the whip since 2001.

When you've got Tom DeLay rejecting your efforts to pay off your biggest corporate donors, you know you're in trouble.

posted by Scott | 6/11/2003 | |

Peggy Noonan's shocking conclusion (and her faulty logic)

Peggers' new column at takes the brave position that 9/11 changed everything. REALLY?!?!?! Jeez, Peggy, we knew you were smart, but this latest insight is incredible.

In classic Noonan fashion, she slips a little bit of pro-GOP fluffery into her otherwise vapid writing:

The bloated national budget: 9/11, for two reasons. One is the cost of security and defense, the other is Mr. Bush's reluctance to fight Congress on spending when an overall preservation of national political unity is his goal. The Republican Party staying institutionally mum on budget deficits: 9/11. Whatever it takes in an age of rising stakes.

I can almost accept that "the bloated national budget" has a bit to do with increased fiscal commitment to national security former. But blaming it on Bush's unwillingness to reign in federal spending at the cost of "national political unity?" PLEASE!!! The notion that the GOP has abandoned its deficit hawkishness due to "rising stakes" in the game of geopolitics? WHAT?!?!

Let's take a look at the facts. GOP advisor Grover Norquist has taken to saying "bipartisanship is another name for date rape." Where is the commitment to "preservation of national political unity" there?

Even though defense spending has indeed increased, Homeland Security was just forced to lay off 15% of its airport security screeners due to budget constraints! It is the incessant tax cutting that is really driving up deficits--not increased spending on national security.

What bothers me most about all of this is that Noonan is considered (by many) to be a thoughtful writer on the state of the nation. She tends to stay above the political fray. So filtering blatant falsities like this into her writing in order to further pro-GOP memes is especially deceitful.

Then again, what can you really expect from a writer--and publication--who's little more than a shill for the Republican Party?

posted by Scott | 6/11/2003 | |

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Latest national poll numbers

The latest poll from Ipsos-Reid, commissioned by the Cook Political Report, finds that 53% of the American people will either definitely vote or consider voting for a candidate other than President Bush. Only 44% of those polled will definitely vote for Bush while 31% will definitely vote for someone else and 22% will consider voting for someone else.

Seeing as how the average voter doesn't really have any idea who the Democratic candidates are yet, I'd say these are promising numbers for the Democrats.

Another interesting finding of the poll? Voters are evenly split (43%-43%) on which party they'd rather see win control of Congress. This seems to suggest that no matter how well Bush does in 2004, the Democrats have a chance of winning back the Senate.

The House, on the other hand...

* * *

Oh yeah, John Zogby's telling us that Kerry and Dean are in a tight race in New Hampshire, with the latter slightly ahead. Nothing new there.

What is new is that Edwards has hit the 2% floor with Kucinich and Graham is now swimming in the bottom of the barrel at 1% with Sharpton and Moseley Braun.

How about some favorables--those are always fun. Kerry leads with 69% and Sharpton's in the dumps with a 54% unfavorable rating. (Ouch!) Dennis the K is the odd man out, rating 76% unfamiliar.

Zogby also zings us with the news that "76% of Dems Say Bush Re-election Likely." Maybe those Dems are just trying to wreck Bush's "master of low expectations" title. Them Dems is a wily bunch!

posted by Scott | 6/10/2003 | |

Will the House be the undoing of the White House?

Three stories are floating around the Washington ether these days which are slowly spiraling together to spell political trouble for the GOP.

1) The Westar Donations

This one's already been covered by DemWatch, but the story just keeps getting better. The Washington Post has a story on page 4 and an editorial on page 20 of today's edition on this latest GOP influence peddling scandal.

Rather than rehash it all, I'll recommend checking out the three links above. At the national level, the Democrats have been kind of quiet on this story. Don't expect that to last long into the campaign season.

2) DeLay misuses federal power to target Texas Democrats

Ah, the Killer D's. This one's still going strong and shows no signs of letting up. You all know the story. The Washington Post weighed in with an editorial on May 23rd and The New York Times has just followed suit. Both are recommended reading.

It looks like Josh Marshall is finally getting his wish: people are paying attention.

3) Expanding the Child Tax Credit... and tax cuts for the rich

Team W is understandably anxious to sweep under the rug the fact that they left 11.9 million kids out of the latest round of tax cuts. They're so anxious in fact, that they want to get a new tax cut passed ASAP to rectify the problem and take the issue away from the Democrats in 2004.

So what's the problem? Surely the GOP-controlled Congress won't turn down a new tax cut, right? Tom DeLay and Company are demanding that the aid to working families come as part of a much larger bill--$100 billion versus the necessary $10 billion. This has the White House running scared (Ari Fleischer said that Bush "wants to make certain that this does not get slowed down, bogged down. He wants to sign it.") and Democrats crying foul (a Daschle spokesman said "There's no reason to spend $100 billion to fix this problem when it can clearly be fixed for $10 billion.")

* * *

What do these three stories have in common?

Tom DeLay.

It seems that all of those years as an exterminator have turned Tom into political poison for the Bush White House.

posted by Scott | 6/10/2003 | |

The Religious Right supports soaking the rich?

A New York Times article on the recent tax proposals coming from the religious conservative governor of Alabama has potentially huge implications for the national tax debate.

Governor Bob Riley is arguing for a more progressive tax system, shifting the burden from the poor to the rich. Under Alabama's current structure, people earning $4,600 pay income tax, the sales tax applies to groceries and baby formula, the tax on incomes under $13,000 is 10.9% and the tax on incomes over $229,000 is 4.1%. In other words, it's a GOP dream tax.

Riley's reasoning for wanting to reform the Alabama tax code?

"I've spent a lot of time studying the New Testament, and it has three philosophies: love God, love each other, and take care of the least among you," he said. "I don't think anyone can justify putting an income tax on someone who makes $4,600 a year."

Wisely, The Times sees this impacting the national debate. The next big political coalition on tax issues may just be progressives and religious organizations. One professor from the University of Alabama, Susan Pace Hamill, authored a law review article titled "An Argument for Tax Reform Based on Judeo-Christian Ethics." She's a tax professor, but her degree's in theology. According to The Times, "she plans to train speakers this summer to take the theological argument to the grass roots." It's awfully hard to see where Ralph Reed and Grover Norquist fit into her equation.

This could well turn into a new "Southern Strategy" for the Democrats.

posted by Scott | 6/10/2003 | |

Monday, June 09, 2003

Tell me again about the GOP advantage with the military...

The New York Times is reporting that Idaho GOP Senator Larry Craig is holding up over 850 officer promotions until the Air Force turns over four C-130 cargo planes to the Idaho Air National Guard.

Normally I'd say this would make his seat vulnerable, but Craig's seat isn't up until 2008. And currently, there's only one Democrat in statewide office. So here's to hoping that this Craig absurdity has a spill-over effect and/or that Idahoans have looong memories.

posted by Scott | 6/09/2003 | |

John Edwards: Personalizing 'the people versus the powerful'

The Washington Post continued its series of candidate profiles this Sunday with a bio of North Carolina Senator John Edwards, this time penned by none other than David Broder.

Whereas the previous week's profile painted Kerry as the consummate Alpha dog, Edwards is clearly The Post's pick for underdog.

The piece opens harshly, questioning what "right" Edwards has to be running for President as a one-term Senator with no other political experience. The tone softens quickly, though, portraying Edwards as a man driven by a genuine desire to do right by the people the rest of society neglects.

Whereas the GOP establishment would like everyone to view Edwards as a hypocritical, rich trial lawyer bent on grabbing as much power as he can, Broder sees Edwards as a man on a mission. The Presidency is nothing more than "the ultimate leverage point in American government" from which Edwards can accomplish his mission.

And a hypocrite?

When Edwards speaks, there are no angry denunciations of Big Money. "I admire success," he says, and clearly he has used his own wealth to set up his parents in a very comfortable home, to establish youth charities, live luxuriously -- to say nothing of putting millions into his Senate race.

Edwards also seems to hold an advantage over the other candidates in that he is not so easy to pin down. He supported the war with Iraq (with no Kerry-esque equivocation), but does not have the backing of the DLC because he is not a hardcore free-trader. He attracts kind words from both John McCain ("I can't help but believe he will be a formidable candidate") and Ralph Nader ("(Edwards) is not ashamed to stand up for the civil justice system, which is the pillar of our democracy, and allows wrongfully injured people to take their perpetrators to court and help make this society safer for all of us").

Perhaps most importantly, some of his supporters point out that Edwards seems to have some of that Clinton magic. So maybe Rove & Co. is on to something, thinking that Edwards is the one to watch.

posted by Scott | 6/09/2003 | |
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