Waiting for Perot--or someone like him.

Waiting for Perot--or someone like him.

Waiting for Perot--or someone like him.

A mostly political Weblog.
Dec. 14 2003 7:07 AM

Waiting for Perot

Or someone like him.

TNR's Ryan Lizza takes up the Dean-Spin challenge with a rare unconvincing analysis:

If the biggest effect of Saddam's capture on the race is that it pushes Dean's rivals to become more vociferously pro-war, then Sunday's news really was a blessing for Dean.

Lizza also quotes with a straight face a Dean "senior adviser" saying the following:

"This doesn't change much for his candidacy ... We are no safer today than we were yesterday. The man was found hiding in a hole. He was hardly a threat to the people of Chicago." [Emph. added]


A few more flailingly stupid statements like that--as if hundreds of thousands of Iraqis weren't scared to cooperate with American soldiers out of fear that the man in the hole might return to power--and the Dean campaign could succeed in frightening even Iowa Democratic caucus-goers. ...And wasn't today supposed to be Centrist Foreign Policy Respectability Day for Dean? ... My non-contrarian take: Yes, Saddam's capture doesn't mean vociferous pro-war candidates are suddenly going to surge to the front of the Democratic pack. But why try to deny the obvious: The better things are going in Iraq, the more air leaks out of Dean's balloon--even if, as Lizza notes, he's "developed a robust anti-Bush message" on other, non-foreign-policy issues. It's like finding out that the off-Broadway play being written by the guy you're dating isn't very good after all. Sure, you tell yourself, he's got lots of other appealing qualities. You really shouldn't let it affect your judgment. He's the same guy he was before! Still ... [You are pretending to be a woman-ed. Valid objection. Mary McGrory would have figured out a better way to say this.] ... P.S.: Another positive side effect of Saddam's capture, noted by both Lizza and  Will Saletan, is that John Kerry has made a fool of himself, switching in one news cycle from (in Lizza's words) a) "fiery criticism of how the war has been executed" (in which he "insisted that we would not be at war with Iraq if he were president") and b) attacking Dean for supporting a pro-war resolution to a) "attacking Dean as a hopelessly soft-on-Saddam peacenik" and b) "recasting himself as a maximalist hawk." ... Note to Eric Alterman: I never criticized Kerry for his hair. (I criticized his furrowed brow!) The problem is not his hair. The problem is that, as this incident shows, he lurches impulsively and opportunistically (Gregg Abbott's  adjectives) in response to every perceived momentary advantage.  His presidency would be a disaster by Month 3. ... Correction: O.K., there was one small "hair"-related cheap shot. [No thanks to alert reader J.W.] ...2:57 P.M.

New "New Perot" possibility: Tom Brokaw! Don't think he hasn't thought of running for president! ... 10:40 A.M.

'None? O.K. Just checking. Some people were making a fuss about it': From MSNBC News Services--

The U.S. military hopes Saddam will clear up allegations that he had chemical and biological weapons and a nuclear weapons program, said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Mark Hertling of the 1st Armored Division.


10:33 A.M.

P.S.: Today was a Jo Moore Day--a good day to bury bad news, or any other kind of news  ... like, say, news of a highly personal medical procedure. Check the back pages for what, on other days, would be on the front pages. ... 10:20 A.M.

"New Perot" Nominations are pouring in. Thanks! It's pretty clear to me who is the best name mentioned so far as suitable for mounting a centrist, Web-based third-party 2004 campaign for the presidency: Warren Buffett. He's a Democrat respected by Republicans for his financial success. He writes well--he could key in his own blog! He's been scathing about the deficit. ... Buffett got three votes, one less than the obvious won't-happen choice, John McCain, and equal to the obvious might-happen third-party candidate, Gen. Clark. ... Other interesting reader nominees: Carly Fiorina. Bill Gates. Douglas Wilder. Bob Kerrey. Herb Kelleher. Oprah! Robert Rubin, Bill Bradley ("assuming he's still alive"), Franklin Raines, Gary Hart. ... Keep them coming. ... Max Cleland, Bill Weld, Christine Todd Whitman ... P.S.: Dan Conley's been blogging along these same lines, There, he nominates Joe Lieberman, adding

... the center has a way of asserting itself in American politics whenever it is ignored. And I've never seen the center shunned as much as it has been in 2003 by both parties.


Good point, though the prescription drug bill was not a shunning of the center. And the night is young. ... 2:02 A.M.

Meanwhile, on to Public Enemy #2: Here's the quote Clark overspinner Chris Lehane gave the NYT  for a story about Howard Dean's minor (2 percent or so) stake in a Vermont radio station that broadcast Rush Limbaugh:

 "In a Dean administration, will Rush Limbaugh become the Voice of America?"

I don't think this was a total goof. I think Lehane thinks crafting these sort of zingers is his job, that he's good at it, that some Democrats might actually have doubts about Dean because of this third-remove association with Limbaugh, and that if he adds up enough of these subtly-engineered ripostes (there's another one here) he can help his candidate win an election--when really all he's done is make himself and his candidate look like idiots. ... Update: Discriminations finds another bit of  ornate Lehane b.s., spinning Gen. Clark's skipping of Iowa as a search for multicultural proportionality. Wouldn't it be more effective to just say "We're conceding Iowa in favor of states we think we can do better in"? Why look like a liar? How is that clever? I don't get it. ...1:23 A.M.


Sunday, December 14, 2003

Didn't Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert on NBC lobby a bit heavy-handedly (i.e. incessantly) today on the need for the administration to use this occasion to "internationalize" the Iraq effort?  ... 9:52 P.M.

Saddam's capture bumped Howard Dean off the cover of Newsweek. Some will find cheap symbolism in this! ... 12:14 P.M.

It appears we've captured Saddam. A special award to the first reporter or commentator who argues this is actually good news for Howard Dean. ... And the winner is ... James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal? See  penultimate item. Taranto doesn't argue it will help Dean win the election, though--only the nomination. ... Or is the winner my Slate colleague Will Saletan, who writes:

And what if interrogations of Saddam, like interrogations of his henchmen, yield no more evidence of weapons of mass destruction? U.N. weapons inspectors are already saying that the United States has produced almost no new evidence of WMD since occupying Iraq. Could the capture of Saddam—and with it, the exposure of the last dry hole in the WMD hunt—end up discrediting the war?


Update: If I heard it right, former Bill Clinton foreign policy aide Nancy Soderbergh was just on TV arguing that we can now speed the transition from American to Iraqi rule. Didn't Hillary Clinton just tell the nation we were transitioning too quickly to Iraqi rule--"artificial timelines," and all that?  ... More--Dean vs. Hillary: This morning Howard Dean put out a statment that also argued, contra Hillary, that  "we must also accelerate the transition from occupation to full Iraqi sovereignty." [And the point is ..?-ed 1) Both of them can't be right. Maybe we should let Hillaryphile and Dean enthusiast Sidney Blumenthal break the tie! 2) But they can both be wrong, in a Goldilocks kind of way, if Bush is going neither too fast nor too slow.Bush faces a dilemma, after all (as Hillary acknowledges in passing). If he doesn't promise a quick transition, Iraqis will think we are occupiers. If he promises a too-quick transition, Iraq may not be ready for self-governance. He's trying to strike a balance. It would be surprising if he got it perfectly right, and he's not going to get it perfectly right every time. Having voted to put the nation in this dilemma, you would think Hillary would try to sound sympathetic even when she's sniping that Bush is going too fast--rather than easily sliding into the charge that the administration is cynically playing 2004 politics, looking for an "exit strategy, some kind of transition before our elections."  3) Where's Hillary's snipe at Dean, who's even wronger than Bush under her analysis? If Hillary really believes her critique, taking on Dean would be a practical, not merely rhetorical, step--since Dean's so-far successful campaign would be a big part of what is pressuring Bush to transfer sovereignty faster than Bush might do otherwise.] ... 3:59 A.M.

Waiting for Perot, or Someone Like Him: Either I haven't done enough reading or this is a brilliant piece that should be read by all concerned Americans. Everett Ehrlich notes that decreasing information costs--i.e. the Internet--now enable outside groups to do what only big political parties used to be able to do--i.e. organize effective national campaigns. And that's before you consider the effects of the McCain-Feingold law, which Ehrlich doesn't mention but which makes circumventing the parties not only possible but imperative. (See, e.g. Edsall's article on the "shadow" Democrats in the same edition  of WaPo.)

Ehrlich draws some pithy conclusions from the parties' obsolescence:

For all Dean's talk about wanting to represent the truly "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party," the paradox is that he is essentially a third-party candidate using modern technology to achieve a takeover of the Democratic Party. Other candidates -- John Kerry, John Edwards, Wesley Clark -- are competing to take control of the party's fundraising, organizational and media operations. But Dean is not interested in taking control of those depreciating assets. He is creating his own party, his own lists, his own money, his own organization. What he wants are the Democratic brand name and legacy, the party's last remaining assets of value, as part of his marketing strategy.


That puts the much-discussed Gore/Dean vs. Clinton struggle in a different light--maybe Gore and Dean don't care if Clintonites control the party. ...

Ehrlich also makes several big and entirely plausible predictions based on this analysis:

1) If Dean loses, he'll keep his e-mail lists and "reemerge" as a third party candidate in succeeding elections;

2) "[T]he evangelical right will become a separate political party in the near future, and will hold its own conventions and primaries." Why not? They can still endorse the Republican candidate if they want.

3) In "the next six or eight presidential elections, a third-party candidate will win the presidency. ..."

My only question: Why will it take six elections? And I'd add two more predictions:

4) If Dean locks up the Democratic nomination but trails badly in the polls, a non-trivial centrist third party candidate will emerge in the current, 2004, election. Think about it. Dean could wrap the nomination up by mid-March. That leaves almost half a year before the summer conventions--not an eternity, but rather several excruciating eternities for Democrats if Bush's lead in the national polls continues to hold. (Remember the Feiler Faster Thesis--two months now seems like a year.) Are we really to spend five months reading wishful Adam Nagourney pieces about how this strategy or that strategy (New voters! Hispanics! Reservists! Metrosexuals!) might bring victory for Dean's Democrats? No. Thanks to the Web, it doesn't cost much to start up a moderate third-party alternative.  If Dean's still 20 points behind by mid-May, I expect some New Perot to go for it. Who? I don't know. Maybe Clark, if he isn't on the ticket and hasn't humiliated himself. Maybe Clark's nemesis, Republican William Cohen. Maybe Warren Rudman. Someone! It's not hard to do anymore. And things move fast. Ask Arnold Schwarzenegger. ... Meanwhile, it's pretty clear what the easiest, most effective thing Bush's opponents could do is--namely, goad someone on the beyond-Bush right into starting a Web-driven fourth-party campaign in 2004 that would split Bush's vote. (Hola, Tom Tancredo!) ...

5) The NYT's Glen Justice is wrong to seemingly buy the theory that Congress has had enough campaign finance reform for a while. Isn't it more likely that the McCain-Feingold law, by disempowering parties (especially the Democrats) and shifting influence to independent "527" shadow committees, will prompt a panicked reaction designed to reestablish party primacy by revamping the law? If there's anything politicians hate, it's the idea that their reelection fate is out of their control--that they might be blown away, not by their own gaffes or by their official foes, but by some out-of-the-blue group they've never heard of. That was one big motivation behind McCain-Feingold's loophole-ridden ban on last-minute independent "issue" ads. As Ehrlich notes, even without McCain-Feingold the two major parties will try to "preserve their fading power" through heavy-handed means like keeping third parties out of debates and closing off "open" primaries. Changing McCain-Feingold to readvantage the major parties is another obvious step. (The obvious way to take this obvious step is to let the parties collect a whole lot more money--enough to dwarf the 527s.)

All the anti-Bush 527 groups that are springing up don't have to support the Democrats, after all, It would be just as easy for them or similar groups to raise unlimited donations on behalf of a third-party white knight. Once that possibility becomes a real threat, Democrats and Republicans can be expected to act. ...

Who's the New Perot for 2004? Nominations for a third-party centrist candidate gratefully accepted at Mickey_Kaus@msn.com. ...

Update: Simon Rosenberg of the Dean-friendly New Democratic Network endorses Erhlich's analysis. 1) Note that among the things Rosenberg consigns to the dustbin along with the "industrial age" Democratic party is its "classic FDR liberalism." 2) So what's going to replace that? Rosenberg doesn't say. The medium seems to be the message, at least in this item--the Web-based technology of the new, non-party campaign is what's appealing about Dean.  Do you need a message if you have Meet.up? Would Dean be winning, thanks to his Internet power alone, if he didn't have a strong anti-Iraq position? It's a good question. (He was doing prettty well before the Iraq War started, if I recall.) But in the future, once every candidate has mastered the new means of organizing, message will again be the deciding factor. The Web doesn't get Democrats off the hook of deciding, if they don't believe in the ideology of "classic FDR liberalism," what sort of neoliberalism or Third Way they do believe in. Bill Clinton made progress on this question. It's not clear Dean will.  .. 2:18 A.M.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Convenient Blockbuster--Killing one too many birds with one stone? I certainly hope this report is true. But how likely is it that a single memo written in July, 2001 would just happen to solve two of the Bush administration's biggest current problems: 1) the absence of a clear Saddam-9/11 link and 2) the disputed claim that Iraq sought uranium from Niger? ... What's in the rest of the memo? Reader Z.S.: "[T]the third part of the memo, somewhat surprisingly, provides Bush's National Guard attendance records .... " [Link via Instapundit]11:16 P.M.

Friday, December 12, 2003

If Howard Dean is looking for an issue on which to get to George Bush's right--the way Bill Clinton got to Bush's father's right on welfare in 1992--Dean might try this one. ...[But Dean's posted position on immigration is pretty close to Bush's--eda) The Dean "issues"page is vaguely worded--e.g., pledging to "regularize the inevitable future migration of labor" doesn't commit Dean to easy citizenship for illegal immigrants, or prevent Dean from charging Bush with pursuing "amnesty"; b) Dean's flip-flopped before, on bigger issues than this!]... Bonus: An anti-amnesty immigration plank would have huge potential not-so-secret appeal to African-Americans, a constituency Dean desperately needs. 2:28 P.M.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Architectural Digest: What's the difference between the rebuilding of Ground Zero and the Iraq War? One's a vicious battle fueled by hatred  in which the normal rules of conflict don't apply. The other's just a guerilla insurgency in the Middle East! ... Woof! Am I crazy or is the Frank Gehry design for a new Brooklyn sports arena ...er, not attractive to men, sir! Or women. (The photo in the linked N.Y. Post Web piece isn't as unappealing as the others in the print edition.) It looks like a new big-box K-Mart with some wavy "branding" tacked on. We want another Gehry building just like those other cool Gehry buildings! ... There's no way to bill this bow-wow as Bilbao! ... Update: Muschamp's puffer notes the design "will remind some observers of pre-Bilbao Gehry,when his vocabulary owed more to cubes than to curves." So it does. I happen to live in a community with a lot of pre-Bilbao Gehry buildings. They're not very good! They get dirty and dreary quickly. They're jarring, not uplifting. The Chiat-Day building is a particular flop, in practice.  ... 2:17 P.M.

Note: A update has been added to the exciting item on productivity from Tuesday. See below. .. 4:36 A.M.

Why am I not wildly upset by the Supreme Court's surprise opinionupholding virtually all of the McCain-Feingold law? Because the law turned out to not be as restrictive of speech as most people, including most of its editorial-page supporters, think it is: It doesn't prevent rich (and non-rich) individuals from banding together to spend as much money as they want on "independent" last-minute issue" ads that criticize or praise candidates by name--something that I'd argue is their right. It only bans them if they incorporate. ... I do think they should be able to incorporate (as non-profits) and enjoy the benefits of limited liability without giving up their speech rights. But it's not the end of the world if they can't. We'll soon see lots of unincorporated non-profits (yes, they can exist) springing up as vehicles for independent political advertising. ... Can the much-discussed "527" outfits  qualify on these grounds too, gathering and spending unlimited contributions? Election law expert Rick Hasen says the answer is yes, and victorious McCain-Feingold defender Trevor Potter seems to agree. That's where the free speech will be, at least initially. (Update: But see this  Hasen post.) ... It's also possible that some especially pure political non-profits will still be allowed to incorporate, because the Court apparently left open a loophole created for such corporations in the MCFL case. How big can an organization be and still qualify for the MCFL loophole? Nobody knows. But the question doesn't seem that important, since the 527s will be able to make themselves heard simply by not incorporating. ... Update: Here's "an unincorporated political organization organized under Section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code" now! It's that venerable group, Americans for Jobs, Healthcare and Progressive Values, chaired by ex-Congressman Edward Feighan. They're runing anti-Dean ads--at least on the Web.. ... [Thanks to alert kf reader in Atlanta] 2:06 A.M.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

An Iraq Flip Too?  John Kerry has claimed that Howard Dean supported an alternative Senate resolution that would have let President Bush go to war after a mere certification to Congress of the seriousness of the Iraq threat. This isn't the first time this issue has come up, but it appears from this new Ron Fournier AP story that Kerry is right:

Dean acknowledged that the alternative resolution was not binding against the president, but argued that Bush would have somehow been more likely to use restraint.

"Biden-Lugar required the president to come back to Congress - not for a vote," but only to certify that a number of actions were taken, including more diplomacy, Dean said. "Had the president done that, we would not have gone to war, because then he would have been forced to certify with his word ... all the claims he made that were not true." [Emphasis added]

A weak, naive-sounding response on Dean's part, no? If Bush was as determined to go to war as he seems to have been why would he let a certification to Congress get in the way? Kerry successfully reinforces the notion (promoted in this space, among others) that Dean came out against the war a bit belatedly, perhaps after realizing that that was what Democratic primary voters wanted. ... Of course, it's hard to argue that Dean now isn't a sincere anti-Iraq War candidate. (Tuesday night: "The tragedy of what we did in Iraq, which I have opposed right from the beginning ...."). There's the character issue, though, as well as the issue of Dean's attitude toward potential wars down the road--even if, as usual, the residual ambiguity and flip-floppery in his position helps him by making him seem potentially moderate. ... Backfill: TNR's  Ryan Lizza pointed out Dean's Biden-Lugar contradiction  a couple of weeks ago. ...11:56 P.M.

Flip-Flop Flap: Howard Dean is a "fine centrist" governor who has "flip-flopped" and moved to the orthodox left on trade, education, entitlements, and affirmative action, according to the Democratic Leadership Council. This rightly troubles the DLC. But does that make Dean worse than, say, a politician who takes orthodox left positions on trade, education, entitlements and affirmative action without ever having been a centrist at all? Better to have flopped than never to have flipped! There's at least some hope with Dean that he'll revert back to his old self. ... Which brings us to the issue of the sealed official records from his gubernatorial tenure in Vermont--which include his "correspondence with advisers on, among other matters, Vermont's 'civil unions' law,"  according to Newsweek. What might Dean be hiding? Is it necessarily something liberal, as salivating Republicans assume--a Willie Horton pardon, say, or perhaps an admission that he once performed an abortion? Isn't Dean more likely to be hiding his centrist sentiments--memos complaining about Democratic interest-group lobbyists, perhaps, or grousing about the need to control Medicaid costs, or mocking advocates of full-fledged gay marriage? Revelations of moderation might be extremely damaging to Dean as he courts many of these pressure groups in the primaries. No wonder he'd want the records kept sealed. ... Ah, but they will inevitably be unsealed as the result of lawsuits, you say? Yes they will--after Dean has locked up the nomination, when any pithy expressions of disdain for the orthodox left will only help him with the larger general electorate. You see the plan? It's all working perfectly! ... 11:04 P.M.

Lloyd Grove reports rumors of an executive shake-up  at Sony Pictures that would leave Amy Pascal, Hollywood Reporter's  "Most Powerful Woman in Hollywood," slightly less powerful and reporting to a "non-Hollywood 'Internet type,'" according to Grove. That would be another story the New York Times' Bernard Weinraub, who "covers entertainment for The Times in California," didn't get! I know, I know, he's married to Amy Pascal. But this is no time to start invoking the concept of conflict-of-interest! Weinraub writes about Pascal's competitors. He writes about Pascal's trade association. Why stop there? ....Maybe he was waiting for Luke Ford to write something  first! ... Update: Here's Claudia Eller's  LAT analysis of the shakeup. You figure out whether it's a setback or, in fact, a promotion for Pascal. ...  12:10 A.M.

Tuesday, December 9, 2003

Is Productivity Overstated? In Tuesday's WSJ, columnist George Melloan raises a disturbing possibility: If the discouraging, widely-publicized official employment numbers--only 57,000 jobs gained last month!--understate employment because they don't count self-employed workers (whose ranks have been growing), then maybe the encouraging productivity numbers--9.4 percent rate last quarter!--are overstated because the government divides output by a smaller number of workers than are actually working.  The two do not seem to be exactly opposite sides of the same coin--the productivity figures, according the Slate's Brendan Koerner, do  incorporate at least some data from a "household" survey that catches the self-employed. But they seem to be on some kind of statistical seesaw--if one is wrong in the down direction then the other's probably wrong in the up direction.  How much of a seesaw? I can't answer that. Maybe some economist who knows more about the data can. ...

Update: Brookings' Gary Burtless, than whom I can think of no better expert, e-mails to say that the productivity figures do take into account the growth in self-employment as measured by the "household" survey. Rising self-employment isn't the problem with the productivity data.

As I understand it, one could argue, as Melloan apparently does, that you should use the at-the-moment-generally-more-optimistic "household" survey (instead of the government's "employer" survey) to measure all employment, including regular wage (non-self) employment--in which case you would get a higher overall employment figure and a correspondingly lower productivity figure.  But Burtless thinks the currently optimistic household survey isn't more accurate than the employer survey for measuring overall employment.

The embarassing fact is that one reason employment growth in the household and employment surveys differed in the second half of the 1990s is because THE CENSUS BUREAU USED AN INCORRECT ESTIMATE OF POPULATION GROWTH when calculating population weights to be applied in the household survey.

In short, when people like Melloan (usually boosterish Bush backers, including Labor secretary Elaine Chao) suggest the "employer" survey is inaccurate on the low side, they must then accept (as Melloan does) that the recent productivity number errs on the high side. But it's probably a bogus argument on both counts.

If you're going to make the case that productivity is overstated, Burtless suggests, don't rely on the rise in self-employment or the general optimism of the "household" survey. Focus instead on the fudge factors involved in measuring output (especially alleged improvements in "product quality") and input (especially the issue of whether managers connected to work by laptops 24/7 are really working fewer  hours). But Burtless still thinks despite these potential problems there is "overwhelming" evidence that productivity growth has been rising. 10:38 P.M.

Moving Testimonial of the Day: From Ronnie Spector Greenfield, former lead singer of the Ronettes and ex-wife of producer Phil Spector (now accused of murder):

"I had never seen him violent like that, with a gun or anything," Greenfield said. "I feel awful. I don't think he would do anything like this."

When reminded that she testified in 1998 that Spector had threatened to kill her, she explained, "Not personally - that was with a hit man."

Well all right then! 10:02 P.M.

I admired Sen. Paul Simon, who died today, mainly for his  un-discouraged advocacy of a WPA-style guaranteed jobs program, which still seems like a good idea (if the wage is kept low enough!). Simon even pushed the neo-WPA in the movie Dave, in the process getting what turned out to be the film's best laugh. His advice for what to do when you're depressed was good too! ... The New York Times reports, presumably accurately, that he "never exercised much influence" on his Senate committees. So? Does anyone think he wasn't a good man? Maybe some Gephardt supporters from Iowa in 1988. But apart from that! ... 5:25 P.M.

'Mandatory' reading ... I've now actually read the November 13 Ryan Lizza TNR piece  I linked to yesterday. (First we link, then we think!) Lizza saw the whole Gore-Dean thing coming a month ago. The piece has highly useful details on how the Gore vs. Clinton Democratic split is mirrored in the labor movement and even the neoliberal movement. ... If the goal of internet journalists is Leibling Optimality--being better than everyone who's faster than you are and faster than everyone who's better--Lizza seems guilty of also being better than everyone who's slower than he is, at least on this topic. ... 2:18 P.M.

Unfogged thinks he's found the secret of Kerry's unlikability, and it's not Kerry's fault! ... Update: Alert reader J.W. suspects there's been some botox in the vicinity, which would be Kerry's fault. .. More:Unfogged.has reviewed the tape. Verdict: No botox. "That eybrow is flying!" Of course, as Will Saletan has observed, Kerry's appeared much looser of late. Maybe the treatment just wore off. And here Saletan thought Kerry's loosening-up was the natural restorative effect of failure. ... 2:05 A.M.

Distortions, and the Distorting Distorters Who Distort Them: One subtext of Gore's Dean endorsement is Web Power--never pick a fight with someone who buys his bandwidth by the google, or something like that. Dean has a mighty Internet machine, as does MoveOn.org, which has not coincidentally been favored with two of Gore's rare major policy addresses in the past year. Give Spinsanity's Ben Fritz points, then, for busting MoveOn's annoyingly deceptive anti-Bush site, the  Daily Mis-Lead, for routinely portraying policy disagreements as instances of administration dishonesty. ...1:43 A.M.

Monday, December 8, 2003

Secret Dean Endorser Update: Rumor has it that the Democratic frontrunner will mysteriously appear in Cedar Rapids, Iowa at noon tomorrow, 12/9, to get endorsed by someone important who is not Sen. Tom Harkin. That morning Dean is scheduled to appear  at a fundraiser at 125th Street and Fifth Avenue in Harlem, right near the office of  .... you don't think ... do you? ... Update update: AP's Ron Fournier says it's Al Gore. Forgot about him! ... Predicted CW Take 1: The nomination fight is over. Predicted CW Take 2: Maybe Democratic primary voters would like to, you know, vote. New Hampshirites, in particular, don't like to take orders. ... It wouldn't be the first time Gore has prematurely concluded that the result of an election is inevitable. Predicted CW Take 3: There's only one bigger endorsement. ... P.S.: If Gore wanted to run for president again some day, why would he do this and deeply annoy Gephardt, Edwards, Kerry and all those who've supported them? ... Euthanasia alert: Or is he doing Kerry, at least, a favor by giving him an excuse for losing? ('Well, once Gore endorsed, I mean f***!') That would make Gore the winner of the Kerry Withdrawal Contest! (Did Bob Shrum broker the deal?) ... Take 4--or maybe it should have been 3: It's now a Gore vs. Clinton Democratic party, today and in 2008. Noam Scheiber and Ryan Lizza  lay it out in TNR. (See also John Ellis.) Scheiber says Gore helps his presidential chances because he now has a wing of the party to call home--the Gore/Dean wing! [Isn't that the name of an old HUD scandal?-ed] Scheiber might have added that by endorsing Dean early, Gore may be attempting to ensure that only one big national figure (i.e. rival) comes out of the 2004 race--a figure who will probably be defeated and removed from the scene by 2008.  If the endorsement works, Gore cuts off any chance that Edwards, Gephardt, or Kerry will emerge from the primaries as potential rivals in stature for 2008 (although whomever Dean picks for his running mate will still be a potential rival.) ... Take it away, Dick Morris! ... You'd think Clark, as the representative of the Clinton Wing, is the 2004 Dean rival least squashed by Gore's announcement, under this theory. Clark may also appeal to relatively conservative Dems who (unlike potential Kerry, Edwards, and Gephardt supporters) are less likely to be influenced by Gore in his current incarnation. ... More: Sullivan argues that, in the anticipated 2008 Gore-Clinton matchup (kill me now), Gore will have a left, activist base and Hillary will represent the center. If you had to pick one of those bases with which to win the Democratic nomination, you'd pick the left. But this ignores Hillary's bizarre personal appeal for so many of the left-liberals she so often betrays (e.g., on welfare reform, and now Iraq). ... More: Dick Morris performs as expected, except that unlike every other pundit he thinks Hillary has been moving to the "left" on Iraq. ... 1:44 P.M.

Winning Friends on the World Wide Web!

"Is there any reason not to assume that Kaus is another Scaife-bought pseudo-pundit, paid to churn out anti-Dem cant under the guise of being a Dem?"--Bob Somerby's Daily Howler. ...

But those Scaife checks don't bounce, you know? (Update: Ask John Kerry!) And I have a family to feed! ... Oh, wait. I don't. OK, I'll switch to Soros if he's buying. But I don't come cheap! Think Ray Charles. ... 12:12 A.M.

Is it possible that it's in Howard Dean's interest to lose the Iowa caucuses to Richard Gephardt?  Seems perverse, to say the least, but here's the argument: The greatest threat to Dean is that those who oppose his nomination will coalesce around a single alternative candidate. As an alert kf reader puts it:

...a large and divided field that won't give up ... makes it easy for Dean to avoid any fatal defeats prior to March 2.  And the rational case against Dean (assuming, which we probably shouldn't, that this is a Season of Reason for Democrats) would certainly be strengthened by a series of two-to-one losses to another candidate in the South, Southwest, and Midwest. 

But a Gephardt victory in the caucuses would seem to make a "divided field that won't give up" more likely. True, Gephardt himself could become the sole Alternative. But a Gephardt Iowa win would probably be discounted as a "backyard" triumph and (by showing Dean's vulnerability) only encourage Edwards, Kerry or Clark to press on--thus increasing the likelihood of at least two anti-Deans surviving New Hampshire, which would help Dean by splitting the Anti-Dean vote. Simple logic! ... Update--Hold that CW! Here's a poll  that, contrary to the Zogby and ARG  polls, suggests Clark isn't gaining in New Hampshire, although it still shows Kerry sinking. ... 11:50 A.M.

Good to see the Washington Post hasn't lost its talent for embarrassing second-tier-city boosterism. Are the Kennedy Center Honors really the "Curtain Call of a Lifetime"--as opposed to, say, the Oscars? The Emmys? The Tonys? Even the Grammys? ... Or are they a trumped up award designed to bring a small annual dose of congealed, steam-table glitz to the capital's dreary cultural center? ... You make the call! ... But if you say the Kennedy honors are actually as significant as WaPo seems to believe--quick, name last year's winners. ... 4:04 A.M.

Kausfiles is for Swingers: Are you as suspicious as I am of this year's conventional wisdom that the electorate has changed, people have chosen sides, swing voters have disappeared and that the result--as the NYT's Adam Nagourney said in a CW-ratifying front-pager on September 1--is

a new view of a political landscape changed because of what each party sees as an increasingly polarized and evenly divided electorate. Americans who move between parties -- known as swing voters -- are being overshadowed by a growing and very motivated base of Republican and Democratic loyalists.

... [T]he 2004 election will have a much greater reliance on identifying supporters and getting them to the polls. That would tip the balance away from the emphasis on developing nuanced messages aimed at swing voters ... [Emphasis added]

It's mighty convenient for activists in each party to propagate the idea that swing voters are disappearing, because party activists don't want to "develop nuanced messages aimed at" those voters--that usually means messages contradicting the party orthodoxy activists tend to embrace. Democratic cadres certainly don't want more annoying heresies like "End welfare as we know it." Better to focus on firing up the "base" ... according to those in the base.

This CW is probably ripe for collapse. There appear to be plenty of swing voters. The latest evidence--the new Associated Press/Ipsos poll, which shows that, even after Bush's support has solidified, only 41 percent of voters would "definitely" vote to reelect him, while 20 percent would "consider voting for someone else." ... Prediction: After the nominees are set, one of them will make a play for the center, and then Nagourney or someone like him will write a knowing piece about the "Return of the Swing Voter." ...P.S.: Note how even the quotes Nagourney himself picks from various strategists don't really back up his thesis. Nagourney writes, in his slippery to-be-sure paragraph,

This is not a case of one strategy entirely supplanting another. The successful campaign strategy combines turning out staunch supporters and competing for swing voters. But the balance is changing ... [Emph. added]

[I thought the balance was 'tipping'--ed That's the slippery part. Nagourney had previously implied a qualitative shift.] Then comes the expert quote:

''In the last few years, if politics has taught us anything, it's that you have to do both,'' said Ken Mehlman, the president's campaign manager.

Of course, the Mehlman quote does not necessarily back up the idea that 'the balance" between the two strategies is "changing,' much less 'tipping'--at least not because of anything actually happening in the electorate. Mehlman might just be saying that both the swing and the base voters were always out there, in fairly constant numbers, but campaigns were emphasizing one or the other and failing to maximize their appeal. (Actually, I would translate Mehlman's quote roughly as "I don't really agree with your thesis, Nagourney, but I want you to keep calling so I'll say something obvious that you can pretend agrees with it.") ... 2:42 A.M.

Rumor of the Day: Is Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin about to endorse Howard Dean? That's what rival camps are worried about. (There's an "endorsement event" scheduled for Monday  in New York, although Tuesday and Cedar Rapids were the suspected coordinates.) Update: kf's spies say Dean will be in Cedar Rapids at noon tomorrow for something (though it's not on his public schedule). ... Harkin's Dean endorsement would presumably be a large blow to Gephardt's Iowa campaign (i.e. Gephardt's campaign), given Harkin's friendship with organized labor--and a Gephardt win in Iowa was the best hope of stopping Dean, for those who entertain such hopes. ... There's still the Clark Alternative scenario, sketched below, which is in the process of  attaining CW status. ... Update:kf hears the secret endorser is not Harkin. But it's someone or something non-trivial. ... 1:28 A.M.

Friday, December 5, 2003 

Kerry Withdrawal Contest: In part for reasons described in the preceding item, Democratic Senator John Kerry, once proclaimed the frontrunner in the press, faces not just defeat but utter humiliation in the New Hampshire primary. Is he really going to soldier on to finish in the single digits and get clobbered by both Howard Dean and Wesley Clark, if not one or more other candidates? Shouldn't he save his pride (and possible national political future, if only as a VP candidate) by withdrawing from the race before this harsh popular verdict is rendered? ... But what can Kerry say that isn't even more humiliating than seeing it through? "I realize my wife Teresa needs me more than my country needs me"? That won't cut it. "I've decided to take time out to learn the Web so I can compete in future campaigns" and "I'm entering rehab at an undisclosed location to recover from my vicious  Ibogaine habit. I make no excuses" are too trendy. ... Let's harness the power of the Web and help Kerry adviser/speechwriter Robert Shrum with the dirty job that lies ahead for him. A copy of John Glenn: A Memoirto the reader who submits the best cover excuse that will let Sen. Kerry drop out of the presidential race before the voting actually starts while preserving his viability within the system. ... Void where prohibited....  My entry:

"Because Howard Dean chose not to abide by the campaign finance law's limits, it's now clear to me that in order to compete I would have to spend unconscionable amounts of my own money and jeapordize my family's and my children's future. This I will not do. I put my family before any personal ambition. I will dedicate the remainder of my Senate term to promoting a new, better campaign finance system to insure that no serious candidate is ever faced with this choice again."

OK, so Kerry's wife Teresa is fabulously wealthy and the family would be in fine economic shape whatever happens (especially since Teresa can't waste her own assets on his campaign). Come up with a better excuse, then. ... One more: How about the need to recover from a mysterious "motorcycle accident"? It worked for Dylan! ...  2:48 A.M.

Dean, Clark, Hope for Sparks: The more I think about it, a turning point in the Democratic presidential campaign has to come with the first N.H. poll showing Clark ahead of Kerry and in second place--which could happen any day now. Clark's only  three points behind in one poll and only two in another. And Kerry's fading while Clark is rising. ... When the lines cross, several things will happen: 1) The main surviving rationale of Kerry's campaign--"I'm the electable alternative to Dean"--evaporates. It turns out there's a more electable alternative. Kerry's vote asymptotically approaches zero.  2) The #1 versus #2, Dean versus Clark match up will get lots of play in the press because Clark's strengths are Dean's weaknesses, yielding a story line that is simple and compelling: "Peacenik McGovern II versus Electable Military Man. Which will the Democrats Choose?" ... 3) Clark will get a lot of favorable treatment in this new round of coverage--in part because the press feels guilty about giving Dean (as The Note notes) a relatively easy time so far, in part because the press wants a close race. If Clark's ready with an appealing message when the spotlight turns to him, he could give Dean a scare and at least come close enough to winning to get a boost for the post-N.H. primaries. ... P.S.: I flew this scenario by a number of knowledgeable political reporters at a party I was just at, and none of them bought it. So it's not the CW! It's quirky and contrarian! I want big points if it pans out. ... Update:NY Post's Deborah Orin buys it, so it's not that quirky. ... TNR's   Noam Scheiber buys it too. ... [approaching CW?-ed Think you need Balz or Broder for that. Balz today just says it looks bad for Kerry, not that it's a Clark slingshot.] ... More: MinuteMan Maguire doubts there will be a Clark boom because, he says, key elements of the press don't like Clark. ... 2:21 A.M.

But she was sick!NYT correction of the week:

n obituary on this page yesterday erroneously reported the death of Katharine Sergava, a dancer and an actress who portrayed the dream-ballet version of Laurey, the heroine, in the original production of "Oklahoma!" Friends of hers reported the error yesterday.

2:05 A.M.

The L.A. Times is still living in its anti-Schwarzeneggerian alternative universe. Here's the hopeful lede of a November 20 story by Gregg Jones (whose name seems to be on all the most egregiously blindered pieces) and Evan Halper:

SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's ambitious legislative agenda bumped into political reality on Wednesday as Senate Democrats thwarted a quick repeal of a law that would give driver's licenses to illegal immigrants and Republicans raised concerns over his proposal to borrow up to $15 billion to address a projected budget gap.

In the Assembly, meanwhile, Schwarzenegger's finance director, Donna Arduin, abruptly walked out of a Budget Committee hearing as Democratic lawmakers began asking tough questions.

The repeal of the license law in fact passed the legislature on Dec. 1  and was signed yesterday. Seems pretty quick to me! Meanwhile, Jill Stewart gives the story behind Arduin's "abrupt" walk-out that the LAT omitted. ... If Jones is arguably the worst reporter on the Arnold beat, Stewart is emerging as the best. She gives good detail and seems perfectly willing to bash her natural allies and friends when called for. (In her latest column, she blames GOP legislators for setting an immature partisan tone and encouraging Democrats to retaliate.) ... 2:04 A.M.

I thought Lloyd Grove broke the Gwinny-pregnancy story. ... You still think you should have let him go, WaPo? ... 1:39 A.M.



Drudge Report--80 % true. Close enough! Instapundit--All-powerful hit king. Joshua Marshall--Escapee from American Prospect. Salon--Better click fast! Andrew Sullivan--He asks, he tells. He sells! Washington Monthly--Includes Charlie Peters' proto-blog. Lucianne.com--Stirs the drink. Virginia Postrel--Friend of the future! Peggy Noonan--Gold in every column. Matt Miller--Savvy rad-centrism. WaPo--Waking from post-Bradlee snooze. Calmer Times--Registration required.  NY Observer--Read it before the good writers are all hired away. New Republic--Left on welfare, right on warfare!  Jim Pinkerton--Quality ideas come from quantity ideas. Tom Tomorrow--Everyone's favorite leftish cartoonists' blog.  Ann "Too Far" Coulter--Sometimes it's just far enough. Bull Moose--National Greatness Central. John Ellis--Forget that Florida business! The cuz knows politics, and he has, ah, sources. "The Note"--How the pros start their day. Romenesko's MediaNews--O.K. they actually start it here. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities--Money Liberal Central.. Steve Chapman--Ornery-but-lovable libertarian. Rich Galen--Sophisticated GOP insider. Man Without Qualities--Seems to know a lot about white collar crime. Hmmm. Overlawyered.com--Daily horror stories. Eugene Volokh--Smart, packin' prof, and not Instapundit! Eve Tushnet--Queer, Catholic, conservative and not Andrew Sullivan! WSJ's Best of the Web--James Taranto's excellent obsessions. Walter Shapiro--Politics and (don't laugh) neoliberal humor! Eric Alterman--Born to blog. Joe Conason--Bush-bashing, free most days. Lloyd Grove--Don't let him write about you. Arianna--A hybrid vehicle. TomPaine.com--Web-lib populists. Take on the News--TomPaine's blog.  B-Log--Blog of spirituality!  Hit & Run--Reason gone wild! Daniel Weintraub--Beeblogger and Davis Recall Central. Nonzero--Bob Wright explains it all. [More tk.]