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:: Monday, April 28 ::


PANTSLESS KEVIN DRUM: If you haven't been reading the new and improved Calpundit, you should be. The recent upgrade there brought many improvements. One carryover from the previous site, however, is the photo of Kevin Drum at the right-hand side of the page.

Many regular readers of Kevin have been asking themselves the same question: where have I seen this guy before?

Tonight, a Seinfeld re-run provided the answer: Kevin Drum is The Maestro.

The character, Bob Cobb, who demanded to be called The Maestro and took Elaine to Tuscany (where, despite his assurances, villas were indeed available for rent) was played by the actor Mark Metcalf. Most will recognize Mark from his watershed role in the landmark Twisted Sister video for "We're Not Gonna Take It".

The following is, we believe, the first, only and definitive photo comparison of Kevin Drum and Mark Metcalf:




As a service to readers who may need their cultural memory jogged, we also bring you these photos of Drum/Metcalf in his most acclaimed roles:




Even with the identity of Kevin's double out of the way, a similarly pressing question remains: does the Calpundit frequently go sans slacks to prevent wrinkling?

:: posted by Joe at 16:51 ::
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GET THAT MAN A TALKSHOW:
Via Ezra Klein (well, actually, Matt Singer) we come across this Salon recap of the White House Correspondents Association dinner.

The only good bit is this reported exchange between Al Franken and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz:

FRANKEN: Clinton's military did pretty well in Iraq, huh?

WOLFOWITZ: Fuck you.
Alan Colmes he's not.

:: posted by Joe at 08:48 ::
:: ::

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:: Sunday, April 27 ::


HOWARD DEAN TRUE/FALSE:
With nine candidates in the field, the race for the Democratic presidential nomination is getting complicated. Ryan Lizza, in an online-only piece over at tnr.com, attempts some analysis. Again, it's complicated, and he's not always right, so for your convenience we present a true/false guide to this Democratic candidate round-up piece using the following format:

RIGHTNESS:
Excerpt.
Reason: If necessary.
From "Field Test" by Ryan Lizza at the New Republic Online:

FALSE:
If Karl Rove had designed the ideal setting to magnify the stature gap between the wartime president and his Democratic challengers on the day tanks rolled through Baghdad, he could hardly have done better than forcing the viable candidates, such as John Kerry, John Edwards, and Joe Lieberman, to share a stage with Al Sharpton, Dennis Kucinich, and Carol Moseley Braun, and making all of the above genuflect before Marian Wright Edelman, the [Children's Defense Fund] president and liberal icon whose husband quit the Clinton administration in disgust over welfare reform.
Reason: No one was paying attention; there was no inter-party consequence to that event.

FALSE:
Howard Dean echoed Moseley Braun's lefty isolationist belief that rebuilding Iraq would simply cost too much. (Only Edwards made the obvious point that Democrats could actually be in favor of spending money abroad on Iraq and at home on health care.)
Reason: Howard Dean argued that the cost of both disarming and rebuilding Iraq should be borne by a truly global coalition. President Bush, by failing to lead the world and effectively losing a popularity contest to a murderous dictator, increased the amount of American blood and treasure necessary to do the as-yet-unfinished job of disarming Iraq and assuring stable, democratic government there.

INADVERTENTLY TRUE:
Dean then added perhaps the most stunning line from a Democratic candidate during the war: "We should have contained Saddam. Well, we got rid of him. I suppose that's a good thing."
Reason: Dean's point is that the US could have neutralized the threat posed by Saddam -- that was the whole point, remember? -- in a number of ways. For all the maligning of Dean's position on the war, it seems that his idea that North Korea represented the more immediate threat (and, even if we ignore the nuclear threat there, that the US should lead something more than the Coalition of Client States into Baghdad) no one has made a convincing case that Iraq was the greatest threat to the United States. In that way, if the US Army had marched on Harare and liberated the people of Zimbabwe, it would be "a good thing" but not the course of action most likely to furthest advance the US national interest. Dean's line was stunning only insofar as he has not allowed himself to be pushed around by the glib mass media storyline that anyone who questioned the Bush policy on Iraq was somehow proven wrong by victory of the world's only superpower over the conscript military of a backward dictatorship.

MAYBE:
[I]f the media's impressive ability to pivot quickly from 24-hour coverage of the war to 24-hour coverage of Laci Peterson's murder is any sign, the Democratic presidential campaign may abruptly emerge from its wartime media blackout when the nine candidates gather May 3 in Columbia, South Carolina, for their first big debate. The format for the evening, 90 minutes split between nine candidates, will only allow for snippets from each of the contenders, but on that day the new contours of the campaign should start to come into focus.
Reason: The relevance of that event will depend on whether each candidate will get a different question or whether all candidates will answer a single question before the next one is asked. The format for the CDF gathering was, as we said at the time, too unwieldy for the size of the field. With nine candidates, debate is impossible unless they are seated around a conference table and allowed to guide the flow of the evening themselves with minimal interruption. That won't happen. At this stage the best way to gauge the candidates would be at an event where each gives his or her stump speech and sits down. To the extent that every candidate speaks on each question there will be the opportunity for some meaningful comparison.

POSSIBLY TRUE:
The first postwar question that the Columbia debate will help answer is whether or not Dean remains a force.
Reason: This will be true only if the format allows candidates enough time to speak and viewers the opportunity to compare responses on the same question.

TRUE, BUT IRRELEVANT:
Until now, Dean has been the darling of Democratic beauty contests, hamming it up and basking in the glow of liberal interest-group cheers, from NARAL Pro-Choice America to the Iowa Federation of Labor to the CDF. But, unlike most of the recent Democratic events, the South Carolina debate will be hosted by ABC News rather than an interest group on the liberal edge of the party. There will be a lot less time for pandering and applause lines.
Reason: Dean was the darling of most of those events, but his best performances were to the California Democratic Party Convention and the DNC Winter Meeting, both less extreme audiences than those Lizza lists. Given that much of Dean's support comes from people who haven't been politically active before and aren't part of the special interest crowd, South Carolina itself -- and, really, what are we talking about as far as this debate goes? the studio audience? -- should not be a problem, and will likely be a strength. Not enough has been made in the press about Dean's line that he will aggressively pursue the white vote in the South, and thus roll back the alarmingly prevalent Republican strategy of covertly playing the race card there, by [paraphrasing] "reminding the white guy with the Confederate flag decal on the window of his pick-up truck that his kid doesn't have health insurance, either." Dean's strength is his plainspoken manner -- see his handling of the liberal-label question at the CDF forum. But, of course, one should never underestimate the ability of all the candidates to work in significant pandering and ample applause lines, no matter how tangentially related to the question.

FALSE:
Dean may also find South Carolina a little outside of his comfort zone. Unlike Iowa and New Hampshire, where Dean has spent most of his time campaigning, South Carolina has a Democratic electorate that is 40 percent African American--not a natural constituency for the ex-Vermont governor.
Reason: Dean has been the most outspoken Democratic candidate against the Bush administration's assault on affirmative action. He has repeatedly called President Bush to task for using the word "quota" to describe the University of Michigan policy, which -- even according to his own subordinates' briefs filed with the Supreme Court -- isn't really true. The Bush administration's case against the Michigan policy rests on the highly contentious claim that the policy "amounts to a quota." Aside from actually being black, it's not clear what more Dean could do than having a more coherent agenda on civil rights (and providing health insurance and better education for the poor) than the two black candidates.

TRUE:
Dean's performance in South Carolina and beyond will have a significant ripple effect on the rest of the field. Kerry, whose status as front-runner was undermined during the war when he placed second behind Edwards in the money race, must soon decide if Dean's candidacy represents a mortal threat or not.
TRUE:
Dean's road to the nomination runs over the carcass of Kerry's campaign....
FOOLISH:
[I]f the governor shows staying power, Kerry will be forced further to the left to dispatch Dean. ... "The question is, can [Dean] keep the lefty real estate?" asks a Kerry adviser. "Do liberals suspend their disbelief on this guy for much longer?"
Reason: This line of reasoning reared its wrong head back in February. The idea then was that the entry into the race of ultraliberal Rep. Dennis Kucinich "leaves Howard Dean without a constituency" and is "Howard Dean's worth nightmare". There has not and will not be any traction to the definition of Dean as the ultraliberal in the race. Those who read Dean's support as coming only from the far left do so at their own peril because the Dean coalition is broader than it is deep and captures something quintessential than his ideology, which is, if anything, pragmatist. Liberals haven't suspended their disbelief; they have swallowed their pride.

TRUE:
Just as Kerry is threatened by Dean in Kerry's must-win state of New Hampshire, Gephardt is threatened by Dean in Gephardt's must-win state of Iowa.
TRUE:
Gephardt's new health care plan, which expands the kind of coverage currently offered by employers (through a new tax credit) and by the government (through opening up Medicare and the SCHIP program), is similar to what Dean has outlined but may be actually more comprehensive--and more expensive--placing Gephardt to the left of Dean on the issue.
TRUE, AND FUNNY:
The other candidates, especially Lieberman and Edwards, neither of whom is expected to win in Iowa or New Hampshire, seem delighted by the prospect of a titanic battle between Dean and Kerry. "Dean could slay Kerry for us," says an aide to a rival campaign. Without the burden of having to win in the two early states, both Edwards and Lieberman are elbowing for advantage in what might be called the February 3 strategy. That's the first primary day after New Hampshire, and, while it originally was to be monopolized by South Carolina, now Arizona and Missouri are also scheduled for that day, with Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Tennessee preparing to move there as well. Aides to both Edwards and Lieberman envisage a strategy where their candidates do respectably in Iowa and New Hampshire but then break out with victories on February 3. ... Edwards [is] the fund-raising champion who, as a Southerner, may be positioned to do well not just in South Carolina, where he has to win, but in the other states that will hold their contests on that day as well.
Reason: Besides the proximity of their home states, Dean and Kerry are doing well in New Hampshire because they are the only candidates that many voters take seriously. There is no other explanation of why Lieberman -- who is from Connecticut, which isn't exactly on the other side of the world from New Hampshire -- and Edwards -- who, despite having raised the most money of all the candidates, can't buy a double-digit showing in polls there -- should be doing so poorly. Pursuing the February 3 strategy and choosing to sit out Iowa and New Hampshire might deprive Lieberman and Edwards of valuable experience and exposure -- and could mean they never get in the game at all.

Note: This is a variation of a piece pulling double duty at the DeanBlog.

:: posted by Joe at 13:04 ::
:: ::

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:: Saturday, April 26 ::


NO THINKING ALLOWED:
Johnny Bardine, writing a good post mocking his state’s junior senator, makes passing mention of the tendency of Matthew “Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That” Yglesias to suddenly, often without warning, start writing about philosophy. Non-philosopher readers of Yglesias tend to disregard these posts, politely ignoring these Tourette's-like outbursts of jargon. After all, they are a small price to pay for access to a very smart blog and one of the most thoughtful groups of commenters around (despite some notable exceptions, including one known to his detractors as Coleslaw).

Anyway, Johnny uses the phrase "to go Matthew Yglesias on everyone" to describe what he was seeking to avoid doing in his post, in which he takes a somewhat philosophical perspective on Rick Santorum’s “man on dog” remarks. Taking Johnny’s coinage a step further, we encourage the use of the term Yglesiastic to describe a person or piece of writing which fails to avoid a hopelessly complex philosophical discussion.

Note about the author: Mr. Rospars was, briefly, a philosophy major in college, like Mr. Yglesias. He subsequently realized that political science offered a less-challenging opportunity to be just as completely full of shit all the time.

:: posted by Joe at 10:18 ::
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:: Thursday, April 24 ::


HART ATTACK:
Ezra Klein takes exception to criticism of his support of Gary Hart and replies at length in his own and Hart's defense. The tone of this post reveals a bristled, defensive Ezra, which is understandable given the Pile On Ezra Day that took place earlier this week at the DeanBlog (in which, it should be noted, we did not participate). Ezra is one of the better writers blogging today, and he is very reasonable when not being dogged by the entire Howard Dean grassroots movement.

That said, in his latest post Ezra, playing rubber, fires back the identical point made against his position, casting That Other Blog as glue. Echoing our analysis of his support for Hart, he says that our support for Howard Dean tends to "mistake complexity for vision." That's a bit silly. Anyone who has seen Dean speak knows that he's the most plainspoken and least obfuscating candidate in the race.

Employing a verbal stick and move, Ezra attacks Dean's electability:
I don't, however, want Dean to win the primary. The reason, quite simply, is that I don't see how he can beat Bush. ...

I like Dean and I see his utility as a leader who could marshal the young and excite the base, but I like the idea of having a democrat win in 2004 even better.
But then wonders what all the fuss is about when others do the same to Hart, tacitly acknowledging Hart's long-shot status -- "if Hart doesn't win (imagine that)" -- and appealing for an inclusive, big-tent approach, saying of Hart that, "even if he doesn't win, his presence in the debate is necessary."

Anyone who wants to run for president should run for president. Hart, a very smart man with a lot of (perhaps dated) experience, would be a welcome addition to the field. So would long-gone Mario Cuomo, who at least held elective office in the last decade, or fresh face Mark Warner, the first-term governor of Virginia. The point isn't that Hart should not run; the point is that he won't get our support (though he might sneak into our top three).

Why? Because, despite his outline of Hart's resume in response to the assertion that Hart thinks he's above politics, Ezra's statement that, "[Hart] survived in politics and even excelled" is demonstrably false. He did not survive. He has been politically dead for fifteen years. Political death is less permanent than actual bodily death, mostly because when you're gone for so long people forget that you're dead. Hart may yet come back to life, but as yet he's only been laying there twitching.

:: posted by Joe at 03:50 ::
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:: Wednesday, April 23 ::


SANTORUM:
Readers will note a long-overdue link now on the sidebar to the Left Leaner, who guest-blogs on the Official Dean Blog with a round-up of the Santorum coverage.

For those not paying attention, that's Sen. Rick Santorum, Republican of Pennsylvania, who wants to regulate sex acts, but not corporate behavior.

It's worth noting that the problem with these "outrageous comments" episodes is often that critics are content to be outraged, presuming that the foolishness of the remarks is obvious. Helpfully, Andrew Sullivan manages to be both shrill and substantive in his approach, so his rebuttal to Santorum is worth reading.

The full remarks by Santorum to an unnamed AP reporter are online, but here are the gems:
SANTORUM: I have no problem with homosexuality. I have a problem with homosexual acts. As I would with acts of other, what I would consider to be, acts outside of traditional heterosexual relationships. And that includes a variety of different acts, not just homosexual. I have nothing, absolutely nothing against anyone who's homosexual. If that's their orientation, then I accept that. And I have no problem with someone who has other orientations. The question is, do you act upon those orientations?
Santorum thinks it's freedom vs. family:
SANTORUM: ... And if the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything. Does that undermine the fabric of our society? I would argue yes, it does. It all comes from, I would argue, this right to privacy that doesn't exist in my opinion in the United States Constitution, this right that was created, it was created in Griswold -- Griswold was the contraceptive case -- and abortion. And now we're just extending it out. And the further you extend it out, the more you -- this freedom actually intervenes and affects the family. You say, well, it's my individual freedom. Yes, but it destroys the basic unit of our society because it condones behavior that's antithetical to strong, healthy families.
He also manages to scare the reporter with his choice of analogies for homosexual behavior:
AP: I'm sorry, I didn't think I was going to talk about "man on dog" with a United States senator, it's sort of freaking me out.
According to the Times, Santorum defended himself thusly:
"I do not need to give an apology," he told the Fox News Channel, adding, "I think this is a legitimate public policy discussion."
Matthew Yglesias, sporting a not-quite-five o'clock shadow -- 3.15? -- has a beastiality-free analogy in response:
Well, segregation was a public policy issue, that doesn't mean you can just have any old position on it and still be a swell guy.
Howard Dean, among others, has called for Santorum's resignation as the Republican Conference Chairman, the number-three spot in the Senate leadership. While that seems like a good start, it's not clear that having people like Trent Lott and Rick Santorum on the Republican bench still casting votes is so much better than having them in the leadership. Under-the-radar intolerance is, after all, the hallmark of Republican strategy to appeal to racists and other extreme types. Is there really a point in helping the Republican Party perfect the implementation of its pretty-face/rotten-teeth game by telling them it's okay to just keep shuffling these fools around without repudiating them?

:: posted by Joe at 23:48 ::
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THE EDWARDS INVESTIGATION:
Long-dormant That Other Blog contributor Jen -- who since this blog began has gotten an Ivy League Master's degree and a great job, for which her That Other Blog colleague is both very proud of her and slightly dismayed at his own lot -- had this to say in instant message in response to news of the Justice Department criminal investigation of donations to the presidential campaign of Sen. John Edwards: "shit, already?"

:: posted by Joe at 22:47 ::
:: ::

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GETTING MONDALED:
Previously, the working definition of to be Mondaled was something like "to be demolished in a general presidential election, winning no state but your home state". Thus the hope by Republicans, reflected in this Times piece, that President Bush will Mondale whomever the Democrats nominate in 2004:
Some advisers said they were hopeful that the 2004 contest would mirror the 1984 re-election of Ronald Reagan, who loped to an overwhelming victory over Walter F. Mondale.
Mondale threatened his place alongside Bork and Gerry in the pantheon of political wordmakers when he stepped out of retirement in 2002 to take the spot of late Senator Paul Wellstone on the ballot in Minnesota. But luckily he wound up diversifying possible definitions of his name when, despite being favored against former St. Paul mayor Norm Coleman, Mondale managed to associate himself with another flavor electoral debacle:
Analysts gave the former St. Paul mayor low chances for success, predicting sympathy for Wellstone and respect for Mondale would combine for a comfortable victory.

But Wellstone supporters handed Republicans a second chance at victory by turning a televised memorial service into a partisan foot-stomp. The scene offended Republicans and some undecided voters, and though Democrats later apologized, the fallout lingered for days.
Now back to the Times story:
The president is planning a sprint of a campaign that would start, at least officially, with his acceptance speech at the Republican convention, a speech now set for Sept. 2.

The convention, to be held in New York City, will be the latest since the Republican Party was founded in 1856, and Mr. Bush's advisers said they chose the date so the event would flow into the commemorations of the third anniversary of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks.
Given the shamelessness of that timing, it would seem that if anyone will be getting Mondaled in 2004, it will be President Bush, by the newer definition of "to pay an electoral price for attempted political exploitation of a memorial service".

:: posted by Joe at 14:30 ::
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:: Tuesday, April 22 ::


DEAN AND HART:
Via More Sinister Matt we see that Matt Singer and Ezra Klein are dueling over the relative virtues of Gary Hart and Howard Dean.

We step into this debate reluctantly because (a) Gary Hart is not a candidate, though this may change; and (b) the very idea of comparing throwback-candidate Hart with full-time candidate Dean has a certain "Justine Bateman or Jennifer Aniston?" quality to it. Nevertheless, there are some points worth making about Gary Hart generally and about the relative merits of Hart and Howard Dean.

Ezra posted his case for Hart a week or two ago, but it has either been eaten by Blogspot or taken down. We left some also-apparently-lost comments on that post, but had saved them as a draft of the General Theory of Hart to be posted here. (If Ezra or anyone can produce the link to the original post, it will make the following thoughts on it slightly more relevant.) Here was our initial response to Ezra's case for Hart:
It seems like the following statement encapsulates your support for Hart: “He wuz robbed; he’s really smart.” If Al Gore were running you’d be in a real pickle.

I see you dropping a lot of hints that Dean would be a supportable candidate. (It’s also kind of funny that your “I’m tired of ...” mantra mimics Dean’s stump speech in both form and content.) Your big write-off of Dean was this sentence: “Dean's great to listen to, but being a firebrand isn't rocket science, and it's certainly not a substitute for vision.” Excepting Sharpton’s “new constitution” nonsense, Dean was the only candidate among nine on the stage [at the Children's Defense Fund Forum] with a vision. Hart, obviously, wasn’t there -- but I must say that actually running is a prerequisite for my support.

Dean’s speech to the New America Foundation/Atlantic Monthly Forum lays out his vision pretty clearly. (And, as an added bonus because of the think-tank audience, puts it in intellectually-stimulating policyspeak terms.)

I really believe Hart inspires you, but I think you’ll end up in the minority. Clearly history dealt the guy a shitty hand; it’s been argued that his disgrace was the case study for Clinton’s success. And I am also with you on his vision. From what I’ve read I don’t disagree with him one bit about what needs to happen.

But I think you’ll wind up being in the minority as far as being inspired, just as we’ll both end up in the minority of those even willing to read or consider anything complicated. Hart is the geek candidate this year, and shoot me if I’m too self-conscious to support him. His elective service was a long time ago, and he’s retreated to academia. That’s nothing to be ashamed of -- frankly, I’d just as soon skip the hassle of politics and go straight to Oxford. But I think his work and mind are better used elsewhere and that his appeal will be limited to those of us who are/were political science majors and/or really like a good lecture.

I’m with Dean because he has a vision of policy, like Hart, but also has a vision of politics, which Hart thinks he’s above. Hart’s been proved wrong on this once, and I haven’t seen anything indicating he’s willing to go to bat for liberals, Democrats, sane people -- or even himself -- against people like Karl Rove and Sean Hannity.
In the more recent exchange, Matt Singer makes a very good case for Dean. In doing so, he makes an important point about a friend of his who is leaning towards supporting the former Vermont governor:
[H]e's also one of the more thoughtful liberals I know. Many of us are people who characterize ourselves as third-way liberals, but not in the DLC "third-way-as-conservatism" method, more in the New America Foundation sense. And I see Dean as being the candidate who is coming out to embrace the third-way radical center.
That's precisely right. Dean is neither liberal nor conservative in the way we usually think of the terms. He's a hodgepodge of common sense, intelligent policy, and independence from special interests and ideologues.

Matt also, while arguing against Kerry, offers a good job application metaphor for candidates:
The argument Northeast Liberal works, not necessarily because he's a liberal, but 'cause he looks like one. His military background will help. But that alone doesn't make a candidate. The problem with so many Democrats is that they try to formulate the perfect resume for the Presidential candidate and they focus on the job experience, without looking at the interview. The campaign is an interview, not a resume. And the resume just has to be good enough to get in the door.
This is the problem with most analysis of the Democratic primary field and it portends Ezra Klein's response:
Dean, however, has no credibility on foreign policy or national defense. None, zero, nada. He has no chance when the debate moves into that arena. [Emphasis his]
Ezra's support for Hart is supposedly based on Hart's overwhelming credibility on foreign policy and national defense. He fails to appreciate that Hart has no credibility on any issues but foreign policy and national defense. [Emphasis ours]

One could argue -- as Ezra does -- that Hart's strengths in these areas are enough to make him the right candidate, but that argument misses two crucial facts. First, Hart's credibility isn't all that compelling. He served on a commission (who hasn't?) and his argument rests on a tenuous "I told you so" assertion that the commission predicted September 11. The foreign policy aspect of the campaign isn't going to be about who predicted the terrorist attacks. It will be about the vision of America's role in the world and how that role will protect Americans from more attacks. On this, Hart may have a compelling vision, but it's not a given that Bush won't make his "kill the motherfuckers" policy in an equally compelling way.

The second reason why Hart's purported credibility on foreign policy and defense won't be enough is that in the face of lies and dirty tricks, no amount of credibility is enough. Witness John McCain, war-hero POW, demolished by a Bush machine that said he failed to stand up for veterans, and Max Cleland, war-hero triple-amputee, demolished by a Bush machine that called him soft of national security. Are we to think that a docile former senator who left the political stage in disgrace over a decade ago will somehow be able to weather this hurricane of propaganda any more effectively?

Democrats could nominate the corpse of Eisenhower and poor, dead Ike would be torn apart on national security. Rove, Bush, and the credibility-suicide bombers on the right have no shame. The task for Democrats isn’t to try to “neutralize” the national security issue -- no resume or credibility will ever be enough.

The task for Democrats is to nominate someone who can bring a compelling, inspiring message to the American people while standing up for himself, his beliefs, his party, and everyone who doesn’t like where this country is headed under George W. Bush. Gary Hart -- and, for that matter, a few of the actual candidates -- have shown nothing but timidity in the face of challenges to their and their supporters’ patriotism. Supposedly “informed” analysts and those who support candidates they don’t prefer (the “I like so-and-so but he can’t win” people) are capitulating. They have let the other side scare them into a corner.

What’s worse is that they are carrying the poison message among their own, spreading it in the guise of strategy. If folks out there really believe in Gary Hart or Al Sharpton or John Edwards or Joe Lieberman, they should support them and vote for them. But those who support one candidate they speculate can win over the candidate they really want wind up degrading the whole process and truly wasting their vote. (Interestingly, Ezra somehow manages to use this calculation to deliver him to who is, by most accounts, the more quixotic candidate of the two.)

The only hope for Democrats is to find the candidate that inspires them and support that candidate and his or her vision with confidence that the Democratic agenda really can keep America safe and with zero tolerance for the lies and slander that have been the Bush strategy in the past.

:: posted by Joe at 07:01 ::
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:: Monday, April 21 ::


BLAIR AND THE DIRTY EURO:
A new, more sinister-looking Mathew Yglesias writes that hawkish devotees of the paradoxically English-speaking Axis of Cahones -- consisting of the US, Britain, and Australia, in that order -- will have trouble with British Prime Minister Tony Blair's staunch Eurofriendliness:
Lovers of the Anglosphere love Tony Blair and hate the Euro. Tony Blair, however, loves the Euro which creates something of a transitivity problem. The easiest solution for the Anglosphere crowd would be for Blair to become a Euroskeptic, but the Observer reports that despite a few bumps in the road it's not going to happen which leaves the Anglospheristas with the two options of either becoming Europhiles or else admitting that they're really just conservatives who agreed with Blair's position on Iraq.
He forgets that, by force of treaty signed last week, the geopolitical "Europe" grew to more closely match its purely geographical counterpart. Seven of the ten countries which signed the accession treaty at the European Union conference in Athens were, along with such players as Mongolia and the Marshall Islands, part of the "coalition" to disarm Iraq.

That may not mean much in terms of troops and money spent in Iraq, but it does add to Blair's alliance in what both sides will tell you is a battle for the soul of European Union foreign policy. Until recently, President Bush could count six of fifteen EU members supporting the war in Iraq. These new members put the balance at thirteen supporting the US, twelve against.

(But use a pencil for that math. As we explained before the war, support from places like Rome and Copenhagen will vanish when the right loses power. Western European leaders supported US policy even while huge majorities of their citizens opposed the war. Except for Blair, the six "Old" European leaders are all from center-right parties. They had already alienated the anti-war left and so didn't need to pander to it.)

Back to the euro: One expects that, barring any flourishes of nationalism, the ten new members will want to jump into the common currency as soon as the Eurozone will have them. None has a more stable currency than the euro, and each could use the boost in foreign investment that signing up will bring.

While these reasons are separate from Blair's case for ditching the pound, he nevertheless finds himself with seven new European Union members who are both "with" the US and pro-euro. As the debate about the future structure of the EU begins in earnest and a common foreign policy becomes less of a joke, the new balance may mean that Europe will become less complicit in the Fox News effort to peg it as the contemptible "other" at which conservative xenophobic bile should be spit.

:: posted by Joe at 12:38 ::
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PUT PLAINLY:
Over at Uggabugga there is a pretty comprehensive diagram of how your government works, worth a gander for those who aren't yet really angry about how your government works.

We have one suggestion for improvement: given that both exercise influence on a broad spectrum of foreign and domestic policy issues, Vice President Dick Cheney and Kingmaker Karl Rove should probably both be attributed "major influence" as opposed to only "some influence" for the latter. Rove convinced Bush to run for governor and then president, and has been with him far longer than Cheney. See Elizabeth Drew's recent New York Review of Books piece for the account of their bizarre (though probably non-sexual) relationship.

:: posted by Joe at 12:10 ::
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:: Wednesday, April 16 ::


LIEBERMAN IS FINISHED:
It's not clear there is any other conclusion to be drawn from this article:
Senator Joseph I. Lieberman burned through 40 percent of the money his presidential campaign raised in the first three months of the year, by far the highest percentage of any major Democratic candidate, according to federal campaign-finance reports filed today.
It looks real, read bad. Lieberman has the best name-recognition and a distinctly underwhelming position in polls in states where other candidates have been campaigning (and thus eating into Lieberman's built-in advantage). He raised a lot less money than most thought he would, and now he's spending it like a lonely man in a nudie bar. Are we missing something?

:: posted by Joe at 21:07 ::
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CAN WE BE HONEST NOW?
With Republican Senator Peter Fitzgerald not seeking re-election, will the woman he vanquished six years ago finally come clean and just say she wants her seat back, and that that's what all this presidency business is about?

Having a woman in the race is exciting -- though not all in the way such a phrase could potentially mean (there is no Draft Landrieu campaign to our knowledge). Moseley-Braun also ostensibly helps Democrats avoid the Sharpton Problem, though there is a far better candidate for this role.

The jockeying in Illinois is already beginning and it appears that the deadline for Moseley-Braun to make her true intentions known has just been moved up.

:: posted by Joe at 08:46 ::
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:: Tuesday, April 15 ::


HAPPY BIRTHDAY:
Among the revelations by Jim Capozzola of The Ritenhouse Review about people born on 14 April:
Some people may consider you self-centered.

You are a quick thinking person, rather impulsive in self-expression, even to the point of being rude or cheeky.

[Y]ou may wish to preach your views with considerable intensity.

You have an uncanny ability for seeing the weaknesses in others and exploiting them.

You are overconcerned with making an impression and like to have the last word.

You hate being wrong, and have difficulty admitting it when you are.

You have strong socialist impulses.
For those keeping score at home, those born on that day are evidently vain (twice), stubborn, manipulative, smack-talking jerk Commies.

:: posted by Joe at 05:15 ::
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:: Sunday, April 13 ::


APOLOGIES, THIS IS BANAL:
One isn’t supposed to blog on one’s birthday, so here are a few articles -- some much-blogged, some not at all -- the posting of links to which hopefully will satisfy readers that, despite taking tomorrow off, we are serious (perhaps that’s not precisely the word) about all of this.

Michael Kinsley has a thoughtful article over at Slate on how we should be marking our scorecards now that the non-invading-Syria part of the war is effectively over. Ha’aretz has a short piece by Rogel Alper on the impact of Fox “And You Thought the Rest of Our Cultural Exports Were Trash” News Channel in Israel. We will shortly -- as in another day, very soon -- have a bit more to say about this, as O’Reilly’s head also recently splashed down in the Stockholm archipelago, from where That Other Blog presently operates.

Also, in the latest New York Review, Michael Tomasky has an unsettlingly well-written, must-read review of William Langewiesche’s must-read book American Ground: Unbuilding the World Trade Center. In the same issue Elizabeth Drew has a far less brilliantly-written article on the nonetheless-important topic of joint channeling of Richard Nixon by Karl Rove and George W. Bush.

Re the birthday thing, shame absolutely does not preclude a gentle nudging of the reader’s attention toward the links to the left of this body of text, specifically the “generosity” heading.

:: posted by Joe at 13:22 ::
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:: Saturday, April 12 ::


THAT SEXY STEWART:
Salon has a very smart, very well-written piece by Laura Miller about "The Daily Show" and its role in our political dialogue:
"The Daily Show" doesn't just make fun of broadcast journalists (as "Saturday Night Live" has for decades), it mocks the underlying know-nothing mulishness that passed for trenchant common sense back when the president's sex life seemed like the most pressing moral issue facing the nation. ...

Political humor used to belong to the left, but that all changed in the 1990s, when the priggishness of political correctitude injected new vitality into a segment of the population that had been shut out of comedy's pantheon: assholes. Suddenly, a guy could flaunt his most petty and vindictive prejudices and still get to feel like a champion of truth and freedom. You could rail against "victimology" when, say, sexually harassed workers dared to resort to it, and then turn around and avail yourself of the same trend by claiming that a pack of censorious puritans was trying to shut you up. In fact, the appeal of shock jocks and other bad boys mostly lies in the idea that they're offensive to somebody else, someone you can imagine gasping in horror at each transgression. Without political correctness (and that's fading fast), a big chunk of what passes for contemporary American humor would be flapping in the wind.
Miller contrasts Stewart and "The Daily Show" with Bill Maher and his new HBO show, which probably isn't fair:
But the sorry truth is that everything on "Real Time" that's meant to be funny isn't, including Maher's opening monologue, regular Paul Tompkins, and (especially) the guest comics who perform at each show's end. It all feels tired and smug. Infinitely pleased with himself, Maher needs to realize that the value of being the smartest guy in the room varies considerably with the quality of the rooms you choose to hang out in. His hodgepodge conglomeration of pet positions -- for the legalization of marijuana, against the demonization of porn, contempt for religion -- developed more of a moral center with his opposition to the Iraq war, but it's still rooted in a self-congratulatory rejection of other people's sanctimony. He's pious about his own impiety.

Stewart and company, on the other hand, can articulate their derision for the state of American public life without demanding that we admire their maverick élan. In fact, "The Daily Show" regularly advances the notion that self-satisfied white guys might sometimes be part of the problem and not just the blameless (yet rakish!) casualties of moral crusaders run amok.
Via Digby, who has actual commentary on the piece should readers yearn for what lacks here.

:: posted by Joe at 07:40 ::
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SAFIRE IS INSANE:
The Times needs to lock him in a room with his OED and limit his contributions to tickly columns on usage and etymology. Johnny Bardine quotes but doesn't link to (in what is hopefully a sign that this is a vicious joke) a recent piece in which Safire draws us an arc of freedom across the map of the Middle East:
If Iraqis are able to adopt a system of free enterprise and representative government, they will become the center of an arc of freedom from Turkey in the north to Israel in the south (with Lebanon freed from Syrian occupation, if France will liberate the state it created). Egypt, the largest Arab nation, could not long resist such a tidal wave of liberty.
Say what you will about this vision, a sort of Marshall Plan without the money, for consolidating democracy in the Middle East. Far crazier is that he can include Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in his Arc of Freedom without so much as an asterisk -- but musters some parentheses for an incidental swipe at the French.

Also, we look forward to next week's column calling on the United States to liberate the state it created, the despite-its-name-not-at-all-liberated nation of Liberia, the failure to do obviously being the real obstacle to an Arc of West African Freedom.

:: posted by Joe at 04:44 ::
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:: Wednesday, April 9 ::


CANDIDATE FORUM RECAP:
Tonight the nine Democratic candidates for president gathered at the Children's Defense Fund Forum, where a panel of journalists asked questions mostly related to education and other policies affecting children. The candidates looked somewhat surprised that this was a panel/debate format and not another opportunity to give the stump speech they've been practicing. They had good reason, because this format is far too unwieldy for a nine-candidate panel. We tuned in late, but have some reactions.

In the spirit of The Agonist, we bring these reactions to you typed in breathless real-time as events unfold. (We regret that no opportunity exists to go all out with our tribute and plagiarize some professional journalism. Indeed, we'll buck the whole lack-of-integrity aspect of the imitation and point out that all quotes are paraphrased.) So:

Sen. Bob Graham looks feisty, and far less full of shit than the Lieberman-Gephardt-Moseley-Braun Axis of Platitudes.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich has the angry thing down, but gets buried on the "is there any social program you don't support?" question. Run, Dennis, run -- not for president, but off the stage, as fast as you can.

Sen. John Kerry looked pretty good. He's fighting to appear not completely contrived.

Sen. Joe Lieberman needs to learn how to talk without clenching his teeth. Can people really stand watching this guy? Is there a pill you can take to avoid wincing as soon as he starts moralizing?

Just as the previous sentence was being typed, Al Sharpton takes a hand to Lieberman on the moralizing, saying something to the effect of, "I'm the preacher on this panel ... [but] we can preach on Sundays. Let's get Americans the legislation they need Monday through Saturday."

Sen. John Edwards: "America needs to lead in a way that brings others to us, not drives others away." Also, in response to why Americans trust Republicans more on national security and military matters: "They haven't heard our case."

Rep. Dick Gephardt goes angry scorned ex-girlfriend on education: "'No Child Left Behind' is a fraud. It is cynical, it is a fraud, they never meant it, they're never going to reform these programs, we need new leadership."

Al Sharpton is still the funniest guy out there, especially on why simply appointing blacks to high office doesn't necessarily help blacks in society, saying that, "Everyone of my color ain't my kind, all my skinfolk ain't my kinfolk."

Howard Dean talks a good game on race. We'll bring you that quote when the transcript becomes available.

John Edwards still needs a haircut.

The one-minute closings:

Sharpton is, unfortunately, very good.

Lieberman: very, very glib, but he has two good lines: "Children deserve more from the White House than a teeball game on the White House lawn." And: "People ask whether anyone can beat George W. Bush. Well, I know we can beat George W. Bush because Al Gore and I did it in 2000."

Kucinich, stepping on Lieberman's ovation: "But with all due respect, let me tell you why this election won't be close. This election won't be close when the people show up because the Democratic Party shows up." He then goes on to list a number of policies like repealing NAFTA and leaving the WTO that will not, in fact, make very many people show up.

Kerry tells a ho-hum anecdote about someone he put in the audience; a little too Professional Candidate.

Graham doesn't have much to say.

Gephardt wants to pay off the college loans of anyone willing to teach for five years, but it's not clear whether he means a token grand or two towards state school or real incentive for those of us with several tens of thousands of dollars in crippling education debt.

Edwards knows that "we still believe in America that the son of a mill worker can beat the son of a president." Not if the son of the mill worker doesn't have anything substantive to say, someone should remind him.

Dean starts off well, gets a little lost, and saves himself by plugging his website for comic relief.

Moseley-Braun: "I'm running for president because I'm a patriot." Oh. Okay. "I want America to believe that a woman can lead the ship of state." Well, sure, theoretically -- but where are you going with this? Surely you don't mean a woman who happens to be an out of work former Ambassador to New Zealand and one-term Senator, do you?

More considered reaction pending. Your comments are welcome in the appropriately titled "comments" section below.

:: posted by Joe at 18:41 ::
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GREAT NEWS:
There really isn't any other way to characterize these reports from the Times:
During the day, the streets here were full of activity, after days of fearsome warfare.

In Firdos Square in central Baghdad, a group of Iraqi men climbed up the pedestal of a 20-foot statue of Mr. Hussein and smacked it with a sledgehammer. Then they put a chain around the neck of the statue and tied it to an armored American military vehicle.

The crowd then cheered and clapped as the vehicle pulled away, toppling the statue. Several Iraqis danced and jumped on the fallen statue. Several men began dragging the head of the statue through the street as crowds reached out to swat it the soles of their shoes, an especially deep insult in Arab culture.

Elsewhere in Baghdad, the American military emptied jails overnight, releasing their prisoners.

In the neighborhood called Saddam City, a densely populated Shiite area, crowds of men shouted and waved their arms in jubilation. Some carried makeshift flags.

One middle-aged man held up a huge portrait of Mr. Hussein, and in the middle of the street used his shoe to beat the face of the Iraqi leader. "This man has killed two million of us," he yelled as bystanders milled around approvingly.

One American colonel said that there was not a single area of the city that the Iraqi government still controlled, after another night of heavy bombing and intense fighting. A few explosions continued during the day as bombs fell from American warplanes.
And then of course there's this gem:
Iraq's U.N. ambassador, Mohammed Aldouri, said on Wednesday "the game is over" and he hoped the Iraqi people soon would be able to live in peace.
Speaking to reporters in front of his residence as well as Iraq's mission to the United Nations, Aldouri said: "The work now is peace. We hope that peace will prevail."

"The game is over," Aldouri said, his first admission that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein no longer controls Baghdad.

The ambassador, in answer to questions, said he had had no communication with Baghdad for some days.
He'd better get out of New York before he finds himself whisked down to Guantanamo Bay.

Though a secret trial by a foreign power with no right to due process or appeal to civilian authority (among others) could hardly be worse than what he'd get back in Baghdad. A slipper to the face would be the least of his problems.

:: posted by Joe at 15:35 ::
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NORM COLEMAN FEELING THREATENED BY A DEAD GUY:
With the six-month Don't Speak Ill of the Dead prohibition having recently expired, Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota, who ran an atypically (by Minnesota standards) combative campaign last year against Senator Paul Wellstone until Wellstone died with his wife and daughter in a plane crash shortly before the election, has decided to lead with his ego in the fight to overcome the Wellstone Myth:
The Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call quoted Mr. Coleman on Monday as saying: "To be very blunt and God watch over Paul's soul, I am a 99 percent improvement over Paul Wellstone. Just about on every issue."
No word yet on precisely how many present and former Senators lined up to make the appropriate "Senator, I knew Paul Wellstone. I served with Paul Wellstone. Paul Wellstone was a friend of mine. And you, sir, are no Paul Wellstone" remark. But they all should.

As if the nature of his remarks wasn't wrong enough, Coleman manages to get the substance wrong, too: Wellstone was ahead by five points the night he died. It's not clear what poll Coleman is referencing with that 99 percent figure.

:: posted by Joe at 05:23 ::
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:: Monday, April 7 ::


BOY, THAT GUY'S GREAT:
There's a marvelous essay up over at the DeanBlog, a group blog about Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean. Someone should really hire that guy for... something. Everyone should go read it now.

Seeing as most traffic seems to come from the DeanBlog these days, those readers who have already read the essay in question are encouraged to scroll down this page and enjoy. All visitors are encouraged read about the oft-overlooked That Other Forum and contribute something there.

This site and the DeanBlog are for different audiences, and so have different perspectives. Here we aim for something approximating objectivity, to be reasonable. Actually, that's not really true, given the vicious contempt for this or that person/thing/movement sometimes expressed in this space.

Suffice to say that we try not to be stupid. The DeanBlog is, necessarily, significantly more rah-rah than That Other Blog, but hopefully fails to be stupid just as often. We hope you enjoy both.

:: posted by Joe at 11:35 ::
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:: Friday, April 4 ::


BOILERPLATE INVECTIVE:
Michael Tomasky has a brilliantly-written piece at The American Prospect online. Go for the prose, stay for the utility.

Tomasky takes to task William Kristol, the latest archconservative to offer smug advice to Democrats on what is "wrong" with their party. Predictably leaving aside the fact that the last national election seemed to indicate a dangerous shortage of Supreme Court justices blatantly in their corner, Kristol offers to helpfully show what kind of Democrats are good (the ones who do what President Bush wants) and what kind are bad (the ones who hate America).

Tomasky engages Kristol on his points and demolishes him. But this seminal piece can also serve as a template for rebutting other oh-so-concerned conservatives offering up their vision of what ails the Democratic Party. For instance, this line has near-universal applicability to every such piece:
It is a house -- no, a skyscraper -- of propaganda and lies.
There is also this versatile paragraph:
A seductive line of reasoning. Like much of what the right puts out, it sort of sounds logical -- logical enough not to be challenged by either timorous Democrats (is there any other kind now?) or mainstream journalists who don't know any better. And -- like much of what the right puts out -- it is Orwellian duplicity, straight out of the Oceania Ministry of Truth, known these days as the Murdoch Empire, in whose very fertile soil Kristol [or Noonan, et al.] digs his [or her] spade.
When dealing with multi-layered fabrications use the following:
Propagandizing about the present cannot work without first lying about the past...
Finally, complete the Orwellian circle with:
But legitimate debate means nothing to these people. Only partisan advantage does. The point is to scare the other side, club it into submission, and you do that by setting up a phony argument and repeating it over and over. And, tragically, it works. That's the fun thing about being in the Ministry of Truth: If you say it, it's true.
Tomasky is right when he says that, "Until Democrats learn how to define themselves, there will be nothing to prevent the Bill Kristols of the world from doing so for them." With this outline, you can begin that process -- you too can debunk smug condescension!

:: posted by Joe at 20:55 ::
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KELLY:
Journalist Michael Kelly, who wrote and edited in various capacities at the Washington Post, National Journal, Atlantic Monthly, and The New Republic, has been killed in what was apparently a humvee accident while with US troops in Iraq.

His resume was enviable and he seems to have been one of the better editors in recent years at several very good publications. His own writing was often very wrong-headed and infuriating, but thankfully -- and far too seldom in today's journalism -- he most times saw the distinction between his roles as editor and columnist.

There is plenty to say about his politics and the already-beginning lionization of him by the right, but his work in recent years shaping the Atlantic Monthly into a magazine of unrivaled breadth and depth earns him a respectful treatment here. That magazine is an achievement that dwarfs almost anyone's foolishness.

:: posted by Joe at 13:30 ::
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