Do you remember the Iraq War of 2003? Remember those heady days of euphoria when it ended two months later, with only 139 American lives lost? Journey back with me — TIME-LIFE style, if you will — to the scene of our triumph: “Chris Matthews on MSNBC called Bush a ‘hero’ and boomed, ‘He won the war. He was an effective commander. Everybody recognizes that, I believe, except a few critics.’ PBS’ Gwen Ifill said Bush was ‘part Tom Cruise, part Ronald Reagan.’ On NBC, Brian Williams gushed, ‘The pictures were beautiful. It was quite something to see the first-ever American president on a — on a carrier landing. This must be very meaningful to the United States military.’“
Well, today marks the five-year anniversary of our glorious victory, the day that “splendid little war” came to a close. Among those honoring the day, and the remarkable achievement of our Commander-in-Chief:
“‘I think it would be nice to have this all done by July 1,’ Dean said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” program. ‘If we can do it sooner than that, that’s all the better.’” Howard Dean sets a date of July 1 at the latest for the primary election to end, meaning there’ll thankfully be no convention floor fight. I’m still thinking May 6 would be more preferable.
Meanwhile, Bill Clinton drops the electoral vote standard (for now) and picks an even more unwieldy statistic by which to judge the candidates: “”Right now, among all the primary states, believe it or not, Hillary’s only 16 votes behind in pledged delegates,’ said the former president, ‘and she’s gonna wind up with the lead in the popular vote in the primary states. She’s gonna wind up with the lead in the delegates [from primary states].‘” (The 18 caucus states, you may remember, don’t matter.) Clinton also went on to do more stumping for John McCain, calling him a “moderate” who “has given about all you can give for this country without dyin’ for it.“
Ambitious Dems Congressman Harold Ford, Jr. and Governor Mark Warner try to establish their presidential bona fides by joining in on the anti-Dean pileup. I wouldn’t have used Deans’s “white christian” line — We shouldn’t be in the business of reinforcing the GOP’s hold on white Christian voters, particularly when so much of the Republicans’ bellicose, intolerant, and avarice-fueled agenda is flagrantly anti-Christian in any real sense. Today’s GOP may talk the talk of Jesus, but their leaders continually prostrate themselves before the altar of Mammon. As any good Christian knows, you can’t serve them both.
All that being said, it’s highly dismaying to watch the Dems eat their own like this. Obviously, our lazy, cowed excuse for a national newsmedia is going to leap at every possible note of intemperance to emanate from Dr. Dean, because it’s an easy story that won’t tick off the White House and doesn’t involve much in the way of reporting. So every two-bit Democratic official that wants to start generating some media buzz and moderate cred for a 2008 bid is currently mouthing off to reporters about the former Governor of Vermont.
Do Republicans do this? Not hardly. I don’t remember GOP officials rushing to lambast Bill Frist for his “against people of faith” photo-op, or Tom DeLay for all the garbage that routinely comes out of his mouth, to say nothing of all the Limbaughs, Hannitys, Coulters, etc. But one Dem uses stronger rhetoric than usual to characterize the opposition and we fall over each other to condemn him in the name of electable statesmanship. It’s pathetic. Word to the wise, Dems: Let Dean be Dean — we didn’t pick him for his social nicety — and concentrate your rhetorical firepower on the opposing trench.
Last Friday, the Pentagon admitted that a Quran — and detainee — were in fact urinated on by a guard at Guantanamo. But, according to the eagerly dismissive White House, there’s no need to court-martial anybody or anything. (Heck, you should hear about Dubya’s crazy pledge days.) In the meantime, Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) took time off from castigating Howard Dean to call for the closing of Guantanamo.
With the exit (Stage Right) of Martin Frost and multiple endorsements (including that of Clinton consigliere Harold Ickes), it now seems to most observers that Howard Dean has the DNC chair in the bag. (For their part, the GOP were already relentlessly on message: Said Rich Bond, “I think it’s a scream.“) While I’ll admit that I can’t speak knowledgably about all of the candidates’ positions, to my mind Dean seems like a great choice for the post, one that will stir enthusiasm among the grass roots and move the party where it needs to go: towards an independent and progressive message that doesn’t reek of Republican-lite, and a take-no-prisoners feistiness in every political race across the country. So, congrats to the Governor and his supporters — now, the real work begins…
After the general post-election gloominess began to wear off near the end of last year (of course, it hasn’t completely subsided — at times, I think you can still see the cynicism emanating off me like little cartoon lines), I made it a resolution of sorts to start getting more involved in Dem organizing for this upcoming political cycle. So when some friends of mine (and founders of Concerts for Change) alerted me to their forum this evening on “Net Roots and the DNC,” which included A-list lefty bloggers Atrios and Afro-Netizen, former Dean director Zephyr Teachout, Personal Democracy Forum editor Micah Sifry, and NY Dem Party higher-ups Judith Hope and Mark Green, I very quickly decided to go check it out.
All in all, it made for a partial yet intriguing glimpse into the State of the Party 2005, and one I found at turns dispiriting and encouraging (and far more often the latter.) The panel itself was decently engaging, with most of the discussion centered around the imminent battle for DNC chair. (While there were a number of Simon Rosenberg buttons among the attendees, the panel seemed to split between Dean enthusiasts and DNC agnostics, who felt the upcoming election wasn’t of much import regardless of who wins.) There was also some discussion of the role left-leaning bloggers might play in helping to keep the media more attuned to right-wing spin jobs, but, alas, no one figured out how to square that circle just yet.
Former mayoral candidate and Nader Raider Mark Green, charismatic enough in that politico way, closed out the forum part of the evening with some clever but clearly canned remarks for the Young People into that Newfangled Technology stuff. (For example, he advised the crowd to “choose your mentors well,” which, c’mon now, is the same hoary advice Strom Thurmond gave 1000 of us at Boys’ State when I was 17 years old.) He also regaled us with a short US history lesson, which I’ll give him a B+ on — he was spot-on with George Washington plying his constituents-to-be with rum and George McGovern and direct mail, less so with the Lincoln the “real Log Cabin Republican” quip.)
As I said, I found some elements of the evening somewhat discouraging (and not just because I soon realized that my limited socializing skills at these sorts of things had further atrophied since entering academia.) For one, at times I felt the discussion seemed on the verge of degenerating into the worst kind of New Left-era identity politics, whereby the gender and ethnicity of the new DNC chair was somehow more important than his or her vision for the party. [This was driven home by a (white) fellow in the back hijacking the conversation at one point (does this sort of thing happen at GOP events? I always wonder) and loudly enumerating the few minorities in the room (By which he meant black people -- Latinos and South Asians went under the radar), all to suggest that the event was somehow a charade and a farce for its lack of proportional representation.]
This is not to say that issues of gender and ethnicity aren’t central to our party’s core principles, or that the all-white-male slate for DNC chair isn’t a disappointment — to suggest otherwise would be imbecilic…even, dare I say it, Summers-esque. But, to my mind, it’s a question of focus. White, Black, Asian, Hispanic, male, female, straight, gay, or bisexual…we Dems just got our asses handed to us by the predominantly white male GOP. At a certain point — hopefully soon — we’re going to have to learn to deemphasize these differences among us and reemphasize our commonality as left-leaning citizens of the republic, rising up together against the corporate-sponsored avarice, imperial ambitions, and narrow-minded bigotry of today’s Republican Party. In other words and IMHO, rhetorically we need to start thinking 1933, and at times I heard way too much 1972 tonight.
(Also, and I know this is a goofy history-geek semantic distinction that I’ll just have to get over, but people kept throwing around ‘progressive’ when they meant ‘liberal.’ Not the same, y’all.)
All that being said, however, my general impression of the evening was quite favorable, mostly because of the energy, exuberance, and organizational acumen on display from the attendees. We may have lost the recent battle in 2004, but much of the online community-building infrastructure seems intact…and, indeed, seems to be here for the duration. I was reminded of the recent scholarship on the rise of the New Right (by Lisa McGirr, Rick Perlstein, and Matthew Dallek, among others), which ably demonstrates how conservatives, soundly defeated in 1964, managed to capture the California governorship only two years later, once Reagan had replaced Goldwater at the top of the movement. For now, the wheels are definitely churning at the grass-roots level…if we can just get the party machinery in order, find a standard-bearer willing to abandon the protective camouflage, and, most importantly, work on a way to articulate our democratic values against the corporate ministrations of the GOP, we might actually get somewhere.
If nothing else, it speaks volumes that conservative direct-mail pioneer Richard Viguerie is worried about what he sees from the online left — he’s a guy who knows a thing or two about political organizing, and how quickly the worm can turn. Matt Drudge and GWB, we’re coming for you.
“If you think you have seen this movie before — ‘Dean Against the Machine’, you have…Then, as now, Dean inspired an outside-the-Beltway, Net-based crusade whose shock troops adored his social progressivism and his fearless opposition to war in Iraq. Then, as now, a party establishment — based in Congress, governors’ mansions and Georgetown salons — viewed him as a loudmouthed lefty whose visibility would ruin the Democratic brand in Red States.” Writing in breathless hyperbole mode as usual, Newsweek‘s Howard Fineman surveys the consensus anti-Dean reaction among DNC poobahs (purportedly being led by the 2008-conscious Clintons.)
I remained pretty agnostic about Dean’s candidacy last winter – when he seemed he had the big mo, I was all for the party getting behind him. But, I can’t say I was heartbroken by any means after the Iowa collapse. (In retrospect, of course, it’s hard to think of a single state that Kerry won that Dean also wouldn’t have carried.) That being said, to my mind Dean as DNC chair makes for a much better fit. The job of DNC chair is to fire up the grass roots and get Dems elected, and Dean has already shown a marked ability to achieve the former. Plus, it was the protective-camouflage, middle-of-the-road DNC’ers that foisted Terry McAuliffe on us, and he was an out-and-out embarrassment from start to finish. (Don’t agree? Go look at the November results again.)
As many others have noted, Dean isn’t nearly as lefty as he’s being made out to be — He’s a fiscally conservative governor. As such, the reaction he has fostered among the insider crowd has very little to do with governing ideology and a lot to do with one faction desperate to maintain controlling power over the party. Dean or no, if the DNC chairmanship is filled by another unenterprising flunky along the lines of McAuliffe, we’ve already started down the road to more of the same in 2008, right down to the losing.
After weeks of speculation, Howard Dean officially throws his hat in for DNC Chair. Given how he energized the party in late 2003, I think he’d be a first-rate choice for the post. And, if nothing else, his candidacy should augur the type of intra-party soulsearching we failed to do after Gore‘s loss in 2000, and provoke fear in the hearts of the GOP-lite DLC types who push us down the road to protective camouflage every election year. But, a word of warning, Dr. Dean…this is one sick patient you’re taking on.
“If establishment Democrats still fear Howard Dean, they ought to elect him chairman of the Democratic National Committee…” Following in the footsteps of such insightful political blogs as Value Judgment, Slate‘s Chris Suellentrop warns Dean to stay away from the DNC. “Ed Rendell was so frustrated with his job as DNC chairman during Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign that he complained to the New Republic, ‘I basically take orders from 27-year-old guys in Nashville who have virtually no real-life experience. All they’ve done is been political consultants living in an artificial world, and basically their opinion counts more than mine.’” Heh.
While new Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid shores up Scalia’s creds for Chief Justice (ugh, the new Congress hasn’t even met yet and he’s already Daschle redux), Howard Dean preps for a big State of the Party speech tomorrow in which he’ll “argue that the Democratic Party should be rebuilt from the grass roots up, that it should be driven by millions of Americans who make small contributions rather than by a handful of moneyed interests, and that the party should focus not just on presidential politics in swing states like Ohio and Florida but also on down-ballot races even in the reddest of states.” If these are my choices, put me on the Dean Machine…the endless protective camouflage song-and-dance perp’ed by Reid this past weekend has to stop. Update: More on Dean’s speech.
“Ah you loved me as a loser, but now you’re worried that I just might win. You know the way to stop me, but you don’t have the discipline.” The DLC and other Democratic centrists push Tom Vilsack, Jeanne Shaheen, and a handful of other milquetoast contenders to be the next DNC head (and to thwart the Dean alternative.) Look, it’s obvious the Republican-lite status quo wasn’t working. It’s time to drop the protective camouflage and articulate a progressive narrative that highlights the grotesquely pro-corporate nature of the GOP. With that in mind, let’s sidestep the party flaks, and go ahead and pick Howard. At this point, it’s not like we have anything to lose.
“Let’s put our heads together, and start a new country up…” Well, it’s been a week. So now what? Howard Dean says put me in charge (Sure, he can’t be worse than McAuliffe), James Carville says let’s find a new story (and Keep It Simple, Stupid), and John Kerry, well, he’s “fired up” about returning to the Senate (?)…and has started contemplating a 2008 run.
By way of my friend Mark, The Atlantic Monthly delves into the sordid world of oppo research, including the role notorious Gore/Clark flunky Chris Lehane played in taking down Howard Dean, and the early Republican line on John Kerry.
Following up on a Franklin Foer TNR article I first saw over at Value Judgement, Hannah Rosin examines the plight of DC’s Deaniacs now that the party’s over. Although it wasn’t nearly as well reported, I remember a similar purge happening after Bill Bradley went down last cycle, and, trust me, they can get ugly. (But, at least last time, all was forgiven after Al Gore screwed up the general.)
After a long, slow, and dismal post-Iowa slide (which, as Chris Suellentrop waggishly put it, wound up “with the leisurely pace of the interminable conclusion of The Return of the King“), Dr. Dean calls it quits, leaving basically a two-man field for the nomination. (Early scuttlebutt had Dean possibly endorsing Edwards, but, although Edwards sent the right signals, Dean instead asked his supporters, strangely enough, to vote his name despite his leaving the race.)
Well, I guess it’ll probably take some time to put Dean’s swift rise and swifter fall in perspective (Is this Goldwater, McCarthy, Muskie, or something altogether new?) To be honest, I was always a bit surprised by the furor surrounding Dean, given that he was neither as lefty nor as populist as many of his followers seemed to think. I know many found him inspiring, but, even after tentatively getting behind him, I never really saw it or felt it…in fact, quite the contrary. So, while it’s always a bit disconcerting to see something that started so well end so badly, I’m can’t say I’m overly aggrieved by this turn of events. As I said before, if the nominee is Kerry, so be it.
Of course, there’s still the matter of John Edwards, whose surprise showing in Wisconsin definitely keeps him viable for at least one more round. Kerry’s overwhelming lead aside, I’ve been quite enthused by the rise of Edwards since Iowa, who seems like the type of fresh and viable new face the Democratic Party’s been needing for some time. Whether or not he has a chance of coming back to win it all this year, I’m inclined to vote for him, if only to show he’s got some legs outside the South. At any rate, he’ll be speaking on campus early this morning so, if all goes well, I may get a chance to see how he comes off in person.
After John Kerry’s two dominant wins in the South, General Clark calls it quits. Ho-hum. Good news for Edwards in the short term, I guess, although it now appears that Dean will stay in the race after Wisconsin, despite the loss of AFCSME and the wavering of Harkin. Well, keeping Dems at the front of the news for a few more weeks can’t hurt the larger goal, but Dean’s revived bashing of “Washington insiders” sounds increasingly hollow and desperate to me. They weren’t a problem when “Boss” Gore came a-runnin’ to the Dean camp, now, were they? As for Kerry being the “lesser of two evils,” I just don’t think Howard Dean would improve that equation all that much.
Rick Perlstein surveys the critical contributions — and ultimate failing — of Howard Dean.
Seven states across the nation up for grabs last night, and five go to John Kerry. On the flip side, Joe Lieberman finally faced the music and bowed out of the race (So much for that “three-way tie” in NH.)
Well, call me an establishment sellout, but I’m close to putting this one in the fridge. I was glad to see Edwards take my and his home big, but I think Clark’s ekeing out of Oklahoma will hurt Carolina’s Finest on the momentum front. (That being said, Edwards is looking like a grand Veep.) And Dean, well, his 0-7 strategy was a gamble anyway, but I personally don’t believe he’s hitting the right notes to make a comeback anymore. Kerry a Republican? That’s just plain goofy. I’m all for running on campaign finance reform, of course, and I agree with Mark Shields that Dean’s made an enormous contribution in that regard…but I think spinning the “outsider” rhetoric just for the sake of it is lame. (Might as well say “Vote for me! I won’t know what the hell I’m doing for the first two years of my administration!”) Besides, it’s hard to run as the outsider who’ll change the insidious culture of Washington once you’ve nestled the likes of Al Gore to your breast. I’ll still put up Gore’s primary performance last cycle as an order of magnitude more shady than anything that’s gone down this time around.
So, if Kerry’s our horse, I’m ready to circle the wagons. He’s already up ten on Bush according to Gallup. And, having just seen California freak-show Darrell Issa on late-night CNN frantically go the “Dukakis Dukakis Dukakis” route, I’d say we have a real chance to win this thing. Between this and the atrocious State of the Union, I’m starting to get the sense we’ve been grossly overestimating Karl Rove’s political savvy. And, if the Big 47 holds up…it means trouble for the GOP that even Rehnquist, Scalia et al can’t solve this time. Bring it on.
So…New Hampshire has spoken, and John Kerry wins by 12 over fellow New Englander Howard Dean, Clark and Edwards tie for a distant third, and Lieberman falls to fifth. The game now shifts to the South and Midwest, including South Carolina.
Well, while it’s a bit off-putting to put this race in the fridge after only two states have spoken, I say it’s now definitely looking to be John Kerry’s year. That is, barring a strong showing by John Edwards on more favorable terrain, who has to win South Carolina convincingly next week to stay alive. As everyone’s known for months, Lieberman is clearly done, despite his ridiculous talk of a three-way tie for third in NH. (So much for the vote-swinging ability of the New Republic.) Wesley Clark may be able to pick up Oklahoma, but momentum counts for a lot, and he was fading fast all last week. So, barring something crazy happening, I’d say the general is also on his way out.
And Dean? Well, obviously he’s still got a large war chest and the frenzy of the Deaniacs to fall back on…but where does he go from here? The pre-NH polls have him dropping to fourth or fifth in every one of the polled February 3rd states, except New Mexico (and even that’s based on pre-Iowa numbers.) It’d be one thing if he had pulled closer to Kerry in New Hampshire, or even to within ten points, but a twelve-point loss is pretty decisive in terms of being a momentum-killer. (Consider in 2000 that Bradley got to within four points (52%-48%) of Gore in NH, something that was also spun by the pundit class as a “still-kicking” comeback after Iowa, and he got hammered in all 15 states the Tuesday next.) As Chris Suellentrop notes, Dean’s only hope may be to go “underground” for awhile, but it’s hard to see how a hail-mary play like that will have generated much mojo once the big states actually vote. It’s remarkable how Dean and Kerry switched places so quickly, but they did…and just as Kerry would be toast had he not won New Hampshire, the same now looks true for the governor of Vermont.
In the midst of the battle for New Hampshire, a glimmer of great news. A new Newsweek poll has Kerry up 3 on Dubya in a head-to-head match-up. And the key stat isn’t Kerry, per se: All four major Dems poll well against the Prez (Clark down 1, Edwards down 3, Dean down 5.) No, what’s cause for cheer here is the breakdown: 47% of voters strongly oppose a second term for Bush (and 52% say they don’t want him back in general.) That’s compared to 37% of voters strongly in the Bush camp. With those kind of strong negatives, much of Dubya’s financial advantage is neutralized — all the money in the world isn’t going to change the minds of people who’ve already decided they hate you. And this means that, state-by-state electoral math notwithstanding, the Dems only have to sway 4% of the electorate between now and November, give or take a percentage point to account for more Florida-type shenanigans by the GOP.
Meanwhile, in NH news, the consistently insufferable Mickey Kaus points the way to Chrisishardcore, a young statistician who’s teased out daily movement from the three-day ARG polls (this is the information the talking heads have when they make their predictions.) At any rate, yesterday’s poll shows a bounce back for Dean, who looks to probably come in second by these numbers. Elsewhere, the Wyeth Wire, a SC political mail-list to which I subscribe, does the same thing for Carolina.
The Dems held one more for the road last night in New Hampshire and, given that a rather bland Kerry didn’t stumble, it’s starting to look dire for Dean, who was subdued and chagrined most of the evening and only now seems to be turning the corner on his Muskie Moment. Edwards did reasonably well despite invoking states’ rights (which never sounds good with a southern accent) to support his convoluted gay marriage position. And I actually liked Clark better than usual, and thought he handled his recent party switch as well as he could.
But, I have to say, I was extraordinarily irritated by the way the whole Dubya Deserter thing played out last night. First Peter Jennings tells Wesley Clark that Michael Moore’s deserter comment was “a reckless charge not supported by the facts” and asks him if it’d have been “a better example of ethical behavior” to contradict him. Clark doesn’t go either way on it, claiming not to know all the facts. (Which is lame — What’s the point of having a General in the running if he’s not going to call out Bush on exactly this question?) Then, once the show’s over, Fox News pulls out Team Bespectacled White Guys (Mort Kondracke and Fred Barnes), who both immediately argue that Clark irreparably damaged his candidacy by not refuting this baseless charge, yadda yadda yadda.
Um, am I missing something? It’s been substantiated quite well that Bush seems to have gone AWOL by the Boston Globe and others, and I’m not talking about the six or seven critical hours on September 11 when he was toodling around above the Heartland. While absence of evidence isn’t necessarily evidence of absence, Dubya seems to have disappeared from the Air National Guard for almost a year between 1972-73, conveniently right before a drug test (an offense for which he was grounded), and, to this day, he has never satisfactorily explained where he was. (In fact, as the Straight Dope notes, later reports in The New Republic (by Ryan Lizza, if I remember correctly) even cast doubt on the half-hearted “some recollection” explanation Dubya gave during the 2000 campaign. (By the way, this all happened several years after Bush scored in the underwhelming 25th percentile on the pilot’s aptitude portion of the entrance exam, thus having to rely on his congressman-daddy’s connections to jump the year-long waiting list for the Air National Guard in the first place.)
Does all of this prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that Dubya pulled a Cold Mountain? Well, no, but it’s definitely enough to suggest that Bush has some serious explaining to do. (And he revoked any “youthful indiscretion” type-defense when he began parading around in flight gear on the USS Lincoln.) So, I mean, c’mon, now, a baseless charge about Bush? At this point it seems more correct to say that the bases were “Bush-less.” Next thing you’ll know Fox News will be screaming at John Kerry for perpetuating the “vicious rumor” of Dubya’s DUI.
At any rate, regarding other matters, I didn’t see Diane Sawyer or Letterman last night so can’t ascertain how Dean damage control went there, but I did catch the Dallas-Laker game on TNT, and during Inside the NBA EJ, Kenny and Charles must have played the Dean Scream about thirty times…in fact Ernie had it connected to his desk button. “Nash kicks to Dirk, Dirk from the corner…YEEEEEAAAAGH! Sacramento’s up big in the third…YEEEEEAAAGH!” And so on, so on. Pretty much the first political content I’ve ever seen on the show, and, yeah, it was funny every time. Poor Dean.
As a revitalized John Kerry gains traction in New Hampshire and John Edwards shores up the South, Howard Dean plays subdued while his supporters ponder the state of the movement. Update: The Iowa bounce bounces…Kerry’s up 10.
So how do you like them apples? John Kerry comes up big in Iowa (38%), John Edwards places a very viable second (32%)…and the once seemingly-insurmountable Howard Dean falls to a distant third (18%). (For his part, a broken-hearted Gephardt came in fourth (11%) and will drop out tomorrow…so much for Big Union.)
An interesting evening, all in all, and one that’s in effect limited the Democratic race from eight to four:
First off, I think Howard Dean added insult to injury tonight with his cringeworthy (non-)concession speech — that hoarse, high-pitched yelp at the end of his angry roll of states is going to be played-for-laughs by the punditocracy hundreds of times this week (In fact, it took all of two hours for Drudge to post it as his headline…it’s since been removed.) It was a display that could seriously hurt him among undecideds who’ve never really seen the guy before. That being said, the prognosis for the doctor isn’t necessarily terrible, if he can weather the initial post-Iowa dip. For one, the rise of Kerry and Edwards is going to seriously complicate the anti-Dean question: Both Kerry and Clark will now be vying for veterans, as Clark and Edwards fight over who’s the electable southerner. And Dean’s still got the money and the movement, which isn’t going to just wither away because of a bad night in Des Moines. That being said, Dean’s in for a race now, and if that’s the case, I for one am pleased that the candidates pushing him are as of tonight more likely to be John Edwards and John Kerry than they are Wesley Clark, Joe Lieberman, or the now-defunct Dick Gephardt.
John Edwards is a candidate I’ve been looking to see more from this whole cycle, and, if a long primary haul is our party’s fate, I’m very glad he’ll get a chance to strut his stuff on the main stage. He’s got real populist cred and a trial lawyer’s argumentative savvy, and, well, the Southern accent doesn’t hurt. He definitely looked the best tonight in terms of tone and message. And I think that, not unlike our current president, he’s often “misunderestimated.” Go Edwards.
I’ve been relatively agnostic about John Kerry for awhile (in part because he stumped so blatantly for Gore over Bradley last primary cycle), but I’ve liked him more recently since he lost Chris Lehane and started loosening up. Despite the fears of Dukakis-redux, I think Kerry could make a very strong candidate in the general, given his (perhaps too-overtouted of late) military record and debating skills. If he carries this bounce to a Democratic victory, I won’t be overly disappointed.
As for Wesley Clark…well, let’s just say the bloom is off the rose in these parts. Running a Lehane-style campaign isn’t helping him, but the real problem is, well, he’s not a Democrat. He voted for Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Reagan, and Bush, he’s been a member of the party for less than a year, and he’s on tape praising the Dubya administration at a GOP fundraiser. I really don’t think the Democratic Party should be getting behind a fellow who’s said “I’m very glad we’ve got the great team in office, men like Colin Powell, Don Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Paul O’Neill — people I know very well — our President George W. Bush. We need them there, because we’ve got some tough challenges ahead in Europe.” Because, y’know, that particular soundbite would singlehandedly throw the election to Dubya, and we need to make Karl Rove spend at least some of his massive war chest on formulating his own advertisements.
So Clark, Dean, Edwards, and Kerry…the board is set, the pieces are moving.
Just when you think it’s over, Iowa gets crazy, with no less than four candidates — Dean, Gephardt, Kerry, and Edwards — all in a statistical dead heat. Hmmm. While I’m still hoping Dean can nip a protracted primary fight in the bud right here (particularly given the huge GOP bankroll), I’m also glad to see John Edwards entering the top tier of candidates. At any rate, it looks like it’ll all come down to get-out-the-vote on the big day, which should help Dean, who’s got the fervor, and Gephardt, who’s got the unions and a sixteen-year-old organization.
Carol Moseley Braun calls it quits, and will be endorsing Dean later today. That was very nice of her to do so before Iowa, and thus give the Doctor the benefit of a friendly press cycle before the first big contest. And, what with Jimmy Carter taking up a day too, that’ll make it even harder for the other candidates to gain traction in the media in the last four days. So…who’s next? Kucinich, I suspect…although it’d be nice if Lieberman saw the writing on the wall.
In a week of minor stumbles (among them caucus-dissing — let’s face it, the Iowa caucuses are dominated by special interests. Ethanol subsidies, anyone? — and gubernatorial honoraria), Howard Dean pulls up another key endorsement in Tom Harkin. At this point, I’ll just go ahead and say that I hope the good Doctor takes both Iowa and New Hampshire and ends all the primary shenanigans sooner rather than later. It’s a safe bet to say that I like Howard Dean better than any of the other eight candidates, but that frankly isn’t saying much, and particularly given how Edwards, Clark, and Kerry have all underperformed.
I’ll be honest – I’m much less enthused by Dean than I was by Bradley last cycle. Dean has yet to make any policy proposals that I flat-out love, and I find him neither as progressive nor as inspiring as I’d like. In fact, more often than not, he kinda leaves me cold…But, of the nine, he’s the witch-king, so to speak. His occasional grouchiness and glibness does concern me, but no more so than any of the other candidates’ personality traits (And let’s drop the “unelectable” stuff…c’mon, this country elected George W. Bush. Anyone‘s electable. Oh, wait a minute, we didn’t.) In sum, Dean’s run a great campaign to this point, he’s got money and moxie to spare, and he clearly strikes a chord with many Democratic souls out there, so here’s hoping the party coalesces around him before we bleed ourselves to death solely to satisfy the big dreams of also-rans and the bruised egos of the DLC.
Well, so much for that dream ticket: Clark says no way to serving as Dean’s running mate. In happier news for the frontrunner, Bill Bradley is expected to endorse Dean tomorrow (by way of Value Judgment.) I’ve been wondering when Dollar Bill was going to emerge from hiding…frankly, I’m a bit disappointed he hasn’t been more visible throughout this cycle. After all, barring something crazy happening in the next two weeks, the board is basically already set until Iowa…the only real question left is which candidate the anti-Deans will coalesce around, and most of ‘em have sounded so desperate lately that even they seem to know it’s over. Update: It’s official.
With Iowa and New Hampshire seemingly for Dean, both the Doctor and his rivals continue to hone in on South Carolina as a make-or-break state. As I said earlier, SC is probably the last, best hope for a Clark, Edwards or Gephardt to establish themselves as the Southern anti-Dean. As for Lieberman and Kerry, barring a fantastic upset in New Hampshire, it seems to be all over for the both of them, as their increasingly scorched earth rhetoric attests.
“Perhaps that’s why former vice president Al Gore’s endorsement of Dean last week felt so strange — less like the traditional benediction of a fellow member of the party “club” than a senior executive welcoming the successful leveraged buyout specialist.” Everett Ehrlich pens an intriguing article on Dean, Ronald Coase, and “virtual parties.”
“‘He’d be like Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men, ‘the operative said. ‘When he’s being questioned, he gets redder and redder, like his head is exploding, and then he blurts out, “You can’t handle the truth.” Dean is just exactly like that. I see it written all over him.’” Dubya’s minions prep for a race against Dean.
As the media parses the meaning of the Gore-Dean union, Dick Gephardt picks up a key endorsement from Jim Clyburn, former head of the Congressional Black Caucus (and the rep of my hometown, Florence, SC.) Hmmm…interesting. If Clyburn can deliver the votes and Gephardt comes up big in South Carolina, it could blunt a Southern Swing by either Clark or Edwards and definitively set up Gephardt as the Anti-Dean. Well, if it comes down to Gephardt or Dean, I’m easily for the latter. Update: Clark fights back with an endorsement by Andrew Young. Oh, and since I forgot to mention it before, Will Saletan is correct in noting that Ted Koppel was a total buffoon at the final Dem debate last night.
Whoa. Word is Al Gore will endorse Howard Dean tomorrow. I must say, I’m quite surprised by this announcement, particularly given all the water Gephardt and Kerry carried for Al last election cycle (to say nothing of Joe Lieberman, of course.) I guess Gore has either decided the Dems need to rally around a candidate immediately, or he’s recently experienced what alcoholics refer to as a moment of clarity. Either way, it’s obviously now even harder to envision anyone else but Dean winning the nod, barring a nuclear gaffe by the good Doctor. Update: It’s official.
General Clark digs into Dubya for his brazen boastfulness in Iraq earlier in the year. “You don’t make policy by taunting the enemy. Only someone who hasn’t seen war firsthand would ever say anything as fatuous as ‘bring ‘em on.’” A little late, sure, but he’s still definitely on target. Meanwhile, with Dean up 30 in NH, it’s gotten so bad in Kerryland lately that Slate‘s Mickey Kaus is sponsoring a withdrawal contest. Ouch. For their part, though, the Kerry team seems unperturbed.
While Dean and Clark parry for New York votes, Tom De Lay laments the loss of his GOP convention booze cruise. As of yesterday, “some Republicans in Washington who supported the cruise liner idea were still saying that it would not have taken much money away from the city and that perhaps there are some Republican members of Congress who want to take their families to the convention but do not want them to stay in Manhattan.” I see. So for the GOP, New York City is a great place to wave the bloody shirt, but God forbid they spend a night there.
Easily the prohibitive frontrunner at this point, Howard Dean begins to position for the general election by burnishing his policy creds and thinking about a Democratic Congress. But now he’s got the freak shows at Judicial Watch to contend with, and Klayman is as tenacious and aggravating a conspiracy nut as they come. Still, even with Judicial Watch frothing at the mouth, I doubt Papergate will be the stumbling block the rest of the Dem field is hoping for. (Congress link via Value Judgment.)
Terry McAuliffe take note: Up in Iowa, up in Massachusetts (!), imperturbable in debate, Howard Dean’s starting to look unstoppable. Barring a horrendous gaffe by the good doctor or a resurgent Southern swing by Clark or Edwards, it’s looking to be over sooner rather than later. In fact, isn’t it nigh time for some Dem candidates to follow Bob Graham to the exit…?
As Howard Dean announces his college-friendly education plan (which includes $10,000 a year in financial aid and a quadrupling of Americorps), William Saletan — not one of Dean’s biggest fans — wonders how the Doctor will handle the “postwar” phase of the campaign. Meanwhile, Wesley Clark continues developing the “right-on-terror” strategy (originally articulated by Bob “Osama Bin Forgotten” Graham) by accusing the Bushies of dropping the hunt for Al Qaeda’s leader in their rush to get Saddam. The general’s got a point, particularly when you consider the nightmare rhetoric still emanating from Al Qaeda’s corner. It’s too bad the guy’s so way off on flag burning. (Last link via Value Judgment.)
As Dubya continues to fill his coffers to combat the growing threat posed by Howard Dean, George Soros rides to the rescue of the Dems once again. As with Dean’s recent decision, I’m feeling a bit ambivalent about what all this means for campaign finance (particularly at a time when some states are cancelling primaries), but I think most of the time Soros is on the side of the angels, and it is good to have someone to stand against the Montgomery Burnses and Richard Mellon Scaifes of this world.