Monthly Archives: August 2006


I listened to Chris Matthews yell tonight (click on ‘Security Moms”) with three reporters – Jim VandeHei of The Post, The Hotline’s Chuck Todd and A.B. Stoddard from The Hill.

Todd makes the statement that half of Democrats are against the Iraq War and half are “anti-war,” as in “pacifists” who are “against any war.” Where does he get that statistic? Half of Democrats are against any war? He cites no proof for what he’s saying.

The host asks why can’t the Democrats come up with a counter to “cut and run”? Wait a minute. Most of the country is against this war and most want a timetable for getting out and a sizable minority is growing for getting out now. Seems like the Dems aren’t the ones needing a counter, as they’re winning the argument.

Stoddard says the Dems are having problems because a majority of Americans are not willing to get behind a timetable. Again, with a solid majority now thinking the war wasn’t worth it, it doesn’t appear the Dems are having that much of a problem getting their point across. Oh, and by the way, the last CNN poll (scroll down) found over 60% said bring home troops at least by the end of the year and 57% want a timetable.

And if you weren’t sure that it’s OK to think the war in Iraq was a dumb move, Todd says even George Will is against the war. I was waiting for the go sign from Georgie.

What do you think the odds are that the Dems sent Matthews an email within the hour rebutting these points? By this morning? Yeah, me neither.

And with it they should have named three people willing to appear on Matthews’ Sunday show to discuss the Dems’ point of view.

I’m going to bed and dream…

Well Put, Mr. Sharpton

Frankly, I wouldn’t have expected to hear this from Al Sharpton, so instead of applauding him, let me give him a standing ovation.

Many potential young black leaders fall under the spell of the “gangster mentality” and are preventing themselves from making a positive impact in politics, the Rev. Al Sharpton said Thursday.

…Sharpton, who is considering another run for president, faulted Hollywood and the record industry for making “gangsterism” seem cool and acceptable.

“We have got to get out of this gangster mentality, acting as if gangsterism and blackness are synonymous,” he said. “I think that challenge has to be given to Hollywood and the record industry. I think we’ve allowed a whole generation of young people to feel that if they’re focused, they’re not black enough. If they speak well and act well, they’re acting white, and there’s nothing more racist than that.”

The Democratic ’06 Strategy

Do the Democrats really need an alternative to the Bush “stay-the-course” policy in Iraq? The Republicans think so. I’ve thought so. But the reality is even if both houses turn Democratic, there is little the Democrats can do to effect change in Iraq. Given this administration’s view that it has extraordinary powers to conduct war without Congressional approval, challenging its authority in court would run the remainder of the Bush’s tenure and then, we hope, become moot. So we’re stuck with Bush’s belligerent ideology for another 2-1/2 years.

In a strategy memo by the progressive web site MyDD and the non-partisan 527 group Courage Campaign, they suggest that simply running against Bush’s policy is not only a winning strategy but an intellectually honest one. The groups say that polling conducted in the aftermath of the special election in California’s 50th district between Francine Busby and Brian Bilbray, reveals that Bush’s failures resonate with the public.

– 63% of Republican voters believe that Bush has made some or a lot of mistakes in Iraq.
– 34% of Republican voters believe that Bush has definitely or probably not told the truth
about the situation in Iraq.
– 34% of Republican voters believe that Bush should probably or definitely be held
accountable for the situation in Iraq.
– 40% of Republican voters believe that the Democratic Party is more likely to hold Bush
accountable for mistakes in Iraq

Holding Bush accountable, something that rarely has been done in connection with many of his failures in life, trumps offering an alternative, including a withdrawal plan.

While the country is open to the idea of partial or total troop withdrawal, according to our
data in CA-50 existing withdrawal messaging loses badly to Republican ‘cut and run’
counter-attack messaging. This suggests that voters are seeking a set of actors in
Congress who will tell the truth about the war and hold Bush accountable for mistakes.
This is in contrast to an immediate end to the conflict and /or yet another withdrawal plan
that Congress cannot enact. Voters intuitively understand that Congress doesn’t run the
military, and that regardless of the outcome of the 2006 election, Bush will be in charge
of the military until 2009. (emphasis added)
As such, framing the election as a choice between rival Congressional military plans sacrifices the credibility of Democratic candidates who can only legitimately promise to hold hearings, restore congressional oversight of military matters, locate and identify blame, and serve as a check on a widely disliked and distrusted President. (emphasis original)

As the memo states, the debate over Bush’s competency is over. Even I’m beginning to feel sorry for the guy. Not as sorry as I feel for the country that has endured the most inept administration in the country’s history, but clearly his reputation is shattered, never to recover in our lifetime. But for larger reasons, he must be held accountable: Accountability is fast becoming a lost concept in this country, where corporate executives plunder companies too often without consequence, public figures spew hate only to recover after public mea culpas and entertainment concerns reap profits by producing misogynist music while hiding behind the first amendment.

Republicans will holler that “we can’t play the blame game,” but accountability may just be a conservative concept that Democrats can win on.

Where Did That Come From?

The man once tapped to represent the U.S. in that body that is designed to promote world peace and harmony has suffered an attack of Malgibsonitis.

Former UN Ambassador Andrew Young has resigned as WalMart’s chairman of Working Families for Wal-Mart, “a group created and financed by the company to trumpet its accomplishments,” according to the New York Times, after he said WalMart should try to replace mom-and-pop stores in urban areas because

“You see those are the people who have been overcharging us,” he said of the owners of the small stores, “and they sold out and moved to Florida. I think they’ve ripped off our communities enough. First it was Jews, then it was Koreans and now it’s Arabs.”

He’s baffled about where those words could have possibly come from.

“It’s against everything I ever thought in my life,” Mr. Young said.

Mel Gibson was equally baffled.

“I am in the process of understanding where those vicious words came from during that drunken display, and I am asking the Jewish community, whom I have personally offended, to help me on my journey through recovery,” [he said shortly after his arrest for drunken driving and subsequent anti-Semitic tirade.]

So I feel it’s only fitting that I make a similar admission. All those times on this blog when I called Bush an idiot or a liar are just against everything I ever thought in my life. I don’t know where such hateful words came from. I have believed in Republican principles all my life. This country would be so much better off if we just did away all that crap about equality, tolerance and fairness. To George W: I love you, man! To all of you, please forgive me and help me through my journey of recovery.



A federal judge ruled that warrantless surveillance is unconstitutional. But the administration has a defense.

The government argued that the program is well within the president’s authority, but said proving that would require revealing state secrets.

Joseph Heller, somewhere, is smirking.

GOP Echos, Dems Whine

A reporter writes a story with a slant that you, the PR guy, don’t like. It’s not factually wrong but leaves an unfavorable impression of your client. Maybe it suggests your client is not well positioned or has an ineffective message to the market. What do you do? The same thing the GOP does.

It fires off electronic rebuttals when it has a beef with news stories, broadcasts or statements by its critics, shooting its retorts directly into reporters’ e-mail inboxes and posting them on the Internet.

… Nearly half of the 32 issued so far were released in November 2005 and May of this year, two months when Bush’s job approval numbers plummeted. Ten of the 32 were leveled against Democrats on Capitol Hill. Twenty took issue with newspaper, magazine or broadcast reports on subjects ranging from climate change to tax cuts to prewar intelligence on weapons of mass destruction.

…Democrats dismiss the aggressive tactic, and say it suggests the Bush White House is on the defense, fighting an uphill battle over ratings.

“They’re attacking everybody — the media, the Democrats, government auditors, nonpartisan interest groups,” said Phil Singer, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the person who provided the party’s rapid response to the GOP during the 2004 presidential race.

“It’s as though they are the sole arbitrators of the truth. This is yet another step of the politicization of the White House. It’s less a bastion of policymaking and more of a traditional permanent campaign,” Singer said.

… Democratic strategist Stephanie Cutter [said], “Unfortunately, facts are troublesome things, and refuting things on paper is not going to go very far,” she said. “People are living through the reality of this administration, and a piece of paper is not going to clear it up.”

It’s bad enough that local and state Democrats might not have any coordinated ongoing plan to shape the stories, but that national Dems “dismiss” this type of media relations is sad. Developing a message and a strategy to deliver is an approach to media relations that seems incapable of incubating in the Democratic Petri dish.

The news here isn’t how the Bush administration gets its story out, without regards to the facts. The news is that the Dems dismiss such aggressive media relations. They should be emulating it. If anything, I’m shocked that the GOP has issued only 32 of these rebuttals.

Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, disagrees that the “Setting the Record Straight” memos are just part of a Republican attempt to spin public opinion in their favor. This is increasingly going to be the way that presidential administrations — both Republican and Democrat — communicate, she said.

“The Internet facilitates it,” she said. “Why wouldn’t you post your side of things?”

She said the memos run parallel to Rush Limbaugh’s conservative talk radio show. “Limbaugh will systematically take on a reporter he thinks is unfair to George Bush, or unfair to Bush’s perspective,” Jamieson said.

The administration is hoping the targeted reporter will feel scolded and adapt in a way that pleases the White House and get other reporters to self-censor their stories and broadcasts to avoid being singled out.

“If it accomplishes that, and nothing else, that’s a very powerful effect,” Jamieson said.

Certainly, the Clinton campaign machine understood this, and the Democrats apparently were aggressive in responding during the ’04 campaign. Why not now?

“The primary purpose is that un-rebutted charges on important issues sometimes become viewed as fact,” said Dan Bartlett, who is counselor to the president and oversees the White House communications operation.

Even if attempts are made to fix mistakes, corrections published in newspapers or broadcast on TV aren’t always seen, Bartlett said. It’s essential, especially in today’s era of Internet chat rooms and 24-hour news, that the White House issue its rebuttal as soon as possible, he said.

“If it’s a day late, it’s not very useful,” he said.

Reporters aren’t hard-bitten and chain-smoking with a rakishly worn fedora. They’re not really outside the social milieu of politicians anymore but are regular guests at social events that attract top politicians. That doesn’t mean they tow the administration’s line. Rather, they don’t want to be wrong or even necessarily right if they’re right out on a limb. There’s a reason for the term “pack journalism.” But unless they’ve got a solid scoop, they’ll opt for balance, which usually means regurgitating each side’s line. So all the administration is doing is getting out their side of the story and not letting the other’s side’s spin or the pack’s interpretation become fact.

More important, how many times do we hear the Dem trying to react rather than getting their own line out? Not until the past week. The Lamont victory gave the Dems a little courage. But even after that victory, Dems seemed overwhelmed by the GOP message machine. In comments on a My DD blog entry a few days back,

Progressives aren’t getting booking calls. When the media search for Democrats to talk, they grab a Lieberman or a Biden on the one hand to make Dems look like Republicans minus conviction, or they get someone like Rangel who they know will get riled up and be a character but probably (and unfairly) get judged on personality, not substance.

Can it be changed? Maybe. But are these news outlets, who apparently have a vested interest in resisting grassroots progressivism, really inclined to give a legitimate soapbox to an eloquent progressive voice?

And on the party blog

[T]he hateful right owns the airs waves right now. We will never gain strength if we don’t control talk radio (for one example). I have been in contact with several of the station managers in northern Indiana for over a year and they all tell me the same thing – we have nothing to say that the people of this area want to hear.

We need to put Democrats in power again and the first – the very first thing they need to do is bring back the “Fairness Act” – if a station runs a right winger program like Limpbaugh (sic) for 3 hours, then they have to run a liberal show for the same amount of time… same way with any religious programing (sic) like 700 Club – if it’s on a TV station for 3 hours, then they have to put on a liberal show for the same amount of time.

We need this so much right now becasue (sic) you’re right – we’re not being heard…

Other comments:

I think that is why I am frustrated as well.

Clear messages are not coming out of the DNC..these issues are complicated and we all know deserve more than a 30 second sound byte…. We need reasonable, measured arguments to support the passion we all feel but unfortunately with the limited attention span Americans have, we need those one-liner sound bytes to rebut the Bush machine.

We have to have an organized fight to get our voices heard. Let me give you more information about how our markets in northern Indiana are simplfied (sic) by our right leaning radio station managers. When I asked one, who by the way is a regular on the local WNDU channel 16 tv station, connected with Notre Dame, he told me that in most cases, they have a “gut” feeling as to who they have on their programing (sic). When I pressed him if he or the station used any of the pro-active rating services he said – “sometimes”. My question then is very simple.. how can you have a gut feeling for what the market will bear if you don’t offer another view point? If you don’t give the other side a chance in voicing an opposing view – how do you know what the public will want to listen to?

This is just a lot of whining and the all too typical call for government regulation. Some will argue that what the White House does is easier because of the tighter control it can exercise over communications. For the Democratic Party, it might be more difficult, but only because the party hasn’t developed and institutionalized such a practice, probably because you’d see the kind of infighting we’re not witnessing between Howard Dean and Rahm Emanuel.

And is there that kind of coordination and planning of message in Virginia, where a Democrat is the chief executive?

Just a (Democratic) Thought

I listened to Dana Milbank tonight on “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” tonight say that the Bush/Cheney message of “vote for us or die” may be simplistic, but it would resonate with voters better than the Dems trying to draw a distinction between the “war on terror” and Iraq. If he’s right, read no further because I suggest that the Dems actually start talking about ideas like this. If we want to get peace in the Middle East, a prelude to any semblance of victory against terror, then we need this kind of thinking vis-à-vis Syria.

Working in tandem, the Bush administration and the French should try to change the Syrian calculus. Syria sees Hezbollah as a card — something to be exploited to make Syria a factor in the region or to be traded in the right circumstances. We should create a one-two punch with the French to make clear that Syria has something significant to lose by not cutting off Hezbollah, and that it has something meaningful to gain from changing course.

Surely, if the international force is seen as credible and determined, it can convince Assad that Hezbollah is going to be contained and that its value to Syria could diminish. But Assad must also see that Syria will pay an unmistakable price if it tries to block implementation of Resolution 1701. That price could be a joint French-E.U. and American effort to isolate Syria economically if it is unwilling to end its material support for Hezbollah.

The Europeans currently provide a critical economic lifeline to the Syrians. French President Jacques Chirac could credibly warn Assad that if arms flow to Hezbollah and threaten French troops, then Europe will cut all economic ties to Syria. Conversely, if Syria ended its military relationship with Hezbollah and accepted the Lebanese government’s effort to reestablish its authority, the European Union could promise new and meaningful economic benefits to Damascus.

In such a scenario, the European Union would be Act 1. Act 2 would involve the United States. The Bush administration, which has expressed an interest in weaning Syria away from Iran, won’t be able to do that without talking to the Syrians. And it won’t be able to do it by continuing to make threats that have no consequences. It will not be enough to continue saying, “The Syrians know what they need to do.”

The United States must reinforce a tough E.U. message with one of its own to Assad, namely this: We are prepared to implement a range of sanctions, including the Syrian Accountability Act and executive orders that would make it difficult for companies and financial institutions that do business in Syria to conduct business in the United States.

This would have the potential of choking off European, Asian (and even Arab) countries and businesses from having any commercial or investment relations with Syria — and it could be devastating for an already weak economy. That’s a lever that should be deployed to build the Syrian interest in cooperating.

No doubt the Syrians would want to know what they’d get from such cooperation. They should be told that the page can be turned in our relations, that economic benefits could be forthcoming, and that even a resumption of the peace process between Syria and Israel on the Golan Heights could be in the offing. None of these things can be available if Syria is not prepared to cut off Hezbollah and Hamas. Why, after all, would we invest anything in a peace process when those two organizations retain the means — with Syrian support — of subverting that process at a time of their choosing?

No, it won’t fit on a bumper sticker. But maybe “Vote Democratic … for a Reality-Based World” can. Who says the Dems don’t have ideas – and at least a preliminary knowledge of foreign affairs?

What Were They Thinking?

Sometimes one gets the feeling that the Dems, in an effort to prove they can be just as tough as the GOP, do some really stupid things.

That’s not to say that the Dems shouldn’t make some demands of immigrants. By all means, we can neither encourage illegal acts nor accept all who want to migrate here. But to conflate Hispanic immigrants with Osama bin Laden is political suicide.

Who We’re Losing

For those who may have missed it, The Post had a “Dispatch from the ‘New’ Mideast” in Sunday’s Outlook. These are the people we are losing and why we’re losing the “war on terror.”

“Our generation could have been different,” [Lubna] told [the article’s author] with exasperation recently, clutching a Diet Pepsi in one hand and a mentholated cigarette in the other. We had taken refuge from the Damascus heat in an air-conditioned room at a friend’s art gallery. “We really could have made peace. But now,” she shook her head, “it’s over. That possibility is gone.”

And, she says, it’s the United States’s fault, because it didn’t demand an immediate cease-fire in Lebanon. As the estimated death toll there rises to nearly 1,000, she and other secular Syrians of the art-gallery-and-democracy crowd are turning their sympathies toward the Islamic militant movement Hezbollah.

…But they’re just as wary of the United States’s failing democracy experiment in Iraq. The sectarian violence tearing that country apart is a potent vision of what they could one day face themselves. And so they feel forced into a corner, made to choose between a U.S. plan for a “new Middle East” that seems to show little respect for Arab lives and Arab ways and an Islamic-led resistance that could eventually turn against them at home.

And they are reluctantly choosing. “The issue of Hezbollah and the war is no longer rational,” one Syrian opposition figure told me. “It is emotional.”

What Party?

E. J. Dionne observes the irony of our political parties.

Republicans, who defend individualism in theory, act like communitarians where their party is concerned. Democrats claim to be more community-minded but act like radical individualists in their penchant for candidate-centered, one-cause-at-a-time politics.