Saturday, January 31, 2004

Tucson Rally: Excerpt Pt. II

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This is the second part of the recording, and the end of Dean's speech.

Hopefully, some of the Southwest Victory Express folks will be audio blogging later today as they finish canvassing around the state.

Tucson Rally: Excerpt Pt.I

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This is an excerpt from the Tucson Rally for Dean on Saturday 1/31/04. This begins about halfway through Dean's stump speech. The sound quality is pretty good throughout most of it, and you definitely get a sense of the awesome energy Dean stirred up. Unfortunately, I was unable to record General Hoar's magnificent speech on what leadership means to him and why Dean is a true leader in his eyes.

This recording is about 4 minutes long.

Friday, January 30, 2004

The RNC-Bush Strategy

Watching an RNC event with Ken Mehlman (link pops a video), Bush-Cheney 2004 Campaign Manager, on C-Span earlier, I realized two things. That Dean is the candidate that the RNC is most afraid of, and that Kerry is the candidate they are least concerned about.

There is reasoning and there is evidence behind the conclusion that the RNC is afraid of Dean. Their hail of attacks on Dean including spending hundreds of thousands on ads attacking Dean before a single primary vote was cast is ample evidence of thier fear. Reasoning suggests that the only candidates they would fear would be ones capable of inspiring millions of Americans to return to the political process on the side of the Democrats. Dean demonstrably has that ability. 55% of participants in the Iowa caucuses were brand new. Turnout for the NH primaries was up from the norm of 100-120K to 200K. It is Dean who is inspiring these turnouts.

Mehlman already has a thorough excoriation of Kerry's record at tongue-tip. He rips Kerry for more than just his liberal voting record, he upbraids him for sponsoring cuts in national defense and cuts intelligence funding following 9/11. He savages Kerry on his vote against the first Gulf War and his hypocrisy in voting for the Iraq resolution then condemning the war, voting for the Patriot Act then attacking it, voting for NCLB and attacking it. He has a point; doesn't Kerry read these things? How many more votes will Kerry have to defend himself on? Will he spend the entire campaign defending his record? If so, he's meat.

The idea that Kerry is electable because he's tall, a vet, and has good hair and somber manner is a joke. Electabillity isn't a personal quality, it a strategic asset. You can't see it by looking and listening as a candidate speaks. You have to understand his record, understand his hidden assets, and understand the power of his message.

Clark and Edwards have a superior electability simply as a matter of being Southern, having little record to attack, and, in Clark's case, being a General and war hero, and in Edwards case being a very strong personal campaigner. Either would be a superior choice to Kerry if voters want the more obvious trappings of electability.

But if they want real strengths which are the core a electability, Dean is the best choice. Dean has shaped the entire message and injected new life into the demoralized Democratic Party. Dean is capable, by dint of his message and his genuine charisma, of inspiring the millions of new active voters Democrats need to win. Dean has a genuine, open, and honest demeanor which can make inroads into new demographics. Dean pisses the Republican off. That throws them off their high horse which they have pretended to mount for this campaign and opens a line of attack against the GOP's negativity. Dean has inspired an army of hundreds of thousands of grassroots organizers and activists who can redress the imbalance in direct spending the the Democrats will suffer.

Dean is the most electable, the best choice for President, and source of inspiration to remake the Democratic Party. Kerry is a poor fourth, at best, in terms of being able to actually defeat Bush.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

I got your electability right here...

Bush Campaign Shifts Gears for Kerry, but not by much. Frankly, Kerry is 'vulnerable' to many of the same criticisms as Dean. Certainly the GOP will attempt to paint Kerry as an avatar of a clapped-out liberal tradition and the aristocratic North Eastern liberal who talks class warfare from the comfort of his Rolls Royce.

He will face criticism on his voting record both in its particulars, especially on his votes vs. his current positions on key Bush programs and the war, and, in general, as being more liberal than Edward Kennedy's, that ancient shibboleth of Conservatives. Kerry is as much a left-winger as they could ever hope to label Dean; only in Dean's case, it's demonstrably not true, in Kerry's case, it is.

They are also winding up the smear machine to cast Kerry as an angry man and negative nabbob. In addition, I imagine they will target Kerry's war record by going after his 'hypocrisy' in joining a protest and then only acting as if he were throwing his medals away. It's unfair, but that's what they will do. Also, it is a well-circulated rumor that Kerry enjoys the ladies and has had a number of affairs. Chances are that some ghost of Christmas parties past will come floating down from stage right to create a Gennifer Flowers moment to distract everyone from the real issues.

There is no horse in this race who doesn't have any tack for the GOP to grab, except possibly Edwards. The GOP is still concerned because he is a fresh face who has little track record to criticize, would play strong in the south, among women and blacks, and has an appealing message which captures Dean's concerns about the growing gap between the working class and the owning class; the "Two Americas" meme. The White House is concerned that it's an effective message, with few rhetorical hooks with which they can steer its semiotics.

Frankly, I like strategically nominating Edwards even less than I like the fact that Kerry's wave is all about superficial aspects of Kerry's bio and appearance that tend to make him appear "Presidential," and thus, "electable". I don't think that Democrats need to vote strategically. I think Bush is very beatable by any of the candidates, with the possible exceptions of Kuchinich and Sharpton.

What disturbs me so much about Edwards' appeal is the he would essentially be a Stealth Candidate. Someone who has the bare minimum credentials, but no record on which to judge his possible performance, and thus nothing to object to. If we begin selecting our elected officials the same way we too often must select our judicial appointments and confirmed officials, I fear for the future of our democracy. When the day comes that man and women of experience can no longer run for office because of a few warts on their records, public service will become the sole province of tyros and rascals.

Dean is the best man to be our President. He has the most executive experience, has learned the discipline to deliver what he promises, and has been entirely responsible for the energy of the Democratic party and the high turnouts that have so far characterized these primary contests. He has driven the agenda and shaped the message and the attitude of the entire field of candidates. My worst fear is that even if he doesn't take the nomination, that he will drop back out of the public view, and without his anodyne yet stimulating presence, the passion of the party will ebb as Dean supporters despair, and, turning inwards, nurse their wounds.

In response to milder prodding, and the rhetorical assault of the GOP designed to moderate our message, the nominee's message will indeed smooth out, have the sharp elbows knocked off it, have the confrontational tone mitigated to the point where Democrats once again feel lost, unrepresented, uninspired, and they begin to lose interest again.

If anyone can knock the fun out of a campaign it's Kerry. He's a killjoy; he can't help it. I'm glad he's showing signs of life, but I wonder if he can keep it up without ploding stolidly along, starring at Dean's back and muttering, "Dean, Dean, Dean, Dean..." to himself.

So, let's make this rumination just so much wool-gathering and deliver a win for Dean on the 3rd. I don't care for the alternative all that much.

News & Opinion Roundup

Edwards Rejects a Kerry-Edwards Ticket ("Unless I get to be on top," said Edwards, arching his back and baring his teeth playfully...)
Buoyant Kerry storms the South (but his head won't fit through any of the Appalachian passes...)
Truth catching up to Bush (and shoving a big stick in the spokes of his bike...)
Party Leaders Express Relief at the Emergence of Kerry ("OK. Things are back to normal. Now we can fade into irrelevance as a Party with dignity, gravitas, and great hair," says Terry McCauliffe...)
Voter Turnout Shows Democrats 'Energized and Angry'(while this coulmn shows our writers have been living in a cave for three years...)

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Crunch Time

The blogsphere is abuzz with speculation about Dean's replacement of Trippi with Neel. But there are few answers about what it might mean for the campaign.Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall seems shocked. Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit is simply linking into other commentary; seems to be making up his mind. Kos points out the obvious causes, but declines to speculate any further. Most other blogs are similarly mind locked in expository mode.

Well, it's going out a limb to predict much of anything at this point, but there are some fairly obvious facts from which to make a few guesses. Here are the harsh facts:

1) The Dean campaign is broke. The word is: 3 million in the bank, 3 million in debt. Staffers asked to do without pay until some scratch is scared up.

2) The wheels came off in NH and IA. The structure of the campaign just didn't gell. Communications and logistics has become something near a nightmare. The Stormers were more a wandering mob than a cohesive force.

3) Neel has been brought in to pare down the staff, get fiscal controls into place and smooth organizational wrinkles. He also is a conduit into a network of powerbrokers, lobbyists, and carreer pols whom Dean needs now to stay in the kitchen and keep Kerry's boney hand out of the Nomination cookie jar.

These are just educated guesses, I am a sieve through which a lot of info passes, but I don't know much for certain. Here is what I think this means for the campaign:

1) One of the most obvious consequences is Dean is will be retooling his message and moving to the right before anticipated. He always expected to move his message rightward and stand more on his record once he has captured the nomination, but Kerry's unexpected surge on a perception of 'electability' means that Dean is going to have run right to cut off Kerry's march to the endzone.

2) Dean will begin to emphasize problems with Kerry's record that are likely to be zingers during a general election. Dean will highlight his support for the first Gulf War and Kerry's vote against it (damned if you, damned if you don't, eh Kerry?). Hammer Kerry on his vote in favor of Bush's tax cuts in preference to Kerry's Iraq War vote and hook it to a theme of fiscal discpline and responsibility. Criticize Kerry's expensive Cadillac health care proposal, and other spending packages as budget busters when combined with his pandering middle class tax cuts; then demonstrate the deficits expected from the plan.

3) Launching a proxy air war using Dean endorsements (including Gore) to work the issues on the media circuit and paid media. Also, possibly using grassroots ideas for ads to save on costs and increase effectiveness. The well-known Switch2Dean ads recently inked an agreement with Trippi's firm to air their ads and produce new ones focused on coming primary states. I'm guessing there will be a lot of demand for former Kerry, Clark, and possibly Edwards converts. Whether this deal will stick through the Trippi shakeup is unknown, but Trippi's firm continues to have Dean's ad work for the time being. Whether going to the grassroots was a measure of their creative bankruptcy, or an inspired and much belated move, I leave to you to judge.

Finally, the big speculation. Dean hasn't the money to make media buys in the Super 7 tier of states. If he isn't able to get an injection of capital soon, he may barnstorm about the states some, but I suspect he may just make a lot of satellite appearances while hunkered down in Arizona and New Mexico until Feb. 3rd, hoping for a really strong showing or a win in one or both to boost him along for another month. From there he squats in Michigan for two weeks until that primary on Feb 17th, skipping TN and VA except for satellite and air time, if he has the resources. Michigan is the crown jewel before March 2nd. If Dean can pull a Clark/Lieberman and work that one state hard and pull out a win, it may revitalize the campaign and inject new money into the campaign heading into the day that decides it all, March 2nd. A win here may also de-spin the frontrunner enough to build a comeback buzz heading into March 2nd. The winner of CA, NY, and OH will cap the race like nothing leading up to it. Every candidate with an ounce of life left in their campaign will stay in the race until March 2nd hoping to pull out a miracle. Luckily for Kerry, MA is one of these states and virtually guarantees him at least one win.

So what can you do? Donate, donate, and donate some more. Sell some stuff, and donate. Sell an organ, and donate. Then get out there. We have to deliver this state. AZ and NM are very much must-win states for Dean. Edwards has SC, Clark looks good for OK, Kerry is strong in many states due to the hysterical rush into his camp, especially MO. For Dean to remain credible, he needs at least one win on February 3rd. So get out there, and let's win one for Dean!

Flash News - Dean in Pima County (Updated)

What: Rally with Dean
When: Saturday, 8:30 am
Where: Reid Park Bandshell

Howard Dean will be in the Old Puebo on Saturday, 1/31/04 at 9am with Rep. Raul Grijalva and  General Joseph P. Hoar (Marines, Ret).

Be sure to let all your friends and associates who might be leaning toward Dean know. Dean should be here at 8:30am at the Reid Park bandshell for a Rally. Keep an ear to ground at and call or stop by the Tucson office at 520-403-5879, 4639 E First Street, Tucson, AZ 85711 and volunteer to help out with the final push for victory this weekend.

This weekend there will be massive canvassing walks in conjunction with the Southwest Victory Express, Superbowl parties, Human Billboards (WHEN: Friday, Jan 30, Morning Rush Hour 7:30 to 9:00 or 9:30 & Monday, Feb 2, Morning Rush Hour 7:30 to 9:00 or 9:30 WHERE: Grant and Oracle / Speedway and Campbell, contact Jim Nelson, 292-0693, email:; Broadway and Craycroft, contact Steve Stayton, 296-5323, email:; Speedway and Wilmot, contact Judy Miller, 296-5323, email:; Bring rally signs if you have them, we will also do the human signs in the afternoon rush hours from 4PM to 5:30PM if we have interest)

Dean Replaces Joe Trippi

Dean Replaces Campaign Manager Joe Trippi following 2nd and 3rd place showings in NH and IA. In an attempt to shake up the campaign, Dean has brought in Roy Neel, long-time associate of Al Gore, Chief of Staff to Al Gore from 1993-1995, former Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy and Communications to President Bill Clinton, who left that Administration to become President of the U.S. Telecom Association.

We here in Arizona would like to give a shout out to our man Joe Trippi. You did a hell of a hard job, and you did it well. Every signle one of us was impressed by your dedication and creativity, and grateful for how you helped us put our unknown dark horse candidate at the head of the herd. Best of luck to you, and see you in the White House. You are are the Jedi master of the new American politics.

Neel brings powerful contacts on K Street, the telecommunications industry and thoughout Gore's network of supporters. Neel, an expert on Presidential transitions and adjunct professor at Vanderbuilt, has been with the Dean campaign as a senior advisor since early January.

Expect Neel to establish a clear chain of command to centralize creation of Dean's message. Neel holds a Masters in Public Administration from Harvard and specializes in staff management issues. It seems clear from the choice that Dean feels that his performance in the the early primaries is due, at least in part, to poor organizational preparation. Dean has apparently decided that much deeper and more reliable campaign organization is desirable.

News and Opinion Summary

Telegraph | Knowns, unknowns and the Ketchup Kid

Charleston (Subscription req.) | Kerry launching ad blitz in next 7 primary states

Oakland | Bush stands behind pre-war intelligence

Los Angeles | The Next Stop for Democrats

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Still Standing

Momentum is for falling rocks, not for selecting the most powerful man in the world. Momentum in a social context is generally a reserved for describing unreasoning mass events such as stampedes, mass-hysteria, and pro football. John Edwards spoke today in his address to supporters about his momentum 'captivating' America. Yes, momentum robs us of will and reason and holds us captive to the power of the crowd. It allows us to shed responsibility for our own decisions and merge ourselves comfortably in the embrace of the pre-frontal impulses of our neighbors.

Dean built his support one person at a time. Slowly and patiently a network of ideas by which Americans could take back their nation crystallized around Dean like a gem around a seed. Building the conceptual tools by which to reach people's hearts and minds to galvanize them for the task rebuilding their party, and taking back their government. But such networks are inherently fragile in the face of people's herd instincts. Difficult to maintain in the face of panic and fear. Dean's opponents have skillfully used Democrat's fear that Bush could win another four years to break the coalitions Dean has built.

And that's all it is - unreasoning fear. Bush is weak. He's under assault by GOP moderates as well as the fiscal conservatives and limited government people in his own party. His re-elect numbers are in the toilet. The economy has indigestion from trying to swallow the billions in corporate welfare and defense-related spending Bush has primed the pumps with, and produces profits for corporate stakeholders, but scant jobs. The war in Iraq rolls on, demonstrating daily that we are not in control as the death toll climbs.

But the momentum from Iowa and the media's obsession about trifles continues to play out. The Dean Team in NH have clawed back from a possible 4th or 5th place showing with skill and judgement, yet the media considers it an underperformance because we led in the polls prior to Iowa. It is, in fact, one of the most skillful comebacks in modern political history, and a testament to the good sense of the independent minded inhabitants of NH.

That Dean was able to pull back into second place, netting nearly as many votes as Edwards and Clark combined, speaks to his enormous personal appeal, and rock solid sense of himself. Yet the some are saying that Dean must now leave the race. What poppycock. Dean is only beginning to rebuild his network, stronger and more tightly now, to contain the surges of momentum and deflect the long knives of the media. The further we move away from the epicenter of the 'Mo, Iowa, and the intended killing stroke of the media, the rebel yell, the stronger Dean becomes. From 3rd in Iowa, to 2nd in NH, Dean is putting it back together voter by voter.

Dean's message will carry on, even if he does not; but as platitudes and slogans in the mouths of the other candidates. They may now be saying what Howard Dean has been saying all along, but they aren't big enough to embody the truth of those words. They may say "Take back America," they may taunt Bush with attacks and slogans, they may pretend to be against the war, they may ape Dean's positions and pretend that their campaigns are about returning the power to the people, but it will wear thin. In the days and weeks ahead, the excitement and the hysteria, generated by the flush of victory will subside. People will take a look at the men whom they are supporting and see ambition, hubris, and the toll of year and years of compromise. People will look at the issues, and see the empty and unrealistic promises. People will watch Dean and ask themselves why they follow a hollow imitation, rather than joining arm in arm the real McCoy.

Dean has give the party a spine to stand up to Bush and the courage to stand proudly for Democratic values; a soul on the issue of fundraising, to live and die by the personal support of the people, not crumbs falling off the table shared between the GOP and corporate America; and a structure by which America will be ruled, Trippi's web of webs, not the ivory and steel towers of the old corporate model, now passing into history.

Dean has never been about Bush bashing, or hating the GOP. But the other campaigns haven't yet learned this. Even as Kerry adopts a taunting "Bring it on!" as his unofficial slogan, it has the brittle sound of braggadocio in supporters mouths. The Dean campaign in my experience has always about standing up for ourselves, not cutting others down. It has always been about not being ashamed of who you are, not shaming others about who they are. It has always been about caring for this country as you would a part of yourself, and caring about others as if they were members of your own family. We've welcomed every person who comes with good faith. The Dean campaign is about love. Of country. Of self. Of your countrymen. Of our unbounded future. And, yes, you get angry when someone tries to destroy the things you love.

Are Deaniacs protective of their candidate? You bet. He's ours, and you protect what is yours. Are Deaniacs convinced that Dean is the only one with the courage to stop Bush and his cronies? You bet. We've seen the evidence in the spineless collapse of people like Kerry, Edwards, and Lieberman, when the chips were down, and the self-interested collaboration of men like Clark. Are Deaniacs unreasonably devoted to Dean? Do we worship him like a cult? No. Dean is fallible and could fall out of favor if he were to do something that showed truly poor judgement or a lack of commitment to our cause. Whooping like an idiot is neither. Just human. And being human is something we've wanted of our leaders for a very long time.

So I just want to remind those reading, Dean supporters or otherwise, the most important thing is that we win. The people. Not the party. The most important thing is that we get the truth from our government, access to our government, and voice in our government. So for me, the most likely candidate to deliver when elected, is the who is delivering while he's running.

We will continue and will not stop until the convention. Dean will get stronger as he bounces off this rough spot and as the field narrows to two or three candidates. Dean has the money and organization to keep running even without winning, but there will be victories, and America will come to see Dean's stature and ability. America will see what all of us have seen: that Howard Dean is the President America needs.

Guest Opinion - Journalism Gets an F

As a journalist myself, it pains me to watch what is happening to Howard Dean right now. As I write this, the results from New Hampshire are not in yet, but the results of the national media's "take" on Iowa are in.

And that's the problem. Covering politics has become a process of reduction. Even print media have no space or time to make in-depth comparisons between candidates on the
issues. And the TV media -- forget it, give them the short visual or the sound byte. The Media wants us to BELIEVE the famous Dean Scream makes up for all the missing analysis. That and the horse-race approach to coverage IS their coverage.

The Democrats have a candidate who has used the Internet and brave stances in opposition to the most cynical Republican maneuvers of the last 2 years FOR the last 2 years. A candidate who has brought in enormous numbers of young voters for the FIRST TIME in their lives. And yet I saw a network piece on TV last night about all the young voters John Kerry has brought to the process in New Hampshire. The reporter had been totally co-opted by the press people on the Kerry campaign. If all the Internet supporters, young and old, who have supported Dr. Dean come away from Arizona and Feb. 3 with the impression their efforts have been ignored by Democrats and the National Media, do NOT expect these people to vote for ANYONE next November.

"Elect-ability" or "the best candidate to beat George W. Bush" is a perception debate that gets DEFINED by the media, even when they like to pretend they have objectivity on this issue. Voters get their "take" on this issue from the media. I suggest the most elect-able Democrat would be the one who brings in the most new voters.

Howard Allen
Journalist, Former Editor of The Tucson Weekly

Monday, January 26, 2004

Wesley Clark on Iraq and Kosovo

Exclusive: Wesley Clark Faces Tough Questioning from Independent Press.

I have a lot of admiration for the achievements and personal qualities of Gen. Clark. I was terribly excited during the period earlier in the campaign when the rumors were flying that Dean was going to ask Clark to be his running mate. What a team! But as is often the case, the bloom of infatuation preceeds the discovery that your object of veneration has flaws like all the rest of us. General Clark's may not be unreasonably eggregious for most men, but they may be damaging for a Presidential candidate. Nor am I speaking a character generalizations that are, more often than not, simply exaggerrated and manipulated portrayals of everyday traits which make us all human. Nor do I give too much credence to the statements of any one man about the character of another. Who knows what may motivate someone to attack the character of a former associate? No, I firmly believe that the record of what a man has done is who he is, in ways that mere rhetoric cannot erase, and that no critic can dim. No person is perfectly consistent, we've all done things against our better judgement, and, heaven knows, we all make mistakes. Expecting any candidate to be perfect is absurdly naive, but not looking at and evaluating what a man's mistakes and inconsistencies say about him is equally naive.

I must say I have always been somewhat uncomfortable with the circumstances of Clark's discharge from command and his explanation for it. I can certainly believe that his discharge was politically motivated, but I would be interested to know what mistakes Clark made in the internal politics of the Defense Department to be treated so shabbily. Clark never evaluates this incident in terms of mistakes he may have made. He casts it as the unfounded, or possibly jealous, emnity of others. In my experience, even the most unreasoning hatred has a foundation in the perceptions of others; Clark may not have deserved the treatment he endured, but he almost certainly brought it about. The fact that he brought about him downfall and either lacks insight as to why, or feels his flaws so deeply that he hides them, says something about the man. And then, for him to be taken at such a tactical disadvantage that he had no chance to fight back when his tormentors tore from him the most important thing in his life, suggests that Clark has blind spots that could prove disasterous in the highest reaches of political life.

General Clark's record on the Iraq War has been ambiguous, at best, and, in my view, does not justify his more catagorical statements that he opposed the war from the start. The truth is much more subtle than that. It is refreshing to see General Clark now facing real critical media sources such as Democracy Now!, and I applaud him for it. A read, or a viewing, of this interview with Jeremy Scahill is a refreshingly clear portal into the General's recent, and more distant, past. The General's performance during the Yugoslav action has received relatively little press attention. There have been wild charges of recklessly provocative behavior toward the Russians, but I have seen no substance to such charges. This interview with Clark explores his record in Yugoslavia more carefully, and more responsibly. Given that the General bases his claim to the Presidency in large measure on his military career, it is important to evaluate the capstone of that record, his conduct of the war in Yugoslavia. That is, in part, what this interview does.

His appearances as a commentator during the pre-invasion and during the war, and his advice to others, have left many convinced that his views on the war were much closer to those of the Administration than he now claims. His repeated need to make subtle distinctions about his record on the war, his claim to be generally misunderstood as to his meanings, his undenied advice to Congressional candidate Loretta Swett to vote for 'the' resolution, and his warning to Tom Brokaw to 'be careful' about his questioning of Clark on the subject, have left plenty of room for doubt about Clark's candor about this. Even after lauching his Presidential bid, and having written a book about terrorism and the Middle East, the General seemed unsure about his position.

The New York Times, Sept. 19, 2003: "Gen. Wesley K. Clark said today that he would have supported the Congressional resolution that authorized the United States to invade Iraq. . . . 'At the time, I probably would have voted for it, but I think that's too simple a question,' General Clark said. A moment later, he said: 'I don't know if I would have or not. I've said it both ways because when you get into this, what happens is you have to put yourself in a position -- on balance, I probably would have voted for it.'"

Washington Post, Sept. 20, 2003: "Retired Army Gen. Wesley K. Clark reversed course yesterday on the issue of Iraq, saying that he would 'never have voted' for the congressional resolution authorizing President Bush to go to war, just a day after saying that he likely would have voted for it."

If Clark was for the war and changed his mind later, I think people can respect that. Many citizens supported the war in good faith, trusting the President to be honest and forthright about the security needs of our nation. I do not hold it agaist people that they were misled. Many of us only resisted belief because of our deep mistrust of this President. I rejoice every time I meet a citizen who once supported the war but has repudiated that position as it becomes ever more clear that the President's evidence was nothing more than carefully constructed lies and hyperbole. If Wesley Clark is one of those citizens, he should say so. The record certainly suggests that he was; why doesn't he admit having been misled like so may others? Perhaps he thinks his repute as a military insider, a far-sighted guardian of the public's safety would be damaged by any admission that he, too, was duped.

Ultimately, I think these contradictions would tear apart a Clark campaign against Bush. There are inumerable ways that Clark may have signaled his approval of the war unambiguously to his associatiates in the defense sector, media, and politics who are adherents of the Republican Party. Those private confidences and overheard comments are going to come crawling out of the woodwork like ticks on the scent of blood if the primary season ends with Wesley Clark as the nominee. An admission during that election that he was misled is much more damaging than if that admission came now. Now, Democratic voters would have to choice as to whether Clark's failure of insight, and lack of candor, is acceptable. If it comes out instead in the general election, Democratic voters will no longer have any choice - and voters without choice stay home.

Zogby NH!

Zogby NH! Dean has nearly closed the gap in NH and is set to overtake Kerry. When Dean turns in a win (or at worst a 2nd) after the drubbing he's taken, it will become startlingly clear to all that the voters will not let Dean down.

Those who hastily bounced to Kerry in a panic will remember why they decided that Dean was the best man for the job, and Kerry's wave will subside into the sands of history.

We have only begun to fight!

Bones v. Bones?

The Secret Society that unites John Kerry and President Bush is Yale's own Skull and Bones. Many have commented, and even attacked Dean for his background's similarities to that of G.W. Bush. But those similarities are accidents of birth and choices made for him. Their Yale connection, which isn't really surprising, is the only voluntary similarity between them. But Kerry attended Yale too, and voluntarily became a member of the very same society that attracted the loyalty of young W.

Does this connection between Kerry and Bush have any real significance? Skull and Bones is a secret society, and Kerry won't, or can't, comment on the reasons he joined, the purpose of the society, or how he feels about running against a fellow Bonesman. We do know that the society's purpose is certainly not to help others; the society does no philathropic work and does not endow charity. Its only discernable purpose is assisting the advancement, and enhancing the personal power of the members. Bonesmen pervade Bush's Administration; one of the obligations of a Bonesman is aid the advancement of others. Bonesmen are found throughout the world of finance, government, the media, and the intelligence community, which is a very handy network of loyal contacts to have.

If Kerry were to win the nomination, it would be the first Bones vs. Bones Presidential election ever. One wonders what might happen. We know from the few people that have been able to penetrate some of the secrets of the Bones that personal loyalty between the members is of paramount value. Could it be possible that Kerry has a... mission?

What if Kerry's enormous last minute surge, due to an odd, press-assisted, last-minute surge in IA and the media's deliberate obsession with an excited utterance of Dean's, enables Kerry to take the nomination? Wouldn't that be a great source of satisfaction to the many other Bonesmen who are in a position to have assisted and to profit from the status quo?

What if in a rush to select the person who seems most 'electable' against Bush, Democratic voters chose the one Democrat who doesn't really have much incentive to beat him? What are the odds that of the estimated 800 living Skull and Bones members, of which much less than half are of the correct age to become president, that two of them would end up facing each other as the nominees of BOTH parties? The situation certainly would be of comfort to me, were I a member of the class from which the Bones draws its members.

And how well do voters really know Kerry? Perhaps there's a good reason he was bottom feeding in every state and had to remortgage his home to stay in the race? The voters who had known him best and longest had rejected him. It seems a pattern with Kerry: early support, people get to know him and fall away, late in the race he surges on a tide of media and wins. I wonder who he calls on to get that last minute surge, when image can be everything, and there is no time for the burnout and buyers remorse he inspires over the long haul. The Presidential election is long haul.

There are many opinions, which Kerry has shared publicly in the past, which do not square with his currently espoused views, and that many potential Democratic supporters might find distasteful. Have people really taken the time to learn his record in the Senate, the positions he has taken and views he has espoused? Do people know of his record of smear campaign tactics, of the push polling of the lowest sort in IA, which the press has ignored? Push polling suggesting that Dean beats his wife, and that she is "a Jew"; not "Jewish", "a Jew."

With the months Dean spent at the head of the pack, there was time for the press and other candidates to ferret out Dean's every pimple. The worst they could dig out complete failed to knock him off stride. What will the press find about Kerry over the ensuing months until the General election? One could really be buying a pig in a poke. If the NYT can find such disturbing things about Kerry with what was likely just a casual search of their own database, what will 200 million dollars of oppo work find? Affairs? Inexplicable patterns of voting that oddly coincide with the interests of his corporate donors? Who knows? But one thing we can be sure it will not dredge up is the secret rites, oaths, and loyalties owed by Mr. Kerry to the Skull and Bones.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

On Kerry's Wave

The latest polling in AZ is showing a statistical dead heat between Dean, Kerry, and Clark. "After Iowa, we're riding the wave," said Mario Diaz, Kerry's Arizona campaign director. It's not surprising -- one would expect Kerry's wave to slosh into the Super 7 states -- but the real issue is what shift in thinking among voters it represents: going from less than 3% to 17% in a matter of days is a hysteria, not a decision.

Any surfer will tell you that every wave, no matter how big, ends with the rider in the same place at the end of each ride - in the drink. Such a sudden surge is nearly the definition of soft support; these are voters who are still making up their minds and open to alternatives, not solid Kerry supporters. This wave is not a reasoned decision, but follow-on support and snap decisions about 'electability'.

Those early supporters who made Kerry the front-runner and then dropped him after a good long look are illustrative of Kerry's superficial allure to voters: he's all surface and no core. At first glance Kerry seems to be everything a Presidential candidate should be, but it is all posturing and carefully studied mummery. The early voters saw his true nature and nearly put Kerry out of the race because of it. Now a new wave of people are starting to pay attention and have noticed the same superficial characteristics that made Kerry the early favorite and are surging toward him blindly. Our job is to make seeing through Kerry's act quicker and easier for this new wave of voters. Luckily, we have some time and some cushion against the polls.

Fortunately, Frank Costanzo, and others planning the Dean campaign in AZ, decided early on to focus on putting the election in the bag as early as possible through early mail-in balloting. Because of that foresight, which had the campaign calling thousands of likely Dean supporters early and getting their ballots in as soon as possible, some of Dean's support is already in the box. The polling does not include those who have already voted and thus under-represents Dean's expected results in AZ's final count. These votes are a cushion against unexpected fluctuations and a reason to look past the polls and focus on those who are still potentially Dean supporters and to reach out to those voters.

The poisonous meme ABB (anybody but bush), which I have written of previously, is harming us. AZ Democratic Party Chairman Jim Pederson confirms the power of the ABB meme, "Contrary to past election cycles where issues really dominated . . . there just seems to be an overriding passion within the party to select the one who can go head to head with President Bush." Many people asked why they selected Kerry, can only give the reason that they think he can beat Bush.

The fallacy of ABB lies in the idea that Bush is especially strong. He's not; in fact, even in this week following the SOTU, when he should have enjoyed a bump, his approval is still falling and his re-elect numbers are in the low 40's. I firmly believe that a well-run and well-supported campaign by Kerry, Dean, Edwards, or Clark can beat Bush.

Once people stop making the non-choice choice of ABB, they have to use a rational criteria to select a candidate.

Asked what domestic issues mattered most in deciding whom to support, respondents said the economy and jobs (35 percent), health care and medicine (32 percent) and education (16 percent) were their top priorities. If one evaluates the candidates' policies in these areas, Dean is the superior choice, with superior qualifications, and a solid record of delivering the goods.

People want an effective leader to inspire Democrats to beat back the GOP. Only Dean has the guts to tell the truth to America and push back the shadows of secrecy and apathy that have enveloped our government. The GOP's riding high on a pile of lies and deceptions, if they are ruthlessly pushed into the light of public scrutiny, their support will go down the toilet. Only Dean has the brass to do it.

People want real reform in Washington. To get big-money special interests out, and the people back in. As Mark Shields said on MLNH the other night, Dean has given the Democratic party back its soul on this issue with his unique popularly financed campaign.

Dean has the qualities to be a great President. His executive experience, proven discipline in delivering on long-term goals and promises, strong record of fiscal discipline, job creation, and health care reform, and his bedrock commitment to the values of family, service to one's community, and helping the less-fortunate, and even his forceful personality, make him the best man for the job.

We have a chance to remind people why they chose Dean, and to attack the ABB virus that is pushing many to make an irrational and groundless snap decision to support Kerry. Dean supporters need to take this opportunity to reinforce with voters the many rational reasons to vote for Dean over the others.

SWVE and the Comeback Bat

Southwest Victory Express is back! Our friends from all over the southwest have come to AZ and NM to help us in this critical weekend to contact as many voters for Dean as possible. The campaign is gearing up for the final push into the Primary on Feb 3rd.

The bat is back with a million dollar goal. That's a bunt for Dean supporters! Let's knock that bad-boy over the fence and give the Media something to think about. Please, dig out your wallet and click on the real thing in the right-hand column now! Part of demonstrating Dean's continued viability, and building up the courage of voters to vote for a real change in America, is demonstrating the we can go the distance and stand toe to toe with the corporate financed candidates.

It took John Kerry 5 days to raise a million this past week. That with all the mo that an upset victory in IA brought him. We can beat that.

Clark has had his bling-bling choo-choo to NH up for an embarrassing long time, and its scheduled to pull in on the 29th carrying a cool two million. Let's beat it into the station!

To get involved in this weekend AND next week's festivities, when SWVE is returning once again, contact your local Dean headquarters for details. There will be neighborhood walks, dialing parties, and a big rally with Rep. Grijalva of AZ and Rep. Menendez of NJ followed by a major fundraiser reception this Sunday. Next week there will again be major canvassing across the State in conjunction with SWVE and Super Bowl house parties on the 1st.

Come out and make some memories and meet some new friends. You will want the contacts come Super Tuesday should you decide to travel to one of the SWVEers states to lend a hand.

I circulated instructions for voice blogging by phone to the SWVE volunteers. Hopefully some of them will call in and share their stories, impressions, and interviews here soon. You will then be able to download audio clips recorded by SWVE adventurers from this blog. Stay tuned!

Saturday, January 24, 2004


Personality Politics

Just what is a "Presidential" personality? And do people really vote on the basis of a candidate personality?

In 2000 it certainly played a role in Gore's slide from shoe-in to victim of a stolen election. People tended to think that Gore was cold, uncaring, wooden, and humourless. That sounds like a certain current 'frontrunner', doesn't it? While W, right or wrong, was seen as genuine, easy-going, warm and caring. According to DSM-IV, sociopaths are very good at creating that kind of superficial impression.

In my last post, I noted that only 50% of voters found Dean's personality Presidential, while 86% found that Kerry's was. There seems to be a contradiction, but maybe not.

The latter poll's question is likely flawed. There is no control which would indicate that people would vote on the basis of this impression of having a "Presidential personality". If anything, the evidence is just the opposite. If they wanted "Presidential" as exemplified by Kerry, voters would not have dinged Gore on his personality. There are other factors of the character frame of self-aggrandizing fibber that the press hung around Gore's neck, but as long as one can agree that Kerry's personality is more like Gores than W's, one can accept that there may be little correlation between Presidential personality and actual Presidential preference.

Now Edwards is by no means cold, aloof, or stiff, yet he scores second only to Kerry in the Presidential personality poll. He does not seem especially stern or controlled, if anything, he seems relaxed, genuine, and personable. He is by far the closest in personal charisma and style to Bill Clinton of any of the candidates. I think this may be where the numbers come from with Edwards and to a lesser extent, Clark. People continue to associate the personal style of Clinton, an articulate and personally warm Southern charm, with being Presidential.

What really waxes me off is that Lieberman also elbows out Dean on "Presidential personality". So possibly self-righteous self-regard mixed in with priggishness and a dollop of the bore is Presidential. I doubt it, but Joe is a steady and (mostly) disciplined campaigner capable of staying religiously on message, and glacially placid.

I suspect that much of this feeling in the electorate that Dean's personality is an issue comes from the media, but a portion of it also comes with his intensity, not a trait much noted in Presidents in the fifty years, at least. The President whom Dean reminds me of most as an orator is Teddy Roosevelt. He had the same masculine, vociferous delivery, and same fireplug physique and aggressive gestural repetoire. I think if Teddy came back to run for President, he might throw a scare into a few people, too.

A portion of the perception that Dean's personality is somewhat forbidding comes from people not seeing his family. Edwards has made extensive use of his family in recent weeks, to very good effect. Great family appearances are not an automatic ticket to nomination, certainly; Graham has a large, attractive, and loving family whom all admired. But I expect Judy's appearance on the Sawyer interview will do wonders for Dean in the coming weeks. It was a very good move that indicates to the that campaign had a very good handle on what needed to be done. The polls seem to bear out the team's instincts and timing. They acted with a speed and judgment that will likely go down as one of the great saves in political history when Dean comes back from this dip to take the nomination and the Presidency. Then bleeding has apparently ceased in NH. I have no doubt that all those folks working their rears off in the ice up there are going to pull this out and grab a ticket out of NH, maybe even a win.

Dean may need to be seen by voters in Presidential situations to establish him acting "Presidential" in the voters' minds. Too often, in the press coverage Dean has been getting at least, he is glad-handing or stumping and looking fierce. I hope to see some facilities tours, diplomatic situations, conferences, and heavily advanced speaking engagements, which emphasize both his personal warmth and his potential for true gravitas. It's more scripted and media oriented than the Dean campaign usually is, but all those undecideds need to be reassured that Dean is a 'safe' choice. His media profile is what is netting Kerry these surges. The media is going to be making more and more of a difference to the growth of the campaign, and Dean needs to be ready for prime time, all the time.

One bright spot is that Dean has gotten more free FM airtime than probably any candidate in history with the Rebel Yell parodies and remixes bouncing among the shock jocks and drive time Rush wanna-bes. His name recognition is probably through the roof with some very unusual demographics who might like what they hear. This might do wonders for our GOTV in the 18-25 demographic :)

Friday, January 23, 2004

The Imperfect Storm

The Imperfect Storm, Dozens of local Deaniacs traveled to Iowa to help Howard Dean score his first big victory on the road to the Democratic nomination. So how did they react when their candidate got his ass handed to him?, by Sandeep Kaushik

My wife wrote to me about this story, suggesting that I blog it. She too is a Dean supporter, but not a Deaniac like myself. She has the feeling that there may be something off-putting to less fanatical, more casual Dean supporters about the true believers. She wrote:

Hello Honey-

I found an article that you'll probably want to put in your blog. It's pretty good, and it gave me some ideas that jibed with a conversation I had with Dmitry [Ed.- a coworker] today. You remember, he went to a Dean rally in Seattle and was very impressed, but today he said that the "cult-like" nature of the Deaniacs is a problem for him. We didn't have much time to talk, but I think I know what he meant. The enthusiasm of the Deaniacs is born not only of inspiration but also
desperation, and nobody likes to be around desperate people. Average people who get their news from headlines and sound bites probably feel that Dean is not talking to them (partly, I think, in response to the media's penchant for portraying all his supporters as part of Generation Dean). I myself am made a
bit uneasy by the near-rabid nature of some of the volunteers, including my own husband. To quote from the article: What pitchfork will you fall on when he loses?

In a solidly Midwestern state like Iowa, where liberals are viewed with suspicion and social norms are narrowly defined, the Deaniacs probably are viewed as maniacs. (Yes, I know - he's not a liberal.) I also suspect that the influx of volunteers from other states may have had a negative impact. After all, all these people from strange, populous, coastal states came pouring in to tell the poor, uninformed, unsophisticated Iowans how to vote!

I think the only way for Dean to get back on track is to back off from his cult leader image. The reason Kerry won Iowa is simply that he looks, acts, and feels like the presidents that you see in sound bites on the six-o-clock news. Most people are scared of radical change, be it good or bad. Kerry therefore seems like a "safe" choice, even leaving aside the issue of "electability." (God, I'm sick of that word.) It makes me sad to say, but it's time to get "presidential." Dean's a smart guy - I think he can do that without compromising his integrity. Dean needs to start showing the people what to expect, and to show them that he is going to be able to work the machine to make good things happen. He needs air time with state, national, and foreign leaders if possible.

What I am trying to say, is that Dean needs to say: "We've had our fun, but now it's time to get serious!"

I think my wife has some very useful insights. I married her for some of the same reasons Dean married Judy, including the fact that she's smarter than I am :)

To many Deanaics, Dean is more than a politician; he is the savior of Democracy. Such a role demands a certain zeal, a certain showmanship, and a larger than life personality. There is a virtuous feedback cycle which rewards Dean's more bracingly partisan performances. One can see the transformation we have wrought in Howard's style if one compares his public personna from his years as Governor of Vermont to today; he's barely recognizable as the same person. The change wrought in him from being the avatar of so much hope, and so much rage, has drawn forth something beautiful, and frightening to many: true belief. More than any other politician in recent memory, Dean exudes such complete conviction in the rectitude of his cause, such an utter lack of disingenuousness, that it is off-putting to some. People have come to expect, and apparently require, that a President be like John Kerry - equivocal, cautious, detached, even cynical.

People seems to think the Dean is less "Presidential" than other candidates -- polling certainly supports this view. Kerry is the top of the heap (86% positive) in terms of "the kind of personality a President should have" compared to Dean at the bottom (50%) among the 'viable' five, according a recent NH voter poll. Clark, Edwards, and Lieberman all beat Dean in this metric. This is a problem. As lame as it seems, people want a President to be, well, kind of boring and a little phony. Certainly, the exact components of the this nebulous idea of "Presidential personality" need to be unpacked and studied in a systematic and analytical manner, but there really isn't time for that for this campaign now.

Dean needs to begin to re-emphasize that staid, wonky, steady Governor of VT, and downplay the rock-star. Judging from what he said during the Sawyer interview, that he was "not a rock star", he is going to move that direction.

I have maintained for some time that Dean needs to go to Europe to meet with Heads of State and/or foreign leadership. Giving people the opportunity to actually see him functioning in such a context of leadership would reassure them than he can do more than throw red meat to a crowd of angry Democrats. The best time would have been as soon as he started slipping 4-5 weeks out from Iowa, but that window is gone. The next available is right after NH. If he could slip out of the country for a bit before Mini-Tuesday, it could reverse the slide. The bleeding has stopped according the latest tracking polls out of NH, but Dean needs to rebuild his momentum. It is unheard of for a candidate to leave the country to take a foreign tour, but an unexpected move to break the pattern of press converage is exactly what the Doctor ordered. Done right, it is exactly the sort of move than can completely change the dynamic of the race overnight.

Though Europe may be premature, and too much advance would be needed, Dean could meet with Vicente Fox in Mexico to discuss immigration. This would throw a dart at one of Bush's pet "compassion" planks, underline Dean's difference from the field, blow a kiss up the skirt of AZ and NM voters, and give Dean the leadership profile he needs in a single quick stroke. In addition, Dean will be covered in part by the foreign press for his trip with some syndicated reports run through the American press. This might give a new spin to the campaign that is unaffected by the horse-race idiocy and the character frame obsessions of the American press. The move will be seen as audacious and unexpected and may recapture the imagination of the press, giving a them a good lead-in for a "rising from the ashes" theme.

The public needs to be shook out of its expectations and concerns about Dean's personality which the media, and Dean's own actions, have created. A defining moment, completely dissonant with the image of Dean screaming on stage, needs to be created to ground a more "Presidential" image of Howard Dean. Steadier and quiter public appearances, such as his performance at the NH debate, may do the job over time, but time is too short. Slowly rebuilding Dean's image with constant reinforcement is important, but unless the public quickly comes to see that Dean's boisterous rally performances as just a single aspect of a complex and highly competent personality, it may be too little, too late.

A Rebel Yells in Iowa

Dean's rebel yell has attracted a critical mass of media attention. It is as if the entire last year is being eclipsed by one single moment of exuberence. It has attracted a good deal of muscial parody, and humor, even by Dean himself. Last night on David Letterman he lampooned himself neatly with a Letterman top ten. The number one way Dean can turn things around, delivered in a self-deprecating manner by Dean himself, being " "Oh, I don't know -- maybe fewer crazy, redfaced rants?"

The moment seems to have crystalized and condensed all the media's constantly voiced concerns about Dean's 'angry' style and 'explosive' or 'combative' style. As anyone who has met the man knows, this is all bullshit. He is the most kind, self-effacing, humble, and gentle politician imaginable. But this is overshadowed by his unfortunate tendency to redden when orating, narrow his eyes when he's making a point about the current Administration that really personally offends him, and fail to suffer fools gladly. However, this deluge of bad press and fall in polls may be a blessing in disguise. By bringing to a head the heretofore diffuse and nagging appearances of the 'angry meme' in the form of this one moment, it gives the campaign a chance to expunge the "Gored" character frame the media is building around Dean once and for all.

I think it is actually lucky that these themes have crystalized into a single incident and that it has happened so early. Yes, Dean is suffering now and has lost Iowa and may also lose NH, but our campaign has violated Conventional Wisdom so often it has become the norm. Now we are going to upset the idea that the winner of IA and NH has a clear path to the nomination. We have a firebreak in the form of Mini Tuesday, for which Kerry and Edwards are competely unprepared on the ground and will be suffering from very slim staffing and hastily produced and placed paid media (assuming they even have the money for it). They will be relying almost entirely on mo and free media, and we are all too well aware of the fickleness of both. They do not have a clear path to carry their mo out of NH. Edwards has prospects SC, but there is a lot of competition, not the least of which is the cany street politician Rev. Sharpton, whose supporters may not mind that he knows little about the Fed. But both Kerry and Edwards are facing a serious lack of preparation on the ground in Mini Tuesday and the states leading up to Super Tuesday. This is a tremendous opportunity for us to put this ridiculous character "Goreing" to bed and restart the campaign on an even firmer footing. IA and NH are insignificant in terms of delegates, they have always been about mo, expectations, and opening donors wallets. We have staying power, conviction, and our wallets are already open; we only need to stay calm, get out Dean's message, and send in the cash. Dean is still the same candidate, the race is still the same race; all that is different is that we face the need to be even more determined, more creative, and more persuasive. We have always been the outsiders in the race. We got used to being the front-runners when the press annointed Dean, but now we simply have to accept that this fight will be longer and harder and, ultimately, more rewarding than we had come to expect.

Two themes are emerging as to how to fight back against the 'angry meme' which Dean's rebel yell has brought into focus: humor and leadership. Humor is taking care of itself; the "I have a scream" speech is becoming too humourous to take seriously as a character issue. The more silly and ridiculous the parody and self-parody becomes, the less it is an actual concern about the mental health or character of Dean. It becomes an inside joke, an endearing silliness, and a reason to feel sympathetic and warm toward the Governor. It was silly, but it was harmless to anyone except himself. It showed great reserves and spirit, optimism, and determination. It showed genuine emotion, a bond of empathy with his supporters, and a virile magnetism of the sort that President Rubber Turkey could never match. The more play that it gets, the more people will start getting used to the idea of a President who can demonstrate genuine emotion and enthusiasm. Ultimately, I think the campaign might even consider using this incident in ads targeting blue collar voters, southerners, younger voters, and women.

On the leadership track, the case can be made, and is being made, that Dean was simply caught in a moment of group-appropriate leadership that was out of context for a televised speech of a man who just 'lost' a state where he was expected to prevail. The style, delivery, and passion was entirely appropriate, even masterful, for the immediate audience - 3,500 ardent young supporters who just worked their hearts out for Dean and lost- but dissonant with expectations of those watching on TV - the secondary audience.

Motivational experts agree than Dean's behavior was contextually correct. "I thought his approach last night was very appropriate in the context," said Jeff Keller, a motivational speaker based in Oyster Bay and author of "Attitude is Everything." "Here's a guy who suffered a crushing defeat and he has a base of support that's largely young people and young people respond to energy."

Seattle-based motivational expert Chris Widener, explains that Dean's passion on Monday night could cut two ways: "If you position him as a more regal type it wouldn't fly anyway [because] he's the firebrand. You want him to come out and get fired up. He's the one railing against the establishment." George W. Bush, he adds, "would never have yelled like that because people would have thought he was off his rocker." But "the downside of screaming," says Widener, "is that it gets down to: The guy with the nuclear football is given to emotional tirades. We want him to be even-tempered and regal."

Dean's interview with Dianne Sawyer may have gone a long way toward soothing that concern. Dean explained that he did what he did for the crowd of young people who needed a boost. He was serene, calm, and intelligent as Sawyer repeatedly pushed him to address people's concerns. Her questioning was tough, direct and right on target, and Dean and Judy punched one out of the park.

Using these themes of humor, self-awareness, and leadership technique and style, the concerns about how Dean seems can be put to bed as a matter of what Dean is consciously doing to address voters psychological and emotional needs in facing the coming battle with the Bush Administration. Dean's ability to use humor to deflate the ridiculous and pompously self-important, and his ability to shape a motivating persona and message for the audience he is working with, can even become a selling point for Dean. Democrats will need a dose of humor and ridicule to let the air out of Bush's made-for-parody Presidency. We also need someone who is capable of keeping up our spirits in adversity and adept at motivating voters with emotional appeals.

'Crypt Thing' Kerry is certainly not the man to do either. His glum, uninspired, inoffensive, and content-free message fails to offend, but it also fails to inspire. One gets the impression that Kerry is a corporation of pollsters, spin docs, media advisors, and focus groups disguised to look like a person. Such inoffensive leadership will make the Democratic party an inoffensive and toothless minority for another four years.

'Breck Girl' Edwards certainly has the rhetorical and persuasive skills needed for the job. He can captivate a room of listeners for hours, but he lacks experience and substance. Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo recently noted that Edwards is like a meal of excellent Chinese food; really wonderful while you are eating, but a few hours later you wonder what the fuss was about and crave some steak.

Edwards didn't even complete a single term as Senator before declaring for the Presidency. That is as presumptuous as Bush's own precipitous and premature bid for the Presidency. Thinking that one is prepared to be President after such a short apprenticeship in national policy and politics is simply hubris. Look at the results with Bush.

This is my largest concern about 'Republican Lobbyist' Clark, too. Clark or Edwards would be far better that what we have, they both are possessed of a fine mind and bedrock values that would lead them to be concerned stewards of the public trust, but it's really just too soon to hand either of them the reigns. I say come back when you've proven that you can deliver for the people, not just talk purty or flash an impressive bio.

We have allowed the debate about qualifications to compete with Bush to dominate this nomination contest. It is instructive that Kerry's whole stump in NH is focused on veterans and military affairs with a footnote about domestic policy. The is a subtext at work here; the Kerry camp is signalling that they will not be vulnerable to Republican impugning of his patriotism and strength on security issues.

The flaw in Kerry's vision of the general election is that his plays directly into the hands of the GOP's strategy to focus the election on finer points of security and foreign policy. We need to debunk the whole idea of Bush's electoral strength. He is at just 41% re-elect numbers; he's not strong, he's collapsing. Democrats can win easily if they take the initive and frame the debate and not just respond to the Administrations issue frames. The primary standard for this nomination fight then becomes not who has the fewest policy differences with Bush for the GOP to hammer at, but who has the most; consenting to step onto the GOP's carefully prepared dance floor simply invites the GOP to dance the "compassionate" tango and move into your issue-space.

Indeed, if the Primary gets bogged down in the issue of who would be the best Bush opponent, voters have been stopped short of asking the most salient and objective question about the nomination; who will be the best President? Dean wins that debate hands down. With his executive experience, record of delivering on what he now promises, demonstrated wisdom in foriegn affairs, history of balancing budgets, and ability to motivate the respect and love of the electorate to achieve difficult goals, he is clearly the best man in the field to be the next President of the United States, rebel yells and all. Dean will only win this fight when voters stop saying, "ABB" and start asking themselves, "Which of these men do I want to be my President?"

ABB is a standardless standard. Obviously, any of the Democrats would be better than Bush. It is only when one voices a value laden criteria for nomination a Presidential candidate, the ability to be an excellent President, that the candidates become clearly distinguishable. After all, who really knows what the best characteristics are to beat Bush; nobody has ever beaten Bush in the 2004 election, so we haven't any basis from which to judge. However, we have had 43 Presidents, and we have some data from which to draw some reasonable inferences about the kind of men, the kind of experience, and the kind of leadership skills it takes to be a good one.

So, next time someone asks you about Dean's rebel yell, tell your favorite joke, then tell them why he did it. Next time someone says, "ABB," stop them and tell them why they need to think about selecting a President, not an anti-Bush. Next time someone asks you if Dean is going down in flames, tell them that we have not yet begun to fight.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Rebel Yell

Just watched Letterman and the Daily show, both had a good ribbing for Dean's Rebel Yell. I think that humour is the best way to combat this. People take themselves and decorum a bit too seriously, especially the character-obsessed, hourse-race oriented press. I recommend letters to the editors of your local papers about the Iowa speech. I think 'Rebel Yell' is the most aggressive and virile framing, but it's important for we supporters to have their say about this, not just the chattering class.


DFA is asking all Dean supporters to step up to the plate and take a swing of the bat. Ask 3 friends to donate $10.00 apiece to the Dean campaign now, and donate a saw buck yourself while you are at it. Let's show the pundits that the Deaniacs put their money where their mouths are when they let out a rebel yell! Click the slugger to the right, or go to DFA and donate now, please.


Dean ONTV Notice:

1. Gov. Dean will participate in the NH debate tonight (1/22) at 8 PM EST.

2. Gov. and Judy Dean will be on Diane Sawyer ABC Primetime at 10 PM EST.

3. Gov. will be on Letterman tonight.

Be sure to tune in and fire up those VCRs and Tivos.

2004 NH Democratic Tracking

2004 NH Democratic Tracking is useful if you want to keep your ear to pulse of NH. Can't vouch for it's accuracy, I haven't examined the methodology or sampling characteristics closely enough, but Dick Bennett of ARG was kind enough to let me know it was there.

Polling Thoughts

Take a look at these poll figures from across the country, Pre-Iowa of course.

Kerry, and to a lesser extent Edwards who looks to possibly be in reach of Clark, are gaining traction from their mo coming off Iowa. Most polls are showing Kerry moving up to the mid-twenties behind only Dean, who is holding at between 25-30%. One poll even shows Kerry in the lead (which is, of course, the only one the Kerry folks consider to actually exist). What does it mean if Kerry comes in second, or even wins?

Consider for a moment that thier Iowa 'victory' was gained from around just 5% of Iowa's registered Democrats, using collusive caucusing techiniques and likely more than one quiet deal. Anyone who knows the caucus system as well as Gephardt does will tell you that it is impossible to win if everyone wants to stop you from winning even more than they want to win. He could tell you exactly why and how, because stopping Dean is exactly what he wanted.

Kerry's and Edward's mo is entirely a media phenominon; the issues and the candidates have not changed overnight. The overall dynamic of the race, and the reasons voters were rejecting Kerry remain fundamentally unchanged. Kerry was losing because his message sucked, he's a sour-puss people couldn't connect with, and his voting record leaves him vulnerable to being considered either a Bush-lite, or a fool. Edwards was losing because he's an inexperienced, manipulative, arriviste, with a pretty face, glib tongue, and lots of very wealthy friends. His mill worker dad not withstanding, people can tell a slick sales pitch when they hear it. He's not nearly so sunny or positive as he claims, but if you want a complete tyro in control of the White House against a nasty and hostile Congress, he's your man.

Well, both of these guys picked up some rhetorical pointers from Dean, but who does them better? Kerry looked half dead in 'victory' compared to Dean's Dance of David and war-cry before supporters and, unfortunately, reporters. Edward's spieled out his purloined notes and smiled charmingly. Kerry's still a sour-puss Boston Brahmin with a yard stick measuring lower intestine. His voting record hasn't changed, and people aren't apt to forget it. That record is likely to get him creamed against Bush, and people musn't forget it. He's a dirty trick playing (push polling, and who knows what sorts of shady deals with the power structure in Iowa), low blow dealing (unattributed attack fliers against Clark), half-truth spinning (his lies and obsfucations about Dean's record), entitled to be President (Presidency as a cure for mid-life crisis, anyone?) career politician. That's not going to change, and he can't hide these facts forever. Edwards is still a slickly packaged trial lawyer trying to win the case of his life, with the payoff being control of the whole country. He might be sincere, but he's so untested he might just fold over like a sapling in the first hard wind. he's got some good policy ideas, and perhaps he would like to try getting re-elected and implementing some of them before asking for America's confidence. Instead he throws away another precious southern Senate seat in his vain and bizzare quest for an even more meteoric rise in politics than the current camera-friendly doofus in the White House. These facts aren't shifted by a few thousand extra votes in Iowa, either.

Kerry doesn't have the money or the support to compete effectively in Super-Wednesday. His organizations in AZ, DE, MO, NM, ND, OK, and SC are nearly non-existent, as is his support. Of them all, his AZ organization may be the strongest, SC the weakest. Even if he gets up more mo out of a win in NH, his own stomping grounds, he still isn't going to take a single state on Feb 2nd. His momentum dries up at a stroke, and is seen for the one-trick wonder it is. Kerry has been bottom feeding for so long in so many states, that even a mild residual bump won't be enough for him to be able to pick his numbers off the floor and continue fund-raising, or allow him to get staff and media in place in time for him to compete in many of those races following Super Wednesday unless he can score at least one win in that tier. Arizona is his best chance for that win. We've been strongly focused on hold off Clark in Arizona, but it begins to look Kerry we have to focus on. A Clark victory in Arizona would be bad, but a Kerry victory would be worse. If Kerry can prove a break-out from Iowa (a mouse sized electorate) and NH (his home turf), he might grow some legs. But if he fails the Feb 3rd tier, he's back to bottom feeding for the duration. Having surged once, if he's unable to capitalize on it, people are not going to give him a third look. He gets two chances at being the front runner, more than most get, and if he fails, he's done. And he will fail.

Edwards may pull 3rd or 4th in NH, which outperforms; and he may win SC, but there are only a handful of states in which he is likely to be competitive in (TN, VA) until Super Tuesday, and then the General is likely to be right there splittin' up the good ol' boy charm votes. A part of a part is not enough to secure a nomination with. Edwards may have the ability to stay in the race until then and act as a spoiler for the General, if he can pickup wins along the way; if he fails, he's out even before Super Tuesday.

Even with their suspicious and anomolous win in Iowa, and even with another 1-2 outcome in NH (though I find that doubtful, NH voters are a pretty canny lot), neither Kerry nor Edwards has the money or organization to compete in multi-state primaries and stick in it for the long haul that Dean has. And that Clark has.

Meanwhile, Lieberman will be out of the race after NH, Super Wednesday at the latest, but unless his numbers move up in at least one Feb 3rd tier state, he's toast. He is no longer competitive, he just hasn't realized it yet.

Kucinich is no longer a factor. His supporters will be severely disillusioned about his deal with Edwards, and rightfully so. If he decides to stick around after Super Wednesday that's fine; he makes Dean look really good by showing people what a true left-wing liberal looks and sounds like and gives him good openings to explain his positions more fully during debates.

There never was any question of Sharpton becoming the nominee and he knows it. He's in it to pick up as many delegates as he can get to broker to the highest bidder at the Convention in case this thing goes long, as it seems likely to do. The main effect he's likely to have on the race in the near term is to capture a great number of South Carolina's black voters, who make up about 50% of the population, and a much greater share of the Democratic electorate in the heavily Republican state. The man has been camped there almost exclusively. This makes a clear victory for every other candidate difficult. Sharpton may even win if the vote is split fairly evenly between enough white candidates. If Dean, Clark, and Edwards are still in the race (and they should be),Kerry is still surging, and picks up more than the few people supporting him now, it is possible that the race could go to Sharpton. Most likely however, the race is up for grabs for everyone but Sharpton or Kerry. Notice I don't mention Lieberman, I think he'll aready be out after NH, but if he stays in and keeps improving in South Carolina, he makes a Sharpton victory an even stronger possibility. Personally, I think a Sharpton victory in South Carolina has a lot to recommend it. It puts Edwards out for the count, and it may strongly mobilize black voters nation wide, giving them a greater feeling of enfranchisement than they have felt in a while. Strong black turnout in the general election will help Democrats enormously. Nothing that Sharpton might extract from the nominee for his votes could possibly be of more value than that.

Announcing the "You Too Can SOTU" contest

Please send in your own SOTU for publication. I will post all submissions on this blog. Don't let the Resident have the last word. Let's respond with some honesty and insight to the lying, shallow exhibition of nearly perfect denial the Resident gave the world. I encourage people to write their responses and send them to newpapers, party leaders, television reporters, radio personalities, church leaders, and your elected representatives. Let them know that you are not one whit decieved by Bush's rhetoric and empty promises, or molified by his contemptable effort to legitimize his dirty little war or his dirty little Presidency.

I'm writing mine now. I look forward to publishing yours. Attributed or Anonymous, just let me know which you prefer.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

The Establishment Strikes Back

After considerable time with an ear to ground, nose to the grindstone, and a finger in the etheric winds of the internet, I have come the conclusion that Dean's poor showing in Iowa was the result of a well-planned campaign of misinformation, biased or suborned media, and collusion between Dean's rivals. It represents a troubling combination of the establishment candidates to misinform the people of Iowa, and "Gore" Dean in the press. The most galling aspect of the affair, of course, is that it worked, and it may work again if we don't know what to look for and strongly protest such collusion in the future.

Gannett owns the Des Moines Register and the Iowa City Press-Citizen and host of weeklies, locally owned Gazette Communications owns a consortium of print and broadcast outlets dominating Cedar Rapids' media, and a number of conglomerates and locally owned chains dominate the Iowa newspaper market. Curiously, the vast majority of newspapers endorsed Kerry or Edwards. This was not a cooincidence.

Even more curious was the bias commented upon by many observers of those newspapers' coverage of the campaign. The theme of Dean's 'unelectability' was played repeatedly and constantly, along with the false quote attributed to Dean that the caucuses were 'a waste of time'. Over and over, before it actually started happening in the polls, these papers reported that people were moving from Dean to Kerry and Edwards, until it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Finally, the letters pages were packed with positive letters for Kerry and Edwards, and nearly universal negatives were run against Dean, despite, according to one eyewitness account of a clerk working at the Register, sacks of a positive Dean letters coming in.

The papers played a significant roll in cutting into Dean's support. Such a coordinated effort of so many may have been the result of a deals struck in backrooms. I wonder what the cost of those deals to the American people will be if Kerry or Edwards become President? Losening of FCC cross-ownership rules seem like the most salient bargaining chip to me, given that the owners of these outlets know that Dean will put the public interest above their profits if elected.

The papers did not cover Kerry's undoubted use of push polling, or Edwards' reported use of it. In fact, I heard many Iowans say they voted for Kerry and Edwards because they waged a clean campaign; well, you would get that impression from the mainstream press, certainly. However, Dean volunteers have a videotape of a voter being push-polled by a Kerry caller. So much for the clean campaigning. I wonder what Iowa voters would think of this flier from the Kerry campaign in Arizona regarding Gen. Clark? This hit peice is unattributed, but I have it on very good authority it came from the Kerry camp. Clean campaign my foot; Kerry is an inveterate mud-slinger.

More than one Dean precinct captain in Iowa reports many of those from whom support was expected said that they had switched because they heard that Dean was unelectable (from the newpapers and those who read them). Iowa Democrats are clearly ABBs, and the meme worked its magic. Between Democratic officials pressing hard for the establishment candidates in the background, and the bought and paid for press bias, Dean took a double shot to his credibility among Iowa voters.

Gephardt knew he was going down before the voter's blow was dealt. Yet the vast majority of Gephardt 1's went for Kerry and Edwards, not Dean. This despite the fact that Dean was always the second choice of Unions supporting Gephardt. Again, one wonders if a deal was struck with Gephardt for a role in a future Kerry or Edwards Administration in exchange for pushing his supporters into Kerry and Edward's corners? Curiously, Gephardt has chosen not to endorse any candidate after dropping out of the race. One has to wonder if this is because he has a deal with more than one of the remaining candidates?

Oddly, Kuchinich put his small but crucial support behind Edwards with a deal to push Edwards over 15% in those precincts where it appeared he wouldn't make it. Again, an odd ideological match, but one which presents the possibility of significant political benefit later for Kuchinich. Populism and rising from poverty are major themes for both politicians, so their politics may fit together at some later date, despite Edwards' support of the war.

Finally, even as Dean was muffled by the need to respond to the constant vituperations of Gephardt, Edwards and Kerry nakedly stole themes from Dean's campaign; taking back America from the special interests, a movement of the people not just a candidate, the growing split in America between the privileged and the rest of us. They used these themes just as Iowans began to pay earnest attention to the race to convince them that these candidates do not represent politics as usual, while Gephardt and Dean where locked in a death struggle that dragged them both down.

I will be the first to admit it was a brilliant strategy. But if true, even in part, it is dirty as hell. Rife with backroom collusion, press subversion, and politically convenient alliances, it is telling that it took a coordinated effort of lies, half-truths, outright cooptation of Dean's message, and cynical collusion, to bring Dean down just to third place. The key fact, and saving grace, is that the candidates had weeks to accomplish their mugging. As the primary schedule accelerates, there will not be time for such dirty pool and media manipulation. When Dean pulls out a clean win in New Hampshire, Arizona, New Mexico or South Carolina, he will regain his mo' and ease many doubts.

Dean will be fine. He has the support of those who know that we must trust only those who truly represent us, not those who would stoop to trick and exploit the voters to keep their mealy-mouthed, corporate-sponsored, special-interest-riddled campaigns alive.

Finally, don't be defensive about 'Dean's scream', as it is being called by some wags -- be proud. We have a candidate who is so inspired by the support and love of his volunteers that he is moved by actual emotion and joy. Like David dancing before all Israel for the joy of being among his people, Dean is a genuine guy, who is comfortable with the expression of genuine emotion. This is what a human being looks like, people. We have become so accustomed to the phony fronts of politicians that anything real gets characterized as a abnormality by the chattering class. The punditocracy accept GWB's nice guy act at face value, after all. They are so used to phony that they think it's real. Why the hell would any Democrat want to listen to them?

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

The Clark Message

The Republican National Committee already has their message lined up if Clark is the nominee.

"Forget that only three years ago here in Little Rock, the General praised Ronald Reagan's Cold War actions and former President George Bush's foreign policy-at a Republican fundraiser! Forget that he voted for Presidents Nixon, Reagan and Bush. Just remember that in January 2002, he told Newsweek Magazine that he would have been a Republican “if Karl Rove had only returned my phone calls." You know, some people run for president because they hear a call. Apparently, Wesley Clark is running because he didn’t."

Now, I don't know about you, but when the opponent can so easily turn off so many Democratic voters by simply quoting the candidate, I think that's a problem. It is not at all a substantive message, but it is a message of despair to demobilize Democratic voters and make them despair of change being possible. The hook is this: even your candidate wants to be a Republican, what chance do you have of making a difference?

Personally, I think these remarks are taken out of context and are unfair, but I also don't think that it matters much. They are too widely known, and too well acknowledged by the candidate to deny. Their meaning will be a matter of interpretation and the loudest voice generally gets that privilege; and we all know who will shout louder in 2004.

For me at least, gaffes like these, made before Clark's announcement, have put the nails in the General's electoral coffin. Nominating this man would make fools out of the whole party and ensure defeat in 2004.

Despite Clark's excellent personal qualities, which are undeniably impressive, his flirtations with the GOP and non-partisan background, far from being attractive qualities in a candidate, would be his achilles heel. The GOP will strike that spot over and over until it looked like there was no real choice in the race. If the GOP is able to demobilize Dems, they've won. They are spending madly on the their own GOTV efforts and if we hand them an issue to suppress turnout in the very history of our candidate, we're sunk.

I was an early supporter of Clark, and had hoped that he would be on the ticket, preferably as VP due to his lack of political experience, or as President if that was what the people wanted. But have I decided that it would be better for the party if the General were to play a less political role in the next Democratic Administration as a political appointee. He could skillfully handle the role of Secretary of Defense or even Secretary of State (though I have reservations about military men serving as chief Ambassador -- it is time to put the foriegn service culture back in charge of State), or some other high level executive position in the Defense bureaucracy, but he should not be on the Democratic ticket for 2004. He would be a liability, not an asset.

Monday, January 19, 2004

What the... ?

Dean places 3rd in Iowa. I'm not surprised, due to Zogby's excellent polling, but I am shocked none the less.

Kerry and Edwards had a tremendous surge which valuted them into the first slot and second.

How did it happen? Excellent organization and message by Kerry and Edwards. A soft second choice position for Dean, which translated to people rolling off to Kerry and Edwards from other candidates, especially Gephardt. Oddly, Kucinich put his shoulder behind Edwards and gave him some help. Gephardt's negativity killed him and hurt Dean, too. He's out of the race. Gephardt's organization delivered the people, but failed to get the votes, thus they actually worked hard for Gephardt supporter's second choices, Kerry and Edwards.

Why didn't Dean's large number of expected 1's (people whose first choice is Dean and are definitely going to caucus), many of whom are first time caucusers, come through? I suspect two reasons, many of Dean's 1's were actually softer in their support and they rolled with the tide, and there was a failure of nerve as the 'unelectibility' meme took its toll. A lot of people just gave in to the idea of Kerry's electabilty and war hero status. The youth vote and the union vote went strongly for Kerry.

Oddly, a small sample of Iowans seemed to indicate that Kerry was perceived as having a positive campaign, along with Edwards, who really did have a very positive campaign. Kerry's people were caught push polling in Iowa and Kerry's attacks on Dean and Clark thoughout the campaign have been constant to the point of obsessiveness. Yet people seemed to feel that he was running on a positive message. I think this is mostly due to adoption of Dean's themes by kerry and Edwards in the final weeks. Edwards especially now speaks of 'two Americas', one rich and one poor, and a of a movement to renew America, speaks strongly of ending poverty and the working poor. His themes are 'our America' and a dualism in the nature of America we must bring to an end, bringing 'real change' to America, renewing our pride in America. These are themes that Dean located in the American psyche and the other candidates are now mining to reinvigorate their campaigns. The sincerest form of flattery is immitation.

Apparently, turnout was extraordinarily high, but there was a lot of walk-in registrations that the campaign did not expect. These unregistered voters where not included in polling or in anyone's expectations and they were predominantly Kerry and Edwards supporters.

Finally, the perfect storm was actually a shit storm on Dean. He took constant beatings from the White House, from the other campaigns, especially Gephardt (who knew he was fighting for his political life) and Kerry, and from the major media who homed in with character issues and ran so much negative press that all parts of Dean's message except perhaps his attacks on Bush and the war were nearly drowned out. 4-5 weeks of the constant assault and Dean's attempt to deal with damage control hammered him down and took the starch out of many supporter's spines.

The result: Dean is at his best as the underdog, the insurgent, the bad boy politician. He and his supporters are jazzed to have gotten 3rd place, not dissappointed. The punditocracy will try to write him off and belittle him, say that his anger and his character flaws have taken their toll and his ride is at an end. They will see this as an opportunity to stop Dean from taking the nomination. Shows what they know.

Dean does have to come in either first of second in New Hampshire to keep his front runner status. His numbers will begin to slip nationally if he comes in lower. The biggest test will become Arizona and South Carolina, should that happen. Arizona demostrates the ability to win more conservative and demographically diverse state, and South Carolina will test viability in the south and probe the strength of Dean among rural black voters.

Dean is far from finished, though. This barely dents Dean. In fact, it may take some of the heat off him and help him heading into the multi-state contests. Dean's support is deep and nation-wide. He can go back to being the outsider and the insurgent. He gets a chance now to come back and begin running against the establishment candidates again who will themselves now come come under greater scrutiny and attack. The only way to squash Dean is to grind out his grassroots support. On to New Hampshire! Bring it on!

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Economists for Dean: Why Dean is Right on Taxes

Economists for Dean: Why Dean is Right on Taxes. E4D just put up an analysis of the press coverage Dean and Gephardt's roll-back of the Bush tax bribes has been getting, and the brutal facts that their rivals are glossing over in their plans to keep the "middle class' portion of the bribes. The whole article make great fodder for talking points to anyone infected by the "tax cut" meme. This most important point after the facts are straightened out for people is this:

"If a candidate like Dean is willing to risk popular backlash by running against middle-class tax cuts, then he probably has far more resolve than his rivals to fight for fiscal responsibility. Maybe that's not the smartest thing to do politically, but it's the right thing to do substantively. Somebody ought to mention that once in a while."

Right on brothers and sisters economical! Dean has got the guts to lead, rather than just try to walk at the head of the march and act like he knows where he's going.

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