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We Report... You Deride

 
Saturday, October 25, 2003  
Such, Such Are the Joys

I have trouble writing a non-snarky sentence, so it may not sound like it. But I do feel sorry for what Wesley Clark is going through. I've never run for public office, so I don't know exactly how Clark feels. But I've been "on the ground" for campaigns, so I've endured the same lifestyle and seen what they go through. Let me try to pass on a bit of it.

There are two types of campaigning-- wholesale and retail. "Wholesale"-- which is what most people imagine when they think of campaigning-- means trying to acquire votes in bulk. The tools you use-- TV ads, speeches at major forums, debates, interviews on TV shows, town meetings-- are designed to reach lots and lots of voters in decidedly impersonal ways.

Wholesale politicking is fun. Well, it's not always fun... but it feels somewhat glamorous much of the time. You're doing things that seem important and preparing for things that (you tell yourself) might decide the future of the free world.

The travel continually wears at you, and the days are an endless series of dashes to make some deadline (air time, boarding time, meeting time...), so you're under stress constantly. The hours are long and the food is almost always pretty bad and stuff keeps happening.

But the number of people around you and the way they react to you make you feel like you're part of a very 'in' clique. And you are-- you're one of the people around the man who could be the next president.

But to get there, you have to do what they cal "Retail" politicking. It's called that because you have to get voters one or two at a time. And also because you pay a much heavier price for it.

Retail politicking is what you do in the primary. Retail isn't glamorous or fun. Everyone wants to meet the nominee. In the primary, until you're the favorite, nobody much cares if they meet you or not.

So you have to get voters. And you have to do it a few at a time. In the afternoons and evenings, you have supporters hold "meet the candidate" parties for their friends at their houses. At breakfast, lunch and dinner times, you walk up and down major streets-- that's when it's busy--and go up to people, shake their hands, ask them questions and answer them.

Factories have a lot of employees and they're all voting age. So you go to the plants and stand outside at shift changes. You get there at seven to get meet the guys coming in by eight. And then you stay until nine to meet the guys coming out. That's two hours standing outside in whatever kind of winter weather they have in that state.

You go to factories at 8 AM and football games at 8 PM. You attend concerts and council meetings. You go to birthdays and barbeques and bingo.

You do this night and day. You do it every single day. You do it in every major city and every minor city and every goddamned spot in between. Anywhere on the face of the earth in that state that you can find two or more people who look like they might want to talk to you.

And a lot of them don't want to talk to you. Many of them can't even manage to be polite about it. You'd think a person meeting a senator or a governor or a congressman or a general could at least be civil. You'd be surprised.

You can always tell when a candidate knows he isn't going to win-- the meeting and the greeting is the first thing they stop. I knew Clark wouldn't walk away with the race and part of me wants to say "I told you so." But I've been sick while I was on the road and I'll bet everything that's happened to Clark since he announced has come as a complete shock. No matter what you think of his hubris, you have to feel for the guy.

9:20 PM

Friday, October 24, 2003  
Another One Bites the Dust

Thanks to the indefatigable, invaluable daily news roundup at The Hamster, we now know who the next major casualty in the 2004 primary will be: John Edwards is out of money and out of the running.

According to the reports they filed last week with the Federal Elections Commission, the Edwards campaign has spent 55% of the legal limit in Iowa and 73% in New Hampshire and gotten absolutely nothing for their money. In two separate polls taken last week, Edwards was fourth in Iowa. Gephardt has 27% in both, Howard Dean is second (26% or 22%) and John Kerry is third (16% or 15%). In one poll, Edwards has 8%, just ahead of Wesley Clark (6%). In the other, he and Clark are tied with 11%.

In New Hampshire, the news is even worse: Dean has 33%, Kerry is at 19%, Clark has 7%, and Edwards is tied with Gephardt at 4%.

Wait, wait-- it gets better. Believe it or not, the Edwards campaign is disputing the story. They're claiming that their own report has the numbers wrong. Apparently they have so much money coming in that they weren't able to keep track of it all.

But they know now. They can already state, with absolute certainty, that the numbers they filed are wrong. But even though they already possess this docmented evidence, they won't filing an amended report until the next financial filing deadline-- January 15th.

Amazingly enough, this date will occur only four days before the Iowa caucuses and less than three weeks before the New Hampshire primary. Funny how they only intend to fess up to the truth only when they have to... and it'll be so late in the campaigns that most voters will have already made up their minds, too.

If you're wondering, Edwards campaign manager Nick Baldick says they've 'only' spent 33% of the maximum in Iowa and 40% in New Hampshire. Of course he's still got two minor problems, because (a) those percentages are still several orders of magnitude more than any other candidate in the race and (b) Edwards is still in single digits in both states.

They're lying, of course. What other alternative do they have? If they admitted those numbers were correct, they wouldn't get another nickel. (Assuming that anyone is still giving; his third quarter fundraising totals were godawful.) All they can do is claim things are going fine, keep plugging away and hope Edwards closes the gap between now and then.

If he wins--or at least comes close enough to stay in the race-- Edwards can always get around the limits by opting out of the matching funds. Edwards is a multimillionaire-- rich enough to pay for his entire campaign out of his own pocket. The only problem is that it would kinda blow that "Shoeless John Edwards, Son of a Sharecropper" bit sky-high.

I really have to hand it to Todd Morman. Two months ago, he nailed this story beautifully. Reason #1 of his Nine Reasons John Edwards Will Drop Out was "Edwards has no organizational structure in place to galvanize voters." Reason #4 was "Edwards just hired Democratic consultant Jim Andrews... [who] has a terrible recent track record using his patented no-grassroots, media-heavy approach."

Looks like he just extended his streak.

12:42 AM

Wednesday, October 22, 2003  
The Union Matrix, Reloaded

Not long ago, I took a passing whack at Big Labor's willingness to put its own interests ahead of both management and the workers.

Charles Dodgson delivers a much more thorough essay on this issue. Check it out.

10:51 PM

 
The Wingnut-to-English Translation of Partial-Birth Abortions

Ampersand's posts absolutely nail all the issues around this topic. Some key points:

* So why isn't there a national ban on late-term abortions? Because the Republicans don't want one... [They] know that their ban will almost certainly be found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court... [and they] know perfectly well how to write a constitutional ban on late-term abortions - Sandra Day O'Connor, in her Carhart concurrence, explained very specifically what sort of ban would be constitutional: "A ban on partial-birth abortion that only proscribed the D&X method of abortion and that included an exception to preserve the life and health of the mother would be constitutional in my view."

* The Democrats have proposed constitutional bans on late-term D&X abortions again and again, and have been voted down by Republicans every time. It doesn't matter how the health ban is worded - the Republicans even rejected Dick Durbin's bill, which would "ban all abortions after a fetus is viable unless two physicians certify that the abortion is necessary to protect the life of the pregnant woman or that she was at risk of grievous injury to her physical health."

* By concentrating their fire on "partial-birth" abortions, the Republicans get to avoid dealing with the controversial and electorially dangerous issue of first-trimester abortions. You see, as long as the fight against "partial birth" abortion consumes pro-life attention, Republican politicians get a pass from proposing any serious legislation attacking first-trimester abortion rights in the states. And that's very important to the GOP, because a serious fight against first-trimester abortions would be terrible for the Republicans; it would not only galvanize Democrats, it would create a serious split in the Republican party between pro-life and pro-choice Republicans.

With sidebars and background information, his assessment is divided into eight separate posts, so it'll take you some time to work through it. Trust me, it is worth the effort.

10:28 PM

 
All Politics is Local

I haven't had many good things to say about John Kerry lately, but his speech today was genuinely brilliant:

"I will not enumerate the instances of our humiliations, nor will I once again condemn our detractors and oppressors. It would be an exercise in futility because they are not going to change their attitudes just because we condemn them. If we are to recover our dignity and that of our party, it is we who must decide, it is we who must act
.
"To begin with, we can close ranks and have a common stand if not on all issues, at least on some major ones... We are all Democrats. We are all under attack, we are all being humiliated. But we have never really tried to act in concert in order to exhibit at our level the brotherhood and unity that our party enjoins upon us.

"[We] are divided, and divided again and again. Over the last 40 years the politicians, the pundits and the academics have interpreted and reinterpreted the ideas of Franklin Roosevelt, so differently that now we have a thousand cliques which are often so much at odds with one another that we often fight and kill each other.

"From being a single party we have allowed ourselves to be divided into numerous sects, each more concerned with claiming to be true Democrats than uniting behind our common beliefs. We fail to notice that our detractors and enemies do not care whether we are true Democrats or not. To them we are all liberals, followers of ideas whom they declare promotes terrorism, and we are all their sworn enemies. They will attack us, invade our base, bring down our governments whether we are liberals, moderates, new Democrats or Greens.

"And we aid and abet them by attacking and weakening each other, and sometimes by doing their bidding, acting as their proxies to attack fellow Democrats. We try to bring down each other, succeeding to weaken and impoverish our country."

Impressive, isn't it? Well guess what-- Kerry didn't deliver it. What you just read was an Americanized version of paragraphs 8-11 of the Malaysian Prime Minister's opening address to the Islamic Summit Council. (Scroll down one screen to get to it.)

I stopped being impressed by political rhetoric seven jillion speeches ago, but this one really made me say "Wow..." Imagine reading an essay written by a concise, well-reasoned, non-solipsistic Tom Friedman. (I know it's a stretch-- pretend the Army Corps of Engineers went on a six-month expidition to remove his head from the depths of his navel.)

Now remember that this was delivered by the leader of a predominantly Muslim country to every other Islamic state in the world. And listen to this:

"The early Muslims produced great mathematicians and scientists, scholars, physicians and astronomers etc. and they excelled in all the fields of knowledge of their times, besides studying and practising their own religion of Islam. As a result the Muslims were able to develop and extract wealth from their lands and through their world trade, able to strengthen their defences, protect their people and give them the Islamic way of life, Addin, as prescribed by Islam. At the time the Europeans of the Middle Ages were still superstitious and backward, the enlightened Muslims had already built a great Muslim civilisation, respected and powerful, more than able to compete with the rest of the world and able to protect the ummah from foreign aggression.

"But halfway through the building of the great Islamic civilisation came new interpreters of Islam who taught that acquisition of knowledge by Muslims meant only the study of Islamic theology. The study of science, medicine etc. was discouraged... they became more and more preoccupied with minor issues such as whether tight trousers and peak caps were Islamic, whether printing machines should be allowed or electricity used to light mosques. The Industrial Revolution was totally missed by the Muslims. "


Now listen to this:

"Our only reaction is to become more and more angry. Angry people cannot think properly. And so we find some of our people reacting irrationally. They launch their own attacks, killing just about anybody including fellow Muslims to vent their anger and frustration. Their governments can do nothing to stop them. The enemy retaliates and puts more pressure on the governments. And the governments have no choice but to give in, to accept the directions of the enemy, literally to give up their independence of action.

"With this their people and the ummah become angrier and turn against their own governments. Every attempt at a peaceful solution is sabotaged by more indiscriminate attacks calculated to anger the enemy and prevent any peaceful settlement. But the attacks solve nothing. The Muslims simply get more oppressed."


Fairly ballsy stuff, if you consider he's speaking to other heads of state. And if you read the speech, his comments about the Jews are really just a way to say "the only reason we are being pushed around is that we are behaving in an astonishingly stupid way":

"It cannot be that there is no other way. 1.3 billion Muslims cannot be defeated by a few million Jews. There must be a way. And we can only find a way if we stop to think, to assess our weaknesses and our strength, to plan, to strategise and then to counter-attack. As Muslims we must seek guidance from the Al-Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet. Surely the 23 years’ struggle of the Prophet can provide us with some guidance as to what we can and should do.

"We know he and his early followers were oppressed by the Qhuraish. Did he launch retaliatory strikes? No. He was prepared to make strategic retreats. He sent his early followers to a Christian country and he himself later migrated to Madinah. There he gathered followers, built up his defence capability and ensured the security of his people. At Hudaibiyah he was prepared to accept an unfair treaty, against the wishes of his companions and followers. During the peace that followed he consolidated his strength and eventually he was able to enter Mecca and claim it for Islam. Even then he did not seek revenge. And the peoples of Mecca accepted Islam and many became his most powerful supporters, defending the Muslims against all their enemies...

"If we use the faculty to think that Allah has given us then we should know that we are acting irrationally. We fight without any objective, without any goal other than to hurt the enemy because they hurt us. Naively we expect them to surrender. We sacrifice lives unnecessarily, achieving nothing other than to attract more massive retaliation and humiliation.


And here comes the so-called 'money graf', which I'm going to run uncut. Unless you're a life member of Little Brown Pellets, it's very clear that what he is saying is "if the Jews can control their own destiny, so can we":

"It is surely time that we pause to think. But will this be wasting time? For well over half a century we have fought over Palestine. What have we achieved? Nothing. We are worse off than before. If we had paused to think then we could have devised a plan, a strategy that can win us final victory. Pausing and thinking calmly is not a waste of time. We have a need to make a strategic retreat and to calmly assess our situation.

"We are actually very strong. 1.3 billion people cannot be simply wiped out. The Europeans killed six million Jews out of 12 million. But today the Jews rule this world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them.

"We may not be able to do that. We may not be able to unite all the 1.3 billion Muslims. We may not be able to get all the Muslim Governments to act in concert. But even if we can get a third of the ummah and a third of the Muslim states to act together, we can already do something."


Is that an anti-semitic statement? Like hell it is-- it's just the Muslim version of the sort of 'raw meat' rhetoric that politicians in any partisan gathering use to exhort the troops. Here's the Southern fundamentalist translation that it took me about 45 seconds to find with Google:

"The public education movement has also been an anti-Christian movement...We can change education in America if you put Christian principles in and Christian pedagogy in. In three years, you would totally revolutionize education in America." --Pat Robertson,"The 700 Club," September 27, 1993.

Here's the feminist translation:

"[In] the 1994 general elections, contrary to much media speculation, angry white men didn't flock to the polls. Rather, women and people of color stayed home... We must mobilize the majority of people who believe in social, economic and political equality for women." Linda Berg, on NOW's web site

And if I spent another minute or two, I could find you a civil rights version and one for farmers and one for seniors and animal rights and so on and so forth. When anyone needs to motivate the faithful, out come the hoary cliches and "but we can beat them!" tropes.

If W. had one iota of sense in his head, he would have embraced Mahathir's speech as a road map toward world peace. Naturally, trying to drive a wedge into a historically-Cemocratic interest group took precedence.

As is usual, Krugman has this nailed. Even Milky Loads bordered on rationality in his initial assessment of the speech. (Until Krugman's column ran, of course.)

BTW, Milky: that "Naderite" you refer to when you slag Krugman is an untenured professor at the University of Texas in Arlington. We cannot too much admire his courage for daring to write a column about Bush-hating.

8:38 PM

Tuesday, October 21, 2003  
Groundhog Campaign

Santayana was right... two people have asked me about my crack about Joe Lieberman being the new Ed Muskie.

Tempted as I am to refer people to Hunter Thompson's Fear and Loathing On the Campaign Trail, the explanation actually makes a good blog entry, so here goes:

1. The 2004 election is a replay of 1972

The Republic in office (a) was elected by a tiny fraction. (b) beat the sitting Vice-President and (c) was materially aided by a third party candidate who undercut the Democrat's strength in key areas.

After the election, there was extended second-guessing about whether the VP had run a stupid campaign or not. There was strong sentiment that he'd been so clumsy that he'd tied himself to the sins of the president, without getting any of the benefits. Others blamed the third-party candidate. Others felt the voters were worn out and wanted change.

The feeling was that an aggressive campaign could take out the incumbent.

2. Joe Lieberman is Ed Muskie

Ed Muskie, the VP candidate on the '68 ticket was a conservative senator from New England, added to appeal to the people who might have thought the candidate was too liberal.

During the race, Muskie proved to be a more effective campaigner than his running mate and many people felt he had what it took to get the conservative vote. He was considered the man to beat in '72 and did lead in the polls on name recognition.

When Muskie actually had to run, he turned out to be an oafish, unappealing candidate, who couldn't excite conservative Democrats. Liberals and moderates were repelled by his support of an extremely unpopular war, so he turned out to have no base at all.

After losing Iowa and New Hampshire--where he lashed out at other candidates in frustration-- Muskie bet his entire wad on the southern primaries. When he got killed there too, he bailed out.

3. John Kerry is Scoop Jackson

Jackson was a multi-term senator with a dour, low-key oratorical style. He entered the campaign, hoping the combination of liberal social policy, moderate fiscal views and a hawkish stand on foreign policy would catch fire with the voters.

It didn't. The people who liked Jackson's policy on the war were uninterested in his domestic ideas; the people who agreed with his social views were repelled by his support for the war. After a while, even the media couldn't pretend he was a player anymore.

4. Dick Gephardt is Hubert Humphrey

This analogy isn't perfect (Gore would be Humphrey), but it's fairly close. Both men (a) had been in politics for decades, (b) had been in positions of power, (c) were farm-belt liberals who strongly supported labor and civil rights, (d) liked to talk and talk and talk and (e) would provide 10 minutes of substance and 50 minutes of rhetoric in an hour of speaking.

Humphrey hung in until the convention, serving as the head of the "Anyone But--" movement. Fueled by labor money, his legacy of support in the midwest and the feeling that he was a safe choice, he won some primaries and served up a number of talking points that Nixon was able to use in the general election.

5. Al Sharpton is George Wallace

I'm completely serious (albeit very ironic). Both demagogue on race. Both had a strong southern base. Both implicitly blackmailed the party to pay attention to them by implying that they'd run as independents-- splitting the base and giving it no chance to win-- if they weren't taken seriously.

I don't imagine that history will repeat-- Wallace got shot by an extremist after he won a primary and looked like he might have a shot to get on the ticket.

But if Sharpton won Florida... yeah, I could see someone from the Koncerned Kitizens Kouncil exercising his second amendment rights.

6. Dennis Kucinich is Eugene McCarthy

McCarthy had been the first and most vocal opponent of the war that was killing a couple of soldiers a day on the evening news. His strident opposition helped frame the debate and shift public opinion. But that didn't get him anywhere because people thought he was egotistical, arrogant and more than a little unstable.

7. Carol Mosely Braun is Shirley Chisholm

This comparison is outrageously unfair to Chisholm, in that Chisholm had a long, disinguished careeer in Congress and compiled a solid list of liberal policy achievements. It's fair in that they were both pretty good speakers whom everyone didn't have a chance.

8. John Edwards is John Lindsay

Lindsay was handsome, boyish and, (if you believed the people who listened to his speeches) a dynamic orator.

If you actually looked at his record, Lindsay was a guy with very few achievements and a track record as a feeb on getting bills passed.

Mostly, though, Lindsay bore a passing resemblance (if you stood a long way away and squinted really hard) to a leader who reminded people of better times. If I'd had a penny for every profile that used the word "Kennedyesque", I could have bought Microsoft and fired Bill Gates a long time ago.

I don't see any resemblance between Edwards and Bill Clinton, but there are a hell of a lot of people who really want to pretend that history will repeat if we all just get behind the guy.

I suspect that people will eventually realize-- as they did with Lindsay-- that this guy doesn't have any good ideas... Hey, Chacun a son gout...

8. Hillary Clinton is Ted Kennedy

People spent the whole campaign hoping that the heir to the dynasty was going to run. But their negatives were too high to make a race a good bet.

9. Wesley Clark is Sargent Shriver

After it became clear that Teddy wouldn't run for president-- or accept the VP spot-- people went looking around for some kind of surrogate, who was semi-approved by the family.

They eventually settled on a guy who had never run for office and turned out not to be any good at running for office. Actually, I think Clark will get the VP spot without any Eagletonesque scenarios, but the parallel is still clear.

10. Howard Dean is you-know-who

You knew this was coming, right? George McGovern was the anti-war candidate who was the least strident of the bunch. While he'd been an elected official for years, no one had ever heard of him.

While everyone else was posturing, McGovern quietly built an overwhelming field organization by employing a previously-untapped resource (college-aged voters and the counterculture).

At first, his opponents said he couldn't win. When it became clear that he certainly could win, they banded together to attack him as brutally as they could.

When they couldn't stop him from winning, the party faithful refused to close ranks behind him-- many (including scumbag John Connally) defected to Nixon.

After a debacle at the convention (where his acceptance speech ended up airing at 3 AM), the disastrous choice of Tom Eagleton as VP (who had to get off the ticket after allegations of drinking and mental illness) and Nixon's announcement that he intended to withdraw troops from Vietnam (effectively eliminating that issue), McGovern got slaughtered in November.

Which is a pretty disturbing parallel except for one thing...

11. W. is Tricky Dick Nixon

Count the similarities. During the '68 campaign, Nixon promised to get the US out of Vietnam. Once elected, he let an egghead intellectual with a funny last name talk him into escalating it. (Remember when W. promised to get the US out of the nation-building business?)

Nixon had a political scandal-- senior members of his administration turned out to be directing it from inside the White House.

Nixon had an 11-month recession start less than a year after he became president-- his supporters tried to blame it on his predecessor's failure to reign in the economy.

Nixon was something of an inept speaker-- his handlers couldn't permit him to hold press conferences, so they staged lots of made-for-TV events.

A lot of people hated Nixon because he reminded them of a dark period in U.S. history a decade ago.

12. The results in '72 don't have to match '68

The question facing the Democrats is very simple: can they get out of the convention without having a candidate who is DOA? You may not believe this-- and God knows, I can't convince you otherwise without a time machine-- but I'm convinced three things fried McGovern:

* The Eagleton debacle: And, yes, I think Dean is smart enough not to pick a VP with that many skeletons in the closet.

* The convention: In between the delegate battles and procedural challenges, the Democrats looked like they were completely out of control. They don't have nomination battles now.

* Everyone didn't lock arms: McGovern had polled very well on both economic and social issues early in the campaign. What stamped him as the wild-eyed, radical whacks was the "Anybody But McGovern" movement. Hubert Humphrey was the first guy to use the "Acid, Amnesty and Abortion" tag-- Nixon just picked it up and continued to beat his opponent with it.

Labor gave indifferent support to McGovern-- they were more comfortable with Nixon, and Nixon had been courting them all during his first term. Civil rights and feminist leaders didn't flock to the campaign. Everyone had a mutual, unspoken understanding: "Let's tank this one and blow this nut out of the water. Then we can go back to business as usual in '76..."

I don't believe history always has to repeat. But I'd take money on about 75% of this happening. I'm not very comfortable with Howard Dean, but I can't shake the feeling that he's going to get the nomination. The election, in my mind, depends on what happens after he does.

7:47 PM

 
Why Gregg Easterbrook Isn't Being Railroaded

l'Affaire Easterbrook continues to get stranger. According to this entry in a wingnut blog can be trusted, Easterbrook is now whining about being fired and accusing Disney's Michael Eisner of trying to screw up the release of his new book.

OK, let's make the very charitable assumptions that (a) the letter is genuine (since wingnutville is inhabited by people like Kevin McCullough, you can't necessarily assume this). And let's assume that (b) someone from Disney really did tell Easterbrook that Disney is trying to kill the book and (c) the source he cites is more reliable than Ahmed Chalabi's buddies were about Iraq and WMD.

Let's assume Mike Eisner is trying to ruin Gregg Easterbrook-- that he has "assigned people to try to destroy the book -- to get Time to drop the serial, to keep me off interview shows, even to get Random House to kill the book"...

(Update: Which may not be true. Dan Drezner says he has received an e-mail from Easterbrook, stating that he did not write the letter attributed to him. Since Drezner has a reputation for honesty, I'm sure he did receive a letter. Since he is a punctilious fact-checker, I'm sure the letter is from Easterbrook.

The question this begs, however, is why Easterbrook himself doesn't disavow the e-mail as bogus on his blog-- he is making entries again. You'd think he'd want to stamp it out before it acquires meme status. If I were a conspiracy theorist, I'd wonder if it wasn't genuine and if Easterbrook isn't engaging in disinformation now-- maybe because he doesn't want the world to know that he sent out an "I am the victim of an International Jewish Conspiracy" letter. But I digress...)


Update 2: Curioser and curioser. Now the wingnuts have deleted the letter from their site. Fortunately, it was captured in its entirety by Daniel Radosh, for the purpose of fisking it. This removal-- without any apology for printing something bogus-- is pretty strong evidence that it was a genuine letter.

Whatever is true, Easterbrook has received an astonishing amount of sympathy for being fired by ESPN. A lot of people mistakenly believe that it is unfair and unreasonable for him to be punished for speaking his honest opinions.

They're dead wrong-- just ask Gregg Easterbrook. Two years ago, in the pages of the Wall Street Journal, Easterbrook emphatically defended ESPN's right to make him suffer economically:

"Consider Robert Jensen, a professor at the University of Texas who calls the U.S. a terrorist nation... Mr. Jensen is now extremely unpopular in Texas. There is a letter-writing campaign to get him fired, and he was recently criticized by the president of his own university as a "fountain of undiluted foolishness."

"His backers are saying this is an attempt to suppress Mr. Jensen's free speech... What they really mean is that Mr. Jensen should not have to pay any price for his views. But this misunderstands the nature of the First Amendment. Mr. Jensen's right to his expression--clearly political and protected--is absolute. But there exists no right to exemption from the reaction to what is said...

"When talk show host Bill Maher says the September terrorists were brave and American pilots are cowardly, his comments fully merit First Amendment protection. But the advertisers who yanked support from his show were also within their rights: That A may speak hardly means B must fund A's speech...

"That these authors have a right to their views does not mean publishers and bookstores must promote them. It is censorship if books are seized and burned; it is not censorship if books are tossed into the trash because their authors mock the liberty that made the books possible. Indeed, expressing revulsion at the sight of a Kingsolver book is itself a form of protected speech."


Update 3: If he didn't really write the letter, and he stands by the opinions in this essay, this would be an impressive display of character by Mr. Easterbrook. Few people have the courage to adhere to their principles, even when it hurts them.

Of course, it's still quite possible that Easterbrook is lying about not writing it That's certainly more in tune with the profile of a wingnut. One of the fundamental components of their personalities is the willingness to loudly pass judgement on the behavior of others-- then cry like a bitch when the same standards are applied to themselves.

In either case, don 't shed any tears for Easterbrook. Based on what he's been writing lately, his new book should be a candy for the wingnut crowd. If he just writes one "political correctness and the Jews tried to ruin my life" article, he can have Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly hawking his books night and day. And whatever copies they don't sell, Richard Mellon Scaife will buy.

Easterbrook can become a tenured fellow at some wingnut thinktank making twice what ESPN paid him. And if he's willing to have $50,000 in plastic surgery, he can probably have his own TV show on Faux News.

All it'll cost him is what's left of his credibility. And, at this point, that's chump change.

1:16 AM

Monday, October 20, 2003  
Fear And Loathing In the Iowa Caucuses

Well, so much for Lieberman-- and, unless he wants to be vice-president, Clark. According to the Times, they've both bailed out of Iowa.

They may not be dead, but they sure do smell funny. The Iowa caucuses are important for two reasons.

1. They stress-test two critical campaign skills. To win Iowa, you have to be able to deliver a message that gets your supporters energized enough to want to participate. Then you need to make sure you can get them to go to one of the 2,000+ precinct caucuses.

Since Iowa voters are so scattered (you have to pick them up two or three at a time), you really have to be good at grassroots organizing to get supporters. And then you have to run a topnotch "Get Out The Vote" drive to make sure you get their opinion recorded. A campaign that isn't good at doing those tasks isn't likely to win.

2. They test the candidate's populist quotient. Your performance in Iowa is a good indicator of how well your message appeals to the populist/liberal sector of the party.

Pair those results with New Hampshire (which is a hotbed of libertarian-independent folks), you've got a pretty solid grasp of how broad your message is. (If you're compulsive, you wait for a result from a southern primary, but you can usually be about 75% sure after the Iowa and New Hampshire.)

Both guys got out because they can't meet one requirement. Clark is admitting that he can't get his campaign in gear; Lieberman knows his message just won't fly.

Tactically, both decisions make sense-- why fight a battle you're pretty sure you can't win? Why not conserve your resources? Strategically, they're disastrous. Until they hold an election, 99% of your campaign is about perception. You can always claim that the polls are a pile of crap-- that you're doing way better than 6%-- and no one can dispute that.

But when you bail out of the very first contest-- two months in advance-- you've done something tangible. It's like erecting a twenty-foot-tall, flashing pink neon "Loser" sign at campaign headquarters:

1. At best, it tells the media "You don't need to pay any attention to me until January-- after the Iowa results". At worst, it says "Start the death watch now-- and start pestering my staff to explain how and why we blew it."

2. You've just informed your key contributors that (a) money is tight and (b) you got nothing out of their last donation. You can't go to them and say "We're doing great-- the polls may not show it, but we've got the framework in place and we're going to kick butt." And your competitors can tell them "Don't waste your money-- give it to someone with a chance to win."

3. To the 80% of voters who haven't even started to think about who they might like to vote for, you've made a hell of a first impression. You've assured them that it's OK to pay as much attention to you as they do to Dennis Kucinich, Al Sharpton and Carol Moseley Braun until you demonstrate that you can win a primary.

Clark is living up to virtually everything I said about him last month. He made a horrendous gaffe on Iraq-- emasculating himself on his best issue. He's surrounded himself with the same hacks who thought it was a good idea for Al Gore to distance himself from Bill Clinton in 2000. He could still end up on the ticket-- he'd make a nice ornament for Dean or Kerry. But it's all downhill from here.

Lieberman... well, he always was the 21st-century Ed Muskie. Good riddance.

2:11 AM

 
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