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We Report... You Deride

Thursday, February 19, 2004  
Death To Kerry! (Or Wounds At Least...)

John Kerry is in big trouble. I've had a good look at the breakdowns last night. Kerry has alienated a critical constituency-- one that he absolutely has to have in order to keep his coalition together:

The media.

It was brutal last night. A reasonable analysis of the Wisconsin primary would go something like this:

1. John Kerry won his 15th primary in 17 tries.

2. Kerry won even though 40% of the voters weren't Democrats. Wisconsin lets people cross lines in a primary. 30% of the voters were registered independents; 10% were Republicans.

3. Kerry won even though Howard Dean-- who made Wisconsin his last stand-- shot his wad and took what looks like two Kerry voters for every one of Edwards.

4. Kerry won 56 of Wisconsin's 72 counties-- four of the state's five largest counties and eight of the nine counties with more than 15,000 voters. The larger counties appear to be the ones where the greatest degree of crossovers won.

5. If you take Wisconsin and South Carolina-- the two most impressive outings Edwards has had-- the two candidates are roughly even in both voters (416,100- 414,300 Kerry) and delegates (51-47).

There is only way anyone could read these results and come away saying "Wow, really great showing for Edwards"-- if you really, really wanted to keep Edwards in the race. I understand why Edwards wants to do that. But it really annoys me that the media wants to do it.

And, boy, do they ever. Last night's coverage was a prime example why I lose my temper at morons who talk about the liberal media. If the media were liberal-- if they were as agenda-driven as Faux News-- last night would have been Kerry's coronation. The lead would have been "John Kerry won the state that both Howard Dean and John Edwards described as a 'must-win'. But Edwards finished strongly enough to cement his claim for the VP slot."

But, as Newt Gingrich once said, the media are like wrestling promoters-- they love fights. On last night's 'coverage', CNN's Jeff Greenfield actually ran a piece-- and it was taped, so this wasn't just a momentary brain cramp during a slow news night-- talking about how boring it would be if Kerry locked up the nomination, and saying that his dream was to have the Democratic Primary turn into a neck-and-neck race, ending in a brokered convention and a floor fight.

And I find that infinitely more exasperating than anything Mann Coulter can dish out. At least she has a goal. Hacks like Greenfield really don't care what happens as long as it's entertaining for viewers to watch and gives them some opportunity to make clever comments. If Jeff Greenfield thought his network could show it, he would have wished for Bill Clinton to jump out of a birthday cake at the next debate and start cornholing the delegates on air.

Which means we're going to have a stupid, bloody mess until March 3. Dean is no longer an active member of the "Stop Kerry" coalition, but every idiot with a camera, mic or printing press just signed on. They're going to make the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy look like a church choir-- . I wouldn't be surprised if someone gives MickeyMouse a temporary hosting gig on a cable news show.

Everything you heard about Kerry's inevitability and his skills? Whoops, their bad. Actually he sucks rocks and spits gravel, while John Edwards is in sole posession of God's Revealed Truth. Only he can beat Bush, and if there is any hope for Western Civilization as we know it, we must all reject the lame Leno wanna-be in favor of the 21st Centiury Clinton.

If they can cripple Kerry-- if Edwards picks up a majority of states on March 2-- well, then they'll start rehabilitating him. We'll hear about how callow and inexperienced Edwards is, and how such a limited background--and one of those lame-ass lawyers to boot-- won't carry any weight with the voters.

They'll try to milk this sucker for the next four months. And at this point, all I care about is that it doesn't happen-- that these bloodsucking weasels don't get to play games with our lives until the convention.

1:01 AM

Wednesday, February 18, 2004  
Wofford Alert?

I'm thrilled any time a Democrat wins a congressional seat. But I'm not nearly as pumped about Ben Chandler winning as some people are:

1. He was a statewide elected official.
2. He'd just run statewide three months ago.
3. He's from a family that is, in Kentucky, as well-known as "Kennedy" in Massachusetts or "Taft" in Ohio.
4. I'm told that he outspent his opponent (we won't know for a while yet).
5. It's a majority-D district.

On the other hand, W. did a campaign commercial for her, Mitch McConnell gave her $10,000 and campaign staff and Dennis Hastert tried to blackmail people into voting for her, so he did have to work to get it.

The issue that has everyone twitching is whether this race is 2004's answer to the Wofford election or not. Which refers to a 1991 special election for the U.S. Senate, which was held to fill the unexpired portion of Pennsylvania's John Heinz's term.

In that race, Dick Thornburgh (Bush I's Attorney General) had plenty of money and help from his boss and other DC heavyweights. But Harris Wofford whipped him. The race was the first inkling that Bush I was vulnerable. And Wofford's campaign platform was almost identical to the ideas Bill Clinton used to beat Bush.

(By the way, these "David v Goliath" stories rarely mention that Wofford's campaign managers were James Carville and Paul Begala, that they knew the state inside and out--they'd gotten Bob Casey elected governor in 1986 and 1990-- and Thornburgh ran a sloppy campaign. It was a good win, but it didn't happen by accident and it wasn't entirely a referendum on Bush.)

Anyway, here's the burning question on everyone's mind: "Is what Ben Chandler said to Kentucky's voters the secret recipe for beating W?" If you want to see what he told them-- and whether Edwards or Kerry can repeat it plausibly-- here's the link.

I'll have something on Edwards and Kerry later.

3:31 PM

Tuesday, February 17, 2004  
Laura Bush: Bill Janklow's Dream Date

You've probably seen an outraged link to Robin Toner's dysfunctional review of a biography of Laura Bush.

The sentence "just as Hillary Rodham Clinton was more complicated than her feminazi image, surely Laura Bush has a few currents, a little tension, in her inner life." is infuriating. But the mind-boggling part of the review comes five paragraphs later:

"The central drama of Mrs. Bush's youth, and the one that perhaps more than anything else accounts for her extraordinary reserve, came when she was 17. She drove her parents' car through a stop sign and collided with another car. The boy in that other car, who was killed in the accident, was a good friend and a popular high school athlete."

Excuse me? She killed someone? I mean, I'll freely admit that my scholarship on the lives of wingnut wives is deficient. But I don't live under a rock. And I get the impression that if Hillary Clinton had committed vehicular homicide, I'd sure as hell have found out about it a lot sooner than three years into her husband's first term.

So Mrs. W. killed someone with her car-- which, in most states, is a felony. And her husband has a slew of traffic offenses and drunk driving pickups-- in many states, multiple DWI busts can be charged as felonies. Dick Cheney has a couple of DUIs. So I guess the next question is "How many times has Lynn Cheney been arrested?" Or could she be the token non-felon on the ticket?

Inquiring minds want to know.

8:37 PM

Don't Change Horse's Asses in Mid-Regime?

What happens if Al-Qaeda attacks again? Or, more precisely (since people in this country care about events only when they intrude on our lives), what happens if they (a) attack U.S. Citizens, (b) do it on U.S. soil and (c) do so in a manner that permanently disrupts the fabric of our daily lives?

"Then W. wins" everyone seems to think. As they did on 9/11, the people rally around the commander in chief-- and you don't change presidents during a war.

Well, I say it's spinach (or maybe broccoli) and I say the hell with it:

1. We changed presidents during both Vietnam and Korea, and the hot-button issue both times was voter displeasure with how the war was being run. Granted, Johnson and Truman bailed out of the primaries-- but they knew they couldn't win the general if they were facing so much opposition in their own party.

W. won't have a primary challenge, but I hardly think that means he's a lock.

2. Americans are suckers for a patriotic appeal, but there's a limit to how often and how hard you can yank their chains. And they expect a lot from their government.

The main reason W. got a pass on 9/11-- even though his approval ratings were as low as they are now-- is that no one expected it to happen.

No, strike that. No one imagined that anything like that could possibly happen.

And because Americans are wonderfully self-absorbed, we assumed that if we couldn't imagine it happening, no one else should be expected to anticipate it, either. So in the explosion of rage and pain, no one asked "How could this happen?" or "Who was to blame?" very forcefully. Nobody vetted the answers too forcefully.

But if it happens again? The government is on the clock now. More importantly, Tom Ridge and John Ashcroft have made themselves so obtrusive and obnoxious in our lives that they won't get a pass.

It's a general rule of human behavior-- the more of a pain in the butt you are to me, the more I expect from you. If the doctor asks you to stick out your tongue and takes your blood pressure, you're not going to expect him to find a rare form of liver cancer. If you undergo six hours of testing, you'll sue him for malpractice.

It's been almost three years; there have been huge budgets and we've all seen the deficits. Anyone who's flown or tried to buy something from an international vendor or had identity theft or any experience with the law has seen how much these folks stick their noses into our lives.

If some joker wearing a turban walks into a McDonalds and pulls the pin on a grenade, that won't cause a major hassle for W. (unless it turns out that he's here on an expired visa).

But a major event-- with a body count of three figures or more? Hey, how would you think FDR would have fared if the Japanese had pulled off another surprise attack on the U.S. Fleet? People would have been furious-- they would have screamed "How could you let this happen again?"

And that'd be only part of it-- because no one doubted that the US needed to fight World War Two. Another successful attack detonates the national rage about the war in Iraq.

There's no doubt about it: People are angry. They think the government either lied to them about Iraq or royally screwd it up. They think it's very, very wrong (I'll try to explain why pretty soon), but we seem to have a gentleman's agreement not to waste energy on recrimninations.

"We bought a lemon, we can't do anything about it," people seem to feel. "What's done is done-- we've just got to fix it. So why talk about the past?"

But another event-- which everyone will think we could have prevented-- then all of this nonsense in Iraq isn't just a silly waste of time, money and the steady stream of casualties. Then it's an inexcuable lapse-- a complete waste of time that allowed Osama bin Laden to regrup and hit us again.

If that happens, Al Gore and Wesley Clark instantly become prophets, and then there isn't anything that W. can do to stem the bleeding.

I could be wrong-- and I hope I don't find out. But if you're concerned about Al-Qaeda having an effect on the election, don't worry. If we read their names in November any time between now and November, it's bad news for th wingnuts.

2:59 PM

The Plame Game

I'm a contrarian by nature-- whenever there is consensus on an issue, I usually find myself disagreeing with it. It's something in the wiring, I guess... the more unanimous the opinion, the less likely I am to agree, and the more my opinion diverges form the norm.

I'm not always right (it's about 60-40). But when I am, the results are spectacular. (It's pretty humbling when I'm wrong, as well.)

After several days of huddling with other people, talking about all the potential issues in the upcoming campaign, I find myself on the opposite side of the herd on two subjects: I think Al-Qaeda will help the Democrats and I think the Valerie Plame issue will hurt them.

Well, maybe not hurt. But I don't see the Plame affair hurting W., and it might give him an excuse to help himself, by dumoing Dick Cheney from the ticket.

Cheney has gone from being an asset in 2000 (a steadying influence on a callow playboy governor) to an albatross. A guy who seemed like a capable, albeit conservative, governmental mechanic-- probably winning at least a few swing voters for his ticket-- has governed like Sean Hannity's psychotic twin.

As Josh Marshall has pointed out, Cheney has quarterbacked every fiasco that W.'s regime has had. And he's made every foulup worse by adamantly insisting-- at every opportunity he's been given to speak-- that those decisions were absolutely correct and that the world is better off for having made them.

Cheney hasn't had much opportunity to speak in the last year, because the politically savvy wingnuts have chained him in the basement, locked away from cameras and microphones. But when the campaign gets going, he'll be out on the stump every day, defendinhg Halliburton, extolling the virtues of Ahmed Chalabi, denying that W's regime ever claimed Iraq had nukes and insisting that David Kay is delusional and the U.S. found WMDs.

Cheney will be a tremendous help to the Dems-- if John Edwards takes the #2 spot, he'll chew Cheney to pieces in their debate.

Cheney is a long-term liability to his party as well. Unless the ticket gets clobbered, the vice-presidential nominee is ideally positioned to get the top slot. Since 1960, six VP nominees (Bob Dole, Bush I, Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale and Al Gore) have moved up, Cheney would be 66 in 2008; with his history of heart trouble, there's no way anyone would consider him a viable candidate.

(To save you the trouble of looking them up, Bill Miller, Jack Kemp, Sergeant Shriver, Geraldine Ferraro and Lloyd Bentsen all served as execs on the Titanic. Spiro Agnew got into legal trouble; Henry Cabot Lodge chose not to run. Dan Quayle, Ed Muskie and Joe Lieberman demonstrated that a bad candidate can blow even a significant head start.)

That makes two good reasons to want Cheney gone. Put in a strong campaigner with geographic appeal and a clean past and you've improved the ticket measurably. But since the death of Franklin Roosevelt (who changed VPs like socks), voters have penalized candidates who've taken someone off the ticket (e.g., Eagleton in 1972 and Rockefeller in 1976). The feeling now is that if you had to remove him, he shouldn't have gone on in the first place and you screwed up for picking him.

The ideal situation would be if Cheney had a heart attck. W. could remove Cheney-- jettisoning his liabilities and adding someone with strengths-- without being forced to acknowledge a mistake. But if the Plame investigation turns out to finger people in Cheney's office, that'd be nearly as good:

1. Cheney could fall on his sword, claiming responsibility for the people who reported to him. This would leave absolutely no way to tie the Plame affir to W. or anyone connected directly to him.

2. Wingnuts would see Cheney as a martyr, which would fire up the base.

3. You'd lose all Cheney's negatives and add a new guy who could (if they pick the right person) come in with a clean slate.

4. W. could claim to be "shocked to discover that there was gambling in the casino" and make a few starchy speeches about how he runs a clean administration and how he isn't a typical politician.

It's not an ideal situation-- you'd have someone removed from the ticket due to a major scandal-- but it's impossible to prove that Scooter Libby and John Hannah weren't acting on their own and that Cheney and W. weren't "rising above partisan politics" (or some Noonanesque bushwah like that).

But it'd beat the hell out of hearing Cheney hollering about how we could balance the budget in six weeks if our GDP just had the income that drilling in ANWR would provide. If I were a wingnut operative, I'd gladly make that trade.

Update: Please note that I am not suggesting that Karl Rove has orchestrated the delays to take Cheney out at the right moment or that this is all part of a plan or a conspiracy. It's way too hard to plan and time that stuff. And I don't know who a good replacement would be, either.

4:18 AM

Monday, February 16, 2004  
A Modest Proposal

You know, I'm opposed to changing the dime or national landmarks.

But I agree that we ought to immortalize him in some way. How about changing "Alzheimer's Disease" to "Reagan's Syndrome"?

9:27 PM

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