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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Right Hand? Meet Left Hand.

Well, last I looked, the terror alert status button on the right there still was at Bert. But it seems like it could go up to Ernie any minute now. And forget about ever seeing the Oscar the Grouch or even Cookie Monster again. (Elmo, of course, is red--when we get really scared, we start talking about ourselves in the third person.)

I almost drove off the road this morning when I heard two near-consectutive reports on NPR. First, the gubmint says that in the next couple of months, Al Qaeda is likely to try hijacking planes again.

At the same time, the Transportation Security Administration is announcing that they're laying off air marshals on many domestic and international flights.

Sigh. If I had more time, I would remind you of all the other actions this administration has taken directly endangering our interests and citizens. I don't have the stomach for it now, either.

Saturday, July 26, 2003

Weekend Open Thread

Okay, you guys are getting better at this comments stuff on the open threads. Last weekend, I actually had five whole comments! Let's try for seven this time. Whaddya say?

And to get us started, my first big essay this week will be about why some Democrats hate Joe Lieberman. What is it about him that makes you want to hold your nose as you vote for him? I've got theories, but let me hear your ideas, too.

Recommended reading: Grubi's new Dem Poll. And go make the bat move, and help us dick Cheney before he dicks us.

Friday, July 25, 2003

Now I Have Made the Big Leagues

A week or so ago, I became the subject of a thread on Democratic Underground. But today, something beyond my wildest dreams: I got a mention on the Daily Kos front page!

I decided to take folkbum's suggestion and turn this Cattle Call into a drinking game (hey, it is Friday, after all!):

Has anyone else thought about making this comment thread into a drinking game? Take drink when someone posts that
  • Lieberman's a Republican
  • Dean is unelectable
  • Kos is just Deanist propaganda
  • Kos should include Clark in the rankings
  • Gephardt has no eyebrows
  • it's too late for Clark to enter
  • it's not too late for Clark to enter
  • Kos ignored the fact that Edwards had a good week (DavidNYC's addition to the list)
I would add
X is unelectable
since that argument is now used by the backers of just about every candidate out there (except for Kucinich fans, who just want to enjoy their guy until it's time to back the Democratic nominee).



The big irony, of course, is that I don't even drink!

That's a little much for your humble folkbum to handle. It almost makes up for the "Service Engine Soon" light coming on in my Saturn. Sigh.

Must-Reads

Rep. Jan Schakowsky at In These Times.
If we are serious about getting rid of George W. Bush in 17 months, then we have to make some decisions and some commitments. During the war, a couple of nuns came to see me in my Chicago office. They were on their way to jail to serve a three-month sentence for an aggravated misdemeanor for protesting the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia. They crossed a line in the road and now they were going to prison. Think of it. Anyway, on their way to jail, they had been arrested on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago in an antiwar protest. The police got a bit carried away even though the City Council had passed a strong antiwar resolution.

The nuns wanted to know what could be done to change the state of affairs. I said I thought someone needed to take voter registration forms to every meeting and demonstration and get people fired up to vote. They said that would be hard. Why? Because people were fed up with the Democrats. I said, then they are going to have to get over it, and you are going to have to help them. Because like it or not, either George W. Bush or the Democratic nominee, whoever he may be, will be our next president.

All of you know who I'm talking about; I may be talking about you. We should, by all means, be working to promote a progressive agenda with each and every candidate and to make the nominee as progressive as possible.

But in the end, we are going to have to dedicate ourselves to electing the Democrat. To do otherwise is a luxury we cannot afford. I look forward to our campaign for a universal health care plan or a real education bill or labor law reform. We cannot even have that conversation now. We are trying to hang on by our fingernails to what we have now. And we are losing.
"Other Priorities" at The Likely Story.
Cheney refused to serve in Vietnam. He received four 2-S draft deferments -- granted to students -- from 1963 through 1965 while he was a student at the University of Wyoming. He married Lynne in 1964, and was thus banned from the draft.

But in October 1965, the Selective Service announced that married men without children could then be drafted. Exactly nine months and two days later -- on July 28, 1966 -- his first child was born. Cheney hadn't waited until her birth before he sought a 3-A deferment classification -- given to those with dependents. He did so when Lynne was only 10 weeks pregnant.

Cheney said to a reporter in 1989, "I had other priorities in the '60s than military service."

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Howard Dean's Shadow Cabinet
note: I started writing this before I saw the open thread with this topic on the unofficial Dean blog. I have not yet read it; once I get this posted, I'll take a look and see what everyone else is saying. Also, a big thanks to Matt Langer over at Untelevised, whose "Political Quick Reference" was a great help and inspiration.

second note: I have tried to fill most every posiion, although I'm sure I missed one or two somewhere. Two sources of potential cabinet members that I have not really explored are academia and think-tanks, as I'm less familiar with those fields. None of these people have been vetted by the appropriate agencies, and, in some cases I'm not entirely sure which way their political sails blow, but based on their bios and records seem good for the jobs. In terms of people from the political sphere, I tried to keep an eye on Congress, the Senate, especially, and did not tap people who would be replaced by Republican governors or leave a too-Republican district, since we need to keep Congress at least as close as it is now. And this cabinet would work for any Dem candidate, really.

third note: Comments, please!


  • Secretary of Agriculture: Iowa Governor Thomas Vilsack. Leadership in Iowa, of course, means leadership on agricultural issues. Even if Vilsack later comes down endorsing Gephardt, he and Dean seem to get along whenever they meet. In addition, having Vilsack on board will help to ensure that Iowa stays blue this time around.
  • Attorney General: Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle. Doyle is someone who gives a rip about civil rights and the idea of justice--the name of the department he will head. He was Wisconsin's AG before moving down the hall to the big office. Plus, it leaves Barbara Lawton in the governor's office here, and she's just awesome.
  • Secretary of Commerce: Former Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader. Unsafe at Any Speed ushered in an area of consumer protection the likes of which we've never seen rivaled. His concern for the means, whatever the ends might be, is valuable and refreshing. Despite what you may think of him for his actions in 2000--and some of them were despicable, sure--he cares about the consumer, the voter, and the process.
  • Secretary of Defense: West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller. This is a post where an academic may fit better, but Rockefeller's got the experience, knowledge, and gravitas to pull it off, having spent time on the Intelligence, Veterans' Affairs, and International Relations committees. His quiet determination stands in stark contrast to Rumsfeld's snarkiness, and Rockefeller, I'm certain, will not honk off the brass with any autocratic abuses.
  • Secretary of Education: Executive Director of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform Warren Simmons. Simmons is a leading figure in public school reform (the good kind) as well as a respected leader among minority groups and the post-secondary establishment. He can address many of the major concerns of the day--increasing minority enrollment in colleges and universities, strengthening public schools, and working on student loan and tuition troubles.
  • Secretary of Energy: Executive Director of the American Wind Energy Association Randall Swisher. Swisher comes with a ton of legislative experience, though mostly as staff, as well as from a broad network of alternative and renewable energy partnerships.
  • Director of the Environmental Protection Agency: Audobon Society Director Juliet P. Tammenoms Bakker. Bakker has her feet firmly in both the environmental and business communities and can help these two groups work together and actually improve the environment.
  • Secretary of Health and Human Services: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Julie Gerberding. Despite her use of the non-existent word impactful, she comes with a major knowledge not only of public health but also of dealing with bioterror issues, something that should let us all rest a little easier. At least, since I have experience living under Tommy Thompson, any way to get rid of him will let me rest easier.
  • Secretary of Homeland Security: Uber-Democrat Gary Hart. No monkey business here: Hart has been telling he Whopper's administration what needed to happen in terms of defending ourselves from terrorists since January 2001, and if the Whopper had listened, 9/11 may very well not have happened.
  • Director of Housing and Urban Development: Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow. She is a rising star in the Democratic party who, like Vilsack, Rockefeller, and others could help carry states if they're part of a shadow cabinet. But beyond that, she is a talent, too, who could make a real difference at HUD. I know, who cares about HUD, right? But HUD is on the front lines of the fight against poverty, and a real activist, supported by her president, could lead a revolution on how we work with the poor.
  • Secretary of the Interior: Washington Senator Ron Wyden. A good chunk of Wyden's resume has to do with his tooth-and-nail fighting for Oregon's environment. I like that.
  • Drug Czar: Director of the Drug Policy Alliance Nathan Nadelmann. According to the DPA's website: "Drug Policy Alliance is the leading organization working to broaden the public debate on drug policy and to promote realistic alternatives to the war on drugs based on science, compassion, health and human rights." That sounds about right to me.
  • Secretary of Labor: Washington, DC, representative Eleanor Holmes Norton. As former chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, she learned how to handle big business. Her successes as the District's House rep show she can work for the underdog.
  • National Security Advisor: New Jersey congressman Robert Menendez. His role as a House leader lends him depth that Condi Rice never had, and his experience with Homeland Security issues has made him an expert at knowing where we need our national security to focus. I firmly believe he can read all 90 pages of an NIE.
  • Press Secretary: Al Franken. I have to have one not-so serious entry here, and I toyed with making Martha Stewart the Interior Secretary, but I decided this was it. Actually, I think Franken could do a bang-up job: He's quick on his feet, he's brutally honest (much moreso than Micheal Moore), and he does well on camera. Plus, Stuart Smalley can give Howard Dean those little pep talks--"I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and dog-gone-it, people like me."
  • Secretary of State: Retired General Wesley Clark. One of the things I have found most interesting about the current administration is the rift between State and Defense. I think the Whopper made a huge mistake putting two such completely opposed ideologues--Powell and Rumsfeld--in charge of Departments that need to get along. I think a Clark-Rockefeller team would be far stronger, and Clark could really help restore our credibility in the eyes of our NATO allies and the rest of the world, moreso than almost anyone else in this spot.
  • Surgeon General: American Heart Association's chief volunteer scientific and medical officer Augustus O. Grant. Calling him a "medical officer" makes him sound an awful lot like Dr. McCoy, but Grant has a solid, research-based (as opposed to ideology-based) public health background.
  • Trade Representative: Ambassador Carol Moseley-Braun. Braun is an experienced diplomat, which is one key part of being the trade rep, and she also recognizes the value of fair--as opposed to merely free--trade. She's too good to be left out of anyone's administration.
  • Secretary of Transportation: Delaware Senator Thomas Carper. Being on the Amtrak board isn't Carper's biggest accomplishment, but, combined with his fiscal discipline, connection to the National Governors' Association, and economics degree, I think he can do good things for the transportation sector. And I'm not talking about stuffing the g-strings of automakers and road builders.
  • Secretary of the Treasury: Retiring Washington Governor Gary Locke. Locke was my runner-up for Attorney General, and I felt he needed to be included here. No, he's not an economist, but his experience as a governor and his integrity lend him weight that cannot be denied.
  • Secretary of Veterans' Affairs: Illinois Representative Luis Gutierrez. His concern for civil rights and his work with the Veterans' Affairs committee show that he is not going to roll over and let our vets get screwed the way they have been under the current administration.
  • Vice President: New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. It really only worked out this way because I'm doing it alphabetically; I wasn't trying to build the suspense. I had been leaning Edwards's way for a while, what with his good economic policy stuff (check my archives for June), but his penchant for fundraising scandals has turned me off. I mean, I liked the idea of the youngish-looking Edwards leading people to think about a 16-year administration. But Edwards isn't cutting it for me any more. So instead, former cabinet member Bill Richardson, who can carry those people who remember Clinton fondly and will also bring a whole lot of the southwest to the table. Dean can't win without New Mexico, which should remain a solid Blue State, but Richardson could bring Nevada, Arizona, and Colorado on board. That would make a Dean run unstoppable, even without Florida. I think we need to have a win-without-Florida strategy, and if Florida comes along, it'll just add to the rout we're all hoping for.
  • Tuesday, July 22, 2003

    Crystal Ballin'

    Yesterday at Daily Kos, someone asked in a comments thread for predictions about who would drop out when from the Democratic primary race. Here's what I wrote in response:

    Sharpton, Moseley-Braun, Kucinich are the ones we'd all most like to see drop out, but they also all have the least to lose. They will hang on into March.

    The first to go, I'm getting more and more certain, will be Graham. He will be the only one to go before Iowa; I would guess early October, when low Q3 fundraising numbers combine with low polling data and poor public reaction to his debate appearances to spell it out clear.

    Lieberman will drop out on February third. Period.

    If Gephardt loses Iowa, he will drop out, but that's not likely, I know. He will hang on until February 3 if he places third in New Hampshire but tanks on 2/2 (except MO); if he wins Iowa, places third in NH, and does well in a couple of 2/2 states besides MO, look out, since MI is in his reach, too. But a string of third or fourth place finishes after SC and MO would have him dropping out March third.

    If Edwards can't finish higher than fourth in Iowa, New Hampshire, and higher than third in South Carolina, he will also drop out after the 2/2 contests. I have a hard time seeing him go all the way, his numbers being what they are, but if he does moderately well in the contests through 2/2, he may hang on a week or two beyond that.

    Dean seems likely to take first or second in both IA and NH, so he will want to hang on at least until the 2/2 contests. If Dean has won one or both of IA or NH, momentum will probably carry him well enough in DE, AZ, and NM on 2/2 to carry on until March, especially since he can win both WA and MI. If he isn't winning left and right by 3/2, he'll drop out at that point.

    Kerry may drop if he takes third in IA and second in NH. He may take DE on 2/2, and if he wins NH, he may take more on that date. Assuming he does, he has to hope to finish second in WA and MI (which will be hard in MI), and win one of the mid-Feb contests heading into 3/2. Like Dean, if he's not winning well enough by 3/2, he'll drop.

    If Clark enters, he needs a calculus like Dean's. But I don't see him starting strong; if he had the luxury of letting momentum build, he could have a shot. Right now, it would be hard for him to do well in NH, and maybe even IA. DE, MO, and probably even NM are out for him on 2/2, as well as WA and MI the next week, and ME and WI later in the month. I wouldn't put VA and TN out of his reach, though, and if he can do a solid second in all the others, he may have a shot. Otherwise, he'll be conceding on Wednesday, March third, with a few others. I won't even bother with Biden.

    Saturday, July 19, 2003

    Open Thread

    Okay, I'm giving you one last shot to make this open thread thing successful. My in-laws are in town and I probably won't be able to blog until Wednesday at the earliest, so I'm counting on you guys to make it interesting until I get back.

    For kicks, I'll tell you what my likely Wednesday topic is: My proposed Howard Dean Shadow Cabinet, from Veep down to Secretary of Veterans' Affairs, or whatever's last on the list. If you want to gimme suggestions, I'll take 'em, especially for the obscure positions no one ever thinks about, like Transportation and stuff. Click on "Comments" and have at it.

    Ready? Go!

    Thursday, July 17, 2003

    The big leagues?

    I've become the subject of rampant speculation on Democratic Underground! Does this mean I've made it?

    And, Clark supporters, thanks for being decorous while you're here. I appreciate both your restraint and civility. (No sarcasm there at all--the one commenter so far was cordial in his disagreement, and I like that.)

    UPDATE, 7:00 PM: Here are some choice bits about me from the DU board:
    ->So, if this is a true Dean supporter, show us the goods, or stop trying to spread false rumors. Its so "Republican" sounding. If most Republicans can only win by buying elections and computer equipment to falsify results, then they are liars and anti-American. That is shameful and if Republicans REALLY believe in morality, they will take a look at the unbelievable epidemic of immorality taking place in their party.

    ->hey, dicky [in response to the person who posted my letter], these sites are "rated" by the number of visitors. If this letter was not created by you, please link where you "copied" it from. That way, www.dumbletter.com gets credit for this tripe. [ed. note--dumbletter.com is available for anyone who wants it!]
    The rest is really quite calm, except for the ire directed at the person who posted my Clark letter (below) there (without permission, but with attribution).

    I suppose I should clarify where I stand on the copying thing. This site is copyrighted, just by virtue of it's being published. You may not use the material on this site without attribution or in an effort to make money that by rights should be mine. Otherwise, take it all.

    And I know, what really means I've made it is when I get trashed at Free Republic.

    Tuesday, July 15, 2003

    An open letter to Gen. Wesley Clark

    Dear General Clark,

    On the off-chance that you stumble across my site (or, if you're like me and Google your name pretty often to see what people are writing about you), I would like to explain why at this time I do not support your entering the Democratic presidential primary race.

    Let me get the basics out of the way: The invisible primary we are in the midst of--as you probably have read in my archives--is for donors, endorsement, and activists. You know, organization stuff.

    By mid-August, when you say you will announce, the good staffers will be taken (the ones Lieberman's letting go aren't that good), as well as volunteer networks and big-name endorsements. If you wait until then, you face a big battle for name recognition, campaign structure, and, in a serious way, money.

    But wait, you say, Bill Clinton didn't enter the race until late 1991. Jimmy Carter didn't break out until well into the primaries themselves.

    This is true. But the primary season is a different animal now. We will know who the candidate is (unless there's some monkey business with superdelegates and whatnot, leading to a brokered convention) by March 3. That's only about eight months from now.

    This front-loaded primary season makes it essentially impossible for anyone to start slow and gain momentum. You have to start strong and stay strong. You could maybe win in Washington, DC if you campaign there--many other candidates are skipping that one, at least officially--but that might anger Iowans the next week and the New Hampshirese the week after that for undercutting their primacy (which is why the others are skipping DC). But DC's vote is mostly symbolic; the big prizes are elsewhere. Will you have time to be strong in IA, NH, and SC?

    I know you've got a growing group of Meetuppers, who, as I know from first-hand experience, can really help a campaign. But the five months between Labor Day and Iowa will go by very quickly. No amount of people can make up for lost time.

    But there's more, Gen. Clark. I also think that if you jump into this campaign as late as it seems you might, you will anger a whole lot of people who might be wondering why you have been avoiding it. Why, they might ask (and, heck, I've heard it asked already), should you be allowed not to have to campaign like the rest of them?

    I know this is historically early yet. And if you announced your candidacy tomorrow, I think a lot of people could forgive you. But to wait until September? Some will get tired of waiting for you; others will just be offended that you took so much time.

    And I personally worry about your being seen as the "savior," as I don't think Democrats need to be seen as people who need saving. We have nine great candidates right now, all of whom would be far better than the Whopper. But the pundits and especially the right-leaning cable and radio folks will see this as another opportunity to bemoan the quality of candidates that Democrats can field. Even if their statements are designed to contrast these candidates with how formidable you are instead--and I do believe you would be a formidable opponent to the Whopper--the overall impression the audience is left with is what a bunch of losers Democrats are in general.

    One of the key reasons I support Howard Dean (so, yeah, okay, take this all with a grain of salt) is that Dean is partisan. He stirs up this opposition party to actually go out there and offer some opposition. That helps to restore my faith as a member of this opposition party. I think it's good that Dean is firing up Democrats, especially the disaffected ones who had given up politics or who had avoided politics altogether.

    Unlike a lot of people who worry that Dean at the top of the ticket would be bad for Democrats down-ballot, I think Dean's ability to energize Democrats--not just independents and former Greens--will be very helpful to Democrats down-ballot (and you have to admit that former Greens won't vote for Republican Senate candidates or even dogcatchers).

    But you, General Clark, have a very non-partisan appeal. That means a lot of Republicans might vote for you. This could work in your favor, but what does it do for Democrats down the ballot? I actually think this is an issue many Democrats will face, as a whole lot of Republicans may vote "D" at the top of the ticket as an anti-Whopper vote. But without a candidate who does a good job mobilizing the base, a la Dean, will there be enough Democratic voters to elect Dems to other offices?

    Take Wisconsin as an example. We elected Democrat Jim Doyle as governor in 2002. But many of his votes came from Republicans who did not like or trust the incumbent Scott McCallum (who inherited the job from Tommy Thompson) because, frankly, he was not very good and that was widely acknowledged, even in Republican circles. But the state Senate was taken by Republicans, and Republicans strengthened their hold on the Assembly. Doyle--unlike what either of his primary challengers Tom Barret and Kathleen Falk might have done--did not energize the base, and those other races fell to Republicans. I worry that the same will happen nationally with a Clark candidacy.

    Finally, and this is perhaps my most important point (as a regular reader of mine, Gen. Clark, you must know I always save the best for last), as I said above, right now you are seen as non-partisan and impartial. Your criticism of the Whopper and his policies is therefore laden with credibility and regarded highly by the public and, more importantly, the media.

    The second you declare a party affiliation or candidacy for president, all of that goes right out the window. Immediately. You lose a great deal of your current appeal just by declaring.

    You are a vital and necessary voice of reason against the Whopper and the pack of liars he has working for him. People listen to you and trust you. But once you start playing politics, your attacks will be seen as partisan. Your opinions will seem politically motivated. Your credibility will be diminished.

    Don't believe me? Look at what they're doing to Bob Graham. His experience as a governor and senator are unparalleled and his tenure on the intelligence committee gives him, of all our candidates, a great deal of credibility and stature when it comes to the intelligence issues currently in the news. The media, though, preface every statement of his with "Graham, who is also running for president," as if to say, "grain of salt, please." And the Wurlitzer ignores every point he scored against the Whopper on Russert this weekend instead to focus on his calling "deceit" a five-letter word instead of six (as opposed to the three-letter "lie"). It's partisan and petty, but it's what you, too will be reduced to.

    General Clark, I implore you to retain your current status. You are valuable and needed by Democrats, but that value would be seriously undermined were you to become Candidate Clark instead of General Clark.

    Sincerely,

    Folkbum

    Monday, July 14, 2003

    I thought I was more of a bomb-throwing anarchist

    But I guess I'm just a soft tree-hugger:

    Environmentalist
    Threat rating: Low. You are annoying, but too much
    of a softy tree hugger to pose any threat to
    the mighty machine of Republican progress. And
    the FBI know where you live.


    What threat to the Bush administration are you?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    Sigh. Guess I gotta put the molotov cocktails away.

    Sunday, July 13, 2003

    Open Thread

    The open thread was so successful last week--three whole comments! Yippee!--I thought I should do it again.

    I'll be out today at the Coffee House picnic, and then I have a stack of schoolwork to do, so no real blogging possible, anyway.

    Tomorrow I might have something.

    And if anyone who knows blogger and blog•spot can tell me how to get rid of the giant gap in yesterday's post about poll results, please tell me; it's really bugging me.

    So, click on "Comments," below, and have at it!

    Friday, July 11, 2003

    Poll Position

    For a long time now, Howard Dean nay-sayers have been pointing to national polls--where, admittedly, Dean's not polling higher than fourth--to say that he will not be a real contender.

    The best rejoinder, in my opinion, is to point out that the national frontrunner--Joe Lieberman--is in the low single digits in the places it counts most, Iowa and New Hampshire.

    But CBS is out with a new name-recognition poll that shows Dean tied with Kerry for first.

    Now, name recognition is not everything. But the telling thing is comparing Dean's position in the poll to CBS's poll in May:

    CAN YOU NAME ANY DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES?
    (sorry about all the space below--Blogger isn't letting me get rid of it somehow; just scroll down. It's like dead air . . .)















































































































     All Americans  May 2003  July 2003
     No, cannot recall any  66%  66%
     John Kerry  7%  7%
     Howard Dean  1%  7%
     Joe Lieberman  9%  6%
     Richard Gephardt  6%  3%
     Bob Graham  3%  1%
     John Edwards  2%  1%
     Dennis Kucinich  N/A  1%
     Al Sharpton  2%  2%
     Others  4%  6%
     Among Democrats  May 2003  July 2003
     No, cannot recall any 64% 66%
     John Kerry 5% 7%
     Howard Dean 2% 7%
     Joe Lieberman 10% 6%
     Richard Gephardt 5% 3%
     Bob Graham 2% 1%
     John Edwards 4% 1%
     Dennis Kucinich  N/A 1%
     Al Sharpton 4% 2%
     Others 5% 6%


    You read that right: In a mere two months--just two months!--Dean gained 5% and 6% in name recognition, while the other candidates were down or unchanged in at least one of those sets of data. (I'm not counting DK, who was not included in the May numbers.)

    And of all the candidates' ups and downs since May, Howard Dean's is the only one that exceeds the poll's 4% margin of error. In other words, no one can explain away Dean's rise to a tie for first with statistics or any other excuse. He just simply has performed well.

    The CBS polling period covered July 8-9, so it, unlike the last Gallup poll placing Dean fourth, came after the media blitz Dean's Q2 fundraising numbers created. I firmly believe this is a harbinger of what the next set of national polling data will tell us. Dean will move into the top two or three, and at the very least will get out of single digits (Gallup had him at 7%--I'm too pressed for time to dig up the link now). I also believe the next polls out of Iowa and New Hampshire will show Dean more than statistically tied for first, especially the Iowa poll.

    I am on record elsewhere as saying that polls, especially this early, are not the end-all and be-all of this race. But the CBS data really is significant.

    It's gonna happen!

    Thursday, July 10, 2003

    Why I'll Always Have a Job
    (and all my English-teacher friends, too)


    Liberal Oasis reminds us all of this exchange from the darkest days of Monica:
    JIM LEHRER: You had no sexual relationship with this young woman?

    BILL CLINTON: There is not a sexual relationship. That is accurate.
    -- PBS Newshour, 1/21/98
    That was the big dog's way out, playing with verb tense, and he was absolutely skewered for it. I mean, even Bart Simpson said nobody cares what his definition of is is. It was a cheap, transparent attempt to dodge what he should have owned up to in the first place.

    But note what the Whopper's up to now:
    Q: Do you still believe they were trying to buy nuclear materials in Africa?

    GEORGE W. BUSH: Right now?

    Q: No, were they? The statement you made --

    BUSH: One thing is for certain. He's not trying to buy anything right now. If he's alive, he's on the run.
    -- South Africa Press Conference, 7/9/03
    Again, verb tenses mean you can evade the real question.

    And I firmly believe "We have found the weapons of mass destruction"--in reference to rusted-out hydrogen trailers--is the Whopper's "I did not have sex with that woman."

    And it's coming from all of the Pants on Fire Singers (the Whopper's backup band). Rumsfeld's dodging on capitol hill yesterday:
    The coalition did not act in Iraq because we had discovered dramatic new evidence of Iraq's pursuit [of weapons of mass destruction]. We acted because we saw the evidence in a dramatic new light - through the prism of our experience on September 11th.
    This sheds a lot of light on Rumsfeld's earlier careful parsing:
    Since we began after September 11th we do have solid evidence of the presence in Iraq of Al-Qaeda members including some that have been in Baghdad. We have what we consider to be, a very reliable reporting of senior level contacts going back a decade and of possible chemical and biological agent training.
    "Going back a decade" here apparently means intelligence collected a decade ago. In fact, the Whopper's team has made a lot of noise of late about how Bill Clinton had the same evidence in 1998, and it led him to bomb the crap out of Iraq then.

    In fact, no one in the administration--or on Blair's team in the UK, where the water's a whole lot hotter--has been able to point to a single credible intelligence report from the last five years. Not one.

    Powell's dog-and-pony show at the UN in February is now in serious disrepute, since he's been found to have mistranslated key parts of phone calls, and on-the-ground inspections of sites in his pretty pictures have turned up exactly zero evidence of any WMDs.

    And are we supposed to just sit here and take it? No! Ari Fleisher wants us to do something:
    "I think the burden is on those people who think he didn't have weapons of mass destruction to tell the world where they are."
    (Pause for laughter.)

    But what's got me is the Pants on Fire Singers' use of language. In fact, Ari Fleischer is sounding more and more like the Iraqi Information Minister. Dig this, from Monday:
    Q: I just want to take you back to your answer before, when you said you have long acknowledged that the information on yellow cake turned out to be incorrect. If I remember right, you only acknowledged the Niger part of it as being incorrect -- I think what the --

    FLEISCHER: That's correct.

    Q: I think what the President said during his State of the Union was he --

    FLEISCHER: When I refer to yellow cake I refer to Niger. The question was on the context of Ambassador Wilson's mission.

    Q: So are you saying the President's broader reference to Africa, which included other countries that were named in the NIE, were those also incorrect?

    FLEISCHER: Well, I think the President's statement in the State of the Union was much broader than the Niger question. [. . .]

    Q: The President's statement was accurate?

    FLEISCHER: We see nothing that would dissuade us from the President's broader statement. [. . .] I'm sorry, I see what David is asking. Let me back up on that and explain the President's statement again, or the answer to it.

    The President's statement was based on the predicate of the yellow cake from Niger. The President made a broad statement. So given the fact that the report on the yellow cake did not turn out to be accurate, that is reflective of the President's broader statement, David. So, yes, the President's broader statement was based and predicated on the yellow cake from Niger.

    Q: So it was wrong?

    FLEISCHER: That's what we've acknowledged with the information on --

    Q: The President's statement at the State of the Union was incorrect?

    FLEISCHER: Because it was based on the yellow cake from Niger.
    (Josh Marshall has the whole thing, and another post clearly catching Ari in a bald-faced lie here.)

    Ari very nicely manages to offer up a version of the latest spin--"It was just one line in the State of the Union"--while also providing cover for anyone defending the Whopper's claims. But when pressed, he does admit, if you can unravel it, that the whole "nucular" weapons from Africa bit was indefensible without giving us a sound bite!

    That's what this administration does: The document trail is there, and it's clear for anyone with the time or inclination to read it. But they never leave the sound bite; they never give the network TV producers a money shot. I mean, even the Whopper's "We have found the weapons of mass destruction" I cited above is not sexy enough to do the kind of damage that "I did not have sex with that woman" did.

    And if I had a nickel for every time Rumsfeld answered a serious question with sarcasm . . .

    But why I'll always have a job--and my fellow English teachers, too--is because we are the ones responsible for training the rest of you to have the patience and the analytical skills to follow that paper trail. If we keep waiting for an "I did not have sex with that woman" moment, the Whopper and the Pants on Fire Singers will never fall. If they can't damn themselves in eight seconds or less, the vast expanse of America will never know.

    For example, I was listening to "Talk of the Nation" on my drive home today, and Tom Gjelton was explaining all the various deceits uncovered in the last four months, but he couldn't do it in less fifteen minutes. If we can't get this reduced to a sound bite, we may never win. I still like Bush lied, people died. (And in full English teacher mode: I recognize that it's a run-on.)

    For fun, learn some Bushonics.

    UPDATE: Here's another one from Powell yesterday:
    But to think that somehow we went out of our way to insert this single sentence into the State of the Union Address for the purpose of deceiving and misleading the American people is an overdrawn, overblown, overwrought conclusion.
    Of course we don't think you tried to slip in one deceptive sentence! The whole damn thing was a lie! Colin, we used to like you . . .

    Wednesday, July 09, 2003

    More Birthdays

    Not a lot of time for blogging today, so I'll just say happy birthday to two kindred spirits:

    OJ Simpson, who's still out looking for the real killer, and

    Donald Rumsfeld, who's still out looking for the WMDs

    Tuesday, July 08, 2003

    You know you're getting older when . . .

    . . . an actor you'd always considered roughly in your generation turns 45. Happy birthday, Kevin Bacon. (By the way, I'm one degree: I had Arby's with the Nields back in college, who used to play out a lot with the Bacon Brothers.)

    3.4 Million plus One

    I don't watch MSNBC. I don't listen to Mike Savage's radio program. But when I read that Mike Savage says this to a caller on his show:
    "Oh, you're one of the sodomites," Mr. Savage said. "You should only get AIDS and die, you pig. How's that? Why don't you see if you can sue me, you pig. You got nothing better than to put me down, you piece of garbage. You have got nothing to do today. Go eat a sausage and choke on it."
    I am glad MSNBC fired him and he's joining the 3.4 million other people to lose their jobs in this economy. (Note to MSNBC execs who might be reading this: Your humble Folkbum is free most evenings and would be happy to host a show. Email me.)

    Billmon over at The Whiskey Bar has a chart up showing, graphically, job loss and creation from all the presidents since FDR. the Whopper is the only one in the overall jobs lost column. And there won't be anywhere near enough jobs created by 2005--assuming we turn the economy around right now--to make up for the millions lost since 2001.

    I've said it before and I'll say it again, this next election will be won on the economy. Republicans are categorically not better stewards of our economy. Billmon's analysis shows that, of the twelve presidents back to FDR, the six with the highest job growth were all Democrats. Period.

    The press basically ignored what should have been a major story a few months back about Republican-led states spending far more than Democrat-led states.

    We must make this our top priority. You, personally, must make these points with your family and friends. This is our best shot. We can do better.

    Monday, July 07, 2003

    The American Way: See and be Seen

    It's summer. There are tornadoes around the state, it's hot and humid all the time, summer school is open (barely), and, the most obvious sign, the neighbors won't stop shooting off their damn fireworks.

    Actually, with the rain the past day or so, the fireworks haven't been so bad. But this is what I don't like about the Fourth of July. I'm not anti-patriot; I'm not (entirely) a cranky communist seditionist. I just don't like the idea of people--kids, mostly, and some adults who should know better--running around my street and alley with explosives at all hours of the day and night. Can a man be faulted for thinking that?

    I was actually hoping that since the move we'd hear less; it turns out our new neighborhood has more budding Tim McVeighs that the old. (Of course it could be population density: There are more people in this new neighborhood, especially families with kids.)

    What really drives me bonkers, though, is the people who bring their own fireworks to shoot off in the park before the city's fireworks display!

    Our first few years in Milwaukee, my wife and I actually went a little north to one of the suburbs' fireworks displays. There, of course, you couldn't do anything. You could buy one of those glow-sticks or glow-loops from the jaycees or whoever, but you wouldn't make it very far with fireworks there.

    But when they started doing the little municipal fireworks at the park near our old apartment, we started to go there. And I could not believe what I saw: Kids, some as young as five or six, running around with sparklers and bottle rockets. There seemed to be no parental supervision at all, and these kids were just shooting off their explosives right there in the crowd. In the years that we went to that park for the fireworks, I was really surprised no one got hurt, given how close danger came so many times.

    This year, at the new place on the complete other side of town, my wife and I went to a much bigger park, with what turned out to be just about as lame a display of fireworks for the fourth. (If you are not from Milwaukee, and don't understand why our fireworks are so lame, then I should probably point out that the big display gets done down at the lakefront on July 3rd. So the municipal displays are small and scattered throughout the city on the 4th.)

    And here, at the new park, I saw only a few kids setting off their bottle rockets and such, and all seemingly under the watchful eyes of adults and in a safe manner.

    What blew me away was the number of adults at the park, with not bottle rockets and sparklers, but with the real thing, shooting off their major fireworks in the middle of the crowd. At least three different sets of people were competing here for (in my opinion) biggest jerks: They all had what must have been many hundreds of dollars of explosives in their arsenals, and, as soon as it was dark enough, they tried to put on a show for the assembled throngs.

    I admit, I only saw one pyrotechnic go awry and into the crowd (though it seemed to be into the crowd that was responsible for setting them off). But I don't think they could have beat the odds for very much longer.

    And this was all prelude to the real (admittedly lame) show done by the city. But, no matter how much you lay out for fireworks, you can't get the real thing, and the amateurs--some of whom even kept going a while during the real display--to me just looked like pathetic, dangerous, wannabes.

    What's the point of this? Who are they trying to impress? It seems a whole lot like bringing your guitar to the Bruce Springsteen concert: You're only going to make a fool of yourself, and piss off the rest of the audience.

    I realize, though, that my take on things is not everyone else's. (It has taken me some time to learn that, but I do recognize it now.) I know that there are those who relish being able to blow things up, make a lot of noise, and who believe it impresses other people. And there are those who are impressed by these fools and their foolish actions. And it's my job to teach their children.

    Summer school started today, and if I tried to enumerate all the problems, I'd never get done. But suffice it to say that I can see--and, even during the regular school year, I can see it, too--this same attitude I describe above. No, it's not explicitly manifested in the need to blow things up at school (thank goodness), but the kids--even though they are all there because somehow, somewhere, they have failed a class and they need this credit--are in summer school to see and be seen. It's all about whom you can impress and who impresses you.

    Some do it with fireworks, some with short skirts, and some with a flippant, disrespectful attitude toward authority. (Now, I'm a liberal guy, so a good suspicion of authority is healthy, in my mind, and something I encourage in my students, but I do feel that, especially in the summer school situation we're in, there is nothing to be gained from challenging me--I'm doing the best I can to get these kids a credit they need, even down to making things considerably easier than during the regular school year.)

    I should expect that the population of summer school kids would be more challenging than the regular school year kids, since there is no budget for enrichment here in Milwaukee, and, thanks to the Whopper's "No Child Left Untested" crap, there's not even money for elementary and middle school summer sessions. (I can't go a whole day without a dig somewhere, right?)

    But even in these circumstances, I find it unbelievable that summer school seems to be little more than a four-week long social occasion for these kids. I mean, if I had been in their position--forced to go to summer school because I had failed a class during the school year--I would have been mortified to be seen there. I would have died if my family had showed up at the park with an arsenal of fireworks. I would have melted in a puddle of embarrassment if my friend had whipped out his guitar during "Born in the U.S.A."

    I'm in the middle of T.C. Boyle's The Road to Wellville (see how it's all coming together, as I predicted yesterday?), an amusing look at John Kellogg's Battle Creek Sanitarium circa 1908. I saw the movie when it came out (anything with John Cusack!), and picked the book up cheap some time ago, and I'm reading it now for some light diversion--not every liberal blogger has to spend the summer reading Hilary or Sid. Anyway, one of the pretexts of the book is that the Sanitarium is a place where the high and mighty go to see and be seen. It's no shame to show up and announce that you're sick as a dog due to your lack of "physiologic living," because it's a good excuse to hobnob with your richity-rich friends. (This part of Doyle's book is firmly rooted in fact.)

    It's an American tradition, no less so (or maybe even moreso) than fireworks, to see and be seen, whether it's at the San, the yacht club, or summer school. That's the most pressing issue, the thing of most vital importance. Even when there are seemingly more critical things--learning American literature, their own and their family's safety, their health--Americans like to show off, and are impressed by those who show off.

    It's why the Whopper is allowed to land on an aircraft carrier, or say "Bring 'em on" while Americans are dying in Iraq.

    No more, please. We can do better.

    Sunday, July 06, 2003

    Open Thread

    No one ever leaves me comments, so I'm forcing you to. That's right--I'd like my loyal readers (both of you) to write on the open thread today.

    A real essay tomorrow, though, with fireworks, summer school, and, if we're lucky, T.C. Boyle.

    Friday, July 04, 2003

    FEBRUARY 12 UPDATE: There's nothing on this page about Kerry's supposed infidelity--just a confluence of random words on this page that makes Google think there is. Sorry to waste your time, but you can catch my latest primary commentary by following the Open Source Politics links to your right!

    Barry White, RIP

    Good bye to the man who saved Whacking Day. We couldn't get enough of your love, babe.

    Happy Fourth Everyone!

    Your reading for today is Grubi's new DemPoll. Your humble Folkbum's rankings have been included.

    Also, for those of you following the rockets' red glare:


    Thursday, July 03, 2003

    My Iowan Letter

    Hey, Milwaukee Deanistas--

    Post your letters to the comments, below. Heck, even if you're not from Milwaukee, you can post your letters, too, before they are too far gone from memory.
    July 2, 2003

    Dear Iowan,

    Greetings from behind the Cheddar Curtain!

    I'm so excited to be a part of this campaign to let Iowans know about Howard Dean and why I support him for the Democratic nomination for president.

    As the governor of Vermont, Dean gained a great deal of executive experience--something which most other Democrats in the race lack.

    Plus, Dean takes a string stand both against G.W. Bush and for his positions on issues such as health care for all and protecting a woman's right to choose.

    But for me, those things are just bonuses, because what really attracts me to Dean is his message that I can make a real difference.

    And it's true--I feel that I am making a difference and, more importantly, that the campaign supports my efforts. The machines that seem to run the campaigns of other candidates are cold, distant, and out of touch with energetic people like me who want to go to work now to oust Bush. Dean's campaign, on the other hand, has welcomed my grass roots support and given me opportunities like this one--the chance to contact you about Dean--to channel my energies into.

    That's why I support Howard Dean.

    I apologize for my handwriting--I'm really more of an email kind of guy. If you'd like to contact me, email me, visit my website, or call me. Also, you can call Dean's Iowa HQ at (515) 243 5433, or visit http://deanforamerica.com.

    Thanks--
    Folkbum, Coordinator
    Milwaukee for Dean

    Another Meetup Success
    or, How Many Iowans Did You Adopt Tonight?


    There are going to be great Meetup stories told far and wide over the next week; I just thought I would write mine tonight while I'm still buzzing from the success!

    Our Meetup was voted to be at the Milwaukee Ale House, which turned out be just about right for the occasion. I wish that the other half of the patio had not been taken up by a birthday party (although we sang along at the right time); but the weather was nice, we were right on the river, and most people reported that they didn't have too many parking problems. (Yeah, but they didn't have to haul the paperwork back and forth from my car!)

    It was great to see so many people out despite competition from Summerfest, July 4th things, and the worst possible location in town for parking. We got underway about 7:15, and I started by recapping the last ten days' worth of great news, from Dean's announcement right up through his $7.5 million take in Q2.

    Then we took some time for a few volunteers to speak about why they support Dean. Obviously, we could not do all 70 people there, so six spoke--several veterans of the campaign here and several newcomers, including Barry, who had written on his name tag, "Former Republican." Everyone mentioned the great feeling they get from Dean, and how wonderful it is that someone is finally standing up for what they believe in!

    A few other announcements, and then we were off with the letters. Almost all of the 68 pages of names got written to, and Mrs. Folkbum and I will be handling the remaining few tomorrow. That means 204 letters to Iowans. People stressed everything from Dean's stances on civil unions and the Iraqi war to their own frustration at the politics as usual of the other campaigns. But the letters were all great.

    Even better is that all 68 sheets of "take-home" names got taken home, all by people I trust to actually write those letters. So, 408 letters from Milwaukee this week!

    There was a reporter there from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, who spoke to a number of us about what we were up to and why we supported Dean. (I admit, though, I'm a little worried, as he asked one woman, "How can you be against the war when we won?" But I'm reserving judgment until I see an article. UPDATE: That article is here.)

    I had done a phone interview earlier with the Wisconsin Radio Network, but that story seems not to have run yet, if it will run at all.

    My favorite part of the evening is when one attendee approached me, heatedly, and asked, "Is there anything being done about the accusation today?" I was taken aback, as I try to keep up on the news and the campaign and hadn't heard anything at all about any accusations. I had all sorts of worries in my head about what it could be--drugs? criminal behavior? marital infidelity? singing at a campaign event?--when I asked what he meant. "The accusation in 'Doonesbury!'" he exclaimed. I couldn't believe it, as I'd been reading the strip this week, and I knew that GB Trudeau was an old friend and big-time supporter of Dean. So, as Jon Stewart would say, "Whaaaa?" "That Dean's a spammer," the guy said.

    (If you haven't been following "Doonesbury" lately, you can do so here. The idea is that Alex Doonesbury is a Deanista, and she's explaining it to her dad. Wednesday's strip humorously played on the Dean campaign's internet usage, and implied that it was "spam.")

    He made a valid point that irony and satire is often lost on those most opposed to spam (though you'd think they'd all be free-market capitalists, wouldn't you?). I figure that those are the people who skip "Doonesbury" for "Mallard Fillmore" anyway.

    Some people went above and beyond tonight, writing at least six letters. I want to especially thank Katie and Dan, who were Milwaukeeans back in town from their universities in Syracuse and St. Paul, who each took six names. The letter writing didn't end until after 9:30!

    Also of good news was that three people took our inaugural "I Want My Country BackPacks," which were really totebags because no one could come up with spare backpacks. These had clipboards, literature, sign-up sheets, and more that people check out for a week and return. It's a great idea for retail-level campaigning that Deanistas everywhere should adopt. Thanks to Rochelle, Bridget, Carin, Todd, and Carrie for helping put them together.

    Also thanks to Michael for manning the education table with our matching iBooks (go Apple!). And a big thanks to Erik, who came through with two big wads of Dean stickers. Finally, thanks to everyone else who came out. You were fantastic.

    UPDATE: How could I have forgotten to thank Lynn, our server? She was awesome! And Cobbie with the stamps, too. Plus, another great moment from the night was when on my way back to the car, I ran into the four guys from the Bean Head Cafe, who very often play host to us at Milwaukee for Dean, who were headed over to Summerfest after closing up their place for the night. They asked where we'd been meeting--I explained it wasn't our choice of venues, even though the Bean Head would have been way too small for us--and asked how it went. I think we're making an impression on them . . .

    Tuesday, July 01, 2003

    What I wrote for the Cattle Call
    (for those of you who don't read Daily Kos)


    Two weeks ago, I put Howard Dean alone at the top of the Cattle Call for the first time, because I thought, based on buzz and what kind of attention he was starting to get from the press, that he was on his way.

    Nothing--I mean absolutely nothing--has changed to make me think differently.

    In fact, I think Dean's star at this point is still rising: All last week the news was about Dean in some way (and kudos to Trippi and the rest of the Dean Team for keeping it that way). First it was his announcement, and then the hashing and re-hashing of "Meet the Press" and how Russert unfairly bullied him, then it was the MoveOn victory, then it was his fundraising prowess. And this week, no big gaffes!

    You cannot say that anyone--even the candidates who will have raised more in Q2 than Dean--got the kind of press attention and breadth of support that Dean did. I'll bet you a nickel to a hole in a donut that the average per-donor total is far lower for Dean (an average of $127 per 59,000 donors; if each of those donors maxed out to $2000, that adds an addition $110 million to the campaign; take that, Whopper!) and the number of first-time donors to any campaign is higher. None of the other campaigns are sure enough of themselves even to post the "ticker" or running total the way Dean did, which I think is part of how the numbers got so high by the end. Nearly $1 million came in on June 30 because the campaign treated it like a public TV pledge drive--and, just like that pledge drive always makes its goal on the last day, Dean made two goals--an early one of $6.5 million and a later one of $7 million.

    When a Democrat can cause this much excitement, it is good for him, of course, but also for the party. Don't be discouraged by the Whopper's numbers, but remember that every dollar given to every Democratic candidate is a dollar against the Republicans!

    Second for me is still Dick Gephardt, as I feel he has the most in terms of traditional Democratic support. He's got the unions, a good chunk of midwesterners, and the House delegation is starting to line up behind him. This makes him appealing to many who have been active in the party for a long time. His (expected) $5 million in Q2 is respectable, but you've got to figure he doesn't have the breadth that Dean does in donor base.

    Third this week is John Kerry, moving ahead of Joe Lieberman. John McCain said some nice things about him this week--I don't know why--plus he's clearly winning the cash-on-hand contest. His numbers are still strong in New Hampshire, but not nearly as strong as they need to be in Iowa. His money numbers this quarter will not be high (for him) but it doesn't matter, as he's got the biggest war chest of all nine candidates (after he rolled leftover senate campaign money in).

    Kerry's weak third-place showing in the MoveOn vote, plus his late, half-hearted attempts to plug into Meetup show that he will not be a winner among the netroots crowd; the importance of that crowd, of course, is debatable, but, speaking as a member of the netroots vanguard, I think we're a key demographic. But what's really interesting about MoveOn and Kerry is that despite a third place finish, well behind Kucinich, Kerry comes in second in the "would you enthusiastically support this candidate?" question, a good 8 percent ahead of DK. Which is one reason why DK will not make the top tier--even people predisposed to like him aren't as motivated to work for him as for other candidates.

    Fourth this time is Joe Lieberman, who, defying all of my expectations, is sputtering to a halt. He's missing senate votes right and left to raise money, and he's not even doing as well at that as you might think. A disappointing quarter two--with most everybody predicting a $4.5 million showing--means Joe needs to really re-think his being in this race.

    I used to say that there were three viable candidates in this race: Gephardt, the liberal; Lieberman, the centrist; and Dean, the insurgent. Dean needs to spend a few more weeks as the focus of all things Democratic before he stops being the insurgent, but Lieberman seems willing to roll over and let Dean take the centrist slot (Kos keeps saying Dean will be a "liberal" candidate, with Kerry, but Dean's already moving away from the "liberal" designation, with help from Kucinich, without losing much of his initial support).

    So, playing insurgent now may be my number five, John Edwards. But I don't see Edwards creating any buzz; he's getting no press--not even any for his excellent Georgetown speech--and he's getting further and further behind in national polls and in polls in states that matter. His Q2 numbers were lower than Q1 ($5 million vs. more than $7 million), which could signal a slow in momentum, suggesting he's not really there enough yet to know how to ride the wave that started in Q1. Of course, his spokeswoman says that the big Q1 and a slow Q2 was his plan all along . . .

    Dennis Kucinich is now sixth on my list, thanks to a good MoveOn showing, mostly. DK will not end up playing the insurgent in this race, as his appeal will never be broad enough to make that label fit. He will, however, move some of the debate to the left, which is good for us. He also, as I mentioned earlier, provides some cover for Dean, who now does not have to bear all the responsibility of being overly leftist. Plus, DK will break seven figures in fundraising, which will make it easy for him to run for re-election to congress for the next eight cycles.

    Bob Graham floats in next; he's not even making waves any more about WMDs and intelligence. You'd think that with all the attention the media is now starting to pay to the issue, Graham could make it play in his favor. Yet there is nothing palpable to his campaign this week, except modest ($2-3 million) fundraising.

    Al Sharpton comes in eighth. What else do I need to say?

    Then there's Carol Moseley-Braun, who seems to be way too passive. I mean, on the splash page to her website, you find this, and wonder about that "low expectations" meme:
    New Poll! Democrat defeats Bush; Carol in the middle of the pack.
    What might it have said if she'd finished first?

    Not officially running are Wesley Clark and Joe Biden. Let me do Biden first. I think he's trying to pick up the slack Lieberman's leaving in the New-England-Senator-who-thinks-the-war-was-justified category. But you know it's bad when you Google "Joe Biden" and the third entry reads (and I am not making this up), "In 1987, for instance, Senator Joe Biden, who was seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, was accused of plagiarizing passages in speeches and . . ." If he enters the race, he goes straight to number eight.

    Clark, on the other hand, is an intriguing question to deal with. If he enters, he enters at number five, even though he has never held elected office and has not, as of this writing, even declared his party affiliation. But a whole lot of tongues went wagging last week when Bill Clinton said kind things about him (although they were as nice and as non-committal as what Clinton said about Howard Dean after the DLC attacked Dean in May).

    I say it's too late for Clark to enter; if he does, he will be competing with Howard Dean for the uncommitted Democrats and moderate Republicans, and Dean has big mo' there right now. I don't think committed Deanistas will jump ship for Clark, so only those new supporters will be in play. I also don't see Clark drawing much from any of the other candidates, except maybe Kerry, whose military background may be the most appealing thing about him. Plus, anyone entering the race this late (even though by historical standards it's very early) will give too much the impression that Democrats are lost and need a savior. We aren't--and we don't want to give that perception, either.