Sunday, October 12, 2003
Let's see if I can get this right. The Democratic Governor of the solidly Democratic state, who overspent, overregulated business and raised taxes, becomes only the second governor in history to be recalled in the whole country, with the two anti-tax Republican candidates winning 62% of the vote and the victorious Republican garnering more votes than the Democrat Gray Davis in 2002 and more votes than the 'no on recall' votes last week. Yet incredibly the headline in Newsweek from their leading political columnist asks: "Are the tremors heading for the White House next?" And Fineman is not the only one grasping for this straw in the wind, for the idea that Tuesday's election is somehow bad news for Bush has now become the conventional wisdom or spin in the mainstream/liberal press.

What a joke. Yeah, if you are a Republican you're really sweating, tossing and turning at night hoping that election night 2004 doesn't turn out like last Tuesday in California.

The left is in total denial. J. McIntyre 9:14 am

Friday, October 10, 2003
It looks as if we've reached the point where we are finally starting to see the media reporting some of the good news coming out of Iraq. I'm not sure whether this is a product of the heated criticisms leveled at U.S. news organizations in recent weeks by everyone from pundits to members of Congress returning from Iraq, or whether it's that our progress there has reached the point where it's become simply undeniable. Perhaps it's a combination of the two.

In my opinion we're still nowhere near receiving truly balanced coverage of the situation in Iraq, but it's fair to recognize that we are starting to see examples of more balanced coverage in some of the major papers (See here and here).

Today's USAT offers another one:

Return of power brightens Iraqis Tensions dim as electricity output rises
By César G. Soriano

BAGHDAD -- Power is back.

For the first time since Baghdad fell April 9, the capital city and most of the country have enjoyed four straight days without a significant outage.

Coalition officials are optimistic they can keep the lights on because sabotage and looting has dropped and electricity output is near prewar levels. Cooling temperatures have also helped.

''The power situation has not been this good since before the Kuwait war,'' says security guard Majid Abdul Reza, 27. Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990.

I don't know about you, but reading these few short paragraphs gives me an immediate boost of optimism and pride about what we're doing in Iraq. Can you imagine what public perceptions of Iraq would be if we were to get this sort of news on a regular basis instead of the constant parade of doom and gloom?

One of the unfortunate reasons we haven't seen more stories like this in the press over the last six months is that most news organizations don't view positive developments in Iraq to be "hard news" stories at all but instead see them as "cheerleading" for the Bush administration.

Like the New York Times, for example, which can spare only this tiny positive mention (and grudgingly at that) in their 963 word report on the six month anniversary of Saddam's fall:

The changes are visible. The streets are cleaner. Shops are flooded with goods pouring into Iraq now that the borders are open again. Those who have jobs — and tens of thousands are working for the Americans, directly or indirectly — are largely paid better than they were.

Now go take a quick look at the round up of our accomplishments in Iraq that Andrew Sullivan has put together. Night is day and day is night.

Millions of people around the country who continue to get their news from a few mainstream sources (a group of people whose numbers are thankfully decreasing) are not getting the full picture of what's going on in Iraq. They don't fully realize - and consequently don't feel a sense pride over - the things we're accomplishing in Iraq. That's a true shame. But maybe things are changing. - T. Bevan 8:14 am

Thursday, October 9 2003
Bill Hobbs recently rounded up a few stories noting today's one year anniversary of the Bush Bull Market. Add this one from today's USAT to the list.

Despite today's anniversary and the improving employment numbers, watch for the gang at tonight's presidential debate in Phoenix to repeat the canard that we're in the worst economy since the Hoover Administration. Robert Robb preemptively shredded this argument in his column yesterday:

The worst economy since Herbert Hoover? For the entire decade preceding the full implementation of the Reagan tax cuts, economic growth averaged only 1.6 percent a year, and in four years the economy actually contracted. Inflation hit double digits. Unemployment reached 8.5 percent in 1975 and averaged more than 7 percent for three consecutive years.

These candidates were adults during this dismal economic stretch and presumably semi-sentient. Hyperbole is, of course, endemic to the political beast. But you have to wonder about reasonably bright and informed individuals so willing to debase themselves intellectually.

It's going to be increasingly difficult for the Dems to ignore America's rebounding economy. Denial is not a sound campaign strategy. - T. Bevan 10:30 am

Talk about preaching to the choir. Howard Dean had lunch with reporters and editors from the New York Times yesterday. In addition to drawing the wildly hyperbolic conclusion that President Bush is "setting the stage for the failure of America," Dean also expounded on the virtues of foreign policy. Here's the first key graf:

President Bush, Dr. Dean said, is "particularly poorly suited" for foreign policy "because he has a black and white view of the world, and foreign policy depends on enormous understandings of nuances and trade-offs."

There's little historical evidence to suggest that having a black and white view of the world makes any president "poorly suited" in matters of foreign policy. It worked pretty well for both Roosevelts, JFK, and especially Ronald Reagan.

Furthermore, I'm not sure the American people feel a black and white world view is such a bad thing to have these days given the fact thousands of people around the world are plotting to kill us.

And Dr. Dean, who has exactly zero experience in foreign policy matters, hasn't inspired any confidence by recently putting his foot in his mouth all the way up to the knee for not understanding the "nuances" of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Graf number two:

"The most important criteria for whether you're going to be any good at foreign policy or not is judgment and patience, both of which are in short supply in this presidency."

I suppose Dean is referring to President Bush's mad rush to war in Iraq. Regardless, if we've learned anything about Howard Dean over the past few months it's that he can be impatient, impertinent, and will occasionally lash out at his rivals with statements that eventually require an apology. In other words, judging him by his own criteria, Howard Dean as president would be a foreign policy failure.

Finally, there is this:

Dr. Dean refused to say how he would vote, were he in Congress, on the $87 billion financing proposal.

"I'm not running for Congress, I'm running for president," he said.

What does it say about Dean's leadership that when he's presented with a question on the single most important foreign policy issue facing the country today, he decides to take a pass? Why would Dean not be willing to say flat out that he'd support money for the reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan (not to mention our men and women in uniform), especially after he's on record saying this:

"The greatest advance in American foreign policy in the last century was the Marshall Plan. Europe's 1,000-year history of nearly continuous war is instead today dominated by an economic union, which would not have been possible without the investment of billions of American taxpayers dollars. We have been paid back many times over in trade dollars, and more importantly, in American lives which have not been lost to yet another European war.

Our long range foreign policy ought to embrace nation building, not run from it. The most successful countries are those with democracies bolstered by a strong middle class that embraces the full political and economic participation of women."

Isn't this exactly what we're trying to accomplish in Iraq? And even if he didn't support the war itself, why would Howard Dean not jump at the chance to champion the values he's laid out as a central component of the foreign policy vision of his candidacy for president? Beats me.

UNSTABLE SUPPORT: Sorry, but I couldn't resist putting up this quote I found while Googling for the last post. It comes from Dean supporter Becky Burgwin, explaining why she's all gung ho for the good doctor:

"I thought, 'I wish we had somebody with some fire, some intelligence. Because these guys in this [Bush] administration, they're not just incompetent, they're sociopaths. I had gotten to the point where I had to go see someone because I was so depressed and so frightened by these guys. It was just eating me up. The kids were saying, 'Don't yell at the TV, Mom, it makes us all uncomfortable.'

"What Howard Dean did for me is give me a voice. Here's someone who is as angry as I am, and then he was up there on the world stage saying these things."

This, I'm afraid, goes a long way to redefining the term "lunatic fringe." - T. Bevan 9:29 am

Wednesday, October 8 2003
Now that the fun is over it's time to sober up and ask, "Where do we go from here?" Just what are the implications of having a Republican Governor in California and who is going to benefit the most? Let me offer a couple of brief observations.

There are three "election lesson" memes being pushed around by the various camps in the aftermath of the recall. They are:

1) Democrats say this is a "one off" election that represents voters' dislike of Gray Davis but doesn't reflect on the party as a whole.

2) Democrats believe the revolt we saw in California yesterday was driven by a broad sense of anger over a troubled economy and ballooning deficits and that the vote is a harbinger of things to come at the national level next year.

3) Republicans say the recall election was not only a personal rebuke of of Gray Davis, but a repudiation of the "tax and spend" policies pursued by Democrats controlling Sacramento. They are convinced that yesterday's victory will translate into a huge benefit to President Bush in 2004.

Time will tell who ends up being most right. Personally, I think there is an element of truth to all three arguments.

One thing is obvious: most hard-core Democrats in California and around the country are absolutely beside themselves with anger. Spend a few minutes on some of the lefty web sites and message boards and you see nothing but wild-eyed rage. Like this headline from Buzzflash:

"Governor Gang Bang the Groper" to Assume Office of America's Most Populous State Within 10 Days. Lock Up the Young Women in Sacramento!

And while some Democrats are counseling patience, prudence and bipartisanship, a good portion of the base seems to be itching for all-out war. Like these comments from the message boards over at Daily Kos and CalPundit:

"The first thing to do is get the District Attorney of Los Angeles County to pursue criminal charges against Schwarzenegger for multiple cases of sexual harassment."

"Under no circumstances do we accept defeat graciously when our opponents have no intention of ever doing the same to us. Did the Republicans accept their California defeat graciously in 2002? Their Florida defeat graciously in 2000? Their Presidential defeat graciously in 1996? Were they gracious to Paul Wellstone's family? If we accept this defeat graciously, we've just given California's electoral votes - and the election - to Bush in 2004."

There's very little doubt that someone will undertake an effort to recall Arnold in the very near future - even though 1 out of every 4 Democrats in the state just voted to recall a Governor from their own party.

George W. Bush and the GOP will definitely reap some benefits from Schwarzenegger's victory. Arnold will be able to raise tons of money and be a valuable asset campaigning around the country. But will his presence as Governor make Bush competitive in California in 2004? Possible, but unlikely.

In my mind the biggest beneficiary of the recall vote is Howard Dean. The rage of Democrats in California and around the country is going to flow somewhere. Right now Dean is the only authentic repository for Dem anger and for the idea - which is preposterous on its face but nevertheless a driving force in the party base - that the recently completed recall is just another success in a string of "right-wing power grabs" that started with President Clinton.

What the recall has done is polarize the national electorate more than ever - which may be a good thing for the President - and has probably set us even more firmly on course for a brass-knuckled street fight next year between Bush and Dean.

CORRECTION: In yesterday's analysis we wrote: "Remember, Davis doesn't have to get more "No" votes on recall than "Yes" votes, he just has to keep the "Yes" vote percentage under 50.0%." This is technically true but also illogical: abstentions on Question 1 weren't counted so the vote total was always going to equal 100%. This means there was no way Davis could get more "No" votes than "Yes" and still keep the percentage of "Yes" votes under 50%. Sorry for the confusion. - T. Bevan 9:00 am

Tuesday, October 7 2003
LAST CALL ON THE RECALL: The late polls continue to show significant slippage away from Schwarzenegger and towards both Davis and Bustamante. Survey USA's final poll (taken Friday through Sunday after the LA Times story broke) shows the "Yes on recall" number dropping 4 points from their previous poll taken only 5 days earlier. Even worse for Schwarzenegger, the spread on recall within the three day poll moved from 25 on Friday to only 14 on Sunday. Obviously, if the same rate of deterioration were to continue through Monday and today, the election could be a real nail biter.

On the second question, the same Survey USA poll shows Schwarzenegger's lead over Bustamante dropping from 20 on Friday to 12 on Sunday. McClintock's numbers have flat-lined and actually slipped two points in the Survey USA poll to 14%.

So it appears the LA Times hit piece last Thursday did exactly what it was designed to do: take a big bite out of Schwarzenegger's momentum and give Davis a chance to stay alive. However, in the end we don't feel this is going to change any of the final results - except the margin of victory for Schwarzenegger and the pro-recall forces. It's important to keep in mind that close to 2 million votes were probably cast before the decline in Arnold's support started. If the election day numbers are very close, we suspect those absentee votes will provide the margin of victory for Schwarzenegger.

There is likely to be a huge turnout today, and even with all the allegations swirling around we suspect the turnout will still disproportionately help Schwarzenegger. In the end this election is about change and Californians' disgust with the direction of the state and its current leadership. Gray Davis and Cruz Bustamante represent that failed political leadership, and Arnold Schwarzenegger is the only realistic vote for change.

The dustup from the groping and Hitler stories has prevented this election from becoming a monster blowout and has given Gray Davis the smallest hope that he still might be able to pull out a victory. But there is evidence these stories have also created a backlash among portions of the electorate, including many hard-core Republicans who see it as a politically motivated hit job by the LA Times. As a result, don't be too surprised to see a number of Republicans who were going to vote for McClintock switch their vote to Schwarzenegger solely out of anger toward the liberal machine desperate to stay in power.

Bottom line: Schwarzenegger beats Bustamante easily (10 points or more) and while we think Davis will still be recalled with a vote somewhere around 57%, these ninth-inning revelations have taken a toll and give the Democrats hope - albeit a very small one - that Davis may indeed keep his job. However, hope in the end won't be enough for the Democrats, and California and the country should get ready for Governor Schwarzenegger. - J. McIntyre 7:07 am

Monday, October 6 2003
At this point the Wilson affair boils down to a fairly simple question: either the President knows who leaked the information or he doesn't. The problem is that the longer this thing drags on the more irrelevant the answer to this question becomes and the more damage that is done to the President's image as a strong, honest leader. Let's break down the possible answers one at a time.

Obviously, the worse case scenario is that Bush knows who leaked the information and has taken no action against them thus far. This seems absolutely insane to me and would shatter assumptions that many people (including myself) have and respect about the President.

Another equally damaging iteration of this scenario is that the President has some indication of who the leaker is but doesn't "technically" know because he hasn't or won't confront that person directly. Again, this doesn't seem rational to me given what we know about this President's character. And if the DOJ investigation eventually confirms the leaker is someone close to the President, he will look terribly bad for protecting his inner circle by choosing not to have questioned them up front.

So let's work under the assumption that the President has no idea who leaked the information. In press conferences over the last few days Scott McClellan has already denied that Karl Rove, Scooter Libby and Elliott Abrams "leaked" or would "condone" the leaking of "classified information" For the moment let's take these denials as fact and assume that the White House isn't involved in some sort of Clintonian parsing of language. They really don't know who it is.

The first problem with this scenario is that irrespective of whether it's true or not, it is perceived as implausible. There is a general predisposition (especially, I think, among those in the media) to believe that the President knows everything that goes on his administration - and if he doesn't know what's going on, he should.

More damaging, however, is the perception that Bush can get to the bottom of this whole situation in minutes if he wants to by calling White House staffers into his office one by one and asking them point blank if they leaked the information. So far as we can tell, this isn't happening. It should. And until it does, there will be endless speculation, rumor, innuendo and probably a continued deterioration in the President's standing with the American public.

Even if the White House doesn't know who leaked the name of Wilson's wife and no one comes forth to admit they were the leaker, the administration should be able to see that simply cooperating with the DOJ probe is not enough. The President needs to express some outrage and to give the public an indication of what action he's taking to deal with the situation. He can separate himself personally from the scandal by telling us that he's asked the tough questions to members of his administration. If they lie to him then they lie to him, but at least we know he asked the question. - T. Bevan 10:05 am

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