Friday, November 7 2003
"A STRAIGHT, SMOOTH HIGHWAY TO NOWHERE":
My favorite line from a remarkable speech by the President yesterday that ought to be required reading for everyone in America:

"Many Middle Eastern governments now understand that military dictatorship and theocratic rule are a straight, smooth highway to nowhere."

It's Bush's version of Reagan's "dustbin of history" line and it's just as catchy - not to mention just as accurate.

The most remarkable thing about the speech is that it demonstrated the very large space that exists between this President's vision and the nine people who want to replace him.

To date, only two of them (Dennis Kucinich and Wesley Clark just yesterday) have articulated any alternate policy with respect to Iraq. Furthermore, Kucinich and Clark have put plans on the table that focus specifically on short-term tactics, not long-term vision.

The Dems may take time out to give a grudging nod to Bush's speech, but then they will be right back to convincing voters that Iraq is a quagmire and that Bush's foreign policy vision is a failure.

Part of this is politics, of course. But a great deal of it is a fundamental shortsightedness on the part of these men (and woman) and of the Democrat party as a whole to produce a foreign policy vision in a post 9/11 world that boldly reaffirms our commitment to the defense and spread of freedom and liberty. This is what Bush has done and is doing.

The true irony here is modern Democrats have been so crippled and traumatized by Vietnam they can't recognize and draw on the long, noble history of their party as a party of war. From FDR to Harry Truman to John Kennedy, history is littered with examples of Democrats leading the fight to vigorously defend and promote freedom. Here is just one:

"We are provincials no longer. The tragic events of the thirty months of vital turmoil through which we have just passed have made us citizens of the world. There can be no turning back. Our own fortunes as a nation are involved whether we would have it so or not.

And yet we are not the less Americans on that account. We shall be the more American if we but remain true to the principles in which we have been bred. They are not the principles of a province or of a single continent. We have known and boasted all along that they were the principles of a liberated mankind."

That was Woodrow Wilson on March 5, 1917. There is no reason we shouldn't be hearing this sort of thing from Democrats today, but we don't.

I chose the Wilson quote, however, because it highlights the other major vulnerability of modern Democrats, one that has a long-standing tradition and is traceable back through Democrat leaders like Truman and FDR to Wilson: an unshakable belief in the ability of the "community of nations" to act in the best interest of peace, stability and freedom for the people of the world.

We saw it fail with Wilson's League of Nations. Over the course of the last few decades we've watched the UN become more and more feckless and irresponsible, rewarding tyrants and despots with the same respect as leaders of free nations and becoming incapable of enforcing its own resolutions with force when necessary.

Despite the stark realities of September 11, 2001, every single one of today's Democrats still want to operate within this failing system and, by default, place the national security of the United States in a position of compromise, subject to the whim and will of countries that decidedly do not share our interests.

This doesn't mean Dems have to rush out and endorse unilateral U.S. action - which, of course, is something they would never do. But the Democrats do have an obligation to recognize the continued failures of the UN and the international community to address some of the world's most pressing problems and to propose solutions to make the institution more effective. Those on the left who criticize President Bush for "unilateral" action fail to understand this is exactly what he's been trying to do.

Bush has refused to accept the status quo, pushing the UN to face the challenges of the world today and urging countries to recognize the rights and freedoms of their peoples. This is heady, visionary stuff carved out of the best traditions and values of America that the great leaders of our country, both Democrat and Republican, have stood for throughout the years.

Today's Democrats have ceded a great portion of this vision to President Bush with their inability to articulate anything better than a halfhearted support of the removal of one of the world's worst tyrants and continued calls for a return to the status quo of a pre-9/11 foreign policy. As we approach the election next year, continuing to relinquish a claim to this vision could put the Dems on their own "straight, smooth highway to nowhere." - T. Bevan 9:18 am

Thursday, November 6 2003
THE DEAN JUGGERNAUT ROLLS ON:
As you've probably seen by now, Howard Dean touched down in Tallahassee on Tuesday to tell Southern Democrats they need to "stop having our elections in the South based on race, guns, God and gays and start having them on jobs and health insurance and foreign policy.''

Also included in Dean's speech were diatribes against Florida Governor Jeb Bush for signing a bill preserving Terri Schiavo's right to live and for reaffirming the state's ban on gay adoption. Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't those issues concerning God and gays? - T. Bevan 11:30 am


THE BATTLE IN THE BAYOU:
There is a host of new polls out today on the Louisiana Governor's contest, all of them showing the race extremely close. Jindal's lead over Blanco is averaging 2.3% with anywhere from 10-25% of the electorate still undecided. As with every election, in the end this one's going to come down to turnout - especially among African-American voters.

It's an all too common (and increasingly dire) predicament for Democrats. To be competitive across the South and in swing states with urban centers Democrats have to keep squeezing more and more out of the black voting population to be competitive. If turnout drops off even slightly, or there is a countervailing surge of the white vote a la 1994 and 2002, the results are disastrous.

Which is why a Bobby Jindal victory in Louisiana would be devastating to the Democrats, much more so than this week's losses in Kentucky and Mississippi.

Jindal is the Democrats' nightmare candidate: a young, culturally conservative minority who can siphon off critical support from the African-American community. He's already won the endorsement of Ray Nagin, the African-American Mayor of New Orleans who bucked his own party to support Jindal. Yesterday at Grambling University Jindal received the endorsement of Louisiana's North-Central Black Caucus whose president said:

"It is time for our state to break with the politics of the past and elect someone like Bobby Jindal who has everyone’s interest in mind."

This is devastating stuff. The internals from the University of New Orleans' Survey Research Center poll also show disturbing signs for Dems:

Among black voters, 17% prefer Jindal. This is an unusually high level of support for a Republican candidate among African American voters, and it may well not materialize in the election. A closer look indicates that support for Jindal among blacks is higher in the under-45 age group. This makes sense since it is the younger black voters who have less of a history of voting Democratic. However, younger voters are also less likely to vote. When we make the adjustment for likely voters, the percent of blacks supporting Jindal drops to 12%. (Emphasis added)

Jindal's ability to appeal to even 15% of African-American voters in Louisiana puts Blanco in a box.

The new Pew Research Survey released yesterday helps put this dynamic in a national context. The survey, which showed significant gains in Republican voter ID around the country - including +6 points in Louisiana, by the way - also showed Democrats losing 6 points nationally among white voters and 8 points among Hispanics while keeping a solid hold among African-American voters (+1 point nationally). One other point of note: the report found that from a geographical perspective, "the Northeast is the only region where the Democratic party has held its own."

It's simply impossible for Democrats to remain competitive nationwide when the party increasingly has to rely on a coalition of white Northeastern liberals and massive turnout among the nation's African-American population. To the extent that Republicans can continue to produce candidates that chip away at the traditional Democrat base, like Arnold Schwarzenegger in California and Bobby Jindal in Louisiana, the Dems are in for a long, hard slog in American politics.

THE MEMO: The fallout continues from the Senate Intelligence Committee memo. Dana Priest sums up in today's WaPo. Meanwhile, the GOP's favorite Democrat, Zell Miller, puts the boot in, calling the memo "highly partisan and perhaps treasonous."

Meanwhile, back in Kansas the Wichita Eagle reported yesterday that Pat Roberts feels like he's been "slapped in the face." The Senator is apparently taking a good amount of heat from conservatives for trying to be bipartisan but ending up a "dupe" of the Democrats instead.

As to Senator Rockefeller's charge that the "was likely taken from a waste basket or through unauthorized computer access," Brian Wilson reported last night on Fox News that his source, as well as Sean Hannity's original source for the story both confirmed that the memo was obtained legally and not from a trash can.

PICTURE TAKING BANNED: When I saw the headline I thought, "it's the city of Chicago so anything is possible." But read the story and you'll find the aldermen are trying to deal with a serious issue and one technology will continue to make more and more difficult.

Personally, I've always been skeptical about the utility of camera phones, especially since the best "value proposition" they seem to be able to offer consumers is the ability to take and transmit pictures of random, almost inane things (watch a few of the Catherine Zeta-Jones commercials and you'll know what I mean.) It will be interesting to watch this new aspect of the technology vs. privacy debate develop. - T. Bevan 9:47 am

Wednesday, November 5 2003
"HEADS SHOULD ROLL": So says Senator Zell Miller about the leak of a Democrat memo plotting the best way to use info from the Senate Intelligence Committee to damage President Bush's reelection next year. We'll see if anyone is held accountable for this gross act of partisanship, but I won't be holding my breath.

The war has been and will continue to be a political issue. The debate over the President's foreign policy and our efforts in Iraq will unquestionably be the defining issue of next year's election. But it seems to me this memo lays bare the fact we've reached the point of all out political war in Washington.

The authors of the memo wrote that their game plan is to:

Pull the majority along as far as we can on issues that may lead to major new disclosures regarding improper or questionable conduct by administration officials. We are having some success in that regard. For example, in addition to the president's State of the Union speech, the chairman has agreed to look at the activities of the Office of the Secretary of Defense as well as Secretary Bolton's office at the State Department. The fact that the chairman supports our investigations into these offices and co-signs our requests for information is helpful and potentially crucial. We don't know what we will find but our prospects for getting the access we seek is far greater when we have the backing of the majority. (Note: we can verbally mention some of the intriguing leads we are pursuing.)

I don't think the Democrats should be expecting any more help from Chairman Roberts.

BUSH SIGNS BAN: The President delivered some powerful remarks today upon signing the ban on partial birth abortion. Take a read.

DEAN ROCKS THE FLAG: As expected, Dean took a beating last night at the debate over his remarks about the Confederate flag. He didn't back down in the debate, but today he capitulated and apologized, saying "I regret the pain that I may have caused either to African-Americans or Southern white voters in the beginning of this discussion."

The issue is absolutely radioactive among the Democrat base. I'll be surprised if this is the last we hear of it.

THE DAY AFTER: Wouldn't you know it: the morning after election 2003 we wake up to find we have some technical issues. We'll be doing our best to update the site throughout the day and recap last night's events, so keep checking in. - T. Bevan 8:34 am

Tuesday, November 4 2003
ELECTION DAY 2003:
Kentucky, Mississippi and Philadelphia are the three big races today. In Kentucky, Rep. Ernie Fletcher has established a comfortable 8-9 point lead, as state Attorney General Ben Chandler appears to have topped out in the polls at 44%-45% about ten days ago. Fletcher would become the first Republican Governor in Kentucky since 1971. A Flecther win 55% - 45% is our final call.

Mississippi will be considerably closer, as Musgrove has run a decent campaign and has made some headway with his characterization of Haley Barbour as a slick Washington lobbyist. The latest polls show a tight race with a 2-3 point lead for Barbour. The problem for Musgrove is he can't get over 45% in the polls, which is very bad news for an incumbent and almost always leads to a loss. Mississippi is a very conservative state and while Musgrove is running as a conservative and has totally eschewed the national Democratic Party, it won't be enough. President Bush remains extremely popular in Mississippi and was in the state this past weekend campaigning for Barbour. Musgrove will need a massive vote from the African-American community, which he will get, but he will need to do better than he did in 1999 with the state's white voters, which we suspect he will not do. Barbour 52% - Musgrove 48%.

In Philadelphia the rematch of the very close 1999 race between John Street and Sam Katz plays out today. But what was expected to be a close race will probably not be that close after all, as the FBI's bugging of Mayor Street's office essentially killed any chance Katz had of pulling off the upset in this heavily Democratic city. Mayor Street should win easily, 58% - 42%.

Republicans should be careful not to make too much of their likely pickups in Kentucky and Mississippi. In 2001 the Democrats picked up statehouses in New Jersey and Virginia and, as we saw in 2002, those contests were of little predictive value. However, a Barbour win in Mississippi would be bad news for the Democrats in 2004 as it would reconfirm the trend of 2002 that even decent Democratic candidates can't win statewide in the South. (Kentucky is less reliable as a predictive race, because of the sex-scandal with the current Democratic governor.)

DEAN SCREWS UP: Howard Dean has been the Democratic front-runner for some time now, but his mouth finally got him in trouble last week with his comment:

I still want to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks.

Now, I know he has said this before, and I know he has said this before in front of an African-American audience, and I know what he means by this line and that it's not a racist comment. But he's in the big leagues now, and as a candidate running for the Democratic nomination this was a mistake. A very big mistake. Expect Gephardt post-Iowa and New Hampshire, and Kerry if he is still alive, to use this comment very effectively in South Carolina and beyond where the black vote is extremely important. J. McIntyre 7:12 am

Monday, November 3 2003
RIPPING AT THE SEAMS:
We've watched the battle over the soul of the Democrat party rage for almost three years. Now Zell Miller has blown the debate wide open by going national (book, op-ed, Meet the Press) with searing criticisms of his party and its current candidates for president.

As Miller notes, the Dems' move to the left has been - with very few exceptions - a slow, steady march that started in the late sixties. But the debate really began again in earnest during the 2000 election when Al Gore, desperate to climb out of Clinton's ethical and political shadow, abandoned the mantle of "new Democrat" and ran a populist, class warfare campaign that was in many ways an indictment of the policies of his own administration.

Gore's win in the popular vote and the disaffection among the base caused by the chaos in Florida convinced many in the party that Gore had hit upon the right message and a winning strategy.

Then came September 11, 2001. In the months that followed, at the same time the nation was still absorbing the shock of being attacked by terrorists and coming to grips with the vision of a dangerous new world, Democrats continued to move the party to the left by selecting a far-left liberal as its leader in the House.

November 2002 confirmed that America's attitudes and priorities changed as a result of 9/11. We're not a 50-50 nation anymore. Yet instead of recognizing and analyzing the implications of an historical defeat at the polls, the Dems responded by embracing the loudest, angriest, and most liberal voice in their party. In the subsequent months the base of the party has virtually shut out candidates with moderate messages and sent everyone scrambling to get further to the left.

HOWARD DEAN JUMPS THE SHARK: There's a pop culture term called "Jumping the Shark" which refers to the point in time where something that is cool or popular becomes a parody of itself and heads into decline. The name comes from the episode of Happy Days where "The Fonz" - the ultimate personification of cool and hip on television - donned a hilariously short bathing suit and a pair of water-skis to take on the challenge of a California tough-guy and jump over a shark swimming in a fishing net.

Well, last week Howard Dean may have "jumped the shark" by pronouncing himself a "metrosexual" and the candidate for confederate flag-waving good 'ol boys of the South all within 72 hours. Needless to say, he's been taking some well deserved lumps.

What Dean's silliness illustrates, however, is not only the irony of the primary cycle but that the current rush to placate the far left base of the party is in many ways a total sham. It looks like something akin to a required kamikaze mission: you have to do it to win the nomination but completing the mission almost guarantees defeat in the general election.

The current process also smacks of opportunism the likes of which we haven't seen in a long time. Here's fellow Democrat Adam Smith describing Howard Dean:

Prior to his [Dean's] decision to run for president, Smith said, Dean was "Mr. DLC," supporting such moderate positions as a balanced budget. But Smith said Dean saw an opportunity to jump-start his presidential campaign by playing to party activists.

"They wanted someone to stand up to Bush and punch him in the eyes," Smith said. "He saw an opportunity and jumped. He's a totally different person."

Meanwhile, we have a retired general trying to turn himself inside out and execute a bizarre Stalinesque end run around his own record so he can have a chance to become president.

All in all it's not a pretty sight, especially set in the context of a defining moment in history where conviction and perseverance in spite of political pressure are the two most important commodities our leaders must have.

"BANNERGATE": You can always count on the New York Times to keep its eye on the ball. Just witness the 910-word effort by Elisabeth Bumiller in today's edition which probes the burning question on the mind of every American: who was behind the idea for the "Mission Accomplished" banner?

There's something more than a little desperate about attempts to make this a big issue, and if this is the best the left can do in ginning up new scandals and "gates" for the Bush administration I suspect they're in for a long election season. - T. Bevan 10:30 am

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Archives - 2003
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Archives - 2002
12/23-12/29 | 12/16-12/22 | 12/9-12/15 | 12/2-12/8 | 11/25-12/1 | 11/18-11/24 | 11/11-11/17 | 11/4-11/10 | 10/28-11/3 | 10/21-10/27 | 10/14 -10/20 | 10/7-10/13 | 9/30-10/6 | 9/23 -9/29 | 9/16-9/22


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