Friday, December 5 2003
THE BATTLE OVER FLORIDA:
New poll out in Florida this morning showing Howard Dean taking a 1-point lead over Joe Lieberman and Wes Clark. That's a bit of a switch from the Mason-Dixon poll completed just before Thanksgiving and demonstrates, albeit inconclusively, the continuing deterioration of Joe Lieberman's campaign.

In head-to-head match ups the poll shows President Bush beating Dean and Clark by 8 points each (49-41 and 48-40, respectively), and Gephardt and Lieberman by 11 points each (50-39 and 51-40 respectively).

The internals for President Bush are mixed: 50% of Floridians think the War in Iraq is "worth it", 65% don't believe Iraq is another Vietnam, and 56% believe President Bush has made America safer. On the other hand, 55% say the current level of casualties in Iraq is "unacceptable" and 69% say Bush hasn't adequately explained how long the troops will be in Iraq.

On balance, I'd say the Bush team has to feel pretty good about where they stand in Florida right now. The President has a 61% approval rating among Hispanics, despite the rift he caused with the Cuban-American community earlier this year by repatriating Cuban exiles. Bush will also come to Florida next year armed with the Medicare bill which, not surprisingly, is the number one issue of concern (36%) among Florida's older-leaning population.

Lastly, if history is any guide Bush should be comfortable with level of GOP energy and organzation in the state. You'll remember that in 2002 Terry McAuliffe declared Jeb Bush Enemy Number 1 and promised to do whatever was necessary to defeat him. Despite the DNC's best efforts, Jeb won in a cakewalk (13 points) and led Republicans to a solid thrasing of Florida Dems from the top of the ticket to the bottom.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "This is an enormous insult and a smack in the face. What are we doing, going back to the 18th century?" - Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, (D - Tx 18), referring to Texas A&M's decision to not use race as a factor in admissions.

Once again, we see hyperbolic rhethoric that completely distorts the issue and prevents a serious dialogue on matters of race. - T. Bevan 8:24am

Thursday, December 4 2003
BOB BECKEL'S OUTRAGE:
I caught just a tiny bit of Bob Beckel on Hannity and Colmes night before last. Didn't even recognize him at first. Last time I heard from Beckel he was trying to flip GOP electors in 2000. Before that, of course, he was the lefty host on CNN's Crossfire.

Anyway, yesterday I saw a Google ad for his new web site so I clicked on over to check it out. I expected it to be partisan, but I also thought it might be a place to find some interesting insights from a longtime Dem operative. I was wrong.

Over on the right-hand side of the page, the second "tab" down is titled, "NEW! Wingnut of the Month." Beckel gives this month's award to to Texas Governor Rick Perry for "being Tom Delayís butt boy in the illegal redistricting of US House seats in Texas."

Excuse me? I read this remark a few times and I'm still not even sure what it means. Aside from the blatant disrespect shown to the sitting Governor of the state of Texas, isn't "butt boy" a rather non-PC term that should offend homosexuals? If a prominent Republican political strategist had called a current (or former) Democrat Governor and US House member "butt boys" do you think it might raise the hackles of the Human Rights Campaign?

So let's see the outrage, guys. Or will this be yet another example of liberals giving a pass to one of their own for using language that would get any Republican in the country branded a bigot.

JOHN KERRY, R.I.P.: On the same day the Senator from Massachusetts lays out his much-touted foreign policy vision at the Council on Foreign Relations, Zogby comes out with a poll showing him an astonishing 30 points behind Dean in New Hampshire and on the verge of sinking into third place behind Wesley Clark.

Mary Lynn Jones has some advice for Kerry on how to turn things around, but I don't think anything can help at this point. I actually feel sorry for the guy. He's like a thoroughbred who has trained his entire life to run in the Kentucky Derby, enters the race as the odds on favorite and then pulls up lame about one furlong in. Somebody should put him out of his misery.

BONO IS FOR BUSH: Actually, the world famous U2 frontman and AIDS activist admits to being for "the guy who writes the biggest check." Still, based on this interview with Judy Woodruff yesterday, you have to think Bono has a great deal of respect for the man in the White House:

WOODRUFF: The administration originally was talking about the president, $3 billion that came back. And they said, You know, we've looked at it, we can't spend that money efficiently. They came back with $2 billion. Congress has upped it to $2.4 billion. But the argument is, we can't spend more money now because it won't be used in a smart way.

BONO: The idea that Africans can't spend the money is preposterous.

But to be fair to Bill Frist and others, they were talking about specifically ten countries targeted with this new AIDS initiative. And actually, in the case of those ten countries, they're right.

Our argument was, you know, why is it just 10, and what about the Global Health Fund? Surely you could best spend some money in there. We were wrangling.

All in all, I have to say the administration has been very honest in their relationship with us. And we did fight over that billion dollars. There's been a compromise. We've had $400 million from Congress. And we'll take it.

WOODRUFF: What have you said to them? When the president and others have looked at you and said, We just don't think some of these countries know how to handle this money. Countries that don't have their political act together, their economy act together.

BONO: OK. You have to build capacity. And remember, this is the president who inspired not just people who are involved in this, these issues, but his critics around the world.

His last State of the Union speech, when he said, We will get the drugs to people on motorcycles, on bicycles. Now, that's the kind of American president I want to hear from, one that bangs his hand on the table and says, Let's get this done.

If an ultraliberal, European rock star can give the President a bit of credit where he thinks it's due, applaud his efforts and treat him with a decent amount of respect, why is it impossible for those on the American left? - T. Bevan 8:06 am

Wednesday, December 3 2003
THE MOUTH OF MONTPELIER:
Howard Dean's big mouth has had a banner performance even by his standards the last few days. Over the weekend he seems to have gotten a little overexcited and told his audience:

"He [President Bush] has no understanding of defense, I think he's made us weaker. He doesn't understand what it takes to defend this country, that you have to have high moral purpose. He doesn't understand that you better keep troop morale high rather than just flying over for Thanksgiving.....Mr. President, if you'll pardon me, I'll teach you a little about defense."

This prompted a retort from former Senator Bob Dole:

"I thank God F.D.R. was my commander in chief in WWII. Had it been Howard Dean we would have not participated. This would have saved lives and none of us would have been wounded. Just one little problem: we would have lost our liberty and freedom."

Earlier this week Dean said he would release his records as Governor of Vermont as long as Bush released his records, not realizing that Bush's records are already available to the public.

And then on Chris Matthew's Hardball he forgot that the Soviet Union doesn't exist any more:

"Also, we have less-fewer levers much the key, I believe, to Iran is pressure through the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union is supplying much of the equipment that Iran, I believe, most likely is using to set itself along the path of developing nuclear weapons. We need to use that leverage with the Soviet Union and it may require us to buying the equipment the Soviet Union was ultimately going to sell to Iran to prevent Iran from them developing nuclear weapons."

The real mistake on Hardball was not the Soviet Union gaffe, which I don't think is a big deal except as an amusing side story on how ridiculously bias the mainstream press remains. Just imagine the public hounding President Bush would take if he said anything similar.

Dean's real screw up, which Hugh Hewitt addresses at the Weekly Standard today, is his belief that Osama Bin Laden should be tried at the Hague in Holland. Actually, it's Dean's indifference that's the problem: he doesn't think it really matters who deals with Osama or where:

MATTHEWS: Who should try Osama bin Laden if we catch him? We or the World Court?

DEAN: I donít think it makes a lot of difference.

It may not make a lot of difference to Howard Dean whether the U.S. or the World Court deals with bin Laden in the off chance he is caught alive, but it makes a BIG difference to Joe Six-pack. The average American citizen will not tolerate our government turning bin Laden over to the bureaucrats at the World Court so that he can live out his life well fed and well taken care of in some European jail.

Dean's response appeals to the hard left, but it shows a striking disconnect with the feelings of the vast majority of the country. This answer alone could be crafted into a Bush commercial that would help put New York state into play in 2004.

Until his main rivals realize that attacking Dean from the left on national security and foreign policy is a fool's errand, these remarks will have little impact on on the race for the Democratic nomination. If Gephardt were smart he would attack Dean on this gaffe repeatedly and mercilessly. Don't count on it.

BUSH POPULARITY SURGES AFTER THANKSGIVING: "President Bush appears to have received a substantial immediate boost in his popularity since Thanksgiving Day." This from the latest Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania poll released yesterday (pdf).

I would expect that the other major polls of the Bush's approval rating will also reflect a boost from the President's trip to visit the troops in Baghdad. This is of course the reason for the Democratic characterization of the President's trip as a "stunt." The Democrats would be well advised to just forget about this trip and move on. Criticism of the trip may play well with the Michael Moore crowd, but it doesn't sit well with the the vast majority of the country.

REPUBLICANS DROP CRUISE SHIP IDEA: House majority leader Tom DeLay is a master politician and a big reason for many of the Republican successes these last 5 years. However this plan to have a cruise ship serve as an entertainment center for members of Congress, lobbyists and contributors during the Republican National Convention next summer would have been an unmitigated PR disaster. Fortunately for the Republicans, common sense appears to have prevailed.  J. McIntyre 7:33 am

Tuesday, December 2 2003
RUMMY WINS:
U.S. Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld has been awarded this year's "Foot in Mouth Award" from Britain's Plain English Campaign. Here is Rummy's winner:

"Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns, there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns ó the ones we don't know we don't know."

Arnold Schwarzenegger received an honorable mention for this gem:

"I think that gay marriage is something that should be between a man and a woman."

Congrats to both. We know what you mean. - T. Bevan 4:27pm

DEAN BOTCHES SOFTBALL ON HARDBALL: Looks like Howard Dean may have done it again. On Hardball yesterday Dean said it didn't make "any difference" to him whether Osama bin Laden was tried by the World Court or by the United States as long as he's "brought to justice."

Hugh Hewitt points out that there is, in fact, a huge difference in who ends up trying Osama bin Laden and the resulting definition of justice (Mickey Kaus has more). I suspect a large majority of the American public also has a pretty strong opinion about who should try Osama and what constitutes justice - and they ain't gonna agree with Howard Dean.

If this is lesson number one in teaching George Bush "a little about defense" I can't wait to see the rest of the curriculum. - T. Bevan 11:03 am
UPDATE: Drudge has the transcript of another outrageous statement Dean made during his interview on Hardball saying he would break up giant media companies.

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan has the text of yet a third Dean gaffe on Hardball - this time in reference to the former Soviet Union. - T. Bevan 2:36 pm

THE EPIDEMIC OF "UN"SERIOUSNESS: Howard Dean is going to teach George Bush "a little about defense." John Kerry is going to "end the era of John Ashcroft." Both men complain that President Bush has alienated our allies around the world, that Iraq is a misadventure and a mistake, and that we need to return to the legitimacy of the United Nations' process and focus on pursuing al-Qaeda. So what about this?

"A U.N. monitoring committee complained yesterday that 108 nations have failed to file required reports on their actions in the war against terrorism, such as freezing assets and reporting the names of suspected terrorists.

Among the countries that have not complied are several where the al Qaeda terror network is thought to be active, including Afghanistan, Egypt, Indonesia, Kenya and Sudan. "

The reports in question are required per UN resolutions passed in the wake of September 11, 2001. Heraldo Munoz, chairman of the United Nations' al Qaeda sanctions committee, hopes to pass yet another resolution strengthening "the teeth" in the sanctions against countries refusing to comply. Any of this sound familiar?

As I've said before, in my mind any serious candidate for president of the United States who advocates pursuing the War on Terror through the framework of the United Nations must also step up and recognize the deficiencies of that organization as well as present some sort of plan for reform that demonstrates a commitment to the primacy of US national security. As the above story demonstrates, simply rushing back into the open arms of the UN thinking we'll all have a big world community hug and then head off to fight terrorists together is absolute madness.

GEPHARDT'S SECURITY PLAN: Meanwhile, yesterday in Iowa Dick Gephardt laid out a plan for a "Homeland Security Trust Fund." Gephardt wants to spend $100 billion over the next five years on homeland security and finance the spending by empaneling a commission to eliminate special interest tax breaks (any bets on whether ethanol subsidies will be among those cut?).

The speech (full text here) is actually an effective critique of the Bush administration, one that will resonate with voters and one that other Dems would be well advised to follow. The only problem is that to really drive the point home Gephardt has to engage in the type of worst case, doomsday scenarios that Democrats (including Gephardt himself) have crucified the Bush administration for. It's the sort of stuff that literally scares the pants off voters:

"And around the world, there are countless storage facilities of nuclear materials, many in the former Soviet Union, where there is little security beyond a few under-paid guards. But this president has been too dismissive of this threat, as with so many others. I'm not willing to trust the safety of my family to a hungry watchman in a decrepit storage locker in Eastern Europe. It's far too easy to imagine that nuclear material ending up in the trunk of a car in downtown St. Louis. I'm not willing to take that chance, and I know you're not either."

"I am standing before you today at this police station, because this is the last line of defense against these dangers and many more. Who is supposed to notice the suspicious car? Or the out-of-date visa? Who is supposed to contain the damage from a dirty bomb? Or a chemical attack? And who is supposed to treat hundreds of burn victims or thousands of citizens exposed to a radiological attack?

"America's front-line in the war on terror is not just Iraq or Afghanistan. It's not limited to rogue nations like Iran or North Korea. It's everywhere, including right here on the streets of our heartland.

See what I mean? It sounds like something straight of the movie Red Dawn. The fact we haven't suffered another terrorist attack since 9/11 makes it a bit of a tougher sell, but it is a legitimate avenue for attacking the administration on security issues.

For the record, I disagree with Gephardt's proposal. I'm not opposed to spending on homeland security per se, but I don't believe we should in any way endorse a policy that requires some sort of parity or balance between money we spend fighting the War on Terror abroad and money spend at home. Every dollar spent tracking down and killing terrorists around the globe is worth significantly more to the cause of winning the war on terrorism, in both practical and symbolic terms, than a dollar spent buying a hazmat suit for a fire station somewhere in Iowa.

LIBERAL TALK: Jim Rutenberg's piece from yesterday's NY Times on liberal efforts to start a talk radio network has more or less made the blogosphere rounds, so I won't spend a lot of time discussing it. But I will add this two cents:

What's absolutely ironic about this effort is that for nearly 20 years talk radio has been a medium that liberals have for the most part shunned, demeaned, and looked upon with utter contempt.

While Rush Limbaugh was toiling away in relative obscurity in places like Kansas City and Sacramento, liberals were busy applying for positions in the newsrooms of television and newspapers around the country and couldn't be bothered with talk radio. It was beneath them.

Now, because of the success of people like Rush and Hannity and their ability to harness the raw power of the medium, all of the sudden liberals want back in the game. That's fine with me, let 'em come on in and compete. Liberals may or may not find talk radio a hospitable atmosphere for their brand of politics, but at least now they respect (if a bit late and a bit grudgingly) the power of talk radio. - T. Bevan 9:06 am

Monday, December 1 2003
BACK IN FIRST GEAR:
Slow start this week. I'd chalk it up to the lingering effects of tryptophan if I could, but it looks like that's just an old wives tale.

Anyway, thanks to all who responded to our Thanksgiving Day post and also a quick thanks to Milt Rosenberg for having us on his show last week.

SWEET'S SOUR NOTE: Jack Ryan, the JFK-esque Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Illinois has gotten a lot of good press lately. Perhaps too much press for his own good (is such a thing possible?) All the puff pieces on Ryan seem to have angered Lynn Sweet, who dropped this turkey of a column on Thanksgiving Day.

Let me just say if this is the best she can do in trying to take Ryan down a peg then he doesn't have any worries. Does Sweet really expect people to be outraged over the fact that Ryan, a 15-year veteran and former partner with investment banking giant Goldman Sachs, sat on the corporate boards of two companies while he was volunteering to teach at an all-black high school on the south side of Chicago?

Sweet seems particularly peeved at Ryan's stake in K-12 Inc., a firm that provides a "virtual curriculum" for parents interested in home schooling their children. Sweet suggests that because education is one of the main planks in Ryan's campaign he is obligated to mention (in all of his direct mail correspondence and on his website) connections to a firm that promotes homeschooling. Give me a break.

I think everyone would agree it's reasonable to ask candidates their views on homeschooling. It's also reasonable to ask Ryan how his affiliation with K-12 Inc. influences the way he thinks about education in general.

That's not what Sweet is doing here. She is alleging a conflict of interest and trying to convince readers of the Chicago Sun-Times that Ryan is hiding his relationship with K-12 and not "leveling with voters." This is total and utter nonsense.

It's fairly well known that William J. Bennett, former U.S. Secretary of Education, is the founder of K-12 Inc. It's also common knowledge that Bennett is one of Jack Ryan's closest friends and political mentors. He even did a star turn at a recent Ryan fundraiser.

Far from being some shady deal or ideological Trojan Horse he is trying to hide from voters, Ryan's investment in K-12, Inc. is most likely the product of his desire to help a friend start an exciting new venture and also the chance to work directly with one of the country's preeminent experts on the issue of education.

Lynn Sweet is the Washington Bureau Chief of the Chicago Sun-Times. If I know this stuff you can rest assured she knows it as well - but she chose not to inform her readers because it might have softened the blow she wanted to inflict on Jack Ryan. Maybe Lynn is the one who needs to start to "level with the voters." - T. Bevan 10:47 am

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