Friday, June 20 2003
NARAL AD: Oops, sorry, they're NARAL ProChoice America these days. Anyway, they launched a multimillion dollar campaign to protect Roe v. Wade back on June 9, complete with a slick new :30 television spot.

From a technical standpoint, the spot is incredibly well done. It has an enormously high production value, visually appealing effects, and an intriguing storyline that holds the attention. Cue the glowering, white Supreme Court Justice, the ominously dark lighting, and the apocalyptic sound track. Fear has never looked so good. I suspect it has also never been so effective: this ad will have pro-choice women huddled under their desks writing checks as fast as they can.

To be honest, I'm still a little surprised NARAL didn't produce this ad three years ago. Looking back, an effective piece of abortion propaganda in the final days of the campaign might very well have scared up an extra 7,300 votes in New Hampshire or 600 votes in Florida, in which case today we'd be looking at a multimillion dollar pro-life campaign by the NRLC.

KINSLEY'S WMD HYPERBOLE: I try to read Mike Kinsley's column every week. I usually disagree with just about everything he says, but I enjoy Kinsley's style and sense of humor and irony much more than most other liberal pundits.

I was disappointed, however, to read this bit in his latest piece on finding WMD's:

As for settling the argument about WMD as a justification for the war, that argument is already settled. It's obvious that the Bush administration had no good evidence to back up its dire warnings.

Put aside for a moment, as Kinsley does by failing to mention it in his column, the fact we recently found two mobile bioweapons labs in Iraq that exactly match the detailed description given by Secretary Powell on February 5. Isn't this a textbook definition of good intelligence and good evidence? Doesn't it also prove Hussein had an active WMD program in violation of UN sanction and lend credence to the "dire warnings" of the Bush administration?

Even so, Kinsley's statement is still quite remarkable for someone who was never present at any intelligence briefings over the two years prior to the war. Kinsley has no idea what intelligence the Bush administration had or didn't have.

The only think Mike Kinsley knows for sure, and the standard of proof he now implies is necessary as justification for the war, is that the administration didn't have a smoking gun with respect to Iraq's WMDs.

But the intelligence business doesn't work that way and Kinsley knows it. Nine times out of ten the CIA doesn't produce a smoking gun. Instead, it assembles scraps of intel and analyzes them for veracity and accuracy to produce the best possible threat assessment.

And when a threat assessment is buttressed by multiple sources from foreign governments and agencies, previous administrations, and a historical track record of pursuing WMD's like Hussein's, it is logical and prudent to draw the conclusion that he did in fact have weapons that constituted a significant threat.

Conversely, it's absolutely illogical and imprudent to stare in the face of evidence that generated nearly unanimous agreement around the globe that Hussein possessed WMDs and step forward and declare the Bush administration had "no good evidence."

But Kinsley's not interested in being logical, he's already convinced the whole thing is a charade:

Are there weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? Sure there are—in every sense that matters, reality not being one of them.

That's a pretty strong statement, and it's one that's going to hurt badly if we end up finding WMD's in the future.

JOSH'S RESPONSE: Josh Marshall emails to tell me:

Hey Tom, I think you might need to actually *read* what I wrote on the subject before saying I changed the subject. Just a thought.

I did read Josh's post, but maybe I misunderstood it (see below). I thought that when he called the DHS a "get-along-go-along operation," "comically passive," and a "see-no-evil-hear-no-evil" operation he was being critical.

More to his point, I suggested that by waiting until 11:32 pm to address the issue of the report and then by stacking another long post on top of it an hour later on a totally different subject, it gave off the impression he was trying to minimize the impact of an item running contrary to his crusade against Tom DeLay. Maybe it was just a coincidence, but Josh is a smart, savvy guy who knows the media game, so he should at least understand why some might draw such a conclusion. - T. Bevan 8:26 am

Wednesday, June 18 2003
BUBBLE BOY: Dick "My Daddy Was a Milk Truck Driver" Gephardt's populist image suffered a set back yesterday when he tried to climb into the pocket of Silicon Valley executives by joining their fight to avoid counting stock options as expenses.

For someone who spent a good deal of time over the last two years on a soapbox sermonizing about how Bush's corporate cronies were cooking the books at the expense of the little guy's pension plan (remember the 40 House seats Enron was going to produce in the midterms?), it's an odd move for Gephardt to cosponsor legislation that would block new accounting rules designed to put corporate expenses fully above board.

Here is how Dick rationalized it for the group:

``We had some problems with a few of our corporations, some of which may have involved stock options. The Enrons, the WorldComs have been real disappointments. But I don't think we should just look at that and extrapolate all those problems to every other company.''

The next line of the AP report: "Gephardt's comments won an enthusiastic response." No duh.

The only problem is Gephardt doesn't believe a word of this. And guess what? He'll be crucifying this same group of greedy corporate executives next week at a townhall meeting in Iowa, while simultaneously pledging his full support for federal ethanol subsidies.

Welcome to the hypocrisy of the presidential election season.

SUPREMES: We've gotten a few emails asking what to make of the string of Dems (Schumer, Leahy, & Daschle) urging President Bush to confer with them before selecting a Supreme Court nominee.

It looks to me like this strategy, even though ridiculous and without any chance of success, offers the Dems a number of political advantages. It's a proactive move that shows their base they are on the ball, and serves as a shot across the bow to President Bush about the coming fight. Most importantly, however, the Dems hope these multiple pleas will give them cover with the American public when the hand-to-hand combat begins over a Supreme Court nominee. The publicity generated by such a fight will no doubt highlight the filibusters of Estrada and Owens and could generate some serious public backlash.

CATFIGHT: Fox News pulls no punches with the title of this story speculating on a Condi-Hillary slugfest in 2008. I suppose it could happen, though it seems like quite a stretch. Imagine the chaos of that race.....

POOR JOSH MARSHALL: What do you do when you've spent so much time, so many pixels of copy, and so much outrage trying to nab that "wascally wabbit" Tom DeLay over the Texas Dem/Homeland Security brouhaha and then a report is published declaring no laws were broken?

You spend all day writing up a rebuttal attacking the report's credibility. And then you bury the whole thing with another lengthy post that changes the subject. Way to go, Josh. - T. Bevan 8:20 am

Tuesday, June 17 2003
RCP FUND DRIVE: It's over. Thanks to all for your tremendous support this past week, the fund drive was an important step in the long-term success of RealClearPolitics. We'll be posting a full wrap up on the event later in the week. And if there is anyone who missed the event or still wants to contribute, we've created a place where you can do just that. Thanks again.

MEDICARE REFORM : I confess to haven't pored over the details of the proposed prescription drug program that appears to be steamrolling into law. However, my ten-second appraisal is that it looks to be fantastic politics and average to bad public policy.

On the political front this legislation will be a devastating blow to the Democrats in '04. Republicans will have a very powerful campaign message when they can go to voters and say that after eight years of Clinton and a lot of talk about prescription drug reform, President Bush promised reform in 2000 and actually delivered. This is a government program that people understand, people want, and Bush and the GOP will score points with the public if it passes on their watch.

On the policy front, my antennae go up when the NY Times and Al Hunt are calling this a good first step and the Wall Street Journal thinks it is a disaster. I think David Brooks hits the policy nail on the head:

President Bush's idea was we'll give you the prescription drug benefit, we're going to tie it to some reform by giving people an incentive to get into these private plans. He basically caved in on that. So now you have got not much real reform but you get the benefit with everybody sort of signing on except for on the left and the right......It's a pseudo poisonous victory though. To me the only fact you need to know about domestic policy is that in 1960, 70 percent of the discretionary income of - 70 percent of federal spending went to discretionary programs: schools, welfare, the FBI, all that stuff. Now 70 percent goes to entitlements: Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid. And what that does is that means these entitlement programs are squeezing out every other part of the budget. There is no money left over. And that's the big story Because this is a new and extremely expensive entitlement program.

In the end, I think the political benefits trump the policy negatives of the bill - though it's a close call. Today's Washington Times editorial frames the debate well and makes a lot of sense.

MIDDLE EAST: I received several emails from my post last week on a new Middle East road map from people who mistakenly thought I was calling for either peacekeepers or U.S. troops in the region.

For the record, I don't support either. Peacekeepers are worthless until the terror practitioners are wiped out. I don't want peacekeepers. I want non-U.S, non-Isreali special forces who will go in and exterminate the terrorists. Once this is done, somekind of UN or NATO force (w/o US troops) could then work as peacekeepers.

I realize the prospect of French or Russian or Egyptian forces fighting to get rid of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, etc. in the West Bank and Gaza is, well how should I put this, not very likely. But I'll come back to my central point last week: the Palestinian terrorists have to be crushed, and they can't be crushed by Israel or the U.S. - J. McIntyre 7:54 am

Monday, June 16 2003
THE BEERS PROFILE: You may want to read this front page profile of Rand Beers in today's Washington Post. Beers is a former White House counterterrorism aide who resigned recently and then joined John Kerry's campaign to unseat President Bush. The circumstances of the storyline are just too tantalizing for the Post, but upon close inspection even Laura Blumenfeld's best effort at spinning the drama falls seriously flat.

Here is the key quote from Beers which will no doubt generate the requisite shudders among many impressionable voters:

"The administration wasn't matching its deeds to its words in the war on terrorism. They're making us less secure, not more secure," said Beers, who until now has remained largely silent about leaving his National Security Council job as special assistant to the president for combating terrorism. "As an insider, I saw the things that weren't being done. And the longer I sat and watched, the more concerned I became, until I got up and walked out."

This statement caught my attention because it not only accuses the Bush administration of inaction ("things that weren't being done") but also of acting counterproductively ("making us less secure, not more secure").

Read the rest of the piece carefully, however, and you learn a few important facts like: Beers is a registered Democrat who thinks the Bush administration 1) is not spending enough money on homeland security 2) should have built a broader coalition for the war in Iraq 3) hasn't addressed the "root causes" of terrorism and "could be" breeding a new generation of al-Qaeda recruits.

Even though I may disagree with him, I don't begrudge Beers's opinion on point number one. After all, this is a man who sat around all day looking at the scariest scraps of terrorist intelligence in the country - of course he's going to think we need more money spent here at home. But points number two and three are purely ideological and just aren't supported by any facts whatsoever.

The Post's treatment of Beers makes it seem like he's more than just a liberal-leaning bureaucrat who had ideological differences with the direction of the war on terror.

BUSH & THE LAND OF LINCOLN: The Chicago Tribune headlined a poll on Sunday showing that despite Bush's respectable approval rating in Illinois (57%) he still hasn't convinced voters in this Democrat-trending state he deserves reelection (42%).

Tucked inside the article, however, is this little nugget of good news for Bush and Rove:

Bush received strong reelection support among white suburban women, swing voters who had been wary of his conservatism as a candidate and who had helped hold down his numbers in the traditionally Republican collar counties.

Democrats really began dominating in Illinois in 1992 when Clinton tapped into the white, suburban, socially liberal female vote. This domination continued through 2000 when Gore beat Bush by a sizable 12 points here. And in 2002, while the GOP was picking up local, state and federal seats across the country, Republicans in Illinois were getting trounced, losing the state legislature and every statewide elective office except one.

Bush's ability to regain ground in the suburbs is absolutely critical if he wants to be competitive here and his strong reelect numbers among suburban white women in this poll indicate that 2004 could be different. Why? National security.

While suburban voters are also feeling the economic pinch, it's surely not as bad as in rural or urban areas. This is happening in suburbs across the country, especially among women and especially in major metros where the threat of terrorism continues to loom.

Bush's reelect numbers are obviously being held down by the troubled economy and if it shows even the slightest bit of improvement over the next 9-12 months then there is a decent chance we might see Illinois in the red again in 2004. - T. Bevan 8:27 am

Sign up for free updates from RCP:

Our Favorite Blogs
Ashbrook Center
Best of the Web
Empower America
Geitner Simmons
Hit and Run
John Ellis
Patrick Ruffini
Political Wire
Rich Galen
The Scrum
Talking Points Memo
The Corner
The Note
The New Republic

The Optimate
The Volokh Conspiracy

3/24/03 - 3/30/03
2/3/03 - 2/9/03
1/27/03 - 2/2/03