Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

On Dean

Just to clarify, I have no problems whatsoever with Dean. I simply do not want his supporters attacking the other Democratic candidates (and I’d be nonplussed if Dean approved of such steps). The same goes for all the candidates. For example, I was very disappointed in Kerry for his stupid “Dear Governor Dean” letter.

Goal number one is ending the primary with a minimally damaged candidate, or even better, pair of candidates. Who lands on the top of the ticket is a subordinate issue. It does–at least, at this early stage–appear that a combined Dean/Clark or Clark/Dean ticket will provide the strongest ticket (remember, Gore was Clinton’s primary opponent until Clinton chose him in July 1992 as his running mate). I love the prospect of matching Clark’s resume with Dean’s grass-roots appeal, in either order. If the primaries degenerate to the level of Bradley vs. Gore, that won’t happen.

AB

CORRECTION: Gore ran in 1988, but not in 1992. How quickly memory fades. Commenter GW Plunkett also points out that Reagan choosing Bush in 1980 was the only time in recent history that two opponents joined forces. Still, that was an acrimonious primary (“Voodoo Economics” and all), so I’ll hold out hope for a pairing.

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Governor Schwarzenegger?

MoveOn has really become a powerful cash machine. Previously, they raised $1 million in about a week to support the Texas Eleven. Now, in even less time, they’ve raised $500,000 to air anti-Schwarzenegger ads:

Dear MoveOn member,

24 hours ago, we launched an emergency ad campaign to tell California voters the recent revelations about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s life and character. As of 2pm, more than 12,000 people have contributed and enabled us to reach our goal of $500,000. The ad will begin playing throughout California on Sunday. It’s appearing on at least 10 national news programs today. Incredible.

…We’re asking yoou to participate in MoveOn phone banking to California to make sure that voters know the truth. Every Californian deserves to know the truth about this man who will be elected unless they vote No Recall on Tuesday. To sign up to help, click here:

http://moveon.org/pac/lapb/

Our online phone banking system is easy to use, and if you have free weekend minutes on your cell phone, you’ll be able to make the calls for free. If thousands of MoveOn members call tens of thousands of California voters this weekend, that we could make the difference in this race.

Now, Schwarzenegger’s complete lack of experience, lack of any substantive policy proposals, and vacuous responses to questions should be enough to persuade California voters not to support Schwarzenegger. Apparently, they are not. But a Bustamante withdrawal, plus a last minute ad barrage, plus some hardcore phone-banking, and Davis just might survive. It’s a long shot, but a shot nonetheless. And what’s the worst that can happen? You waste an hour or two phone banking, Schwarzenegger wins, and California remains in fiscal trouble, forcing Schwarzenegger to raise taxes or cut back on popular services, and you can spend the next 3 years knowing you tried to prevent the Republicans (and California) from boiling in a stew of their own making.

AB

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Fact-Checking “FACT CHECK CLARK”

Tapped has two pieces up, “FACT CHECK CLARK, PART I” and the aptly titled follow-up, “FACT CHECK CLARK, PART II“. Thanks to Tapped’s recently instituted policy of signing posts, I can see that both were penned by Garance Franke-Ruta.

I was suspicious of these posts for two reasons: first, it was authored by Franke-Ruta, who seems to have a problem with the Clark campaign, at least insofar as its interactions with Blogovia are concerned. Here, I caught Franke-Ruta selectively extracting quotes to completely invert the meaning of a post at DraftClark.com (to make it seem like the DraftClarkers were disillusioned with Clark, rather than impressed by his quick recovery from a campaign trail error). Second, Franke-Ruta relied on quotes from a story in the Manchester Union Leader, a source that is presumably fairly friendly to Northeastern Democratic candidates.

What forms the substance of her charges? Franke-Ruta leads off with a line straight from the 2000 RNC fax machines about Gore: “Good grief. This [Clark’s distortions] is getting ridiculous.” She then explains,

First Wesley Clark told The Union Leader of New Hampshire, when asked how long he’d been a Democrat: “About, um, oh, I think it was maybe the third of September. Prior to that I wasn’t anything. In Arkansas, you don’t register for parties, you vote in primaries and, of course, I voted in the Democratic primary.”

Then on Wednesday it turned out he still hadn’t registered as a Democrat.

Then on Thursday, Clark’s spokeswoman Kym Spell told The Associated Press: “A piece of paper doesn’t make you a Democrat. . . . Wesley Clark is a real Democrat, and this is simply a tactic that the other guys are using to distract Americans from the real issues.”

Let us channel Bob Somerby. First, is Clark’s statement about people generally not registering for a given party in Arkansas true? Franke-Ruta declines to inform us. But AP writer David Hammer does the deep digging and leg work and called Arkansas’ Secretary of State’s Deputy for Elections, Janet Miller, whereupon he discovers that “only 4.4 percent of Arkansas’ 1.5 million voters have declared any political party” [that’s a quote from Hammer, who didn’t put quotes around this phrase, not from Miller]. Here’s another nugget from the AP piece:

Arkansans couldn’t even declare party affiliation until 1996, after changes in 1995 to a state constitutional amendment added an optional party information box to registration forms.

But wait, Hammer has more:

“If you vote in a primary, you are declaring that you want a Republican or Democratic ballot for that year’s elections, that’s it,” said Carolyn Staley, the clerk in Pulaski County where Clark is registered. “If you come back for a primary two years later, you can choose to vote in the other party if you wish.”

Pulaski County records show that Clark registered to vote in 2002, casting a ballot in the Democratic primary and then voted in the general election.

Get it? Nobody registers for a party in Arkansas–ok, 95.6% of the people don’t. Instead they reveal their party by which primary they vote in, and Clark voted in the Democratic Primary in 2002, so the Democrat for just 25 days allegation is quite a stretch, and Franke-Rute’s presentation of the imbroglio is, once again, Safirian.

In fact, the very article Franke-Rute cites from the Manchester Union Leader contains Clark’s explanation for what happened (via a spokesperson):

Clark spokesman Kym Spell told us last night that Clark was mistaken about his registration in his Union Leader interview. “He had filled out the paperwork but it never got down to the office,” she said.

“We discovered that when Business Week called.” She said that “with all the excitement of the past two weeks, it never got filed.

“We’ve got it here (in Little Rock),” she said. And when he returns there, she said, he’ll file it.

Sorry about that,” Spell added.

Now, that may or may not be true, but if a writer wants to call Clark a liar or an exaggerator, at least include the subject’s explanation.

And, I’m on a roll now. Here’s another cause for suspicion. The Manchester article’s next nugget criticizes Clark for recently saying “First of all I would change the secretary of defense. . . [if Clark were in charge of Iraq]”. Then the hammer strikes:

But in December 2000 Clark, on NBC’s “Today” show, had called Rumsfeld “an inspired choice. He’s got great experience, he’s got great international stature, he knows the issues.

Mon Deiu and Sacre Bleu! What a giant flip-flop! Could anything have happened between December 2000 and last freakin’ weekend that might have changed a General’s mind, or that of any sane person in these United States, about Rumsfeld’s competency?

Finally, the TAP author in question waxes on her independence:

Like Clark, I am an independent. But it was a big deal for me when I went down to the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles and switched my party registration from Democrat to independent in 1999. It is that technicality only — that little “piece of paper” — that prevents me from calling myself a member of the Democratic Party. Yet it symbolizes a great deal more. And, because of that piece of paper, if I went around calling myself a Democrat, I’d be lying.

This may be true, but her bio shows that she went from the Washington City Paper (a worthy but very liberal alternative weekly in DC) to the American Prospect, so she’s more likely to be independent as in disgruntled left/Green than independent as in the center. In fact, she’s basically out as a Dean supporter (see this, this, and this). That’s fine. But don’t blog about this as if you are a neutral party: “The sad part of all this is that the question of party affiliation could have been handled in such a different way.” The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

The actually sad part is when liberals–registered or not–waste time taking specious and disingenuous popshots like these at any of the Democratic candidates. Don’t feed the Rove, especially not with lies, for he thrives on them like sweet, sweet, mother’s milk.

As far as Fact Check Clark Part II goes, Garance seems to have one valid but very trivial point (Clark did not have the first interview with a blogger–as a Clark04.com, not Clark himself, previously claimed; Liberal Oasis interviewed Dean by email earlier) and one invalid and trivial point (Clark probably actually did have the first face-to-face interview with a blogger–Dean answering questions from bloggers probably isn’t really an interview).

AB

P.S. Also at Tapped, Matt Y. has a bit more on the not really a Dem allegation.

UPDATE: Link added to explain what “Safirian” means (and to correct the spelling error).

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A Suggestion for Wilson and Plame

John Dean, of Watergate fame, has a piece in Salon.com comparing the Plame affair to Watergate. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he argues that this scandal is more serious than Watergate was in some crucial respects. He also gives a very intriguing piece of advice in the Salon article:

Regardless of whether or not a special prosecutor is selected, I believe that Ambassador Wilson and his wife — like the DNC official once did [during the Watergate scandal] — should file a civil lawsuit, both to address the harm inflicted on them, and, equally important, to obtain the necessary tools (subpoena power and sworn testimony) to get to the bottom of this matter. This will not only enable them to make sure they don’t merely become yesterday’s news; it will give them some control over the situation.

He argues that a similar move in during the Watergate scandal applied a lot of crucial pressure that helped to crack the case open — and that it might have similar effects in this case. It’s an interesting suggestion…

Kash

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An Unemployment Report that’s Not Too Bad

Looking on the bright side, it’s good news for the US labor market that the unemployment rate was unchanged, at 6.1%, according to the data released today by the BLS. In fact, payrolls even grew by 57,000. This wasn’t enough to match the average of 100,000 or so new people that enter the work force each month in the US, and obviously wasn’t enough to make a dent in the net job losses of over 3 million people over the past 3 years… but at least it was net job creation for the American economy, for the first time in 8 months. This report was better than the average expectation among economists as reported by Briefing.com, which was for payrolls to shrink slightly.

On the not-so-bright side, it’s a bit unfortunate that a stable unemployment rate at 6.1% is “good news.” And, as I pointed out yesterday, we’re in the middle of what is supposed to be a high-growth period for the US economy.

Kash

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Plaming On… with the Devil’s Advocate

As AB noted below, Digby’s point about the Plame affair being (partly, at least) about the media itself is a good one. Maybe the media will indeed keep the story going, simply because they get to talk about themselves.

But I also think that in order to answer the question that I posed even further below about whether the Plame affair will die quietly or not, we also need to take a guess at the CIA’s motivation for bringing this business into the public spotlight in the first place. Why does that matter? Because depending on what you think the CIA is trying to accomplish, you may believe that the CIA has only just begun to make life difficult for the Bush administration.

Some of the best discussion that I’ve seen about the Plame affair has been on Brad DeLong’s blog. Among numerous other insightful discussions about this business DeLong makes the following point:

I agree with [Jack Balkin] that the “CIA” has declared bureaucratic war on the White House staff. But it’s not clear to me that his explanation is sufficient — the “you pushed us, we’ll push you back” explanation. At this level, the “CIA” is the Director of Central Intelligence and his deputies, and they are as much the personal courtiers of George W. Bush as they are representatives of the career bureaucracy of the Agency. They would have had every incentive to find an alternative resolution than the one they have chosen: to try to deprive the president of the services of his trusted aides and to mire the White House in scandal is not likely to make George W. Bush happy to see them or eager to listen to them in the future.

If the CIA has really decided to blow up the Bush administration, then they won’t let the story die, and we can probably expect the scandal to widen.

But let me continue to play Devil’s Advocate for a moment. One alternative and plausible theory that DeLong mentions is that Tenet was worried about losing his job – and now, of course, there’s no way that Bush can fire him. That story would imply that the CIA may well be done. They’ve accomplished their goal, and don’t care if the story dies at this point.

Alternatively, we could just go with the most obvious reason for the CIA’s “outing” of the bad Bushies. Isn’t it possible that the CIA was simply tired of being kicked around by Rove, et al? What better way to get the White House to behave than to send them a stern reminder that the CIA is a veteran fighter in the inside-the-Beltway ring? I find it plausible that the CIA was genuinely angry about Plame’s cover being blown (on top of using Tenet as a scapegoat for the 16 words), and so they want the White House to know that they can’t do that sort of thing. If that’s their motivation, then they’ve certainly succeeded, and have no further incentive to damage Bush. They figure that Bush will probably just lick his wounds, refocus on his reelection, and avoid any more embarrassing battles with the CIA over the next 13 months.

Mind you, I’m not convinced that the Plame affair will quietly die – and I certainly hope that it doesn’t. But I do think that the future course of this business is far from obvious. Other opinions are welcome…

Kash

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More People Reading Angry Bear

That’s my favorite possible explanation for this story, from the front page of today’s New York Times:

The public’s confidence in President Bush’s ability to deal wisely with an international crisis has slid sharply over the past five months, the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll has found. And a clear majority are also uneasy about his ability to make the right decisions on the nation’s economy.

Over all, the poll found, Americans are for the first time more critical than not of Mr. Bush’s ability to handle both foreign and domestic problems, and a majority say the president does not share their priorities. Thirteen months before the 2004 election, a solid majority of Americans say the country is seriously on the wrong track, a classic danger sign for incumbents, and only about half of Americans approve of Mr. Bush’s overall job performance.

It’s gratifying to see that more and more people are realizing that our criticisms of this administration are exactly right. It’s also gratifying to see that, at least sometimes, the universe works the way it should, and that bad, short-sighted, and venal policies do indeed carry serious long-term costs for the policy makers.

Kash

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Plame On!

Recently, Kash expressed some concern that “this disgusting episode of political payback and security manipulation will quickly fade away with little long-term repercussions on the Bush presidency?” I haven’t disagreed with my esteemed co-blogger yet, and I’m not quite doing so now. But Digby raises an interesting point that I think has merit:

This is one time the media starlets are not going to be baby birds and sit in their nests waiting for the masticated RNC faxfacts to be dropped into their willing little beaks. In their minds this one is about something very, very important.

It’s about them.

Count me as cautiously optimistic.

AB

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Shocking Hostility from the Arab World

The report released yesterday that found that the Arab world hates the US was nothing short of… absolutely obvious. I would have been happy to tell the State Department months ago that “Hostility toward America has reached shocking levels,” and that “what is required is not merely tactical adaptation but strategic, and radical, transformation.” Plus, I’m sure I would have been a bargain compared to the funding that the panel of experts required.

However, I probably would not have come up with this priceless line, from the panel’s chair (as quoted in the Guardian): “You know, Woody Allen said 90% of life is just showing up,” said Edward P Djerejian, an Arab specialist, former ambassador and White House spokesman, who led the group. “In the Arab world, the US just doesn’t show up.”

“And when the US does show up,” he could have added, “they shoot.”

Kash

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