Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!

Good health to everyone! And may 2007 see more common sense in Washington and a return to our real democratic values.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

More on John Edwards Entering Presidential Race

One thing I like about the internet is that we're not so dependent on what two or three news sources say about a news event, particularly when that even is so open to interpretation and spin, such as when someone enters a presidential race. For years, I got tired of twenty-second sound bites announcing a candidate, or those jaded pieces by big name print journalists talking more about what their colleagues think than what a candidate says.

On Truthout there's one piece from AP that gets close to being jaded:
Edwards' "town hall" Friday night was his eighth Nevada visit since the 2004 election, his sixth this year.

He called for universal health care and said his health plan, along with anti-poverty efforts, would take priority over deficit reduction if he was elected.

He called for an immediate withdrawal of 40,000-50,000 troops in Iraq and said his vote authorizing the president to go to war was a "mistake."

His call for a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants won tepid applause, and one loud boo. His proposal to require those immigrants to learn English was cheered.


State GOP chairman Paul Adams dismissed the former senator as a has-been.

"When all is said and done, Nevada has already rejected Edwards once, it will do it again," Adams said.


Edwards appearance in Portsmouth, N.H., earlier Friday drew about 800 people, about half the number who came out to see Obama on his first trip to the state.

Edwards said the turnout showed he still had lots of friends in New Hampshire. Many stood in line for more than an hour only to be turned away because there was no room.

The last two paragraphs I quoted are amusing. Half the audience of Barack Obama—but so many people turned up they had to turn some away? What? There's a place for objective news but this is uninspired reporting and, in the end, not all that objective. John Edwards is a fine candidate and if Barack Obama decides to run, he'll be a fine candidate as well. Let's hear what they have to say.

And what was the point of getting a quote from the local Republican official in Nevada? I'm fairly sure he didn't attend the event and therefore shouldn't be quoted on what Edwards is saying. Dismissing Edwards as a has-been is purely political but it would be useful to put such a statement in context. Bush and the Republican Party are exhausted of ideas and have given the American people a disaster in Iraq and a disaster in New Orleans and just lost the 2006 election. A growing number of people know who the has-beens are. Actually, there was a man who was the vice presidential candidate in the 1920 election; he was on the losing ticket and was regarded as a has-been for several years. His name? Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

So it's a pleasure to find a article about John Edwards that takes a more positive view, even if it's mildly partisan; here's an item from Bob Geiger on The Huffington Post:
In the backyard of a Hurricane Katrina victim in New Orleans' 9th Ward, former Senator and Vice-Presidential candidate John Edwards announced today that he is running for the Democratic presidential nomination. And, in what can be better characterized as a talk than a formal political speech, Edwards changed the dynamic of the fledgling Democratic race for 2008 with both the tone and substance of his message.


...Americans are bone-tired of disliking and disrespecting their president and, I believe, are unusually anxious to begin the presidential season to, if nothing else, give them the feeling that a change is coming sooner than later. People hungered for a change in the Congress and made it happen -- now that strong desire to take out the trash moves to the executive branch of government.

Second, Edwards is starting his campaign in an interesting way by making it not about him personally, but about the problems of the world, the loss of global American prestige, our domestic strife and the extent to which his campaign is about getting people to make change now and not wait for the actions of a newly-elected president.

I appreciate Mr. Geiger giving us something to think about and something more alive than an article following a recipe for conventional reporting that in the end isn't all that informative.

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Friday, December 29, 2006

Yet More Evidence of Global Warming

Even Polar Bears are now at risk of becoming an endangered species. We've been seeing the retreat of glaciers around the world. The retreat of glaciers in the Alps even led to the uncovering of the Ice Man. Now the great ice sheets of the Arctic and Antarctica are under threat. We're no longer in the realm of science fiction or even 'what if.' Here's another story on Global Warming from AP writer Rob Gillies on Yahoo:
A giant ice shelf has snapped free from an island south of the North Pole, scientists said Thursday, citing climate change as a "major" reason for the event.

The Ayles Ice Shelf — all 41 square miles of it — broke clear 16 months ago from the coast of Ellesmere Island, about 500 miles south of the North Pole in the Canadian Arctic.

Scientists discovered the event by using satellite imagery. Within one hour of breaking free, the shelf had formed as a new ice island, leaving a trail of icy boulders floating in its wake.


"It is consistent with climate change," Vincent said, adding that the remaining ice shelves are 90 percent smaller than when they were first discovered in 1906. "We aren't able to connect all of the dots ... but unusually warm temperatures definitely played a major role."

A word of caution about Global Warming. Some scientists argue that the mechanisms involved are quite real, and that human output of CO2 is probably the main culprit, but the more accurate phrase for what is happening may not be 'Global Warming,' but climate change. Another point to note is that things are happening somewhat faster than many scientists expected. If we can slow the process, the time to act is now. We need to wean ourselves from fossil fuels. Fossil fuels won't go away and will still be a part of the economy but it's time to turn to future sources of energy. More important, it's time to take control of our future. Global Warming or 'climate change' is no longer about future generations. It is very much about people now living. It is now our problem and we must deal with it.

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

John Edwards Makes It Official: He's Running

John Edwards made it official this morning that he is running for president. Sarah Wheaton of The New York Times reports:
... Mr. Edwards, a Democrat, outlined his platform:

We know what we need to do. Changing our country means:
- Providing moral leadership in the world — starting with Iraq, where we should begin drawing down troops, not escalating the war.
- Strengthening our middle class and ending the shame of poverty.
- Guaranteeing health care for every single American.
- Leading the fight against global warming.
- Getting America and the world to break our addiction to oil.


Mr. Edwards also appeared on the “Today Show” and other network morning shows to make the announcement.

Here's more from AP's Nedra Pickler in The Boston Globe:
Two years older and he says wiser, too, John Edwards announced a repeat presidential campaign Thursday with new ideas that make him a very different candidate the second time around.


This time the 53-year-old faces a tougher fight for the Democratic nomination and has a more progressive campaign of eliminating poverty, reducing global warming and providing universal health care for all Americans.


The unorthodox campaign launch site -- the middle of a neighborhood still devastated more than a year after Hurricane Katrina -- itself demonstrated how Edwards campaign has changed. ...

... He talked less about what he wanted to do as president and more about how everyone can change the country.

"That's why I'm in New Orleans," said Edwards, standing before student volunteers working to rebuild a home, "is to show what's possible when we as Americans, instead of staying home and complaining about somebody else not doing what they're supposed to, we actually take responsibility and we take action."

Republicans have spent twenty-five years telling Americans to just go shopping and they'll take care of everything else. I like the way Edwards talks.

Steve Soto on The Left Coaster has some observations:
John Edwards officially entered the 2008 Democratic presidential race today, with a kickoff event in New Orleans. I have a great deal of respect for Edwards and his wife Elizabeth, who would bring a grace and sensitivity to the White House that has been missing for a long time. ...


... Edwards will run this campaign from the base upward using a well-organized effort and top-notch staff committed to a progressive vision, without resorting to straw men arguments to set himself apart from other Democrats. His agenda and his commitment to it will do the talking, not any phony attacks against other Democrats for their alleged deficiencies.

My main concern with the candidacies of Edwards and Obama are their relative lack of national experience, especially in foreign policy and national security in a post-9/11 world. Yes, Bush came into office with zero knowledge or interest in world affairs, and we are paying for it now. No doubt both would be a vast improvement over Bush, but I want to hear more from both about how they see the world and get a sense of the type of people they would surround themselves with.

I've been watching Edwards for some time and I've seen some definite growth. I get the strong impression that Edwards can handle a steep learning curve. He's been educating himself, particularly on foreign policy and he's been working hard, particularly by helping a number of candidates in the recent elections. There are several other good Democratic candidates for president but let's wish Edwards well.

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

More Problems with Prescription Drugs

Over the last few years, Americans have been reading reports that medications are not always what they're cracked up to be. Here's a story by Reuters about a class of antiacid medications (hat tip to Suburban Guerilla):
Long-term use of popular anti-heartburn drugs that block stomach acid production increases the risk of hip fractures in adults over 50, perhaps because the drugs inhibit calcium absorption, researchers said on Tuesday.

The drug class, called proton pump inhibitors because they shut down stomach acid production, are used by millions who suffer from acid-related stomach problems including ulcers and gastro-esophageal reflux.


Some of the brand-name versions of the heartburn- and ulcer-fighting drugs include AstraZeneca's Prilosec and Nexium, TAP Pharmaceutical's Prevacid, Eisai Inc.'s Aciphex, and Wyeth's Protonix.

There are drugs that clearly aren't worth the risk and are eventually taken off the market. And then there are drugs that have side effects that aren't noticed at first. The proton pump antiacids may be in the second group where one has to weigh the risks and benefits.

I've been noticing that these studies tend to be very broad in their interpretation and that fits with a growing trend in medicine of late where one size to seems to fit all, partly because drug companies make their profits from large groups of people who use a medication (if the population that might benefit from a drug is too small, the drug, in fact, might not be developed) and partly because there doesn't seem to be the time and money to find out what's best for different groups of people.

Addressing the second point above, it's important to remember that different people may have different reasons for having acid problems. This can affect how we see the results of a study. For example, maybe most people handle the anti-acids reasonably well without hip fractures (they're relatively rare though more common in late old age). But maybe the people who have the most likelihood of hip fracture have a connective tissue disorder that is in some way related to excessive acid or sensitivity to acid. In other words, it may be a connective tissue disorder itself that needs to be addressed within a subgroup of people who take antiacid medications. Understanding how some of the broadly used medications affect different groups of people is an issue that is only slowly being addressed more fully by doctors.

Medicine has come far in the last fifty years, but it it still has much to do, particularly in the area of orphan diseases and also a number of quality of life issues. Legislation may eventually be needed to push drug companies towards developing more specific drugs (or simply protocols to mitigate problems) rather than relying on medications that are designed to have such broad therapueutic brushstrokes.

(Note: a good movie on the difficulty of developing more specific medications for an orphan disease is Lorenzo's Oil.)

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Senator Biden Says He Intends to Run

When your poll numbers are down in the single digits and your name is Senator Biden, a good move is to keep semi-announcing your intention to run for president in incremental steps. One can produce a few headlines that way. Here's ABC News with the story:
Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden, one of the Democratic party's leading voices on foreign policy and a sharp critic of President George W. Bush's handling of the Iraq war, on Tuesday said he intends to run for president in 2008.

"It is my intention to seek the nomination, and it's my intention sometime in the month of January to set up the appropriate mechanism to be able to raise money for that purpose," Biden said in a telephone news conference that centered on Iraq.

Now I'm poking a little fun at Joe Biden but there aren't many elected officials in Washington more knowledgeable about foreign policy than the senator. He knows what he's talking about which is in sharp contrast to the man in the Oval Office.

From CBS News, here's more that Senator Biden has to say; it looks like he's not going to put up with Bush's political games:
Incoming Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Joseph Biden, a potential Democratic presidential candidate, said Tuesday he would oppose any effort by President Bush to increase U.S troops in Iraq as part of a new war strategy.


Biden also said he believes Democrats' political vulnerability on Iraq is limited.

"I think we'll only have to accept responsibility for the war if we remain silent," he said.

Biden said he delivered this message in a recent meeting at the White House, where he told Bush: "Mr. President, this is your war."

President Bush, after three years of floundering, and weeks after the voters sent a decisive message, is still dithering about what he's going to do. Democrats do not have the authority to run our foreign policy but they have the obligation to speak out on Bush's incompetence and to hold his administration accountable for a long series of failures. I hope Biden keeps it up.

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Elizabeth Edwards: Active Blogger

Howard Dean may have been the first presidential candidate who used the internet for his candidacy but John Edwards' wife, Elizabeth, has been on the internet for ten years and active. Micah L. Sifry of Personal Democracy Forum has a post on Elizabeth Edwards:
Of all the figures on the national political scene, there is only one person who I think we can genuinely say is participating in the blogosphere, as opposed to just using it: Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of Senator John Edwards, the once- and, it appears, future-Presidential candidate.

Elizabeth, who spoke at the PDF annual conference this past May, has been online for a decade, though mostly reading and commenting on blogs anonymously. But in the last year or so, she has been popping up on various blogs, including the Huffington Post, OrangePolitics, and ArchPundit, in her own name, and writing in a voice that is unmistakably her own. Whatever you may think of her and her husband's politics and ambitions, she deserves credit for actually embracing the culture of the net.

Sifry also has an e-mail interview with Mrs. Edwards that's worth reading. I understand that Elizabeth Edwards has been active at times on John Edwards' One America Blog.

Speaking of Mrs. Edwards, here's a review of her recent book, Saving Graces, by Christy Hardin Smith in Independent Weekly (Smith is better known by bloggers as one of the main posters on Firedoglake):
It is as though Saving Graces was written by an old friend, and when the book was finished, it was tough to close the cover for wanting to know what would come next. That rarely happens with memoirs, but this one is exceptional. And I say this having never met Elizabeth Edwards in my life. But as an attorney and mother myself, her love of family and her dedication to working on problems with education and poverty is inspiring and familiar in response to needs that I see in my own community.

In Saving Graces, Edwards shares a letter she received from "Steve C."—one of the many who wrote her in support after her breast cancer diagnosis became public—quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson: "You can never do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late."

Edwards must have taken it to heart, because Saving Graces is such a kindness to anyone who has hit a rough patch in the road and had trouble dusting himself off and starting again.

So is John Edwards going to announce this week? Maybe. North Carolina's ABC 11 reports:

Eyewitness News will be on the road with John Edwards when he makes his announcement in New Orleans. Look for live reports this Thursday right here on eyewitness news.

There are a lot of people in New Orleans, or who used to live in New Orleans, who didn't sleep too well this Christmas. But the president did. The Democrats have a lot of good candidates but 2008 can't come soon enough.

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Sunday, December 24, 2006

Senator Dodd Says It's Time to Withdraw

No one should pretend at this late date that Dick Cheney or George W. Bush will get it right. Senator Dodd has an article in the Des Moines Register:
The time has come for the United States to begin the process of getting our troops out of Iraq.

In Baghdad last week, I joined in a conversation with a West Point graduate who is serving in Iraq. He said, "Senator, it is nuts over here. Soldiers are being asked to do work we're not trained to do. I'm doing work that State Department people are far more prepared to do in fostering democracy, but they're not allowed to come off the bases because it's too dangerous here. It doesn't make any sense."

After spending six days in the Middle East last week - which included visits with the top leaders in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Israel - it's hard not to come to the same conclusion: Our strategy in Iraq makes no sense. It never really did. It is as bad in person as it appears on television. There are literally dozens of sects, militias, gangs, warlords, foreign terrorists and others killing one another for dozens of reasons in Iraq today, and American troops are caught in the crossfire.

Our brave men and women have done everything asked of them with great courage and honor, but searching for military solutions in Iraq today is a fool's errand. True peace and security in Iraq will not come at the end of an American gun. It will only happen to the degree that Iraq's leaders are willing to take responsibility for governing their own country and securing their own future.

Senator Dodd is making sense. We need to hear more from him and even if his odds of winning the Democratic nomination are slim, I hope he enters the race.

An increasing number of Americans, including Democrats, independents, the bipartisan members of the Iraq Study Group, the majority of voters in Novembers and even a growing number of Republicans say its time to draw down in Iraq. We've done as much as we're going to do without wasting more lives, money and years of effort for a minimal benefit that may never arrive. We're in Iraq because right wingers needed a cause to unify the Republican Party. That's a lousy way to begin the 21st century. We need to get out of Iraq before the Republican right wing gives us a war that could last generations.

War is the wrong way to bring democracy to the world. It is absurd and it was clear from the beginning that democracy at the point of a gun makes no sense. There are better ways, and we've been using those ways for sixty years with greater success. It's time to get back to doing what we do best: using all our resources within reason to improve international cooperation while reserving war as a last resort. For most Americans, Afghanistan met the criteria of a necessary war. Iraq did not. We're in danger of losing both war thanks to the incompetence of the current administration and the jingoism of their right wing supporters who have so clearly revealed to the world that they haven't a clue. The greatest nation in the world shouldn't let such ignorant and mean-spirited authoritarians tell the rest of the world what democracy and free speech means. Like I said, they haven't a clue. But the good news is that the real America is coming back.

From time to time, everyone needs to renew themselves and that's a good thing to do in this holiday season. Enjoy the holidays but remember our nation has serious work to do and we will celebrate many more holidays before we put the worst of these troubled times behind us. Renew old acquaintance and remember always the season where we hope and pray for Peace on Earth.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Christmas in Iraq

When things are hard, people make do the best they can. For millions of Americans, Christmas is a time of sharing, gifts and family. Our soldiers in Iraq are a long ways from home. Quite literally halfway around the world if you live on the west coast.

Kyle in one of the Daily Kos diaries has a Christmas post:
This year, I know two people who will be away, one family, one friend. My family member is Jimmy, husband to my younger sister and exceptional father to both my nephews. My friend is Justin, a boy who worked for my father’s antique mart in rural North Carolina during high school. He sought me out after enlisting in the Army as an ally to his self-discovery. We’ve continued to keep in touch via email. Knowing they’re at war, I can’t help but put myself in their place and ask how it feels. Are they okay? Do the holidays make it harder for them too? How are they handling it? How do they cope? What is it like for them, in the desert, exploring and defending a foreign world, away from their families on Christmas?

As sullen as my mood can turn when considering those questions, it was nice when, unexpectedly, I received an email from Justin that not only gave me some of those answers but subsequently puts a smile on my face too. He sent me some pictures, from Iraq, and it was a welcome surprise... it was sort of an unexpected present.

This is what the boys of HVAC came up with for their Christmas tree in Iraq. It’s the sawed-off top of a palm tree stuck in the condenser side of a --39 ECU airconditioning unit, complete with colored light bulbs roughly strewn across the front and an angel atop made from an empty propane tank. When life gives you lemons, I guess you make lemonade. Or, to steer from cliché, when life gives you desert palms and broken down air-conditioning units, you make Christmas trees.

He has pictures posted from Iraq including the Christmas tree he describes. Give him a visit so he can pass the word on to his friend that people have seen his pictures.

Posting may be light until Tuesday but I'll be here at my keyboard from time to time viewing the latest developments. There'll be much to talk about next week and in January.

McCain's Moral Compass on Tilt

John McCain hired the man who did the cheap ad against Harold Ford where a woman, perhaps a hooker, says 'call me' to the camera. Now he's working the Karl Rove side of the street some more; Matt Stoller of MyDD has the story:
McCain keeps hiring smart staffers (hat tip Bluejersey):
Jill Hazelbaker, battle tested in New Jersey this year as Tom Kean Jr.'s Communications Director, is headed to John McCain's presidential campaign. She will serve as Communications Director for McCain's campaign in New Hampshire.
Jill Hazelbaker it seems has a little penchant for posting on liberal blogs and lying about it. Bluejersey is the site that caught her, and the New York Times had the story


Ah, the last honest man hires the last honest press secretary.

Smart? Honest? Okay, Matt Stoller is being ironic in case anyone is wondering. Check Stoller's post for the details. But the point is that McCain's glowing press no longer matches the man he has become. I've never seen such a strange about-face by a politician. McCain's poll numbers are totally dependent on an image of integrity that no longer squares with a long series of decisions McCain has made in the last 32 months. He's becoming an illusion. Bush's numerous failures requires that the next president be someone who's real and who understand where we are.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Perils of Conventional Wisdom

One of the things I'm learning about the presidential candidates, whether Republican or Democrat, is that various sources don't seem to spend much time learning who the candidates are. But they're very good at picking the conventional wisdom about candidates. I doubt that does the voters much good.

Here's an example of too much conventional wisdom from Ken Rudin of NPR's Political Junkie:
On paper, this should be a wide-open race for the nomination. But there is suddenly the realization that if your first name is not Hillary or Barack, it will be very difficult to get noticed. And that may be behind Bayh's decision to not run.

The star power of Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) has never been in question. Instead, the great unknown was who would be the alternative? ...


Then, some 10 days after Warner said no, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois said on NBC's Meet the Press that he was leaving the door open for a possible run. ...

It might be worth mentioning that the first primary is over a year away. I suspect the voters will be reluctant to annoint someone, or even two people, before the first vote. Of course, the Republicans pretty much did that to George W. Bush seven years ago and look at what a fiasco he's been.

The Center for Media and Democracy offers a rundown on both Democratic and Republican candidates with links to a quick sketch of each candidate. There's some minor omissions (they ignore Mike Gravel) but it's worth a quick look. They say Condoleezza Rice has bailed out; I confess I didn't know that but then I never took her seriously anyway.

Joe Biden, by the way, had a trip to New Hampshire over the weekend and he's all but in the race and expects to make a formal announcement in the next few weeks.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Candidates in New Hampshire

A steady stream of Democratic and Republican presidential hopefuls have been heading to New Hampshire to do politicking at the retail level for 2008; the newspapers there have a ringside seat to what is happening as we hear from Sarah Liebowitz of the Concord Monitor:
Since his 2004 primary loss, Edwards "has vastly strengthened his ties to organized labor," joining picket lines in Connecticut and embarking on a four-city tour in support of hotel workers, Christensen said. After facing criticism that he was a foreign policy lightweight, Edwards has worked to beef up his credentials, traveling to Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

The majority of possible Democratic candidates fall into another category: The almost-definites.

New York Sen. Hillary Clinton advanced her campaign in recent weeks, hiring several high-profile strategists and contacting prominent Democrats in New Hampshire and Iowa. ...


Arizona Sen. John McCain, who lost the Republican nomination to Bush in 2000, is preparing another campaign for president.

Last month, McCain created an exploratory committee, the formal step most candidates take before officially announcing. McCain has said that he will make a final decision over the holidays, but he has already snagged several prominent Republican strategists for his campaign. He has also bolstered his support among lawmakers across the nation: He conducted 346 events for other candidates in the run-up to the midterm elections, helping raise millions of dollars.


Then there's Newt Gingrich, former House speaker and architect of the "Contract with America," which helped usher Republicans to congressional victories in 1994. Although Gingrich has visited New Hampshire and left the door open to a possible presidential run, he has said that he won't make an announcement until September.

I'm amazed that Edwards was regarded in 2004 as a foreign policy lightweight given George W. Bush's indifference to the subject when he became president; even today, there isn't much evidence that most Republican hopefuls understand why Bush's policies have been such a failure.

Actually I'm a little sorry former House Speaker Newt Gingrich hasn't jumped in, though he has mentioned, not all that modestly, that he's open to being drafted by the voters. He's about the only candidate who's virtually advocating World War Three; he could actually be very helpful in explaining to Americans how far to the right the Republican Party has drifted these days. Since many Republican events in this era are not open to the public, one has to wonder if some of the other Republican hopefuls are talking the same nonsense as Gingrich. Certainly Gingrich has been taking his cues from a number of neoconservative intellectuals who haven't learned much from the last four years.

Almost all the candidates are mentioned in the article but I noticed four absences: Dennis Kucinich, Mike Gravel and Joe Biden on the Democratic side and, although he may not run, Chuck Hagel on the Republican side.

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Hillary Clinton Opposes Possible Bush Plan

A promising sign that Hillary Clinton is beginning to move beyond the generalities that have characterized her possible presidential bid is her statement today that she opposes the troop 'surge' that apparently is being advocated by Bush as he attempts to mitigate his failures in Iraq; Senator Clinton says such a surge can only make sense as part of a comprehensive plan to deal with Iraq. As we all know, Bush does not do comprehensive plans. Here's the AP story in Truthout:
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday she would not support a short-term increase in American troop presence in Iraq unless it was part of a more comprehensive plan to stabilize the country.

Clinton also offered the broadest indication yet that she was close to a decision on whether to enter the 2008 Democratic presidential field.

"I want to make sure the decision is right for me, my family, my party and my country," Clinton said during an interview on NBC's "The Today Show." ...


"I am not in favor of doing that unless it's part of a larger plan," Clinton said. "I am not in favor of sending more troops to continue what our men and women have been told to do with the government of Iraq pulling the rug out from under them when they actually go after some of the bad guys."

Clinton, who voted in 2002 to authorize military intervention in Iraq, said she was wary of increased military presence in the war-torn country.

"I'm not going to believe this president again," Clinton said.

Most of the world and most of the nation do not believe George W. Bush has much credibility these days. I'm glad to hear that Hillary has finally come around but she needs to work on rebuilding credibility in her own judgment. She stuck by Bush far longer than she should have. Instead of following the pack of Democratic presidential hopefuls, she needs to show that she can lead the pack whether as a moderate, a liberal or according to some principled position in between. Her proposal to divide up Iraq's oil among all the people in Iraq might be a step in that direction.

To be honest, however, the oil proposal sounds like something Bill Clinton would come up with. An issue that Hillary needs to address is simply this: if something were to happen to Bill, could she come up with her own ideas? She needs to come up with ideas before too long that one would not necessarily associate with the former president. A realistic environmental and energy policy that doesn't pander to the usual special interest groups that are associated with big money would be a possibility.

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Newsweek on Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama

According to Newsweek, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are the only two Democrats who are running and it's not certain they can beat John McCain. Well, that's not entirely what the magazine says but the cover and the inside story seem to suggest that. The main story is eight pages long; here's a section that caught my eye:
The former president will campaign separately from his wife across the country, almost as if he's a vice presidential candidate. This will multiply their impact, but it also avoids the direct side-by-side comparison that hurts Hillary, as it did when both spoke at the funeral of Coretta Scott King. Friends predict she will take speaking lessons (as he did some years ago) so that her speeches are less like policy-wonk laundry lists. They also believe she needs to show her sense of humor more in public, but in a way that's self-deprecating, not the sometimes sarcastic wit she wields in private.


... A recent Marist Poll showed that 47 percent of respondents nationwide "definitely will not consider" voting for her, a percentage that alarms some former aides to President Clinton. Those numbers will need to change for Democratic primary voters—now comfortable with assessing electability—to move her way.

A sobering message for Obama is the example of Tennessee Rep. Harold Ford Jr. in the 2006 midterms. ...

... ...a second, lesser-known attack ad was more troubling to Ford and could be used someday against Obama, too. It showed Ford in a church as the narrator tags Ford as a hypocrite on religious values. Then there was Ford's decision to ambush Corker in a parking lot. It may be that black candidates seeking white votes have less room than other politicians to go on the attack. That could leave Obama trapped between his positive tone and the need to be tough. If he loses his temper in the process, it might prove fatal politically. The margin for error for a rookie is small.

John McCain is not quite the gentleman he once was and a growing number of Americans are beginning to understand how conservative he is; the new John McCain and other Republican hopefuls have seen how successful Bush-era Republican attack ads are against Democrats and are hiring the kind of people who can do their worst. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and any of the other Democratic presidential candidates will have to convince voters in the primaries that they can handle the minefields.

John Kerry was a fine candidate and would have made an excellent president but he was slow to handle the Swiftboaters who were allowed to lie and smear Kerry for weeks. The voters are catching on to this kind of stuff and are beginning to understand that the Republican base currently favors right wing candidates, particularly at the national level, and these candidates happen to be out of touch with America and simply can't win without a nasty bag of tricks. Still, at the end of the day, a Democratic candidate needs to know how to handle the pressure and how to defuse Republican smear campaigns.

Come to think of it, if Americans want to be in charge of their democracy, they need to get better at understanding how wealthy Republicans often finance these smear campaigns; to put it plainly, voters must discount TV ads and such that carry such phony messages if they don't want our elections to be dominated by a wealthy Republican elite.

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Edwards May Announce Next Week

There's word that Edwards may announce his second run for the presidency next week, after Christmas, and will make the announcement in New Orleans. Remember New Orleans? The place where we learned just how incompetent Bush and his advisers are? Yet another place where even the Republicans in Congress couldn't be bothered to clean up one of the president's messes? If Edwards announces in New Orleans, it's a good choice.

Here's more from the AP story on MSNBC:
Among Democrats, Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois are drawing the most attention almost two years before the actual vote.

Edwards, however, is in a strong position as the leading candidate in Iowa. ...

Since the Democrats’ loss to President Bush, Edwards has worked to build support for a repeat presidential bid. He has a retooled agenda that is more openly progressive and has spent time building relationships with labor leaders and traveling overseas to build his foreign policy credentials beyond his one term in the Senate.

There are at least six more Democrats who are expected to announce, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Let's hope a year from now one of the Democrats knows how to lead our nation out of the failures that have been imposed on us by Bush and his Republican enablers. Let's hope our nation gets a real leader this time and not someone who retools his message every three months and does photo ops while lying to the American people.

We've had good leaders from Republicans in the past, Abraham Lincoln being the best of them all. But the Republicans show no sign of giving us anything close to that kind of leadership. It's now up to the Democrats. We have an obligation to get it right.

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Should Al Gore Run?

I'm of the mind that the more candidates the Democrats offer the voters, the better it is for the country. Let there be a full debate and let's not decide the race a full year before the first primary. Here's an article by Saleno Zito in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:
If you are a Democrat looking out at the political landscape for whom you want as your presidential candidate, you cannot help being struck by an audacious amount of noise surrounding two potential contenders, Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois.

But beyond the hype stands one candidate who can suck the oxygen right out of their campaigns: former Vice President Al Gore.


First, he appeals to the bloggers without being defined by them, at least not in the way that Howard Dean eventually came to be.

Second, he was against the war when it was politically risky to be against the war; Democrat activists remember that, and revere him for it.

The article goes on to talk more about process than substance and mentions that Al Gore might have lost in 2000 because he let himself be micromanaged by his staff. Another problem is that Gore might have to go after the same money as Hillary. But there's a lot more to Gore than simply experience and the ability to raise money. He's a progressive who started talking about a number of issues before others did, probably because he had no expectation of running again which gave him the freedom to tell it like it is; if he runs, he hopefully won't go back to being too cautious.

I respect Al Gore a lot and there's something to be said about the need for someone to be the voice of a party's conscience; right now, that's Al Gore. He still talks like a stiff board but it's a thoughtful board and we're getting used to him. He's our Al Gore. If he runs, I welcome it, but there is something powerful about the role he has been filling for Democrats. It's a hard choice.

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Senator Evan Bayh Not Running for President

It's over a year before the first primary in 2008 and another potential candidate has decided he's not running. Here's the story from Adam Nagourney of The New York Times:
Senator Evan Bayh, Democrat of Indiana, who just two weeks ago took the first steps toward a White House bid in 2008, announced Saturday that he was quitting the race. He said he had concluded that his hopes of winning were too remote to make it worth continuing.

Mr. Bayh’s abrupt withdrawal, which stunned many Democrats, came less than a week after he saw his visit to New Hampshire overshadowed by the crush of attention surrounding a trip there the same day by Senator Barack Obama of Illinois.

Evan Bayh is relatively young and may have another shot or two in coming years. I have a problem though. Senator Bayh withdrew so early that I have no idea if it's a good thing, or a bad thing, or a pity he didn't have the votes, and so on, because I have very little idea who he is. I hope the Democrats thinking about running stay in and get their voices heard. It's not that difficult anymore. We need a debate in this country and we need people who are going to do more than just carefully triangulate their positions. Right now, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are getting the spotlight but both triangulate far more than necessary; that's not the way to victory in 2008 and I hope for the sake of both these fine candidates that they stop it. And no one should assume that liberals or moderates have a better chance than the next guy. If the potential candidates believe in what they have to say, let's hear them. And let's have no more dropouts until a debate or two.

Let me make a prediction. In 2008, the winner will be the person who does not triangulate.

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Presidential Poll in Iowa Ignores Experts

The 'experts' said Vilsack should do well in Iowa, that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama would be close behind and Edwards and the rest would be somewhere in the mix. Now it's early and these things can shift very easily, but John Edwards leads the poll in Iowa; here's the story from Jane Norman of the Des Moines Register (hat tip to Eric Kleefield of TPM Cafe):
John Edwards came out far ahead of the rest of the pack of possible Democratic presidential candidates in a poll of Iowa Democrats conducted in October by an environmental group and released Wednesday.

Edwards, a former senator from North Carolina and the second-place finisher in the 2004 caucuses, was picked as the early preference of 36 percent of likely caucusgoers in the survey.

Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York came in second with 16 percent.

Third was Sen. Barack Obama with 13 percent, and Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack trailed in fourth place at 9 percent.

Early numbers don't mean much but it should be noted that John Kerry won Iowa in 2004 and his numbers are very small this time. And of course if Tom Vilsack finds his voice as so many candidates have done in the year before the primaries, Vilsack's numbers could improve.

The real key to Iowa is turning out the caucus voters on a cold winter night. Anything can happen in the next twelve months.


Senator Christopher Dodd Close to Running

Senator Dodd is yet another Democratic candidate getting closer to running for president in 2008; here's the story from Beth Fouhy of ABC News:
Sen. Chris Dodd said Tuesday he plans to have "a conversation with the mirror" over the Christmas holidays to decide whether he'll join a growing field of Democratic presidential contenders.

But Dodd, a 25-year Senate veteran, added, "If I had to make a decision in the next thirty seconds, I'd say, 'Let's go.'"

Senator Dodd's chances of winning are not good at this point but he's one candidate that should run because of the contribution he can bring to the race; I would very much like to see Senator Dodd in a few debates. Regardless of whether I ultimately agree with him or not, he brings serious credentials to any foreign policy debate that may take place; foreign policy is going to be a crucial issue in 2008 and must in no way be yielded to the Republicans simply because Bush has created such a fiasco. But Dodd clearly needs to raise his profile; not many Americans know who he is. If Dodd runs, he should begin with a speech that clarifies what our general foreign policy should be after Bush.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

John and Elizabeth Edwards on Hardball

I wonder if anyone knows if Christopher Matthews' screwy interview style is in his contract or whether he thinks that's the proper way to interview. He wastes a lot of time with his pet theories or interrupting people I would prefer to hear in the first place. Be that as it may, John Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth, did an excellent job on Hardball. Here's the Kansas City Star AP story on the interview with John Edwards at UNC-Chapel Hill:
Back on the campus where he earned a law degree, former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards did OK Tuesday when challenged with a pop quiz on world leaders.

"This is ridiculous, but go ahead," Edwards said a live broadcast of MSNBC's "Hardball with Chris Matthews" from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Edwards did fine when asked for the leaders of Canada, Mexico, Iraq, Italy and Germany, correctly giving Matthews the last names of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, President Felipe Calderon, President Jalal Talabani, Premier Romano Prodi and Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"What don't we know here," a seemingly surprised Matthews said, to which Edwards quickly taunted, "Keep going."

Actually, Edwards did a great deal better than OK. There's some depth and maturity to him this time around that I don't remember seeing two years ago. Edwards might have been ready to be president in 2004 and we just didn't quite see who he was, but this time he leaves no doubt that he can handle the job. And like Bill Clinton, John Edwards has finally broken the mold on how a Democrat should run for president. Too many Democrats who run for president are either not that serious and therefore can afford to be all over the map, or they practice too much triangulation. These days, there's something more focused and solid about Edwards; the media forgets too easily that Kerry made a good choice when he selected him.

There are a lot of potentially good candidates among the Democrats, and dynamics will change if Al Gore decides to run or somebody like Tom Vilsack suddenly finds his voice. But I'll be very surprised if Edwards doesn't run. If he does, he has as much chance of going all the way as Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.

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Kucinich Makes It Official

Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) has made it official; here's the story from The Washington Post:
Citing dissatisfaction with his party's strategy on Iraq, Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (Ohio) announced yesterday that he would run for the Democratic presidential nomination.


"Democrats were swept into power on November 7 because of widespread voter discontent with the war in Iraq," Kucinich said. "Instead of heeding those concerns and responding with a strong and immediate change in policies and direction, the Democratic congressional leadership seems inclined to continue funding the perpetuation of the war."

Kucinich has a perspective that should be heard whether people agree with him or not; Washington media types have been far more wrong in the last six years than they have been right and the same can be said of many members of both parties. We should all wish Dennis Kucinich luck in making a viewpoint known that is shared by millions of Americans.

I listened to part of Kucinich's hearing yesterday on the Lancet Report that said Bush's war in Iraq has led to 655,000 excess deaths in the battle-torn country. I thought the most eloquent speaker was Middle East expert Juan Cole of Informed Comment; he pointed out that he reads specific Arabic-language reports on deaths in Iraq that are never reported in English papers. Dr. Cole suspects the numbers are accurate. If so, our intervention in Iraq has been a strange way to bring democracy to a faraway land.

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Monday, December 11, 2006

Dennis Kucinich to Try Second Presidential Bid

Raw Story links to an AP story that Rep. Dennis Kucinich is about to announce a second run for the presidency:
Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who unsuccessfully ran for president in 2004, said Monday he is planning another bid because his party isn't pushing hard enough to end the Iraq war.

In a statement, Kucinich said he plans to formally announce his candidacy on Tuesday at Cleveland's City Hall, where he served as mayor of his hometown in the 1970s.

The liberal, anti-war Ohio congressman said he was inspired to run because he disagrees with the way some of his fellow Democrats are handling the war, including approval of a proposal to spend $160 billion more on the conflict.

Hmmm. I was very interested in the hearings Kucinich was going to hold on the Lancet report that some 600,000 Iraqis have died by violence since the war started but a presidential bid can put those hearings in a different light. The Democrats won the 2006 House elections. That will give Kucinich a strong voice on any number of House committees that will be holding oversight hearings. A presidential run can potentially undermine Kucinich's role in those hearings (as it can undermine others as well but the others are in the Senate where Democrats have a shaky one-vote majority). Running in 2004 made particular sense for Kucinich since a presidential run gave him a voice that did not exist in the Republican-controlled Congress.

For the next two years, nothing is more important than the oversight hearings Democrats will be holding in both houses of Congress. I wish Kucinich well on his presidential bid but he's going to have to walk a fine line. I strongly suspect the congressional hearings will reveal a great deal more about where our country is and what has happened during the last six years than anything Kucinich could say. But given the nature of the times, anything can happen in the next two years. If he runs, Kucinich will join twelve other Democrats in a bid for the White House. Such a large slate is good for democracy.

John Edwards Moving Steadily Towards Presidential Bid

Step by step, Edwards seems to be moving closer to making his bid for 2008 presidential nomination official. I'll be very surprised if he doesn't run. He now seems to doing the kind of hiring that suggests a run (from The News-Observer):
During his decade as the No. 2 Democrat in the U.S. House, David Bonior earned a reputation as a pit bull -- the Democrat most likely to take on Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Bonior, 61, will probably soon take on another difficult task: leading former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards to the Democratic nomination for president.

It was announced last week that Bonior, a former congressman from Michigan, has been hired as a senior adviser to Edwards' One America Committee, his leadership political action committee. But that is expected to be a temporary post. Bonior is likely to be campaign manager for Edwards if, as expected, he announces a second run for the White House.

Here's a story by Linda D. Campbell in the Belleville News Democrat about a recent speech by Edwards:
The only thing missing was the announcement that he's running. The grand themes were there. America's diminishing clout as the only superpower. The imperatives of collectively engaging in addressing crises around the world. The inherent decency of the American people.

"When America doesn't lead, the world is a dangerous and chaotic place," John Edwards told a room full of lawyers and journalists in Dallas.

Confidently, persuasively, he built that message to a crescendo: "There is such a hunger across American today to be part of something big and important," he said. "There's a hunger to be inspired again."


Edwards' foreign policy studies are shoring up what was considered a weakness when he ran for the nomination in 2004 after just one term in the Senate. What he's hearing when he goes abroad isn't pretty. No surprise there.

The Chinese, he said, made clear that they "don't want to be lectured by the country that's responsible for Abu Ghraib ... that owns Guantanamo."


"The United States of America is better than this, and the world needs to see us for who we really are."

There's word that Edwards need to start raising some serious money for his campaign if he's running. It should be noted that unlike other prominent Democrats who were reluctant to release money that had been donated to them, John Edwards spent a considerable amount from his campaign war chest in the 2006 midterm election; he also made many appearances around the country. Let's see if he gets rewarded for helping his party.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Senator Dodd May Be Close to Running

After eight years of George W. Bush, the 2008 election is going to be critical. Fortunately, some excellent Democrats are considering a run for the presidency. Like other potential presidential candidates, Senator Christopher Dodd seems close to running; here's a story by AP reporter David Weber in the Boston Globe:
Sen. Christopher Dodd edged closer to officially declaring he is running for president Friday at a Harvard University student-sponsored forum for potential candidates in 2008.

"You're not that far from New Hampshire. I'd like to sign you up," Dodd said, alluding to the first-in-the-nation primary election state while he posed for pictures with students after the session.

Dodd, D-Conn., accused President Bush of not working with the rest of the world's nations when it comes to environmental policies and fighting terrorism.

"This mentality of unilateralism is very, very dangerous. If I am nominated and elected, that will change dramatically," he said.

It's good to see Senator Dodd criticizing Bush's foreign policy, particularly his unilateralism. I checked the senator's site and was glad that the senator seem to agree with the failing grades the Iraq Study Group have given Bush's policies in Iraq, but I was surprised at how bland the statement was; here's the first paragraph:
“The Iraq study group conclusions and recommendations are very realistic and sobering at the same time. What is very clear is that the group has come to the same conclusion that many of us in Congress have felt for some time – namely that we are not winning in Iraq and we need a course correction if we are to have any chance of success. Our troops are absolutely doing their part. They are bravely and valiantly sacrificing everything they’ve got on behalf of our nation, and they deserve concrete bipartisan solutions that will help them fulfill their mission.

I applaud Senator Dodd's general belief in the need for bipartisanship in Washinton. There was a time when our foreign policy was largely bipartisan (there are always going to be differences from one president to the next and things will vary according to party philosophy somewhat but most years since World War Two, there was usually real dialogue about the course that should be taken). But it takes two parties to have a bipartisan relationship and in the area of foreign policy, President Bush has drifted far from where we once were; he clearly is engaging in a foreign policy that so far has led to a series of blunders and failures.

There are signs that it's going to take hard work, and perhaps a certain amount of pressure, to get George W. Bush to change his policy in Iraq. A lot of work will probably take place out of the public eye because that's in the nature of how real bipartisanship works, but it's important to remember that Bush still has a powerful noise machine, even if that machine is losing its ability to sway people.

Let's hope Senator Dodd's official statements don't continue to be so bland. I appreciate the senator's thoughtfulness and statesmanship but he needs to assure us that bipartisanship doesn't mean some bland criticism of the president that is followed by deferring to Bush's one-sided style of bipartisanship; that can only lead to more of the same for the next two years.

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Hillary Clinton Very Busy These Days

In some polls, Hillary Clinton is the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination. She's also very busy these days. She recently met with donors in New York who may be instrumental in a presidential bid. Here's a story by Dan Gearino of the Quad-City Times about a breakfast she had with Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa from:
U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, had a private breakfast Wednesday with potential presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, but Harkin said today that he remains firmly committed to his home-state candidate, Gov. Tom Vilsack.
“It was a private conversation and I was asked to keep it such and I will honor that,” he said in a conference call with reporters this morning.

Harkin said all of the possible presidential candidates are aware that he supports Vilsack, who officially entered the presidential race last week.
Thomas Beaumont of the Des Moine Register says Senator Clinton has also been talking with other Iowans:
Sen. Hillary Clinton began making calls Monday to Iowa Democrats about the state's political landscape with an eye toward its 2008 presidential nominating caucuses, aides to Clinton said.

The moves come as the New York senator has accelerated the steps she has taken since her November re-election toward making a decision about whether to run for president.

"She's begun the process of making some calls into Iowa," Lorraine Voles, Clinton's communication director, said Monday in a telephone interview with The Des Moines Register.
The New York Senator is also finding time to introduce new bills; here's the story from the blog, The Blue State:
In an effort to bolster her national security credentials for her almost certain run at the presidency in 2008, Hillary Rodham-Clinton is unveiling a bill that would create a senior White House adviser on nuclear terrorism. Clinton recently wrote a letter to new Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin and new Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden, informing them that the bill has been submitted for January's Congress. The bill's House sponsor was Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher (D-CA).

I hope they don't actually call the new position the nuclear terrorism adviser since the term "terrorism" is getting politically overused. But a senior official who keeps track of the world's nuclear weapons and materials and the governments and groups that are interested in acquiring such weapons and possibly using them is growing more necessary.

Finally, via the Los Angeles Times, Arianna Huffington has a critical piece on Hillary Clinton:
There are politicians with great instincts as leaders — those who recognize not just the crises directly in front of them but those around the corner as well. (And these leadership instincts come from the gut, not from a multitude of consultants, strategists and pollsters.) And then there are politicians with great instincts as followers — those who are the first to stick their fingers in the air and notice even the slightest shift in the wind of popular opinion.

Clinton is in the latter category: She is the quintessential political weather vane.

On Iraq, she remains a captive of her and her consultants' belief that the country isn't ready for a female commander in chief who isn't a hawk. Unfortunately, she's misreading the zeitgeist. Democrats are fed up with fence-straddling and triangulation.

Since Bush brags about his gut instincts, I wish Arianna had qualifed her comments. Those with first-rate 'gut instincts' take the trouble to fully inform themselves in the first place and they are willing to think hard about whether their 'gut instinct' is right and they will test that instinct in different ways and then, finally, they can manage on their own to articulate rationally their position without resorting to speech writers or inane repetitions. They can do all this fairly quickly in weeks or even days and understand what it is they're trying to accomplish; they don't take three years to find out they might be wrong; they also don't sit on their hands hoping they're right.

As for Hillary Clinton misreading the zeitgeist, it appears that way now. But let's see how she develops over the next few months. I'm also very curious how she will handle herself in her first debate. The big thing Clinton has to watch out for is the impression that she's always making calculating moves or, as Arianna says, engaging in 'triangulation.'

Although a capable campaigner and saleman, George W. Bush clearly has not read the zeitgeist very well and is guilty of fighting the conservative politics of twenty to fifty years ago. It's often been said that the neoconservative intellectuals seemed poorly informed about most of the 1990s since they were in a sense obsessed with and stuck on the fall of the Soviet Union and the Gulf War.

Let's think in terms of time for a moment to drive home the point. The year 1930 was very different than the world 1946 revealed to us. The slow year of 1952 was very different than the major events and times of 1968. Senator Clinton needs to show that she can make the leap from the successful politics of sixteen years ago in 1992 to the successful politics of 2008; there are plenty of signs that we have entered a different era. It's early, but so far Hillary Clinton has shown signs that she doesn't fully understand the problems that are quickly approaching. I hope she catches up.

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Friday, December 08, 2006

Republicans Will Have to Do Better Than McCain

I liked the John McCain that existed up until spring of 2004 when he once again got bit with the presidential ambition bug and decided to borrow a page or two from Bush's example. Senator McCain the maverick no longer exists.

Raw Story carries an article on one of the problems with Senator McCain presidential quest:

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), regarded as a top presidential candidate for the 2008 election, has lined up a controversial attack ad specialist to be his campaign manager, Raw Story has learned.

Chris Cillizza writes at The Washington Post's political blog, The Fix, that "according to a source close to the McCain operation, the candidate has lined up Terry Nelson to serve as campaign manager," once McCain's campaign becomes official.

Nelson, along with Karl Rove protegé Scott Howell, produced a controversial ad for Tennessee's 2006 U.S. Senate race between Democrat Harold Ford, Jr. and Republican Bob Corker, in which a white woman seductively invites an "off-camera" Ford to call her. Ford, an unmarried African-American, and Corker, the white former mayor of Chattanooga who eventually won the open Senate seat, both criticized the ad.

I'm not sure how much longer Americans are going to be prone to the kind of sleazy ads made famous by Lee Atwater and Karl Rove, but it is disappointing that McCain is steadily trading in his reputation for integrity by using people like Nelson. The man who coauthored some important campaign finance laws is also going to bypass his own legislation in his bid for the presidency.

I'm not sure what to make of McCain's judgment these days either. He recommends sending more troops which might have been a good reccommendation, say three years ago. Former Clinton official Robert Reich had this to say about a recent conversation:
I talked with John McCain Sunday morning in the green room just before “This Week.” I asked him why he continued to call for more troops for Iraq when he must know it's a political non-starter. He said he thought it important for the morale of the troops.

McCain gives every impression of meaning what he says, which is one of his greatest assets. But I simply can’t believe this one. What’s most important for the morale of the troops is knowing they’ll be coming home soon, not hearing some politician say we need more troops when there’s no possible chance of that happening.

What I detect from John McCain is a growing lack of seriousness when it comes to our nation's problem. He's been very critical of the Iraq Study Group and his criticisms suggests he has no understanding of the crisis we're in. Off and on, John McCain has been running for president for a very long time, but it's not clear anymore that he has fresh ideas to bring to the White House. As the failures of the current occupant of the presidency has made so abundantly clear, the voters have to take seriously who occupies the top job.

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Joe Biden Does Well in South Carolina Visit

Joe Biden is not considered one of the frontrunners in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008 but he may have helped himself in a recent visit to South Carolina; here's the story from Lee Bandy of The Sun News:
It was unlike most Columbia Rotary Club luncheons. The speaker was U.S. Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, a likely candidate for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.

The chief topic: the Iraq war.

The audience: predominantly Republican.

Biden humorously took note of that in his opening remarks.

"I want to thank you all for allowing me a trip here to speak to only Republicans. It's like my home town. I just won every district in my state except the one I live in," he quipped.


This Yankee senator quickly disarmed his conservative audience, many of whom came expecting partisan attacks on President Bush and Republicans in general.


"America needs, and I need, for the Republican Party to get back up," he said.

"There's not a single problem out there that cannot be solved without a bipartisan coalition," said Biden, the incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

He held the audience sway for over an hour, roaming the floor like an evangelist.

The ability to reach out to Republicans can be a real asset in the 2008 election; come to think of it, it can be a real asset in the Senate where the Democrats hold a razor-thin majority. Senator Biden is going to be one of the most important people in Washington for the next two years. He's chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

But Biden is a good debater on foreign policy and whether one agrees with him or not, it would be good to hear his voice in any debates the Democrats have in the next two years. Coincidentally, the first debate just may be in South Carolina this coming April:
The chairman of South Carolina's Democratic Party says he expects to host a presidential debate in Columbia next spring.

Joe Erwin says the debate would be tied to the April 27th Jefferson-Jackson Dinner and the state party convention the next day.

I suspect Iraq and Bush's foreign policy will be a subject of discussion. If Senator Biden decides to run, he will have much to say.

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Mike Gravel Is Running for President

I thought I had all the Democratic candidates but I apparently missed one. Former Alaska Senator, Mike Gravel announced his candidancy for the Democratic presidential nomination last April. He's 75 and doesn't have much chance to win but he sounds more in tune with the times than many of his younger colleagues.

Here's his site. So far, I haven't seen much news about his campaign but in the recent Daily Kos readers' poll, he finished ahead of Christopher Dodd.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Barack Obama a Top Presidential Contender

For months, I've had a list of likely presidential candidates among Democrats taped above my desk. A couple of weeks ago, I added Barack Obama's name. He was a major draw during the fall campaigns this year and now he's on a book tour. And testing the presidential waters.

Patrick Healy of The New York Times had a story a couple of days ago on Barack Obama's visit to New York:
Senator Barack Obama treaded onto Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s home turf last night to meet with prominent Democratic donors and feel out those who might prefer the sound of President Obama to President Clinton (as in Hillary, not Bill).

Amid intensifying presidential musings by Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Obama met with George Soros, the liberal billionaire philanthropist, then some other donors last night at Mr. Soros’s offices. ...

Over at the Daily Kos, Obama did well in a reader poll along with Wesley Clark and John Edwards. Reader polls are not reliable though and in this case Hillary Clinton only managed 5% (however, Senator Clinton is not popular among some activists and netroots and that's something to keep in mind).

Finally, The Boston Globe reports a growing draft Obama movement:
Organizers of say they plan to travel to New Hampshire this weekend to show their support of Senator Barack Obama, who will hold his first events in the state on Sunday.

Barack Obama is a wonderful, charismatic speaker and he interviews well on TV. But he has less experience than John Edwards had three years ago and he's several years younger. Another problem I have is that I haven't really seen Obama take a stand on a number of difficult issues. His record in the Senate has also been very safe. How would he handle political adversity or serious debate? We don't know yet. John Kennedy was young and charismatic but he was part of a powerful political family and he was groomed for politics from early on.

Frankly, I didn't think Obama would try for the presidency for another six to ten years. Is he rushing things, is he being smart by preparing now for an election down the road, or is his time coming in the 2008 election? If he enters, it's going to be an interesting campaign.

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Baker's Iraq Study Group Gives Bush an F

All ten members of the bipartisan group of Republicans and Democrats led by former Secretary of State James Baker may have purged some political language and softened the blow for President Bush but the report card by the Iraq Study Group is a resounding F and the recommendations fly in the face of some of Bush's preferred policies. Bush has no choice but to clean up his act.

Yahoo has the Associated Press story:
President Bush's war policies have failed in almost every regard, the bipartisan Iraq Study Group concluded Wednesday, and it warned of dwindling chances to change course before crisis turns to chaos with dire implications for terrorism, war in the Middle East and higher oil prices around the world.


"The report is an acknowledgment that there will be no military solution in Iraq. It will require a political solution arrived at through sustained Iraqi and region-wide diplomacy and engagement," said Sen. Chuck Hagel (news, bio, voting record), R-Neb.

Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other Democrats said the ball is in Bush's court.

"If the president is serious about the need for change in Iraq, he will find Democrats ready to work with him in a bipartisan fashion to find a way to end the war as quickly as possible," Pelosi said.

The Iraq panel's leaders said they tried to avoid politically charged language such as "victory," on the one hand or "civil war" on the other, but the words they chose were still powerful. The report says the current strategy is not working and lays out example after example where it has come up short.

As if to underscore that the conflict is hurtling out of control, the military reported that 10 American troops were killed Wednesday, adding to the toll of U.S. forces who have died since the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in early 2003.

Americans are tired of Bush's political games and right wing agenda. The hiring of Robert Gates may be a step in the right direction, but it is unlikely to be enough unless Bush brings more qualified, non-ideological help into his administration. The ISG report does not call for immediate withdrawal but make no mistake: withdrawal is in the wind, certainly before the end of 2008. America cannot wait two years for the repairs to begin to our foreign policy. Bush owes it to the American people to start listening to bipartisan advice.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

John Kerry May Rethink 2nd Presidential Run

I like John Kerry. I voted for him and I think he would have made a fine president. But this is not a forgiving era when it comes to gaffes that Republicans can exploit and I hope the time comes soon when we put behind such nonsense. Here's a story by Rick Klein of the Boston Globe:
Senator John F. Kerry's election-eve "botched joke" about the war in Iraq -- and the fierce denunciations his comments drew from fellow Democrats -- has led him to reevaluate whether to mount a run for the presidency in 2008 and has led him to delay an announcement about his decision, according to Kerry associates.

The Massachusetts Democrat is now leaning toward waiting until late spring before declaring his intentions, even as other candidates jump into the race and begin building organizing and fund-raising teams in early-primary states. Before the joke derailed his comeback, Kerry had signaled that he would decide whether to run by the end of January.

Kerry -- who had methodically resurrected his political standing after a tough loss to President Bush in 2004 -- was stunned by the swift, angry reaction to his Oct. 30 statement that underachieving students would end up "stuck in Iraq." Aides and friends say the senator was particularly stung by the fact that so many Democrats had joined Republicans in rebuking him.

I'm irritated with the Democrats who attacked Kerry. Kerry was being attacked in the media for three days for 20 seconds of a botched joke while the president has frequently gotten a free pass (sometimes by the same Democrats) for botching a war for over a 3 1/2 years. Kerry was easy to defend. Even a mild joke at Kerry's expense could have made the point that the focus should have been on Bush as the voters so eloquently expressed on Nov. 7th.

I admire Kerry but, having said what I said above, I believe he might be able to do more good in the Senate where he can bring all his skills to bear on holding Bush's feet to the fire for the remainder of his presidency. Our nation can't afford to drift for two more years; and if Bush won't mend his ways, we need a Congress that's paying close attention to business. There's no question in my mind that John Kerry still has important things to do; instead of running for president again, his place and his greatest value for now may be in the Senate.

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Monday, December 04, 2006

Senator Bayh Forming Presidential Exploratory Committee

Senator Bayh from Indiana may be close to announcing his candidancy for the Democratic nomination for president. Mike Glover of the Associated Press as reported in the Ventura County Star has more on Bayh:
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- White House hopeful Sen. Evan Bayh warned on Monday that Democrats could lose their newfound grip on Congress if the party pursues an ideological course.

The Indiana senator, who announced Sunday he was taking the first step in a presidential bid, has cultivated a centrist image as one of his party's moderates, a Democrat who can win in a Republican-leaning state.

At a stop in the early voting state of Iowa, Bayh told business leaders that Democrats' hold on power, secured with Election Day wins last month, could be brief if the party isn't careful.

If Senator Bayh is talking about Democrats going on a tax and spend spree, then he may have a point, except there's no sign that the Democrats are about to do any such thing, particularly with Bush holding the veto. Arguing against ideology doesn't mean much these days unless the senator defines what he means. And simply calling himself a moderate can also be problematic if he doesn't make clear what it means to be a moderate in the 2008 election. I suspect almost every Democratic presidential candidate will be calling themselves moderate and even a Republican or two might try to wear the label. We've gotten six years of generalities from the Bush crowd and I suspect Americans want the details this time.

I listened to Tom Vilsack on TV yesterday and he has a similar problem; he simply trotted out many crowd-pleasing lines from the last twenty years; Vilsack is a good man but he needs to do better. Democrats would be well-advised this time around, no matter what political position they stake out, to renew their language, to revitalize it, and to find ways to articulate where we are, because where we are is very different from where we were six years ago and very different than most presidential elections. Our country needs renewal and it needs reform—that is something every candidate needs to understand regardless of the political label they wear.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Tom Daschle Won't Be Running for President

Tom Daschle has joined Russ Feingold and Mark Warner by taking himself out of consideration for the Democratic nomination for president (Al Gore also took himself out but his popularity makes him a special case). Here's the story on Daschle:
Tom Daschle was expected to make a decision about running for president by the end of the year, and Saturday afternoon, he told KELOLAND News he has decided not to seek the United States' highest office in 2008.

“I've made a decision that I will not seek the presidency of the United States,” Daschle said.

He's spent decades representing South Dakota as a leader in the U.S. Senate. But after visits to key presidential primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire, Daschle says he won't seek a run for the White House.

As it is, Daschle may be finding himself a niche in Washington dealing with policy. With Democrats in control of Congress, Daschle now has a significant chance to make himself useful. He's a good man. Let's wish him luck.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Republicans Continue to Lose Their Way

It's hard to believe that Newt Gingrich wants to be taken seriously as a presidential candidate. He has become a demagogue, itching for World War Three and pining for limits on free speech. Keith Olbermann had a commentary on Newt Gingrich and the speech he recently gave; here's the first part of what Olbermann had to say (via Truthout):
And finally tonight, as promised, a Special Comment about free speech, failed speakers, and the delusion of grandeur.

"This is a serious long term war," the man at the podium cried, "and it will inevitably lead us to want to know what is said in every suspect place in the country."

Some, in the audience, must have thought they were hearing an arsonist give the keynote address at a convention of firefighters.

This was the annual Loeb First Amendment Dinner in Manchester, New Hampshire - a public cherishing of Freedom of Speech - in the state with the two-fisted motto "Live Free Or Die."

And the arsonist at the microphone, the former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, was insisting that we must attach an "on-off button" to Free Speech.

He offered the time-tested excuse trotted out by our demagogues, since even before the Republic was founded: widespread death, of Americans, in America, possibly at the hands of Americans.

Newt Gingrich is one of the architects of the radical right wing agenda that has been gaining steam in recent years. But it's the same tired nonsense that Republicans have been trotting out since the days of the John Birch Society back in the 1950s. And at last it shows. They finally got the president they wanted and it's been a disaster. Public relations, the TV talking heads and a host of over-hyped right wing think tanks and journals can't hide the fiasco.

A former Speaker of the House should have the right to speak; I have no problem with that. Let's hear Gingrich, where everyone can hear his nonsense, so that when the time comes we can know him for what he is: a person who shouldn't be taken seriously. Radical conservatism has failed America. It's time to rebuild the politics in Washington on a new foundation and move on. The Democrats are ready but have some work to do. Let's wish them well despite Bush's veto powers. On the other hand, Republican politicians, having fed at the public trough and taken too much campaign money from wealthy conservatives, have had their day. Let's move on.