Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Molly Ivins Is Gone

I'm going to miss that wit. And that big heart. Molly Ivins died today at 62; she'll be sorely missed but remembered fondly by many of us.

Here's the news from Austin, Texas:
Liberal Texas newspaper columnist Molly Ivins passed away Wednesday after her ongoing battle with breast cancer.

Ivins, 62, was a sharp-witted liberal who skewered the political establishment and referred to President Bush as “Shrub.''


... She regularly provoked conservatives across Texas and the nation. She often used her humor to lampoon those she saw as self-seeking.

She was a remarkable journalist who used wit to get to the heart of the matter; I wish there were more like her.


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Joe Biden Makes It Official

Tomorrow, Joe Biden makes it official that he's running for president. His critics will argue that his role in the Senate is purely political but that would be a mistake. A presidential candidate has to know what he or she is talking about and when it comes to foreign policy, Senator Biden is a heavyweight with broad knowledge and experience. Every time there is a debate with either Democrats or Republicans, Biden is going to make his fellow debaters squirm if they aren't prepared to discuss foreign policy. John McCain, for example, is no longer quite up to speed on what's happening in the world and it shows; Bush may have been able to bamboozle people in 2000 on foreign policy but Americans are now paying close attention. The senator from Delaware will be a force to reckon with.

Here's the AP story from CBS on Joe Biden's candidacy:
Democratic Sen. Joe Biden has been saying for months he's running for president. He makes it official on Wednesday. The Delaware senator will file the paperwork with the Federal Election Commission and release a videotaped campaign message to voters on his Web site, He also is planning another trip to New Hampshire early next week.

"After nine months of doing this, there is no exploratory committee _ I'm running," Biden told The Associated Press.


"The average voter out there understands that the next president is going to have to be prepared to immediately step in without hesitation and end our involvement in Iraq," Biden said. "It's very difficult to figure out how to move on to broader foreign policy concerns without fixing Iraq first."

If anyone has questions for Senator Biden, Steve Clemons of the blog, The Washington Note, notes that the senator will be take questions on Thursday; here are the details:
Biden is a powerful ideas guy and gets points from me for being brazen, smart, and ready to dump political correctness. Biden is often intellectually ahead of his colleagues and can be flamboyant (well, I can be too). But lately, he's really been pulling the pieces together carefully and in a team manner on how to challenge the President's approach to the Iraq War and broader Middle East challenges.

He has asked the public to email him questions which he hopes to respond to on Thursday. I bet that he and his staff do their darndest given that they need to reach a lot of folks out there fast.

The email address for your questions is: ASKJOE@JOEBIDEN.COM
Personally, I wish Joe Biden were a bit more liberal, and I probably will support one of the other candidates, but, if it comes to it, given what we're facing from the other side of the aisle, I would gladly work hard for Biden if he wins the nomination. No matter what happens, I very much hope Biden stays in the race long enough for at least a half dozen debates. And I would like to see him debate the Republicans a few times so Americans can see that a party of waffling rubber stampers incapable of seeing through Bush's incompetence for five years don't have much to offer these days.

One last point. Biden erred when he voted for authorizing military force in Iraq but he repeatedly spoke out on what needed to happen if Bush were going to follow through on arms inspections, the necessary UN resolutions, multilateral help, and making a proper case for war; and Biden repeatedly pointed out a number of things that the Bush Administration either did not do or that it was doing wrong before a single American soldier crossed into Iraq. In this era where it's convenient to smear candidates, I would argue that Biden's critics on both the right and left should be wary of painting Biden with broad brush strokes.

Update: While I was writing the above post, I saw the remark Joe Biden made about Barack Obama (here's one of dozens of stories on the remark); I winced, decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and moved on. If he continues to make such remarks, of course, his run for the presidency isn't going to last long. But bloggers and journalists everywhere need to be careful in this era of the media and internet microscope. When Hillary Clinton's inabililty to sing well becomes a story, we're becoming a little strange and I fear we may be losing the bigger story, such as bringing the war in Iraq to a close and preventing a third world war. I have a theory that none of the candidates, Republican or Democrat, can survive a truly close scrutiny of their lives and a dissection of every statement or decision they've made and the consequence is that serious and able people could wind up being disqualified whether they're Dennis Kucinich at one end or Joe Biden at the other or anyone in between; we'll end up with more media illusions like George W. Bush, who quite literally could afford to buy a usable image. The failure to simply ask for a clarification can have consquences.

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Vilsack Raising Money for Campaign

I have no idea if former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack's campaign is gaining momentum or not—or if he has some important staying power. But I'm convinced he is a serious candidate with real potential. History is full of front-runners who stumbled and dark horses who caught fire. The most famous dark horse of all came from the state next to Iowa—he was a lawyer from Illinois who had lost a senate race only two years earlier and was somewhat at the back of the pack behind three powerful front-runners in 1860; his name, of course, was Abraham Lincoln.

Here's an AP article on CBS about Vilsack's campaign fundraising:
Democratic presidential candidate Tom Vilsack raised more than $1.1 million in the last seven weeks of 2006, a total that puts him far behind deep-pocketed rivals for the nomination.

Vilsack, one of the first candidates to enter the race on Nov. 9, boasted that his fundraising amount was double what Sen. John Kerry and Howard Dean raised in the same stretch in the 2003-04 election cycle.

It's the Republicans who are driving the campaign totals for 2008; Republicans discovered a long time ago that money gives them the advantage and the proof is that a mediocre candidate like George W. Bush can be elected—if he has enough money. One can argue about whether Vilsack's glass is half full or half empty; the real test is where he and the other candidates go from here.

Another story on Vilsack this week is that he's now a visiting professor; here's the story from Tom Barton of the Des Moines Register:
Small-town lawyer, mayor, Democratic state lawmaker, two-term governor, presidential aspirant. Now Tom Vilsack can add "professor" to his resume.

"I'm very proud to be a part of Drake University and the law school," Vilsack said Monday at a press conference where it was announced he will help teach a course on legal issues related to rural development and renewable energy.


Vilsack was a lawyer and the mayor in Mount Pleasant, then a state senator from 1992-98 before being elected governor. He has a bachelor's degree from Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., and earned a law degree from Albany Law School in 1975.

David Walker, dean of the Drake Law School, called Vilsack "a distinguished and outstanding lawyer, leader and public servant.

Having just finished his term as governor, it's good to see Vilsack establish a base of operations for himself as he runs for president. And it's a good sign to see his home town newspaper looking after him.

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Monday, January 29, 2007

Tireless Dennis Kucinich Campaigning

Dennis Kucinich is on a mission to save the United States from stumbling into a world war. The liberal, unabashedly anti-war Democrat has been pursuing his campaign with considerable energy. Here's the story from Pam Wright of the Whittier Daily News:
A packed and cheering crowd greeted U.S. Rep. and presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, Sunday at St. Matthias Episcopal Church as he campaigned on a plan to end the war on Iraq.

Kucinich spent the weekend jetting from a large anti-war protest in Washington, D.C., Saturday to events in San Francisco and Los Angeles before addressing the crowd of supporters and peace activists Sunday afternoon in Whittier.

Saying the war on Iraq was the most important issue for the 2008 presidential campaign, Kucinich laid out his strategy for troop withdrawal in a 12-point plan that would begin with a U.S. commitment to end the occupation and bring troops home within a three-month period.

Critics have said immediate withdrawal would lead to civil war and that the U.S. needs to be present through the transition to Iraqi control.

But Kucinich said the U.S. presence is fueling insurgent activity and anti-American sentiments in the region.

I don't know what chances Kucinich has of winning in 2008 but he has an important message, one that other Democratic presidential hopeful need to address more closely. Our country cannot move forward until we get Bush's failed war in Iraq off our backs.

No one should doubt the sincerity of the Congressman from Ohio. The Cleveland Dealer takes him seriously and published this statement from Kucinich on the possibility of impeachment if Bush launces his third war, this one with Iran:
Congressman Dennis Kucinich warns the White House of Impeachment in his latest press release. Here the press release in full:
Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) accused the White House of mounting a media blitz to prepare the U.S. public for an eventual attack on Iran. Today The Washington Post reported the Bush administration has authorized the U.S. military to kill or capture Iranian operatives inside Iraq as part of an aggressive new strategy to weaken Tehran’s influence across the Middle East.

“The White House is up to its old tricks again: Providing information by anonymous sources and portraying Iran as an aggressor in Iraq,” Kucinich said.

“The President is mischaracterizing U.S. action vis à vis Iran. In fact, the U.S. is already engaged in offensive and provocative acts against Iran. The President’s strategy, by portraying our involvement as only being on the defensive, is laying out the groundwork for him to attack Iran and bypass authorization by Congress,” Kucinich said.

The Democrats may not have the votes for impeachment if Bush decides to go to war in Iran without Congressional authorization, but the Republicans better think long and hard about supporting an arrogant president with such a dismal record of failure after six years. If nothing else, an energetic Kucinich is making his case in stop after stop around the nation. Even if he doesn't win the Democratic nomination, he may be shaping the 2008 race. I believe we had to go to Afghanistan (and it should have been done by now) but our war in Iraq has never made sense. Clearly this is the year Americans need to start asking how it is that our political leaders manage to blunder into such pointless wars.

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Hillary Clinton Says She Was Misled

Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton is doing well in the polls. In Iowa this weekend, the very talented former first lady was greeted like a rock star. Here's a story from Ray Quintanilla of of the Chicago Tribune:
DAVENPORT, IOWA -- On the second day of her campaign swing across the state, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) confronted her vote for the invasion of Iraq by saying she was misled, and she called on President Bush to end the conflict before leaving the White House in 2009.

"I live with this every day," Clinton told a standing-room only crowd in this Mississippi River community on Sunday. "The president is determined to move forward on a plan that won't succeed. He should extricate the country before he leaves office."

She doesn't quite say it, but I'm glad that Hillary Clinton essentially admits she made a mistake. When you admit that you have made a mistake, you get closer to the reality; that means you can get closer to the problem and do something about it—that's a lesson President Bush has not yet learned.

But the Bush Administration dragged us into a war in Iraq that we did not need and deliberately said things that were not true. And many Americans were misled and no one should forget that. But I have a question. It's not an idle question and sooner or later the Clinton campaign is going to have to address it. Bill Clinton was president for eight years; he dealt with Iraq several times. What was Bill Clinton's position on all this and what advice did he give Hillary, if any?

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Good Molly Ivins in Hospital

It's recently been revealed that Molly Ivins is on her third recurrence of cancer since 1999; we wish her a speedy recovery and hope she can continue her columns but the truth is that it's not certain what her state of health is. Here's the story from Editor & Publisher:
Her assistant Betsy Moon says she may be able to go home Monday. She adds that those close to Ivins are ``not sure what's going to happen, but she's very sick.''

The 62-year-old columnist had taken an earlier break from her syndicated column, but resumed writing earlier this month.

Last October she had suggested this headline to an E&P interviewer: "Molly Ivins Still Not Dead."

E&P wrote then, "The third recurrence of the breast cancer she has been battling since 1999 (and which recently claimed her good friend, former Texas Gov. Ann Richards) has left the 62-year-old Ivins with precarious balance, minimal hair, and no illusions about the redemptive quality of life-threatening illness. 'I'd hoped to become a better person from confronting my own mortality,' she laughs. 'But it hasn't happened.'"

In the Jan. 11 column, which opposed the troop escalation, Ivins wrote “We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war....If you can, go to the peace march in Washington on Jan. 27. We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, 'Stop it, now!'"

If nothing else, Molly Ivins is a fighter. Six years ago, I wrote a fictional story about a savvy reporter by the name of Maggie McIvers and I didn't try very hard to hide that I modeled the character after Molly Ivins. Get well, Molly. We need you back.


Friday, January 26, 2007

McCain Slipping in Polls Against Edwards and Obama

As Americans increasingly realize that McCain isn't the man we thought he was, his numbers continue to fall. Here's the story from the Argus Reid Global Monitor concerning the results of the poll by Rasmussen Reports, a polling firm frequently cited in the past by Republicans:
Republican John McCain trails two prospective Democratic presidential nominees in the United States, according to a poll by Rasmussen Reports. 47 per cent of respondents would vote for Illinois senator Barack Obama in 2008, while 44 per cent would support the Arizona senator.

In a contest pitting McCain against former North Carolina senator John Edwards, the Democrat holds a three-point advantage. In December, McCain held leads over both Obama and Edwards in presidential trials.

The poll has John Edwards at 46% and McCain at 43%. Here's the politics link to Rasmussen Reports.

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Roundups of Democratic and Republican Senate Races in 2008

Depending on how things go, Democrats will have the advantage in 2008 when it comes to Senate races. Republicans have 21 seats up for election in 2008 and the Democrats have 12; that gives the Democrats opportunities to gain ground.

Here's the roundup of Democratic seats. And here's the roundup of Republican seats. If there is to be real reform in our country, Democrats need to pick up about six or seven seats in the Senate. If the Republicans retake the Senate, it may be a generation before we throw off the power of big money—if at all—and restore a healthy economy for all Americans. Let's get to work.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Rolling Stone on Al Gore 2008 Speculation

Al Gore. Should he run or shouldn't he? I admit it's tempting to think about and if he actually runs, I may have a hard time figuring out who I'm going to support. And yet, there's been something very good about having a major Democratic voice who isn't running for office, or helping his wife. Actually that last isn't fair to Bill Clinton—he clearly helped the Democrats last fall, particularly with that fired-up Chris Wallace interview—but Bill for the next two years is no longer the ex-president weighing in but a candidate's husband.

Other Democratic voices besides Al Gore and Bill Clinton (past tense for now) include Bill Moyers and Jimmy Carter and they're powerful forces, powerful enough to suggest we need more of that. Come to think of it, we just gained another voice this week: John Kerry who can now focus on the issues and legislative moves he knows well.

So, to borrow a phrase from the Rolling Stone, let's 'imagine' Al Gore running for president for a long, what-if moment (hat tip to Steve Soto of The Left Coaster):
A stiff vice president campaigns on his administration's legacy of unprecedented prosperity. Looks terrible on TV. Bows out, following a disputed vote count. Then, two terms later, with no incumbent in the race, he re-enters the fray. Promises to change the course of a disastrous war founded on lies. And charges to victory. I'm referring, of course, to the 1968 campaign of Richard Milhous Nixon. But four decades later, history has a chance to repeat itself for Albert Arnold Gore.

If the Democrats were going to sit down and construct the perfect candidate for 2008, they'd be hard-pressed to improve on Gore. Unlike Hillary Clinton, he has no controversial vote on Iraq to defend. Unlike Barack Obama and John Edwards, he has extensive experience in both the Senate and the White House. He has put aside his wooden, policy-wonk demeanor to emerge as the Bush administration's most eloquent critic. And thanks to An Inconvenient Truth, Gore is not only the most impassioned leader on the most urgent crisis facing the planet, he's also a Hollywood celebrity, the star of the third-highest-grossing documentary of all time.

Deep in the Rolling Stone article there's discussion of whether candidate Gore can be as loose and relaxed as he has been during the last five years of giving speeches. It's an interesting discussion because Hillary Clinton, as qualified as she is, tends to go back and forth between being Hillary at her best—casual, quick and even brilliant—to Hillary the overly cautious triangulator (a model for Hillary to think about might be Senator Webb who can be careful about how he speaks and even a little formal but his speech the other day was so beautifully clear-eyed and firm).

Predictions in the current climate are very difficult but I suspect that if one of the frontrunners can't break away clearly in the next ten months, and Al Gore decides to run and can keep that looser version of himself up front, he could easily go all the way.

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Ford Gives Advice to Barack Obama

Increasingly, right wingers show they haven't learned a thing in the last couple of years. After more than two decades successfully defining politics in our country, Americans simply aren't buying Republican fictions like they once did. This time it was Insight Magazine (a Rev. Moon enterprise) and Fox News (a Rupert Murdoch enterprise) who tried to smear Barack Obama with a ridiculous story about his childhood education, but it didn't work.

Barack Obama is made of strong stuff but recent candidate Harold Ford has some advice for the senator from Illinois; here's the story from AP reporter Nedra Pickler in The Washington Post:
Former Rep. Harold Ford Jr., has some advice for his friend Sen. Barack Obama: Don't be afraid to take your presidential campaign anywhere in this country, no matter what the racial politics.

Ford lost a close bid last fall to become the first black senator from a Southern state since Reconstruction. Some blamed the loss in Tennessee on racial politics, but Ford said Thursday other factors, including a rival who spent his own money, contributed to his defeat.

He said Obama, son of a white mother and an African father, can't control how his race will affect his candidacy.

"As long as he works hard, is honest ... and is not afraid to take his message anywhere in the country, he'll do fine," Ford said.

Pickler also mentions that Steven Spielberg and others are holding a fundraiser for Obama next month. I like Spielberg and of course all the candidates are going to have these big fundraisers but let's hope the American people are paying attention in 2008 and that they select the best candidate and not the candidate with the most money like they did with George W. Bush. And I mean both the general election and the primaries. In any case, Barack Obama clearly is among the top four or five presidential hopefuls on both sides of the aisle and would be a vast improvement over the last six years.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Senator Webb Gets It

Senator Webb's Democratic rebuttal to President Bush's speech was superb. Terrell of Alone on a Limb offers an excerpt from Webb's speech:
Like so many other Americans, today and throughout our history, we serve and have served, not for political reasons, but because we love our country. On the political issues - those matters of war and peace, and in some cases of life and death - we trusted the judgment of our national leaders. We hoped that they would be right, that they would measure with accuracy the value of our lives against the enormity of the national interest that might call upon us to go into harm's way.

We owed them our loyalty, as Americans, and we gave it. But they owed us - sound judgment, clear thinking, concern for our welfare, a guarantee that the threat to our country was equal to the price we might be called upon to pay in defending it.

The President took us into this war recklessly. ...

There's a weight to what Senator Webb is saying that I deeply appreciate. In firm but respectful language, Webb makes it clear that Bush has violated our nation's trust. Bush will be in office for another two years. Let's hope Bush does no further harm and that the next president is a considerable improvement.

By the way, I'm jealous that Terrell has figured out YouTube and has Senator Webb giving his speech. I solemnly swear I'll take the time to figure it out one of these days. I'm a writer but nobody told me I was going to have to learn multimedia as I get older!

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Senator John Kerry Will Not Run in 2008

It was inevitable, but the moment I saw the news that Kerry probably won't be running, a wave of sadness hit me, partly because of what could have been in 2004, partly because it's not difficult to imagine how hard it was for Kerry to make his decision. Adam Nagourney of The New York Times has the story:
Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat who narrowly lost the presidency to George Bush in 2004, stepped away today from what he had described as an almost all-but-certain second bid for the White House, bowing to a Democratic Party that was clearly unreceptive to his return to the stage and that had turned its attention to new candidates.

Mr. Kerry, who is 63, will instead seek a fifth term as senator from Massachusetts, and will focus on organizing opposition to the war in Iraq, said a Democrat familiar with Mr. Kerry’s thinking who asked not to be identified until Mr. Kerry made the decision public himself.

Mr. Kerry had turned his attention to the 2008 presidential race almost from the moment he conceded defeat to Mr. Bush in November 2004, the end of what he described as a heartbreaking day in which exit polls had projected his victory was assured.

After being daunted in the 2004 race as being equivocal on the war in Iraq, he had emerged as one of his party’s leading opponents to the war, and had renounced his original support for the war resolution that caused him so many problems in the last election.

Presidents who don't perform well usually do not get a second term. George W. Bush will forever be the most failed two-term president in American history. When a slim majority of American voters decided to place more value on the abilities of George W. Bush instead of John Kerry, it was something I will never understand. I will continue to have enormous respect for Senator Kerry.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Barack Obama Smeared By Right Wingers

Republicans have spent more than twenty years telling fictions about Democrats. For the record, Barack Obama is a Christian and attends a Baptist church. The school he attended in Indonesia was open to people of all faiths. Barack Obama was barely of school age at the time.

If a 'revelation' about a Democrat suddenly makes the news, watch out. CNN has the story on the phony terrorist school/Barack Obama story:
Allegations that Sen. Barack Obama was educated in a radical Muslim school known as a "madrassa" are not accurate, according to CNN reporting.

Insight Magazine, which is owned by the same company as The Washington Times, reported on its Web site last week that associates of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-New York, had unearthed information the Illinois Democrat and likely presidential candidate attended a Muslim religious school known for teaching the most fundamentalist form of Islam.

Obama lived in Indonesia as a child, from 1967 to 1971, with his mother and stepfather and has acknowledged attending a Muslim school, but an aide said it was not a madrassa. (Watch video of Obama's school )

Insight attributed the information in its article to an unnamed source, who said it was discovered by "researchers connected to Senator Clinton." A spokesman for Clinton, who is also weighing a White House bid, denied that the campaign was the source of the Obama claim.

He called the story "an obvious right-wing hit job."

Notice that this story supposedly included a tip from the Clinton campaign. There are honest Republicans running for office but I've already seen signs that right wing Republicans, who have difficulty winning a contest honestly on an even playing field, are trying to sow suspicions among their opponents and confusion among the voters. I have a suggestion, if you can afford it: every time a Democrat is smeared, send them ten bucks. If nothing else, click on their websites to let them know they're appreciated. Give Barack Obama a visit.

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Joe Biden's Strength: Foreign Policy

Of the Democrats running for president, only former Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico is close to Joe Biden's expertise in foreign policy (though Wesley Clark, if he runs, would be up there with Biden and Richardson). I don't always agree with Senator Biden but I very much respect what he has to say when he talks about Iraq and the Middle East and he provides a sharp contrast to a president who either doesn't know much about the Middle East or who chooses to mislead the American public (since Bush's fellow Republicans often follow the president's lead, it appears politics, 'story-telling' and ideology rather than a respect for the facts dominate right wing commentary these days).

The New York Times carries an article by Jonathan Broder of the Congressional Quarterly on Joe Biden:
When Joseph R. Biden Jr. first came to the Senate in January 1973, the consuming issue of the day was the Vietnam War, and its most influential opponent was the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, J. William Fulbright.

The 30-year-old Biden looked to the urbane Arkansan as a mentor after joining the committee as a freshman.


“The lesson I leaned from Sen. Fulbright is that, if you inform the American public, they’re pretty smart,” Biden said in an interview. “They can form their own opinions.”


Unlike many lawmakers who can’t tell the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite, Biden is a man who not only knows the difference, but also can speak knowledgeably about the allegiances of different Iraqi tribes, the shifting demographics in the northern city of Kirkuk, and the finer points of the Iraq constitution.

In his quest for his party’s 2008 presidential nomination, Biden is banking that his facility with foreign policy will be his principal calling card — or at least set him apart from the perceived front-runners.

Whether Biden wins the nomination or not, and whether many of us even agree with some of his positions are not, he is already playing a valuable role by bringing his expertise to a discussion about Iraq, Iran and foreign policy in general. Biden is reminding us that we can't afford another incurious neophyte like George W. Bush, let alone an ideologue who would continue the nonsense and deceptions of the neocons. It's not clear that any of the Republican hopefuls have distanced themselves that much from Bush's failures yet, except Chuck Hagel who has become very critical of Bush's policies—and it's not certain that Hagel will run.

In the meantime, McCain is an example of a Republican who already is playing fast and loose with his statements over the last five years and is pretending that his position has been x, y and z all along when in fact it was a, b and c. In recent statements, McCain has been hedging his support of Bush by saying more troops are needed than what Bush is sending, but McCain fails to note that the troops he would send simply do not exist.

I think it's worth mentioning, by the way, that Biden's counterpart on the Foreign Relations Committee is not Senator McCain but Senator Lugar, a loyal, capable but somewhat low-key Republican who has not been happy with Bush's foreign policy and amateurism for some time. If Biden is not exactly out in front of other Democrats on Iraq, it's partly because he still believes in bipartisanship and Senator Lugar is part of the reason Biden continues to follow that path. And there may eventually be dividends though I suspect the time could possible be getting short. Lugar is patient but he should not underestimate Bush's recklessness. If Republicans wait too long to rein in Bush, Biden's efforts on the Foreign Relations Committee could come up short and affect his run for the president.

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Tom Vilsack Speaks on the State of the Union

When previous presidents gave their State of the Union speeches, things happened. Presidents, of course, don't always get everything they ask for and that's the way it should be. But the State of the Union has always been a chance to show leadership and a president was expected to follow through on his ideas. Oh, and by the way, a president was supposed to be truthful about the state of the nation though admittedly many presidents managed to avoid things they didn't want to talk about. But Bush will always be tainted for saying things his administration knew were not true.

After six years in office, Bush is notorious for not following through on his speeches. Presidential candidate, Tom Vilsack, has some thoughts on Bush and where we are; here's the story from Darwin Danielson of Radio Iowa:
Former Iowa governor turned presidential candidate, Tom Vilsack, today issued what he called a "pre-buttal" to President Bush's State of the Union address tomorrow night. Vilsack, a democrat, criticized Bush based on reports of what the president is expected to say. Vilsack says the president is going to propose raising taxes on the middle class in order to reduce the number of uninsured Americans.

"It's hard to conceive of an administration that continues to advocate for reduced taxes for the wealthiest Americans, and continues to fund billions of dollars to reconstruct Iraq, and then simply asks middle class families to pay more in order to ensure the birthright that every American ought to have, which is affordable insurance coverage," Vilsack says. Vilsack is also critical of President Bush's actions after Bush called in last year's address for the U.S. to become more energy independent.

Vilsack says Bush's energy proposals "were weak and failed to deliver." Vilsack says he expects to hear the president make a similar call this year. Vilsack says the president has been spending time and energy on fighting the war in Iraq "instead of focusing on expanding the economy here in America so the middle class can grow instead of shrink."

For the record, I believe Bush is calling for a tax deduction for health care rather than a tax increase, and the way the deduction is framed, it'll probably just add more red ink to Bush's dismal budget.

Vilsack offers some minor praise for Bush's health care proposals but I think he needs to be careful about trying to appear bipartisan with somebody as partisan as Bush (even if Bush may be trying to steal an idea or two from Iowa). Bipartisanship can be a good idea if somebody like Bush has some good ideas and is serious about implementing them, but Bush's proposals so far sound more like an attempt to play more tax games while helping his friends in the insurance business. Until more Republicans recognize the need to reform their party, I believe Democrats should talk quietly behind the scenes with their partners across the aisle until they're clear on what Republicans are proposing and why—and then talk about bipartisanship if they like what they see.

Tom Vilsack is a thoughtful man and I appreciate his focus on the economy and health care. Unlike a number of presidential candidates, he has a record of actually accomplishing things while governor of Iowa. I look forward to hearing what he has to say in the first Democratic debate where some of these issues will be discussed. Except for those with deep pockets, Bush doesn't appear to have given the economy much thought in the last six years, except when he's trying to help those whose pockets are already deep. Come to think of it, Bush hasn't appeared to have given much thought to anything else in his presidency. And that is a major reason for his failures.

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Hillary Clinton Is the Frontrunner But...

Twenty-eight years of Bushes and Clintons? David Kurtz of Talking Points Memo has the story from a reader who puts it clearly.

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Christopher Dodd and the Need for Experience

Just about all the Democrats running for president would do a fine job and every one of them would do better than the current occupant. But the race should not be reduced to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, though the media seems inclined, for whatever reason, to do just that. This should be a wide open race and it shouldn't depend on Hillary Clinton's deep pockets or Barack Obama's charisma. Both are fine candidates but there's also Christopher Dodd, John Edwards, Joe Biden, Dennis Kucinich, Tom Vilsack, Wesley Clark, Bill Richardson, Mike Gravel, John Kerry, and even possibly Al Gore.

Jackson Willliams of The Huffington Post says we ought to take a closer look at Christopher Dodd:
...unlike Bill Clinton's youthful win in '92, when a clean break from twelve years of Reagan-Bush was just the cure, experience and wisdom really count now, and Dodd may offer both.

A senator for 26 years, a member of the House of Representatives for six years before that, Dodd speaks fluent Spanish from his Peace Corps days in the Dominican Republic, and has often forged coalitions with Republicans on various issues. He spans our modern political history, from Watergate to possible Waterloo.


...Only two sitting U.S. senators have won the presidency in over 100 years: Warren Harding in 1920 and JFK in 1960. Many more have tried and all have failed, most not even getting out of their party primaries. Something about that senatorial staccato style of speaking that infects over time (think John Kerry or Bob Dole). Dodd is up against this huge historical trend line, as are other comers from that august body.

Which makes him a dark horse indeed. But he's by and large a work horse, not some prancing pony, and he could surprise. ...

The next election is too important for the media heavyweights to tell us who has the most money and who we're supposed to be voting for. Let's keep the race open until the voting begins and the candidates can make their case.

If you're new to Cold Flute, click on the 2008 presidential race link below to follow the candidates; I have my own take on things but I'm doing my best to follow all the Democratic candidates with a post now and then about the Republicans.

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

2008 Candidates and Their Websites

Ever since Howard Dean launched his campaign for president in 2003 and his campaign manager, Joe Trippi, created a web presence, more and more candidates are adopting the internet and the various outlets including blogs. Think Progress has put together a list of Republican and Democratic 2008 presidential candidates and lists their sites, with links of course. This is a useful item to bookmark. I hope they update it from time to time.

Note: the listing did not include the main site for Dennis Kucinich.

John Kerry also was not included. I'm not sure if he's running or not but here's his site.

Wesley Clark has indicated that he might run and here's his site.

Also Mike Gravel is running for president and was the first Democrat to announce. His chances of winning are not good but he too has a site.


Hillary Clinton Is In

Four days before Bush's State of the Union address, Hillary Clinton on her website has announced she's forming an exploratory committee and is definitely running. I suppose that means the official announcement that she's running will be after the exploratory committee does its thing. But this is par for most of the candidates and I don't mind. Senator Hillary Clinton is the first woman with a serious chance of winning the presidency and that's news.

Here's the story from Glenn Thrush of Newsday:
"I'm in. And I'm in to win."

With these words Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton launched her hyped and historic bid for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination on Saturday, her first stop on the treacherous road that could culminate in her inauguration as the nation's first woman commander in chief.

In a conversational two-minute video posted on her campaign Web site, the former first lady announced that she's set up a presidential exploratory committee.

"As we campaign to win the White House, we will make history and remake our future," Clinton, 59, said on "This campaign is our moment, our chance to stand up for the principles and values that we cherish."

Wasting little time, Clinton is traveling to Iowa next weekend, her maiden voyage to the first caucus state and an act of political triage: She's currently running fourth among Iowa's liberal Democratic voters.

I wonder if the tape was made before her trip to Asia or after. Her TV appearances over the last two days made her look like she had a bit of jet lag and in the tape she looks like herself again. I noticed she borrowed a couple of lines from John Edwards. Of course, half the Democratic field in 2004 borrowed lines from Bill Clinton and why not? Bill Clinton knew what he was doing when he ran for president. There are many good reasons to admire Bill and Hillary and I believe the senator would make a fine president: I'm just not sure she fully understands the current era. But I'll have no trouble supporting her if she wins.

Here's more on Senator Clinton's announcement from Patrick Healy of The New York Times:
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s entry into the 2008 presidential contest yesterday set off rounds of e-mail messages and conference calls among both her allies and opponents, some of whom were shaking their heads that a major political event was happening early on a Saturday morning.

Advisers to some of her top 2008 rivals — Senators John McCain and Barack Obama, and former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts — replied within minutes to requests for comment, and signaled that the Clinton announcement meant that the 2008 race was truly under way.


Clinton advisers said that they chose Jan. 20 as the target date for an announcement during a meeting in mid-December, and that Mrs. Clinton was “raring to go” on Friday.

Hillary Clinton's website and announcement can be found here (

Given that Bush's annual state of the union message has become something of a charade, I'm glad that Hillary Clinton made her announcement this weekend. Maybe it will suck some of the oxygen out of Bush's latest public relations push to remake his image and to peddle more war in the Middle East and to sell his nonsense about victory. After more than four years of war in Iraq, no one should pretend that Bush has accomplished anything of value for the United States. But that means sooner or later, Hillary Clinton is going to have to address her own misjudgments on the issue of Iraq. And perhaps the misjudgment of her husband. But let's save that for another day. The real story is that we have a wide open presidential race.

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Bill Richardson Filing Papers for Presidential Race

Bill Richardson's numbers may not be great this early in the race but he's game. Here's the AP story from CBS:
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson intends to take the initial step toward the Democratic nomination, hoping his extensive resume will fuel an insurgent campaign to become the first Hispanic president.

Richardson plans to announce on Sunday that he will soon file the papers to create a presidential exploratory committee, several officials with knowledge of his plans said Friday. The governor is scheduled to appear on ABC's "This Week."


Richardson, 59, is a former congressman, U.N. ambassador and Energy Department secretary. He brings a wealth of experience in international affairs that has extended even into his governorship of a small but politically important swing state.

He has hosted talks on North Korea's nuclear program in New Mexico and most recently traveled to Sudan to meet with the country's president to press him for an end to the bloodshed in Darfur.

Until the current generation of Republicans give up their rigid ideology and authoritarianism, they have nothing to run on, but no doubt they will play their games between now and election day in 2008 and will spend a great deal of money smearing Democratic candidates because that's about the only game they have left. Republicans won't turn to somebody sensible like Chuck Hagel so they'll put up another illusion. The only danger will be if the American people fall asleep again when, a year from now, Republicans begin reading the polls and suddenly begin pretending to be something they're not.

On the other hand, I'm impressed with several of the Democrats, including Bill Richardson; if a Democrat wins the presidency and it isn't Richardson, I hope whoever wins finds a place for him. But think of it: John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Tom Vilsack, Christopher Dodd, Wesley Clark and Bill Richardson would all do a better job in the White House than the current occupant.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Zogby: John Edwards Leads in Iowa

Nationally, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton continue to do well in the polls but in the state polls of early contests in the primaries, John Edwards is holding his own. Here's the story from of MyDD showing Edwards with 27%, Obama 17%, and both Vilsack and Clinton tied at 16%.

Edwards could be benefitting from the last time around or some of the results could be a product of organizing which is a useful ability for a presidential candidate to have.

Here's an opinion piece in the Free Speech Zone of The Crimson White Online by graduate student J. J. DaSilva:
During the winter break former, North Carolina senator and 2004 Democratic vice-presidential candidate John Edwards announced his bid for president. I had been hoping that he would. I generally vote for Democrats, and the others just don't fit my values as well as he does.

The Republican options are just out of the question. After assessing the damage extremist conservatives have done, I am convinced that in 2008 only a Democrat can clean up the mess and start making some progress.

The first reason I support Edwards is that I identify with him. He went to public schools and universities. I support public schools, and I think that communities have an obligation to pool their resources to maintain them.

Edwards comes from a working class, blue collar background, which is the same stock that I come from. His father was a mill worker in the Carolinas, and he was the first in his family to graduate from college, and so was I.

This sets an example for people who are trying to better themselves. This is what Americans need in times when jobs are uncertain, outsourcing is unchecked and when education costs are so high. America needs a guy like Edwards to help alleviate these issues.

I appreciate what DaSilva is saying though I would point out that some of our best presidents weren't much like the rest of us. Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy come to mind and they were superb presidents. But, by and large, DaSilva is right that John Edwards seems to get it, and, unlike some Republicans, he remembers where he came from.

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McCain Losing Support Among Independents

The illusion that John McCain is still an independent maverick is evaporating as he continues to court the far right. The 2008 election is more than 21 months away and much can change in that period. But America's biggest problems are not going away and there's no sign that John McCain or more than a handful of other Republican politicians truly understand what's going on. In fact, since John McCain is calling for more troops in Iraq than Bush, there's a growing sense that he's taking a cynical position since no such troops exist for Iraq and about the only way he can get them is to call for a draft, something McCain is highly unlikely to do.

Here's a story from Brett Arends of the Boston Herald about McCain's falling numbers (via The Huffington Post):
As Mitt, Hillary, Barack and a dozen others jump into the presidential stampede, something interesting is happening in New Hampshire.
For seven years, conventional wisdom has said that the state’s pivotal independent voters would line up behind maverick Sen. John McCain, as they did so famously in the 2000 GOP primary. But new polling data, to be released later this week, will suggest that might no longer be the case.
Manchester, N.H.-based American Research Group finds that McCain’s popularity among New Hampshire’s independent voters has collapsed.

“John McCain is tanking,” says ARG president Dick Bennett. “That’s the big thing [we’re finding]. In New Hampshire a year ago he got 49 percent among independent voters. That number’s way down, to 29 percent now.”


Bennett says ARG is finding a similar trend in other states polled, including early primary battlegrounds like Iowa and Nevada. ...

I wonder how long it will take the mainstream media to notice that John McCain isn't the maverick that we once thought he was and that a growing number of Americans have become disillusioned with him.

Most Americans still consider bipartisanship to be an important goal to have in Washington but bipartisanship requires that there be two parties that care about the American people. The Republican Party has so radicalized itself that it has no interest in working with other Americans. It was perhaps thought at one time that John McCain could be the one who could restore balance to the Republican Party and lead the way to a more bipartisan atmosphere in American politics. But those days are gone. If there's to be a new Republican Party, it's people like Chuck Hagel and Olympia Snowe who may provide the beginnings of reform.

Think Progress offers another example of McCain's fall from grace as he pursues his presidential ambitions and backs away from lobbying reform:
In Dec. 2005, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) announced that he was introducing The Lobbying Transparency and Accountability Act of 2005. ...


McCain has engaged in a pattern of flip-flopping on lobbying reform. Prior to his most recent reversal, ThinkProgress reported McCain has been soliciting contributions from K Street lobbying firms while talking tough against lobbyists, and he has been trying to scuttle the lobbying reform effort by adding a “poison pill” to the bill.

John McCain was for good government before he was against good government. I strongly suspect that McCain, if he continues on his present course, will not be the nominee in 2008 for the Republicans.

The real question for the Republican Party is whether it can reform itself in time for 2008 or whether its eventual rebuilding will start in elections after that. A big problem for Republicans is that they are still dominated by members on the far right in safe districts who are still relatively young and have no intention of leaving politics any time soon. In the end, it's the American people who will have to reform the Republicans. But it may take time.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Hillary Clinton on Iraq and Afghanistan

Hillary Clinton gave a press conference after her trip to Iraq and Afghanistan. Margaret Talev of McClatchy Newspapers has the story in the Kansas City Star:
Just back from Iraq and facing doubters in her own party, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., on Wednesday opposed President Bush's plan to send more troops and offered an alternative that stops short of an immediate withdrawal or cutting funds.

Instead, Clinton called for capping U.S. troop deployments in Iraq at Jan. 1 levels, beginning soon to move them out of Baghdad and eventually redeploying forces to Afghanistan. She also stressed that Iraq's government must meet benchmarks for political progress before it gets more U.S. aid.

Despite Clinton's stiffened posture on Iraq, the war remains a political burden for her as she weighs a 2008 run for the presidency. The Democratic Party base is staunchly anti-war and displeased that she has never rejected her October 2002 vote to authorize the war. While she's voicing greater opposition to Bush's war leadership, she's not as fervently anti-war as some of her rivals for the 2008 Democratic nomination.


Much like the recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group last month, Clinton's plan would pressure Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government to meet benchmarks for political progress before it can receive additional U.S. funds. The Iraqi government should decide how to allocate oil revenues among all factions, disarm sectarian militias and let former Baath Party members resume civilian work as teachers, nurses and the like, she said.

I saw the press conference and appreciated what Senator Clinton was saying but I was puzzled by the woodenness of her prepared text. When she finished the text, she returned to the more natural style she is known for though she made a minor gaffe by calling Senator Bayh: Secretary Bayh. Clinton has a natural style that seems to be disappearing as she prepares to make a decision about running for president. In my opinion, she needs to get back to who she is. We need her to be a strong candidate.

For the past year, Hillary Clinton's position on the war has been moving away from lukewarm support of Bush's position (with caveats) towards a nuanced opposition to a failing war (except, of course, that disengagement has to be done carefully so that we don't unleash a regional war). There seems to be two possible stories on Hillary. One story is that she's a tough, principled Democrat whose positions are somewhere in the middle and who has increasingly become disillusioned with the extraordinary incompetence of the Bush administration. The first story gives her a winning chance (there is room in the party for a somewhat liberal, moderate-liberal or moderate candidate to win). But the other story is that she is too cautious, careful and calculating as she threads her way towards a position that can give her a win in a presidential race. The second story makes people uneasy.

The story Hillary needs is the one where she simply makes her case; she is a ways from that storyline and it would be a loss for the Democrats if she can't find it. Her trip to Asia and what she says about what needs to be done in Iraq and Afghanistan were steps in the right direction; so it's not just that she has to make her case, she has to make it real.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Barack Obama Creates Exploratory Committee

It's like baseball. Tony Gwynn just got into the Hall of Fame so let's use him as an example: Tony Gwynn is expected to play today. Tony Gwynn is in the lineup. Tony Gwynn is getting his bat out of the rack. Tony Gwynnn is on the steps of the dugout. Tony Gwynn is in the batter's circle. Tony Gwynn is at the plate and now officially in the game. Creating an exploratory committee is pretty much being on the steps of the dugout and that's where Barack Obama is at the moment.

Here's Bill Lambrecht of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in the Kansas City Star on Senator Obama's announcement:
Illinois Sen. Barack Obama's newly formed presidential exploratory committee will work to build anticipation for what is likely to be full-blown candidacy for the Democratic nomination while gathering financial commitments for next year's fast-breaking primary season.

With primaries and caucuses bunched earlier than ever next year, a presidential aspirant might need as much as $40 million to $50 million to compete just through next January, predicted Steve Elmendorf, a senior adviser to two Democratic presidential hopefuls in 2004.


Obama's inexperience is viewed as a possible obstacle in the race, particularly if national security emerges as a principal issue in 2008.

By the same token, Obama would hope to deploy his freshness and lack of involvement in questionable Washington decision-making as an asset.

"Challenging as they are, it's not the magnitude of our problems that concerns me the most. It's the smallness of our politics," Obama said in his statement Tuesday.

"America's faced big problems before. But today, our leaders in Washington seem incapable of working together in a practical, common-sense way. Politics has become so bitter and partisan, so gummed up by money and influence, that we can't tackle the big problems that demand solutions," he added.

If we stay with the baseball analogy, Barack Obama has proven he can get hits in the big leagues, but he needs to convince people that he can hit a home run and win the game, meaning the White House.

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Liberal Bookend: Dennis Kucinich

Dennis Kucinich leaves no doubt that he will be the most liberal, if not leftist, of the Democratic candidates running for president. Here's a recent article/speech by Kucinich in Political Affairs Magazine:
We are losing our nation to a philosophy of war and destruction. It is time for policies of peace and construction. It is time for the philosophy of peace, nonviolence and economic justice. This was the philosophy of Dr. King, Gandhi, Jesus, Fredrick Douglas, A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, Fannie Lou Hamer, Sojourner Truth, Cesar Chavez, and Jesse Jackson.

We are all united with the philosophy which birthed the New Deal, the New Frontier, the Great Society, the dreams of social and economic justice which could be called forth by those who were ready to stand up, to speak out, to march, to demand, to testify about the good news:

The world is interconnected. The world is interdependent. We are not just our brother and sisters keeper, on a deeper spiritual level we are our brothers and sisters. This is the meaning of the Golden Rule, Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This is the meaning of Love Thy neighbor as thy self. This is why policies of unilateralism, first strike, and preemption are dead ends. This is why nuclear proliferation is a threat to every person on the planet. This is why the very idea that war should be an instrument of policy needs to be challenge. War is not inevitable. Peace is inevitable if we are prepared to work for it.

Kucinich is a good man but there tends to be too much in the way of rhetorical flourishes in his statements and he tend to pile cliches on top of cliches. The first time around in 2004 he got away with his odd style because he was different. But now we know him and he needs to find ways to take his style in a less abstract direction.

In this era, one can argue that successful politicians are able to tell a story of some sort. Since Republicans have been giving us fictional stories for some time, the challenge for Democrats is to give us something that is real. A good example that doesn't even require many words is watching former President Carter working on Habitats for Humanity. But even Senator Biden using hearings to carefully illuminate numerous issues having to do with Iraq is a kind of story. Kucinich needs to develop two or three themes and weave them carefully into his speeches and writings.

I didn't see it and have no idea what it was like but Kucinich seems to reach more people with his singing according to Stephen Koff of The Plain Dealer:
Say what you will about Dennis Kucinich, that he's a peacenik or a realist or a dreamer or a man America needs right now.

But when he sings - really sings, deepening his voice and slowing the tempo to a working-in-the-fields, sharecropper cadence - the man can connect. Even in New York, on Seventh Avenue near Broadway, where some of the best singers and politicians show up as a matter of course, Kucinich's singing can steal the show. If he can make it there - well, you know the rest.

"You load 16 tons and what do you get, another day older and deeper in debt," Kucinich, who is white, sang in a slow, sorrowful voice Monday to a mostly black audience of about 500 people, getting their attention and mild approval near the end of a long, somewhat rambling speech at the start of his second try at becoming president.

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Hillary Clinton in Afghanistan and Pakistan

There's not exactly a whole lot to report but here's a story on Hillary Clinton's visit to Asia courtesy of AP writer Jason Straziuso in The Guardian:
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton ate breakfast with soldiers from New York and Indiana at the main U.S. base in Afghanistan on Sunday before meeting with the top American general in Afghanistan and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, officials said.

Clinton, a Democrat from New York who is considering running for president, later went to Lahore, Pakistan, where she met briefly with Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf late Sunday, according to a foreign ministry statement.

At the meeting, Musharraf said a ``peaceful and stable Afghanistan was in Pakistan's vital interest,'' the statement read. Musharraf also ``affirmed Pakistan's firm resolve to fight extremism and terrorism.''

I'm a little uneasy with Pakistan's policy towards the Taliban which seems to be one of occassional pressure on the Taliban mixed with long periods of benign neglect followed by gestures and promises of doing something and, well, otherwise—not much happens. Since they're not on the same page, it keeps the Americans and the home crowds pacified I suppose. Pakistan claims that it's not harboring al Qaida, and that' s only true in the sense that they'll capture members of al Qaida if they happen to fall into their laps or start creating trouble in Pakistan but otherwise Pakistan doesn't seem to have an active program in the Northwest Territories of tracking down al Qaida where many believe they are probably located.

Given who Hillary Clinton is, I'm surprised by the lack of coverage. I hope when she comes back that she gives us some details on what she learned.

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Gerald Ford on Why Communism Collapsed

S.W. Anderson of Oh!pinion has a great quote from Gerald Ford on why communism collapsed. (And no, it wasn't the huff and puff of the neocons.)

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The Book Cat

There are days lately when my wife is at work and I'm working on the computer and it hits me that really all I want to do is curl up in a corner somewhere with a row of books between me and the rest of the world. There's been no time lately for such a sensible activity but Kevin Drum of The Washington Monthly has a cat doing just that. Go take a look.


John Edwards Leads in North Carolina

With all the buzz surrounding Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the media conveniently forgets that John Edwards is also in the top tier and doing just fine. Marie Horrigan of The New York Times has the numbers:
In national polls on the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards — a 2004 White House contender who ended up as the party’s vice presidential nominee — finds himself looking up at a potent pair of potential candidates: Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois.

But Edwards, who on Dec. 28 announced his bid for the party’s presidential nod, at least appears to be holding his own in his home state.

A survey released Wednesday by the Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling found that Edwards was favored by 29 percent of the respondents described as likely voters in the 2008 North Carolina Democratic presidential primary. Clinton and Obama trailed with 16 percent and 15 percent of the vote, respectively.

To be honest, 29 percent is not an overwhelming lead but it's 13-14 points ahead of the other two.

Here's another story on Edwards by Jamie Schuman of the Herald Sun; it's about his presence on the web though if you look back through the archives you can find a similar story (about his blog rather than Myspace) on Cold Flute that I did over six months ago:
On MySpace, the Chapel Hill resident tells the cyber-world that he's a Gemini with a graduate degree and a job. The 53-year-old is married and a "proud parent," but, rest assured, he is interested in networking and making friends.

The local Gemini is John Edwards, and as he begins his presidential campaign from this small town, he is making big use of the new media to reach perspective voters and donors.

On the John Edwards campaign Web site, you can link to the candidate's homepages on MySpace and Facebook, once the realm of college kids looking to scope out a band or a classmate, but increasingly becoming political forums.


Of potential candidates, Edwards is leading the way in technology use, said David Paletz, Duke political science professor and expert on American politics and the media. The local politician's message, Paletz said, is, "I'm doing it first. I'm doing it best. I'm doing it in the most extensive way."


The Web is a complement to other campaigning tools, said Gross, who added that, as early users of AOL and Prodigy, Edwards and his wife have long been interested in technology.

Generally speaking, candidates who can handle new technology do well though winning the presidency is tough no matter how savvy and technologically adept one is. Nevertheless, radio made a difference for Franklin Roosevelt and TV made a difference for John Kennedy. Although it didn't work for John Dean, it's possible that the web will work for John Edwards.

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Barack Obama Has Friends in Illinois

Barack Obama hasn't announced whether he's running for president or not, but his book is still on the bestseller list and the buzz continues. It also looks like Senator Obama has powerful friends in Illinois who would like to give his potential bid for president a helping hand; here's the story from Christopher Wills of the AP in The Guardian:
The powerful speaker of the Illinois House said Wednesday he wants to help Sen. Barack Obama's possible presidential bid by moving up the state's primary, figuring it will give the Democrat an early win.

Democratic Speaker Michael Madigan proposed moving the March 18 Illinois primary to Feb. 5. A long list of states have primaries scheduled that day, but only four states - Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina - would be earlier than Illinois.

``These states are not representative of mainstream America. They're clearly not as representative of America as Illinois would be,'' Madigan said. ``But if Barack is a candidate, recent history tells us the selection process may be finished before it reaches the Illinois primary.''

Barack Obama has been busy now that the Democrats have some clout and now that the first two years of his freshman term are over. The senator is also finding friends in new places as reported by ABC News:
Potential presidential rivals John McCain and Barack Obama are joining with newly independent Sen. Joe Lieberman on a plan they say would reduce annual global-warming gases by two-thirds by mid-century.

Their bill, being announced Friday, is intended to cut the heat-trapping emissions by 2 percent a year. It is sure to produce a contentious debate on climate control in the new Democratic-run Congress and draw strong opposition from the White House and industry.

Now if Senator Obama can talk Lieberman and McCain out of supporting Bushism and World War Three, he'll be the next president for sure. Kidding aside, it still takes skill to work with others and to build a consensus and Barack Obama has that skill. That's something George W. Bush never learned.

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Hillary Says No to Troop Surge in Iraq, Yes to Troop Surge in Afghanistan

Senator Hillary Clinton is on her way to Iraq and Afghanistan. Here's one story from the International Herald Tribune:
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is headed to Iraq this weekend with two other lawmakers as the rest of Congress engages in a fierce debate over President George W. Bush's plan to send 21,500 additional troops to salvage the U.S. effort there.

Clinton, Democrat of New York, who is considering running for president, is traveling with Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, a Democrat who had also considered the 2008 race but opted out, and Representative John McHugh, Republican of New York.

The three, who are all members of armed services committees, are to meet with top Iraqi officials and U.S. military commanders, and also travel to Afghanistan.

Here's more details from Glenn Thrush of Newsday:
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is heading to Iraq and Afghanistan this weekend - and calling for a troop "surge" in Afghanistan even though she opposes a similar measure in Iraq.

Clinton's trip isn't surprising politically. As the top Democratic contender in 2008 who voted for the war - and hasn't recanted - Clinton needed to emphasize her foreign policy strengths: gravitas, affection for the troops and on-the-ground experience in a war zone.

On Wednesday, as President George W. Bush delivered his address on his plan for a 21,500-troop increases in Iraq, Clinton was about the only serious contender in either party to turn down an invitation to dissect the speech on TV.

Although many people perceive Hillary Clinton to be a liberal, most Democrats actually consider her politics over the last six years to be moderate and even sometimes moderate/conservative. Now political labels in 2008 are going to mean less than they have in the past simply because people are more concerned about leadership these days. But even Republican 2008 contenders are engaging the press more than Hillary. Senator Clinton's carefully timed statements with long bouts of silence on some issues are actually somewhat puzzling. Being a leader isn't simply about establishing foreign policy credentials and having long lunches with powerful people, it also means engaging and shaping the issues of the time.

But I welcome Senator Clinton's position on Afghanistan, the neglected war that should have been completed a long time ago. Perhaps when she gets back she'll discuss that some of the troop surge for Iraq depends on taking troops from Afghanistan which is really in no position to lose those troops.

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Friday, January 12, 2007

Comet: It's a Beaut!

The Washington Post has a nice shot of Comet McNaught. Sure wish I had a view.

I was on a long camping trip once and hadn't read a newspaper for a week and saw a odd bright fuzz in the sky. The next night, when I noticed that it had moved into a different constellation, I realized it was a comet. Amazing objects.


Americans Oppose Bush's Iraq Policy

Bush's speech is a dud. And it becomes increasingly clear that Bush is 'exaggerating' the support that he has for his policy from the military and the Iraqi leadership. Cheney and Bush have become so isolated from the real world that they present the most serious leadership crisis we have had since Richard M. Nixon.
Two out of three Americans oppose Bush's plan; here's the story from CNN:
Two out of three Americans oppose President Bush's plan to send more troops to Iraq, a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll released Friday indicates.

Nearly two-thirds of those polled also say Bush has no clear plan for Iraq.


The president argued that the increase in troop strength would the best chance to succeed in a war the U.S. cannot afford to lose.

Our president has been wrong about so many things so many times that it takes an enormous amount of arrogance for him to say at this late date that he knows what he's doing. It's important to note that the Iraqis don't want a troop surge from us. In fact, an overwhelming majority of Iraqis want us to leave. It's not much of an exaggeration to say that Bush and Cheney are drunk on their own power. It can be argued that someone needs to take the car keys from Bush and Cheney until they sober up and can answer questions honestly and rationally. The sad truth about the speech that Bush gave on Wednesday night is that once again he has not been truthful with the American people.

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

It's Official: Senator Dodd Running for President

Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut is running for president. Here's the story by David Lightman of the Hartford Courant:
He launched his bid for the White House this morning on the Don Imus radio show, and then told the Courant he would file the papers today to become a candidate for the White House in 2008. ...


Dodd also talked about his two young daughters, and how he has a responsibility to shape a better world, and said his experience and temperament make him uniquely qualified to lead the country.

"You have to have the capacity to lead and bring people together," he said, "and I have a lot of experience at that."


"People look at President Bush and think part of his problem is that he was unprepared to be president," Fischer said. "That is a real opening for someone like Chris Dodd, because not even his fiercest opponents would be able to say he would not be ready on day one."

Dodd is one of the most respected and experienced senators in Washington but he's not that well known outside of Washington. He has a major job ahead of him getting his numbers into contender range.

Senator may also have to deal with some irrelevant issues; here's an AP story by Andrew Miga in The Boston Globe:
Sen. Christopher Dodd's image as a Northeast liberal could pose a hurdle in his longshot bid for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.

The Connecticut senator will be running in the turbulent wake of another prominent New England liberal, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.

Kerry's losing 2004 campaign embittered some Democrats who contend he squandered a prime chance for his party to capture the White House. Those bad feelings have lingered as the 2008 contest begins to unfold.

"The party just nominated a New England liberal whose campaign was a failure," said Dante Scala, an associate professor of politics at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire who wrote "Stormy Weather," a book about the state's primary. "That's going to be one strike against" Dodd.

First, I don't think of Dodd as a Northeast liberal. I'm also tired of the usual political consultants and journalists trying to shape the dialogue. Christopher Dodd will have to make his case. If he has ideas, we need to hear him out.

Americans are going to have to look long and hard at what has happened to this country in the last six years. The Republican Party has lost its way and if somebody has an idea of where we should go next, we as a nation need to listen.

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John Edwards Opposes Troop Surge

John Edwards opposes the extension and escalation of Bush's failing war in Iraq. Here's the story from Joe C. on Edwards own blog:
Senator John Edwards released the following statement today about President Bush's expected announcement Wednesday that he will seek to escalate the number of troops in Iraq. In this statement, the senator calls on Congress to block funds for war escalation.

"George Bush's expected decision to adopt the McCain Doctrine and escalate the war in Iraq is a grave mistake.

"The new Congress must intercede to stop Bush from stubbornly sticking to the same failed course in Iraq and refuse to authorize funding for an escalation of troops. ...

I heard Edwards on Larry King last night and he reaffirmed his opposition to Bush's escalation. Edwards raised the issue that Bush needs to reestablish trust with the American people and his performance failed to do that last night. Edwards has emphasized the need for a political solution.

Last night, Senator Durbin (D-IL) said if there's any kind of surge we need, it's a diplomatic surge. I suspect Edwards would agree with that.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Tom Vilsack Opposes Troop 'Surge'

Gov. Tom Vilsack opposes President Bush's escalation of the Bush/Cheney war in Iraq. Here's the story from Thomas Beaumonth of the Des Moines Register:
Departing Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack used his final condition of the state speech today to condemn the Bush administration's plan to send as many as 20,000 additional troops to Iraq.


"Understand that escalation will come at the expense of families and communities here in iowa and across the nation."

Vilsack also urged the [Iowa] Legislature, with new Democrat majorities in both houses, to pass resolutions condemning Bush's plan.

Step by step, President Bush's fiasco in Iraq is becoming a bipartisan concern. Bush's refusal to heed the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group is not a good sign. His escalation, 'troop surge,' more of the same, business as usual, call it what you will, simply continues the fiasco that began four years ago in the White House with a decision to launch a war the United States did not need. There are indications, in fact, that Bush's blunders may continue all the way to the first days of the next president. It's good to see Gov. Vilsack taking a stand. He needs to do more to make himself a viable candidate but he's moving in the right direction.

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Edwards Knows Who He Is

For 2008, I want a presidential candidate who isn't in awe of consultants. Political consultants are often hired based on their past success. But conditions change. A consultant has to know what's happening, how things are changing and what will work for the next election, not the last. Often, the candidate has to be the final arbiter of what works. John Edwards seems to qualify; here's a story by Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post:
John Edwards is ridiculing his political consultants.

"You know, they gave me a really great memo," he says, waving the document, which advises him to highlight the importance of public education when addressing teachers. "I pay a lot of money for people who have the expertise to tell me this."

An unscripted moment caught on a cellphone camera? Not exactly. The video of the presidential candidate chatting on his plane is on Edwards's own Web site. The former senator seems unusually frank about the absurdities of political life -- or is this just carefully choreographed candor, packaged for the YouTube age?


Veteran journalist and blogger Jeff Jarvis says that "candidates will try to look more transparent, whether they are or not. Obviously you're not going to put something out there that's not flattering. If the casual moments come from the campaign, I can recognize them for what they are."

Mathew Gross, Edwards's Internet strategist, says the campaign is "trying to reach an audience that is increasingly segmented into different channels . . . You peel away the artifice of the campaign to show what's really happening."

I've talked about the overly cautious, consultant-driven campaign style that often can get candidates into trouble, particularly Democrats (Hillary Clinton seems to be going that way; on the other hand, if ever a candidate was consultant-driven, it was George W. Bush but he played his role effectively enough to wriggle into the White House; McCain is increasingly relying on his consultants and I predict that will only highlight McCain's inconsistencies). Of course, Edwards was poking fun at the kind of over-priced consultant often parodied in the cartoon strip Dilbert. But it still makes Edwards look like he's in charge. And it pays to keep consultants on their toes (the same applies to presidential advisers).

It also helps if a candidate has a sense of humor. The Democratic candidates with the best sense of humor so far are John Edwards, Barack Obama and Joe Biden. Barack Obama, of course, also wins the cool factor. All three have good leadership qualities in different ways but a sense of humor is a way of showing that a candidate doesn't take himself (or herself) too seriously (though Biden may be the least successful of the three at doing that). After six years of Bush's odd megalomania, a true down-to-earth quality will be welcome.

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Joe Biden Wading Deeper into Presidential Waters

Senator Joe Biden is forming a committee for his presidential bid. Aaron Nathans of Delaware's The News Journal has a lengthy article on Biden's bid for the White House:
With his party in the majority and hearings in the works that could help make him a household name, Sen. Joe Biden reiterated to a national television audience Sunday that he will run for president.

"I'll be Joe Biden and try to be the best Biden I can be," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press"... ...


Biden has already said in interviews that he intends to run for president. Sunday, however, was the first time he announced he was filing papers to form an exploratory committee, which would set the campaign in motion.


In Delaware, officials rallied to offer encouragement to Biden on Sunday.

"I think it's good news for our party, good news for our country," said state Treasurer Jack Markell. "He's clearly the most respected person in public life when it comes to foreign policy issues, which are more important than they've been in many years to our country."

Markell added: "He is extremely articulate; he is smart; he's tough, and he's able to connect with a very broad range of Americans, whether he is in a firehouse in Kentucky or a boardroom in Manhattan. He connects with people. And I don't think you can underestimate the importance of that."

I happen to think that, along with other Democrats who are running, that Biden would be a vast improvement over the current occupent of the White House. But I'm not sure that Biden understands some of the domestic issues of the day and I'm not sure how well he understands the growing problems of average Americans. But he is a force to be reckoned with even if his numbers are small.

One more thing. Although other Democrats voted for the Iraq measure in 2002, I wonder if Joe Biden had the same intelligence that Bob Graham had that led Graham to vote against the measure? Given his experience, what did Biden think of Bush's case for war? I'm not going to hold Biden's vote against him but he does have some questions that will have to be answered before very long.

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Monday, January 08, 2007

Wesley Clark Favors Diplomacy Over Troop Surge

Former General Wesley Clark has in article in The Washington Post (hat tip to Mahablog):
The odds are that this week President Bush will announce a "surge" of up to 20,000 additional U.S. troops into Iraq. Will this deliver a "win"? Probably not. But it will distract us from facing the deep-seated regional issues that must be resolved.

The administration views a troop surge of modest size as virtually the only remaining action in Iraq that would be a visible signal of determination. ...


... We've never had enough troops in Iraq. In Kosovo, we had 40,000 troops for a population of 2 million. That ratio would call for at least 500,000 troops in Iraq; adding 20,000 now seems too little, too late.


The truth is that the underlying problems are political, not military.

Vicious ethnic cleansing is underway, as various factions fight for power and survival. In this environment, security is unlikely to come from smothering the struggle with a blanket of forces -- and increasing U.S. efforts is likely to generate additional resistance, especially from Iraq's neighbors. More effective action is needed to resolve the struggle at the political level. A new U.S. ambassador might help, but the administration needs to recognize that the neoconservative vision has failed.

Well before the 2003 invasion, the Bush administration was sending signals that its intentions weren't limited to Iraq; "regime change" in Syria and Iran was often discussed in Washington. Small wonder then that both countries have worked continuously to feed the fighting in Iraq.

Dealing with meddling neighbors is an essential element of resolving the conflict in Iraq. But this requires more than border posts and threatening statements. The administration needs a new strategy for the region...

Ever since Wesley Clark started appearing on TV as a military analyst early in the war, he's been making a lot of sense. He and Joe Biden are the two Democrats with foreign policy expertise and it would be great if Wesley Clark joined the other Democrats in the 2008 race. Having Clark and Biden talk about foreign policy would sharpen the other candidates but, at the same time, they would show how little John McCain seems to understand these days, or at the very least, how disingenuous McCain has become. They would further show that the Republicans, as they currently are, have little to offer and have much rebuilding to do.

If Wesley Clark is going to run, let's hope he does it soon.

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Internet Games and the 2008 Presidential Race

Okay, here's the official site for John Edwards ( It's the only site that matters in this story. Note that if you have a link to One America Committee that John Edwards has been using for two years, it automatically takes you to the official John Edwards site and all the good stuff Edwards and his people have been building are all there; we're just talking about a name change.

The Huffington Post notes that if you try you get redirected to Hillary Clinton's website. I have no idea if this is a cute game being played by Hillary's people or whether some Republican out there is trying to play games with the Democrats. We'll soon know (I typed it separately on my url window and got

I noticed that there's yet another site with a slightly different url that takes you to an advertising site, including some John Edwards links. These kind of sites are all over the internet; they depend on people being confused about a person or about a former website whose url they took over when the website was discontinued. To many people, it comes across as a scam.

Once again, here's John Edwards official site (

For the next two years, be patient. Many people think it's cute to play games these days.

Note: Don't be surprised if the false John Edwards sites get fixed by the time you read this. But I plan to keep the story up. It pays to be aware of where the url takes you.

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Sunday, January 07, 2007

John Kerry: In or Not?

It's not clear if John Kerry will be running for president this time around. But if he does, he has people he can still count on. Here's the story from Glenn Johnson of the Boston Globe:
Sen. Barack Obama visited Massachusetts three times last year to campaign for Deval Patrick. The husband of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, former President Bill Clinton, appointed Patrick to the top Justice Department civil rights post during the 1990s.

But the state's new governor says he would have to support Sen. John Kerry over Obama or Mrs. Clinton should the Massachusetts Democrat make a second run for the presidency.

"They are very, very strong people," Patrick said of his three fellow Democrats during an appearance aired Sunday on WHDH-TV's "Urban Update." "I will tell you that if my home senator runs, I've got to be with him. I love the other candidates, but we will see. I don't know that he has made a decision yet."


Kerry has pledged to announce a decision about a second campaign in the near future, perhaps this month. He is up for re-election in 2008, and some local Democrats are urging him to decide whether he wants to seek re-election or wage a second presidential campaign.

So far, Kerry's numbers are not good for a rerun. That may spell trouble for his presidential aspirations. Another issue, mentioned in the story above, is that it may be tough to run for the Senate and run a presidential campaign at the same time (Joe Lieberman and Lloyd Benton did both as vice presidential candidates; they both retained their senate seats but lost the big race).

And two years later there's still fallout from the 2004 election as we read in the Miami Herald by Nedra Pickler of AP:

Former Democratic Party chairman and Clinton friend Terry McAuliffe is lambasting John Kerry's unsuccessful presidential campaign, calling his effort to unseat President Bush ``one of the biggest acts of political malpractice in the history of American politics.''


Kerry spokesman David Wade said that although many people wish the 2004 election had turned out differently, Kerry is proud of the hard work of his campaign staff and McAuliffe's efforts as party chairman. ''It's time to look forward, not backwards,'' Wade said.

McAuliffe said Kerry's camp was so afraid of offending swing voters that it didn't defend his record or criticize Bush. He said Kerry's aides muzzled him from assailing Bush's military record.

He said the campaign also ordered speeches at the Democratic National Convention to be scrubbed of any mention of Bush's name or his record -- although McAuliffe privately encouraged firebrand Al Sharpton to go ahead with his attacks on the president in his crowd-pleasing speech.

''I thought the decision of the Kerry campaign to back off any real criticism of Bush was one of the biggest acts of political malpractice in the history of American politics,'' he said.

One can take McAuliffe words with a grain of salt and it's important to remember his closeness to the Clintons, which could be a factor, but most people agree that Kerry made several mistakes after leading Bush in the polls in the spring of 2004. First, after winning most of the primaries, Kerry started coasting and was slow to regain momentum. Second, like other Democrats, he sometimes listened too much to the caution of his consultants. Third, he should have responded hard to the Swiftboaters. Still, it's important to remember that Kerry won 9 million more votes than Al Gore did just four years earlier. Somehow Bush came up with an extra 12 million votes and that was the difference. In the end, one has to blame the voters for not recognizing quickly enough the incompetent currently occupying the White House. I still believe Kerry would have made an excellent president but his time may have passed.

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Saturday, January 06, 2007

Edwards May Be the Toughest to Beat

Sometimes the way to measure the strength of a candidate is to figure out who worries the opposition the most in a straight up contest. Investor's Daily Business has an article that says pollster, John Zogby, believes Edwards would be the toughest Democrat to beat:
While Clinton and Obama have been cast as the Goliaths of the Democratic field, "when you look at the numbers, they're not the strongest in the general election," said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion.


"After six weeks of Hillary-Obama, Hillary-Obama, what you have is just further confirmation that Edwards is a major player in all this," said independent pollster John Zogby.

Recent polls of Democratic voters in Iowa and New Hampshire also have shown significant support for Edwards. He's spent a lot of time in those early primary states.

So far, Senator Clinton and Senator Obama have been getting the noise, particularly in some polls but sometimes the buzz is deceptive (remember Howard Dean's early poll numbers?). Hillary Clinton may be the tried and true, and Barack Obama may be riding a wave of popularity after his latest book tour, but Edwards has been working steadily in the background almost under the radar.

Now here's some evidence that it's Edwards that Republicans worry about; here's Larry Kudlow, a champion spinner from the very conservative National Review:

So, John Edwards has thrown his hat into the presidential ring. Unfortunately, he has a losing message, and his ultra-liberal approach will elicit only a small niche of support among the ultra lefties in the Democratic party.

Democrats know (or, at least, I think they know) that their success in the 2006 midterm elections was largely a function of their best efforts to imitate Republicans. The conservative Blue Dog Democrats were the tail that successfully wagged the entire Democratic dog.


For starters, he wants to cut and run from Iraq. Such an ill-conceived policy would leave this budding nation in shambles, with terrorists following us back to the United States. It would extinguish the candle of Iraq’s democracy experiment — an experiment that could still pay enormous dividends if the U.S. follows through with a bold new troop-surge strategy and a refurbished plan of economic reconstruction. These actions — not cutting and running — are what will stabilize Baghdad and Iraq’s democratically elected government.

Kudlow is a classic example of everything that is wrong about the people dominating the Republican Party these days. I won't take the time to correct his errors and assumptions and wouldn't normally even quote him. In fact, given how often Kudlow and his friends have been wrong lately, maybe I shouldn't be quoting him at all. But these guys know how to play politics and that alone is reason to note his nervousness about Edwards.

For the record, I live in Northern California and I know what 'ultra-liberals' talk like and they're few in numbers compared to liberals, moderate-liberals and moderates. Actually, I strongly believe ultraconservatives are also few in numbers but they have managed to get the financial backing of some very conservative people and, until 2006, they did a very effective job of fooling most Americans. I regard Edwards as moderate on some issues and liberal on other issues with loads of common sense that will serve him well if he is elected. Of course, Kudlow fails to acknowledge that Edwards would never have gotten elected in North Carolina if he really were an 'ultra-liberal.'

No doubt, the Republicans who dominate their party in Washington these days will be spewing all kinds of nonsense about all the Democratic candidates and they will continue the pretense that Bush and his friends knew what they were doing all along. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have already received their share of right wing noise. Fortunately, like John Edwards, they're strong people. One thing is for certain: the Democratic presidential nomination is wide open and we have a number of quality candidates who are capable of reminding Americans what a real president can do.

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