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10 years 32 weeks ago

January 2, 2008


Well, here we are.  With less than 24 hours to go till the voting starts, America's Next Sacrificial Lamb (brought to you by Fox News and Metamucil) is as difficult to handicap as ever.  How does one begin to rank mediocrity?  How can flawed mortals discern the fine gradation between such closely related species of loser?  These are epistemological questions to which I have no real answer.  I'm just a political junkie, not a politheologican.

That said, I have a solemn duty to summon the calves -- cruelly and canniballistally fattened on lobbyist-comped Cap Grille porterhouses for the upcoming ritual November slaughter -- for a final pre-Iowa Cattle Call.  I like to think that I've been pretty accurate in my assessments of the race throughout these last 13 months.  Like many of you, I saw Huck's potential early on -- unlike most folks, I never wrote McCain off, as I still subscribe to the theory that Republicans like to give the nod to the guy who's next in line.  On the other hand, I'll admit that I didn't really think that Mitt was for real until mid-summer.  I figured that the Mormonism and utter lack of any principles, scruples, or decency would kill him.  Shame on me for forgetting Gramm's Law: ready money is the most reliable friend that you can have in politics.  All you folks who like to point at Huck's rise as proof that money isn't everything need to look at the flip side -- Romney would be as dead as the magnificent Tommy Thompson if he wasn't awash in a personal fortune and GOP Establishment boodle.  

And it's that Establishment which has really kept Romney in this thing, especially in the last month or so, as Mike Huckabee and a genuine, unscripted Chrstian Conservative revival has threatened the icy grip that the money wing of the party has on the Republican apparatus.  It's been remarkable to see nearly every "respectable" Republican pundit and institution -- from the National Review, to the Standard, to Rushbo, to countless columnists like Will and Novak -- jump on the stop-Huck bandwagon.  Romney isn't any more beloved by these Establishment pillars than Fred Thompson or Rudy -- but those guys are six feet under.  Mitt is just the most likely to beat Huck.  And if Romney falls to Huck in Iowa, and McCain subsequently vaults over him to win NH, then the powers that be will almost surely abandon him as quickly as they abandoned America's Playa.  McCain will pick up the banner of the anti-Romney, and likely will soldier on to an ugly victory over Huckabee and his rabble -- one that leaves the party broken, dispirited, and primed for a landslide loss in the fall.  Of course, if Mitt wins tomorrow, he's likely to run the table.

And so, with that, I give you my final pre-voting Cattle Call -- and consequently, I suppose, my prediction for who's going to win the nomination.

I'm finishing as I started.

1) McCain.  

2) Romney.

3) Huckabee.

After seeing the all-out nuclear assault by the institutional Republican Party on Huckabee over the past couple weeks, I just think he's going to have a brutal time winning deep enough into February to wrap up the nomination.  Deanies who complained about Dem establishment aversion to the good doctor in 2004 have nothing on the resentment that must be felt by Huck's supporters.  Where Dean was mildly disdained and pooh-poohed by the most Beltway of Dems -- the Carvilles and Richard Cohens -- Huckabee is getting viciously ambushed from all sides by just about anyone with any stroke in the Republican Party.  It's remarkable, and bit nauseating, for an outsider to watch how instinctive and visceral the reaction is to the threat that Huck poses to entrenched GOP power.  And if Mitt wins Iowa, I'm 95% certain that he wins every primary through to the convention.

That said, I don't think he will.  I like Huck to win tomorrow night, if only by a point or two.  While Romney has been successful in smearing him over the past couple weeks, Huckabee has galvanized a truly energetic movement of Christian Conservatives ready to take their party for the True Faith.  And I still predict that we're going to see a Wilder Effect tomorrow night, as crunch time brings out an anti-Mormon prejudice that doesn't necessarily show in polls.  

The media will pile on Romney as a loser, no matter how close he comes to Huck, and McCain's upward trend in NH will spike as soft Romney voters migrate to the campaign with the hot hand.  From there, McCain should capitalize on the Establishment backing conferred on him by the two-man race to take at least second in SC and FL, and to win in the big February 5 states -- thus effectively killing the outgunned Huck.  A bloodied McCain will accept a broken party's nomination in a disspirited Twin Cities, and as the confetti and streamers fall around him, you and I will be able to read the resignation to defeat in his eyes, a bittersweet stare belying the forced smile on his lips.

Categories: Politics

As promised, Mississippi's Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood has filed suit challenging the date set by Governor Haley Barbour for the special election to replace retired Sen. Trent Lott:

Hood filed a lawsuit today in Hinds County Circuit Court seeking an injunction to require the special election for Lott's replacement to be conducted within 90 days.

On Monday, Barbour named U.S. Rep. Roger Wicker to replace Lott.

In a Dec. 20 proclamation, Barbour set the Nov. 4, 2008 general election as the date for the senatorial special election. If a runoff is required, it will be conducted on Nov. 25, the governor said.

Barbour feels, naturally, that Wicker is more likely to win an election held on the same day as a high-turnout presidential election with a year of incumbency under his belt, than a low-turnout special election. The danger of holding a special election would be increased if a candidate who has the name recognition associated with having been elected statewide (like former Governors Ray Mabus and Ronnie Musgrove) were to run for the Democrats. As a Congressman, Wicker has limited name rec outside Mississippi's 1st.

Here's what Mississippi law has to say on the subject. Section 23.15.855 of the Mississippi Code of 1972 (hat tip to TheBigKahuna), emphasis mine:

(1) If a vacancy shall occur in the office of United States Senator from Mississippi by death, resignation or otherwise, the Governor shall, within ten (10) days after receiving official notice of such vacancy, issue his proclamation for an election to be held in the state to elect a Senator to fill such unexpired term as may remain, provided the unexpired term is more than twelve (12) months and the election shall be held within ninety (90) days from the time the proclamation is issued and the returns of such election shall be certified to the Governor in the manner set out above for regular elections, unless the vacancy shall occur in a year that there shall be held a general state or congressional election, in which event the Governor's proclamation shall designate the general election day as the time for electing a Senator, and the vacancy shall be filled by appointment as hereinafter provided.

(2) In case of a vacancy in the office of United States Senator, the Governor may appoint a Senator to fill such vacancy temporarily, and if the United States Senate be in session at the time the vacancy occurs the Governor shall appoint a Senator within ten (10) days after receiving official notice thereof, and the Senator so appointed shall serve until his successor is elected and commissioned as provided for in subsection (1) of this section, provided that such unexpired term as he may be appointed to fill shall be for a longer time than one (1) year, but if for a shorter time than one (1) year he shall serve for the full time of the unexpired term and no special election shall be called by the Governor but his successor shall be elected at the regular election."

Barbour's argument is that since a statewide Mississippi election was held in 2007, the same year Lott resigned, he is freed from the "90 days" restriction in appointing Wicker, and can hold the next election in November 2008.

But if I understand the law correctly, it states that if a vacancy arises during a general-election year such as 2007 or 2008, the special election is to be held on the same day as the general election, which would have been back in November.

That was before Lott resigned, of course.

The law does not specify, as far as I can tell, what to do if Lott resigns between the 2007 election and the end of the year, which is in fact what he did. But I should think that because it is obviously impossible to retroactively hold the election in November 2007, which is technically what the law mandates, the state must proceed as it would under ordinary circumstances-which is to say, by holding the election within 90 days.

Hood has made good on his promise to take the case to court, so we will see what happens.

Categories: Politics

[For various reasons, I must post this story early. This is not as unusual as it may seem, as many political stories are written in advance in order to meet tight news deadlines.  -- Hunter]

Finally, primary season is over, and it couldn't come soon enough. After a week of conflicting polls and a flurry of last minute campaigning by all parties, ______ has (narrowly / decisively) won the Iowa caucuses.

Numerous factors contributed to this very predictable Iowa win. First, the ground game, and/or lack thereof. Second, the weather, most specifically the fact that the weather was different from what it might have been. And third, as always in Iowa, caucus-goers' "second choices" were (futile / important / decisive). If the voters had voted differently, then those different results would have been different -- think how much that would have changed things.

The last weeks of the campaign had been marred by several gaffes on the part of ______, threatening to slightly alter the outcome. Luckily, obvious gaffes by ______ and ______ balanced out that blunder. A last minute move by ______ that the campaign thought would be decisive was instead seen as small and pandering, negating its positive effect. And after the blunder by a ______ staffer when speaking about ______, the desperation became apparent.

So the voters -- I mean, caucus-goers -- have spoken, and at last it is over. This decision may or may not be further validated by voters in a second state, New Hampshire: nonetheless, the all-important, all-encompassing political concept known as momentum now renders the rest of the brief primary season meaningless. Of the fifty states in our union, the remaining forty eight are there largely for show, when it comes to the nomination process: the final result is now ordained. After all, the concerns of Iowa cannot reasonably be thought of as different from those in, say, California, nor can the voters of South Carolina be expected to treat the issues any differently than the voters of New Hampshire -- it is all essentially the same crapola. Momentum is key: voters prefer to go with a winner, for the same reason that football and baseball stadiums are more populated when a team is doing well than when it is doing poorly.

I suppose now is as good a time as any to note that, indeed, I have always been a ______ supporter. Yes, I have leveled harsh criticisms against all the campaigns, but looking back at my writings my support for ______ should be quite obvious and transparent -- unless you are an idiot. It has been obvious since day one that ______ would win the nomination: all the intervening campaigning has been moot, and a gigantic waste of money and time. If only the other candidates had dropped out earlier, we could have been spared this embarrassing spectacle.

In any event, is now time to set aside our differences rally behind the ______ campaign.  During the last few months, we have been peppered with insults from the supporters of the various candidates. Only the supporters of ______ comported themselves with grace. While supporters or the ______ or ______ campaigns scoffed at each move by ______ supporters with assertions of desperation, we can now see that ______ supporters were the only ones not actually desperate. While supporters for rival campaigns implored each other to commit suicide, stick their faces in sausage grinders, or have sex with their mothers, we can see that only ______ supporters were acting out of genuine concern for their fellow man, and simply thought familial intercourse would be a helpful suggestion. And while ______ and ______ supporters were filling the internet with agonizingly sugary and implausible treacle about their candidates, as well as shameful and scurrilous attacks on the others, the treacle by ______ supporters was not at all nauseating or implausable, and the attacks not at all scurrilous. Their behavior has now been vindicated by a small subset of voters in the most important state in the union.

What is next, now that ______ has won the Iowa caucuses? Thankfully, there are political experts such as myself who can analyze such things, which will prove handy in the coming weeks.

Because of the win by ______, we can now expect the campaign dynamic to shift dramatically. The win by ______ will require the ______ and ______ campaigns to put all their efforts into a last-ditch attempt in New Hampshire. These efforts will probably "go negative" -- meanwhile ______, now sitting in the catbird's seat, will campaign as magnanimous and glowing figure, saying as little as possible in order to not upset their campaign momentum, but nevertheless will upset things slightly when they commit a (small gaffe / arguable gaffe / get mauled by housecats) during a routine campaign appearance.

This will of course result in ______ winning in New Hampshire, which will be unexpected by the ______ and ______ campaigns, each of whom will have voiced quite public certainties that they would prevail, especially after  headlined accusations of flagrant ________ by ______ against ______.

From there, the rest of the primaries are rote excercises. Gains by ______ and ______ during the later primaries in ______ and ______ will provide short lived boosts. Even the ______ campaign will receive some attention, allowing them to at last (play kingmaker / retire with some honor intact / rebel and form a small island nation in the Caribbean.)

Finally, the entire process will be formalized at the Democratic National Convention. There will be signs, balloons, and thoroughly unobjectionable entertainment. Ratings will be described as "poor". The administration will issue a terror alert the day before, and as a result we will no longer be able to take (cellphones / pocket combs / underwear) on airplanes. And, at last, the delegates will cast their official votes, and we will all be able to remember the 2008 convention as the most boring / exciting convention in years. Who would have thought this campaign season, of all of them, would have wrapped up with a (dull, formulaic end / brokered convention / string of prostitution and bestiality arrests)?

All in all, it simply goes to prove the greatness of the country we live in. But I'm still glad it's over.

Categories: Politics

Today, the NY Times featured an op-ed from Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, Co-Chairs of the 9/11 Commission.  They reiterated the original goals of the commission, then offered a stunning, point blank criticism of the CIA and the Bush administration:

The commission’s mandate was sweeping and it explicitly included the intelligence agencies. But the recent revelations that the C.I.A. destroyed videotaped interrogations of Qaeda operatives leads us to conclude that the agency failed to respond to our lawful requests for information about the 9/11 plot. Those who knew about those videotapes — and did not tell us about them — obstructed our investigation.

I am sure that it will come as no surprise to the online community that the Bush administration obstructed the investigation.  Activists and 9/11 family members have been raving for years about the obstruction.  But, to my knowledge, this is the first time the co-chairs of the commission have made such serious allegations.

Kean and Hamilton state that they repeatedly asked the Bush administration and the CIA for information regarding the interrogations of two of the detainees, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri.  We now know that the infamous (and allegedly destroyed) tapes included hundreds of hours of the interrogations of these two men, and yet not one word of their existence to the commission.  The CIA provided written reports of the interrogations, but those reports apparently only created more confusion:

The C.I.A. gave us many reports summarizing information gained in the interrogations. But the reports raised almost as many questions as they answered. Agency officials assured us that, if we posed specific questions, they would do all they could to answer them.

So, in October 2003, we sent another wave of questions to the C.I.A.’s general counsel. One set posed dozens of specific questions about the reports, including those about Abu Zubaydah. A second set, even more important in our view, asked for details about the translation process in the interrogations; the background of the interrogators; the way the interrogators handled inconsistencies in the detainees’ stories; the particular questions that had been asked to elicit reported information; the way interrogators had followed up on certain lines of questioning; the context of the interrogations so we could assess the credibility and demeanor of the detainees when they made the reported statements; and the views or assessments of the interrogators themselves.

Not content with the vagueness of the answers provided by the CIA, the 9/11 Commission asked - and were denied - permission to interview the the detainees.

In a lunch meeting on Dec. 23, 2003, George Tenet, the C.I.A. director, told us point blank that we would have no such access. During the meeting, we emphasized to him that the C.I.A. should provide any documents responsive to our requests, even if the commission had not specifically asked for them. Mr. Tenet replied by alluding to several documents he thought would be helpful to us, but neither he, nor anyone else in the meeting, mentioned videotapes.

A meeting on Jan. 21, 2004, with Mr. Tenet, the White House counsel, the secretary of defense and a representative from the Justice Department also resulted in the denial of commission access to the detainees. Once again, videotapes were not mentioned.

So, not only did the CIA refuse the request and neglect to mention the tapes, but all of the usual players - Tenet, Rumsfeld, Gonzales (and Bush/Cheney by extension) - seem to be intimately involved as well.  It makes sense because we know that the "circle of trust" in the Bush adminstration has always been a very exclusive club.

Hamilton and Kean conclude by practically begging for an investigation.

As a legal matter, it is not up to us to examine the C.I.A.’s failure to disclose the existence of these tapes. That is for others. What we do know is that government officials decided not to inform a lawfully constituted body, created by Congress and the president, to investigate one the greatest tragedies to confront this country. We call that obstruction.

As of this afternoon, it looks like Attorney General Mukasey is going to comply.  Given the recent record of investigations into the Bush adminstration, I don't have high hopes that justice will be done.  But, it is a new year....an election year....and the political winds are changing.  Stranger things have happened.

Categories: Politics

No matter what some candidates may say (and I'm not referring to Obama since apparently you have to specifically mention a person's name to refer to them these days), pretty much every candidate will start with half the country disliking him or her:

Rasmussen. 12/26-29. Likely voters. MoE 3% (No trend lines)

        Favorable  Unfavorable
McCain      53        27
Edwards     49        42
Clinton     48        50
Obama       43        51
Thompson    42        42
Giuliani    40        55
Huckabee    40        47
Romney      38        51

The best thing to happen to McCain was for his campaign to implode in the summer. He was able to fly under the radar and, given his party's cast of misfits, may end up last-man-standing by default, all the while avoiding the barbs and attacks that have drug down the rest of the field.

Categories: Politics

Who's best on policy?

The policy differences between all the Democrats really are tiny to irrelevant, since none of their plans will survive first contact with Congress. In fact, I'd rather these candidates shoot for the sky and give us a vision of what their ideal society would look like, rather than "compromise" with themselves right off the gate. Why is single payer off the agenda for most of these candidates? They want to talk about what's "realistic", but what's "realistic" really depends on what Congress looks like, and what the American people are demanding when any given legislation hits the docket.

Who's showing leadership?

Outside of Chris Dodd, who sadly never gained traction, we have a whole field of candidates who like to TALK about leadership, but none that have shown us what that leadership might look like. Too bad. That would've been a great way to help winnow the field. Lucky for them all, none of the top candidates have given us a demonstration in leadership. Unlucky for us. The country could've used some real leadership in 2007.

Who is playing to win?

Winning is important. The last thing we can afford as a country is another 4-8 years of continued Republican rule. If nothing else, Justice Stevens is not long on the bench, and losing his vote in the Supreme Court would inflict the nation with a solid conservative majority for generations. So who is doing everything possible to win?

Hillary Clinton, by far. She's not limiting her campaign's ability to raise money (nor her supporters' to give it) by accepting public financing. Obama has opted out for the primary, but has said he'd accept it for the general if the Republican did so as well. Why give Republicans veto power over what the Democrats do? Given our better ability to raise money this cycle, why would Obama willingly surrender that advantage to the Republicans? That's not playing to win. Edwards is the opposite, saying he could opt out of public financing for the general, but already opted in for the primary. That means that unless he's opposite a similarly limited Republican (i.e. McCain), he'll be at a gross disadvantage all summer as he has less than $20 million left to spend until September.

What's more, Clinton was the only top-tier candidate to refuse the ultimate Iowa and New Hampshire pander by removing her name from the Michigan ballot. That makes her essentially the de facto winner since Edwards and Obama, caving to the cry babies in Iowa and New Hampshire, took their name off Michigan's ballot. Sure, the DNC has stripped Michigan of its delegates, but that won't last through the convention. The last thing Democrats can afford is to alienate swing states like Michigan and Florida by refusing to seat their delegates.

So while Obama and Edwards kneecap their chances of winning, Clinton is single-mindedly focused on the goal.

Who is tested against the Right Wing smear machine?

Clinton, by far. No one has taken more shit from the VRWC, not by a long shot. Edwards earned valuable campaign experience in 2004. It makes me wonder why he'd go through it all again a second time, but still, it's something. Obama has never had a competitive race against a Republican. His best experiences comes from winning primaries. But he's never been in the crossfires of the GOP. Maybe that's why he can pretend that he can move beyond partisanship. Because he's never had to run a partisan race.

Who is the best defender of progressive ideals?

Edwards, by a landslide. Not the 2004 edition, but the new and improved 2008 model. From a rhetorical standpoint, no one has come close to articulating the nation's ills and why progressive solutions are the best salve. This is important -- Democrats have been poor at branding their ideology, thus ceding that ground to demonizing conservatives. Long term, our movement cannot survive another Bill Clinton -- someone more interested in making David Broder and Joe Klein happy with triangulating rhetoric that undermines rather than bolsters progressive values and policies.

Clinton isn't horrible on this front, but Obama has made a cottage industry out of attacking the dirty fucking hippies on the left, from labor unions, to Paul Krugman, to Gore and Kerry, to social security, and so on. People think I was being ticky tack with the Gore thing, and in isolation it would've been but a minor non-event. But it was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back for me, yet another in a pattern of attacks against Democrats and their constituencies. He is the return of Bill Clinton-style triangulating personified. Now I'm willing to consider that this is all a front, and that he'd govern as progressively as Bush governed conservatively after his 2000 bullshit about being a "uniter" and "compassionate". He can even pull a Bush, I suppose, and claim a "mandate" on policies he blurred or ignored on the campaign. But we've seen how a lack of true mandate has crushed Bush's presidency and made him the most unpopular and least effective president in history. I'd rather have our candidate elected promising progressive reform, especially in a year where the American people seem to crave such solutions.

Then again, I do like that Obama has frozen out Fox "News" (as has Edwards, I think). I wish Clinton would do so as well, but her weird flirtation with Rupert Murdoch apparently precludes that.

The "Story" and likability?

I actually like all the candidates, even Hillary. I don't like the people she surrounds herself with, like the union-busting Mark Penn, but I like her personally. And I like Obama and his story, and I like Edwards and his story. I like the fact that being a white male puts Edwards at a disadvantage. It shows we're progressing and that people are craving a more tangible symbol of that progress -- a woman or African American president. As a Latino, I was desperately hoping I could get behind Bill Richardson's campaign, but that one came up short in so many different areas that it wasn't to be. But I like Richardson as well. Politicians rarely get this high by being public assholes, at least on the Democratic side.

In other words, I'd have a beer with any of them. But I do love the idea of breaking a new barrier this year, whether it's by having a woman president or an African American one.

Bottom line?

Given the minor differences in policy, and the vast gap between them and the chamber of horrors the GOP has put forth, I'll be satisfied with any of these candidates as my nominee. None of them rock my world, there are no true people-powered candidates in our field (the only one is Ron Paul, on the other side). So what's the fault line? The desire to win (important) and the ability and willingness to unapologetically articulate progressive solutions to our nation's problems. Hillary wins the former, and Edwards the latter. I'd love to see a barrier broken, to provide a tangible sign of our progress as a society (even Pakistan has had a woman prime minister).

With all those factors in play, with no obvious gate-crashing people-powered candidate, and with what really is solid field, I'm left firmly in the undecided camp. And I don't mind being there since, thankfully, I don't have to cast a vote on Thursday.

Update: While McCain has qualified for federal matching funds, apparently he hasn't officially accepted them.

Categories: Politics

Given how investigations of this administration have generally gone (Scooter Libby, anyone?), getting our hopes up over this one is probably unwise, but at least Mukasey is making the right noises:

WASHINGTON - The Justice Department opened a criminal investigation into the destruction of CIA interrogation videotapes and Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey appointed an outside prosecutor to oversee the case....

"The Department's National Security Division has recommended, and I have concluded, that there is a basis for initiating a criminal investigation of this matter, and I have taken steps to begin that investigation," Mukasey said in a statement released Wednesday.

Mukasey named John Durham, a federal prosecutor in Connecticut, to oversee the case. Durham has a reputation as one of the nation's most relentless prosecutors. He served as an outside prosecutor overseeing an investigation into the FBI's use of mob informants in Boston and helped send several Connecticut public officials to prison.

Congress is also investigating. And speaking of the Plame case, guess who's representing Jose Rodriguez, the former CIA official who ordered the tapes destroyed? Yup, Bob Bennett, of Judy Miller fame. Yech.

Update: Via gchauser2 in comments, here's a TPM profile on Durham. Emptywheel has some info, too (via joejoejoe in comments). From the TPM link:

As the AP puts it, "Durham has a reputation as one of the nation's most relentless prosecutors. He served as an outside prosecutor overseeing an investigation into the FBI's use of mob informants in Boston and helped send several Connecticut public officials to prison."

Categories: Politics

Rep. Tom Lantos, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has announced he has esophageal cancer and will not be running for re-election in 2008. Here's part of Lantos's statement from the speaker's blog:

Routine medical tests have revealed that I have cancer of the esophagus. In view of this development and the treatment it will require, I will not seek re-election.

It is only in the United States that a penniless survivor of the Holocaust and a fighter in the anti-Nazi underground could have received an education, raised a family, and had the privilege of serving the last three decades of his life as a Member of Congress. I will never be able to express fully my profoundly felt gratitude to this great country.

Lantos was facing primary challenge from state Sen. Jackie Speier. Last month Roll Call reported (sub. required) that Speier's polling showed her with a healthy lead over Lantos:

Democratic pollster Jim Moore surveyed 350 likely Democratic primary voters for Speier Oct. 30 through Nov. 1 and found that Speier led Lantos 57 percent to 27 percent in a hypothetical matchup. The poll, with an error margin of 5.3 points, also showed Speier to have a favorable/unfavorable rating of 75 percent to 7 percent. Lantos’ numbers in that category were 55 percent to 26 percent.

At that point, Lantos's spokesperson said that he fully intended to defend his seat, and with his $1.4 million cash on hand, this would have made for a very exciting primary race. Those poll numbers might have been a consideration in Lantos's decision, but given his age, 79, I suspect the daunting prospect of the treatments he is going to have to undergo were definitely a factor.

Now that Lantos and his money are out, we can probably expect to see more candidates lining up for this primary. As juls points out at Calitics, Bay area House seats don't open up very often. This is probably the most progressive district in the country, and a Democratic seat that's this safe will be attractive to more than a few ambitious Dems.

Categories: Politics

Momentum against the Iowa first-in-the-nation caucus is sure to explode after Thursday, as many people get their first real close-up look at its undemocratic nature.

First, a look at how the caucuses work:

As in years past, voters must present themselves in person, at a specified hour, and stay for as long as two. And if these caucuses are anything like prior ones, only a tiny percentage of Iowans will participate. In 2000, the last year in which both parties held caucuses, 59,000 Democrats and 87,000 Republicans voted, in a state with 2.9 million people. In 2004, when the Republicans did not caucus, 124,000 people turned out for the Democratic caucuses [...]

While the Republican caucuses are fairly simple — voters can leave shortly after they declare their preferences — Democratic caucuses can require more time and multiple candidate preferences from participants. They do not conform to the one-person, one-vote rule, because votes are weighted according to a precinct’s past level of participation. Ties can be settled by coin toss or picking names out of a hat.

So what does this mean, in practical terms?

Jason Huffman has lived in Iowa his whole life. Lately he has been watching presidential debates on the Internet, discussing what he sees with friends and relatives. But when fellow Iowans choose among presidential candidates on Thursday night, he will not be able to vote, because he is serving with the National Guard in western Afghanistan.

"Shouldn’t we at least have as much influence in this as any other citizen?" Captain Huffman wrote in an e-mail interview.

Nope, Cpt. Huffman is out of luck. As are these folks:

"It disenfranchises certain voters or makes them make choices between putting food on the table and caucusing," said Tom Lindsey, a high school teacher in Iowa City. Mr. Lindsey plans to attend this year, but his neighbors include a cook who cannot slip away from his restaurant job on Thursday night and a mother who must care for her autistic child [...]

But many Iowans have been dutifully watching presidential candidates all summer and fall only to find themselves unable to participate on caucus night. Take Sally Kreamer, a single mother in Johnston, outside Des Moines, who says she cannot escape the pull of her children’s dinner and homework. "I would love to participate," Ms. Kreamer said.

Or Carrie Tope, who works at a hospital emergency room in Ames and cannot find anyone to take her shift. She particularly wants to vote this year, she said, because things are so close.

Even some campaign volunteers "have bosses who say, ‘We really need you at work that night,’" said Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, state director for John Edwards. "Unfortunately, they just aren’t going to be able to participate," she said.

And the Iowa Democratic Party response to what is a hideous way to conduct an election?

Scott Brennan, chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party, said the party had no responsibility to ensure that voters can caucus. "The campaigns are in charge of generating the turnout," Mr. Brennan said, and the voters who truly care will find their way to their local caucuses.

As for Ms. Tope, the emergency room worker, "there’s always the next cycle," Mr. Brennan said.

What an elitist asshole. Yet this ridiculous process he defends will disenfranchises thousands of Iowans as it disenfranchises millions of voters around the country who would like a chance to vote for their favorite primary candidate but will never get the chance.

There's an entire nation out there -- 48 states plus D.C. -- who have tired of this ridiculous calendar and undemocratic way of choosing our nominee. Iowa and New Hampshire will fight like hell to retain their lofty status -- it's worth prestige points and a crapload of money for those states. But no matter what those states may think, they don't have a god-given right to hold our nomination process hostage to their whims (and parochial concerns like ethanol). They should enjoy these next two weeks, because this is likely their swan song.

Categories: Politics

Time for this week's edition of the Daily Kos Straw Poll. Here are the results from two weeks ago.

Categories: Politics
  • As Atrios says, meanwhile, over there:

    BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A female suicide bomber killed 10 people in Iraq on Wednesday, the latest in a string of suicide bombings that has seen a major strike nearly every day of the past week despite an overall decline in violence.

  • Today is the Congressional filing deadline in Texas. Ohio's deadline is Friday. To see where we stand for House candidates, see here for TX and here for OH. Senate 2008 Guru has a bit of analysis on the Senate side, too.
  • Swing State Project rings in the new year with a terrific, in-depth horse race round-up by James L. that looks at IN, IL, NY, NM, MN and KY.
  • A UC San Francisco study has found that minorities receive pain medication in ER's far less often than Caucasians, according to an Associated  Press story.
  • ABC has a rundown on the history and arcane inner workings of the Iowa caucus.
  • The Seattle chapter of Drinking Liberally is going to have the first in the nation beer caucus tonight, at the regular place, the Montlake Ale House (2307 24th Ave. E), starting at 8:00 pm. All caucus rules will apply, and all Democrats and Republicans are welcome. Although our results will be non-binding, and we might not matter as much as Iowa, we're going to have more fun. It's also possible that this race won't be decided by Super Tuesday, and that Washington will actually have a say on Feb. 5 9, so if you haven't caucused before, this is a chance to see get some practice in before the real thing. Anyway, I'll be liveblogging it tonight. (N in Seattle has more details.)
  • As we know, being president is Hard Work. Heck, just  campaigning for the job is so hard that Mike Huckabee can't keep up with the important things in life.  When asked about the National Intelligence Estimate, he defended his lack of knowledge.

    The point I'm trying to make is that, on the campaign trail, nobody's going to be able, if they've been campaigning as hard as we have been, to keep up with every single thing, from what happened to Britney last night to who won "Dancing with the Stars."


  • Oil futures hit $100 a barrel for the first time ever today. Sigh. The time to get off of oil was yesterday. When will we get serious about it? [Scout Finch]
  • A US Senate candidate in GA has decided to use an unusual method to bring attention to his campaign:

    Dale Cardwell was hoisted more than 300 feet up the Corey Tower near downtown Atlanta on Tuesday morning. He said he expects to remain there "for days," sleeping in an insulated sleeping bag and eating military rations. A Webcam tracks his limited movements. Overnight temperatures are expected to drop into the 20s.

    [Scout Finch]

Categories: Politics

With the starter's pistol about to fire in Iowa, the Republicans are facing an energy gap larger than the US need for oil.

Democrats appear to be more fired up about their party nominating contest than are Republicans. Democrats in Iowa and New Hampshire have been turning out at rallies in greater numbers than Republicans and giving more money to candidates. In Iowa, polls indicate Democrats will be attending the Thursday night caucuses in record numbers.

"There seems to be a little more juice on the Democratic side," says Republican pollster Bill McInturff.

The result of this Republican ennui is embarrassingly small crowds and weak fund raising.  As Republicans start to realize that "None of the Above" is not actually on their ballot, and that appearing at the polls means they will have to vote one of the proffered weasels, the "I think I'll stay home" option is gaining steam.  

Behind Republican's uneasiness are voters like Wes Von Schlotterback of Des Moines. Mr. Von Schlotterback served twice in past elections as a county chairman for Republican presidential candidate Steve Forbes. But this time he says he plans to stay home the night of the caucuses for lack of any good choices. He says he sees the same lack of enthusiasm among many of his Republican friends.

And while the Republicablahs are currently most noticeable in Iowa, there are signs this malady may spread nation wide.

When Mr. McCain recently made a campaign stop at Clemson University in South Carolina, which holds its primary Jan. 26, there was a "a mood of despair and despondency" among the crowd, says David Woodard, a Clemson political-science professor who is also a Republican strategist.

Mr. Woodard says that when Mr. McCain visited Clemson during the 2000 campaign "there was electricity like before a football game -- many students got off early from class, the room was packed before he arrived, he got wild applause."

This time, says Mr. Woodard, Mr. McCain, appearing before a smaller crowd, received polite applause when he walked in and no further applause until the end of his speech.

Meanwhile, over on the blue side of the aisle, skies are looking a lot sunnier.  

Democratic voters are showing more passion for the race in part due to frustration that their party has been out of the White House for eight years. But their fervor also reflects their general approval of the party's three front-runners. Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. Barack Obama and former Sen. John Edwards, who are locked in a tight battle in Iowa, New Hampshire and elsewhere, broadly agree on most important issues. That suggests that their supporters would unite around the eventual nominee.

By contrast the Republican field is deeply divided, with candidates attacking each other over social issues, tax policies and immigration.

Asked if they could support a Democratic candidate "with enthusiasm" in November, as opposed to "with reservations," or depending on the opponent, half of Democratic voters say they could support Mrs. Clinton enthusiastically, according to the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC poll. Almost the same number said they could support Mr. Obama enthusiastically and 36% Mr. Edwards.

Even that lower number for Edwards is more than the highest number for any candidate on the Republican side.  There's little doubt that any of the Democratic candidates would enjoy solid, active support from a broad cross section of the party, while the Republicans are faced with a slate where candidates have chosen their own conservative niche.  Of course, those Republicans now thinking about catching up on Thursday night reruns do have another option.  

"For the first time ever I'm thinking of voting for a Democrat -- for Obama," [Mr. Von Schlotterback] says. He describes the Illinois senator as "genuine."


"We have eight good ones, and they don't have any good ones. That's why the Republicans aren't excited," says Democrat Ruth Anne Petrak, a Des Moines precinct captain for candidate Bill Richardson.

Categories: Politics

After finding out that shooting at the press didn't frighten them into giving him better coverage, Mike Huckabee has rebounded with the mother of all endorsements:

We cannot do it by arming ourselves and taking anyone out. We will go to the caucuses having knelt on our knees and having asked God for his wisdom.

So, wisdom from God = a vote for Huckabee.  And the timing couldn't be better since Huckabee is now promising miracles if he is elected:

And in promising a policy of energy self-reliance, he said that soon after his election "we will be able to tell the Middle East 'we don't need your oil anymore than we need your sand.'"

And as if the word of God wasn't enough, Huckabee also has Chuck Norris, who:

...enthusiastically endorsed Huckabee's proposal of a "fair tax" that would replace the progressive federal income tax with a steep sales tax. Norris said such a system would guarantee that "Arab sheiks" get taxed when they come to America "to buy their yachts and jet planes."

Of course those Arab sheiks won't be buying many yachts and jet planes since Huckabee's energy policy is going to wipe out their oil money, but you get the point.  

And it isn't only God and the God-like who are aboard the Huckabee express.  As a member of the halleluja-shouting audience put it:

He's the only candidate with real Christian ideals.

Not like that Mormon fellow, you know.  Halleluja.

Categories: Politics

Over the weekend, Kos posted this diary about Daily Kos traffic through the years.

Here's some follow-up (click for bigger pic):

The y axis is page views per month. I did a few things to add to Kos' diary. The numbers in the original post had a frame shift error (Dec 03 and Jan 04 had the same number, with subsequent wrong numbers following). I’ve corrected that on the original post, and updated the final Dec 2007 number (not corrected in original post).

I subtracted a 7% AJAX correction (i.e., downward) for pre April 06 (there's a penalty for what sitemeter reads as a page view with AJAX, added April 2006). This makes year-end total 2007 traffic equal to total 2005 traffic (just over 200 million page views per year). The election year of 2006 was higher than the flanking off-years.

What’s clear from the graph is rock stable traffic throughout 2007, and a Sep-Nov peak in 2005 (Katrina – Aug/Sep and Libby indictment - Oct) and 2006 (Nov. election) and no comparable fall event in 2007. Year-end (Dec) traffic is stable.

Now, that does not include RSS feeds (Daily Kos offers full-text feeds, so you only need to click if you want to read comments). These have grown from 90K in Oct to over 300K daily as of today. They are not included in the graphs. While they may represent inflated numbers (to receive RSS is not to read in all cases), it makes apples to apples comparison difficult. That would be another 9 million readers a month if RSS feeds were read daily during the fall peak, many of whom would not then click through. There's no way to know how to count them.

The so-called drop in traffic seems somewhat exaggerated; traffic is driven by the news and events as much as anything else. Time will tell where the numbers go, but that, too, is likely driven by news and events, and (see RSS) technology.

Categories: Politics

No matter which poll you read, there's little doubt that the race in Iowa is very close.  Factors like the weather, and the effectiveness of operations designed to get more voters to the polls -- everything from free snow shoveling to babysitting -- may help determine who comes out of Iowa with the momentum of a win, and which candidate has to defend a third place showing.

But there is a candidate not usually mentioned in news stories about tomorrow's caucuses who may be the most important man in Iowa at the moment: Bill Richardson.

In 2004, Dennis Kucinich told his supporters that in areas where he did not reach the 15% minimum, they should support John Edwards.  This year, he's already sent out word for his troops to fall in behind Obama.  Looking back at the polls for 2004, Kucinich had 4-5% support across the state.  Both Kerry and Edwards received more votes than entrance polls indicated as caucus goers were forced to move from first choices that didn't make the grade.  However, while Kerry went up around two and a half percent, Edwards gained almost six percent between the time people went in the door and when they came out.  A good part of that came from the organized movement out of the Kucinich camp.

Depending on the poll, Bill Richardson currently has 6-12% support in Iowa.  If he were to ask his followers to line up behind any of the three candidates at the top of the polls, it could easily vault that campaign ahead of competitors.

As of yesterday, Richardson is still promising to shock the world with a strong finish in Iowa, but even if his support reached the top of the numbers indicated in the polls, it's not clear that a fourth place finish would give any reason for voters elsewhere to look his way.

Right now, Richardson may be in the best position he will be in for the rest of the campaign season.  Not in terms of winning, but in terms of extracting any deal he might want from another campaign.  Secretary of State Richardson?  UN ambassador?  Heck, why not Vice President Richardson?  Bill Richardson may not be at the top of the polls in Iowa, but there may not be any one person who at this point could have as much influence over the outcome.

Categories: Politics

George Bush has signed into law S. 2488, a bill that strengthens the Freedom of Information Act. There are a lot of signs that Bush did not much like this Open Government Act, so it's significant that he didn't veto it.

What are the signs of Bush's displeasure? For one thing, the WH published a description of the new law that is terse and, rather glaringly, excludes most of its more important provisions. You'll find these spelled out in some detail in the CRS summary of the bill.

As a point of comparison, let's look at which elements the Associated Press chose to include in its summary of the legislation. According to AP, the new law:

  • requires the release of requested documents unless their disclosure would do actual harm
  • brings government contractors under FOIA
  • compels the government to respond to FOIA requests within 20 days of their receipt
  • creates a system by which citizens may track the progress of their requests
  • establishes a hot-line service for all federal agencies to cope with problems
  • establishes an ombudsman to help resolve disputes about non-disclosure

By contrast, the published WH summary mentions only that the law "amends (FOIA) by...":

(1) establishing a definition of "a representative of the news media;" (2) directing that required attorney fees be paid from an agency's own appropriation rather than from the Judgment Fund; (3) prohibiting an agency from assessing certain fees if it fails to comply with FOIA deadlines; and (4) establishing an Office of Government Information Services in the National Archives and Records Administration to review agency compliance with FOIA.

You'll note that there's barely any overlap between the elements that the AP and the White House highlight. Furthermore the four elements listed by the WH say virtually nothing about the need or the mechanisms for greater openness – the very goal of the legislation.

The "Open Government Act" will "help to reverse the troubling trends of excessive delays and lax FOIA compliance in our government and help to restore the public's trust in their government," said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy

As the AP describes it:

The new law...amounts to a congressional pushback against the Bush administration's movement to greater secrecy since the terrorist attacks of 2001.

Bush signed the bill without comment in one of his final decisions of the year...

The legislation is aimed at reversing an order by former Attorney General John Ashcroft after the 9/11 attacks in which he instructed agencies to lean against releasing information when there was uncertainty about how doing so would affect national security.

Even if the Open Government Act is not a cure for all of FOIA's ills, it is a highly symbolic piece of legislation. And it's hard to ignore the symbolism of the manner in which Bush signed it into law – on New Year's Eve, without comment. It was almost as if Bush wanted to avoid drawing attention to a victory for government transparency.

Categories: Politics

Allow me to confess my guilty pleasure. Each morning, having first satisfied my morning craving for a big cup of the Big Orange, my browser wanders over the website of each presidential candidate, Republican and Democrat alike. It's become a daily ritual, this pilgrimage through page after page of news, videos, and blog posts.  I'm fascinated by the spin on these sites, by how these candidates use their websites to create and maintain media narratives (and how, most of the time, they fail to do so), and by the way the candidates market themselves online.

Beyond Iowa and New Hampshire, the vast majority of Americans will never shake hands with Hillary Clinton, or take a picture with Barack Obama, or hear John Edwards in person.  Mr. Potatohead will have had more one-on-one interaction with the candidates than almost all of us.  Many voters who are not news junkies like the rest of us will google Candidate's X name and wander over to their website.  That's the face of the campaign.

So I'm wondering how many of you are as addicted to these websites as I am.  Do you visit them frequently? If no, why not? If you were an undecided voter (and maybe you are), do you think these websites are useful?  What type of information do  you think is missing? For example, pipe dream though it may be, I wish candidates would at least link to their voting records.    

Joe BidenRudy GiulianiHillary ClintonMike HuckabeeChris DoddDuncan HunterJohn EdwardsJohn McCainMike GravelRon PaulDennis KucinichMitt RomneyBarack ObamaFred ThompsonBill Richardson

Categories: Politics

January 1, 2008


(Tonight's selections are brought to you courtesy of the Rescue Rangers. SusanG)

This evening's Rescue Rangers are nyc in exile, watercarrier4diogenes, BentLiberal, grog, TruthOfAngels, srkp23 and Avila, with Patriot Daily as editor.

As we start a new year, the Rangers would like to thank all the tireless volunteers, diarists, frontpagers and commenters who work to build a strong community at Daily Kos. These community-oriented, often collaborative, projects are an essential part of progressivism. Kudos to all!

We would like to extend our special thanks to a few of the individuals and group projects that don't usually qualify for Diary Rescue, but whose contributions are greatly appreciated:






Top Comments

Overnight News Digest


Tag Librarians

California Wildfires Liveblog

Class and Labor

We would also like to thank Markos for inviting all of us to this great party to elect more and better progressive and liberal Democrats.

Susan, we love you so much and are so pleased and honored to be part of your great Diary Rescue, which is now expanding across the netroots.

And, thank you very much Meteor Blades, MissLaura, mcjoan and Devilstower for assisting with posting DR when Susan needed a sub.  

We know that there are many individuals and group projects that we've left out. Who would you like to honor in comments?

  • joe at rockridgeinstitute explains that "our core challenges reside in the ideas defining our understanding of the world. And these ideas are not confined by the laws of physics," and offers up A Message of Hope for 2008. (srkp23)
  • Brahman Colorado provides a very understandable overview of the dollar's meltdown and its impact on the world economy in Buddy can you lend me a Dollar? (grog)
  • IdiotSavant evaluates the "free and fair elections" promise made by Electoral Commission of Kenya, where at least 100 have lost their lives in mass street protests over disputed election results, in Kenyan election chaos. (Avila)
  • cjallen takes a look at history to diagnose The War Within the Democratic Party and to argue for progressive populism as the best way forward. (srkp23)
  • hannah laments the power the media has in determining which candidates will be allowed to debate in NH--Media Manipulation Extraordinaire. (BentLiberal)
  • The title says it all in Stranded Wind's diary: The Hydrogen Economy Is Here. Now. Really. (TruthOfAngels)
  • Despair, Hope and the Climate Crisis is a comprehensive, forward-looking analysis of climate change by Captain Future. This diary may give you some reasons for hope on the first day of the new year. (Avila)
  • mbw's informative diary explains the ins and outs of caucuses, including how caucuses differ from ballot box primaries. Some thoughts from a former Caucus Convenor... (BentLiberal)
  • plf515 continues a new series by giving a very comprehensive look at Congressional races state by state: Texas. (BentLiberal)
  • cgd brings us hot dogs, nude beaches and the fundamentals of economics in Economics 101. (nyc in exile)
  • PapaChach looks back, through precious letters and photos, reaffirming remembrance of his Lauren in Two Boys Who Loved You.  (watercarrier4diogenes)

brillig has Top Comments 01/01/08 New Year's Day Edition.

Enjoy some beautiful fireworks and please promote your own favorite diaries in this open thread.

Categories: Politics

in 2004, Kucinich instructed his caucus supporters to cast their lot with Edwards, playing a role in killing Howard Dean's presidential ambitions. This year, he's abandoning Edwards for Obama.

"I hope Iowans will caucus for me as their first choice this Thursday, because of my singular positions on the war, on health care, and trade. This is an opportunity for people to stand up for themselves. But in those caucus locations where my support doesn't reach the necessary threshold, I strongly encourage all of my supporters to make Barack Obama their second choice. Sen. Obama and I have one thing in common: Change."

Funny that Kucinich endorsed the war-supporting conservative Edwards in 2004, but has now ditched the far more progressive 2008 edition. I'll never understand that guy.

Now in 2004, Kucinich clocked in at 4 percent in the entrance poll, while he's polling around 1 percent this time around. Then again, he polled at around 2 percent last time and doubled that in actual results. So if history repeats itself, that's two percentage points at stake. Not exactly decisive, but definitely helpful. This thing is so tight, that every percentage point will matter.

More important will be the five percent Biden seems to be getting, and the seven percent Richardson is polling.

I have a feeling that Biden's supporters are more the Hillary type, so maybe Richardson will get to play kingmaker.

Categories: Politics

Call it mendacity, call it hypocrisy, or call it Richard Cohen, because after reading his column in today's Washington Post, it's clear that those words are all interchangable.  

In a column about a lie that wasn't a lie, Cohen begins with a lie of his own:

John Edwards lied about the cost of his haircuts.

Apparently Mr. Cohen decided to ignore the fact that the cost of Edwards' haircut(s) was revealed through...wait for it...the Edwards' campaign's FEC filings.  

And with that mendacious start, Cohen moves on to the real target of his ire:  Barack Obama:

What concerns me is the lie or fib or misstatement -- call it what you want -- involved in Obama's assertion that more young black men are in prison than in college. It is a shocking statistic -- and it is wrong. But when The Post's lonesome but formidable truth squad, Michael Dobbs, brought this to the attention of the Obama campaign, he not only got the brushoff but the assertion was later repeated.

Well, if that formidable truth squad says it, it must be wrong, right?  Wrong:

There are more black men in jail in the United States than there are in higher education, a new study has found.  [...]

According to the study, there were 791,600 black men imprisoned in America in the year 2000, compared to 603,032 enrolled in college or university.

So, with the entire premise of Mr. Cohen's screed disproven, perhaps this is all that needs to be said about his latest load of codswollop.  Nah.  

After saying that he understood why Obama made the claim because, "it ought to be true," (huh?), he meanders into perhaps the oddest aside in pundicratic history:

After all, it ought to be true that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. It ought to be true that he had ties with Osama bin Laden. It ought to be true that aluminum tubes were intended for a nuclear weapons program, and it ought to be true, really, that none of this mattered since what mattered most of all was a larger truth: Hussein had to go and the Middle East had to be urban-renewed for the sake of democracy.

Whether Cohen felt the need to once more reiterate his support for invading Iraq, or if he felt that a column about Obama wasn't complete without a reminder that his middle name is Hussein isn't clear. But it does provide a segue of unintended humor when he next cites the phrase, ""the delusional style in American punditry," as he agrees with someone who says Obama isn't, "a portrait of sterling honesty or authenticity."  Pot, meet kettle.  Which brings Cohen back to his original concern:

So the cavalier dismissal of Dobbs, The Post's truth-hunter, is troubling. Since he writes that the Obama campaign would not comment, it is reasonable to assume that it doesn't give a damn -- that this is a little matter and the candidate is engaged in something grand. The phony statistic is, in its way, like a composite. There's a larger truth here, get it?

Since Cohen isn't concerned about the actual truth, it's impossible to take him seriously when he wants to talk about larger truths, particularly when you read:

When John McCain sticks to his insistence that the Constitution established the United States as a "Christian nation," I don't like it, but I know McCain and I know his character.

John Edwards lied about his haircut, except he didn't, Obama lied about statistics, except he didn't. McCain did and does lie about the Constitution, but that's okay because Cohen knows his character?  

That pretty much sums Mr. Cohen's character, doesn't it?  And his mendacity.

Categories: Politics