How Democratic Schools Operate, the Benefits and Why You Should Choose it for Your Child (Jessica Hanson)   
Democratic School provides an environment in which young people are free to learn both independently and collaboratively according to their own interests and abilities. Community rules, decision-making and conflict resolution will be conducted by a democratic process at weekly school meetings and special council meetings.
          You Go, Joe!   
From •The New York Times•: JULY 4, 2007,  5:05 PM Biden Talks Tough By ADAM NAGOURNEY DES MOINES — Joseph Biden, the Delaware Democrat running for president, is a man of strong opinions. During a campaign event in a Des Moines backyard today, Mr. Biden had some choice words for President Bush and two of […]
          Why Kerry Lost   

BOSTON—My take on the election: Vision without details beats details without vision. President Bush put forward a powerful and compelling philosophy of what the government should do at home and abroad: Expand liberty. You can disagree with Bush's implementation of that vision, but objecting to it as a matter of principle isn't a political winner. John Kerry, on the other hand, campaigned as a technocrat, a man who would be better at "managing" the war and the economy. But for voters faced with a mediocre economy rather than a miserable one, and with a difficult war that's hopefully not a disastrous one, that message—packaged as "change"—wasn't compelling enough to persuade them to vote for Kerry.

Without reliable exit-poll data, it's hard to know exactly which voters and issues decided the election, but my guess is that the Democrats will ultimately conclude that they did what they thought was necessary on the ground to win the election. Karl Rove and the Republicans just did more. (On the exit-poll question: If the initial evening exit-poll result that 5 percent of the late deciders broke for Ralph Nader had turned out to be accurate, Nader would have received more votes from among the pool of late-breaking undecideds than he ended up receiving from the entire electorate.) The Democratic confidence during the early afternoon and evening was based on more than faulty poll data. The Kerry campaign was confident that high turnout from the party base would swing the election their way.

But this election wasn't a swing, or a pendulum. There was no fairly evenly divided group in the middle of the electorate that ultimately broke for one side and made the difference. The 2004 campaign was not a tug of war between two sides trying to yank the center toward them. Instead, it was a battle over an electorate perched on a seesaw. Each campaign furiously tried to find new voters to add so that it could outweigh the other side. Both sides performed capably: Kerry received more votes than Al Gore did four years ago, and he even received more votes than the previous all-time leader, Ronald Reagan in 1984. President Bush just did even better.

Rove's gamble that he could find more Bush supporters from among nonvoting social conservatives than from the small number of undecideds in the usual voting public worked exactly as designed. The question for Democrats is whether Rove's formula will turn out to be a one-time trick tied to Bush's personal popularity and the emotional bond the nation formed with him after the trauma of 9/11, or whether the Democratic Party has been relegated to permanent, if competitive, minority status. Are the Democrats once again a regional party, the new Eisenhower Republicans of the Northeast? For seven consecutive presidential elections, the Democratic candidate has failed to garner 50 percent of the vote. Not since Jimmy Carter in 1976 has a Democrat won a majority, and even Watergate could get Carter only 50.1 percent.

The silver lining for the minority party is that the Democrats may have a slight edge in the Electoral College. Although he lost the popular vote by more than 3.5 million (a landslide in a 50-50 nation), Kerry lost the presidency by a much smaller amount: fewer than 140,000 votes in Ohio. The 2008 battleground will likely be even smaller than 2004's: Only 19 states in this election had a vote margin that within single digits. In 2000's divided America, Bush and Gore finished within 5 points of each other in 22 states. This time, Bush and Kerry came within sniffing distance of each other in half as many, 11. Despite President Bush's remarkably successful campaign, and despite the fact that he became the first president to win a majority of the vote since his father did the same in 1988, in his second term George W. Bush will preside over a country that is even more divided than it was during his first.


          Blame the Electoral College   

BOSTON—There's no reason to start crying that American democracy has been sullied, or that the system doesn't work, or that a constitutional crisis is looming. The Constitution does not enshrine the right to know the winner of a presidential election before bedtime. The one certainty at the end of this long Election Night: There's something really, really wrong with exit polling. The near-certainty: John Kerry is going to lose this election relatively quickly.

How long can Kerry contest an election in which a wartime incumbent beat him by 3.7 million votes? This isn't the same as losing the Electoral College by 537 votes when you won the overall popular vote by more than 500,000. Granted, Kerry isn't contesting anything yet. He's just waiting until the vote totals show that he's been mathematically eliminated, and he shouldn't be begrudged that right.

The real takeaway from this election is that the Electoral College needs to be abolished immediately. If the American public doesn't want to shutter the Electoral College after tonight, we never will. The 2000 election didn't persuade me that the system needed to be junked, but this election provides a far better example of the system's flaws. Under a popular-vote system, President Bush would probably have been declared the winner by the time the polls closed on the West Coast. Only the fact that states, rather than people, elect the American president allowed Kerry to get within striking distance in an election he lost by 3 percentage points. You could argue that the 2000 election was a tie, that it was so close that the winner couldn't be discerned. That's not the case this time around. A majority of Americans clearly went to the polls and voted for the re-election of President Bush. John Kerry lost this election. The Electoral College is just going to make him suffer a slow and painful death instead of a swift and decisive one.

By 2:30 a.m. on Tuesday night—or Wednesday morning—when reporters shuttled outside to watch John Edwards deliver one of the most disappointing political speeches in American history, everyone, including what was left of Kerry's hometown crowd, knew the Democratic ticket had been defeated. When Edwards walked out to explain why he and Kerry were not ready to concede, his statement had all the eloquence of a statement made on an airport tarmac. He spoke for less than a minute. Here's what he said, in its entirety: "It's been a long night, but we've waited four years for this victory. We can wait one more night. Tonight, John and I are so proud of all of you who are here with us, and all of you across the country who have stood with us in this campaign. John Kerry and I made a promise to the American people, that in this election, every vote would count, and every vote would be counted. Tonight, we are keeping our word, and we will fight for every vote. You deserve no less. Thank you!" The speech's redeeming element was Edwards' suggestion that this will all be over by Wednesday night.

But even if the election continues into next week (an unlikely scenario), it's worth remembering that so far, no one's suing, no one's litigating, and no one's contesting anything. We're just waiting for the outcome of a close election to be determined. Kerry and Edwards are losing, but that's no reason for them to walk off the field before the clock runs out.


          Blame Nader   

BOSTON—If John Kerry loses this election, it will be because the "incumbent rule" proved true, but it still didn't benefit the Democratic candidate. Nine percent of the electorate, according to the national exit poll, made up their minds within the past three days. As predicted by polling experts, a fairly small proportion, only 40 percent, decided to cast ballots for President Bush. But John Kerry didn't benefit from their decision not to support the president. Instead, Ralph Nader did.

That's right, the undecideds broke disproportionately for Nader, not Kerry. If the poll is correct, Nader will receive only 1 percent of the popular vote. But 4 percent of the voters who made up their minds in the past three days cast ballots for Nader. Among the voters who made their decision on Election Day, 5 percent went for Nader.

Kerry's support, in contrast, was fairly static. Among the 11 percent of the country who made their decision in the last week of the election, according to the exit poll,Kerry's support was only 1 percent higher than his support among already decided voters. Nader's support quadrupled.

If the poll is accurate, the undecideds didn't break overwhelmingly for the challenger, as predicted, but they did break for him. Unfortunately for Kerry, everyone forgot there was more than one challenger.


          Lockhart Ranks the States   

BOSTON—Just after 10 p.m., Joe Lockhart updated the press at the Fairmont Copley Plaza hotel on the Kerry campaign's view of the unfolding election. He appeared to list states in descending order, as related to the campaign's confidence that Kerry would win them:

"Let me talk a little bit about where we think things are. We are in, I think, a remarkably strong position as we stand here tonight. We think—Let me try to do this in some semblance of order. The first state that will flip, we believe, is New Hampshire. We've had a very aggressive campaign out there, a very aggressive ground game, and we expect to win that state.

"Ohio was a state that stayed close throughout the campaign, but we are very bullish based on the turnout in the state. We had very positive turnout within, as I was saying earlier, the Democratic precincts particularly in African-American communities. We had our precincts, the Democratic precincts, performing at 115 percent of our expectations, and we had the Republican precincts reporting at 94.3 percent of expectations. …  We had African-American precincts reporting in very high, at about 115 percent of what we expected, and Hispanic precincts were reporting at 150 percent of what we expected.

"I think if you look at the vote that's coming in, what you have to keep in mind is there's a series of Democratic counties that we only have very limited reporting in now. I give you those counties and with that [the] margin that Gore had in 2000: Cuyahoga, obviously Cleveland, strong Democratic area, Gore won by 160,000; Lucas County, Toledo area, Gore won by 35,000; Montgomery County, the Dayton area, Gore won by 5,000; Summit, which is Warren, which is where we had the rally over the weekend, Gore won by 25,000, and Mahoney County, which Gore won by 30,000. If you look at the numbers now, these are very underreported, and these are the ones that are coming in late.

"On Florida, we think we, as I said earlier today, we started with a very strong advantage based on the early voting, almost 30 percent of the state voted before today. And we've had absolutely outstanding turnout in the southern part of the state, in Miami-Dade, Broward, and West Palm. If you look at 2000, Gore won Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach by 350,000, and we think we're going to do better than that. We have very limited reporting in those counties in Florida now. But we think that, based on the limited information, we have a 42,000-vote lead in Palm Beach County, with less than half the vote in. Broward County, we have a more than 200,000-vote lead, with still more than a quarter of the vote left to be counted, with still over a quarter left to be counted.

"I think in both of these states, Ohio and Florida, the turnout, the incredible turnout, an unprecedented turnout, I think you've seen in the long lines, in the fact that they're still voting. We have reports from Columbus, Ohio, of a polling place that will be open until midnight based on the line when the polls closed. There's still voting going on in Florida. So we feel very strongly about both of these states as states that will come into our column once the votes are counted.

"I'll do two areas before we get to questions. The first is the Upper Midwest. We feel very strongly about, we'll have a comfortable win in Minnesota. Wisconsin, based on the turnout that we've looked at and analyzed over this afternoon and this evening, we think we'll also hold. I think, Iowa, with a late surge in the last four or five days, and with a very aggressive ground game, we think we'll also be able to hold the state of Iowa.

"In the Southwest, New Mexico and Nevada, one red state, one blue state, we feel very strongly that we've done well there, we've done enough and that when the votes are counted there we'll win those states. So, overall we feel like we're in a strong position."

Q: What's surprised you tonight?

"We expected a very large turnout. I don't know that we expected this, something this large. And I think we've always believed that turnout, and the size of it as it grew over by the millions and maybe even 10 million more than what we saw in 2000, that would advantage us, and I think that's what we're seeing.

"You know, I think the turnout in a number of Democratic communities has been strong. I think if you look at the data that's out now, probably the biggest surprise is how the 18- to 25-year-olds, how many of them came out, and think how strongly they've come out for Kerry. I think if you're looking for one thing to put your finger on right now that's making a difference in this race after many cycles of there being hype about getting young people re-engaged and getting involved in voting again, this is the year that it actually happened."


          Halftime Score   

BOSTON—A little after 4:30 p.m., Joe Lockhart stood at a podium at the traveling press filing center at the Fairmont Copley Plaza hotel and briefed the media on the campaign's view of Election Day so far. Here's a partial transcript. The questions are paraphrases, but Lockhart's quotes are verbatim.

"The rules state if you are in line when the polls close, you are allowed to vote. … They just need to get there by the time of the poll closing. We will be providing coffee and doughnuts for those who have to wait in line as a way to ease their pain, I am told. I believe this is true, that the campaign has authorized in some places in Ohio Port-a-Potties to make sure that people don't leave because they have to go to the bathroom. They tell me that's true."

"In these battleground states, we have targeted 60 precincts per state: 20 that polled very well for then-Gov. Bush, in 2000, 20 that were mixed, 20 that voted heavily for Gore. Let me share a few things from around the country that we've drawn from those precincts. So far today, our base precincts are running ahead of both Republican base precincts and ahead of Al Gore's performance in every battleground state, with the exception of New Mexico, where we are even, and Arkansas, where we're slightly behind.

"So when you look at the whole, 12 or 13, whatever we settled on battleground states, we believe in our key precincts, as a measure of turnout, that we're doing well.

"In Florida, Democratic precincts continue to outperform Republican precincts, and African-American and Hispanic turnout is still running higher than expected. We've seen anecdotal evidence, particularly in some of the Hispanic voting areas, of very heavy turnout. We have a turnout advantage in Miami-Dade County, Broward County, and Palm Beach County.

"In Ohio, Democratic precincts again are outperforming the Republican Bush precincts by about 8 percent. Cuyahoga County turnout advantage in precincts carried by Gore is 7.1 percent compared to the precincts carried by Bush in 2000. Franklin County, we're seeing a turnout advantage, and Hamilton County, which is Cincinnati, a turnout advantage in Gore precincts by again, about 6 and a half percent.

"Wisconsin, Democratic precincts are outperforming Bush precincts by about 1.9 percent; that holds for Dane County, which is the Madison area, and Milwaukee County, and even the heavily Republican county in the Milwaukee suburbs, where our turnout advantage is small, but it is an advantage.

"A couple other: Colorado Democratic precincts are outperforming Bush precincts by about 4.6 percent; Iowa Democratic precincts are outperforming the Bush precincts by about 10 percent. So, we think that the turnout numbers have been encouraging, but we still believe that we have a lot of work to do."

Q: Explain what those numbers mean.

"That's not exit polling. That's turnout. Again, as I said, if you look at key precincts around the state, which is how we judge turnout, we have heavily Democratic districts, and then you've got heavily Republican precincts. And the numbers that I was using were all comparative, comparing the Democratic precincts to the Republican. It doesn't tell you everything, but I think it tells you a lot. If County X, which always votes Democratic, 100 people show up, and County Y, which always votes Republican, 93 people show up, at the end of the day, you have some sense that things are going well for you. And that's good news. Again, it doesn't tell you who's won or lost, but it does give a sense that our efforts at sort of turning out the voters are having some success."

Q: Knowing what you know now, how confident are you that there will be a winner declared tonight?

"I don't know that we know anything more about that … than we did coming into the day. There's two pieces of information, one is that we feel good about where we were in the battleground states. We have said that consistently over the last week. We feel good so far about the turnout. But those things aren't enough. Everybody knows a campaign who thought the turnout looked good in the morning and relaxed in the afternoon and came out unsuccessfully."

Q: How are you redeploying your resources?

I'll give you one example. Gen. Wesley Clark was in New Mexico for us today, and based on some information that we gathered, in both New Mexico and Nevada, we've asked him, and he's on his way now, to do some work in Nevada. So, that's one example, I think, of a body being moved. But this is mostly satellite interviews, phone calls, and movement within a state

"Are the speeches done? If I answered yes, I wouldn't be honest. You know how we work; they'll be done just before they're due."

Q: Have you seen any exit polls? What do you think of them?

"Well, the only thing that I've seen in print is on online sources that I find highly unreliable."

Q: Daily Kos?

"I didn't say which ones I saw."

We'll assume he means Drudge.


          The Other Incumbent Rule   

LA CROSSE, Wis.—The past six years have not been kind to political rules of thumb. During the primary season, a candidate who leads in both the polls and in fund raising on Jan. 1 is supposed to be guaranteed the nomination. Ask Howard Dean about that one. In the general election, the national popular vote is supposed to coincide with the vote in the Electoral College. Ask Al Gore how that went. And during midterm congressional elections, the president's party is supposed to lose seats in the House. About that one, ask Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

The next political axiom to be tested will be polling's "incumbent rule," which dictates that undecided voters break overwhelmingly for the challenger on Election Day. (Another way to put it is that an incumbent president's polling number typically equals or exceeds the percentage share of the vote he'll receive.) Because most final state polls show President Bush polling below 50 percent in nearly every swing state, history is on John Kerry's side Tuesday. But recent elections have shown that past performance is no guarantee of future results.

What's more, if the election turns out to be close, there's another way incumbency could be the determining factor in the election, as Randy Broz, a Democratic strategist and fund-raiser for House candidates, pointed out to me last week. This rule, call it the "other incumbent rule," favors President Bush. In the unlikely scenario of "another Florida"—litigation or just a long recount in a decisive state—the president, by virtue of his incumbency, will hold a decisive public-relations advantage. During the 2000 recount, Republicans cried that Al Gore was trying to "steal the election" from Bush based on nothing more than the fact that the TV networks had declared Bush the winner on Election Night. Had Bush been a sitting president, the outcry would have been more persuasive. Trying to oust a wartime incumbent through litigation would be nearly impossible.

Kerry will need to win clearly and convincingly at the ballot box in order to unseat Bush, and for what it's worth, most reporters seem to think that he's going to do it. The Kerry campaign staff is confident, and it appears to be genuine, rather than bluster. "I never told anyone in 2000 that Al Gore was going to win by 6 points," Bob Shrum—taking a shot at Karl Rove's record in election forecasting—told reporters on the campaign plane. For the past week or two, the campaign has spoken confidently of winning "big states"—presumably Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania—that would assure Kerry the presidency.

By Monday evening, reporters from news organizations that have colleagues traveling with Bush started saying that the Bush folks have clammed up, or that they seem unusually tight. Kerry's final events had a giddy air. The traveling press credentials for the night's last "major rally" in Cleveland featured a head shot of longtime Kerry spokesman David Wade, who gladly autographed a few. To the New York Daily News reporter, he wrote, "At least you're not the Post." And to the New York Post, he tweaked the paper's veep "scoop" by writing, "Go Kerry-Gephardt!" I heard rumors of, but did not witness, a dancing Mike McCurry. I even read it as a sign of confidence that traveling press secretary Allison Dobson was eager to join a proposed Electoral College betting pool. Teresa Heinz Kerry's slightly unusual political talk in Cleveland—about an America that is "young" and "imperfect" but "growing," and how Kerry knows America's "thorny parts" as well its idealism—came across as charming rather than ludicrous.

In Toledo, at a midnight rally that Kerry dubbed "the first stop of Election Day," Gen. Tony McPeak criticized the Bush administration for wrapping itself in the flag to hide its "incompetence." "You wanna shoot 'em, you gotta put a hole in the flag," McPeak said. "We got a guy in John Kerry who stands in front the flag. He says, you gonna hurt that flag, you're gonna have to run through me."

When Kerry arrived here in La Crosse for a photo op at 1:25 a.m. Central time, a man in the crowd held aloft a scrawled sign reading, "Tomorrow Is Here, President Kerry." Kerry leapt into the crowd of a couple hundred people, clutching and grabbing and high-fiving hands. He seemed to realize that this was it, his last full day as a presidential campaigner. Just a couple weeks ago in Des Moines during a joint appearance with John Edwards, Kerry had walked down a catwalk next to his running mate, who was reaching down into the crowd enthusiastically with both hands. Kerry, by comparison, touched a voter's hand only occasionally, and only at the end of the walk did he extend both arms to clasp hands with anyone. This time, Kerry eagerly embraced the throng for 20 minutes, perhaps not ready for this day to end.

Predictions are dangerous, but I'll make one: Tuesday night, the incumbent rule holds, and on Jan. 20, we'll have a new incumbent.


          The Bush Victory Party   

George W. Bush's last victory party, which took place four years ago in Austin, Texas, never quite got underway. There was some annoying business about a withdrawn concession phone call and a steady downpour of rain. This year's party, held inside the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., was in one respect an improvement. There was no rain.

The evening began in the Reagan Building's giant, sloping atrium. The GOP herded its youngish volunteers into a mosh pit, jammed between the stage and the TV cameras. Vodka tonics were consumed, and the twentysomethings seemed poised for giddy celebration. Just after 12:30 a.m., Fox News awarded Ohio to Bush, bringing the president's electoral tally, by the network's count, to 266. Four more years! Alaska followed 20 minutes later, nudging Bush to 269. Four more years! At that point, a portly man wearing a blue suit and pin-striped shirt removed his "W Is Still President" lapel pin, held it aloft like a cigarette lighter, and began to lurch toward the stage.

But as soon as the crowd began to rock, Bush's glorious night ground to a halt. More than three hours passed without Fox awarding Bush a single electoral vote. Some of the other networks refused to give him Ohio. It wasn't that the remaining states were breaking for Kerry; they simply weren't breaking at all. The country band playing at the victory celebration exhausted its playlist and began glancing up nervously at the TV monitors. A producer with a ponytail and "W" hat waddled onstage and told them to keep playing. Reporters in the press row reached for their cell phones: The news from Boston was that John Edwards would take the stage and extend the election.

Ed Gillespie, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, dashed to the podium and, in a speech that lasted for the exact duration of Edwards', declared that Kerry couldn't possibly unearth 100,000 more votes in Ohio. The crowd whooped, but malaise was setting in. Wouldn't the president just get over here and declare victory already? Better yet, wouldn't Kerry just give up?

The heavy eyes were a marked shift from the evening's start, which was brimming with cautious optimism. As Bush swept the early states, Jeremy Bouma, a member of something called the Center for Christian Statesmanship, told me the expected surge in Democratic turnout would be offset by new evangelical voters. "My prayer going into this was that the evangelical vote was the X Factor," he said. Rosario Marin, a former U.S. treasurer, thought that Bush had succeeded in increasing his support among Hispanic voters. She was telling me why Latinos did not, in fact, oppose to the Iraq war when Gillespie announced that ABC had called Florida for Bush.

Aaaaaaaaah! she screamed, into my right ear."Oh, sorry." Then: Aaaaaaaaaah! "Oh, sorry." Aaaaaaaaaaaah! I told her she should go ahead and scream. After she caught her breath, Marin said: "I'm so happy. I'm so excited. My heart is pumping. I've got to call my husband." And then she was gone.

Bush never appeared at his 2000 victory party. Around 3 a.m. Wednesday, a question arose as to whether, in fact, he would appear at this one. CNN's John King reported that Bush had stormed into Karl Rove's office and asked the guru to let him declare victory. The reporters in the press room that weren't asleep let out a whoop. King later reported that Rove told the networks that if they would just call New Mexico for Bush, the president would make his way to the Reagan Building. The message was clear: I know you're tired. So give me the damn state.

At 5:05 a.m., an end—sort of. CNN reported that Bush wouldn't appear in person Wednesday morning; Andy Card, his chief of staff, would speak in his place. Card arrived in a room with a few dozen listless Republicans and said nothing memorable. Mario H. Lopez, one of the listless, declared, "I don't know how I cannot describe this night as historic." Then he glanced at someone's watch and said, "I think we're gonna get some breakfast and then get ready to go to work."  ... 3:17 a.m.

Party Monster: Welcome to George W. Bush's "victory" party in Washington, D.C. Sorta. Us news reporters have been herded into a giant white tent, yards away from the actual party, and contact with revelers looks unlikely. This is what the mob outside Studio 54 must have looked like, if only you upped the dweeb factor.

As the Washington Post's "Reliable Source" column notedthis morning: "Reporters wishing to cover the president's election night party will have to pay $300 for the privilege of a 3-by-2-foot work space and a padded seat in a tent nearby to watch the proceedings on television. … Small groups of media will be escorted into the atrium of the Ronald Reagan Building to look around—but they won't be allowed to talk to participants." For a White House that hates the press, handcuffing reporters on Victory Night seems appropriate.

Last-minute indicators of victory: The handful of people I saw shuffling out of the White House grounds looked grim. Someone who identified himself as a Homeland Security apparatchik looked ebullient. On Fox News, Bill Kristol and Mort Kondracke are wearing prepared smiles. ... 4:05 p.m.

Recriminations Watch—Hispanic-Vote Edition: In the category of what my friend Noam Scheiber calls "possibly meaningless anecdotal evidence," my relatives in Northern New Mexico report an inordinate number of Bush signs in the poor Hispanic colonias—communities that figured to go overwhelmingly to Kerry. The same relatives report that Hispanic men profess to have a cultural affinity with Bush, who they see as a tough, macho sort of guy. Again, meaningless, but it underscores a point: That's about the only thing Bush has going for him with the Hispanic community. The Bushies, who heralded their leader's minority-outreach miracles as Texas governor, have done a shoddy job of courting Hispanics since entering the White House.

A few months back, Antonio Gonzalez of the William C. Velasquez Institute told me that Kerry staffers had whiffed at the Democratic Convention. They featured too few Hispanic speakers; and the preoccupation with Iraq drew attention away from domestic issues affecting the poor. All Karl Rove had to do, Gonzalez said, was goad his keynote speakers into mumbling a few "qué pasas" and the Hispanic vote might tilt slightly to Bush. Well, it didn't happen and it hasn't happened. Most surveys show Bush polling around 30 percent to 35 percent of the Hispanic vote, about what he did in 2000. Even GOP apparatchiks, wishing for miracles, don't put Bush much above 40 percent.

If Bush loses tight races in Florida and New Mexico (and, God forbid, Nevada and Colorado), an early recrimination theory might be that Bush spent too little time chasing Hispanic voters. Then again, perhaps he didn't have a chance. The sour economy disproportionately affects Hispanic and black communities; so does the Iraq War, which draws foot soldiers from the poorest segments of the population. Though both candidates ran Spanish-language ads in the Southwest, the campaigns seemed, at times, to forget about Hispanic voters entirely. Remember the fixation on the gringo Spanish spoken (haltingly) by Al Gore and Bush in 2000? Did Bush and Kerry ignore Hispanic voters, or has the media processed them as stable members of the electorate?

Even if Bush should lose, the GOP would be wise to thank him for ratcheting up their Hispanic numbers to Ronald Reagan levels—and up from depths plumbed by the Bob Dole and George H.W. Bush campaigns. But for a man who wonEl Paso County in his 1998 gubernatorial race, 35 percent doesn't seem like much of a miracle. ... 1:11 p.m.

Tom DeLay's Poetic Justice: Tom DeLay's push to rejigger Texas' congressional districts, an effort that caused such a kerfuffle last year, has faded under the onslaught of Swift Boat Veterans, the Osama tape, and Al Qaqaa. But DeLay's gambit has been no less effective. Five Texas Democrats face re-election Tuesday in GOP-friendly districts, and even the most optimistic Dems predict that only one or two of them (probably Martin Frost or Chet Edwards) can survive. There's a better-than-even shot that allfive Democrats will lose, giving the House GOP majority an enormous boost.

But it's not all sad news. With an influx of new Republicans comes an infusion of unwitting comic genius. Most of this can be seen in the personage of Ted Poe. Poe, a former Houston felony court judge, kicked off his national political career in August by boldly proclaiming, "Now is not the time to be a French Republican."

On the bench in Houston, Poe styled himself as a remorseless, Wild West, hangin' judge in the tradition of Roy Bean. His brainchild was something he called "Poetic Justice." With "Poetic Justice," Poe sentenced criminals to public humiliations to teach them a lesson. Shoplifters who found themselves in front of Poe, for instance, had to stand outside the stores they pinched from carrying signs identifying themselves as criminals.

When a man robbed legendary Lone Ranger star Clayton Moore, Poe made the perp shovel manure 20 hours a month at the Houston police department's horse pens. The sentence was to last for 10 years.

The Club for Growth's Stephen Moore reports that Poe made convicted car thieves hand over their own cars to their victims. Convicted murderers were forced to visit their victims' grave sites; others felons had to hang their victims' pictures in their cells and, upon release, carry them in their wallets. According to the Houston Press, Poe slapped one homicidal drunken driver with the following the rap:

… boot camp; erecting and maintaining a cross and Star of David at the accident site; carrying pictures of the victims in his wallet for ten years; observing the autopsy of a drunk-driving victim; placing flowers on the graves of the two victims on their birthdays for the next ten years; and carrying a sign outside a bar that reads, "I killed two people while driving drunk."

This article describes the ambiance of Poe's Houston office: "a poster of Alcatraz, a painting of a scene from the battle of Gettysburg and a sign proclaiming, 'I really don't care how you did it up north.' "

As the Houston Chronicle reports, victims' relatives have charged that Poe would often fail to follow through on the harsh sentences—a revelation which comes as something of a relief. Slate eagerly awaits the punishments Poe metes out on congressional Democrats. ... 11:12 a.m.

A Snowball's Chance: If the election drifts into Mountain Time Tuesday, will John Kerry regret stiffing New Mexico? That's one theory being floated on Joe Monahan's superb New Mexico political blog tonight. George W. Bush visited the state Monday, Dick Cheney over the weekend. So, New Mexicans will wake up Tuesday to read triumphant Bush headlines like this and this, while they'll see news pictures of Kerry overnighting in Wisconsin.

Bill Richardson pulls all the puppet-strings in New Mexico, but there's mounting evidence that Kerry may be in trouble. The polls have looked limp. And there's a theory that Al Gore's slim margin in 2000—366 votes, all found days after the election—may be attributable to one thing: snow.

On Election Day 2000, a freak snowstorm blanketed "Little Texas," the swath of southeastern New Mexico known for its cultural and political kinship with its neighbor. Conservative voters in three counties stayed home in droves. With Gore running strong in northern New Mexico and narrowly winning Albuquerque, the snowed-in voters may have cost Bush the state.

Tuesday's weather report: This site says "rain and snow showers will linger" near the region. Kerry may need every flake and drop.  … 12:01 a.m.

Monday, Nov. 1 2004

The ESPN Primary: "Mr. President, I am wondering how you feel about taxpayers having to have a financial burden placed on them for building new stadiums and new facilities for existing teams?" So went The Candidates: Election 2004,ESPN's special last night that valiantly tried to make Tuesday's contest into a referendum on professional sports. Jim Gray, the thinking man's Ahmad Rashad, the guy who hones his interview technique on coaches trying to sneak off the court before halftime ("So, uh, how do you prepare for the second half?"), landed interviews with both candidates. With its modus operandi inching ever closer to that of Sabado Gigante, it's groovy to see ESPN put on its serious face once in a while—for the shtick to give way to grave pronouncements about THE WORLD BEYOND SPORTS. Except that Gray never acknowledged that such a thing existed.

In response to a question about ticket prices, Bush replied, "I was always concerned when I was with the Rangers that our ticket prices would become so high that the family would be priced out of baseball." Perhaps this is why Bush helped build the Ballpark at Arlington, one of the most expensive venues in baseball and one of its most soulless. For his part, Kerry repeated his I-stand-with-the-working-man pabulum, suggesting that fathers were looting their children's college funds to sit at club level.

Asked to name his favorite athlete, Kerry, of course, straddled, ticking off a fair slice of the Boston Bruins' first line and, for swing-state mojo, a handful of Detroit Red Wings. Bush got another chance to coo about his clutch performance during the 2001 World Series. And that's about as deep as our man Gray got. There are some reasonably interesting questions to ask about sports, such as why it remains one of the viciously anti-gay segments of public life, a black mark that is ignored when it isn't celebrated.

But why get huffy when you can ask both candidates, as Gray did, what should be done about Pete Rose, who after his selfless act of contrition last winter finds himself no closer to baseball's Hall of Fame? This is the kind of spitball that will get you hooted off most respectable sports radio shows, but the candidates tried their level best. Bush said Rose had never really apologized to baseball. Kerry straddled, then agreed. You could see the nervous flicker in both men's eyes—Bush: Christian values!; Kerry: Cincinnati values!—as they tried outflank one another on Charlie Hustle's quagmire.  ... 10:02 p.m.


          The GOP's 'Heidi Game'   

ORLANDO—The South Florida Sun-Sentinel buried this nugget Sunday in a story about the late delivery of 2,500 absentee ballots in Broward County: WPLG-Channel 10, an ABC affiliate in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area, aired a half-hour chunk of Stolen Honor, the 43-minute anti-Kerry documentary, on Saturday. The time was purchased by Newton Media, a Virginia-based media placement company that says it was founded "on biblical principles" and that includes a number of "media ministries" among its clients.

Angry callers "flooded the customer service phone lines" at the station for airing the program, the Sun-Sentinel reported. A liberal backlash? No, just sports fans upset that the Michigan-Michigan State football game, "tied, 37-37, and about to go into overtime," was pre-empted. Doesn't anyone at Newton Media know the story of the "Heidi game"? Could this be the Republicans' "Lambert Field moment"?

Will the election really be close? On the eve of the Iowa caucuses, journalists and campaign staffers sat in the bar at the Hotel Fort Des Moines and talked about what an exciting, unpredictable, four-way race for the Democratic nomination was about to unfold. The polls were tied. No one professed to have any idea what was about to happen. The unknown factor was an influx of new caucus participants. Many experts predicted that we would be up all night before we could discern the winner. But John Kerry was pronounced the decisive winner as soon as the caucuses ended. (Likewise, few expected a nail-biter in the 2000 general election.)

Florida3: If Kerry loses in Florida and the rest of the map goes as expected (meaning no upsets in Arkansas, New Jersey, or elsewhere), he'll need to carry Hawaii, Michigan, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Ohio, and two of the "Little Three": Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, to get to 270 electoral votes. With Florida, Kerry coasts to victory. Without Florida, he pretty much needs to run the table to win.

At least he's not traveling with Maurice Chevalier. Bruce Springsteen and John Kerry will appear together again on Monday. But is Springsteen the wrong symbol for a Democratic candidate? The Boss and his fan base, after all, are reminiscent of the caricature of limousine liberals: aging yuppies in BMWs who are either hopelessly trying to recapture their past glory or desperately trying to show that they're in touch with the working man. It's akin to Bush traveling with Hank Williams Jr. But in the unlikely event that the Springsteen does resonate politically, Kerry will owe another debt to his former campaign manager Jim Jordan, who chose "No Surrender" as Kerry's theme song. (Jordan also lobbied for Kerry to use his successful "Bring it on" mantra early in the primaries, but the idea was nixed by Bob Shrum.)

For those scoring at home: Here's where the candidates and their wives will be on the last day of campaigning before Election Day. Both Bush and Kerry have abandoned their typically lightly scheduled campaign days for a last-day whirlwind:

Kerry begins the day here in Orlando, then heads to Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio (twice), then back to Wisconsin. On Tuesday, he'll do a morning event in Wisconsin—"Because Wisconsin is a same-day registration state, we'll be doing a turnout event," Mike McCurry told reporters—then head home to Massachusetts.

Edwards visits Minnesota, Iowa, Ohio, and Florida, then spends all day Tuesday in Florida before heading to Massachusetts for Kerry's Election Night rally.

President Bush spends Monday in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Iowa (twice), New Mexico, and Texas, while the Cheneys take the red-eye back from Hawaii and do events in Colorado, Nevada (twice), then head home to Wyoming.

Teresa Heinz Kerry stays in her home state of Pennylvania, while Elizabeth Edwards travels to Wisconsin, Ohio (twice), and Iowa. Laura Bush starts the day with the president in Ohio, then she has separate events in Ohio and Michigan before joining up again with the president in Iowa.

The best news of the weekend: The Packers-Redskins game could have ended in a tie. It didn't.


          The Vanishing Nonvoter   

FORT LAUDERDALE—Republicans love to criticize Democrats for failing to use "dynamic scoring" when assessing the impact of tax cuts on budget revenues. But if President Bush loses the 2004 presidential election, it may be because Karl Rove failed to use dynamic scoring when assessing the impact of his political strategy on the electorate.

In budgetary matters, dynamic scoring means including the effect that cutting taxes will have on economic growth when determining how a tax cut will affect federal revenues. A static analysis, on the other hand, would just decrease the government's inflows by the amount that taxes were cut (or increase revenues by the amount taxes were raised), without calculating the ways a change in tax policy can change people's economic decisions.

For the 2004 election, Rove's static political analysis was that appealing to the 4 million evangelicals who didn't vote in 2000 would bring President Bush a decisive re-election victory. Bush's campaign—and his presidency—have appealed almost entirely to the base of the Republican Party. In a static world, that strategy makes sense: Consolidate the support you received last time, and then find new conservative voters who weren't motivated to turn out four years ago, whether because of the late-breaking news of Bush's DUI arrest or because they weren't convinced of Bush's conservative bona fides. But Rove may have missed the dynamic analysis: the effect that such a strategy would have on the rest of the nonvoting public.

In most states, the Democratic voter-registration program has outpaced the Republican one. Here in Florida, that hasn't been the case, as the GOP has turned up more new registrants across the state than the Democrats. But evidence that Rove's unconventional strategy inflamed the Democratic base can be seen in the early-voting turnout, which seems to be favoring the Democrats. Friday's South Florida Sun-Sentinel featured this headline on the front page: "Early Vote Turnout Boosts Democrats." Calling the turnout in heavily Democratic Broward County a "bad sign for President Bush's chances to win the state," the Sun-Sentinel noted that "twice as many Democrats as Republicans had either voted at early voting sites or returned absentee ballots in the county." In Miami-Dade, another heavily Democratic county, Kerry stands to beat Bush by 90,000 votes if a Miami Herald poll conducted by John Zogby is accurate, Herald columnist Jim DeFede wrote on Thursday. Al Gore won the county by less than 40,000 votes.

"By our count, John Kerry already has a significant lead with the people who have already voted in Florida," Tad Devine said in a conference call with reporters Saturday. The voters who are waiting in line for 2 1/2 hours to vote—almost exactly how long the line was Saturday at the downtown Fort Lauderdale public library—aren't doing that to register their support for "more of the same," he said. Interestingly, Devine sounded more confident about Kerry's chances in Florida than in Ohio, a state in which most people think Kerry has a slight edge. He said that Kerry had a "small but important advantage" in Florida (as well as Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania) but only that the race was "very close" with Kerry "positioned to win" in Ohio, putting that the Buckeye State in the same category as Bush-leaning (by most accounts) states Iowa, Nevada, and New Mexico.

It's possible that Rove and the Bush campaign have turned up a huge trove of conservative nonvoters who were registered to vote four years ago and who therefore aren't showing up in the numbers of new registered voters. Unless that's true, however, the early indications are that Rove's repudiation of centrist politics will backfire. The secret of Bill Clinton's campaigns and of George W. Bush's election in 2000 was the much-maligned politics of small differences: Find the smallest possible majority (well, of electoral votes, for both men) that gets you to the White House. In political science, something called the "median voter theorem" dictates that in a two-party system, both parties will rush to the center looking for that lone voter—the median voter—who has 50.1 percent of the public to the right (or left) of him. Win that person's vote, and you've won the election.

Rove has tried to use the Bush campaign to disprove the politics of the median voter. It was as big a gamble as any of the big bets President Bush has placed over the past four years. It has the potential to pay off spectacularly. After all, everyone always talks about how there are as many people who don't vote in this country as people who do vote. Rove decided to try to get the president to excite those people. Whether Bush wins or loses, it looks like he succeeded.


          Florida's Absent Ballots   

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.—Everyone knew that both parties would go on the attack during the final days of a close election, but we didn't think they would take it literally. In Sarasota on Tuesday, a 46-year-old man in a Cadillac decided to play chicken with former Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, who is now running for re-election to Congress. Amazingly, given that she was a pedestrian standing with some of her supporters, rather than driving a car, Harris won. The Cadillac "swerved onto the sidewalk" at the last minute, according to the Associated Press. "I was exercising my political expression," the man, Barry Seltzer, told police. "I did not run them down. I scared them a little." Perhaps the Supreme Court will weigh in on this election after all, if only to decide whether motor-vehicle "flybys" are protected under the First Amendment.

Not to be outdone, an 18-year-old high-school student and aspiring Marine in West Palm Beach ensured that the state's meltdown would be bipartisan. After his girlfriend—now ex-girlfriend—told him she was going to vote for John Kerry, Steven Soper allegedly "beat her and held her hostage with a screwdriver," according to the Palm Beach Post report, which is worth reading in full. In the city of Vero Beach, another Bush supporter, 52-year-old Michael Garone, is accused of pointing a gun at the head of a Kerry supporter. And they say Republicans are trying to suppress turnout.

Because of the journalistic rule that three makes a trend, the local TV news after the World Series broadcast a story on "political rage." The conclusion from the reporter: "Bottom line, psychiatrists say: Vote, then calm down. Stop watching the 24-hour cable news." But the problem most Palm Beach County voters seem to be worrying about is a much more mundane one: Will our votes be counted?

Because of the county's disastrous 2000 election, when elderly Jews accidentally voted for Pat Buchanan and when 19,000 "overvotes"—most of which were intended for Al Gore—were tossed because the confusing butterfly ballot led voters to think they should punch holes for both the president and the vice president, voters here are particularly knowledgeable about the ins and outs of voting systems and voting machines. Many voters are fearful of the new electronic touch-screen machines that will be used for this election, particularly because the machines lack a paper trail that could be used in a recount. As a result, a huge number of Palm Beach County voters have requested absentee ballots. Wednesday's Palm Beach Post reported that the county's Supervisor of Elections, Theresa LePore (yes, she's still around for one last election), said 128,000 absentee ballots had been mailed out through Monday. That's 17 percent of the more than 735,000 registered voters in the county, and it's 10,000 more absentee ballot requests so far than Miami-Dade County, which has 300,000 more voters. LePore told the paper her office expected to mail another 7,000 each day this week.

The absentee ballots are paper-and-pencil ballots that will be read by optical scan machines, which are the most accurate voting machines available. They're also the only way for voters in the county to cast a physical, paper ballot that can be recounted. The problem was highlighted for area voters after a special election in January for State House District 91. The race was decided by 12 votes, which meant that Florida's automatic recount law kicked in. Except there was nothing to recount, despite 134 blank "undervotes" recorded by the machines. Perhaps voters intentionally didn't cast a ballot in the race, but without a physical ballot, there was no way to inspect the undervotes to be sure.

The local Democratic Party has urged voters who are concerned about the machines' accuracy or who want a paper trail of their ballot to vote absentee. So has the state Republican Party, which earlier this year published a flyer in Miami that read, "Make sure your vote counts. Order your absentee ballot today."

But now voters claim they haven't received their absentee ballots in the mail, even though the ballots must be returned by 7 p.m. on Election Day in order for them to be counted. Nothing like Broward County's 50,000 missing ballots has occurred, and LePore blamed the post office for the problem. She told the Palm Beach Post, "We take them to the post office and then it's out of my hands." Voters who don't receive their ballots can still vote at the polls, but at the early-voting sites, the lines have been long: The wait was at least an hour each time I stopped by West Palm Beach's polling place on Wednesday.

Before the county's Democrats get hysterical and start aiming their cars at LePore, they should know that their party has at least two reasons for optimism. The first was noted earlier this month by Howard Goodman, a columnist for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. According to Goodman, "Between August 2000 and August 2004, the Democratic voter rolls in Palm Beach County increased by 30,582. Almost 26,000 other people registered without declaring a political party. But Republicans added only 326 people."

The second is that Palm Beach County uses Sequoia touch-screen machines, which were adapted in Nevada to include a paper trail. In that state, the Washington Post reported this week, "They were used for the fall primary, and tests afterward showed that the paper totals and electronic totals matched perfectly." So, Florida voters, by all means, vote absentee if it makes you feel better. But Nevada's primary provides a good reason to trust the machines.


          Sticks Nix Veep Pick   

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.—By most standards, John Edwards has been a solid running mate for John Kerry. He throttled Dick Cheney in the vice presidential debate (less sympathetic observers thought he at least held his own), he draws big and enthusiastic crowds, he gave a decent if not spectacular acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention, he's always on message, and he's committed no memorable gaffes or otherwise violated the Hippocratic oath of vice presidential nominees. He wasn't selected to win his home state of North Carolina, so it isn't fair for Democrats to be disappointed when the Tar Heel State stays in the Bush column, as it almost certainly will, a week from tonight. But Edwards partisans did expect him to help the Democratic ticket to appeal more to rural voters, and there's no evidence that he's managed to pull off that admittedly difficult feat. If Kerry loses a close election next week, the first second-guessing question has to be, Was John Edwards the right choice?

According to a poll released on Saturday by the Center for Rural Strategies, Kerry trails President Bush by 12 points, 53 to 41 (with a 4.4 percent margin of error), among rural voters in 17 battleground states. Four years ago, Al Gore lost those voters to Bush by a nearly identical margin, 11 points. No reasonable person expected Edwards to help Kerry actually win among rural voters, but it was hoped that he would help the ticket outperform Gore's number and reduce the margin to single digits. When Edwards was criticized for "disappearing" after the convention, the Kerry campaign explained that he had been dispatched to rural areas that were being ignored by the national media, and they assured everyone that he was wowing local media. Local voters seem to be another matter.

During a Tuesday conference call that was set up to discuss how good the Kerry campaign feels about its chances to win the election, the one disappointment expressed by Joe Lockhart and Stan Greenberg was Kerry's performance in rural areas. "I think we recognize that rural voters have not come to us in the way that we had hoped for in this election," Lockhart said. Greenberg said the fact that rural voters were "stuck" was a big factor in why Iowa and New Mexico, states that were won by Gore, remain tossups.

A less exciting but more traditional vice-presidential pick might have served Kerry better by putting one of those states safely in his column. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson or Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack could have guaranteed their states' electoral votes for the Democrats. Perhaps even Arkansas' Wes Clark or one of Florida's two senators, Bob Graham and Bill Nelson, could have put their states away for Kerry.

None of those candidates would have generated the buzz that selecting Edwards did, and there are reasons to believe that each of them would have been truly bad choices. Maybe they all would have been crucified by Dick Cheney. But Vilsack, in particular, made Kerry's shortlist, along with Edwards and Dick Gephardt. If you're a Democrat looking at the electoral map, which would you rather have right now, a veep debate win or Iowa's seven electoral votes?

How I Voted: I didn't mean to abstain from Slate's "Show Us Your Ballots" exercise, but I missed the deadline. Here's my candidate: Kerry. I was ambivalent about the Iraq war before the invasion, and I ultimately decided that if you're ambivalent about war you should be against it. The president and this administration apparently feel otherwise. They've put the burden of proof on peace rather than war. Their disdain for the global institutions that have projected American power overseas for 60 years has undermined not just our country's hard-earned reputation and moral authority but our hard-earned might. Their disregard for the Geneva Conventions is shameful and a dangerous international precedent. On the domestic side, Kerry seems a little too eager to spend taxpayer dollars, but I take his pledges of—if not his instincts for—restraint as a reason for guarded optimism. More important, on that score, he can't be any worse than Bush. Besides, this is a one-issue election for me. I don't hate President Bush. I think he's well-intentioned and a good man. He's just not a good president.


          What Would John Paul Do?   

COLUMBUS, Ohio—Al Gore couldn't carry Tennessee. But will John Kerry lose his home faith? Among Catholic voters in this state, a recent poll done by Ohio University showed Kerry trailing Bush 50 percent to 44 percent, while the race among Protestants was closer, with 50 percent backing Kerry and 49 percent behind Bush. (Though both results are within the margin of error.) The question isn't just a matter of trivia: In Sunday's New York Times, Adam Nagourney raised the question of whether a Kerry defeat would "make it more difficult for another Catholic to capture the Democratic nomination any time soon." Kerry's opposition to Church teaching on abortion (at least in public policy) led to several controversies, including the one where some bishops announced they would not give Kerry Communion if he were in their congregations. Losing a bishop or two is one thing; if Kerry can't carry the Catholic vote comfortably in swing states, electability-driven primary voters may look more skeptically at future Catholic candidates.

Nationally, the polls have been mixed, and some recent polls have shown Kerry gaining ground among the flock. Last week's Zogby Poll showed Kerry leading among Catholics, and at Beliefnet, Slate's "Faith-Based" columnist Steven Waldman noted that undecided white Catholics broke for Kerry in two polls after the first debate. But despite that support, the debates over whether Kerry is a "real Catholic" have put liberal Catholics on the defensive and made them feel like an embattled minority. A convention of political journalism has added to the feeling: the unfortunate tendency to pronounce that "white men" or "married women with children" or "churchgoers" believe certain things, even when as many as 45 percent of the members of the demographic disagree. Journalism has no reservations about the tyranny of the majority.

So, when several hundred Columbus-area Catholics, including a nun and several priests, gathered Sunday afternoon for a "Catholics for Kerry" rally, the event had the air of a coming-out party. The speakers on stage embraced each other as each one finished addressing the audience. "It feels good, doesn't it?" said Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois. A member of the Columbus City Council, Maryellen O'Shaughnessy, sounded a we're-here-get-used-to-it note. "We won't be afraid to speak out on whom we support," she said. "We will not be cowed by some extremists who would have us be quiet."

At times, the speakers at the event seemed more interested in rebuking the leaders of the Church who have criticized Kerry than in praising the candidate himself. It wasn't a sober gathering filled with theological and canonical explanations of where Kerry's politics fit in with Church teaching. Too often, the rally was an angry, if understandable, rant. Father James Colopy read a letter written by his aunt to the New York Times and a local newspaper after the Republican convention. Her brother was burned to death in Vietnam, and she was outraged at the Purple Heart band-aids worn by delegates. The Purple Heart "should be honored as the flag is honored," she wrote. "And [Bush] calls himself a pro-life president," Colopy said. "Lies, all lies." Father Greg Jones agreed that Bush was not pro-life in the Catholic sense—because he prosecuted an unjust war, because he executed more than 150 people as Texas governor, because his abortion policy "is full of asterisks"—and alluded to the Church's pedophilia scandal when he said, "Tainted leadership has promoted the lie." The pope and the Catholic Church demand respect for all life, "from conception to natural death, not death in the Texas deathhouse," Jones said. "You see, life doesn't end at birth." And minority groups are alive, too, Jones said. You're supposed to nurture the lives of all of them, "not just one lesbian in the White House." (Jones did have a funny riff on Lynne Cheney's outrage over her daughter's "outing": "Hello? She's a professional lesbian," who worked for Coors doing gay outreach. "She actually traveled the country with Mr. International Leather. That's pretty lesbian.")

The speakers were smart men and women of faith, but they sometimes came across as imbued with the same self-righteousness as their political opponents. Eric McFadden, the man who organized the event through his Web site (and who was interviewed by Nightline beforehand), said he doesn't like it when the Bush campaign shows photos of the president with members of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic organization. As a fourth degree Knight, "That's an affront to me, because he does not walk with Christ," McFadden said. Father John Ardis, Kerry's pastor from the Paulist Center in Boston, explained that Kerry's Catholic faith dictated his support for Democratic slogans like "closing the gun show loophole" and "extending the assault weapons ban."

The quieter, less political moments were more effective. "God is real in John and Teresa's lives," Ardis said. "While they could undoubtedly choose to sit back and enjoy lives of relaxed leisure, they do not." By the time Sen. Durbin mentioned the Gospel story of the self-righteous prayer of the Pharisee and the humble prayer of the tax collector, his question—"How can those on the other side be so convinced of their righteousness?"—came as a rebuke not just to the religious right but, unintentionally, to the assembled religious left.

On Monday, I went to McFadden's house to talk about the rally with him. He agreed that parts of the rally may have come across as self-righteous, but added, "What was said yesterday had to be said. My organization shouldn't have to exist." They started it, he said. "They drug my religion into it, my faith. We didn't ask for this." For example, the Bush campaign shows pictures of the president meeting with the pope. "At that meeting, Pope John Paul II scolded him and condemned his war." The pope supports a multilateral approach to fighting terrorism, he continued. "Pope John Paul hasn't said a word in these last two months about abortion. But Pope John Paul has condemned the war twice. … To me, the pope has endorsed the platform that John Kerry is running on with regards to the war on terror."

McFadden, who is anti-abortion, concedes that some of Kerry's positions, such as his support for federal funding for abortion, are "tough," but says Catholics shouldn't be single-issue voters. And rallies like the one here on Sunday make him feel better. "I kind of felt like I was alone at the beginning."

If John Kerry becomes president, the long-simmering divide between conservative and liberal Catholics will probably widen. But whether Kerry becomes president—and whether the Democrats wait four more decades before nominating another Catholic—may depend on just how not-alone McFadden is.


          I Want My GOTV   

COLUMBUS, Ohio—With only nine days until this election is over (or so everyone hopes), we've reached the stage of the campaign when the political press evaluates each side's ground game. The media's track record on this is not encouraging. Almost exactly nine months ago, reporters were wandering around Iowa judging the merits of everyone's "organization, organization, organization." The verdict: Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt were the men to beat. We were dazzled by Gephardt's union support and by Dean's "Perfect Storm" of door-knocking, orange-hatted, out-of-state volunteers. They both got creamed.

In hindsight, Dean's Perfect Storm has been judged a debacle on two levels: It annoyed Iowans, who don't like outsiders, and it tied up Dean's staff with organizational headaches—where should we house the Stormers? How can we keep them busy?—when the staff's time would have been better spent figuring out how to get Iowans to the caucuses. But at the time, it got great press.

So, perhaps it's a bad omen for Kerry's ground game in Ohio when I discover that Christy Setzer, the woman who handled press for the Perfect Storm, has been assigned to deal with national reporters who parachute into Columbus to watch America Coming Together, the New New Thing of the general election, in action. That's not meant as a slap at Setzer—she's a terrific person who's good at her job (see the aforementioned glowing press)—but the parallels are irresistible. Like the Storm was for the caucuses, the George Soros-funded ACT is the Big Question Mark of the general election: How many of the new voters it registered in the past year are authentic? How many of them will show up to vote? Can this unconventional strategy win Kerry the presidency?

ACT's army of red-coated canvassers are Kerry's Afghan warlords: He's outsourced his base campaign, his voter-registration drives, and a healthy chunk of his get-out-the-vote operation to them. Much of the rest of the operation will be handled by the groups (including ACT) that make up America Votes, another 527 that coordinates the voter-contact and voter-turnout operations of a host of interest groups, from the AFL-CIO to Planned Parenthood, to ensure that everyone's on the same page. In a sense, America Votes does for the liberal ground game what Grover Norquist's weekly meeting does for conservative talking points.

When I ask Setzer to compare ACT to Dean's Storm, she says it differs in important ways. For one, the canvassers are paid workers and not volunteers, and the organization tries to hire locals instead of out-of-towners. More important, perhaps, the canvassers are supposed to identify voters and get them to the polls, not tell voters their personal stories of how far they've traveled and why they're committed to Howard Dean (or John Kerry). But the real key is that they don't work for just one weekend.

The secret to turnout is frequent face-to-face contact with voters. That's a lesson Steve Rosenthal, the national head of America Coming Together, learned during his years as the political director of the AFL-CIO. Many people attribute Al Gore's victory in the popular vote in 2000—and his wins in every close state except Florida—to Rosenthal's turnout operation for the unions in 2000. Donna Brazile has called Rosenthal "the last great hope of the Democratic Party" and has compared him to Michael Whouley and Karl Rove. ACT is a national version of what Rosenthal did for Philadelphia Mayor John Street in 2003. In that race, 38,000, or 44 percent, of the 86,000 new voters Rosenthal registered came to the polls, he told National Journal earlier this year, compared to 28 or 29 percent of what the magazine called "voters from the same neighborhoods and similar socio-economic backgrounds who had registered on their own."

In Ohio, ACT sends out between 200 and 250 paid canvassers each day. They get paid between $8 and $10 an hour. Setzer reels off impressive numbers: We've knocked on 3.7 million doors in Ohio, had more than 1 million conversations. On Election Day, ACT will send out 12,000 volunteers, each paid a stipend of $75 for travel and expenses, to make sure voters get to the polls. ACT and the partner organizations that make up America Votes have registered about 300,000 new voters in Ohio, and they'll consider it a success to turn out just half of them. Those voters alone, though, wouldn't swing the election. Four years ago, Bush's margin of victory was nearly 180,000 votes. In all, Ohio has between 700,000 and 800,000 new voters for this election, though Setzer points out that some of that could just be churn from voters who moved.

My trip to watch two ACT canvassers in action wasn't very impressive, but that's because it was a Potemkin canvass, organized for the benefit of an MSNBC reporter and his camera. Malik Hubbard, 26, and Julian Johannesen, 32, walked up and down a few blocks in a largely African-American neighborhood in Columbus on a Saturday afternoon. As ACT's field directors for Franklin County, which includes Columbus, Hubbard and Johannesen don't usually canvass themselves. Each man carried a Palm Tungsten T2, which contained the addresses of the voters they were supposed to contact. It's Saturday afternoon on the day of the Ohio State homecoming game, so it's not optimal door-knocking time, but they do their best to put on a good show. When a voter answers the door, the canvasser gives him or her a flyer that has the address of the local polling place stamped on it. He explains that the polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m., advises the voter to bring some form of identification to the polls in case their registration is challenged, and asks if there are any questions. On two separate occasions, a voter worries about a false rumor that the neighborhood's voting machines have been replaced with punch-card ballots. After talking to each voter, Hubbard and Johannesen input the data into their Tungsten T2s.

Over the next nine days, canvassers will follow up with voters, continuing the personal contacts. For what it's worth, the Bush-Cheney campaign in the state is following a similar strategy, though it doesn't partly rely on an outside organization to carry it out. "I'm not saying we're gonna outperform the other side, because they have the potential to be spectacular," says Dave Beckwith, a Bush-Cheney spokesman in Ohio. "I'd just rather be where we are, with a real solid model." The model is the Republican "72 Hour Program," Karl Rove's get-out-the-vote operation from 2002, which helped the Republicans gain House and Senate seats in the midterm elections. Like ACT, the 72 Hour Program relies on frequent face-to-face contact with voters, what Bush's Ohio campaign manager Bob Paduchik calls "the volunteer-to-voter interface."

"By and large, it is an effort to move closer to the Democrat knock-and-drag vote drive," Beckwith says. Republicans have traditionally relied on things like direct mail to get out the vote, but this time, "We are going to the personal contact system." The Bush-Cheney campaign has printed up small pamphlets that contain a list of each committed Bush voter in a neighborhood, along with voters' phone numbers and a map of the area. On Election Day, a volunteer takes the book and checks off each voter after they go to the polls.

Beckwith admits that the Democrats have registered more new voters than the Republicans, but he says that their work was done by "mercenaries"—and they have "people signed up by crack addicts"—while his side employs volunteers, or "liberty-loving free men." Beckwith then drifts into a reverie about the Battle of San Jacinto and explains how Sam Houston knew that "conscripts" and the forces of "despotism" couldn't defeat free men. The enemy was saying, "Me no Alamo," Beckwith says with a laugh. (At another moment in the interview, Beckwith observes of the Kerry-Edwards campaign offices, "I think they're on Gay Street, which is interesting, because we're on Rich Street.")

At the Bush-Cheney headquarters, I mention to Paduchik, Bush's Ohio campaign manager, how the media overestimated the effectiveness of Dean's Perfect Storm. Paduchik says the evidence of Bush's organization in Ohio is the size of his crowds, because the campaign distributes its tickets through its volunteers. When you see 22,000 people in Troy, Ohio, or 50,000 people in Westchester, Ohio, you know you're looking at "a real organization," he says. "It's not because we had tickets you could download from the Internet. It's not because we had put them on car windows, or had people pick them up at a 7-Eleven, like the other side does."

On the way out, I'm reminded that all this work on both sides isn't necessarily a sign of confidence. As we walk to the door, Beckwith points to an empty portion of the Bush-Cheney offices. That's where the staff for Sen. George Voinovich works, he says. "These cocksuckers are up 30 points and they're never in here."


          Second Best   

CLEVELAND—Is John Kerry finally winning? His campaign, which only a week ago was defensive about the candidate's standing in the polls, is now more confidently asserting that he's pulled ahead. Before Friday, the Kerry campaign hadn't been willing to make that claim. Typically, the Bush campaign would argue that the president was leading in the race, and the Kerry campaign would respond by saying, no, it's a tie. But in a Friday afternoon conference call, Kerry's people finally started pointing to the scoreboard.

Here are the numbers outlined by Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg on the latest Democracy Corps poll. The numbers are consistent with the latest polls from news organizations, most of which are in keeping with what the Kerry people have been saying all along, that the race is a toss-up. In Greenberg's poll, the horse race is a statistical tie, with Kerry at 49 and Bush at 47. The president's approval rating is 48 percent, "which is just at the edge of electability," Greenberg noted.

So why the confidence? Greenberg cited two internal numbers from the part of the poll that focused on "persuadable" voters. That group includes undecided voters, Bush and Kerry supporters who say their minds remain open, and a third group, Bush voters who say they want the country to go in a significantly different direction. The first number Greenberg cited was this: Fifty-seven percent of the persuadable voters in the Democracy Corps poll said they want to know how a candidate will "make the economy and health care better for people," while only 32 percent want to know "how you'll make us safe." The other number Greenberg highlighted: Given a choice between "I'm comfortable with changing to a new person if he has the right priorities" and "Bush has made us safer and I'm reluctant to change," 54 percent of persuadable voters said they were comfortable with changing, and 45 percent said they were reluctant. The responses to those two questions, Greenberg said, show that Kerry has "an audience" ready to listen to his message. He just has to "seal the deal."

With 11 days to go, that puts Kerry in the exact same place he was with more than three months to go, before the Democratic convention. He had a willing and persuadable audience then, and he proved unable to win them over. People preferred the "generic Democrat" to Bush, but they soured on the specific Democrat. Fortunately for Kerry, in the first debate, Bush reminded voters of what they don't like about him, and now we're back to square one again.

That dynamic is in keeping with the "spotlight" theory of the election being peddled by Ron Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times. The theory goes something like this: Given that a slight majority of the electorate doesn't want Bush, and that a different but similarly slight majority doesn't want Kerry, the winning candidate will be the one who manages to keep the spotlight on his opponent's flaws, rather than his own.

Up to now, I've rejected Brownstein's theory and argued that Kerry has to do more than just watch Bush lose. He has to win the separate "referendum on the challenger" by persuading Americans that he's an acceptable replacement for the president. But if Brownstein is right, neither candidate should get too optimistic by polling data that shows him ahead. Because every time for the past few months that this race has been one man's race to lose, that man hasn't had any trouble finding a way to lose it.


          Kerry Isn't Al Gore   

MILWAUKEE—Here's a complaint you won't hear very often: Some Democrats wish John Kerry's campaign was just a tiny bit more like Al Gore's. They may be happy to do without the sighing, the man-tan, the public displays of affection, the ill-fitting populist message, Joe Lieberman, Mark Fabiani, and the weird New Yorker interview. But there's one thing they do miss: Gore's post-convention riverboat trip down the Mississippi River.

Karl Rove has attributed the narrow Democratic victory in Iowa four years ago to the riverboat trip, which allowed Gore to reach rural river counties that Bush couldn't reach by plane (for want of a suitable runway). The congressional newspaper The Hill noted earlier this month that Gore won nine of the 10 Iowa counties along the Mississippi River. That feat is even more impressive in light of Gore's miserable performance nationally in rural areas.

Kerry is doing all he can to appeal to rural voters, particularly in Ohio. In addition to Thursday's hunting trip, he attended Mass on a Saturday afternoon during his bus trip this past weekend, and he accepted a shotgun as a gift during a political rally at the end of that trip. (That was the second time I've seen Kerry receive a gun at a rally. He was also given one during a September rally in West Virginia's coal country. He refrained this time, however, from mourning the fact that he could not use it to shoot the president.) But if Kerry wins Ohio and ends up losing Iowa and Wisconsin (and thereby the presidency), some fingers will immediately point at Kerry's failure to imitate Gore's successful, and nearly decisive, boat ride.

Would President Gore Have Prevented 9/11? In Reason's poll  of notables from the "reason universe," Camille Paglia explains that she's voting for John Kerry this time and that she voted for Ralph Nader four years ago because she detests "the arrogant, corrupt superstructure of the Democratic Party." But even though Paglia thought Gore would be such a bad president that she was driven to vote for Nader, she also claims that if he had become president he would have prevented 9/11.

Paglia doesn't put it that way, but the logic is inescapable from her explanation of her "most embarrassing vote": "Bill Clinton the second time around. Because he did not honorably resign when the Lewinsky scandal broke and instead tied up the country and paralyzed the government for two years, leading directly to our blindsiding by 9/11."

Campaign Reporters for Truth: I wasn't one of the members of the traveling press that went on the hunting trip with Kerry. I am, however, a member of the traveling press. And I can tell you that the goose that Kerry shot was a mere gosling, wearing only a loincloth, fleeing the scene, and that Kerry chased it down and shot it in the back.


          Bush's Ohio Valley   

COLUMBUS, Ohio—White House press secretary Scott McClellan wandered into the press cabin on Air Force One this week to let the media know where President Bush would be campaigning. On Thursday, Pennsylvania. On Friday, Pennsylvania and Florida. On Saturday, Florida. Those are two of the presidential campaign's "Big Three" states, which nearly everyone assumes will decide the election. The glaring omission: Ohio.

"Why aren't we going to Ohio? The president hasn't been there in several weeks," a reporter asked McClellan after the plane landed. Oops, the president will head to Canton on Friday, McClellan said. "I think I forgot to mention Ohio."

McClellan's lapse is understandable. Bush seems to have forgotten about Ohio, too. "The Bush campaign is confident it can win the state; as if to prove its comfort level, today marks 14 days since the Republican president last set foot in Ohio," Cleveland's Plain Dealer wrote this past Saturday. By the time Bush arrives in Canton tomorrow, he'll have gone 19 days without campaigning in the Buckeye State. His last stop here was in Cuyahoga Falls on Oct. 2.

Since then, John Kerry has held a town hall in Austintown on Oct. 3, a rally and a roundtable discussion in Elyria on Oct. 9, and a bus trip through Ohio's Appalachia on Saturday, Oct. 16. This week alone, he went to a Baptist church in Columbus, spoke at a minor-league ballpark in Dayton, went goose hunting near Youngstown, and delivered a speech on science in Columbus. According to the "Ohio pool" being held by members of Kerry's traveling press and staff (they're wagering on how many days the campaign will spend in Ohio between March 17 and Nov. 2), Kerry spent eight of the first 21 days of October in Ohio. He'd spent only 14 days in the state before this month.

Ohio and Florida remain central to Kerry's Electoral College strategy. But for Bush, has Ohio been demoted? He's not going to start spending a lot of time in Ohio over the next few days after his Canton toe-touch. Here's his schedule after the Saturday trip to Florida: New Mexico on Sunday, Colorado and Iowa on Monday, and Wisconsin and Iowa on Tuesday. (Sunday's Alamogordo, N.M., rally is a change from the schedule issued two days ago, which showed President Bush spending the day at his Crawford ranch, with no public events. The late-inning vacation is one mistake from 2000 that Bush has apparently decided not to repeat.)

Bush hasn't quite ceded Ohio. Vice President Cheney spent some time here this week, as did Condoleezza Rice and the Bush daughters. But Cheney's also been to Michigan, a state that's not exactly on the A-list of battleground states. For Bush's victory strategy, Ohio may be a state more like Michigan and Pennsylvania than a state like Florida: Winning it would kill Kerry, but losing it wouldn't kill Bush.

ABC's The Note drew up this scenario earlier in the week: Kerry wins Ohio and Pennsylvania, but Bush wins the presidency by carrying Florida, Wisconsin, and two out of three from Iowa, Nevada, and New Mexico. Maybe we should start calling Wisconsin, Iowa, Nevada, and New Mexico the "Little Four." Or maybe the Big Three should annex Iowa and Wisconsin and become the Big Five. The electoral scorecard from Slate's William Saletan estimates that if the election were held today, Bush would win the presidency while losing Ohio by picking up both Iowa and Wisconsin (and holding Nevada).

Lots of Democrats took heart when the blogger Mystery Pollster declared that Bush was losing Ohio. But Ohio isn't this year's Florida, the one state Bush can't do without. It looks like Florida still is.


          Kerry vs. His Script   

WATERLOO, Iowa—Since the final presidential debate, John Kerry has traveled around the country delivering a series of speeches that his campaign calls his "closing argument." The topics vary, but the theme is always the same, the "Fresh Start for America": Friday in Milwaukee, a "fresh start" for jobs; Monday in Tampa, a "fresh start" for health care; Tuesday in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., a "fresh start" for fiscal responsibility and Social Security. The speeches are supposed to convince Americans of Kerry's fitness for the presidency, but a side effect has been to demonstrate how inept he is at delivering prepared remarks.

The campaign gives reporters the text of each of Kerry's speeches "as prepared for delivery," apparently to show how much Kerry diverges from them. During his stump speeches and town halls, Kerry makes the occasional Bush-style error, such as the time I saw him tell a blind man in St. Louis that he would "look you in the eye." Tuesday night in Dayton, Ohio, Kerry tried to thank teachers for spending money out of their own pockets on students, but instead it came out as a thank-you to Mary Kay Letourneau as he said, "And they're putting out for our kids." His pronunciation of "idear" grates on my ears far more than Bush's "nucular." But the authentic Kerryism emerges only when he gives a formal address.

Kerry proves incapable of reading simple declarative sentences. He inserts dependent clauses and prepositional phrases until every sentence is a watery mess. Kerry couldn't read a Dick and Jane book to schoolchildren without transforming its sentences into complex run-ons worthy of David Foster Wallace. Kerry's speechwriters routinely insert the line "We can bring back that mighty dream," near the conclusion of his speeches, presumably as an echo of Ted Kennedy's Shrum-penned "the dream will never die" speech from the 1980 Democratic convention. Kerry saps the line of its power. Here's his version from Monday's speech in Tampa: "We can bring back the mighty dream of this country, that's what's at stake in these next two weeks."

Kerry flubs his punch lines, sprinkles in irrelevant anecdotes, and talks himself into holes that he has trouble improvising his way out of. He steps on his applause lines by uttering them prematurely, and then when they roll up on his TelePrompTer later, he's forced to pirouette and throat-clear until he figures out how not to repeat himself. He piles adjective upon adjective until it's like listening to a speech delivered by Roget.

Kerry's health-care speech Monday in Tampa was a classic of the form. The written text contained a little more than 2,500 words. By the time he was finished, Kerry had spoken nearly 5,300 words—not including his introductory remarks and thank-yous to local politicians—more than doubling the verbiage. Pity his speechwriters when you read the highlights below. It's not their fault.

Kerry's Script: Most of all, I will always level with the American people. 

Actual Kerry: Most of all, my fellow Americans, I pledge to you that I will always level with the American people, because it's only by leveling and telling the truth that you build the legitimacy and gain the consent of the people who ultimately we are accountable to. I will level with the American people.

Kerry's Script: I will work with Republicans and Democrats on this health care plan, and we will pass it.

Actual Kerry: I will work with Republicans and Democrats across the aisle, openly, not with an ideological, driven, fixed, rigid concept, but much like Franklin Roosevelt said, I don't care whether a good idea is a Republican idea or a Democrat idea. I just care whether or not it's gonna work for Americans and help make our country stronger. And we will pass this bill. I'll tell you a little bit about it in a minute, and I'll tell you why we'll pass it, because it's different from anything we've ever done before, despite what the Republicans want to try to tell you.

Kerry's Script: These worries are real, and they're happening all across America.

Actual Kerry: These worries are real. They're not made up. These stories aren't something that's part of a Democrat plan or a Republican plan. These are American stories. These are the stories of American citizens. And it's not just individual citizens who are feeling the pressure of health care costs. It's businesses across America. It's CEOs all across America. This is an American problem.

Kerry's Script: That's wrong, and we have to change it.

Actual Kerry: Well, that's wrong, my friends. We shouldn't be just hoping and praying. We need leadership that acts and responds and leads and makes things happen.     

Kerry's Script: That's wrong, and we have to change it.

Actual Kerry: Well, that's wrong. We had a chance to change it in the Congress of the United States. They chose otherwise. And I'll talk about that in a minute.

Kerry's Script: It's wrong to make it illegal for Medicare to negotiate with the drug companies for lower prices.

Actual Kerry: But not satisfied to hold onto the drug company's profit there, they went further. Medicare belongs to you. Medicare is paid by the taxpayer. Medicare is a taxpayer-funded program to keep seniors out of poverty. And we want to lower the cost to seniors, right? It's common sense. But when given the opportunity to do that, this president made it illegal for Medicare to do what the VA does, which is go out and bulk purchase drugs so we could lower the taxpayers' bill and lower the cost to seniors. It is wrong to make it illegal to lower the cost of tax and lower the cost to seniors. 

Kerry's Script: And if there was any doubt before, his response to the shortage of flu vaccines put it to rest.

Actual Kerry: Now, if you had any doubts at all about anything that I've just said to you, anybody who's listening can go to johnkerry.com or you can go to other independent sources and you can track down the truth of what I've just said. But if you had any doubts about it at all, his response to the shortage of the flu vaccine ought to put them all to rest.

Kerry's Script: I believe we need a fresh start on health care in America. I believe we need a President who will fight for the great middle class and those struggling to join it. And with your help, I will be that kind of President.

Actual Kerry: I believe so deeply—and as I go around, Bob and Bill and I were talking about this coming over here from other places—that the hope that we're seeing in the eyes of our fellow Americans, folks like you who have come here today who know what's at stake in this race. This isn't about Democrat and Republican or ideology. This is about solving problems, real problems that make our country strong and help build community and take care of other human beings. I believe we need a fresh start on health care in America. I believe we need a President who's going to fight for the great middle class and those who really are struggling, even below minimum wage now. And they won't even raise it. With your help, ladies and gentlemen, I intend to be that kind of President who stands up and fights for the people who need the help.

Kerry's Script: Families will be able to choose from dozens of different private insurance plans.

Actual Kerry: Now George Bush is trying to scare America. And he's running around telling everybody—I saw this ad the other night. I said, "What is that about? That's not my plan. That may be some 20 years ago they pulled out of the old thing." But here's what they do, they are trying to tell you that there is some big government deal. Ladies and gentlemen, we choose. I happen to choose Blue Cross/Blue Shield. I could choose Kaiser. I could choose Pilgrim. I could choose Phelan. I could choose any number of different choices. That's what we get. And we look through all the different choices and make our choice. You ought to have that same choice. The government doesn't tell what you to do. The government doesn't run it. It gives you the choice.

Kerry's Script: Ladies and Gentlemen, here's the Bush Health Care Plan: Don't get a flu shot, don't import less-expensive drugs, don't negotiate for lower prices, and most of all, don't get sick.

Actual Kerry: So, Ladies and Gentlemen, if you had doubts about it at all, here's the Bush Health Care Plan: Don't get a flu shot, don't import less-expensive drugs from Canada, don't negotiate for lower prices on prescription drugs. And don't get sick. Just pray, stand up and hope, wait—whatever. We are all left wondering and hoping. That's it.


          Kerry's Poll Position   

PALM BEACH, Fla.—John Kerry's campaign professes to be unconcerned about the multiple national polls that have shown a small but discernible downward movement for the Democratic nominee since the third presidential debate. But the campaign's studied nonchalance doesn't extend to how the press covers the polls. During Sunday's flight from Columbus, Ohio, to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., reporters on the Kerry plane receive a "Polling Update," a two-page explanation of how the campaign would like us to view the latest public polls. The very first sentence: "The race is tied."

The abbreviated Kerry spin: 1) Bush pollster Matthew Dowd told the Austin American-Statesman on March 21 that "presidents finish roughly the same as their job approval rating." Zogby has Bush's job approval at 47, Newsweek has it at 47, and Time has it at 49. 2) Among registered voters, the Zogby, Newsweek, and Time polls show a statistical tie. (The release doesn't mention it, but the same is true for the just-released Gallup Poll. President Bush leads Kerry among likely voters by 8 points, 52-44, but among registered voters it's Bush 49, Kerry 46, with a 3 percent margin of error.) 3) Kerry's ahead in the battleground states, which is what really matters.

The release isn't internally consistent. It treats Kerry's narrow deficit in national polls differently than his narrow lead in state polls: Kerry's one-point shortfall among registered voters in the Newsweek poll is called a tie, but Kerry's two-point leads in Minnesota and Pennsylvania are "consistent with repeated polls showing a Kerry edge." That, of course, is the Bush campaign's argument at the national level: Every poll released since the third debate has shown a Bush lead of between two points and eight points.

Until Sunday, that is. A new Democracy Corps poll conducted by Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg shows the race as a statistical tie, but this time it's Kerry who has the higher horse-race number, 50 to Bush's 47, with a three-point margin of error. Greenberg and Joe Lockhart held a conference call to trumpet the results. The Kerry plane was in the air at the time, but the campaign released a transcript of the call. The message: At the third debate, Kerry consolidated his base. He gained among African Americans and union households. Greenberg calls this a "one-time consolidation of Democrats that is not going to be easily eroded."

Lockhart dismisses the Newsweek poll's fluctuations over the course of the past two months: "It's just not credible. The electorate has not swung 20 percent, from 13 down to one up to eight down. It's just not what's happening in the electorate, so it's just not something we take very seriously." Lockhart also emphasizes that in the 2000 election, polls of registered voters were more accurate than polls of likely voters. That echoes Ruy Texeira's Emerging Democratic Majority Weblog, which lately exists to argue that Kerry isn't doing as badly in the polls as he seems. And Lockhart emphasizes what Al Gore discovered: "This election is not going to take place nationally. It's going to take place in the battleground states."

Which raises the obvious question: Could Kerry win the presidency but lose the popular vote? At Daily Kos, political scientist Tom Schaller says it's unlikely but possible, particularly because Kerry is underperforming Gore's numbers in blue states, including Massachusetts and New Jersey. If that's not far-fetched enough for you, here's a scenario I discovered while playing with the Los Angeles Times' electoral map: Bush wins Ohio, Florida, and Colorado. Kerry sweeps the rest of the battleground: Iowa, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The result: a 269-269 tie. Democrats cry that Bush gets "selected" again, this time by the House of Representatives. Maybe that's the kind of trick fate plays when you nominate a fan of the Boston Red Sox.


          Kerry's Wrong Track   

COLUMBUS, Ohio—Is it time for Democrats to panic? If you're a John Kerry supporter, here's some bad news to chew on: Despite winning all three debates according to opinion polls, Kerry hasn't taken the horse-race lead in a single poll that's been released since the third debate, and he seems to be trending the wrong way. Time polled voters on Thursday and Friday and turned up a statistical tie among likely voters, 48 percent for President Bush, 46 percent for Kerry, with a 4 point margin of error. Newsweek's poll, taken over the same period with a 4 point margin of error, shows Kerry with only 44 percent among likely voters. Bush gets 50 percent. When the Zogby tracking poll added the day after the debate to its sample, Bush's lead over Kerry increased from 46-45 to 48-44, with a 2.9 point margin of error. The Washington Post daily tracking poll for Friday, Oct. 15, shows Bush opening a 50 to 47 lead over Kerry; the 3 point margin is equal to the poll's margin of error.

Oh, and there's one more poll to report. The Post asked voters on Thursday night whether Kerry's comment during the debate about Mary Cheney was "inappropriate." Not many undecideds here: 64 percent said inappropriate, while 33 percent said appropriate. With a 6 point margin of error, the best statistical case for Kerry is that he offended only 58 percent of the electorate. Of course, just because Kerry offended people doesn't mean he changed anybody's vote, just as winning a debate doesn't necessarily translate into ballots. But if you're searching for the Occam's Razor explanation for Kerry's small but noticeable slide in the polls since Wednesday, his comment about Mary Cheney is probably it.

There is some good news for Democrats, beyond the usual caveats about polls and statistics: The Post poll, taken Wednesday through Friday, shows Kerry with a 10 point lead, 53 to 43, over Bush among likely voters in 13 battleground states. That's consistent with what the Kerry campaign was saying before the third debate, when advisers would acknowledge trailing Bush nationally by about 2 points, but at the same time they said Kerry was much stronger than that in the battlegrounds.

The election's key states have narrowed dramatically in the past week or so, and most people believe the most important states will be Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, Iowa, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and maybe Minnesota and New Hampshire. There's Pennsylvania, too, but if Kerry can't win there, he might as well give up now. Twice since the third debate—Thursday morning in Las Vegas and again Saturday in Jeffersonville, Ohio—Mike McCurry has said the Kerry campaign wants to wait as much as 48 hours to see how the battleground is shaping up. For now, Kerry is spending the next three days in Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Iowa. John Edwards is scheduled for Florida, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Ohio.

The most interesting item on Bush's schedule is a Monday event in Marlton, New Jersey. Is the Garden State seriously up for grabs, or is Karl Rove repeating the error he made four years ago when he sent Bush to campaign in California late in the election, when time would have been better spent increasing the Republican margin in Florida? McCurry says neither: "We don't believe they're going into New Jersey. We think they're going into eastern Pennsylvania," he said in Jeffersonville. (Marlton is about 15 miles east of Philadelphia, and the trip will be covered by the Philly media.) "We'll take it seriously when they buy in the New York media market." The national political press will take the idea of a Kerry slide in the polls seriously if the next Gallup Poll confirms it.


          Kerry Puts the Gloves On   

SHEBOYGAN, Wisc.—If John Kerry loses the election, a reporter once told me, we'll probably be able to blame it on the mistakes he makes while trying to sprinkle local color into his speeches. The Badger State boasts Kerry's most famous slip of the tongue: the time he declared his love for "Lambert Field," suggesting that the state's beloved Green Bay Packers play their home games on the frozen tundra of the St. Louis airport. But there have been others: his shout-out to the "Buckeyes" while campaigning in Michigan, or his announcement in Canonsburg, Pa., that he would like to go to a local restaurant that doesn't let its customers choose their entrees, because he has a hard time making up his mind about what to eat. In a slightly different category, but in the same vein, was Kerry's request in Philadelphia for Swiss, rather than cheese whiz, on his Philly cheesesteak.

Here in Sheboygan, during a "Kerry-Edwards '04 Brat Fry," Kerry adds to the litany Friday by referring to the local food as a short-A "brat," the way you would refer to a spoiled child. "Brot!" yell members of the crowd. For good measure, Kerry makes the mistake at the end of his speech, too. "Before I get a chance to have some braaats ..." "Brots!!" some women near me shout in frustration.

OK, it's unlikely to have much resonance beyond Sheboygan, and neither will Kerry's reference to the women's soccer star "Brady" Chastain, beyond providing more fodder for Football Fans for Truth. But the press on one of the buses in Kerry's caravan through Wisconsin has fun with it anyway, imagining a new Kerryism at our next stop, Appleton: "Hello, Applebee's!" or, even better, "Who among us does not like Applebee's?"

Besides, things are looking up for Kerry, despite his miscue. The polls in the upper Midwest battlegrounds are trending his direction, and there's a positive spin that can be put on the fact that many of the most important swing states are ones that Al Gore won in 2000. Yes, it means that Kerry is playing defense on what is supposed to be his party's home turf, but on the other hand, surely Democrats would prefer the election hinge on their chances of winning Wisconsin and Iowa rather than, say, Colorado and Nevada.

The Democratic worries that filled the month of August and much of September have been replaced by Republican fretting. "If you don't have some anxiety you are not in touch with reality," Newt Gingrich told the Los Angeles Times. It wasn't a sign of confidence when President Bush decided Thursday to visit with the press on Air Force One for only the third time of his presidency. And although this election has been marked by an upending of all the normal political rules, a factoid identified by USA Today's Susan Page has to add to Republican unease: "In three elections—in 1960, 1980 and 2000—a presidential candidate has gone into the first debate trailing his opponent in the Gallup Poll and come out of the last debate ahead of him. Each went on to win." Kerry entered the first debate trailing Bush by 8 points. By the second debate, he'd tied the president. The first post-debate Gallup Poll will come out this week.

But what if Kerry isn't ahead? How dispirited will his supporters be if he can't pass Bush after winning all three debates? Next week's polls won't decide the election, obviously, but they'll go a long way toward measuring the effectiveness of Kerry's turn-it-on-late, Mayday Malone campaign strategy. During the summer months, when Kerry pretty much went into hiding while the Bush campaign was trying to bury him with millions of dollars in negative advertising, the strategy was dubbed the "rope-a-dope," after Muhammad Ali's strategy in the "Rumble in the Jungle" against George Foreman. Now, as if it were planned for the finale all along, Kerry has adopted Ali's query to Foreman in the seventh round: "George, is that all you've got?"

The other thing Kerry has been telling crowds for the past two days is that the eyes of the world will be on America on Nov. 2, that the world is "waiting for the United States to be the country they know us to be." This election isn't just about one country, Kerry says; it's about the fate of the entire world. It's a global test, in other words, though he's not stupid enough to phrase it that way. Bush says he doesn't like global tests, but even he wouldn't deny that no matter which man wins, he'll have the right to think, at least privately, that he's something else Muhammad Ali proclaimed: king of the world.


          Bush's Big Mistake   

TEMPE, Ariz.—"The president is an alien. There's your quote of the day," Ken Mehlman said before the final presidential debate to reporters who were peppering him with questions about the rectangular shape underneath the president's jacket during the first debate. "He's been getting information from Mars," said Bush's campaign manager, and at the debate, "his alien past will be exposed."

Well, at least it wasn't that bad. Indisputably, this was the president's best debate. Just as it took Al Gore three debates to settle on the right tone during the 2000 campaign, President Bush figured out in his third face-off with John Kerry how to be neither too hot nor too cold. But Kerry was as good as he can be, too, and more important, what good the president did with his performance will be overshadowed Thursday when the TV networks spend the entire day running video clips of him saying of Osama Bin Laden on March 13, 2002, "I truly am not that concerned about him."

By denying that he had ever minimized the threat posed by Bin Laden, Bush handed Kerry, during the very first question, the victory in the post-debate spin. The Kerry campaign's critique of the president is that he doesn't tell the truth, that he won't admit mistakes, and that he refuses to acknowledge reality. Bush's answer played into all three claims. Within minutes, the Kerry-Edwards campaign e-mailed reporters the first of its "Bush vs. Reality" e-mails, complete with a link to the official White House transcript. A half-hour later, the Democratic National Committee circulated the video.

If the president had ignored Kerry's charge, everyone would have forgotten about it. By contesting it, Bush handed Kerry two gifts: As delighted as the Kerry people must be by yet another untruthful statement from the president, the substance of this particular statement is even more important. Dick Cheney's false declaration that he had never met John Edwards didn't help the Bush campaign, but this error will be orders of magnitude more damaging. Video of the vice president standing next to Edwards at a prayer breakfast is embarrassing. Video of the president saying he isn't concerned about the mastermind behind the Sept. 11 attacks is devastating.

The president's blunder also provided at least a glimpse of the foreign-policy debate I hoped to see. Here's a more complete version of the president's 2002 comment: "I truly am not that concerned about him. I know he is on the run. I was concerned about him, when he had taken over a country. I was concerned about the fact that he was basically running Afghanistan and calling the shots for the Taliban." The president's philosophy toward the war on terror could not be clearer: It is a war against nation-states, not against "nonstate actors" like al-Qaida. Bin Laden was dangerous because he controlled a state, not because he controls a terrorist network. When the Bush campaign talks about "going on the offense," this is what they mean. Kerry, after all, talks about hunting down the terrorists where they live. To Bush, that's not good enough. The subtext of the initial exchange between Bush and Kerry was more illuminating than the entire first debate.

The Bush counteroffensive to the president's mistake was to try to find a Kerry misstatement to fill in the "on the other hand" section in fact-checking news stories. During the debate, Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt sent out an "Urgent Alert" to reporters that read, complete with weird capitalization: "John Kerry's statement that he passed 56 bills during his 20 years in the senate is a complete and utter falsehood. Kerry passed five bills and Four resolutions." In Spin Alley after the debate was over, Bush campaign communications director Nicolle Devenish called Kerry's comment about the number of bills he authored his "Al Gore moment." But when Schmidt asserts that Kerry passed only five bills and four resolutions, he means bills that passed both houses of Congress and were signed into law. The Bush campaign's own "Breaking Debate Fact" e-mailed during the debate says that Kerry was the lead sponsor of 31 bills, 122 amendments, and 28 resolutions that passed the Senate.

Kerry did make some misstatements of his own, of course. He repeatedly said his health-care plan covers all Americans, which isn't true, and his assertion that the Bush campaign hasn't met with the Congressional Black Caucus isn't true, either. After the debate, Joe Lockhart admitted that Bush had a "ceremonial" meeting with the black caucus. But Kerry's minor inaccuracies will be overshadowed by the video of Bush saying, "I truly am not that concerned about him."

The most telling pre-debate quote came from Tony Fabrizio, a Republican pollster who told the New York Times that the first debate "was a chance for the president to lay [Kerry] out and just lock it. In the past two weeks, that's been turned on its head." That was my sense going into this debate: The situation was precisely the reverse of where the campaign stood before the first debate. Another decisive win for Kerry could have ended the race, as the campaign dominoes would have begun to fall his way. That didn't happen, and the debate was much closer than Kerry would have liked.

But as with previous debates, Kerry won the post-debate instant polls. After the last two, Kerry's margin of victory grew substantially beyond the margins in the snap polls. Bush's Bin Laden goof will give Kerry his best opportunity to score a post-debate knockout.


          Bush's Bulge   

DENVER—An exchange Monday morning between two reporters on the Bush press bus: Q: "What do you think about the lump on his back?" A: "Probably benign."

Da-dum-crash. The reporter's response was meant as a joke, but it's a fair assessment of the attitude of the White House press corps toward the run of stories on the strange rectangular shape seen beneath Bush's suit jacket during the first presidential debate. Some reporters argue that the rectangle is an optical illusion, while others think there just isn't enough evidence of anything for a story. My take: Lefty bloggers are undermining their case by making the huge, completely unsupported leap that Bush was wearing an earpiece wired into an audio box on his back. If Bush is Karl Rove's Rupert Jee, why was his debate performance so miserable? White House communications director Dan Bartlett insinuated as much in Spin Alley after the second debate. A reporter said to him, Bush didn't repeat himself as much as he did last week. What changed? Bartlett's tongue-in-cheek reply: "The guy who was speaking into the audio box—did you hear? He had an audio box in the first one—kept repeating the things to tell him to say, so he kept repeating them."

But just because some conspiracy theorists—some of whom were peddling the same theory four years ago—are making assertions that aren't supported by the evidence doesn't mean that the weird rectangular shape under Bush's coat doesn't exist. If you suspect the still images from the debate have been doctored, watching the video will erase your doubts. Let's go to the tape: Click here to open the video of the debate posted on the Web site of the Washington Post. Right-click on the video to open it in a separate RealPlayer window. Fast-forward to the 14:55 mark, and you'll see the mysterious rectangle.

What is it? I haven't the faintest clue. But I do think it's a legitimate topic of discussion. Umbrella Man didn't shoot John F. Kennedy, but that doesn't mean there wasn't an Umbrella Man. And just because conspiracy theorists are wrong about JFK doesn't mean his assassination isn't worthy of inquiry.

How many electoral votes does the AFC West get? Denver Broncos football coach Mike Shanahan appeared with Bush and Gen. Tommy Franks at a rally Monday at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre near Morrison, Colo. Earlier this year, Bush visited the Wisconsin training camp of the Kansas City Chiefs, a divisional rival of the Broncos. Chiefs head coach Dick Vermeil was asked whether he would welcome Kerry to visit his training camp, too. Vermeil's answer: "Not necessarily." The two other coaches in the division, Marty Schottenheimer and Norv Turner, coach in the safe Democratic state of California, so maybe Bush doesn't care about their votes.

Which Terrorist Is Kerry? Part 2: Mike Pesca of Day to Day dug up a "run but can't hide" quote by President Bush that I missed during my weekend search of White House transcripts. Here's the president on Feb. 5, 2002, in Pittsburgh, on the subject of Osama Bin Laden: "There's no cave deep enough for him to hide. He can run and he thinks he can hide, but we're not going to give up."


          Cheney Drops the Ball   

CLEVELAND—Does Dick Cheney know that he told voters watching the vice presidential debate to go to GeorgeSoros.com? In response to a series of attacks from John Edwards on Cheney's tenure as CEO of Halliburton, the vice president said that Kerry and Edwards "know the charges are false. They know that if you go, for example, to factcheck.com, an independent Web site sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania, you can get the specific details with respect to Halliburton." One problem with Cheney's rebuttal: He misspoke. He meant to say "factcheck.org," rather than ".com." According to the Wall Street Journal, the company that owns factcheck.com, Name Administration Inc., took advantage of Cheney's error to redirect traffic to a page titled, "Why we must not re-elect President Bush: a personal message from George Soros."*

But maybe Cheney was lucky to have misspoken, because there was a larger problem with his response: It isn't true. Well, it is true that factcheck.org provides "specific details with respect to Halliburton," but those details have nothing to do with the charges Edwards made. The Democratic running mate said that Halliburton, while Cheney was CEO, "did business with sworn enemies of the United States, paid millions of dollars in fines for providing false financial information, it's under investigation for bribing foreign officials." All factcheck.org rebuts is a different charge, that Cheney collected $2 million from Halliburton "as vice president." It turns out that Cheney collected a good chunk of that money as vice president-elect, including nearly $1.5 million on Jan. 18, 2001, two days before his inauguration.

After the debate, Bush campaign communications director Nicole Devenish repeats Cheney's statement and directs reporters to factcheck.org for the details. I've already been to factcheck.org, I tell her, and it says nothing about what Edwards said, about trading with the enemy, about bribing foreign officials, about providing false financial information. She tells me to go to debatefacts.com, the Bush-Cheney rapid-response Web site. The answers are all there.

Except they're not. "The Facts" page at the Bush-Cheney debate site doesn't get Edwards' claims correctly either: "Edwards' Claim: The Department Of Defense's Contracting Process In Iraq Is Rife With Cronyism And Secrecy," it says. Did Edwards claim that? I thought he said Cheney traded with the enemy, bribed foreign officials, and provided false financial information. On those charges, the Bush-Cheney campaign has no answers, at least not tonight.

The exchange on "factcheck.com" was the debate writ small in many ways: Edwards would make a charge, and Cheney would have no answer for it. In debate, that's called a "dropped argument." Cheney left arguments all over the floor. Three times, when offered a chance to respond to something Edwards had said, Cheney declined, leaving Edwards' critique to stand on its own. Edwards went through a long list of votes that Cheney made as a congressman: against Head Start, against banning plastic weapons that can pass through metal detectors, against Meals on Wheels, against the Department of Education, against Martin Luther King Day, against the release of Nelson Mandela. What else was he against, longer recess? Cheney declined to defend or explain a single one of his votes. On gay marriage, Edwards said the constitutional amendment proposed by the president was unnecessary, divisive, and an attempt to distract the country from important issues such as health care, jobs, and Iraq. Cheney declined to refute any of Edwards' points, and instead thanked him for his kind words about his family. On homeland security, Edwards said the administration has failed to create a unified terrorist watch list, and it foolishly screens the passengers on airplanes but not their cargo. We need to be not just "strong and aggressive" but also "smart," he said. Cheney's response: to decline a chance to respond, which is the same as ceding the point.

When Cheney did have an answer, it was often a misleading one, just like factcheck.com. On one occasion, Cheney said the Kerry-Edwards tax plan would raise taxes on 900,000 small businesses, and he said that was a bad idea because small businesses create 7 out of 10 jobs in America. But the two statements have nothing to do with each other. Those 900,000 small businesses—double the real number that would be affected, according to CNN—don't create 70 percent of the nation's jobs. On another occasion, Cheney criticized Kerry for supporting defense cuts that Cheney supported as secretary of defense during the first Bush administration. Other statements were simply false, rather than merely deceptive or misleading. For example, Cheney said he had never asserted a connection between 9/11 and Iraq. That's not true. Cheney said he had never met Edwards before. That's not true.

Edwards didn't have a perfect debate. Cheney defended himself and the administration capably during the opening questions about Iraq and the war on terror, and I was disappointed when Edwards failed to give an answer to Cheney's criticism that he and Kerry have no plan to deal with state sponsors of terror. And Edwards got mauled when Cheney said Edwards, by saying that 90 percent of the casualties in Iraq were American, was saying that the deaths of Iraqi soldiers fighting with the U.S. "shouldn't count."

We're halfway through the debates, and I think that each side still has one big question that it hasn't answered. Kerry and Edwards haven't given an adequate explanation of how they would approach states that sponsor terrorism and harbor terrorism. If Iraq was the wrong country to focus on, what was the right country? Just Afghanistan? Or do they support a broader Bob Graham-style war against Hamas, Hezbollah, and other terrorist organizations? If regime change isn't the right policy for dealing with state sponsors of terror, what is? Would a Kerry-Edwards administration wage a "war on terror," or just a war on al-Qaida?

The question for Bush and Cheney is the same, but from the opposite side. Where does their war stop? When does it end? How do we measure victory? Most important, what is their answer to a question that Edwards posed and Cheney ignored: "There are 60 countries who have members of al-Qaida in them. How many of those countries are we going to invade?"

Correction, Oct. 7, 2004: The article originally claimed that George Soros bought the factcheck.com URL after Cheney referred to it and redirected its traffic to GeorgeSoros.com. In fact, the company that already owned the URL, Name Administration Inc., redirected the traffic to the Soros page. (Return to corrected sentence.)


          Edwards' Table Manners   

CLEVELAND—Democrats who wanted John Kerry to select John Edwards as his running mate always cited the 90 minutes that will come Tuesday night as one of the most important reasons. The party faithful are still irked by Joe Lieberman's chummy disposition four years ago as Dick Cheney amiably disemboweled him during the vice-presidential debate. Edwards supporters believed that putting one of the nation's most effective trial lawyers on the ticket would stop Cheney from killing again.

But Edwards' performances were uneven in the debates held during the Democratic primaries in 2003 and 2004. Twice—in Iowa just before the caucuses and in Wisconsin—he won so decisively that he probably helped himself at the polls as a result. He also performed impressively in the youth debate held in Boston, when he marched toward Howard Dean and confronted him for saying he wanted the votes of people with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks. But on other occasions Edwards disappeared, or stumbled when forced to speak outside of his scripted talking points. Particularly worrisome for those rooting for him in the veep debate, two of Edwards' worst primary debates—the Larry King-moderated debate in Los Angeles and the Dan Rather-moderated debate in New York City—occurred when the participants were seated at a table with the moderator, just as Cheney, Edwards, and PBS's Gwen Ifill will be here on Tuesday night.

Here's a speculative explanation of why Edwards did poorly in those debates: Edwards is a highly theatrical performer on the stump. He is, at heart, an actor. That's how one member of the media who has followed Edwards this campaign described him to me. Bill Clinton, this person said, was no different in front of a crowd than he was on the campaign plane. But for Edwards, this reporter said, "It's acting." He's a different guy backstage. Maybe Edwards has a tough time "getting into character" when he is seated at a table with his opponent, instead of roaming free onstage as he would in a courtroom. He's one of those actors who looks great on a proscenium, but who doesn't translate to the quieter media of film and television.

Or maybe Table Edwards is closer to the private Edwards than Stage Edwards, his public persona. What little personal contact I've had with Edwards during the campaign has always led me to think that he's an intensely private man. His chosen sport is running, an activity that appeals to the solitary and the introspective. I was struck by how Edwards, during an interview with Fox News Sunday a few months ago, refused to discuss his consumption of copious amounts of Diet Coke, repeatedly smiling and saying, "We're not going to talk about that." An unimportant moment? Sure, but not a meaningless one.

In many ways, Edwards' desire to not give himself fully to the public is laudable, such as his refusal to discuss the death of his son Wade, "in the context of politics," as he put it in a profile in the October issue of Vogue. But the contradiction between Edwards' public persona and his private self always surprises people when I tell them about it, because he's so charismatic on the stump. That Vogue profile also noticed the differences between the public and the private man: "Edwards does not joke; despite his easy grin, he is described by close friends as 'serious,' 'solid,' 'quiet,' " wrote Julia Reed. "When I ask his best friend and former law partner David Kirby if Edwards is ever loose, he says, 'No, he is not. He runs an hour every day—that's what he considers relaxation.' "

Serious, solid, quiet: Those are words that most voters would apply to Dick Cheney, not John Edwards. Television fools us into thinking we know someone, when we really don't. The best politicians of the TV age have used that trick of the small screen to their advantage. Edwards, so far in his short political career, has impressed many observers with his ability to impress voters in courtroom-like settings, in small gatherings and one-on-one encounters. But he hasn't mastered television yet. Two of his biggest TV moments so far, his appearance on Meet the Press last year and his acceptance speech at the Democratic convention, were both criticized.

But another great skill of plaintiffs' lawyers, and of John Edwards, is the ability to cram, to immerse themselves in a subject on deadline. Tuesday night, when Edwards sits down at that table, we'll learn how quick a study he really is.


          The Post-Debate Debate   

ORLANDO—Sen. John Kerry, you just walloped President Bush in the first 2004 debate. What are you going to do now? Go to Disney World, apparently: The Kerry campaign and his traveling press spent Friday night at the Swan & Dolphin Hotel at Walt Disney World, possibly the only place more unreal than the presidential campaign bubble. There couldn't be a more appropriate place for Kerry to stay the night after the debate, because right now, Democrats think they're in the happiest place on earth.

As the press bus arrived at the Fort Lauderdale airport Friday morning, a reporter jokingly pronounced a crowd of Kerry supporters to be "30 percent more excited" than they would have been before Thursday's debate. But he underestimated the enthusiasm among Democrats for Kerry's performance. In 90 minutes, Kerry erased the nagging complaints within his party about the effectiveness of his campaign, and he crushed any incipient Dean nostalgia.

On the stump, Kerry has discovered a new applause line, simply uttering the word "debate." At the University of South Florida in Tampa on Friday, Kerry walked out to the loudest and longest ovation I've seen in more than a year on the campaign. Kerry's still a 40-minute rambler at his campaign events—he should consider traveling with a podium equipped with green, yellow, and red lights that tell him when to stop—but he didn't have to do anything more than ask the crowd, "So, did you watch that debate last night?" to get the rumbling foot-stomping and cheering started again. In Orlando later that night, Kerry uses his new line—"Did you watch that little debate last night?"—as his opener, and again its gets the crowd roaring.

Kerry has even taken to ridiculing the president for his underwhelming showing. On Friday night, he mockingly impersonated Bush as a stammering Porky Pig. (Not Elmer Fudd, as the New York Times claims. Get your cartoon references right, Gray Lady!) The next day, Kerry was at it again, poking fun of Bush's repetition of the phrase "hard work" at the debate: "He confuses staying in place, just kind of saying, 'It's tough, it's hard work, you gotta make a decision,' "—laughter—"he considers that, and confuses that, with leadership."

Those Democrats who aren't already buoyed by the debate will take heart in Saturday's Newsweek poll, which shows the race in a statistical tie: Kerry at 47 percent and Bush at 45 percent, with a 4-point margin of error. Kerry adviser Joel Johnson dismissed the poll's significance during a conference call with reporters, saying, "It's probably a poll that we took issue with in the past," such as when Newsweek showed the president leading by 11 points coming out of the Republican convention.

In the wake of all these good signs for Kerry, the Bush campaign is busy trying to Gore him, to kill the Democratic buzz by turning Kerry's debate victory into a defeat. A White House pool report Saturday from the Baltimore Sun's David Greene reported that Bush communications director Nicolle Devenish said, "Nobody is going to look back on November 3 and remember that first debate for anything other than a night when Kerry made four serious strategic mistakes." Here's how Greene summarized the mistakes: "1) Kerry spoke of a 'global test.' 2) Kerry called the war in Iraq a mistake then later said Americans were not dying for a mistake. 3) Kerry spoke of the troops deserving better after saying in an interview before the debate that his vote on funding was made in protest. 4) Kerry offered what Nicolle called a 'new insult' for allies when he said the coalition is not 'genuine.' "

Thursday night after the debate, the Bush surrogates emphasized Devenish's second point, to reinforce its caricature of the Democratic nominee as a habitual flip-flopper. By Friday and Saturday, however, the Bush campaign had seized upon Kerry's mention—a virtual aside—of a "global test" for pre-emptive war as their chance to reverse the perception that Kerry won the debate. (Based on Devenish's comments, they've also dropped their initial nobody-won spin in which they sounded like Kevin Kline in A Fish Called Wanda: "We didn't lose Vietnam! It was a tie!")

On Friday afternoon, the Bush campaign e-mailed excerpts of remarks the president made in Allentown, Pa., including this quote: "Senator Kerry last night said that America has to pass some sort of global test before we can use American troops to defend ourselves. He wants our national security decisions subject to the approval of a foreign government. Listen, I'll continue to work with our allies and the international community, but I will never submit America's national security to an international test. The use of troops to defend America must never be subject to a veto by countries like France." Scott McClellan piled on, as distilled by another White House pool report, saying that Kerry's comment "showed a fundamental misunderstanding of the war on terrorism," and that the remark "shows something that is very disturbing."

By Saturday, Bush himself had taken to calling the "global test" the "Kerry doctrine," which would "give foreign governments veto power over our own national security decisions." In the afternoon, the Kerry campaign dispatched Richard Holbrooke to rebut "Bush's misleading rhetoric on the stump" in a conference call. Nearly every question was about what Kerry meant during the debate by "global test," and about the Bush's campaign's rhetoric of a "global permission slip" and the "Kerry doctrine." Holbrooke read Kerry's debate statement in full: "No president, through all of American history, has ever ceded, and nor would I, the right to preempt in any way necessary to protect the United States of America. But if and when you do it, Jim, you have to do it in a way that passes the test, that passes the global test where your countrymen, your people understand fully why you're doing what you're doing and you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons."

Holbrooke said the "Bush attack" was "another flagrant misrepresentation by the administration of what Sen. Kerry said," and added, "Who in their right mind would not wish to be sure that the use of force preemptively, or for that matter, any use of force, gets support and understanding from the rest of the world and from the American people and is fully justified?" He called it "longstanding American doctrine" and "a standard position, all presidents have taken it since at least 1945." Sounding irritated about the repeated mentions of the "Kerry doctrine" by reporters, Holbrooke said, "Don't call it a Kerry doctrine. That would suggest that John Kerry has enunciated something new, and he didn't."

An hour later, at 2:30 p.m., Kerry adviser Joel Johnson and Democratic National Committee adviser Howard Wolfson held a conference call to "discuss the results" of the presidential debate. The first question, from a Knight Ridder reporter, was about "this alleged Kerry doctrine." Would the campaign make any "paid media response"? No, Johnson said, we're going to focus on the economy in our TV ads, as planned. "We don't feel like this one is one we're going to have to respond in any way" in paid media.

The Republicans are "trying to take away the medal from the Olympic gymnast after the contest is over," Wolfson said. ABC's Dan Harris asked, "Aren't you opening yourself up to the charge that you've failed to learn the lessons of August?" referring to the Swift Boat ads and the Kerry campaign's belated response. "We're focusing on the failed economy," Johnson said. But you should know, "He'll never give a veto to any other country, period." Harris replied, "But boy, it really sounds like you're letting that charge hang out there." Johnson: "Well, we'll take that under advisement."

Shortly after that conference call ended, the Bush campaign e-mailed its script for a new TV ad, called—surprise—"Global Test." The ad says in part, "The Kerry doctrine: A global test. So we must seek permission from foreign governments before protecting America? A global test? So America will be forced to wait while threats gather? President Bush believes decisions about protecting America should be made in the Oval Office, not foreign capitals." Within a couple of hours, the Kerry campaign had changed its mind about whether to release its own ad. Their script begins, "George Bush lost the debate.  Now he's lying about it." The Kerry ad also tries to change the subject, to a New York Times story that comes out Sunday. That day's conference call is billed as, "What President Bush Really Knew About Iraq's WMD Programs Before the War."

During his conference call, Joel Johnson complained, "The Bush campaign is trying to concoct arguments that the president couldn't make the other night in the debate." That's exactly right. The mystery is why Johnson didn't think his campaign would have to do the same for Kerry.


          Daydreaming About Dean   

MIAMI—Can we change horses in midstream? Democrats wanted Republicans and independent voters to be asking themselves that question at this stage in the presidential campaign, but with little more than a month to go before Election Day, some Democrats are asking it of themselves. It's the seven-month itch: The long general-election campaign has led the voters who settled down with Mr. Stability to wonder what would have happened if they had pursued their crushes on riskier but more exciting candidates. What if dreamy John Edwards were the nominee instead of John Kerry? Would he be better able to explain his votes for war and against the $87 billion to fund the war? Would his campaign have been leaner and more effective than Kerry's multitudes? Or what about Democrats' first love, Howard Dean? Remember him? Would his straightforward opposition to the war in Iraq look more prescient now than it did during the Iowa caucuses, which were held shortly after Saddam Hussein was captured?

The most surprising Democrat to engage in this daydreaming is one who never dated Dean in the first place: Peter Beinart, editor of the New Republic. Writing in Time, Beinart says, "[T]here's reason to believe [Democratic primary voters] guessed wrong—that Dean would be doing better against Bush than Kerry is." Deaniacs can be forgiven for being a little bit piqued at the timing of Beinart's conversion. After all, most Dean supporters thought Beinart's magazine did its best to torpedo the Dean candidacy for much of 2003, including an online "Diary of a Dean-o-Phobe." But TNR also ran glowing profiles of Dean and his campaign manager, Joe Trippi, and it never married Kerry, either. Although the magazine ultimately endorsed Joe Lieberman, its endorsement issue contained an article praising every other major Democratic contender—Dean, Edwards, Dick Gephardt—except John Kerry. So, it's understandable why Beinart would be one of the first to fantasize about divorce.

Beinart argues that Dean's clarity on the war, his straight-talking authenticity, and his lack of a Senate voting record would have forced President Bush to focus on the issue of Iraq, rather than the character of John Kerry. Not everyone who worked for Howard Dean during the primaries agrees that the Vermont governor would have been a stronger nominee—in fact, some say just the opposite or even burst into laughter at the notion—but one senior Dean adviser that I talked to Wednesday agrees strongly. "If Howard Dean were the nominee right now, nobody would be wondering where he stands on Iraq, nobody would be accusing us of not fighting back, and we wouldn't be fighting to hold on to our base," said the adviser, who asked that his name not be used. Kerry's "thoughtful and nuanced positions" might be an admirable quality in a president, but they're difficult to defend during a campaign.

A Dean general-election campaign would have contrasted Dean's record with Bush's in three ways: Dean being against the war versus Bush being for it; Dean's record of balancing the Vermont budget while providing health care versus Bush's largest deficits in history with no health care; and a new wrinkle that was only hinted at during the primaries, Dean's mysterious, infrequently mentioned "tax reform" vs. Bush's irresponsible tax cuts. Yes, Dean would have repealed the entire Bush tax cut, the senior adviser said, but he would have proposed replacing it with some Dean tax cuts, including the elimination of payroll taxes on the first $20,000 of income. The message: Bush cuts taxes from the top down, but Dean cuts them from the bottom up. Why didn't Dean introduce this during the primaries, when his tax-hiking ways made some Democrats think he would be an electoral disaster, the second coming of Walter Mondale, in the fall? He wanted to wait until after the Feb. 3 primaries because "he didn't want people to think he was pandering," the adviser said.

The Dean adviser did go out of his way to insist that he was not criticizing the Kerry campaign. The Republicans "might have destroyed Howard Dean," too, he said, but "I just think Howard would have matched up differently and better." The Dean adviser praised Kerry's maligned convention, which made voters believe that Kerry was a viable commander in chief who was as good as Bush or better on the issues of terrorism and homeland security. "They were in perfect position after the convention to win this thing," he said, quickly adding that he's not saying they've lost it. But then he added, "They basically are hoping that Bush shits the bed in the debates."

Of course, it's pretty obvious that the Republicans would have run a different campaign against Howard Dean than they did against John Kerry. But that doesn't mean it would have been any less effective. And if Dean couldn't beat Kerry, what exactly would have made him so formidable against President Bush? Would Dean's support for civil unions in Vermont have made gay marriage a much bigger issue in the fall? Was there something in his past that we didn't learn about? Would the aggressive campaign he would have waged in the spring and summer—leaping instantly on every bit of bad news from Iraq, from Abu Ghraib to Fallujah—have backfired? Would Dean have been able to build a campaign that brought together his divided Vermont and D.C. factions? It's impossible to know, though divining that impossibility is exactly what Democratic primary voters charged themselves with this time around.

Falling in love with Dean all over again ignores what made Democrats fall out of love with him in the first place. An incomplete list: his infuriating stubbornness and refusal to admit mistakes; his lousy white-background TV ad in Iowa; and his shift from a straight-talking, budget-balancing, health-care-providing Vermont governor to the shrieking leader of a cult movement. In Iowa, Dean's poor showing was exacerbated by the fact that he was the second choice of no one. He and Kerry found out that in American democracy, it's better to have a large number of people barely tolerate you than to have a smaller number like you a lot. By the weekend, it will be clear whether Kerry managed to rally a nose-holding majority to his side at Thursday's debate. If not, expect to hear a lot more conversations like this over the next 33 days.


          Bush's Aura Returns   

When the Bush campaign released its TV ad last week featuring footage of John Kerry windsurfing, Kerry spokesman Mike McCurry told me it was a good sign for his candidate. The windsurfing footage was a bullet that he knew the Bush campaign would use in an ad eventually, McCurry said, and the fact that they fired it now shows that they're worried, that they think Kerry is narrowing the gap with Bush. I wasn't sure whether McCurry actually believed this or if he just wanted to put the ad in the best possible light for the Democrats. But Sunday's Washington Post made me suspect that the Bush campaign really does think things are going poorly right now. Why? Because Republicans are starting to make preposterously overconfident predictions of a Bush landslide.

National polls show that the presidential race has gotten closer since the Republican Convention. A Bloomberg News report Monday noted that five national polls have Bush up by 4 points or less. The Republican reaction to this tightening was to announce to the Post that Bush is thinking about campaigning in Washington state and New Jersey—states that any winning Democrat should carry handily—to "expand a potential victory well beyond the states he won in 2000."

It's well-known that Karl Rove believes that swing voters like to vote for the winner. Therefore, one of the central political strategies for Bush has been to create an "aura of inevitability" that, theoretically, will bring people to his side. If everyone believes you're a political juggernaut, the theory goes, then you will become a political juggernaut.

The worse things get for Bush, the more likely his aides are to declare that he is invincible. The Bushies are starting to sound like Baghdad Bob, trumpeting a decisive victory for Saddam Hussein as the American military zooms into Iraq's capital city. Whenever Bush is in trouble, someone—usually Rove—declares that things are going just swimmingly. The most memorable example of this was Bush's 2000 campaign trip to California to make it look like his election was going to be a walk even though polls showed that the race was a toss-up. Bush also took a day off from campaigning as a sign of confidence in his impending landslide. On Election Day, of course, Al Gore won more votes than Bush did, and eventually Bush won the presidency with only one more electoral vote than he needed to take office.

But there are other, less notable examples. Bush stuck with the same strategy during the 2000 primaries. In January of that year, as John McCain looked to be mounting a serious challenge to Bush's nomination, Rove told the Austin American-Statesman that "Bush is entering the 2000 election season in a stronger position than any candidate in the history of an open presidential race on the Republican side." A month later, Bush lost by 18 points to McCain in New Hampshire. The concept of "inevitability" was so central to Bush's campaign strategy that Dana Milbank wrote a piece in the Washington Post after New Hampshire that was titled, "If Bush Is No Longer Inevitable, What Is He?"

In September 2000, a little more than four years ago, Rove told Ken Herman of the Austin American-Statesman the same thing that the Bush campaign is telling reporters now: "The neat thing is we are fighting on [Gore's] territory rather than him fighting on ours." Rove told Herman that Bush had a shot in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa, too, just as the Bush campaign is declaring now. Granted, Bush did have a shot, and the races were close, but Gore took all three of those states. (Rove did predict to Herman that Bush would take West Virginia and Missouri.)

During a conference call earlier this month, senior Kerry adviser Joe Lockhart told campaign reporters that with regard to states like Illinois, New Jersey, and New York, "what we do will indicate our level of concern." And until now, the Kerry campaign has not done much in those states. But John Edwards is holding a rally Tuesday in Newark, N.J. That doesn't mean Democrats should start panicking, but it's worth remembering that although Bush's victories in the 2000 primaries and general election weren't inevitable, it's still true that he did win them.


          Great Expectations   

PHILADELPHIA—On the Kerry plane Thursday, reporters asked Mike McCurry why the campaign agreed to make the foreign-policy debate first, as the Bush campaign wanted, instead of third, as the Commission on Presidential Debates had scheduled it. "You know, we have to take anything like that and turn it into an opportunity," McCurry said. So, you see it as an opportunity? Not quite: "I'm supposed to lower expectations, not raise them."

Maybe McCurry should tell the candidate. I counted six times this week that Kerry raised his debate expectations by disparaging President Bush's intelligence or knowledge, seven if you count a comment made by Sen. Joe Biden during a Friday rally here. During his Monday night appearance on David Letterman, Kerry said that during the debates, "George Bush is gonna sit on Dick Cheney's lap," an apparent reference to the widespread Democratic belief that the vice president is the ventriloquist/puppeteer and Bush is the dummy. (At least, I hope that was the reference.) On Tuesday's Live With Regis & Kelly, Kerry said of the just-concluded debate negotiations, "The big hang-up was George Bush wanted a lifeline where he could call," an allusion to Regis Philbin's Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? game show. That night in Orlando, Kerry said that President Bush says he would have gone to war "even if he knew there was no connection of al-Qaida and Sept. 11 and Iraq—which we knew, but even if he knew that." In Columbus on Thursday, Kerry mocked Bush's claim that the CIA was "just guessing" about Iraq in its National Intelligence Estimate by implying that the president didn't understand the nature of the report and hadn't looked at it: "It's called an analysis. And the president ought to read it, and he ought to study it, and he ought to respond to it." On Friday on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania *, Biden compared the two candidates for president by saying, "John Kerry understands and has actually read history." Earlier that morning, during Kerry's war-on-terror speech at Temple University, Kerry noted that the president agreed to testify before the 9/11 commission "only with Vice President Cheney at his side," and he ridiculed Republican claims that a new president wouldn't be able to get more allies involved in Iraq and the war on terror by saying, "I have news for President Bush: Just because you can't do something doesn't mean it can't be done."

Good lines all—well, except the sitting-in-Cheney's lap one. But was this the week to trot out the Bush-is-an-idiot-controlled-by-Cheney meme? I thought the campaigns were supposed to talk up their opponents before the debates, not deride them. Kerry is Cicero and Bush is Rocky Marciano, the man who has never lost.

Other than this minor misstep in the expectations game, however, Kerry set himself up well this week for Thursday's debate, which will be the most decisive event in the presidential campaign so far. The foreign-policy debate deserves to go first, because this is a foreign-policy election. At Kerry's town halls, even the ones that are supposed to be about health care or Social Security or the economy, the majority of voters ask him questions about Iraq. Here's one way to think about next week's face-off: Bush and Kerry are running for leader of the free world, not just president of the United States, and both candidates want to cast themselves as a global Abraham Lincoln while defining their opponent as an international version of John C. Calhoun.

Bush lays claim to the mantle of Lincoln the Emancipator: Like the 16th president, Bush believes that individual liberty trumps state sovereignty (the international version of states' rights). Sure, Saddam Hussein was sovereign, but he was a tyrant and a menace to his people, Bush says, so America's invasion was a just one. Kofi Annan says Bush's invasion of Iraq was a violation of international law, but Bush appeals to a higher law that says that some laws and some rulers are illegitimate. Bush laid out his Lincolnesque doctrine of liberty over sovereignty in his acceptance speech at the Republican convention: "Our nation's founding commitment is still our deepest commitment: In our world, and here at home, we will extend the frontiers of freedom." Bush wants to paint Kerry as a global Calhoun, a man who prefers French sovereignty to Iraqi freedom.

Kerry, on the other hand, casts himself as Lincoln the preserver of the Union (while at the same time questioning Bush's competence and highlighting the disparity between the president's "fantasy world" ideals and the "world of reality" on the ground). I don't want to overstate this, because the Republican caricature of Kerry as a one-worlder who would let France exert a veto over American security is inaccurate. But Kerry clearly believes in the international structures and institutions that have been created since World War II, and he sees Bush, shall we say, nullifying them. In this version of the story, it's Bush who is Calhoun, the man who would elevate the shortsighted rights of his state over the compact that every state has entered to promote the greater good.

This analogy, like all historical analogies, is flawed in many ways. It may be particularly unfair to Kerry, who on the stump talks about relying on allies out of pragmatism rather than idealism. But it gets at the factor that I think will determine the winner of next week's debate: Which candidate will be able to present himself as the internationalist and his opponent as the isolationist? Bush says Kerry would turn his back on the people of the world who suffer under tyranny. Kerry says Bush has already turned his back on the world and has replaced dictatorship in Iraq with chaos, not the freedom he claims.

It will be an uphill battle for Kerry. So far, he's been successful at pointing out the flaws in Bush's policies, but he hasn't convinced enough people that President Kerry's policies would be any better. And Bush's bounce out of the Republican convention showed how attractive the president's principles, if not his policies, are.

In July, voters seemed to have decided that they'd like to get rid of Bush. But when they turned their attention to his potential replacement, they were disappointed by what they discovered. The Republican convention exploited that disappointment, and now there are more undecided voters than ever—because voters found out they don't like either guy.

Bush lost the incumbent's referendum, then Kerry lost the one on the challenger. Now we don't know what we want. That's why Thursday will be so critical. For Kerry to win, he needs to argue successfully that liberty and the international order, like strength and wisdom, are not opposing values.

Correction, Sept. 27, 2004: This article originally said that Biden spoke at the University of Philadelphia. He spoke at the University of Pennsylvania. (Return to corrected sentence.)


          Long Live McCurry!   

PHILADELPHIA—"Long live McCurry," wrote the Boston Globe's Glen Johnson in a Tuesday pool report, distributed to the members of the traveling press corps who hunt the elusive Senatorus massachusetts. The occasion for this joyous outburst: John Kerry responded to a question, and the press credits Mike McCurry, the former Clinton press secretary and now the "adult on the plane" for the Kerry campaign, with making the Democratic nominee more accessible. "Will transcribe, but nothing earth-shaking," Johnson wrote. "At least he stopped to answer, though. Long live McCurry …"

McCurry denies that he's responsible for the shift and credits communications director Stephanie Cutter for pushing for more accessibility long before he arrived last week. Either way, the reporters don't care. We were just happy Thursday that Kerry was answering questions again. He did it twice this time, very quickly on the tarmac here with unified middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins and earlier in a more formal environment in Columbus, Ohio. Of Hopkins, Kerry said, "He was giving me tips. He told me exactly how to do it over the next days." Hopkins said, "Exactly, the left hands, the jabs, the whole nine yards." The Globe's Johnson asked, "So you're coming from the left, sir?" Kerry: "I'm not telling you where I'm coming from. That's the secret, right?" Hopkins: "That's right. You don't tell everyone, especially the opponent." For the record, Hopkins has successfully defended his title 19 times, which beats Bob Shrum's 0-7 mark.

In Columbus, Kerry took only three questions, but again, we're not complaining. ABC's Dan Harris asked: "You criticized, to the AP, the president for 'retreating,' I believe was your word, from Fallujah. Given the situation on the ground in Fallujah when there was an offensive there, when there was a rising civilian death toll, a rising criticism among Arab media for our actions there, what would you have done differently?"

Kerry responded in what was almost a reproachful tone, complaining about how "you people judge me" and how his policies "would have prevented Fallujah." Here's his response in full: "Let me tell you, I've said many times, I wouldn't have just done one thing differently in Iraq, I would have done almost everything differently. And when you people judge me, and the American people judge me on this, I want you to judge me on the full record. I stood in Fulton, Mo., and I gave the president advice about what he needed to do. He didn't take it. I stood at Georgetown University a year and a half ago, and I gave the president advice about what he needed to do. He didn't take it. I stood on the floor of the Senate and gave him advice about what he needed to do. He didn't take it. I've laid out a whole series of things I would have done that would have prevented Fallujah. Let me tell you, if the 4th Infantry Division and the diplomacy had been done with Turkey, you wouldn't have had a Fallujah. This president rushed to war, without a plan to win the peace. And ask the military leaders. Go ask the military leaders. General Shinseki told this country how many troops we'd need. The president retired him early for telling the truth. That's why you have Fallujah. That's why you have a mess in Iraq. And that's not the kind of leadership this nation deserves."

As for McCurry, I had dinner with him Thursday night. Here are some quick takeaways from our conversation:

—He's concerned that the message-masters at the Bush campaign, such as Nicolle Devenish and Mark McKinnon, have a better understanding of the Internet and nontraditional media than the Kerry campaign. The slow response to the Swift boat ads was a sign of that, a lack of awareness that voters can acquire information from places other than newspapers and the nightly news.

—John Glenn told Kerry Thursday not to worry about the polls that show Bush opening a big lead in Ohio, McCurry said. That always happens around this time, Glenn said, and the mistake people make is to write off the state because of it, as Gore did. McCurry said Glenn persuaded Clinton to remain in Ohio after a similar spike in the polls in 1992, and Clinton carried the state.

—Why are the polls showing an increase in undecided voters? One theory: Soft Republican supporters and soft Democratic supporters are highly volatile this campaign, and the conventions made them "more inchoate." The Republicans are mostly pro-choice moderates who are wondering whether Bush is really compassionate, and the Democrats are moderates who are wondering whether Kerry is really a New Democrat.

—The windsurfing ad that the Bush campaign is running against Kerry is an attempt to be this year's "Dukakis in the tank" spot. McCurry thinks the Kerry campaign neutralized it with their quickly assembled response ad, though it's not over yet.

—McCurry would like Kerry to talk more about abortion, about how he struggles with it because of his Catholic faith. He thinks Kerry needs to come up with a "safe, legal, and rare"-type formula that assures anti-abortion swing voters that he understands their moral concerns and isn't dismissive of them.

—McCurry has never been a big believer in the role of advertising or get-out-the-vote drives in presidential campaigns, though he's acquired a new respect for GOTV after 2000 and 2002. He thinks presidential races come down to whether the candidate can make the sale on the stump. You can't, after all, run TV ads that are completely different from what voters are seeing on the news.

Which leaves the obvious question: Can Kerry make the sale? That was where the race stood before the Democratic Convention in July, and that's where it remains two months later. Kerry hasn't shown he can do it yet. He's got 40 days.


          Ill Communication   

WEST PALM BEACH, FLA.—"It's actually getting better," John Kerry says, but his voice cracks like an adolescent on "better," making the Democratic nominee for president of the United States sound like Peter Brady in the episode where his voice changes. The timing provokes good-natured laughter from the crowd. "Do you want some Tylenol?" a woman had called out, just moments before. Kerry's sick, and he's losing his voice. At times, he sounds like he can hardly get his words out. 

He gamely soldiers through the town hall, his only event on Wednesday's schedule, but not long after it's over, his campaign announces that he's taking most of Thursday off. John Edwards is called in from the bullpen to attend two events Kerry had scheduled in Iowa, one in Davenport and one in Cedar Rapids, and Kerry cancels an event he had planned to hold in Columbus, Ohio. The press is getting ready to shift from its "Kerry is staggering" storyline to a "Kerry is surging" one, and the last thing his increasingly competent campaign needs is for the candidate to show up with laryngitis at the first presidential debate next week in Miami.

The Sept. 30 face-off is so important that Kerry plans to be "down," as campaign lingo has it, all next week, practicing and preparing for his showdown with President Bush. But before disappearing, Kerry tried out some new rhetoric late Tuesday night in Orlando and then Wednesday here. Perhaps the funniest line Kerry trots out is one about Bush's promise of middle-class "tax relief." "He gave you relief," Kerry says, "kind of like the sort of relief you get when someone comes into your home and relieves you of your TV set. You know, we've been relieved of 1.6 million jobs. Half a million kids have been relieved of child care." He concludes, "And I think it's time we relieve George Bush of his responsibilities." The crowd inside the TD Waterhouse Center—the home of the Orlando Predators, winners of Arena Bowl XIV, according to a banner in the rafters—goes nuts.

But the line that Kerry wants to emphasize, and that he returns to the next day, is one of the president's. Kerry introduces this ersatz Bushism in Orlando by saying, "This is the president of the United States today, standing in New York City, where he was answering questions about Iraq and about his speech to the United Nations." Kerry pulls out a piece of paper to read and says, "Quote, 'The CIA laid out, ah'"—pause here for laughter and a huge, screaming ovation—"I just want you to know, I'm quotin'," Kerry says. "'The CIA laid out, a—several scenarios and said, life could be lousy, life could be OK, life could be better. And they were just guessing"—pause, and more laughter—"as to what the conditions might be like.'" Kerry then asks, "Ladies and gentleman, does that make you feel safer? Does that give you confidence in this president, knows what he's talking about? The CIA was 'just guessing.' This president ought to be turning that CIA over, upside down, if that's all they were doing."

Kerry returns to this theme Wednesday. He drops the "tax relief" line—in fact, the best one-liner comes from the crowd, from a man who shouts of President Bush after hearing Kerry's riff on Social Security, "We ought to privatize him!"—but he goes back to "just guessing." Kerry alters the meaning of Bush's statement slightly, but the gist is the same: "Yesterday, George Bush said he was just guessing on the intelligence estimates about conditions in Iraq. Now, George Bush's guesswork on privatizing Social Security is gonna cost $2 trillion. The president should stop guessing about Iraq, about Social Security."

Was this "guesswork" line going to be Thursday's message, too? Would Kerry have succeeded at connecting Bush's own words to the Kerry campaign's new "fantasy" vs. "reality" critique? (On Wednesday, Kerry says, "Yesterday, I was in Orlando, next to Fantasyland. The difference between me and George Bush is I drove by it. He lives in it.") The world may never know. Instead, in Columbus, Ohio, where Kerry spent the night, reporters joked about their stories for Thursday's empty day: "Today, John Kerry nurses a cold in the battleground state of Ohio…"


          Country Feedback   

Although Democrats are complaining (still) about John Edwards' lack of bark, maybe it's too much to ask John Kerry's running mate to transform himself into Cujo for the next month and a half. It's not what he was hired to do. Dick Cheney is an attack dog, the kind whose growl frightens schoolchildren into crossing the street. Edwards is the smiling tail-wagger you take to the park so you can pick up members of the opposite sex (or the same sex, as the case may be). Kerry didn't select Edwards with the expectation that he would scare voters away from President Bush. He picked him to attract them to him.

And not just any voters: Edwards is supposed to appeal to the rural voters that Al Gore lost overwhelmingly four years ago. Kerry's selection of Edwards as his vice presidential nominee will not be judged by whether the ticket carries Edwards' home state of North Carolina. Instead, the verdict will be determined by whether Edwards can bring at least some of the voters from the place that Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., calls " 'Merica."

Kerry and Edwards don't need the support of the majority of the people in this Second America. They just need to close the gap, to not lose in Gore-like fashion. Before settling on Edwards, Kerry already had enough of the Democratic base, the city dwellers who will likely turn out in even greater numbers this year than they did in 2000. Picking Edwards was, in part, an attempt to offset the huge get-out-the-vote effort that Karl Rove and the Republicans plan in rural America. If Bush really is doing so well in the countryside that he has a shot at winning states like Minnesota and Wisconsin, then right now the Kerry-Edwards strategy isn't working.

Far more frequently than Kerry, Edwards travels to rural regions and to parts of the country that Bush carried four years ago. On Thursday, Edwards was in Portsmouth, Ohio, in a county that Bush carried by 7 points. On Wednesday, he was in Parkersburg, W.Va., in a county that Bush carried by 22 points. The Saturday after the Republican Convention ended, he was in Waukesha, Wis., in a county that Bush carried by 33 points. Again, Kerry doesn't expect Edwards to win these counties. But he wants him to reduce those margins.

Kerry, on the other hand, is far more likely to hold events in urban Democratic strongholds. On Tuesday and Wednesday, he held four events: one in Toledo, Ohio, in a county that Gore carried by 19 points; one in Madison, Wis., in a county that Gore carried by 28 points; one in Milwaukee, a city that went for Gore by 40 points; and one in Detroit, a city that Gore carried by 89 points.

The normal order has been reversed. The Democratic nominee is the candidate expected to satisfy the base, while the running mate appeals to swing voters and independents. From Monday through Friday of this past week, Kerry went only once to a county that Bush won four years ago. During the same period, Edwards went to three counties won by Gore and four won by Bush.

It's a strategy that makes sense, particularly in light of the appeal to moderates and independents that Edwards displayed during the primaries. That doesn't mean it will work. But on Nov. 3, Edwards will be judged not by how many places he turned blue but how many he made a paler red.


          The Foreign Wives Club   

WASHINGTON—Teresa Heinz Kerry acknowledged Monday that she understands at least one of the reasons that many Americans aren't comfortable with the idea of her as first lady, or at least she came very close to acknowledging it: Many Americans are wary of her because they suspect she's not quite American—not un-American, just not exactly American either—and certainly not American enough to be first lady. In front of a luncheon sponsored by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, Heinz Kerry said that some critics—she called them "my husband's critics"—have challenged her for talking about her experience as an immigrant who came to America from Africa "via Europe, where I studied." Critics say "my immigrant experience isn't representative," Heinz Kerry said. "That is such a revealing comment, because what it suggests is that they should get to decide who shares in the American dream and who doesn't. What it suggests is that the American dream doesn't belong to all of us, but only to some of us."

Heinz Kerry ought to repeat that message everywhere she goes. She's one-fourth of what may be the most heavily accented ticket in American history (though Kennedy-Johnson could give them a run for their money), and fair or not, accents matter, especially in the mass-media age. George W. Bush speaks Spanish like an American, like Peggy Hill in King of the Hill. Teresa Heinz Kerry speaks English like a foreigner. Even her admirers are influenced by her accent. In the New York Observer last week, a Manhattan writer said Heinz Kerry was "a bit Zsa Zsa—you could see her slapping a cop." More important, you could hear her doing it, dahling.

I've always thought that John Edwards' thick Southern accent was one reason he did so poorly in New Hampshire. Northeastern liberals are predisposed to believe that anyone with a drawl is an uneducated rube, and some will even confess their prejudice. Sure, Bill Clinton was Southern, too, but he was also familiar with Northern culture. He attended Georgetown and went to Oxford. Clinton could navigate between the two worlds, and he spoke differently below the Mason-Dixon line than he did above it (or on television). Edwards sounds the same way all the time.

Heinz Kerry's accent isn't likely to put off Northern liberals, and even the ones that don't like it are likely to vote for her husband anyway. The problem could come in the rural areas of Ohio and Florida that are likely to determine the outcome of the election. President Bush slaughtered Al Gore in rural areas across the country four years ago. Kerry hopes to narrow that margin, which is why he rarely mentions abortion rights, emphasizes his status as a veteran, and distributes photos of himself hunting.

Those attributes may help Kerry some, but are they enough to offset a funny-talking wife? Even the pronunciation of her name—ter-AY-za—seems strange to people from certain parts of the country (not goofier than young John Kerry's pronunciation of "Genghis Khan," though). That's why it was so foolish of her to open her speech at the Democratic convention by speaking all five of her languages: Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, and English. To a certain brand of American, the stunt seemed either show-offy or vaguely seditious.

Everywhere he goes, President Bush says that "perhaps the most important reason to give us four more years is so that Laura will be first lady for four more years." In most presidential races, the remark would be interpreted as the self-deprecating affection of a doting husband. But in 2004, it comes across as a subtle shot at Teresa Heinz Kerry's fitness for (unofficial) office. Bill Clinton likes to say that people have to be able to imagine a candidate as the president before they can cast a ballot for him (or someday her). Right now, a lot of Americans have trouble imagining a world in which Teresa Heinz Kerry is first lady. It's not because she's opinionated, or a loose cannon, or perceived as an ice queen. It's because they haven't been convinced she's authentically American.

Outrageous? Nativist? Fine. That doesn't make it false. The best way for Teresa Heinz Kerry to overcome the prejudice against her is to recognize the doubts about her and confront them persuasively, like she did today. Her husband has already learned that ignoring something unfair, or pretending that it doesn't exist, doesn't make it go away.


          Shrum Strikes Back?   

ALLENTOWN, PA.—The Washington Post's Mark Leibovich profiled Kerry adviser Bob Shrum in a piece Friday that focused on the so-called "Shrum Curse," the idea that Shrum is the losingest great political strategist of modern times. Leibovich didn't bring up William Jennings Bryan or the Buffalo Bills, but he does compare Shrum to Kerry's favorite baseball team, the Boston Red Sox. Ten speechwriters at the Democratic convention, Leibovich writes, considered wearing "Reverse the Curse" T-shirts emblazoned with a picture of Shrum. The article's headline: "Loss Leader: At 0-7, Adviser Bob Shrum Is Well Acquainted With the Concession Speech."

Ouch. It gets worse. Here are some of the piece's highlights: "Shrum's career-long slump in presidential campaigns, a well-catalogued losing streak that runs from George McGovern to Al Gore. … the ["Reverse the Curse"] slogan endures as a joke among Kerry staffers. … Shrum's 0-7 win-loss record in presidential elections has become ensconced in the psyches of the campaigns he orchestrates. …. Kerry is sputtering … His campaign has been called listless and unfocused, words that were also applied to Shrum's last presidential enterprise, the Gore campaign (a forbidden comparison within Kerry headquarters). … But curses sometimes have prosaic explanations. … critics started to rehash old complaints about Shrum. They say he relies too heavily on populist rhetoric, … that his aggressiveness led to backbiting within the campaign. ... James Carville harpooned Shrum relentlessly to reporters at the Republican convention last week. Clinton himself was critical of the campaign's reluctance to attack Bush—a position Shrum had advocated—in a phone call to Kerry … Shrum's brand of old-style liberalism—steeped in the tradition of his political patron, Ted Kennedy—is anathema to the centrist, New Democrat ethic that got Clinton elected twice. … 'You tend to listen extra hard to Clinton people,' says a mid-level Kerry aide who didn't want to be identified because he's not an official spokesman. 'They've actually won one of these.' "

The one thing Leibovich couldn't nail down was Shrum's role in the Kerry campaign after the elevation of John Sasso and Michael Whouley and the infusion of Clinton operatives like Joe Lockhart. How much power does Shrum have now? Does he still have the candidate's ear? "Shrum is either in Kerry's doghouse, or his influence has been diffused by the high-level additions. Ultimately, though, campaign sources say, Shrum is a survivor" who has "worked strenuously to cultivate Lockhart." Leibovich also writes that Kerry feels loyal to Shrum for helping him to defeat William Weld in 1996.

So, Shrumologists take note: During a rally here on Friday, the same day Leibovich's critical profile appeared, Kerry inserted a Shrumian flourish into his standard stump speech. For a few minutes, Kerry sounded an awful lot like Al Gore during his much-criticized—and Shrum-penned—"people vs. the powerful" acceptance speech at the 2000 Democratic convention. The business-friendly Kerry  of Labor Day vanished, replaced by a Wall Street-bashing economic populist.

Kerry spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said Kerry's remarks weren't significant. "It didn't strike me as anything unusual," she said. "It's not a 'people vs. the powerful.' " Judge for yourself: There's a theme that runs through "everything I just talked about," Kerry explained. "Why aren't we importing drugs from Canada? Why did they take that out? Why did we refuse to allow Medicare to be able to negotiate [bulk drug prices] so you would lower your taxes? Why has the tax burden of the average American family gone up while the tax burden of the richest people in America has gone down? Why is it that when we're fighting to have alternative and renewable energy, we wind up with an energy bill that's written for the oil and gas companies? Why is it that when American citizens are losing their health care by the millions, it's the HMOs and the companies that keep getting fed?" Kerry mentions all of these things frequently on the stump, but this time he punctuated his critique with an allusion to the rhetoric of Al Gore's "forbidden" campaign: "I'll tell you why: because this administration exists for the purpose of serving the powerful and the moneyed, and we need to restore … the voices of America, the real Americans who built this country and make it strong. We need to step up and fight."

Was Kerry paying a final tribute to the dear, departed Shrum? Or was Shrum serving notice to the Clinton faction that he won't disappear without a fight? Both? Neither? Was it just a coincidence? What is the sound of one hand clapping? If a Shrum falls in the forest, does it make a sound?


          Looking Backward   

ST. LOUIS—Remember when this was John Kerry's race to lose? Now the question on everyone's minds is whether he's lost it, and if so, what it will take for him to win it back. The Kerry campaign remains stagnant—though improved from where it was a week ago—because, despite claims to the contrary, it hasn't absorbed the lesson of Michael Dukakis' failed presidential bid. Or worse, Kerry might have learned the wrong lesson from 1988.

The Kerry campaign's belated response to the false allegations leveled by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth was hailed as evidence that the specter of Dukakis looming over the campaign had been lifted, because Kerry had finally "responded." But merely rebutting a charge isn't sufficient to avoid Dukakis' fate. Standing up and saying "I am not a wife beater" doesn't fix the problem. Saying the other guy beats his husband does. The lesson of the Dukakis campaign isn't that you need to "respond" by defending yourself. The lesson is to change the subject with a counterattack.

Look at the Bush campaign's response to Kerry's criticism of the 17 percent hike in Medicare premiums. Rather than rebut Kerry's charge or defend the administration's decision, the Bush-Cheney team released a new ad Thursday blasting Kerry for voting "five times to raise Medicare premiums." The 30-second spot ends with the kicker, "John Kerry ... he actually voted for higher Medicare premiums ... before he came out against them."

The despondence among Democrats over the superiority of the Bush-Cheney campaign team is real. The news cycle has taken a turn in Kerry's favor, but his campaign hasn't figured out how to turn the news to his advantage. During the past week, the 1,000th American died in Iraq, the administration announced the largest deficit in the nation's history, new documents about Bush's service—or lack thereof—in the National Guard emerged, and Dick Cheney made a statement so repugnant that his own staff disavowed it almost immediately. What has Kerry been able to do with these events? Maybe worse than nothing. Most notable, the 1,000th casualty led Kerry to describe the situation in Iraq as "the war on terror," and the campaign hasn't devised a good explanation for why he did that. (Though there is an emerging theory that by agreeing with Bush that Iraq is part of the war on terror, Kerry can use Iraq as evidence that Bush has mismanaged not just a sideshow in the war against al-Qaida, but the whole thing.)

The event some Democrats point to as emblematic of the Kerry campaign's refusal to play rough: Back in August, after Tom Harkin called Dick Cheney a "coward," the Iowa senator was yanked from a bus tour. The Kerry campaign denied the two events were linked, but not everyone believes them, particularly in light of the fact that the Kerry-Edwards team vetted the speeches at the Democratic Convention to ensure that no speaker criticized the president or his record too harshly.

There's a good reason not to want Sen. Harkin as the point man attacking Cheney's war record: During Harkin's 1992 presidential campaign, the Wall Street Journal called him "carefree" with the facts, particularly about his military service. "Mr. Harkin did serve in the Navy during the Vietnam era, but exactly what he did, and for how long, remain a matter of some dispute," the newspaper reported.

But if the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth have taught us anything, it's that the credibility of an accuser is less important than the explosiveness of the charge. The Democrats may finally be learning that. Harkin is now back on the bus, so to speak, being trotted out to fire away at Bush and Cheney in much the same say Bob Dole and President H.W. Bush were sent out to lend credibility to the Swift boat charges. "Never defend, always attack," was Harkin's advice to Kerry in the New York Times, and the campaign seems to have taken him up on it. Of Cheney's statement that electing Sen. Kerry as president would invite a catastrophic terrorist attack, Harkin said on CNN Wednesday, "You know, I thought Dick Cheney limited his obscenities to the Senate floor." Showing mastery of the art of flinging whatever accusation you can, no matter what the topic, Harkin decided it would also be a good time to attack Cheney for war profiteering: "You know when you think of Vice President Cheney and his viciousness in that kind of remark, the fact that he still has his hand in the till of Halliburton that is making money off of Iraq, I would say that Mr. Cheney is the 2004 version of Spiro Agnew."

Kerry doesn't need to be making accusations like these himself, as he unwisely did the night after Bush's convention speech when he attacked Dick Cheney as a draft dodger. That's what surrogates are for. There was a sign Thursday that the candidate may have learned that lesson, too. At a Des Moines town hall, Kerry was talking to a 91-year-old veteran, and he told her, "That's something you never forget, your service number." From the crowd, a man called out, "George did!" Kerry waited for the laughter to subside, and then he paused and said nothing more than, "Well, moving on."


          Kerry Returns to Form   

DES MOINES—The most interesting thing to happen with the Kerry campaign Wednesday was an exchange between Stephanie Cutter, a Kerry spokeswoman, and CNN's Candy Crowley. Disgruntled reporters gathered around Cutter after Kerry's anticipated but disappointing speech in Cincinnati that criticized President Bush's handling of the war in Iraq. The speech had two memorable moments, both of which occurred before it really began: the announcement beforehand that Peter Frampton was on hand, and the shouts of a protester—"You said you committed atrocities. You said you burned villages"—who was silenced when the man standing next to him put him in a headlock. After the speech, Kerry spokesman David Wade said the protester was a man named Mike Russell, who Wade said was the Bush-Cheney chairman in Bracken County, Ky., during the 2000 election. "He is now, coincidentally, with the Swift Boat Veterans," Wade added.

Nothing Kerry said in Cincinnati could compensate for the blunder he made the day before when he stood before cameras on the tarmac of the Cincinnati airport and expressed his sorrow for the 1,000th American casualty in Iraq. "More than 1,000 of America's sons and daughters have now given their lives on behalf of their country, on behalf of freedom, in the war on terror," Kerry said. The war on terror? Oops. The mistake was part of the natural reversion to the mean of the Kerry candidacy. After the successful day and a half of campaigning that followed his conversation with President Clinton, the usual Kerry—the New Old Kerry—was back. Kerry took no questions after making his mystifying "war on terror" comment. Crowley called out, "Senator, you've been saying that it's 'wrong war, wrong place, wrong time.' What does that mean about these deaths?" but Kerry, in a typical maneuver, just walked away. It's been more than five weeks since Kerry last took questions at a press conference, or an "avail," as it's called.

So, Crowley asked Cutter if she could explain what Kerry meant. Short answer: No. Long answer: Cutter said Kerry was referring to something Donald Rumsfeld said Tuesday about the increase in terrorists in Iraq after the war. "There were not terrorists in Iraq before we went," Cutter explained (incorrectly), but there are now. Kerry was just "repeating what Rumsfeld said," Cutter continued. So, Crowley asked, Iraq is now part of the war on terror? "No. That's not what I'm saying," Cutter said. "Should he have clarified it, said it differently? Maybe. But the point remains the same. There was no terrorism before we went to war. There is now terrorism there." But Democratic orthodoxy is that the war on terror and the war in Iraq are distinct, Crowley said. Cutter replied, "And he agrees with that." Crowley: "Had he stayed for questions, we could have clarified that."

Kerry should have said, hey, I misspoke, I was trying to express my sympathy for all the Americans who have lost their lives in the broader war on terror, not just the 1,000-plus who have died in the war in Iraq. But instead the campaign has concocted this preposterously complicated explanation, saying yes he meant to say it, but no, he thinks Iraq is not part of the war on terror. What?

The other head-scratcher uttered by Kerry in the past two days came Wednesday in Greensboro, N.C. There, in response to a question from a woman about the health problems caused by mold and indoor air contamination—and her complaint, "There's not one agency in this government that has come forward" to deal with the problem—Kerry endorsed the creation of a new federal department. "What I want to do, what I'm determined to do, and it's in my health-care plan, is refocus America on something that can reduce the cost of health care significantly for all Americans, which is wellness and prevention," Kerry said. So far, so good. But then, "And I intend to have not just a Department of Health and Human Services, but a Department of Wellness." Again, what? Apparently this idea comes from Teresa Heinz Kerry, who told the Boston Herald in January 2003 that she would, in the Herald's words, "be an activist first lady, lobbying for a Department of Wellness that would stress preventive health." Oh, boy. Preventive health is a fine idea, but do we need a new agency—I assume it's not Cabinet-level—to handle it?

Kerry ended his day in Iowa, the state that launched him to the nomination of the Democratic Party. The traveling press headed to the Hotel Fort Des Moines to spend the night. At the hotel, I came across an inauspicious if ultimately meaningless piece of trivia on an information sheet given to hotel guests. Three presidential candidates, according to the hotel, celebrated their victories in the Iowa caucuses at the Hotel Fort Des Moines. Two of them, Walter Mondale in 1984 and Bob Dole in 1996, went on to win the nominations of their parties (the third was George Bush in 1980). In their general-election match-ups, Mondale won one state and the District of Columbia, while Dole won 41 percent of the popular vote. John Kerry? He too celebrated caucus night at the Hotel Fort Des Moines this January, but the hotel hasn't added him to its list yet. Maybe it's afraid of being a three-time loser.


          Kerry in Black and White   

CINCINNATI—John Kerry is so concerned about the plight of American manufacturers that he's taken to doing short advertisements during his campaign events. "Go to a Web site," Kerry exhorted his audience Tuesday in Greensboro, N.C. "It could be johnkerry.com, or go some other place. Go to truth.com, if there is one. And find out what's really happening." So I went to truth.com, and I found out what was happening: "Truth Hardware designs and manufactures a complete line of hinges, locks, operators, and even remote controlled power window systems used on wood, vinyl, metal and fiberglass windows, skylights, and patio doors."

I'm hesitant to criticize Kerry for his extemporizing, because his Kerrymeandering (a word invented by my colleague Will Saletan) makes the repetition of campaigning more endurable. More important, overdisciplined Robopols who never say anything interesting are one of the many reasons to hate politics. And this Kerrymeander was merely amusing, not harmful, though a good rule of 21st-century campaigning should be, don't refer to Web sites that you haven't visited. Kerry even had the good fortune to refer to the Web site of a company that manufactures its products in Owatonna, Minn.—a swing state!

But Monday's impromptu comments were more damaging. In addition to making a joke in West Virginia about taking a shotgun with him to the presidential debates, Kerry decided it would be a good idea in Pennsylvania to talk about how he has difficulty deciding what to eat at restaurants. "You know when they give you the menu, I'm always struggling, what do you want?" he said. A cook at a local restaurant, though, solves Kerry's dilemma by serving "whatever he's cooked up that day. I think that's the way it ought to work for confused people like me who can't make up our minds what we're going to eat." Kerry has yet to mourn the fact that fewer and fewer gynecologists are able to "practice their love" with American women, but his handlers have so much confidence in him that on Tuesday they banned the national press pool from observing his satellite interviews with local TV stations.

Still, even Kerry wasn't as off-message as one of the local politicians who introduced him at the Greensboro town hall. Sure, Republicans say Kerry is a flip-flopper, the politician said, but so-called "flip-flopping" is a sign of skepticism, of being open to learning new things. "We call it thinking," he said to huge applause from the crowd. The guy must not have gotten the memo: Kerry no longer wants to be the thoughtful candidate of nuance. Like President Bush, he's discovered the virtues of moral clarity.

Bush describes the world in terms of black and white, good vs. evil. Kerry now describes the world in terms of right vs. wrong. "As the president likes to say, there's nothing complicated about this," Kerry says every time he begins his new "W. stands for wrong" speech. Kerry no longer brags about being complicated, as he did in his acceptance speech at the Democratic convention. He's now as simple as Bush. As Kerry said in Greensboro, "John Edwards and I believe, deep to the core of our being, that there's an easy distinction between what's right and what's wrong."

You won't be shocked to learn which side of the line Kerry thinks Bush falls on. Bush on the war: wrong. Bush on government spending: wrong. Bush on Medicare: wrong. Bush on Social Security: wrong. Bush on outsourcing: wrong. Bush on the environment: wrong. (Kerry also referred to mankind's "spiritual, God-given responsibilities" to be stewards of the Earth.) And in Greensboro, Kerry added a new element to his "That's W., wrong choice, wrong direction," refrain. Each time, he concluded with, "And we want to make it right." Kerry did get a little overzealous about his new theme when he referred to the treasury secretary as "John W. Snow—John Snow, excuse me." After some laughter from the audience, Kerry added, "Well, he's wrong, too."

Kerry has also begun to criticize Bush for breaking promises, for not being as unwavering as he pretends to be. In West Virginia on Monday, Kerry said Bush promised in 2000 to spend more money on clean coal technology, but the money never came. In North Carolina on Tuesday, Kerry mentioned the administration's overconfident estimates of war on the cheap: "He promised that this war would cost $1 billion, and that oil from Iraq would pay for it."

The audience liked the new black-and-white, with-us-or-against-us Kerry. He was doing so well that during the question-and-answer session he felt liberated to engage in some more improvisation. A woman stood up and announced, "I'm so excited to see you. I think you're hot." Referring to his 27-year-old daughter, Vanessa, who was in the audience, Kerry said, "My daughter just buried her head. That is not the way she thinks about her father. But at my age, that sounds good." While he was talking, Vanessa Kerry looked down and stuck her fingers in her ears.


          Kerry's Deathbed Conversion   

CLEVELAND—Everything you need to know about Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential run—and therefore, everything a Democrat needs to know about taking the White House from an incumbent—is supposed to have been scrawled on a wipeboard in Little Rock 12 years ago by James Carville. "It's the economy, stupid," the phrase that has become holy writ, was only one-third of Carville's message. The other two tenets of the Clinton war room were "Change vs. more of the same" and "Don't forget health care." John Kerry has been running on two of those three planks, the economy and health care. But one day after talking with President Clinton on his deathbed—Kerry's, not Clinton's—the candidate has finally embraced the third: change.

Kerry offered a taste of his new message Monday morning at one of his "front porch" campaign stops in Canonsburg, Penn., but he waited until the afternoon in Racine, W.V., to unveil his new stump speech in full. The new message: Go vote for Bush if you want four more years of falling wages, of Social Security surpluses being transferred to wealthy Americans in the form of tax cuts, of underfunded schools and lost jobs. But if you want a new direction, he said, vote for Kerry and Edwards.

It's a simple and obvious message, but Kerry hasn't used it before. There were other new, even more Clintonesque wrinkles, too. Kerry talked about the same issues—jobs, health care, Social Security, education—that he's talked about in the past, but he had a new context for them: how Bush's policies were taking money out of taxpayers' pockets. The deficit, the Medicare prescription drug plan that forbids bulk-price negotiation and the importation of drugs from Canada, and the "$200 billion and counting" Iraq war all "cost you money," Kerry said, by increasing the cost of government. Kerry even pushed his health-care plan as a selfish device to put more money in voters' wallets (rather than an altruistic plan to cover the uninsured), in the form of lower health-insurance premiums ($1,000, he says). He also talked about a Clinton favorite, putting 100,000 new cops on the street during the 1990s, and he said he wanted to cut taxes for corporations by 5 percent to lower the cost of doing business in the United States. Talking about corporate tax cuts on Labor Day—if that's not a New Democrat, I don't know what is.

In West Virginia and later Cleveland, Kerry framed most of the new message around a mantra: "W stands for wrong. Wrong choices, wrong judgment, wrong priorities, wrong direction for our country." If you like those wrong choices, the lost jobs, "raiding Social Security," rising health-care costs, and "a go-it-alone foreign policy that abandons America," then vote for George W. Bush, Kerry said. If not, vote for me. The cost of the Iraq war is coming out of your pocket, he said, and it's taking away from money that could be used for homeland security. "That's W.; that's wrong," he said. With each issue Kerry raised—from Iraq to rising Medicare premiums to Social Security to jobs—he concluded his criticism of the president's policy by repeating, "That's W.; that's wrong."

It's not a perfect speech, nor is it delivered all that well. Kerry will never win an oratory contest with Bush, and he is fond of bizarre extemporizing. For example, he said, after being given a shotgun by a union leader to emphasize his support for hunting, "I'm thankful for the gift, but I can't take it to the debate with me." Still, even with Kerry's shaggy delivery, the speech—and more important, the message, if he sticks with it—should be good enough to get his campaign out of its latest sinkhole.

Sometimes, Kerry even improvises well. During the event in Canonsburg, Kerry was heckled by a small but noisy group of Bush supporters. But he managed to pull something out of Clinton's bag of tricks. When Kerry began talking about how the average family's tax burden has risen during the past four years, a man shouted, "Yeah, you're average, Kerry!" In response, Kerry adopted the tactic that Clinton used at the Democratic Convention in Boston: He embraced his affluence. "Just to answer that guy, 'cause he's right," Kerry said. "I'm privileged," just like President Bush. As a result, "My tax burden went down," Kerry said. "And I don't think that's right. I think your tax burden ought to go down."

Before today, Kerry's public image was starting to resemble that of a different Democratic candidate of recent vintage: the Republican caricature of Al Gore, a self-promoting braggart with a weakness for resume-inflating exaggerations. When Kerry was so angered by a Washington Post headline last week that he decided to speak directly after Bush's acceptance speech at the Republican Convention, he appeared to be imitating Gore's unfortunate tendency to let his campaign strategy be driven by the whims of the political media. Some Democrats feared that, by shaking up his campaign over the weekend and bringing in John Sasso and Michael Whouley, Kerry was overreacting in Gore-like fashion to some bad August press. On Monday, anyway, those fears seem overstated. The revamped Kerry campaign looks more like the Democrat who beat a president named Bush than the Democrat who lost to one.


          I Love 9/11   

NEW YORK—If it's true that the better speech-giver wins in presidential elections, then it's going to be Bush in a landslide. In his speech accepting the Republican nomination for the presidency—particularly the powerful final third—the president provided the eloquence that the times demand. It's too bad he doesn't have the presidency to match his (or Michael Gerson's) rhetoric.

The inspiration the president provided, however, was overshadowed by the disturbing nostalgia for Sept. 11 that preceded it. The phenomenon of "faster nostalgia" keeps accelerating, and the decades we reminisce about grow closer and closer to the present with each passing year. But the two political conventions this August must be the first recorded instances of nostalgia for the 21st century.

During the Democratic convention, too many speakers looked back to 9/11 with fondness. They didn't recall the months after the worst foreign attack in American history as a sad and tragic time. Instead, they appeared to remember those days as a warm-and-fuzzy time of national unity, now lost because of Republican partisanship. But the GOP's wistful look back at the tragedy as a marvelous occasion that somehow justifies the re-election of President Bush was even more stomach-turning. The convention's final night had the air of a VH-1 special: I Love Sept. 11.

Before President Bush came out to speak, the convention's image-masters aired a hagiographic video, a 9/11 retrospective that was Field of Dreams as told by the narrator of The Big Lebowski, with a dash of the David McCullough sections of Seabiscuit. (Like The Dude's rug in Lebowski, 9/11 really tied Bush's presidency together.) The reason to re-elect Bush, actual narrator Fred Thompson implied, is not the foreign-policy actions he took after being saddled with a historic tragedy. No, Bush merits re-election because of his performance as an Oprah-like healer in chief. He placed a deceased New York cop's badge in his pocket. He jogged with a wounded soldier. And most of all, he went to a baseball game.

"What do a bullhorn and a baseball have in common?" Thompson asked, and soon we were told: The defining moment of the Bush presidency came not only on Sept. 14, as previously thought, when Bush stood at Ground Zero and proclaimed that the terrorists who struck New York and Washington would "hear from us." It also came a month later, when Bush marched to the mound of Yankee Stadium and boldly, decisively, resolutely tossed out the first pitch of the World Series. "What he did that night, that man in the arena, he helped us come back.That's the story of this presidency," Thompson said, as I wondered how many takes it took Thompson to do this without giggling. You keep pitching, no matter what, Thompson said. You go to the game, no matter what. "You throw, and you become who you are." The delegates went nuts. Remember that time Osama chased Bush's slider in the dirt?

The absurd film was actually Bush's second introduction. The first had come five minutes earlier, when New York Gov. George Pataki finished his speech, a repugnant politicization of Sept. 11. At first, like the video, Pataki's use of 9/11 was just laughable, such as when he took a moment to thank the good people of the swing states Oregon, Iowa, and Pennsylvania for their generosity in New York's hour of need. The despicable moment came later, when he blamed the Clinton administration for the terrorist attacks.

After 9/11, "The president took strong action to protect our country," Pataki said. "That sounds like something any president would do. How I wish that were so." Instead, Bill Clinton shamefully ignored the attacks on the World Trade Center, the embassies, and the U.S.S. Cole. "How I wish the administration at that time, in those years, had done something," Pataki said. "How I wish they had moved to protect us. But they didn't do it."

But, wait—didn't President Clinton strike at Osama Bin Laden's training camps in 1998? And didn't Republicans criticize him for doing it? I think it's misguided and pointless to discuss whether 9/11 was preventable, and it's a waste of time to ponder who is more blameworthy, Bush or Clinton. But since Pataki brought it up, isn't the fact that President Bush presided over the most catastrophic attack on the U.S. mainland in American history a strike against him, not a point in his favor? If it was so obvious that the nation needed to attack al-Qaida more forcefully in the 1990s, why did President Bush take nine months to pay attention to the threat? And didn't the Clinton administration disrupt the planned millennium bombing of Los Angeles International Airport? Wasn't that a move to protect us? Nothing Zell Miller said Wednesday was as loathsome as Pataki's speech.

There was an honest case to be made for war with Iraq: Saddam Hussein did not possess nuclear weapons, but he was pursuing them and needed to be toppled before he acquired them. President Bush never made that case, preferring instead to exaggerate the nature and immediacy of the threat and to link al-Qaida with Iraq in the public mind. This convention continued that disgraceful record, muddying the distinction between 9/11 and Iraq, conflating the war of necessity the nation faced after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon with the war of choice in Iraq, and repeatedly telling the lie that John Kerry wants to wait until the nation is struck again before crushing al-Qaida.

The president's defenders say he invaded Iraq with good intentions, and I believe them. But if President Bush didn't mislead us into war, he's misleading us during one, and he deserves to be defeated for it.


          Running Scared   

NEW YORK—One of the most striking things about watching the Republican National Convention from inside Madison Square Garden has been the lack of enthusiasm among the delegates on the floor. When they formally, and unanimously, nominated George W. Bush as their party's presidential nominee Wednesday at the conclusion of the roll call of the states, the delegates failed to muster much applause for their action. "We can do better than that," complained Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele from the podium. "Come on now, bring it on for the president." The delegates dutifully applauded some more, but they still weren't very loud, and Steele still seemed disappointed.

But by the end of Wednesday night, the delegates were fired up. What got them going? Speeches by Zell Miller and Dick Cheney arguing that John Kerry can't be trusted on matters of national security, that he's weak, indecisive, and open to influence from foreign leaders. "Kerry would let Paris decide when America needs defending," Miller scoffed, and the delegates booed. During Cheney's speech, delegates joyously mocked Kerry by chanting "flip flop, flip flop," and they booed the idea that Kerry even aspired to be the country's commander in chief. The knock on Democrats this year is supposed to be that they hate the other guy more than they love their own. Based on this convention, it sure looks like the same is true of Republicans.

Tonight confirmed what I suspected before the Democratic convention began: In violation of the normal rules of politics, this year's election is a referendum on the challenger rather than a referendum on the incumbent. There's a general sense that a change in presidents would be a good thing, but the country is taking that decision more seriously than it would in peacetime, and voters aren't certain, despite their disapproval of President Bush, that a President Kerry would be an improvement.

That's why this was the night the Republicans did their convention right. During the first two days of this convention, the prime-time speakers gave eloquent speeches, but they didn't hammer Kerry enough, with the exception of Rudy Giuliani's effective pummeling of Kerry's reputation for inconsistency. Tonight, Miller and Cheney more than made up for the oversight. My guess is that Republicans won't be able to convince voters that Bush has been a wonderful president, but they just might be able to convince voters that Kerry would be a terrible one.

There is the question, though, of whether anything that happens at this convention will make much of a difference in the race. As a rule, political conventions are aimed at the great mass of undecided voters who typically determine the outcome of elections, and this convention has been no different. But what's interesting about the Republicans' decision to follow those rules and hold a convention that appeals to swing voters is that Karl Rove has already announced that 2004 is a year that the normal rules don't apply.

This is supposed to be a "base" election, not a "swing" one. Rove believes that there are more votes to be found among the conservatives who didn't turn out to vote in 2000 than among the minuscule pool of undecided voters. In search of those stay-at-home voters, President Bush and Vice President Cheney almost exclusively visit heavily Republican areas in swing states.

Democrats fear that the Bush-Cheney campaign may be able to pull off a national version of what Ralph Reed did for Saxby Chambliss in Georgia two years ago, when Reed turned out droves of new evangelical voters who made the difference against Max Cleland. The race in Missouri provides a good example of what Republicans are trying to do. Earlier this year I spoke to Lloyd Smith, who is advising the Bush-Cheney campaign in the Show-Me State this year. Smith said the Bush-Cheney campaign will win the state by going to precincts that had as few as 500 or 600 voters in them four years ago and finding another 100 voters in each one to vote for the president.

In 2000, those stay-at-home voters didn't like George W. Bush enough (or hate Al Gore enough) to be motivated to get out to the polls and vote. Based on Bush's record, my guess is that they don't like him any more now. Love of Bush won't win the Republicans the presidency. Fear of Kerry might.


          Playing to Strength   

NEW YORK—Inside Madison Square Garden, Tuesday's schedule promised another day of moderation, with Laura Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger following Monday's tag-team of John McCain and Rudy Giuliani. But outside the hall, among the protesters, Tuesday is the day marked off for the hard-core left, for the anarchists and communists and the man at Union Square who is calling for American soldiers to rise up in mutiny and frag their commanding officers. Except at this convention, even the anarchists are moderates.

At Union Square, where Tuesday's "day of action" begins at 4 p.m., a small crowd gathers to block off the entrance to the park in defiance of police orders. "Ladies and gentlemen, you have to remove yourselves from the entrance," says a cop in front of a phalanx of shield-bearing officers. The crowd, which had been chanting, "Go arrest Bush! Go arrest Bush!" decides to adjust its message. The new chant: "The police deserve a raise! The police deserve a raise!" Who says anarchists aren't politically savvy? When trying to win over an audience, abandon the red-meat rhetoric and instead reach out to independent swing cops.

The protesters and convention speakers have a lot in common, in fact, including a preference for empty slogans and false choices. But more important, they both believe that showing resolve is the most important political act. The protesters believe that if enough of them are willing to lie down in the streets and get arrested—and if they do it over and over and over again—the American people will be persuaded to consider their point of view. The convention speakers agree that doing something over and over and over again, being unwavering and unchangeable, is the best way to pull Americans to your side.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Tuesday speaker with the most, er, movie-star appeal, says that "perseverance" is the quality he admires most about President Bush: "He's a man of inner strength. He is a leader who doesn't flinch, doesn't waver, and does not back down." Sure, the president led the country into an unpopular war, Schwarzenegger says, but that's a good thing! "The president didn't go into Iraq because the polls told him it was popular. In fact, the polls said just the opposite. But leadership isn't about polls. It's about making decisions you think are right and then standing behind those decisions." Schwarzenegger echoes what Monday night's final speaker, Rudy Giuliani, said: "There are many qualities that make a great leader but having strong beliefs, being able to stick with them through popular and unpopular times, is the most important characteristic of a great leader."

Now, that can't possibly be right. Surely Giuliani and Schwarzenegger believe that having the correct beliefs is more important than sticking by your beliefs, no matter how wrong you are. Sticking by your beliefs is probably the most overrated leadership trait. All great politicians are flip-floppers, including President Bush.

The biggest fib the president says on the stump is, "When I say something, I mean it." Did he mean it when he said that no matter what the whip count, he would ask for a second vote at the Security Council before going to war with Iraq? Did he mean it when he was against a Department of Homeland Security? Did he mean it when he opposed the creation of a 9/11 commission? Did he mean it when he opposed McCain-Feingold? Did he mean it when he said troops shouldn't be used for nation-building? Did he mean it when he said he planned to use his presidency to strengthen international alliances? Does he mean it when he says, "It's the people's money, not the government's money"? If so, then why does he spend so much of it?

Up to now, the Kerry campaign has elected not to use this inconsistent record to undermine the Republican claim that President Bush is a man of great resolve. Instead, they've decided to buttress the idea. The president is stubborn, unyielding, Kerry says. He's not flexible enough.

Kerry's approach plays into liberals' fantasies about themselves. Liberals think they're smarter, more thoughtful, more nuanced than conservatives. They think they're more aware of the complexities and ambiguities in life. They're not inconsistent; they're Emersonian. Kerry tried to take advantage of this at the Democratic Convention when he said that he understands that some things are complicated. Bush's response has been to say, as he does often, "There is nothing complicated about supporting our troops."

Howard Dean got it right when he said that people don't like President Bush because they agree with his policies. They like him because they think he's a strong leader. Unless Democrats can undermine that belief, they don't have a chance of regaining the presidency. The Kerry campaign may finally be learning this. When Bush said that he now believes the nation actually can win the war on terror (despite saying otherwise previously), the Kerry campaign e-mailed a press release with the headline, "Bush: Against Winning the War on Terror Before He Was for It." Maybe they've learned that Kerry can't blunt Bush's strength on national security without making at least some people think the president is a flip-flopping "politician." You don't beat your opponent by listening to his message, nodding, and saying, I agree.


          Their Kind of Town   

NEW YORK—Zell Miller will be the most notable apostate at the Republican National Convention, but Ed Koch gets to be the first. At the first GOP convention ever held in New York City, the first speaker after the opening remarks by Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie and RNC Co-Chair Ann Wagner is the former mayor, a Democrat. "Why am I here?" the jovial Koch asks the smattering of assembled delegates at the sparsely attended Monday morning session. "I'm here to convert you. But that's for the next election. This year, I'm voting for the re-election of President George W. Bush." The small crowd gives Koch a huge cheer.

Koch is followed by another New York mayor, the current one. At the first GOP convention ever held in New York City, Republican Michael Bloomberg declares, "Welcome to America's New York." It's a strange choice of words, one that makes it sound as if the Republican delegates suspect they somehow landed in Russia's New York. (Perhaps that was the New York that Koch presided over.) But Bloomberg's choice of words is telling. The picture of New York painted during the convention's morning session is a city in tune with the rest of the country, the South, Middle, and West that most Republicans hail from. Maybe Bloomberg should have said, "Welcome to Red America's New York."

After Bloomberg speaks, a video produced by the History Channel tells the political history of the capital of Blue America, but it's really the history of the Republican Party in New York. We hear about the birth of Teddy Roosevelt, for example, but not, say, the Stonewall riots. (The video also contains the first bit of disinformation at the convention: It calls TR "our second-youngest president" when in fact he was the youngest president, taking office as a 42-year-old after the assassination of President McKinley. JFK, at 43, was the youngest man elected to the presidency.) "America's New York" is where the Bill of Rights was written, not where the gay rights movement began. It's where Abraham Lincoln, the most beloved Republican, denounced the spread of slavery at Cooper Union. It's also home to the machinery of global capitalism: the New York Stock Exchange and the headquarters of more major corporations than any other city.

Long before we get to Rudy Giuliani, New York Mayor No. 3 of the day, the message of Day 1 couldn't be clearer: Don't worry, nervous visitors. Despite what you may have heard from your friends (or seen from the protestors), this is your town!

But the Big Apple love-in doesn't last all that long. No one denounces the city, of course, but the disconnect between the majority of New Yorkers and the majority of Republicans comes across during the succession of speeches by GOP congressional candidates. In the most Jewish city in America, Mississippi congressional candidate Clinton LeSueur strays from President Bush's carefully inclusive religious rhetoric. Instead of making the nonsectarian statement in his prepared text—"The very foundation of this country is faith"—LeSueur says, "The very foundation of this country is Christianity and faith in Jesus Christ."

Ted Poe, a congressional candidate from Texas, goes even further. He compares Upper West Side liberals, at least implicitly, to the nation's enemies in the war on terror. The country is currently fighting for freedom abroad in Iraq, Poe says. But it's also fighting for "basic American principles" at home. "This threat is real," he continues. Don't "complain and criticize as the French did in the war in Iraq." No, this dangerous "threat" must be stopped with a fierce barrage of smaller government and lower taxes. "Sitting on the sidelines is not an option," says Poe, sticking with his hilariously inappropriate analogy. "Now is not the time to be a French Republican" (or, as the official transcript of his piece has it, an all-caps "FRENCH REPUBLICAN").

Who screened Poe's speech? Sure, it's not prime time, but certainly someone pointed out (or someone should have pointed out) that it wasn't a good idea to compare Democrats, by far the majority in New York, to Baathists.

Maybe Poe was more shocked by the scale of the anti-Bush protests in the streets than he should have been. He expected the Republicans to be greeted in Manhattan as liberators.


          Dubya Dubya Two   

NEW YORK—There's an old rule of thumb in high school and college debating: The first side that is forced to bring up Hitler to defend its case automatically loses. (Sorry, MoveOn.org.) Referring to Der Fuhrer is a desperate act, the crotch-kick of rhetorical devices. It may get you out of a streetfight, but it is cause for disqualification in more formal settings, like political conventions.

But if you expand the Hitler rule to include all references to World War II, President Bush would have lost this election on a technicality several years ago. After all, if reflecting the glory of the Good War upon yourself is the only way you can make the case for combat, your case isn't very good. Whenever the president is backed into a corner, he relies on a specious historical analogy to defend his policies. Iran, North Korea, and Iraq = Axis. Reconstructing Iraq = Reconstructing Japan. The analogies made by the president and his allies aren't always clear—why is Saddam, for example, compared to Hitler instead of Tojo or Hirohito?—but no one seems to notice.

This administration's embrace of Dubya Dubya Two to defend its foreign policy is as tiresome as the tendency among liberals to believe that the phrase "another Vietnam" is always sufficient proof that the antiwar side is right. So, I was going to challenge the Republican Party at this convention to make the case for its policies without referring to World War II, but it appears that I'm too late. On Sunday evening, excerpts of Rudy Giuliani's Monday night speech were e-mailed to the press. Here's Giuliani on why Bush is a good president: "There are many qualities that make a great leader, but having strong beliefs, being able to stick with them through popular and unpopular times, is the most important characteristic of a great leader." Rudy's first example: "Winston Churchill saw the dangers of Hitler when his opponents and much of the press characterized him as a war-mongering gadfly." Come on, guys. You lost the bet, and the convention hasn't even started yet.

The hoariest cliché in politics (other than "hoariest cliché") is that elections are about the future. But it may be proven wrong this year. The Democrats held the all-Vietnam-all-the-time convention in Boston, and the Republicans look like they will flip the calendar back a few years further in New York. When the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth moved on to John Kerry's activities as an antiwar protester during Vietnam, the presidential campaign seemed to be creakily lurching toward the present, but with only two months to go, we may not have enough time to get there. And now that the GOP wants to talk about the '40s, we don't have a chance.

"We have seen these kind of times in the past. We have seen a former enemy of America, Japan, become an ally in peace," President Bush told USA Today last week. The administration strenuously objected when people tried, on the eve of war in February 2003, to compare Iraq to postwar Japan. Before the war, the Bushies got into a tizzy when anyone suggested there would be a seven-year military occupation. More like 30 days, or six months, or at the absolute maximum two years, they insisted. Now the president trots out the MacArthur comparison every chance he gets.

Earlier this month in Columbus, Ohio, I saw Bush talk about "having Kobe beef" with the prime minister of Japan. "And here we are talking about peace," he said. "Someday, an American President will be talking to a duly-elected leader of Iraq, talking about the peace, and America will be better for it." Here was Bush on Sunday in Wheeling, W.Va., combining two of the most-overused historical analogies in politics, World War II and Harry Truman: "We've done this kind of work before. One of my closest collaborators in peace is the Prime Minister of Japan. It wasn't all that long ago in the march of history that my dad and your dads were fighting the Japanese. And yet here we are, because we insisted upon the transforming qualities of liberty, we insisted that Japan be given a chance to self-govern and be a democratic nation.  We believe that even an enemy could accept liberty as a way of life. Fortunately, my predecessor, Harry Truman, stuck with that point of view." If Bush could have squeezed in a "party of Lincoln" reference and a Cold War riff, he would have hit the historical analogy Grand Slam. (For Democrats, replace "party of Lincoln" with Selma.)

George W. Bush is not FDR, and war opponents are not Neville Chamberlains. I'm tempted to engage the GOP in the historical debate to point out, for example, that one of the lessons of World War II was that international institutions like the United Nations and NATO would help keep the peace in a dangerous world. (That's something Bush claimed to believe in 1999 when he was campaigning for the presidency for the first time. "My goal, should I become the president, is to keep the peace," Bush said in his first debate in New Hampshire, according to Frank Bruni's Ambling Into History. "I intend to do so by strengthening alliances, which says, 'America cannot go alone.' ") Or to point out that the reconstruction of Japan—no sovereignty, no flag, no national anthem, no diplomatic relations—was very different from the Bush policy in Iraq. Or, for those who prefer the Cold War analogy, that President Kennedy agreed during the Cuban Missile Crisis to remove missiles from Turkey in exchange for Khrushchev's removal of Soviet missiles from Cuba.

But that makes it sound like we should be negotiating with Osama Bin Laden over Turkey, which obviously isn't the case. So let's just say that historical analogies are, on their own, insufficient to prove much of anything. I say Saddam, you say Hitler. Let's call the whole thing off.


          For Shame   

Click the image to see the clip For pretty much the duration of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth controversy, the Kerry campaign has been trying to demonstrate that the smear campaign being conducted against the Democratic presidential nominee is all the more loathsome because it is part of a pattern of behavior by George W. Bush: the use of front groups to damage his campaign opponents by putting false statements into the political bloodstream. Particularly salient, Democrats believe, is the 2000 campaign conducted against John McCain during the South Carolina primary.

Democrats now have an unlikely ally in their quest to prove that Bush has a history of these kinds of dirty tricks: Bob Dole. No one has done more to lend establishment respectability to the falsehoods being peddled against Kerry than Dole. The former Senate majority leader and 1996 presidential nominee of the Republican Party made several demonstrably false statements about John Kerry's war record this past Sunday on CNN's Late Edition before saying that "not every one of these people can be Republican liars. There's got to be some truth to the charges."

But Dole also made another statement that day, one that hasn't been aired until now. Of McCain's charge to President Bush during a 2000 debate—"You should be ashamed"—Dole told Wolf Blitzer, "He was right." Dole made the remark off-air, while CNN broadcast a portion of McCain's 2000 debate remarks. The Kerry campaign had been using the debate footage in an ad called "Old Tricks" but stopped airing it recently at McCain's request. *

Although the remark was made off-air, it wasn't made off-camera. A CNN employee who asked not to be named made a digital file of the raw camera feed from the Late Edition studio. The footage does not include the graphics or other video, such as the McCain ad, that was shown during the live broadcast. "Once the control room punches the ad, it automatically kills the mics in the studio," the CNN employee told me. "He knows he can speak to Wolf and no one will hear him." Slate has posted the video, so you can see Dole's remark for yourself. (Click the image to view the clip.)

Question for Bob Dole: If President Bush should be ashamed of his behavior four years ago, why aren't you ashamed now?

Correction, Aug. 31, 2004: This article originally stated that CNN's Late Edition broadcast the Kerry ad called "Old Tricks," rather than the actual debate footage. Return to the corrected sentence.


          Dog Bites President   

COLUMBUS, Ohio—For the past few days, John Edwards has been standing in the middle of a river in the middle of a war, watching as enemy soldiers shoot at his commanding officer. His response? To call the other side's general and ask him to get the soldiers to stop. The general said he condemns all war, it's hell you know, and he sure wishes that all soldiers would lay down their weapons. Perhaps Edwards' CO would join him in that condemnation? Meanwhile, the officer was dying. So on Tuesday, Edwards finally decided to start firing back.

He's still pleading on the phone with President Bush, sure, but at least he's wielding a pistol in his other hand while he's doing it. Maybe it's because Edwards is in Ohio, one of the three states where the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads have actually aired, but his remarks to the state AFL-CIO convention are angrier, more forceful, and more effective than the ones he made Monday in Wisconsin. They're also different in a subtle way. In addition to saying the ads are lies and asking the president to condemn them, Edwards adds two components: He reiterates the most heroic components of Kerry's war record, and he describes the Swift boat veterans as a front group that aims to do more than obscure the person of President Bush. Its attacks are designed to obscure the record of his administration.

It doesn't sound like much—in fact it's pretty obvious—but it makes a huge difference. Again, Edwards broaches the subject by saying that he wants to talk about "what's been happening" in the campaign, and everyone immediately knows what he means. Again, he says that "it's a lie" paid for by "George Bush's friends." If Bush had "backbone and courage and leadership," he would ask his friends to pull the ads from the air, Edwards says. "Yesterday he had a chance" to do that "because he spoke for the first time, instead of having a spokesperson speak on his behalf. Instead of standing behind a front group, he spoke on his own behalf for the first time on this subject. And what did we get? We got a typical politician's answer, a non-answer." Edwards says that "every day that this goes on," he will demand that Bush tell the group to pull its ads.

Then Edwards takes advantage of the controversy to take a moment to restate Kerry's heroics. This is the big plus of the Swift ads for Kerry. Without them, the stories of how the Democratic nominee saved a man's life 30 years ago would have grown tiresome and induce eye-rolling by now. But with Kerry's service being slandered, the tale still has force. Kerry's crewmates "saw him save one of his crewmates, pull him out of a river," Edwards says. "Saw him turn his boat around in the middle of battle and drive it through enemy position in order to save his crew. Strong, decisive, courageous, is that not what we deserve in our commander in chief?"

In response to this tactic, the Bush campaign has been reduced to comparing the president to Bill Clinton. Tuesday morning, the campaign e-mailed a statement from campaign chairman Marc Racicot to reporters that read, in part, that the Kerry campaign is trying "to divide America by who served and how—something that John Kerry said we should never do when he declared during the 1992 campaign, 'We do not need to divide America over who served and how.' " (This despite the fact that four years ago, Bush took affront when John McCain compared him to the 42nd president. "Do not compare me to Bill Clinton," Bush said, pronouncing the name "Clin-TAWN," as if it were a new species of evil Star Trek alien.)

But the new line taken by Edwards is based on more than a comparison of the Vietnam records of Kerry and Bush. The reason the Swift boat veterans want to focus on the past, Edwards suggests, the reason they must resort to "a campaign based on fear and lies," is because the present is so miserable. "During the last three weeks or so that these ads have been running, that they've been focused on this personal, negative attack on John Kerry, what's happened here in the state of Ohio?" Edwards asks. "Forty-five-hundred people have filed for bankruptcy. Four proud military men and women" from Ohio have lost their lives in Iraq. "The price of a barrel of oil has gone up $5."

It's not perfect, and it may not be enough. But when Edwards returns to his favored buzzwords of optimism and hope and positive campaigning, he sounds even phonier than usual. It's about time.


          Edwards Buries the Hatchet   

RACINE, Wis.—"If you're looking for the candidate who does the best job of attacking other Democrats, I am not your guy," John Edwards told appreciative crowds during the Democratic primaries. But senator, what about attacking Republicans?

Mr. Positive needs to prove that he can go negative, or he's in danger of turning into the second coming of Joe Lieberman. When I followed Wesley Clark's campaign in New Hampshire this past December, Clark strategistChris Lehane complained about Lieberman's high-minded refusal to go negative against Bush and Cheney in 2000. As a result, Lehane said, Al Gore had to be his own hatchet man, and Gore's unfavorability ratings soared. Lieberman's jaunty smile while Dick Cheney eviscerated him during the 2000 vice presidential debate didn't endear him to Democrats, either.

Edwards isn't in Lieberman's class yet, but as the Democratic Party's vice presidential nominee, he needs to jettison his carefully crafted persona as the smiling man of optimism who disdains "tired old hateful politics." During a multicandidate primary, the smilestrategy made a lot of sense. But as John Kerry's running mate in a two-man race for the presidency, Edwards' job is to engage in tired old hateful politics so that Kerry doesn't have to. That's what veeps do. And so far, Edwards hasn't been up to the task.

Edwards' day begins Monday morning in Racine, Wis., at a town hall designed to highlight upcoming changes in overtime regulations. He prefaces his remarks with a brief statement about the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth controversy that has dominated the last couple weeks of the presidential campaign. Edwards must know that, for better or worse, these words will air on the cable networks and appear in the next day's news stories. The Swift boat controversy has become such a pervasive feature of the campaign that Edwards doesn't even need to explain what he's talking about.

Edwards launches into his speech with a Liebermanesque, more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger critique. He contrasts the Democratic campaign's "positive vision, optimistic vision, hopeful vision about what's possible in America" with the Republicans' "relentless negative attacks" against them. "And I want to say a word about those attacks," he says. "No. 1, the claim that John Kerry did not serve this country honorably in Vietnam is a lie," proven false by news organizations and Kerry's comrades in Vietnam. "The second thing that has become clearer is that those ads are being financed by and pushed by friends of George W. Bush," he continues. Third, Edwards points out that "this is the same kind of smear campaigning and tactics that we saw against John McCain back in the 2000 presidential primary."

Edwards then gets to the heart of his complaint. He wants the president to say three little words: "Stop these ads." He says, "We're not asking the president to give us the same old rhetoric, that John Kerry's service was honorable, you know, that we're proud of his service in Vietnam. That's the same thing he was saying about John McCain when they were smearing him back in 2000." Then Edwards delivers his toughest line: "No, these ads were intended, and have been running now for about three weeks, they were intended to attack the character of John Kerry. In fact, they've shown us something about the character of George W. Bush."

But instead of elaborating on what we've learned about the president's character over the past three weeks or, even better, instead of making a careful lawyerly rebuttal of the veterans' charges, Edwards meekly says that hope is on the way. "We hope the president finally steps to the plate and does what he ought to do. All of us hope that."

I admit I'm not sure exactly what Edwards should say to respond to the veterans, but asking President Bush to condemn the Swift boat ads isn't sufficient. For one, Bush has shown that he isn't willing to do so. In fact, Bush is adroitly using the group's existence to criticize the Kerry-Edwards campaign's reliance on their own 527 groups. The line of attack that Edwards is currently taking against Bush is allowing the president to turn this into a pox-on-both-houses controversy. But if both sides are diseased, the Democrats are infecting the campaign with chicken pox while the Swift boat vets are spreading the political version of the stuff that settlers gave to Indians in blankets.

But any tactic would be better than begging Bush for mercy. Stop asking Bush to condemn the ads. Take the fight to the Swift boat vets themselves. Point out that the burden of proof is on Kerry's critics to prove their claims true, not on Kerry to prove them false. Point out that the U.S. military agrees with Kerry. Attack the president for not contradicting the smears when they're repeated by voters at "Ask President Bush" forums. Stop asking and start telling.

In the long run, the controversy could help Kerry by giving him a valid excuse to run Vietnam ads for the duration of the campaign. I still think it helps Kerry anytime the national conversation topic is John Kerry's service in Vietnam. But it has to be a conversation, not a monologue. And opening a second conversation with President Bush isn't helping. In fact, it seems to be hurting.

Kerry and Edwards are responding to Bush in the exact same way that John McCain responded in 2000 during the South Carolina primary, by attempting to publicly shame Bush into apologizing. It's a mistake. The whole McCain complex that imbues the Edwards attack on Bush is a mistake. Yes, John McCain is a Vietnam veteran, and so is John Kerry. Yes, McCain's service was smeared by allies of George W. Bush, and now the same thing is happening to John Kerry. But it's worth remembering that John McCain lost a race to George W. Bush. And if this keeps up, so will John Kerry.


          The Right Rev. George W. Bush   

COLUMBUS, Ohio—"I feel like a talk-show host," President Bush says midway through Thursday's first campaign event. He's standing next to a stool and a lectern, and he paces in circles to address the audience seated on all sides around him. Even from a distance, I can see why Bush charmed the press corps during his 2000 campaign. He's likable, winning, and self-deprecating. He's also quick on his feet, not with an instant recall of statistics but with snappy retorts that break up the room. This event was billed as an "Ask President Bush" forum, and although there didn't turn out to be much time for questions, from the outset the intimate setting made it more interactive than a typical presidential visit.

The president didn't get it quite right when he called himself a talk-show host. He opens more in the vein of a revival-tent preacher, albeit a subdued one, and he concludes as a standup comic. "I think you have to ask for the vote," Bush says near the beginning, as he always does. "You got it!" yells someone, the first of many call-and-response moments. Then Bush segues into something that sounds more like a sermon than a stump speech.

"All of you are soldiers in the army of compassion," the clergyman-in-chief tells the crowd. "And one of the reasons I'm seeking the office for four more years is to call upon our citizens to love your neighbor just like you'd like to be loved yourself." After his usual endorsement of the Golden Rule, Bush speaks of souls, which also isn't unusual for him: "We can change America one soul at a time by encouraging people to spread something government cannot spread, which is love."

Bush goes on to talk about his desire to have the government fund more faith-based initiatives. "If you're an addict, if you're hooked on drugs or alcohol, sometimes government counseling can work. But sometimes it requires a change of heart in order to change habit," he says. "There are people who are empowered to change hearts in our society. Not by government, by a higher calling, and therefore government ought to welcome these words of compassion and healing."

Bush isn't a fire-and-brimstone preacher, talking about sinners in the hands of an angry God. He's a hippie priest, emphasizing the Christian message of brotherly love. I can almost hear the guitars and tambourines. He says, "I know we can change America for the better by calling on those who are change agents, those who are willing to put our arm around someone who needs love and say, 'I love you, brother. I love you, sister. What can I do to help you have a better life here in America?'"

From there, Bush becomes a teacher, imparting "the lessons of September the 11th, 2001." "We'll never forget!" a man seated among the firefighters calls out. Bush's Lesson 1: "We're facing an enemy which has no heart, no compassion. And that puts them at an advantage in a way, because we're a country of heart and compassion." Lesson 2: "In order to defend the homeland, we got to be on the offense. We must deal with those people overseas, so we don't have to face them here at home." Lesson 3: "In order to be able to defend ourselves, we've got to say to people who are willing to harbor a terrorist or feed a terrorist, you're just as guilty as the terrorists." Lesson 4: "When we see threats, we must deal with them before they fully materialize." Lesson 5 is a corollary of Lesson 4: "We saw a threat in Iraq."

Even while Bush is in his teaching mode, the whole event has a Sunday-morning air. Bush says of Saddam, "He had used weapons of mass destruction. Remember that? He had used them on his own people." The crowd murmurs back, "That's right, that's right." When Bush mentions that John Kerry and John Edwards were two of only 12 senators—whom Wednesday he called "a small, out-of-the-mainstream minority"—to vote against the $87 billion for the war in Iraq, someone else yells out, "Shame on them!"

Bush almost gets weepy later, when he tells a story "that touched my heart," about seven Iraqi men who visited him in the Oval Office. The men's right hands were chopped off by order of Saddam Hussein, and they had X's burned into their foreheads. An American organization provided them with prostheses. "A guy took my Sharpie, wrapped his new fingers and wrote, 'God bless America,' in Arabic," Bush says, his voice choking up. "What a contrast," he says. In America, "We want to heal you, no matter who you are," his voice catching again.

So, are we going to abandon Iraq? Bush asks the crowd. "Are we going to be a country of our word?" he asks. "Or are we going to go timid and weary and afraid of the barbaric behavior of a few?" The crowd shouts back: "No!"

As the event winds down, Bush gets looser and funnier. He points to a member of the crowd, one of the hand-picked Ohioans intended to represent a particular Bush policy, and says that she can explain it better than he can. Then he turns to another audience member and says, "You didn't have to agree with her." When another of the Representative Americans tells Bush that she recently received her associate's degree, magna cum laude, Bush replies, "That's better than I did, I want you to know."

Bush says a CEO in the audience has an interesting idea to share. The man doesn't say anything. "Flex time," Bush says. "I'm glad you told me what my interesting idea was," the CEO says appreciatively. Bush replies, "I'm not a lawyer, but it looks like I'm leading the witness." "I appreciate that," the CEO says, and Bush shoots back, "You appreciate the fact that I'm not a lawyer?"

After last week's Democratic convention, I felt that John Kerry had become the favorite in the presidential race. Now, after only two days with President Bush, I'm not so sure. He's that good. Unlike many people, I'm not threatened by the president's religious rhetoric. It must be the Midwestern Catholic in me. Like the people in the audience, I find it familiar and comforting. I can see why so many people believe the president is "one of us," no matter how rich or how elite his background. And I can see that Kerry will have a tough time besting Bush in all three debates.

Still, not everything goes perfectly. When Bush gets ready to leave, he announces, "I'm off to Saginaw, Michigan," forgetting what must be a central tenet of Buckeye State politics: Never mention the state that is Ohio State's biggest rival, especially in Columbus, home to the university. For the first time all day, two men near me boo.


          The Composite Candidate   

BOSTON—The early portions of John Kerry's speech accepting the Democratic nomination for president of the United States resembled a typical Kerry for President campaign event. It was variety hour, with Kerry as emcee, introducing and thanking his special guests: his running mate, John Edwards; his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry; his children and stepchildren, Alexandra and Vanessa Kerry and Andre, Chris, and John Heinz; and of course Max Cleland and Kerry's Vietnam "band of brothers." In a new twist, Kerry also took a moment to thank each of his primary opponents by name—Carol Moseley Braun, Wesley Clark, Howard Dean, Dick Gephardt, Bob Graham, Dennis Kucinich, Joe Lieberman, and Al Sharpton. He thanked them for "teaching me and testing me—but mostly, we say thank you for standing up for our country and for giving us the unity to move America forward." But Kerry forgot to thank them for one other thing: writing his acceptance speech.

When he began his run for the presidency, Kerry possessed the biography, the résumé, the presence, and even the height required for a successful campaign. But initially he struggled to provide a compelling rationale, beyond those assets, for why he should assume the highest office in the land. Sure, he kind of looked like a president, and yes, he seemed to think he deserved it, but that wasn't enough to convince voters in 2003. Later, the rise of Howard Dean and John Edwards sharpened Kerry as a candidate—perhaps because he becomes more focused on deadline, but also because he co-opted their messages, sometimes verbatim.

Kerry turned himself into the Democratic composite candidate, and with the addition of his biography, the one component no other candidate could borrow, he steamrolled the field. So, it was appropriate for him to thank the eight candidates who, in large or small part, provided the content that catapulted Kerry to the nomination and that now, he hopes, will carry him to the presidency.

To be fair, there were healthy chunks of Kerry's message from the primaries in the address. His line that, after Vietnam, "every day is extra" was used in an Iowa TV commercial that helped power him to his surprise victory in the caucuses there. Kerry didn't talk a lot about cutting middle-class taxes during the primaries, but his message that Howard Dean was going to raise taxes on the middle class helped spike Dean's candidacy. The attacks on outsourcing and corporate welfare were familiar to anyone who's watched Kerry campaign, and so was the sense of entitlement—or for those who want to view it charitably, destiny—that came across when he told Americans that as a child in a Colorado hospital, "I was born in the West Wing."

But Kerry also sounded a lot like his running mate, John Edwards. He talked to voters directly about their struggles to pay the bills: "You know what's happening. Your premiums, your co-payments, your deductibles have all gone through the roof." He mentioned the rise in the number of families living in poverty, a pet Edwards issue. His "we're the optimists" line was pure Edwards, and when he noted, "I don't want to claim that God is on our side. As Abraham Lincoln told us, I want to pray humbly that we are on God's side," he was pilfering the quote from the guy he chose for the ticket, who used it during their final primary debate.

Kerry sprinkled some of the best stuff from the rest of the field into the speech, too. Dean loved to attack Republicans for trying to appropriate the American flag for their own private use, when in fact it was the flag of all Americans, even—gasp—Democrats. Tonight, Kerry added a similar riff to his repertoire. He also adapted Dean's line about a president's most solemn duty being to tell the truth before taking a nation to war, when he promised to "be a commander in chief who will never mislead us into war." There was also a dash of Wesley Clark's "new patriotism," Clark's affirmation of dissent as patriotism's highest form, when Kerry said, "We are here to affirm that when Americans stand up and speak their minds and say America can do better, that is not a challenge to patriotism; it is the heart and soul of patriotism." Clark also had a riff about family values that Kerry adapted tonight, saying, "It is time for those who talk about family values to start valuing families."

And, could it be? Was that a tiny drop of Bob Graham I heard when Kerry criticized America's dependence on the Saudi royal family for oil? The speech even contained a hint of Carol Moseley Braun, who liked to say, "It doesn't matter if you came to this country on the Mayflower or a slave ship, through Ellis Island or across the Rio Grande, we're all in the same boat now." What kind of America did Kerry say he wanted to lead? "An America where we are all in the same boat." There were only the tiniest hints, if any at all, of the rhetoric of Gephardt, Kucinich, Lieberman, or Sharpton that I could discern (though I feared before the speech began that its delivery would be pure Joementum), but that was for the best. There's no use burglarizing the poorest houses in your neighborhood.

Kerry shouldn't be criticized for adopting his competitors' rhetoric, especially now that the race is long over. Good politicians borrow, after all, while great politicians steal. And the candidate of a unified party might was well be the sum of all its candidates.

There are two questions, though, about Kerry's use of this political strategy. For one, there's a limit to how much longer he can use it. The zeal of the Democrats to retake the White House grants Kerry a fair amount of leeway to co-opt Bush's message and appeal to the center for the next three months, but he can't exactly get up and declare himself the candidate of compassionate conservatism. (Or can he?)

Perhaps more important is the extent to which Kerry's remarkable ability to be all things to all Democrats has convinced nearly every faction of the party, from paleoliberals to New Democrats, that he is their candidate. Should Kerry actually take office in January, won't his grand coalition splinter once he starts disappointing certain elements within it? My guess is yes, and that Kerry doesn't particularly care at the moment. It's a problem he'd be happy to grapple with for four more years.


          I'm a War Vice President   

BOSTON—I admit it. I don't get it. John Edwards is a perfectly fine public speaker, and compared to the likes of Bob Graham, he's Cicero, but I've never understood the press corps' crush on him. Of all the Democratic presidential candidates with whom I shared a small one-on-one encounter—even a handshake and a quick question—I found Edwards the least personally charming. Wesley Clark was a stiff shouter in speeches, but he had a likable way of engaging in locker-room razzing with the media. Howard Dean, the candidate whose stump persona (at least until he began messianic chanting) most closely resembled the one he put forth to the press, had a regular-guy air. Even John Kerry was hands-on, a guy who would put his arm around you to bring you into his circle. The awkward forcedness of the moment was part of its A-for-effort appeal.

Edwards, on the other hand, was guarded, bland, and impenetrable when I sat down for a 30-minute interview with him last September in a supporter's home in Sioux City, Iowa. He had nothing to say beyond the confines of his scripted talking points, even on the subject of his home state of North Carolina's recent pilfering of Roy Williams from my beloved Kansas Jayhawks (beyond conceding, "I wanted Roy baaaaad"). He showed no interest in small talk or idle conversation, just question, response, stop. Question, response, stop. The candidate Edwards most resembled was Dick Gephardt, who was similarly suspicious during my 10-minute encounter with him, but at least Gephardt displayed a deep knowledge of policy. And I didn't mind because, hey, you don't expect to be charmed by Dick Gephardt.

But Edwards' great strength as a candidate is supposed to be his ability to melt people with his winning smile. I was initially impressed by his public charm, particularly the first time I saw him deliver his revamped "Two Americas" stump speech in January. But that quickly wore thin, too. His delivery appears artful at first, but with repetition I saw it as rote and mechanical, so practiced that it's a little bit creepy. I find him as inscrutable as I did in that Iowa living room 10 months ago. As the campaign continued and Edwards kept drawing rave reviews, even from Republicans, I started asking myself: What's wrong with me?

With those doubts in mind, like everyone else I waited for Edwards' moment to arrive Wednesday night with anticipation. I wanted to see him deliver a new speech, a piece of oratory worthy of a presidential nominating convention. Edwards delivered that speech, a captivating declaration of the ways a Kerry-Edwards administration would wage the war on terror. Edwards was sure and forceful, and he outlined a powerful alternative to the Bush administration's war. Unfortunately, he took until the fifth page of the transcript of his seven-page speech to get to that play-within-the-play, and the minispeech was finished by the middle of the sixth page. The speech I wanted to see was bookended by disappointment.

The opening wasn't awful, but it wasn't particularly good, either. I was touched to hear Edwards mention his son Wade, who died in a car accident eight years ago and whom he writes about with grace in his book Four Trials. I don't recall hearing Edwards ever say the word "Wade" in public before. I once saw him tell a voter that he had four children, and then he named only three: Cate, Emma Claire, and Jack.

After that moving—perhaps only to me—moment, Edwards transitioned into the John-Kerry-served-in-Vietnam portion of his address. Maybe it's nitpicky, but some of the assertions he made, and has made before, aren't exactly accurate. He said that Kerry's decision to beach his Swift boat while under fire was made "in a split-second," which isn't right. It was a decision Kerry had talked about and hashed out with his crew in advance. That doesn't make it less brave or less brilliant, but the story ought to be told the right way.

Likewise, Edwards implied that Kerry knew that captaining a Swift boat was a dangerous duty when he volunteered for it, which isn't true. When Kerry asked for Swift duty, he wasn't asking for a combat job. It was only later that the Swifts' role in the war changed. Again, that fact doesn't detract from John Kerry's valor. In fact, it makes Kerry more understandable, more human. It shows how Kerry, an opponent of the Vietnam War before he enlisted, ended up unhappily—but with distinction—participating in it. Without that element of his story, Kerry becomes a thoughtful and serious young man, skeptical about Vietnam, who enthusiastically asks to be allowed to ship out and kill people he thinks of as innocents. I prefer the story of a man who got put in a situation he didn't ask for but did his duty anyway.

After Kerry-in-Vietnam, Edwards shifted into son-of-a-mill-worker mode, followed by Two Americas. He was, however, more substantive than usual, listing off specific policies a Kerry administration would seek to enact: tax credits for health care, child care, and college tuition, paid for by an increase in taxes on the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. I think rolling back the high end of the tax cuts is a good idea, but if a lot of Americans thought they were in the top 1 percent four years ago, how many think they are in the top 2 percent? He should have given us a salary figure.

But whatever flaws marred the portions of the speech about domestic policy, they were erased by the masterful section on foreign policy and the war on terrorism. About 20 minutes into his speech, Edwards painted the images of Sept. 11—"the towers falling, the Pentagon in flames, and the smoldering field in Pennsylvania"—and he mourned the nearly 3,000 who died. Unlike many of the speakers during the convention's first three days, Edwards didn't refer to 9/11 as a lost opportunity or a nostalgic period of national unity. He noted it as a tragedy that plunged the nation into war.

Edwards criticized the Bush administration for dragging its feet on intelligence reform, and he promised better homeland security, safer ports, and more money for first responders—firefighters, cops, and emergency medical technicians. He also promised more dead terrorists. "And we will have one clear unmistakable message for al-Qaida and the rest of these terrorists," he said. "You cannot run. You cannot hide. And we will destroy you." And on the subject of Iraq, Edwards declared that America would win. He promised more special forces, a modernized military, stronger alliances, and he even said the magic words I didn't expect to hear: "a democratic Iraq."

Not long after that, he went back to heart-tugging and platitudes, and I was again wondering why I don't get it. But one moment moved me, though you had to have watched Edwards closely for the last year to catch it: He adapted the conclusion of Four Trials, the book in which he talks most freely about Wade, for the speech. The last lines of the book are nearly the same as the ones Edwards said, near the very end of the speech, when he talked about the lessons he has learned during his sometimes tragic life. One lesson, Edwards said, is that "there will always be heartache and struggle—you can't make it go away. But the other is that people of good and strong will can make a difference. One is a sad lesson and the other's inspiring. We are Americans and we choose to be inspired."

I saw it as a second mention of his son, this one a more private one, to pay tribute to the one member of the family who couldn't share this night with his dad.


          The Deaniacs Live!   

BOSTON—He won't garner many delegates during Wednesday night's roll call, but Howard Dean still leads in the hearts of at least one demographic: people with home-made signs. Even offline, here on the floor of the FleetCenter, his most ardent supporters possess a blogger's sensibility. They reject the lame "Doing Right for America" placards provided by the message-masters of the Democratic National Convention as props to wave during Dean's Tuesday night speech. How "mass media," how "broadcast," to print thousands of posters of unremitting sameness and then expect that one size to fit all.

Instead, as Dean walks to the podium, his true believers hold aloft Dean for America T-shirts and signs, relics from the primary campaign. They carried them in themselves, so they could show their allegiance at this moment. One sign is so wrinkled and worn it looks like it was accidentally left in someone's shirt pocket and put in the wash. Like a longtime fan sporting a tattered T-shirt at a rock concert, the delegate refuses to part with it.

But the true Deaniac spirit is carried on by the delegates who drew up signs using posterboard and magic marker, like a fourth-grade art project. There's a row of four hand-scrawled letters, D-E-A-N. Others say, "Thanks, Howard," "Vermont [Heart Sign] Dean," "XO Dean," and "I Screamed for Dean, Now I Scream for Kerry." In the same do-it-yourself spirit, the local Dean Meetup printed up stickers reading, "Another Dean Democrat for Kerry" and handed them out to the crowd filing into the convention. One woman in the Colorado delegation brandishes a gigantic black-and-white enlargement of Dean on the cover of Time magazine. She looks like the love child of a political activist and a crazed basketball fan trying to distract a free-throw shooter.

Dean also seems to enjoy a disproportionate share of support among delegates in elaborate costume, the people with red-white-and-blue sequined top hats or plush-toy donkeys on their heads. Three women in sombreros from the Texas delegation can't get enough of him. Almost exactly a year ago, I described the Dean campaign as having a "low-rent allure," and here it all is, still on glorious display.

The crowd roars and roars and roars, a neverending ovation. The most enthusiastic Deaniacs seem to be in the back, in the worst seats, in the red states where Democrats can't win. Dean calls out to these marginalized Democrats during the speech, saying: "We're going to be proud to call ourselves Democrats, not just here in Boston. We're going to be proud to call ourselves Democrats in Mississippi, proud to call ourselves Democrats in Utah and Idaho. And we're going to be proud to call ourselves Democrats in Texas." The Utah and Texas delegations behind me stand and—what else—scream.

The Colorado woman with the humongous Time cover sits rapt during the entire speech. I can't quite tell, but I think she's on the verge of tears. Dean walked out to "Revolution," and—except for the two miniature pom-poms stuck in her hair—this woman's ecstasy comes straight out of an old Beatlemania newsreel.

When the speech is over, I walk over and ask about her costume, which I now notice includes a "Deaniac for Kerry" pin. "It's retail politics, it's getting people excited about politics again," she enthuses. "You gotta have a gimmick." Her name tag says Leslie Robinson, 2nd Vice Chair of the Colorado Democratic Party. She was a Dean Meetup host. "Notice how he didn't say it was about me the candidate," she says. "He said it was about 'you.' "

Unprompted, she volunteers a point that helps explain why the loudest cheering seems to come from red-state delegates. The Dean campaign was driven by "people who felt disenfranchised for a long, long time," Robinson says. I ask her what she means by that. "They didn't think that their vote counted," she explains. "They didn't think they could make a difference. And he showed them that we can."

I ask if she's a Dean delegate. She shakes her head. "When Howard Dean decided to support Kerry, I'm a good soldier, and I said, 'Yes, sir,' " she says, standing up and snapping a stiff military salute.


          The Cheese Stands Alone   

BOSTON—Throughout his presidential campaign, John Kerry has relied on a team of salesmen to make the case for why voters should elect him as the next man to occupy the Oval Office. Even before the arrival of John Edwards as his running mate, Kerry seemed to know that he needed a charismatic advocate by his side at all times. In Iowa, Christie Vilsack, the wife of Hawkeye State Gov. Tom Vilsack, charmed the crowds at Kerry events, and the surprise arrival of this-man-saved-my-life Jim Rassman cinched the caucuses for Kerry. In New Hampshire, it was Bay State neighbor Teddy Kennedy who entertained the audience, while Kerry was content to play master of ceremonies to a cavalcade of guest stars. In effect, the first three days of the Democratic convention take the conceit of the standard Kerry campaign event to its logical conclusion, by eliminating the candidate entirely.

Unfortunately, it didn't work quite as well on Monday night as I expected. Al Gore and Jimmy Carter, the night's two main speakers not named Clinton, made powerful and persuasive critiques of George W. Bush's presidency, but they failed to advance much of a positive case for a President Kerry. Gore, the first major speaker to take the stage, gave the best speech it's possible for Al Gore to deliver, hitting that third gear he usually skips, the one in between robotic Gore and mental-patient Gore. It felt like Gore's turn to have a Bob Dole moment, to reinvent himself as an elder statesman who laughs at himself.

But what the speech did for Gore is less important than what it did for Kerry: not enough. Gore's case against Bush was clear and convincing. He asked those who voted for his opponent four years ago, "Did you really get what you expected from the candidate that you voted for? Is our country more united today? Or more divided? Has the promise of compassionate conservatism been fulfilled? Or do those words now ring hollow? For that matter, are the economic policies really conservative at all? Did you expect, for example, the largest deficits in history?" Gore also reached out to Nader voters—and maybe even to capital-L Libertarians—asking, "Do you still believe that there was no difference between the candidates?" Gore even advanced what Mickey Kaus dubs the "Pedro Martinez" theory of the presidential campaign. He asked supporters of the Iraq war to consider the merits of a relief pitcher: "Wouldn't we be better off with a new President who hasn't burned his bridges to our allies, and who could rebuild respect for America in the world?"

But if you're deciding whether to turn to the bullpen, it matters whether the guy warming up is Eric Gagne or Byung-Hyun Kim, and Gore doesn't do much to assure voters who aren't certain about Kerry's merits. Here's the entirety of his case for Kerry: He is loyal. He is honest. He is patriotic. He served in Vietnam. He protects the environment. He fights narcoterrorism. He's a deficit hawk. He picked John Edwards.

It's not a bad list, but it feels insufficient. Carter's speech suffered from a similar problem. It was filled with reasons to vote against George Bush but not enough reasons to vote for John Kerry. Carter's critique of Bush was even more effective than Gore's, though, in part because it was so genially vicious. Alone of all the speakers Monday night, Carter alluded to Bush's service, or lack thereof, in the National Guard. He noted that Truman and Eisenhower, the two presidents Carter served under during his time in the Navy, "faced their active military responsibilities with honor." Kerry, likewise, "showed up when assigned to duty, and he served with honor and distinction." Carter also came the closest of any speaker to calling Bush a liar. He said that if Bush wins reelection, "the manipulation of truth will define America's role in the world," and he said that "in the world at large we cannot lead if our leaders mislead." Carter even made what to my ear sounds like a reference to the Abu Ghraib scandal, saying that "we cannot be true to ourselves if we mistreat others."

Like Gore, however, Carter's embrace of Kerry wasn't as persuasive as his denunciation of Bush. This is nice, but it just isn't enough, I think to myself. Maybe Kerry can't rely on surrogates anymore. He's going to have to finally sell himself. Then Bill Clinton strode into the FleetCenter to worshipful applause.

Clinton sold Kerry, rather than just tearing down the leading brand. And he managed to tie Kerry's Vietnam experience into a compelling thematic refrain, with Kerry declaring "send me," like a believer answering God's call, every time his nation needed him. Soon, the crowd began chanting Clinton's refrain with him. As usual, Clinton's familiarity with the language of religion added depth to his oratory. After Clinton said to remember the Scripture, "Be not afraid," I found myself singing the hymn in my head: "I will go, Lord, if you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart." More concisely: Send me.

The speech was everything Kerry could have wished for, an electric performance by the party's most charismatic salesman. Still, as the former president walked off the stage, I had to wonder how many people were thinking: Send Clinton. This man would beat President Bush—again—in a romp. Kerry, on the other hand, hasn't yet proved that he can close the deal.

So, in the end, Clinton's speech was just like Gore's and Carter's. It was nice, but it isn't enough.


          The Copycat Convention   

BOSTON—John Kerry's victory jog through the Democratic primaries wasn't electrifying political drama, but it was fascinating to watch because Kerry's leisurely lapping of the field couldn't be explained by the conventional axioms of presidential politics. In the general election, Kerry has continued his rule-breaking ways. He's the same John Kerry—boring, craggy, and cringe-inducing—such as when, during his Sunday night, live-from-Fenway-Park interview on ESPN, he ducked the question of whether to induct Pete Rose into the Baseball Hall of Fame ("That's up to the writers. I think, probably, that's pretty difficult.") and tried to have it both ways on whether Roger Clemens should be inducted as a member of the Boston Red Sox ("Well, obviously, we think [Red Sox] but there are evenly divided opinions here."). But despite his limitations as a candidate, he's still engaged in a campaign that's suspending the normal laws of politics.

Even a casual viewer of Hardball knows that the first rule of an election that involves a sitting president is that it's a referendum on the incumbent. This election, however, has turned out to be the opposite. It's a referendum on the challenger. Kerry probably isn't responsible for this turn of events, but he's benefiting from it: The referendum on the incumbent is over. President Bush already lost it. This presidential campaign isn't about whether the current president deserves a second term. It's about whether the challenger is a worthy replacement.

So, even though there are supposed to be only five persuadable voters left in America, I'm inclined to think that the next four nights will be worth watching. Can the Democrats re-enact the successful 2000 Republican convention, a parade of moderation and diversity that convinced the nation that George W. Bush was a decent fellow who could be trusted with the levers of power? Four years ago, partisan Republicans were so consumed by Clinton hatred that they would shriek ecstatically every time Bush said he would "uphold the honor and dignity of the office." They channeled their rage into pragmatism: After eight years of Clinton, GOP primary voters wanted to beat Al Gore so badly that they rallied around Bush months before the primaries began, based on nothing more than the fact that he seemed electable. They made a calculated bet that Bush was a guy who would sell well, and they were right.

Now it's the Democrats' turn to see if their similar gamble will have a similar payoff. But I wonder if this convention will be as restrained as the one Republicans held four years ago. There's a big-name loose cannon on the bill on each of the first three nights: On Monday it's Al Gore; on Tuesday it's Howard Dean; and on Wednesday it's Wesley Clark. Each one is smart, beloved by a portion of the party, and capable of rhetorical sobriety. They're also all capable of going off the deep end.

Four years ago in Philadelphia, it took nearly two full days for a Republican speaker to even use the phrase "Clinton-Gore administration." On the eve of this convention, the Democrats were still sating their appetite for vitriol. A labor delegate caucus I attended Sunday was either an indication that the party isn't quite ready to tone down its rhetoric, or it was a Bush-bashing bachelor party, a final sowing of oats before the inevitable settling down. "This is where the first American revolution started, and the humiliating defeat of a king named George began," AFL-CIO president John Sweeney said. "And, brothers and sisters, it's where we're starting a new American revolution." Rep. John Lewis called George Bush the worst president of his lifetime. Dick Cheney was booed as a "calloused backroom operator."

Then John Edwards was introduced to speak via satellite. He gave his standard speech, about leading the world rather than bullying it, about not going to war needlessly, and about John Kerry's heroism and service in Vietnam. He also delivered a line that is consistently his biggest applause-getter at the Kerry-Edwards events I've attended. It's Edwards' answer to "honor and dignity," Bush's subliminal catchphrase from the 2000 campaign.

Every day, Edwards likes to say, every day John Kerry sits in that Oval Office, "he will always tell the American people the truth." The crowd erupted, as they always do. And during the entire speech, Edwards never said the president's name.


          John Kerry's Five-Star Campaign   

NEW YORK—Never mind the arrival of John Edwards; I knew the general election had begun when I got my own butler. During the penny-pinching primary season, when the candidates were constantly on the brink of bankruptcy, I followed campaigns that stayed at discount hotels and even supporters' homes. Not John Kerry—at least, not anymore. In the past three days, we stayed at the Westin in Pittsburgh, the Sheraton Sand Key Beach Resort in Clearwater, Fla., and the St. Regis Hotel in midtown Manhattan, where each room comes equipped with a 24-hour on-call Jeeves and where the rate for my room, picked up by Slate, was $299 a night. (On hotels.com, it goes for $445.) Somewhere between March and July, the presidential campaign turned into an episode of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.

Not that there's anything wrong with that! "Say what you will about Kerry, at least he travels better than Gore," one reporter tells me. "Gore was all Super 8s and Econo Lodges." In Gore's defense (or Kerry's, depending on your perspective), the former vice president didn't have $180 million to burn.

Flush with cash—and still raising it, with $2 million flowing into the campaign after Thursday night's Radio City Music Hall gala and another $1.2 million after two Friday morning fund-raisers—the Kerry campaign is engaged in a scheme not unlike the one Richard Pryor is tasked with in Brewster's Millions: seeing how much money it can spend on deadline. Unless Kerry takes the unprecedented step of opting out of the public-financing system for the general election, he has to spend his remaining millions in the next three weeks. Once he formally accepts the Democratic nomination on July 29, he's got only $75 million for the next three months. By mid-August, my reporter friend might start grumbling again.

At least she'll still have the Kerry planes to enjoy. They're a long way from McFun, the Ford E-350 I rode in with Howard Dean nearly a year ago. I have yet to reach the hallowed ground of the real Kerry plane, which is reserved for the press pool, but the secondary press plane—paid for by its passenger-reporters—is a four-across, first-class affair, and the only restriction upon its travelers appears to be the assigned seating chart. Cell phones, Blackberries, and laptops whir throughout the flight. There are flight attendants, but they're there to lavish the press corps with food, not to take away our drinks during takeoff and landing or burden us with demands to wear our seatbelts, put away our tray tables, and place our seats in the upright position. Yet another media myth demolished: The national political press are alleged by some to be engaged in a devious scheme to force socialism upon an unwitting American public, but when we fly, we take Libertarian Airlines.

(A few overhead compartments burst open during our landing Wednesday in Cleveland, prompting some frenzied journalists to leap to their feet to prevent their belongings from spilling onto colleagues' heads. That's the price of freedom, I guess.)

The other big change from the primaries to the general election is the quality of the celebrities who support John Kerry. The Radio City Music Hall fund-raiser draws A-listers such as Sarah Jessica Parker and Wyclef Jean. In the lead-up to Kerry's surprising win in Iowa, by contrast, one press release heralded a "celebrity-studded RV tour" featuring—I am not making this up—Max Weinberg, some guy from Party of Five, and Kelly from The Real World: New Orleans.

Did anything of substance occur this week? Not really. Just your normal, run-of-the-mill campaign stops, with voters wearing T-shirts of the president surrounded by the words "International Terrorist" and the candidate making homoerotic jokes about his running mate. "I said to [Edwards], we've got to stop hugging like this," Kerry told a women's fund-raiser Friday morning. He then described a Jay Leno bit in which photos of Kerry and Edwards hugging and gazing adoringly at each other were aired to the tune of "You Are So Beautiful." Kerry loved it. "I just want you to know," he told the assembled audience, "I thought we made a great couple."

And I thought, you know what, John Kerry can be charming. When he's not irritating, that is, as he was Thursday night when he followed his boast that the Democratic ticket had "better hair" with, unbelievably, a pander to the bald vote. "My wife told me earlier, you just lost the bald vote," Kerry said. "Please don't. We're just having fun. You've gotta have fun."


          And They're Off   

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.—John Kerry and John Edwards still believe in a place called Hope. And its sister city, Optimism. They also swear by a town called Opportunity, a village called Values, a burgh called Responsibility, and a couple of lakes called Family and Faith. But really, it's mostly Hope and Optimism.

What kind of places are Hope and Optimism? Strong. Strong and American. Strong and American and middle-class. They don't do a lot of fighting against powerful interests, which leads some to speculate that Bob Shrum doesn't live in either place. But the American people will live in one, if not both, if Kerry and Edwards are elected. They'll probably live in Optimism first because Hope apparently needs to be restored.

That was pretty much the message during the first few hours of the germinal Kerry-Edwards campaign, which launched with a Wednesday morning photo-op at the Heinz farm near Pittsburgh and continued with an afternoon rally in Cleveland. It wasn't the entire message because this was also the Stronger Here at Home and Respected Around the World tour. But the emphasis on hope and optimism, or at least on using the words hope and optimism a lot, was noteworthy because Edwards, the new man on the ticket, made his name in the primaries as Mr. Optimism. His political action committee even bore the ridiculous name New American Optimists.

In Cleveland, the running mate sums up the campaign's new message with a phrase so nonsensical I can't believe it when I hear him repeat it later in Dayton, Ohio, and again here in Florida. He and Kerry embrace "the politics of hope, the politics of what's possible because this is America, where everything is possible," he proclaims.

Let's get this straight. This campaign is about what's possible. In America, everything is possible. Ergo, this campaign is about everything. Which means it's about nothing.

For the first few hours of the Kerry-Edwards campaign, the two candidates do their best to make it seem like it, anyway. The Cleveland kickoff event is particularly inauspicious. Edwards, normally sure on the stump, stumbles on several occasions, declaring incoherently at one point: "With John Kerry as president of the United States, no young American will ever go to war needlessly because America has decided to go to war." At another moment, Edwards assures the crowd of Kerry: "He will lead this country to the place that it can go." Teresa Heinz-Kerry misfires, too, when she notes that she's from nearby Pittsburgh and gets booed. (Must be an AFC North thing.) Good-naturedly booed, but still—the only other boos from the crowds for the rest of the day are reserved for President Bush and Vice President Cheney.

By the time we reach Dayton, around 5 p.m., things start to improve. Kerry and Edwards have worked out some of the kinks in their rally rituals, and they seem more energetic, more natural, and less tired. Kerry's jokes even start to seem funnier, at least within the confines of the quaint "dad humor" that Kerry practices. He draws guffaws with a joke he trots out at each stop: "We think this is a dream ticket. We've got better vision, we've got better ideas, we've got real plans, we've got a better sense of what's happening to America. And we've got better hair." Later, he declares that an 13th-century Ohio Indian tribe with a medicine man "had a better health-care plan than this administration." And at the day's last stop, Kerry runs though the similarities between him and Edwards: "He's a lawyer. I'm a lawyer. His name is John. My name is John. He was named People magazine's sexiest person of the year. I read People magazine."

The evening's final event boasts the best anti-Kerry/Edwards sign of the day ("Flush the Johns"), but it's also the day's best event by far. The hall is packed with angry Florida Democrats, and Kerry kicks things off by stoking their fury: "Thank you, Florida, where this time not only does every vote count, but every vote's gonna be counted."

More important, though, the event reveals a secret benefit—at least it was a secret to me—to Kerry's decision to select Edwards as his running mate: Elizabeth Edwards is from Florida. "I'm a native Floridian," born in Jacksonville, she tells the crowd, which cheers wildly. Her parents married in Pensacola and now live in Sarasota. Her sister lives in Bradenton. "My aunts and uncles live all over the state," she concludes. "Don't you embarrass me in front of my family."

It's not the first time in the day that Edwards' family seems to be paying as many dividends as the man himself. In the morning and early afternoon, the only person who brings a jolt of boyish energy and youthful enthusiasm to the campaign is 4-year-old Jack Edwards, who captivates voters and press alike. Six-year-old Emma Claire, with her pink backpack, is a hit, too. The idea that Bill and Hillary Clinton were "two for the price of one" was controversial. But what about four for the price of two?


          The Pretender   

ATLANTA—One of John Edwards' most effective bits on the trail was his description of how he overcame the soft bigotry of low expectations in the courtroom. On the stump, Edwards would paint himself as a lawyer who was a country rube facing impossible odds against high-priced, pinstriped corporate attorneys. They would look at him and sniff, who is this guy? What's he doing here? We're going to cream him. He doesn't belong with us. But despite being underestimated, "I beat 'em," Edwards would shout. "And I beat 'em again. And I beat 'em again."

Pretty much the opposite happened during the presidential campaign. Edwards came into the race highly regarded by the pundits and insiders who evaluate political talent. As early as 2001, the New York Times'William Safire pronounced that Edwards was "the most likely challenger to Al Gore" for the 2004 Democratic nomination. We like this guy, journalists told their readers over and over. He belongs here. That judgment never wavered, despite the fact that as Edwards campaigned in the primaries and caucuses, he lost 'em. And he lost 'em again. And he lost 'em again.

In truth, Edwards was never a serious contender for the Democratic nomination. Despite the media's best efforts to gin up a two-man race between Edwards and John Kerry after Howard Dean's departure, that contest never materialized. There was never compelling evidence that voters considered Edwards as Kerry's strongest competitor. As I wrote a month ago, this was a race between the front-runner, Kerry, and a bunch of people in third place. Nobody ever staked a valid claim for second.

From Iowa until Wisconsin, the final primary before Dean dropped out of the race, Democrats had held primaries or caucuses in 17 states. Edwards placed a distant fourth in eight—nearly half—of them. His second-place finish in Wisconsin was his sixth time as first-runner-up, but before that, he had been tied with Dean, who finished second five times in the first 17 states. Dean was also a much more consistent vote-getter than Edwards. He finished third in seven of the first 17 states, while Edwards did that only three times. And after winning Vermont Tuesday, Dean has now racked up as many primary victories as Edwards (and, to be fair, Wesley Clark). I'm not saying that Dean was the real No. 2 of this race. I'm just saying that Edwards wasn't either. The whole Edwards-Kerry Super Tuesday face-off was a bunch of hooey. The presidential race was over at the end of the first week of February.

Was it too fast? I'm not sure. It's true that the vote-casting stage was exceedingly short. Iowa conducted its first-in-the-nation caucuses a little more than six weeks ago, on Jan. 19. But the so-called "invisible primary" that leads up to Iowa was exceptionally long. And it got a lot of national news coverage. Dean landed on the covers of Time and Newsweek in early August 2003, nearly a full year before the Democratic national convention. When I spent a few days with Dick Gephardt's Iowa campaign this past October, 19 national reporters were there with me. So, yes, this campaign cycle was very, very short, but the prelude was also very, very long.

Over the next few days, Edwards' flaws will be dissected. Most of them are well-known. He seemed young, even though he was 50. He never passed the threshold I'm-strong-on-national-security test. Voters liked him personally, but they wanted to hear more specifics on the issues. His above-the-fray campaign strategy worked OK during the multicandidate stage of the race, but in a head-to-head battle with Kerry he proved unwilling to be tough. (I always thought that Edwards' declaration that he wasn't the candidate who was best at attacking other Democrats actually hurt him, despite the applause, because it created the perception that he wouldn't be willing to wage a forceful campaign against President Bush.)

By themselves, none of those reasons fully explain why Edwards didn't win. In the end, he lost because there really are two Americas. There's the one that votes for John Edwards, and then there's the one for everybody else.


          Trading Places   

LOS ANGELES—John Kerry did something I thought was impossible tonight. He turned himself into John Edwards. This may be the secret of Kerry's success in the Democratic primaries: What Bill Clinton did to infuriate the Republican Congress during his presidency, Kerry does to his fellow candidates. He co-opts their issues, their message, even their language. When Howard Dean was the obstacle in Kerry's path, the Massachusetts senator talked about throwing the special interests out of Washington and putting the people back in charge. Now that Edwards is the lone serious contender, Kerry pitches himself as the positive, optimistic candidate with "real solutions."

"I've offered a positive vision of what we ought to be doing in America," Kerry declared in the opening moments of Thursday's debate. "Once we have a nominee, this country will have an opportunity to hear a positive vision of how we can offer hope to Americans, optimism about the possibilities of the future, not divide America but bring it together to find real solutions. And that's what I'm offering: real solutions." Edwards must have felt like a sitcom character, the candidate for student council president watching his classmate deliver a stolen version of his speech. The "Real Solutions Express" is the name of Edwards' campaign bus. "Real Solutions for America" is the name of Edwards' 60-page policy booklet. It's also the phrase plastered across the top of Edwards' campaign Web site.

But unlike the sitcom character, who takes the podium and falls flat on his face, Edwards dominated the early portion of the debate. He throttled Kerry—with an assist from an aggressive Ron Brownstein—after Kerry couldn't explain why he thought the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional in 1996 but that a constitutional amendment isn't needed now to ensure that states are not forced to recognize gay marriages from other states. After Kerry's long-winded and unsatisfactory answer to whether he would vote for the Defense of Marriage Act today, Edwards jabbed, "I'm not sure what he said about that. But I would not vote for it." Then Edwards deftly moved to Kerry's left on the issue, saying he believes the federal government ought to be required to recognize gay marriages if they are recognized by a state. Edwards also looked strong when he confronted Al Sharpton to defend his support of the death penalty.

Despite the inclusion of Sharpton and Dennis Kucinich, they weren't much of a factor. They sat on the far end of the table away from the TV camera, and they were confined mostly to interjecting asides to the main debate between Kerry and Edwards. They seemed like the political debate version of the two grumpy old men who issue catcalls from the balcony during The Muppet Show.

But despite Edwards' strong start, by the end of the debate a second impossible transformation had occurred. John Edwards turned into John Kerry. Kerry answered a difficult question from Larry King about his opposition to the death penalty—"A person who kills a 5-year-old should live?"—clearly and directly. "Larry, my instinct is to want to strangle that person with my own hands," he said. But the system is flawed, it's applied unjustly, and as a matter of principle, "the state should not engage in killing." That's the best answer you can give to that unpopular position. Edwards, by contrast, sounded like the Kerry of old when he tried to explain why he supports a system that King said "nearly executed over 100 people who didn't do it." He talked about how "serious" the issue was, and how "serious steps" need to be taken, such as "making the court system work." Finally, King bailed him out: But why do you favor capital punishment? Oh yeah, Edwards seemed to think, that's what I should be talking about, and he brought up some liberal red meat: "Those men who dragged James Byrd behind that truck in Texas, they deserve the death penalty."

On another occasion, Brownstein had to repeatedly query Edwards to get him to explain whether there were any substantive differences between him and Kerry on the issue of reforming the way Washington works. "Do you view Sen. Kerry as part of the solution or part of the problem?" Brownstein asked. Edwards dodged the question. "Is there a difference in your commitment to this cause and what you see from Sen. Kerry?" Brownstein tried again. "Yes," Edwards said, because I'm an outsider. But that's not substantive, Brownstein objected. "He is saying many of the same things. Are you saying that he is less committed?" Edwards demurred.

Then Kerry swooped in to damn Edwards with praise. "I don't think there fundamentally is a difference," he said. "I mean, John has raised almost 50 percent of his money from one group of people in the United States"—"Is that the trial lawyers?" King interrupted—"That's correct. And I don't ever suggest that he is beholden to them," Kerry continued magnanimously. "Because I know he stood up on the patients' bill of rights."

The real Kerry returned a few moments later, with a preposterously unclear statement on his first executive order: "Reverse the Mexico City policy on the gag rule so that we take a responsible position globally on family planning." But then Edwards picked up the Kerry torch when Los Angeles Times editorial page editor Janet Clayton asked him how he can criticize the president for a war that he voted for. Edwards tried to appear thoughtful and serious, saying he gave "an awful lot of thought and study to it." Not only that, "I was worried about it. All of us were. I took this responsibility seriously." But why did you vote for it? "What we did is we voted on a resolution," Edwards stammered. And Bush didn't conduct the war properly. "So are you saying you were suckered?" Clayton asked.

King asked Edwards if he regrets his vote for the war. "I did what I believed was right at the time," Edwards said. "Do you regret it?" King asked again. "I did what I believed was right at the time," Edwards repeated. "Do you regret it?" King asked again, this time to laughter. "We don't get to go back, Larry," Edwards insisted. "Well, you can regret something," King said.

Kerry pounced on his chance to play Edwards to Edwards' Kerry. "Let me return a favor from the last debate to John," he said. "You asked a yes-or-no answer: 'Do you regret your vote?' The answer is: No. I do not regret my vote. I regret that we have a president of the United States who misled America and broke every promise he made the United States Congress." Substantively, this is the same answer Edwards gave, but it was clear instead of evasive and concise instead of tortuous.

It couldn't have been clearer: Edwards had become Kerry and Kerry had become Edwards. Kerry's critics will likely see this as more evidence of flip-flopping opportunism. Kerry will likely see it as victory.


          Dean Goes Offline   

MADISON, WIS.—If the "Wisconsin or bust" primary began as the bargaining stage of the Dean campaign's death, as one staffer told me, then by Election Day, everyone had settled comfortably into acceptance. It's not quite right to say that those in attendance at Howard Dean's primary-night rally at the Madison Concourse hotel appeared resigned in the face of their candidate's defeat. It's fairer to say that Dean's impending withdrawal from the presidential campaign felt irrelevant to the entire affair, as if it had already happened. Staffers openly discussed future plans—What are you doing tomorrow? Wanna party with me in New York this weekend?—in the press filing center. Hardly anyone watched the returns come in on CNN. In contrast to the sober yet chaotic feel of Wesley Clark's campaign in its death throes, what was almost certainly Dean's final presidential campaign event (other than his withdrawal speech) had a celebratory, even self-congratulatory air. They came to praise Caesar, not to bury him.

Dean knows how to give only one kind of speech, a victory speech, and that's what he delivered. You have "really worked hard to change this country and change this party," he told his assembled supporters. "And guess what? You have succeeded." It was a victory for a movement, not a campaign. "You have already written the platform of the Democratic Party for this election," Dean said. "A year ago, the Democrats were falling all over each other to vote for the war in Iraq. They sure don't talk like that now." Dean also claimed credit for getting the Democrats to stand up to "reckless budget deficits," "huge tax cuts," and "the president's education policies, which leave every child behind."

But the change in the Democratic Party, Dean declared, would be illusory if he and his supporters did not continue to challenge the Democratic establishment. "We together have only begun our work," he said. In what sounded like a shot at John Kerry, he continued: "The transformation that we have wrought is a transformation of convenience, not of conviction, and we have to fight, and fight, and fight until it becomes a transformation of conviction."

What does this mean, exactly? No one's certain. Other than Dean himself, "I don't think anyone but Roy Neel knows" what's going to happen next, an aide told me. But it's wrong to think that it means that Dean will continue campaigning. Instead, the smart money is that when Dean drops out of the presidential race, he will likely announce that he and his supporters will remain active in the campaign by transforming Dean for America into a political action committee or a 527 group, something that would allow him to try to become a power broker in Democratic politics.

If Dean dislikes Kerry as much as he is reported to, and if he really thinks John Edwards would be a superior nominee, then he's right to get out of the race quickly. I'm not convinced that Edwards is more electable than Kerry—with apologies to my colleague Will Saletan, so far the evidence for Edwards' electability is that he keeps losing elections—but a two-man race is Edwards' only chance. CNN and the Los Angeles Times will do voters a disservice if they invite Dennis Kucinich and Al Sharpton to their Feb. 26 debate. Kerry cited the fact that Kucinich and Sharpton were still in the race to dodge a question from Anderson Cooper about the prospect of a head-to-head debate with Edwards. But CNN shouldn't be asking Kerry whether he's going to debate Edwards one-on-one. They should be telling him.

One final thought about Tuesday's results: Isn't it possible that Matt Drudge, and not NAFTA, was the factor that led all those undecided voters to break for Edwards at the last minute? If a Wisconsin voter knew one thing about Kerry, a Dean staffer told me, it was that there was a rumor that the senator had an affair with a younger woman. It was all over local radio, not to mention the fact that Rush Limbaugh was flogging it for three hours each afternoon. Yes, the woman has denied it. Yes, there's no evidence for it. And yes, there is evidence that Drudge got the facts wrong in his report. But just because a rumor is unsubstantiated doesn't mean that voters aren't affected by it. Live by electability, die by electability. If the entire rationale of your campaign is that you can win in November, voters would be completely justified in rejecting you because of a rumor, even one that they believe is untrue, if they think that other voters might not vote for you because of it.

I can't quantify Drudge's impact on the campaign, but his rumor-mongering is the simplest explanation for the closeness of the race. I find it hard to believe that the independents and Republicans casting ballots for Edwards harbor deep anti-NAFTA feelings, while the Democrats voting for Kerry are ardent free traders.

The Internet couldn't win the presidency for Dean. But it's possible that the Internet almost lost Wisconsin for Kerry.


          The Final Days   

MILWAUKEE—We're at the point in the movie where you know how it's going to end, but you stay up late to watch anyway, no matter how painful it gets. The only reason we're here is to watch the beheading of Howard Dean, one reporter declares in the press room after Sunday night's debate. But didn't we see that part already? The end of Dean's quest for the Democratic presidential nomination is winding up with the leisurely pace of the interminable conclusion of The Return of the King. After New Hampshire, there's been nothing but denouement.

Wisconsin was supposed to be Dean's dramatic last stand. Instead, it has all the excitement of the Missouri primary, but at least Missouri had the excuse that there weren't any candidates there. Members of the Dean campaign staff used Saturday to tour the Miller brewery—some are now sporting Miller High Life lapel pins—and I mentioned that I thought that was a pretty smart use of their free day, since Dean was in Vermont that night watching his son's final high-school hockey game. "They're pretty much all free days now," a campaign staffer replied.

But Dean isn't the only candidate facing a death watch. I hear rumors before the debate that both John Edwards and Dennis Kucinich are dropping out. I don't believe either rumor, but I can't decide whether it's more shocking that people believe Edwards is leaving or that Kucinich is.

Kucinich will never drop out. He's said so several times, and he's the one candidate who I believe means everything that comes out of his mouth. He really means it when he talks about the "militarization of thought," about being a "peace president," and about wanting to "change the metaphor of our society from war to peace." He was serious when he said in the spin room after Sunday's debate that unless we pull out of Iraq, "we're going to have a draft." Irony is not the long suit of the man who extended his wingspan Saturday night in front of a few hundred Democrats and helicoptered silently for several long seconds before shouting "No strings! No strings! No strings! No strings! I'll take you to the White House with no strings attached!" (Mean joke: Sure, he's got no strings to hold him down, but he still needs to be turned into a real candidate.) I feel bad about that joke—not bad enough not to print it—because, as Christopher Hitchens wrote last week, "Dennis Kucinich is the sort of guy who we need in politics." My wife thinks Kucinich is great, except for his crazy positions. I think that's about right.

As for Edwards, what's the point of winning the battle to be the last man standing against Kerry if you're not going to follow through on your long-shot strategy? Edwards did better than expected in Iowa after being endorsed by the state's largest newspaper, followed by a superior performance in the state's final debate. Well, Edwards did pretty well Sunday night—it's fairer to say that Kerry did poorly—and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel just endorsed him.

How bad was Kerry's night? It wasn't disastrous, but it's as bad as I've seen him. He sounded like the meandering, orotund Kerry of last summer. His answers to questions about diversity and gay marriage were muddled incoherence, and he claimed that it wasn't his fault that the Bush administration has abused the Patriot Act, the No Child Left Behind Act, and the congressional Iraq war resolution. But if you vote for broadly written laws that are abused by the administration in power when you passed them, aren't you at least partly to blame for the consequences? You wouldn't let your 6-year-old drive the family car and then blame him for the accident. And you can be certain that if the Patriot Act, No Child Left Behind, and the war were popular with Democratic voters, Kerry would be taking credit for them.

Edwards fired off the night's best line in response to Kerry's tortuous answer to a question about whether he feels "any degree of responsibility for the war and its costs and casualties": "That's the longest answer I ever heard to a yes or no question. The answer to your question is: of course; we all accept responsibility for what we did." (The Dean campaign followed up with a press release stating only, "Memo to John Edwards: You are so right.")

But I don't think that moment offsets the fact that Edwards is torching his centrist reputation with his antitrade rhetoric. Granted, it's not only him. Alleged liberal Howard Dean was the only candidate on stage willing to unabashedly defend the passage of free trade agreements such as NAFTA ("I think the free trade agreements were justified"), though he does want to change them now. Kerry seemed evasive when he defended his votes for NAFTA and permanent normal trade relations with China by citing side agreements that dealt with labor and environmental standards.

But Edwards goes much further than Dean and Kerry. His campaign issued a press release trumpeting his votes against "fast track" and against trade agreements with Chile, Singapore, Africa, and the Caribbean. And on stage, he criticized Dean and Kerry for supporting "free trade, as they always have." The anti-NAFTA consensus was the most striking thing to me about Sunday's debate. Was it really more than 10 years ago that Al Gore handed that picture of Reed Smoot and Willis Hawley to Ross Perot on CNN?

Later in the debate, Edwards toned down his rhetoric. "The truth is, some of these jobs are gone," he said. "We're not going to get them back." And I was grateful that no candidate elected to bash Greg Mankiw, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers (as Kerry did in a speech Saturday night), for suggesting that the outsourcing of some jobs is good for the American economy in the long run. Bush administration economists have told enough lies—Mankiw's predecessor asserted that there was no connection between the deficit and interest rates, despite writing about the connection in his own textbook—that they deserve some applause when they tell an unpopular truth.


          Dismissed   

MEMPHIS—This is the way a campaign ends. It clings to flailing hopes that Rupert Murdoch and the National Enquirer will bring down the front-runner. The candidate's wife complains to a TV reporter about the media's coverage of her husband. The Washington Post beat reporter says his newspaper is pulling him from the campaign, whether the candidate keeps going or not. During a three-hour ride from Nashville to Memphis, the campaign doesn't provide a campaign spokesman on the press bus. Phone calls and pages go unanswered. The press bus joke is whether the new Clark campaign song should be Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" ("down, down down ..."), Frank Sinatra's "That's Life" ("I thought of quittin', baby, but my heart just ain't gonna buy it"), or Beck's "Loser." Asked about comments from the candidate's son that major changes could be happening in the campaign after the Virginia and Tennessee primaries, Ian Alberg, a campaign staffer says, laughing, "Fire me please," so he can collect unemployment. And, with the possible exception of Wes Clark Jr., anytime anyone says anything interesting, it's off the record.

Exactly a week ago, everyone was certain that Wesley Clark was going to drop out of the presidential campaign after the Feb. 3 primaries until he pulled off a last-minute win in Oklahoma. On Tuesday morning, the Magic 8-Ball once again says that signs point to yes, but there's enough conflicting evidence to keep things muddled for much of the day. The campaign's primary-night party was going to be in Nashville, but it gets moved to Memphis—presumably because Memphis is three hours closer to Clark's home in Little Rock, where he would go after quitting the campaign. But Wes Clark Jr. tells reporters that his father will continue to Super Tuesday, no matter what, because his father told him so Monday night. At a polling place in Nashville, Clark sounds like Howard Dean, telling a voter that he's just waiting for voters to tire of John Kerry. "What's gonna happen is buyer's remorse," he says. "You know, the purpose of a campaign is to wring it out." The day before, to another voter, he said, "I've got a real shot in Wisconsin," and a lot of support in Hollywood.

Still, no one really believes that Clark is staying in the race. At 1:55 p.m., Alberg says, "We're going to Wisconsin tomorrow," but within 20 minutes, reporters on the press bus are still calling sources to arrange interviews for post-mortem stories about the campaign. No one knows who to trust for news about the campaign. Does the staff know? Does Wes Jr. know? Does the general know?

At a stop at Noshville, a Nashville deli, candidate Clark doesn't bother with talking to voters, despite his staff's admonitions. Instead, he sits down and eats lunch for an hour. On the bus to Memphis, he takes a nap. "It's been a pretty nice day, all told," he says once we arrive in Memphis. "It's one of the more restful days I've had on the campaign."

At 5:30 p.m., we stop at a polling place in Memphis. "This is a hallelujah day," a voter calls out to the general. "We're gonna win this thing." Clark's staff urges him to talk to voters on their way in to the polls. "I don't want to be running, like I'm assaulting people," he objects. "You've got to be subtle about it." He tells a voter holding a piece of campaign literature, "My name's on that ballot. No, it isn't. That's a different ballot. Where's my sample ballot?" A staff member hands it to him. "That's my name, Wesley Clark. There's a lot of other people's names, but you don't pay attention to them." He's a four-star general and a major-party presidential candidate, handing out sample ballots. It should be an inspiring example of democracy in action. Instead, it's kind of sad.

Clark, however, is having a blast. "This is pretty much fun, isn't it?" he says. When his staff tells him its time to go, he complains. "Do we have to go? Why can't we just stay?" At another point, he just bursts out giggling. "It just kind of tickles me to see it," he tells the assembled reporters. What's so funny? "You're looking at me. The election's not abut me. It's about all these people who are voting." Since that answer doesn't make any sense, I can only speculate that Clark was struck by the the absurdity of the entire day. In the latest sign of the campaign's impending demise, staffers begin taking pictures of each other like it's the last day of summer camp.

Back on the press bus, we hear that CNN has reported that Clark canceled a fund-raiser in Houston. "Nothing's been canceled," Alberg says. Traveling press secretary Jamal Simmons says, "There is no plan to exit anything tonight except Tennessee." Later, Alberg adds, "He's going to make a speech tonight. He's not going to concede tonight."

It sure sounds like a concession speech. Clark hits strange notes, such as "It just doesn't get any better than this." He congratulates Kerry and John Edwards, calling them "patriots." He doesn't talk about his future plans or where he's going next. Instead, he talks broadly and praises the Democratic Party. He may have lost this race, he says, but "we're not going to lose the battle for America's future." And the song they play at the end is the one that Clark lobbied to have as his campaign song, one that's disliked by his staff: Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'." Following his father on the way out of the room, Wes Jr's eyes are moist.

Shortly after the speech, 19 journalists huddle outside Clark's room—the Danny Thomas Suite—at the downtown Marriott to demand information on what the campaign is going to do next. The person staying across the hall walks out, and I think he's going to complain about the noise. Instead, it turns out that he's a fellow reporter. He says he overheard some people—he was watching them through his room's peephole—say that Clark had already notified his staff that he was dropping out. But he didn't recognize the speaker.

Just before 10 p.m., we're told that communications director Matt Bennett will come to the press filing center at 11:15 p.m. with an announcement. We pile in the elevator and go downstairs. At about 10:05, we're told that Bennett is coming now. Before he arrives, CNN flashes on the crawl: "AP: Wesley Clark abandons presidential campaign." Bennett shows up and confirms the report.

Not that we really needed confirmation. The candidate had said as much in the ballroom after his speech. He was shaking hands and thanking his supporters. I wish you had competed in the Iowa caucuses, says a supporter. "I wish I had, too," Clark replies. "Everything might have been different if I had done that." Then he walked out.


          That '70s Campaign   

NASHVILLE—The Democratic Party's estimates of its chances of defeating President Bush in November have rebounded in concert with John Kerry's campaign. A little more than a month ago, most Democrats were overly pessimistic about the 2004 election. Now they're overly optimistic. Sunday afternoon, during a press conference prior to a Democratic Party rally at the downtown Hilton here, U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., declared not only that "Bush 43 looks very beatable at this point," but also that 2004 could be a congressional "tidal wave year" for the Democrats, akin to 1994 for the Republicans.

And if 2004 isn't a Democratic 1994, maybe it's 1976. That was former Vice President Al Gore's message to the Tennessee Democrats Sunday night. In an angry, sweaty shout, sounding like the second coming of Huey Long, Gore drew an extended comparison between the post-Watergate election of 1976, the year of his first election to Congress, and the post-Iraq election of 2004. John Kerry's two main rivals in Tennessee, Wesley Clark and John Edwards, spoke to the party, too, but Gore was clearly the main event. And if he wasn't before he spoke, he was by the time he was finished.

"You know, there was a mood in '76, a spirit of unity, a feeling of determination that we were going to win that race that year," said Gore, clearly linking that feeling to the resolve of 2004 Democrats to win back the presidency. Gore, however, wasn't referring only to the feelings of national Democrats in 1976. He was referring to the feelings of Tennessee Democrats, who were bitter over a Senate race that had been lost six years earlier.

Gore's father, Albert Gore Sr., was defeated in his 1970 campaign for re-election to the U.S. Senate. Gore made a number of comparisons between 1970 and 1976 in Tennessee and 2000, 2002, and 2004 in America. "President George W. Bush reminds me more of former President Richard Nixon than any of his other predecessors," he said, implying, it seemed, that Nixon smeared his father in the midterm elections of 1970 just as President Bush smeared Georgia Senator Max Cleland in 2002. "They tried to make out like my dad was an atheist because he didn't want a constitutional amendment putting the government in charge of telling children how they ought to worship God in the public schools," Gore said. "They came out with accusations that he was unpatriotic because he was opposed to the Vietnam War and the mistaken policy that got us into that war." Gore recalled his father's concession speech on Election Night: "He took the old Confederate slogan about 'The South shall rise again,' and he stood it on its head. And he proudly proclaimed, 'The truth shall rise again!'"

Gore was also drawing an analogy between his father and himself. He was expressing the hope that just as his father's loss was redeemed by the election of a Democrat, Jim Sasser, to his U.S. Senate seat six years later, so too could Gore be redeemed after his loss to George W. Bush, if the Democrats reclaim the White House in 2004. As Gore stood on stage before his remarks, I wondered, what must it be like to be Samuel Tilden? What's it like to be haunted by the fact that you're a historical footnote? Gore's speech provided some answers.

"We have seen an administration which in my view more closely resembles the Nixon-Agnew administration than any other previous administration," he said. "There's a reason I say that. I don't offer that as simply a casual slur." The crowd laughed. "I'm not above a casual slur," Gore added, in a "mind you" tone, to more laughter. "But I'm biased, I didn't vote for the guy." A man calls out, "Neither did America!" To which Gore responds, "Well, there is that."

He continued: "But here's the reason I say that President George W. Bush reminds me more of former President Richard Nixon than any of his other predecessors. Nixon was no more committed to principle than the man in the moon. He, as a conservative Republican, imposed wage and price controls. Hard to believe in this day and time. But he did. And he cared as little about what it meant to be really conservative as George W. Bush has cared in imposing $550 billion budget deficits and trillions in additions to the national debt. That has nothing to do with conservatism and everything to do with his effort to get re-elected!"

Gore then explained how he planned to travel to Iowa in September 2001 to deliver "a real ripsnorter of a speech" that would have harshly critiqued President Bush's first nine months in office and broken Gore's political silence. He abandoned his plan after the Sept. 11 attacks, he said, and instead swallowed his pride and told the Iowa Democrats of the man he clearly feels stole the presidency from him, "George W. Bush is my commander-in-chief."

"I think there were millions just like me, who genuinely, in spite of whatever partisanship they may have felt prior to that time, genuinely felt like they wanted George W. Bush to lead all of us in America wisely and well," he shouted.

"And the reason I'm recalling those feelings now is because those are the feelings that were betrayed by this president! He betrayed this country! He played on our fears! He took America, he took America on an ill-conceived foreign adventure dangerous to our troops, an adventure that was preordained and planned before 9/11 ever took place!" Gore closed with his father's line from 1970: "And so I say to you in closing my friends, in the year of 2004, the truth shall rise again!"

The crowded erupted in a frenzy that recalled a Howard Dean audience circa August 2003. Which, if you think about it, is pretty much where Gore still is. Many Democrats took the 2000 election personally, and they saw the Dean campaign as the outlet for their anger and frustration. But no Democrat could have taken it more personally than Al Gore. To those who speculate that Gore's endorsement of Dean was a crude and ill-timed political calculation, this speech was a repudiation.

Not only does he believe that he should rightfully be president, he also thinks he performed his patriotic duty in the aftermath of 9/11, and Bush screwed him for it. To Gore, it seems that beating Bush wouldn't suffice. He wants to convince the world that Bush is one of history's worst presidents.

Gore is still popular with the Democratic base, but after this speech, the question for the party's nominee has to be, do you want this man to speak at the convention in Boston? Even if you like the sentiment behind this speech, if Gore delivers an address like this one in July, the historical analogy won't be to the Democrats of 1976 or to the Republicans of 1994. Instead, the comparison will be to the disastrous Republican convention of 1992. The angry white male is back. Do the Democrats really want him?


          Who's No. 2?   

RICHMOND, VA.—Can this race be any closer? Not the race for the Democratic nomination, but the one for the runner-up.

The nomination is all but wrapped up after John Kerry's trouncing of the field Saturday in Michigan and Washington. Not only has Kerry racked up wins in nine of the 11 states so far, but he's won a majority, not just a plurality, of the Democratic vote in four states: Delaware, Michigan, Missouri, and North Dakota. And according to CNN's numbers, Kerry held a slim majority of the state delegates racked up in Washington state, too, with 99 percent of the precincts reporting. Up to now, Kerry-haters could at least comfort themselves with the fact that more than 60 percent of the Democratic electorate in states such as Iowa and New Hampshire were picking a candidate other than John Kerry. They don't even have that thin reed to cling to anymore.

A race that had political journalists salivating over its unpredictability in the days before the Iowa caucuses has instead unfolded exactly as it was designed. Terry McAuliffe drew this one up on the chalkboard during the pregame. The condensed primary schedule has worked just as intended, by anointing an early front-runner who is rolling through the nominating process without being forced to undergo a long, drawn-out fight with another candidate. (Howard Dean's boom and bust weren't in the McAuliffe plan, but since Dean's rise occurred before a single primary or caucus was held, it's not relevant to this analysis—except to the extent that the compressed schedule speeded his fall.)

For those who didn't like McAuliffe's plan, its one redeeming characteristic was that it would let bigger, more populous states go earlier than usual, thereby giving them a larger say in the process. But the hope that a compressed schedule might give less power to Iowa and New Hampshire than in previous cycles has proven to be a fantasy. In fact, in this election cycle the pattern has been that the larger and more important a state is, the less campaigning goes on there. On Feb. 3, Missouri and its 74 delegates were basically ignored. Washington, with 76 delegates, was an even bigger prize than Missouri, but most candidates other than Kerry and Dean ignored it, too. With 128 delegates, Michigan is the biggest state on the schedule until March 2, but on election day, Kerry, John Edwards, and Wesley Clark were all in Tennessee and Virginia. (Virginia, granted, has 82 delegates, but it looks like Edwards and Clark are choosing to duke it out in the smaller state of Tennessee.)

The marginal benefit of campaign expenditures and campaign appearances is increased in smaller states. The fewer voters there are in a state, the higher the percentage of them that can be swayed by a TV ad or a stump appearance. Plus smaller states are just cheaper to campaign in for cash-poor candidates. So, the upshot of the McAuliffe plan has been to increase the attention paid by presidential candidates to more small states than ever, beyond the usual first-in-the-nation duo.

The one scenario that would muck up McAuliffe's plan would be a closely contested race between two or even three candidates, each of whom racked up wins in enough states to prolong the battle beyond March 2 or even March 9. Which brings me back to the close race I mentioned at the outset. So far, this campaign has been outstanding at anointing front-runners—Kerry, then Dean, then Kerry—but astonishingly poor at figuring out who the top-ranked challenger is.

At long last, we found the anti-Dean—that's Kerry—but now there's a new problem. Who's the anti-Kerry? If delegate count is the critical factor, after his second-place showings in Michigan and Washington, Dean leads everyone but Kerry. But Clark and Edwards have a pretty good claim over Dean: They have each won a state, while Dean hasn't won any. If finishing as close to the top as possible when you come in second is the criterion, Edwards has the strongest claim. Clark, Dean, and Edwards have each placed second in three contests, but Edwards has two close second-place finishes—coming within single digits in both Iowa and Oklahoma—while Clark and Dean lost badly each time they were first runner-up.

But Clark and Dean have ways that they can counter Edwards. Thanks to five third-place finishes, Dean has finished in the top three in eight of the 11 states so far. Clark has done that only six times, and Edwards has done it five times—less than half the time. Can a candidate who finished below third in six states make a straight-faced claim that he deserves a one-on-one shot against Kerry?

But wait: Edwards has been one of the top four candidates in all 11 states. Dean placed fifth twice, in Oklahoma and South Carolina, while Clark finished fifth three times, in Delaware, Michigan, and Washington. And Clark finished sixth in Iowa, where he admittedly didn't compete, but sorry, you don't get to choose which states are in the union.

Should Dean be disqualified because he lost to Al Sharpton in South Carolina? What about Clark, then? He's lost to Sharpton twice—in South Carolina and now in Michigan. Edwards has consistently beaten the reverend, but he lost to Dennis Kucinich Saturday in Washington. Clark, however, has lost to Kucinich twice—in Iowa (where Clark didn't run, but still) and in Washington. Dean has the ignominy of being beaten by Joe Lieberman twice, finishing behind him in Oklahoma as well as Delaware, where all three men—Clark, Dean, and Edwards—couldn't defeat Joementum.

Right now, Edwards looks like the candidate most likely to survive and become Kerry's sacrificial lamb on March 2. Edwards hopes that Clark loses Tennessee on Tuesday and then bows out of the race, and that Dean quits after a loss in Wisconsin a week later. That would leave Edwards with two weeks before March 2—and the intervening Hawaii, Idaho, and Utah contests—to convince voters that he has a better chance of beating President Bush in November than Kerry does.

I'm sure Edwards would like more than two weeks to make his case. But that's no reason to clear the race for him.


          Winning Isn't Everything   

OKLAHOMA CITY—"Oh baby we got jobs tomorrow!" says one jubilant Wesley Clark campaign staffer to another. It's 10 minutes before 8 p.m., and the crowd gathered at the convention center here has erupted over CNN's report that Clark has unexpectedly surged into second place in South Carolina from a distant fourth. The information turns out to be flat wrong, and the room calms down. But the staffer's conclusion was right. She still has a job, and just a few hours ago it looked like she wouldn't.

For much of the day Tuesday, it appeared that Clark was about to withdraw from the presidential campaign. The early exit polls in Oklahoma showed Clark in third place (though taking into account the presumed margin of error, it was a dead heat). His son, Wes Clark Jr., was speaking about the campaign in the past tense. Only 20 minutes or so before the Clark staffer's celebratory exclamation, Clark sounded like he was conceding that the Oklahoma primary, rather than marking his first-ever victory in a political campaign, could mark the end of his presidential run. "This could be over, [or] it could be a long way from over," he said.

But as the returns flowed in and Clark threatened to overtake John Edwards as the first-place candidate on the Oklahoma results displayed on CNN's crawl, the crowd began sending up a huge cheer every time CNN rotated in the Sooner State numbers. (They watched CNN on a huge TV screen in the smallish room for Clark's primary night party.) "80 votes! 80 votes! Yeah!" calls out a man watching the election returns with the attentiveness of a football fan during the Super Bowl. With 74 percent of the precincts reporting, Clark goes up by seven votes.  "We're ahead! We're ahead! We're ahead!" a supporter screams. It's the political version of the Giants winning the pennant.

Minutes later, Clark is down again, this time by 63 votes. Then it's 62 votes. With 80 percent of the precincts reporting, he goes in front of Edwards by 11 votes. Then Edwards takes over by 105 votes, then 62 votes again. But the late precincts break heavily for Clark. With 87 percent of the precincts reporting, Clark is up by 959 votes. "He's up by a thousand! Clark's up by a thousand!" With 99 percent of the precincts counted, and up by nearly 1,300 votes, Clark declares victory, even if CNN hasn't. And he heads to Tennessee to campaign before the Feb. 10 primary there (held on the same day as Virginia's), instead of going home to Little Rock, as some thought he might.

A win's a win, and some Clark partisans argue that Clark's Feb. 3 showing trumps Edwards' decisive South Carolina victory because Clark placed second in three states, while Edwards finished in second place in only two. I don't buy that. Neither candidate had a particularly strong day. Edwards finished in fourth place in three states, and Clark finished fourth twice, and in Delaware he finished fifth. (For futility, neither compares to Joe Lieberman's failure to land even 100 votes in North Dakota.) It's hard to see how either man argues that he deserves to go mano a mano with John Kerry.

At some point, either Clark or Edwards will have to prove that he can win the support of Democratic voters in states in which the Democratic nominee will actually have to campaign in the general election. Clark may be the choice of Oklahoma Democrats, but Oklahoma hasn't cast its electoral votes for a Democratic presidential candidate since LBJ's 1964 landslide. South Carolina has been a solid GOP bet for decades—it was one of the six * states to go for Goldwater in '64—though it did side with Jimmy Carter in 1976. Granted, Edwards demonstrated the ability to garner significant support in Iowa, but Iowa hasn't gone Republican since Ronald Reagan's 1984 rout of Walter Mondale.

In the general-election swing states of New Hampshire, Arizona, Missouri, and New Mexico, the combined number of Clark and Edwards voters fell far short of the number of Kerry voters—by double-digit percentages in each state except Arizona, where Kerry still garnered 9 percent more voters than Clark and Edwards put together.

As Howard Dean might tell the two men, we can do better than this. If not, their campaign staffers won't have jobs for much longer.

Correction, Feb. 5, 2004: An earlier version of this article erroneously stated that Barry Goldwater carried five states in the 1964 presidential election. He carried six. (Return to the corrected sentence.)


          From the Mouths of Babes   

OKLAHOMA CITY—Maybe Wesley Clark Jr. saw the early exit polls. For whatever reason, he's standing in front of a crowd of reporters outside Clark's campaign headquarters in Oklahoma, looking bitter and sounding as if he thinks his father's campaign is over. "It's been a really disillusioning experience," the candidate's 34-year-old son says. "We sacrificed a hell of a lot for this country over 34 years. We lived in a damn trailer when I was a freshman in high school."

I'm late to the party because I was inside the campaign office watching Clark Sr. make phone calls to voters. But apparently Clark Jr. said he was writing a screenplay about the campaign process, and it sounds like it won't be a positive treatment. Of politics, he says, "It's a dirty business, filled with a lot of people who are pretending to be a lot of things they're not." The press never looked at his father's record, he says. They didn't treat the other candidates fairly either. Howard Dean got unfair coverage, he says. So did John Edwards. So did John Kerry. So did everyone.

What about the president? Does he get fair coverage from the press? "If the president had gotten fair coverage, he never would have gotten elected in the first place," Clark says. Has the media done a poor job of getting his father's message out? "It's not the media's job to get his message out. The media's job is to sell advertising."

A reporter asks, do you think your father has been well served by his campaign? For once, Clark declines to offer an opinion. "Uh, I'm not going to comment on the campaign. I'll put it this way. I think he was the best candidate." Then he adds, "I wish they would have competed in Iowa, personally." Because elections don't matter, he says. The media's horse-race coverage is all that matters, and by skipping Iowa, Clark got left out of the horse race. "It's all horse-race questions," he says. "My favorite was Dad wearing a sweater in New Hampshire one day. Maybe he was wearing a sweater because he was cold."

But why has the president gotten positive coverage while the Democrats have gotten negative coverage, in his opinion? "It's about access. You know that you'll be denied access if you actually cover things honestly." He follows this with a recommendation that we go work in Hollywood if we don't understand how the political press works, because they need good storytellers in Hollywood, too. (I hope to have a fuller transcript of Clark's comments later today, after reporters gather to watch the videotape. I'll update if there's anything worth adding.)

At this point, Clark's traveling press secretary, Jamal Simmons, sees the crowd of reporters and breaks things up. Comparing notes with some reporters after the event, I scribble down a few quotes that Clark said before I showed up. Among them are "I'd like him to win today. If he doesn't win, I don't want him to stay out there," and "What did we get on the news for this weekend? A speeding ticket in Oklahoma. You gotta be fucking kidding me."

The press corps gathers at the hotel and gets ready to file. Simmons tells us the general's take on his son's comments: "He loves him. He has his own opinions."


          Republican Campaign Preview   

ST. LOUIS—Dick Gephardt's congressional district is Busch country, if not Bush country, so if you're going to hold a Republican presidential campaign rally in a Democratic stronghold, this one's as appropriate as any. Mary Matalin, who's on board the Bush-Cheney '04 team as a campaign adviser, is in town with a phalanx of Missouri Republicans. I'd say she's in town to distract media attention from the Democratic primary in the largest of the Feb. 3 states, except there's pretty much no Democratic campaign to speak of in Missouri. As a result, Missourians appear more interested in the Democratic primary for governor, between incumbent Gov. Bob Holden and State Auditor Claire McCaskill, than in presidential politics.

The Bush rally does, however, provide some insight into the general-election campaign message that the Bush-Cheney campaign is trying out. If the Democratic primaries and caucuses over the next four or five weeks are a referendum on John Kerry's electability, it's worth knowing what he's expected to be electable against. Monday's rally is the second Republican event I've attended this campaign—the other was in Nashua, N.H., where John McCain stumped for the president—and the president's re-election argument, as advanced by his surrogates, couldn't be clearer. The Republicans want the threshold question of this election to be: On Sept. 11 and Sept. 12, 2001, would you rather have had George W. Bush as president or his Democratic opponent?

Both Bush rallies that I've attended emphasize the idea that the president merits re-election as a reward for past performance, as much as—or even more than—any promise of future results. "On Sept. 11, when this nation faced in many respects the greatest threat to our security, President Bush stood forward, led this nation with clarity and with strength, which has earned him the admiration and appreciation of the overwhelming majority of Americans, and I believe has earned him another term as president of the United States of America," McCain said in Nashua. The speakers at Monday's event strike similar notes. "This is a man who has restored peace to the American homeland, after we suffered the worst attack we have suffered here since Pearl Harbor," U.S. Sen. Jim Talent says. U.S. Sen. Kit Bond puts it this way: "I'm most concerned about the war on terror. When Sept. 11, 2001, hit us, George Bush knew what to do."

Al Gore tried to run on the Clinton record of peace and prosperity. The Bush campaign looks like it will run on arguable prosperity and war. Kerry's line that the war on terrorism is as much a law-enforcement and intelligence-gathering operation as it is a military one is derided. "There's only one person gonna be running for president in November of this year who believes that the war against terrorism is a war, against a transnational army that attacked and every day threatens the people of the United States, not a law enforcement action against a few stray criminals," Talent says. Matalin concurs. "This is not a law enforcement effort, as has been said. This is a war. This is a global war. This is a war between barbarism and civilization."

Local boy John Ashcroft and the Patriot Act receive a heaping of praise. "John Ashcroft and the Bush administration have been successful," Bond says. "According to the FBI director, at least 100 planned terrorist attacks, underway for the United States, were disrupted because they used the Patriot Act. Thanks heavens we have the Patriot Act and we have somebody like John Ashcroft ..." I think Bond's concluding phrase is "who's going to use it," but I can't hear him over the crowd's applause. This is Bizarro World when compared to the Democratic campaign trail, where Ashcroft is deemed a supervillain second only to Karl Rove.

"The polls show that one of our colleagues in the United States Senate is leading in the Democratic primary here," continues Bond, referring to Kerry. "He wants to get rid of the Patriot Act. He voted for it, now he doesn't like it." The effectiveness of that line is undercut by Bond's demagogic follow-up: "Personally, I like being free of terrorist attacks." The crowd laughs appreciatively. Later, Matalin says that John Ashcroft is more than a mere terrorist-fighting, cell-breaking, plot-disrupting attorney general. "John Ashcroft is a hero."

Argument No. 3 is that the missing weapons of mass destruction in Iraq are irrelevant. Partly, because as McCain said back in New Hampshire, "Saddam Hussein acquired weapons of mass destruction, he used weapons of mass destruction against his own people and his enemies, and there is no expert that I know that doesn't believe that if Saddam Hussein was still in power he would be attempting to acquire weapons of mass destruction."

But the humanitarian benefits of the Iraq war are emphasized more than the threat posed by Saddam. In Nashua, McCain cited a mass grave of 3,000 "men, women, and children," and added, "My friends, when those 8- and 9-year-old boys were let out of prison in Baghdad, our effort and our sacrifice was justified." Matalin compares Bush's hope for a democratic Iraq to the hopes of Islamic radicals. "There are forces that want to go backwards, that are for oppression, repressing women, there is no freedom, versus going forward into the modern world," she says.

After the event is over, I tell Matalin that the Republican pitch sounds backward-looking. OK, people liked President Bush after 9/11. But that's not an agenda. What's the president's plan going forward? "This is a generational commitment to get this job done," she says. "It took 60 years of a policy of hypocrisy, turning the other way when there was oppression and tyranny in that region, to create this kind of terrorism against America. So, getting a whole region to bring in the hallmarks of a modern state, private property, human rights, rights for women, a judicial system, market principles, it takes more than a campaign cycle. So, he reversed a 60-year policy that wasn't working in the region, and he is putting in place, which is going to take more than one term or two terms, collective security arrangements for the 21st century."

That's a mouthful. And it sets up what I think will be the most intriguing question of the general election. Which candidate will succeed in portraying himself as the internationalist in the race? The Democratic contenders push cooperation, alliances, and multilateral institutions, but they also use nationalist rhetoric to tar Bush for spending money abroad rather than spending it at home (say, "opening firehouses in Baghdad and closing them in the United States," a Kerry line). Taking off on some of that nationalist rhetoric, the Bush surrogates describe Democrats as isolationists who want the United States to abandon its leadership role in the world. The Democrats respond by describing President Bush as a unilateralist who abandoned the nation's role as a global leader. Who will succeed in defining himself as a broad-minded internationalist and his opponent as a narrow-minded nationalist? Our next president.


          Howard Dean's Day Off   

HOOKSETT, N.H.—Howard Dean is going to Arizona! He's going to New Mexico! He's going to Michigan! And Washington! And Burlington?

Every major Democratic presidential candidate except Howard Dean will campaign Wednesday in one of the Feb. 3 states (Arizona, Delaware, Missouri, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and South Carolina). Front-running John Kerry heads to St. Louis for a rally, while John Edwards goes to Springfield, Mo., and St. Louis. Wesley Clark travels to Charleston, S.C., Joe Lieberman is doing three events in Delaware (not "Joeklahoma"?), and Dennis Kucinich will stump in Oklahoma. But Dean is going to rest up and regroup at campaign headquarters in Vermont. He's not taking the day off—he's going to do television interviews with local stations in key February states—but the decision indicates that the Dean campaign may be looking past Feb. 3 in its quest for the nomination after a second-place finish in New Hampshire.

The campaign won't out-and-out admit that it's looking past Feb. 3, of course. The current spin: We've raised $1.5 million in the past week. We have a 50-state organization. But what good did their money and their organization do them in Iowa and New Hampshire? From another perspective, it looks as if the campaign isn't sure what to do right now. Every staffer that I talked to Tuesday night didn't know his or her next destination. New Hampshire communications director Dorie Clark told me she was moving out of her Manchester apartment, putting her stuff in storage, and ready to take her duffle bag wherever they told her to go. They just hadn't told her yet.

But there may be a strategic motivation for going into hiding. At the Holiday Inn bar in Manchester Monday night, Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi told reporters that Dean just needed to hang around long enough until voters got tired of John Kerry. Then, he hoped, those voters would start coming back to Dean. He cited the example of Jerry Brown winning Colorado in the 1992 campaign after voters tired of Bill Clinton. (He then insisted that his candidate was not Jerry Brown.) The assumption had been that Dean was going to go fight in Arizona and New Mexico, but Trippi sounded like a man who was managing expectations in preparation for a potential goose egg on Feb. 3. (Many people think Dean has a better shot on Feb. 7 in Washington and Michigan.)

It's not an insane idea. Sit back, husband your resources, and pray that John Kerry can defeat John Kerry in time to give you a chance on March 3, when huge states like California, New York, and Ohio weigh in. Dean's support in Iowa and New Hampshire turned out to be very soft, and Kerry's support is likely to be soft, too. Now that Kerry is the front-runner, he's going to start receiving a lot more scrutiny from the press, which Dean hopes will damage Kerry's perceived electability. Plus there's the theory that Kerry is a candidate who wears poorly on voters.

The last two Democrats to win both Iowa and New Hampshire were Al Gore in 2000 and Jimmy Carter in 1976, but Dean's best hope is that the Kerry campaign is closer to that of the Democrat who won both states four years before Carter: Edmund Muskie. The problem with that hope is that the second-place finishers in New Hampshire who ended up as the "perceived winner"—Eugene McCarthy in 1968, George McGovern in 1972, and Bill Clinton in 1992—all finished within single digits of their opponent. Dean lost by 13 points.

Wesley Clark's third-place finish in New Hampshire also looks likely to hurt Dean's chances. Of the 35 percent of New Hampshire voters who cast ballots for a candidate other than Dean or Kerry, the 13 percent who went for Clark are the largest trove of likely Dean voters. The longer Clark stays in the race as a serious contender, the longer the antiwar vote is divided.

So, it's a long shot, and Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe has ordered candidates who don't win a state on Feb. 3 to quit the race. (At the Holiday Inn, Trippi virtually promised to ignore McAuliffe.) But it's probably Dean's only shot. Will the voters who dated Dean, then married Kerry get bored enough that they start to fantasize again about sleeping with Dean?


          Landslide Kerry   

HAMPTON, N.H.—As Kerrymania sweeps the Granite State, the latest Zogby Poll notwithstanding, I'm still scratching my head over the phenomenon. Politics is full of truisms, one of which is that voters never elect a résumé, and another is that they don't vote strategically. But in John Kerry's case, voters appear to be doing both. They've decided, whether he's their favorite candidate or not, that he's the Democrat with the CV to go up against President Bush in November.

A third political truism—that negative campaigning hurts both the attacker and the attacked—helped explain the results of the Iowa caucuses, as voters ran away from the Dean-Gephardt slugfest and toward Kerry and John Edwards and, to a lesser extent here in New Hampshire, Wesley Clark. But I'm straining for an iron law of politics that explains how Kerry went from presumptive embarrassment to presumptive nominee in less than a month (though the race isn't over by a long shot). He's not the best or most skilled speaker in the race. He hasn't raised the most money. He wasn't leading in the national polls on Jan. 1.

Kerry is the Einstein of this race, upending the known Newtonian laws and replacing them with new ones. Perhaps the candidate who uses the most superlatives is now guaranteed victory. Kerry loves two expressions: "in all my time in public life" and "in the modern history of the country." For example, to take a Kerry favorite, President Bush has conducted "the most arrogant, inept, reckless, and ideological foreign policy in the modern history of the country." Similarly, Kerry said Sunday in Nashua, "This is the most antiscience administration in the modern history of the country." Or, during this month's National Public radio debate, "We're witnessing the greatest period of crony capitalism in the modern history of the country."

"Never in all my time in public life have I seen the workplace so unfair," is another Kerry favorite on the stump. Or, here's Kerry last week on the PBS NewsHour: "This is the most say-one-thing do-another administration I've seen in all my time in public life." In last week's debate, it was, "This is the worst environmental administration that I've ever seen in all my time in public life." At a Friday event in Manchester, Kerry declared that the Republican campaign against former Georgia Sen. Max Cleland (who's been campaigning with Kerry) was "the most craven moment I have seen in American politics." Presumably it broke the record held by a 1996 William Weld ad that Kerry then called "the most duplicitous and brazen distortion I've ever seen."

Or perhaps the candidate who receives the worst introduction speech of the campaign wins. At that Friday event in Manchester, Sen. Fritz Hollings, D-S.C., introduced Kerry with a long, rambling speech that included the word "Chinaman." As Hollings was explaining that "50 percent of the furniture in this country comes from China," a shockingly loud pop crackled through the speakers and startled most people in the room. "Some Chinaman got mad at that," Hollings said to laughter. (Later, when more noises popped through the speakers, Kerry politically corrected the joke to, "This Chinese guy is still around.") Hollings also declared that Dick Cheney "is the Jesse Jackson of the Republican Party. He wants it all, his time has come!" A few people applauded when Hollings said he was about to finish.

Or perhaps the spoils go to the candidate who has the most difficulty reading his crowd. In Manchester, Kerry gave a touching speech about the importance of veterans and of "keeping faith with those who wore the uniform." As soon as it was over, a woman stood up and said, I'm not a veteran. What are you going to do for the average person? At a firehouse in Hampton yesterday, a man told Kerry that he thinks it's unfair that people say a New Englander can't connect with people from varying backgrounds. And to prove that you can do it, he says, explain the importance of the icon on my hat. Kerry is mystified. "The Latin? The Ten?" he asks. Malcolm X, the man explains.

I don't want to overstate Kerry's flaws. He's not Al Gore. He comes across as good-humored, decent, and likable rather than phony. And he doesn't pander mindlessly on every subject. On offshore job losses, "The solution is not to sit there and pretend that you can stop every job from going overseas," he says in Hampton. On the subject of religion, he believes that presidents should "recognize the diversity of faiths and even of agnosticism and atheism," and he takes the politically risky stance of admitting to a "questioning, agnostic stage" after his experience in Vietnam.

But Kerry also seems to keep a little intellectual distance from his public persona, unlike Dean or Edwards, who are pretty much "method politicians." The goofy grin that Kerry invariably breaks out at the end of his stump speech communicates the idea that he thinks this is a little, well, goofy. In a sense, that might be one more reason to like him, but it doesn't get me any closer to explaining his success. Going after Dean on taxes seems to be working—"I'm going to protect the middle class. I'm not touching your child care credit, like some candidates. I'm not going to put back in place the marriage penalty. I'm not going to take away your 10 percent bracket and raise it immediately to 15 percent, as some candidates are," Kerry says—but Democrats aren't supposed to vote on tax cuts in a primary. Military experience is part of it, too, but that brings me back to the résumé truism.

I'm left with one answer: He's taller.


          Closing Arguments   

NASHUA, N.H.—I'm feeling sorry for Dennis Kucinich. And the feeling just makes me feel even sorrier, because pity isn't the emotion he's trying to evoke. Kucinich is standing in front of more than 1,000 Democrats at a fund-raiser Saturday night for the New Hampshire Democratic Party, at which every candidate in the New Hampshire primary except Al Sharpton is scheduled to speak. Kucinich must know that he's not going to win Tuesday night, but at the same time he surely fantasizes that this is his moment, this is his chance to make a winning, last-ditch appeal for his unlikely candidacy.

I am the only candidate who voted against the Iraq war and the Patriot Act, Kucinich proclaims to fervent applause. I am the only candidate "who insists on an immediate end to the occupation." Imagine a presidential debate between President Bush and my opponents (other than Al Sharpton), he says. They supported the war, they voted for the invasion, or they support the occupation. "Where's the debate with President Bush?" he asks.

And it's not just the war. Kucinich wants not-for-profit single-payer health care, and his opponents don't. "This is the time," Kucinich is saying, but I can't hear the rest. He's being drowned out, at least in the back of the room where I stand, by cries of "How-ard! How-ard! How-ard! How-ard!" coming from the hallway, where Howard Dean must have just arrived. Nearly a year of campaigning by the Ohio congressman for the highest office in the land is summed up in this moment. What must it be like to imagine yourself as the leader of an incipient movement for progressivism and then to have that movement led by another man, one that you view as a charlatan?

The night's other tragic figure is Joe Lieberman. He's begging for scraps of support by appealing to state pride, the last refuge of a second-tier candidate. "Hey, let me tell you this, I love New Hampshire," he says. "Did you see me at the debate the other day? I swore to God to fight to the death to protect the first-in-the-nation status of the New Hampshire Democratic primary." Lieberman knows he's not popular, but he's hoping against hope, too. "Looking around this room, I see there are some people supporting some other candidates for president, and I respect that diversity," he says.

See, Lieberman's not a conservative Democrat. He's diverse! "I have never wavered for a moment" on the need to remove Saddam Hussein, he says, and it sounds like three people clap. I'm more electable than the others, he says, because there are "a surprising number of Republicans who are disappointed with George W. Bush and ready to go for an acceptable alternative." There's a winning Democratic primary message: The candidate whom Republicans kinda like!

Lieberman can't get it right even when he's shoring up his liberal bona fides by talking about his plan to fight poverty. "Is it right for George W. Bush to have turned his back on 35 Americans in poverty?" he asks, omitting the crucial word, "million." But he's not discouraged. "I feel something happening in this campaign for me," he says. "My staff says that in New Hampshire today, there is an outbreak of 'Joe-mentum,' and I hope so." That's only the latest painful "Joe" pun in a Lieberman campaign list that includes the "Joe-vember to remember" and the campaign vehicle, the "WinnebaJoe."

As he's wrapping up, thanking "the people of New Hampshire for the warmth and respect" they have given him, Lieberman's speech has the feeling of a farewell, very much like a speech I saw Dick Gephardt give the night before the Iowa caucuses. Miracles do happen, and the Lieberman campaign is circulating a poll that shows him in a fight for third place (most polls show him mired in fifth), but inside this room it feels as if Lieberman, like Kucinich, is clinging to a fantasy.

Of the other candidates, Wesley Clark comes across the worst. "I haven't been a member of this party for very long," he says, and the crowd grumbles. "I know," shouts one man, while another calls out, "No shit!" Now that Dean has turned down his volume, Clark is the race's screamer, and he sounds a little unhinged. "We Democrats have got to take out that president," he says, in an unfortunate turn of phrase for one of the two candidates that has actually killed people. The crowd's applause is polite but tepid, and the race feels like it's slipping away from Clark, too.

The chair of the Democratic Party, Kathy Sullivan, introduces Dean as if he's a figure from the distant past, praising him for energizing the party "at a time when we were tired and unsure of ourselves." Dean draws big cheers, but they mostly come from the people in the back rows and in standing-room-only. A woman calls out to him, "Howard, don't ever give up." A man yells, "Give 'em hope, Howard!" Dean's eyebrows rise as he smiles his wicked grin. "I'm going to resist the temptation," he says.

Nearly a year ago, Dean appeared before the Democratic National Committee's winter meeting and declared, "What I want to know is why in the world the Democratic Party leadership is supporting the president's unilateral attack on Iraq." He pricked the post-9/11 bubble surrounding Bush and in the process transformed himself from a curiosity into a contender. But his speech Saturday barely touches on Iraq. He also says something I don't think I've ever heard him say before: "I ask for your vote."

John Edwards captivates the crowd. Edwards doesn't transfix me the way he does other members of the press. His way of merely describing his message as "positive" and "optimistic" and "uplifting" rather than, you know, actually having a message that embodies those qualities grates on me. What's the difference between Edwards' rhetoric and the awkward "Message: I care" rhetoric of George H.W. Bush? Edwards also has this new gesture he's using, where he puts a finger to his lips to appear thoughtful, that makes him look like Austin Powers.

But his message undoubtedly connects. He enters to enthusiastic applause, though it's not Dean-level. His speech about two Americas, about the importance of fighting poverty, and the borrowed Deanisms about restoring American democracy and taking it away from "that crowd of insiders in Washington, D.C.," and the "I believe in you" conclusion wins nearly everyone over. Edwards has become Howard Dean in the body of a good-looking, smooth-talking Southerner, and as he did in Iowa, he feels hot, hot, hot.

Of course, they're all Dean now. (Or, as The Nation'sDavid Corn put it, they're "the Angry Populist, the Calm Populist, the Polite Populist, the Executive Populist, and the Radical Populist.") John Kerry, who I think has the support of the majority of the crowd, says he wants to "break the grip of the powerful interests in this country and put the people in charge."

If Kerry, or whoever is the party's nominee, becomes president in 2005, he'll have Howard Dean to thank. Dean won. That's why he's losing.


          Is He Still Here?   

MANCHESTER, N.H.—I knew John Kerry was the man of the hour, but what made the feeling more than an abstraction was the Baltimore-Washington airport bookstore. It stocked a display of Kerry's campaign book, A Call to Service, above the latest books by Bill O'Reilly and Ann Coulter. Yes, it's the Washington area, but still—it's an airport bookstore.

Kerry continued his winning streak at tonight's debate, the final one among the seven remaining Democrats before the New Hampshire primary. Debates have been Kerry's best format during this campaign. He's a TV candidate, cool and authoritative, and the time-cramped medium comes to his aid by forcibly restricting his long-winded oratorical perambulations. But until tonight's context, Kerry's debate performances seemed as irrelevant as Al Sharpton's zingers.

The moment when Kerry won the debate, I thought, was when he answered Manchester Union-Leader reporter John DiStaso's question about his decision to throw his medals (or was it his ribbons?) away in protest during the Vietnam War. "I could not be more proud of the fact that when I came back from that war, having learned what I learned, that I led thousands of veterans to Washington, we camped on the Mall underneath the Congress, underneath Richard Nixon's visibility," Kerry said. "He tried to kick us off. And we stood our ground and said to him, 'Mr. President, you sent us 8,000 miles away to fight, die and sleep in the jungles of Vietnam. We've earned the right to sleep on this Mall and talk to our senators and congressmen.'" Kerry used the occasion to cast himself as both pro-veteran and antiwar, surely the sweet spot he hoped to squeeze his candidacy into before he got bogged down over the meaning of his vote in favor of the Iraq war resolution.

I'm beginning to suspect that Kerry's lack of clarity on the Iraq war actually benefits his candidacy. One, because voters from a wide spectrum can find ways to square his position with theirs, and two, because his muddled ambivalence best captures the way I suspect the great majority of Democrats feel. (Kerry may have best explained his stance in October 2002 when he said, "My vote was cast in a way that made it very clear, Mr. President, I'm voting for you to do what you said you're going to do, which is to go through the U.N. and do this through an international process. If you go unilaterally, without having exhausted these remedies, I'm not supporting you. And if you decide that this is just a matter of straight pre-emptive doctrine for regime-change purposes without regard to the imminence of the threat, I'm not going to support you." The quote is taken from Walter Shapiro's One-Car Caravan.)

But wouldn't Kerry know it? Even during his rosy post-caucus glow, he can't escape the man he once exasperatedly referred to as "Dean, Dean, Dean, Dean." Whether the Vermont governor is riding high in the polls or flaming out, he's the candidate the media fixate on. The local ABC affiliate in Manchester trumpeted its Nightline broadcast of the debate by mentioning only one candidate, Dean, by name. And if Dean's last-ditch effort to save his candidacy wasn't already the story of the day, his campaign ensured that it would be by sending their candidate on a televised triple play: the debate, his (and his wife's) interview with Diane Sawyer on ABC's Primetime Live, and his appearance on the Late Show With David Letterman. I watched all three from the comfort of my hotel room.

There are advantages to watching political events on television rather than attending them in person. For one, you get to see them as the viewers do. I was on the scene in Iowa during this campaign's defining moment, the Dean Scream, and I didn't even notice it. The crowd was so noisy during what appeared to be typical Dean behavior during a stump speech, not unlike his listing off of the industrialized countries with universal health care ("the British and the French and the Germans," on and on to "the Danes, the Swedes, the Japanese, even the Costa Ricans have health care!"), that no one in the room seemed to hear the "part growl, part yodel," as the Boston Globe put it. Second, when you attend a political debate, all you really do is watch it on TV anyway, except you watch it in on TV in a room filled with other journalists. Third, I had no idea that Ernie Hudson, aka "the fourth Ghostbuster," had his own show on ABC.

A couple things struck me from the Primetime interview. Dean said he was "speaking to 3,500 kids" on caucus night. I didn't formally survey the demographics of Dean's volunteers in Iowa, obviously, but his reference to the "under-30 generation" during his post-caucus speech elicited mild boos from the crowd. When I followed three Dean volunteers as they canvassed for votes in Des Moines, one was 33, one was 55, and one was 58. They weren't atypical. From my experience, nothing tweaks Dean supporters more than the idea that they are angry children, and they're right that the widespread belief that Dean is the kiddie candidate gives voters a reason not to take him seriously.

The second thing that occurred to me was something from Howard Dean: A Citizen's Guide to the Man Who Would Be President, the book by a team of Vermont reporters. In it, one journalist notes that as Vermont governor, Dean never quite grasped that he was something other than an ordinary person, and that his words had unusual power. Sure, he had an uncommon job, but other than that, Dean thought he was just a regular guy. To a great extent, Dean has behaved on the campaign trail as if he still feels the same way.

Dean's regular-guy status is one of the most appealing things about his candidacy, and it's one of the most fun things about covering him. He's willing to let himself be a normal person to a reporter in a way that most politicians won't. But in another way, a presidential candidate, and especially a president, isn't a regular guy. Presidents can't do or say the things that even senators and governors can. Neither can first ladies. That may not be fair, but that's the way it is.

It looks as if Howard and Judy Dean have decided that if they can't remain "just ordinary folks," they don't want to be president and first lady. That's admirable. But I also suspect that that decision, and not some pirate yell, is the biggest obstacle that would keep them from the White House.


          Howard Dean's Very Bad Night   

DES MOINES, Iowa—"Prove it or not," Howard Dean told his supporters at a rally Sunday in Davenport. "Now is the time to see if this works," to see if the unorthodox, Internet-fueled campaign assembled by Dean and his campaign manager, Joe Trippi, translates into votes. "Tomorrow, at 6:30 p.m., you can prove it or not." The answer Iowans gave him was a raspberry: Or not.

I attended a West Des Moines caucus Monday night with Dean's Iowa press secretary, Sarah Leonard, and her feeling about the race was that it would be close, so close perhaps that they wouldn't be able to call it that night. She felt it was a three-way race, between Dean, Kerry, and Gephardt. "Edwards, I just don't think you can build an organization in 48 hours," she said. But it wasn't close. Momentum beat organization, both Dean's digital one and Gephardt's analog one. (Leonard did say before the caucus, however, that the rumor that Dean had a hard count of 50,000 was preposterous. "If we had a hard count of 50,000, I'd probably be at the Val Air," she joked, referring to the ballroom site of Dean's caucus night party.)

The results from our caucus reflected the results of the 1,992 other caucuses in the state in one respect: Kerry got twice as many delegates as Howard Dean, four to two (with John Edwards picking up four as well). There were lots of new and first-time caucus participants, so many that the organizers ran out of forms to register them. But they weren't the new voters the Dean campaign wanted. George Davey, the precinct captain for the Dean campaign, said he was hoping for 25 to 50 Dean voters between the ages of 18 and 25, but only one showed up. "I think if we could blame [Dean's loss] on anyone, blame it on the 18- to 25-year-olds, because they were nonexistent," he said.

Davey, who is 37, also said Dean needed to be less negative toward his opponents. And another Dean volunteer, Toby Sackton, a 57-year-old from Boston, complained that Dean's television ads weren't any good. "We saw three ads, one by Kerry, one by Edwards, and one by Dean. Dean's was by far the worst," he said. "It was an ad aimed at getting the supporters out," not appealing to voters who didn't already like Dean.

I think there's something to Sackton's complaint. I heard four or five Dean radio ads on my drive to the caucus, all with the same message: Dean had the courage to stand up to President Bush on the war while the other major candidates folded. Dean's saturation TV ads focused on nefarious "corporations" and "special interests" and "Washington insiders," rather than the things I'd seen Dean use on the stump (in addition to his stance on the war) to appeal to voters who hadn't heard of him already: his Vermont record of balanced budgets, health care, and the state's "Success by Six" program for children.

In his final days in Iowa, Dean's campaign was about his campaign. To the extent issues were at stake at all, Dean's message focused on the past—Do you want a candidate who was against the war, as Dean put it in Davenport, "not now, but then"?—while John Kerry focused on a future consideration—Do you want a candidate who will raise your taxes? Beyond the war, Dean hit three notes: What his opponents said and did in 2002 and 2001, the fact that he's raised lots of money in small donations over the Internet, and tiresome bromides about the special interests/corporations/Washington insiders. It's a high-tech version of Al Gore's "people vs. the powerful" campaign. That's not good enough.

Four years ago, George W. Bush rebounded from a surprisingly large defeat in New Hampshire by co-opting his opponent's message and recasting himself as a "reformer with results." Dean might do the same. If he's got a tax cut in his back pocket, it's time to bring it out. And he needs to do a better job of introducing himself and his record to voters who haven't been paying attention to the campaign for six months or a year.

The early signs of that happening aren't auspicious. Rather than reaching out to the unconverted, Dean fired up his base of supporters at the Val Air. He grinned, ripped off his jacket, rolled up his sleeves, and flung an orange "Perfect Storm" hat into the crowd. Then he started waving an American flag. Walter Shapiro's metaphor of Dean as an "aging rock star reduced to reprising his greatest hits in smaller and smaller clubs" never felt more apt.

At the Hotel Fort Des Moines bar on Saturday night, the New Republic's Ryan Lizza told Dean strategist Steve McMahon that his campaign needed a new message. McMahon shook his head. You and I are in different businesses, he said. The press is bored with our message, but we need to dance with the girl that brung us. I think McMahon's wrong. I think Dean's campaign became much more anti-business and much less moderate than it was six months ago, and it became a campaign about a messianic figure and his movement rather than a blunt, moderate Democrat and his policies. But even if McMahon is right, he must know by now that it's time to find another girl.


          The Iowa Primary?   

DES MOINES, IOWA—So, who's going to win? Believe it or not, the question hinges on whether Iowa Democrats are holding a caucus or a primary on Monday night. Yes, I know that New Hampshire, not Iowa, is supposed to hold the nation's first primary (at least the first primary that counts), while Iowa conducts the first-in-the-nation caucuses. But lock Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi and Gephardt campaign manager Steve Murphy in a room and ask them what they're worried about, and it's whether Iowa's caucuses are going to unexpectedly turn into a primary.

That's what Trippi was saying late Saturday night outside the bar at the Hotel Fort Des Moines. What did he mean? If Iowans vote in numbers that would be unsurprising for the Iowa caucuses—say, 120,000 or 130,000 voters—then Trippi is confident that the Dean campaign will win. Caucuses are time-consuming, they take place at a specific time instead of throughout the day (and you can't vote early or use an absentee ballot), and they're more intimidating for new voters than going behind a curtain and casting a ballot. As a result, they have a lower participation rate than primaries do. But if Iowans shock everyone this year and turn out at a level that's closer to the participation rate of a primary than a caucus (say, 180,000 voters?), it's a good sign for the campaigns of John Kerry and John Edwards.

That contradicts the judgment of many observers that the Dean campaign is banking on a high turnout. I saw Mort Kondracke say on Fox News that the Dean campaign is hoping for a turnout of 160,000. But that's not what Trippi said Saturday night (well, it was after 2 a.m., so maybe it was Sunday morning).

Dick Gephardt's Iowa campaign manager, John Lapp, sounded just like Trippi on Sunday after Gephardt's evening rally at the Renaissance Savery Hotel. If there's a "primary-type turnout" of 180,000 people, Lapp said, one of the "momentum guys"— Edwards or Kerry—will win. But if there's a turnout in a more expected range, such as 115,000 or 120,000, the Gephardt people think they have a shot.

The universe of expected caucus voters is so small that campaigns can tally up their "hard count," a list of the voters that they are certain will caucus for them. Once you know your hard count, you can make a rough calculation of the maximum number of voters that the other campaigns can turn out without beating you. And although campaigns won't disclose their hard-count number to prying reporters, Lapp said that John Norris, Kerry's Iowa campaign manager, said that 36,000 votes would be enough to win the caucuses. On Meet the Press, Gephardt said 35,000 to 40,000 votes would win.

There's a rumor (cited in the Boston Globe) that Dean has a hard count of 50,000, but Lapp doesn't believe it. Nor does Shari Fitzgerald, one of Gephardt's two Iowa campaign chairs. "If they turn out 50,000, they deserve to win," she said. "But they're not going to." (Fitzgerald also said that the assertion by Dean's Iowa field director, Tim Connolly, that 65 percent of Dean's solid supporters are new caucus-goers was "ridiculous.") And I heard a different but pretty reliable rumor that Dean's hard count isn't nearly as high as people think.

Trippi told a cautionary tale about hard counts from the 1980 caucuses, which he said had a higher turnout than 1988, the year that is usually cited for peak participation. That year, Trippi was working for the Kennedy campaign and was told to get a hard count of 1,000 voters in a certain area. Unbeknownst to Trippi, more than 600 voters had never participated in the caucuses in that area before. But Trippi busted his hump, found 1,200 names for Kennedy, and he was certain his man was going to win. Then the Carter people rolled in with 1,600 voters.

The Dean campaign is hoping to supplement its hard count by sending its 3,500 out-of-state volunteers into precincts Monday and asking them to find five additional votes for Howard Dean. Trippi said they're going to look for votes on the street, at the grocery store, at Starbucks, wherever. The "Perfect Storm" volunteers probably won't find five votes apiece, but Trippi said that "Fritz's Blitzers," the 1,000 out-of-state volunteers for Walter Mondale in 1984, managed to pull in about 2½ additional votes each for Mondale. If that ratio holds up, that's nearly 9,000 extra votes for Dean.

First-time caucus-goers like those are central to Dean's strategy for victory, and the hopes of the Dean campaign rest on a tremendous number of new voters turning out for the caucuses. Just not too many of them.


          Organization Man   

DES MOINES, IOWA—Tim Connolly should be scared, maybe even terrified, that Howard Dean is going to lose and lose big. Not because of the much-touted polls that show Dean sinking to a four-way tie in Iowa with the caucuses less than 48 hours away, but because Connolly, the Dean campaign's Iowa state field director, has seen the campaign's internal numbers. And using traditional Iowa math, the numbers don't look good.

"We did an analysis of our 'ones' "—the voters the campaign has determined are committed to caucusing for Dean (a "two" is a leaner, and a "three" is undecided), Connolly says. "Sixty-five percent of them have never caucused before, which is an extremely high number and would scare the shit out of most campaigns," because they'd be worried that the voters wouldn't show up Monday night. But Connolly's not scared. "Common sense would say I should be, but I'm not," he says. "We have the organizational strength to meet that challenge."

Organization. It's the mantra of every pundit on television and every campaign on the ground two days before the caucuses. At most of the candidate events I've attended since arriving in Iowa Thursday, I had the feeling I was watching a sideshow from the real campaign that was taking place somewhere else: on the streets and in people's homes. The story of the final days of Dean's Iowa campaign isn't his bus trip or his stump speeches. It's his 3,500 out-of-state volunteers who've come from all over the country—and farther, including three expatriates from Tokyo—to canvass the state. Over the course of the campaign's final three days, they're knocking on more than 200,000 doors. If Dean wins Monday, Connolly and the campaign will have proved that the Internet's effect on politics isn't just about fund-raising or Meetup or blogging. The Internet can win the ground war.

"We did an analysis of every precinct that is walkable, which is not a precise science," Connolly says. Those walkable precincts make up only about a third of the state's 1,993 precincts, but they include probably 85 percent to 90 percent of the delegate total. The Dean campaign mapped each one using computer software, and it determined the address of every registered Democrat and independent voter in the precincts. Suitably armed with the map, the addresses, and the right amount of Dean paraphernalia, the volunteers are swarming the state. Even if they don't convert a single voter, they return with important information—who's supporting Kerry or Edwards or Gephardt, who's undecided but going to the caucuses, who likes Dean but needs a babysitter to be able to caucus—that the campaign can use to fine-tune its strategy up to the final hours.

What does this have to do with the Internet? The vast majority of the volunteers who make up this weekend's "Perfect Storm" for Dean signed up online, transmitting their names, their housing needs, their flight information, and more. "We could not do the Storm without the Internet," Connolly says. Nor could the campaign have been prepared well enough to have specific jobs ready for each volunteer as he or she arrived. "It's still just the Stormers knocking on a door. But the back end—they would not be here and effectively employed and utilized were it not for the Internet."

The Net is the tool that's enabled the Dean campaign to capitalize on the grass-roots energy created by its candidate. In the past, an insurgent candidate like Dean would generate excitement, but he wouldn't be able to turn it into an organization. "This happened with Gary Hart," says Connolly, who worked for Hart's '84 campaign. "You got excited about the guy named Gary Hart, you liked what he was saying, but there was no local office to call, you couldn't go to a Meetup, etc."

The Internet excels at just keeping people involved with the campaign. "A volunteer who has nothing to do will become discouraged and no longer volunteer," Connolly says. "You used to do things. You'd have cases of envelopes, and you'd have people address them. And when they're done, you'd throw them away." Or you'd have volunteers enter unnecessary data into computers. Just to keep people involved and interested in the campaign and the candidate. The Dean blog serves the same function, while also serving as a communications medium and a fund-raising tool. The role of the Internet and the blog in the campaign's ground organization is what Dean's skeptics haven't understood, Connolly says. "They think that the Dean campaign is simply a cybercampaign. They don't realize that each of those people also lives in the analog world."

Just a couple of hours after I finished talking with Connolly, the Dean campaign was hit with its latest piece of bad news: the latest Des Moines Register poll, which shows Kerry in the lead with 26 percent, followed by Edwards at 23 percent, Dean at 20 percent, Gephardt at 18 percent, and a 4 percent margin of error. Connolly told me he doesn't "lose any sleep over the Zogby poll or any other poll," because he knows their strength on the ground.

Of course, every campaign hails its organizational strength. Gephardt spokesman Bill Burton told the Des Moines Register of his candidate's campaign, "This has been an organizational force in the state that has never been seen before by anybody, Democrats or Republicans." I asked Connolly what he'd be banking on if he were Gephardt's field director. Organized labor, the fact that he's won Iowa before, "and just the general denial that goes on in campaigns," he said. Monday night, we'll see who's in denial.


          Mystery Candidate   

MASON CITY, IOWA—Whatever John Kerry is doing right in this campaign, he isn't doing it on the stump. At least, that's my impression after watching him last night. Granted, it was the end of a long day for the senator, who spent much of it flying around Iowa by helicopter, and Kerry is a notoriously erratic speaker. The speech I watched him give had the quality of a rambling answering-machine message—Where is he going? What is he talking about? Will it ever end? But Kerry is the candidate that I've seen the least of in person, so I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe I've just never seen him on a good day. If his momentum in the polls is for real, he must be doing something right.

There's a nugget of a theme in the middle of the speech, where Kerry uses President Bush's aircraft-carrier "Mission Accomplished" banner (derision of which is a surefire applause-getter in Iowa and New Hampshire alike) as a device to critique President Bush's domestic policy. "What mission?" Kerry asks. What about the mission to provide jobs for the unemployed, or to alleviate the high cost of prescription drugs, or to help family farmers, or to decrease the number of uninsured, or to clean up the environment? On those counts, "It's not even mission attempted," Kerry hollers. "It's mission deserted! Mission abandoned! Mission not even tried!" (Kerry returns to this theme at the conclusion, when he says Democrats will hang their own "Mission Accomplished" banner when they send President Bush back to Texas.)

In his first 100 days as president, Kerry says, he would issue an executive order that prohibits government officials from working as lobbyists for five years after they leave public life. He vows that every meeting between an official and a lobbyist in his administration would be public record. He makes an eloquent case for providing health care for the uninsured, saying, "Health care is not a privilege for the powerful and the wealthy. It is a right for all Americans." And he gets the automatic cheers any Democratic candidate gets when he refers to John Ashcroft by promising to "appoint an attorney general who is outside politics" and who will "not pursue a political and a religious agenda."

The audience doesn't seem wowed by Kerry, and he isn't bum-rushed by supporters the way I've seen crowds swarm around Howard Dean, Wesley Clark, and to a lesser extent on Thursday afternoon, John Edwards. What am I missing? I wonder. But driving between Dean events today, I hear a radio ad that might provide part of the answer. It supports Ryan Lizza's theory that Kerry is gaining ground by pushing an anti-tax message. Unlike unnamed other candidates, "John Kerry is not going to raise taxes on the middle class," the announcer says.

Kerry didn't directly criticize Howard Dean or Dick Gephardt on Thursday (though the veteran who introduced him did criticize Dean when he compared Kerry's Vietnam experience to "another candidate" who "asked for a deferment" and then went skiing). But he emphasized tax reform, not just the repeal of the Bush tax cuts. "I'm not looking for some great redistribution" or a "confiscatory" tax scheme, he says. "I'm looking for fairness." He also promises to "scour" the tax code for provisions that benefit "Benedict Arnold" companies and CEOs who move their assets offshore to escape taxes. Fifteen years ago, Kerry says, U.S. businesses had $250 billion in offshore assets. Today, it's $5 trillion. "This system is rigged against the average American," he says. "America is losing its democracy to a dollar-ocracy."

If Kerry's lead in the polls is accurate, and if it's attributable to his message on tax cuts (two pretty big ifs, in my opinion), Dean's decision to withhold his tax-reform plan until after the Iowa caucuses will be considered a major miscalculation. Instead of betting everything on Iowa and New Hampshire in an attempt to end the campaign before it began, Dean overconfidently decided to keep part of his platform in his quiver, presumably hoping it would have greater impact during a later stage of the campaign.

But what's bad news for Dean could be good news for the rest of the country. For years, pundits have complained that Iowa and New Hampshire have too much control over the presidential nominating process. This year, most people thought Iowa and New Hampshire would be even more important, because the condensed primary schedule would create unstoppable momentum for the winning candidates. But it looks like Terry McAuliffe's plan is having the opposite effect: By cramming so many primaries and caucuses into a small part of the calendar, McAuliffe created something much closer to a national primary than ever existed before. Joe Lieberman and Wesley Clark are taking advantage of the new game by staking their candidacies on the states after Iowa and New Hampshire. And if John Zogby is right about John Kerry, Howard Dean may be forced to do the same thing.


          Wesley Clark Buys a Sweater   

CONCORD, N.H.—"This is so unfair, really," Gen. Wesley Clark moans from behind the dressing-room door. He's at the L.L. Bean Factory Store, and all he wants to do is try on a sweater, a plain, green, wool crewneck sweater, in private. But such is the plight of the presidential candidate in the surveillance society. Eight reporters and three minicams wait outside.

For better or worse, this is the most exciting event of the day. It's Thursday just after noon, and the press corps is getting antsy. Clark spent the morning doing interviews on television and radio, while the traveling press was shipped to a Panera sandwich shop to loll about. But after the tedium of watching a man deliver the same speech over and over and over again, watching him try on a sweater feels like entertainment.

When Clark arrived at the store, he was the one doing the razzing. "You need a new jacket. That looks like an Arkansas jacket," he said to Paul Barton, a rumpled reporter from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, who doesn't look adequately dressed for the below-zero temperatures that are about to hit New Hampshire. (We're at L.L. Bean because several reporters wanted to stock up on winter clothing. "How do you pack for six weeks?" one reporter explains.) Clark gets a kick out of teasing Barton, who hails from Clark's hometown of Little Rock. "He used to be on the TV show Columbo," Clark says. "But now he's traveling with us." Later, Barton strikes back, calling out, "General, do you want this atlas of Vermont?"

The rest of the press begins to join in. After Clark strategist Chris Lehane purchases a hunting cap, an Ignatius Reilly number with earflaps, several reporters urge the general to purchase a "Lehane hat" to go with the sweater he's shopping for. Clark demurs. "I'm not into hats. Nice try, guys."

"What I want is exactly this sweater," he declares, holding up a forest green crewneck. "If I can't find it, I'm buying this one and shrinking it. Paul, do you need a sweater?" Clark heads toward the dressing room to change, and the three women from the networks who record the general's every move teasingly ask if they can tag along. "Do you want to come with me?" he asks. No, not really, they say. "Then don't ask," he says, smiling.

Clark buys the sweater and wears it that night. But believe it or not, the episode isn't the last time the subject of the general's potential near-nakedness comes up. At the end of the day, some reporters plead with Clark to allow them to watch him go swimming the next morning. Clark's swimming prowess is heralded in the campaign film American Son, which is shown before some of the "Conversations with Clark" town halls. He swam two legs in a medley relay race for his state-championship swimming team in high school. (In a related subject, the 59-year-old Clark appears quite dashing to some women. One reporter says some older women told her he was "eye candy." Polls show that Howard Dean has much greater support among women than Clark does, but for sheer physical attractiveness, at least some women seem to think that it's Clark, not John Edwards, who's the matinee idol among the Democratic candidates.)

Clark sounds open to having reporters watch him swim, but he doesn't want any cameras to witness the event. When nearly everything you do gets caught on tape, maybe you need just a little time alone. Or maybe Clark's just tired of modeling for the press. As he put it, "No beefcake."


          General Electric   

PETERBOROUGH, N.H.—The metaphorical moment of my first 24 hours on the Clark trail took place late Tuesday, when a college student handed her résumé to a Clark aide and asked for a job. The objective emblazoned across the top of the page stated that she wanted a position with the Kerry campaign, except the word "Kerry" was scratched out and "Clark" was hand-written below it in ink. If that's not proof of Clark's newfound No. 2 status in New Hampshire, Howard Dean's campaign produced still more evidence when it authorized volunteers to distribute anti-Clark flyers at a Clark town-hall meeting Wednesday here in Peterborough.

On one side, the flyer reads "WESLEY CLARK: PRO-WAR," followed by a list of the general's much-discussed statements in support of the congressional Iraq war resolution. It's the stuff that gave Clark grief when he entered the race in the fall: He advised Katrina Swett, campaigning at the time *, to vote for the resolution, and he told reporters this past September that "on balance, I probably would have voted for it." On the other side, the flyer reads "WESLEY CLARK: REAL DEMOCRAT?" followed by Clark's much-discussed statements in praise of President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and the Bush Cabinet, plus evidence of his pro-Republican voting record in presidential elections (until 1992).

Clark strategist Chris Lehane paints this as hypocrisy on Dean's part. After calling on Terry McAuliffe to put a stop to intra-party bickering, the former Vermont governor aims his guns at his fellow Democrats when the tactic serves his interests. Fair enough, but who cares? More important is Clark campaign's sense of pride that it has arrived as a serious Dean rival. No campaign has ever been happier to have a target on its back.

Just as a press release at the Oct. 9 Phoenix debate showed that the Dean campaign considered Dick Gephardt its main obstacle of the moment, these flyers, however mild, demonstrate that Clark has become a big enough irritant to merit a swat of his own. "The Howard Dean campaign is starting to get a little nervous," Mo Elleithee, the campaign's New Hampshire communications director, crows at a conference call slapped together to gleefully respond to Dean's "negative attack flyers." "They're hearing our footsteps."

The Clark campaign insists that it was never engaged in any negative campaigning, and it's true that Clark has refrained from explicitly attacking Dean or any of his opponents at the three events I've attended so far. But there's no disputing that a healthy anti-Dean undercurrent runs through Clark's events. "You want to find the candidate you like, and you want to find the candidate who can win," says the man who introduces Clark in Peterborough. President Bush will run for re-election on national security and tax cuts, and Wesley Clark, he says, unlike Dick Gephardt and Howard Dean, can win on both.

Clark himself is even vaguer, but it's clear to whom he is referring when he opens each stump speech with a declaration that the party must rise above its anger in this election. "I'm not running to bash Bush," he says. "I'm running to replace him." The rest of the speech focuses on his patriotism, his faith, and his policies, but I wonder if this is another quiet shot at Dean. During Vietnam, "Every man in America understood that he had a military obligation," so it's no big deal that Clark served his country, Clark insists. (Did Dean understand his obligation?) And then, at a quick press conference after the town hall, a reporter asks Clark to respond directly to the flyers. Sounding more than ever like the man who just attacked him, Clark replies, "I guess that's what professional politicians do."

Correction, Jan. 9, 2004: In the original version of this article Chris Suellentrop referred to Katrina Swett as "Representative," when in fact she was merely campaigning for Congress at the time. Return to the corrected sentence.


          The Second-Place Candidate   

BEDFORD, N.H.—When I last saw Wesley Clark, I called him "Howard Dean with flags." Since then, he's reinvented his candidacy and made himself an even bigger threat to the former Vermont governor. He's now Howard Dean with flags and tax cuts.

Clark seems pretty close to emerging as the consensus pick for the only realistic non-Dean candidate. By sitting on the sidelines during the various Dean-Kerry, Dean-Gephardt, Dean-Lieberman, and Dean-"Insert Democratic candidate here" scraps, it appears that Clark's benefited from the "Dean vs. the Washington Democrats" infighting. He's in a statistical tie with Dean in a national poll. And by camping out in New Hampshire while everyone else makes a two-week sprint toward Iowa, Clark hopes to rise even further in the Granite State polls, too. (To be fair, not everyone is in Iowa. Joe Lieberman is spending a good deal of time in New Hampshire. But Clark strategist Chris Lehane rightly says that Lieberman is like "Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense: He's dead and doesn't know it yet.")

For Dean, Clark poses a slight problem because the general can't be painted with the same brush as Edwards, Gephardt, Kerry, and Lieberman. He's not a "Washington Democrat." He didn't vote for No Child Left Behind. He didn't vote for the Iraq resolution. The question for Clark is whether he will emulate Bill Clinton as the Comeback Kid, turning a potential second-place New Hampshire finish into an expectations victory, or whether he's just the voters' Fallback Guy. After all, the usual sad lot of the first runner-up is to sit around and vainly hope that the reigning Miss America won't be able to fulfill her duties. (Of course, there is always that chance that Howard Dean posed naked somewhere … never mind.)

As a candidate, Clark has improved his skills dramatically since I watched him speak in September. He's smoother, more coherent, and more concise. He's also willing to give voters at least mildly unpopular answers. At a "house party" on Tuesday (the first of several days that I'm going to be following Clark in New Hampshire), Clark tells a man concerned about job losses, "We'll probably never bring back the specific manufacturing jobs that have left." He doesn't rule out means-testing Medicare, though he does say that he's predisposed against it. (My favorite fudge on the subject: "I'm against means-testing as a matter of principle, insofar as it's at all practical.") The house is filled with physicians worried about medical malpractice suits, but Clark states his opposition to "arbitrary caps" on legal damages. "The court system really is important for ordinary Americans," he says. "The truth is if you're a poor person in this country or a person of modest means, the only way you can get legal advice is on a contingent-fee basis."

Despite the widely held belief that Clark is the candidate of Clintonian moderates while Dean is the candidate of the so-called "angry left," I don't see much evidence that voters at Clark events are more centrist or less liberal than voters I've seen elsewhere. (Exhibit A: A reporter walks up to a man in scrubs at the house party. "You're a doctor?" he asks. "An abortion provider!" is the cheery response.) At a town-hall meeting Tuesday night, one of Clark's biggest applause lines is his pledge to raise taxes on people who make more than $200,000 a year: "We're gonna ask them to be patriotic. We're gonna take back the Bush tax cuts."

But what really endears him to the crowd is his indictment of President Bush during the run-up to war. After outlining the Clark plan for Iraq—1) withdraw Paul Bremer; 2) put a non-American in charge; 3) place U.S. forces under NATO; 4) allow a rapid turnover of the country to Iraqis, "long before this July 1 date"; 5) don't let the Kurds keep their weapons, and don't give them an autonomous region—Clark mentions his Monday night appearance on MSNBC's Hardball. Chris Matthews was obsessed with Clinton's impeachment, Clark says. It's all he would ask him about. "We wasted millions of dollars and years in this country trying to find something that Bill and Hillary Clinton did wrong. And it was a waste of money and effort," Clark says. "I'd like to know why the United States Congress and this party is not demanding, every single day, an investigation into why the president of the United States misused the intelligence community, took us to a war we didn't have to fight, and still won't tell the American people the truth! That's what should be investigated! That's the truth!"

The candidate is angry, his voice rises, and the crowd leaps to its feet. It's Clark's best moment of a pretty good day. He's got them, I think, as the crowd presses around him for autographs and picture-taking. But I also can't help but think that Howard Dean would have had them on their feet from the start.


          A Browser's Guide to Campaign 2004, Cont'd   

On Aug. 14, 1991, Vermont Gov. Richard Snelling died and was replaced by his mostly unknown lieutenant governor. The state's press corps could only wonder, "Who is Howard Dean?" writes David Moats, the editorial page editor of the Rutland Herald, in the introduction to Howard Dean: A Citizen's Guide to the Man Who Would Be President. The book is written by "a team of reporters for Vermont's Rutland Herald & Times-Argus" who purport to know Dean best. Moats writes, "It took the next decade for those of us in the press, and our readership, to gain an understanding of the energetic, ambitious politician who was sworn into office that summer afternoon in 1991."

Unfortunately for the nation, the Vermont press corps can't give us 10 years to gain an understanding of Howard Dean. Instead, they've given us 245 pages. The book sketches a pretty positive portrait, but fair or not, the juicy parts tend to be Dean's lesser-known lowlights:

Like father, unlike son: After being rejected for World War II service "on medical grounds," Dean's father volunteers for a civilian job helping the Allied cause in North Africa. (When Dean bypassed Vietnam under similar circumstances, he went skiing.)

Strange bedfellows: Brother Jim Dean (who now works for the campaign) describes his brother's 1971 graduation from Yale: "We get to Howard's room, and he isn't there, but there are a bunch of people apparently living there who aren't Yale students but are kind of street people with tattoos and all."

Governor who? On the day he took office, "Dean was considered a relatively minor figure, almost a lightweight," writes Darren Allen, chief of the Vermont Press Bureau. "Democratic Lt. Gov. Howard Dean outstripped other Vermont politicians for anonymity," the Associated Press had reported that morning. "Dean has been elected to statewide office three times, but 39 percent of those questioned had no opinion of him or had not heard of him."

Lights out: In one of Dean's first major decisions as governor, he sided with power companies in favor of a 25-year contract to purchase electricity from Quebec. Environment groups opposed the project because of Hydro-Quebec's damming of state rivers; human-rights groups worried about the fate of the Cree Indians, whose land would be flooded; and consumer groups worried whether the plan would even save Vermont money. The consumer groups, at least, turned out to be right: "In the late 1990s, Vermont's two biggest power companies nearly became insolvent as they struggled to pay what turned out to be high costs for Quebec power." Vermont consumers and businesses received "steep rate increases."

Not-so-green Dean: As governor, Dean turned out to be pro-conservation but anti-regulation, a position that some environmentalists find hard to reconcile. The state bought and preserved more than 470,000 acres of wild land, but Dean's administration also gutted or ignored Vermont's environmental regulations in order to land new business development. Upon retirement, the executive officer of Vermont's Water Resources Board charged Dean's administration with underfunding the state's Agency of Natural Resources and with politicizing environmental science: "ANR has not been given the resources to adequately do its job and too often the scientifically sound recommendations by ANR technical staff are overruled in final permit decisions by political appointees." (Dean's budget chief admits in the book that some agencies, including the Department of Natural Resources, were underfunded: "I agree that they didn't have enough money to do what they were authorized to do.")

In general, Dean showed a disdain for Vermont's legal and regulatory processes in favor of ad hoc deal-making and what he called "common sense" and "reason." Dean's critics say he abandoned a 20-year approach of appointing locally respected officials to environmental commissions. Instead, he "seems to have looked to people who wouldn't oppose his philosophy, who wouldn't demand tiresome scientific data and who wouldn't mind working for a governor who might inject himself in cases," writes Hamilton E. Davis, former managing editor of the Burlington Free Press. Some of Dean's defenders argue that he "never really understood the damage he was doing to the regulatory system."

Like governor, like candidate: Dean "never quite grasped the idea that he was something other than a normal guy," Davis writes. "He was smarter than most, of course, and with an unusual job, but otherwise he seems to have considered himself an ordinary guy who could say pretty much whatever crossed his mind without getting too wrought up over it."

More love from fellow Democrats: The book relies in many places on All Politics Is Personal, a memoir by Ralph Wright, the Democratic speaker of the Vermont House during much of Dean's political life in the state. "I guess this was the one thing I never could understand about Howard Dean. He always seemed so ready to abandon his cause at the first sign of defeat," Wright complains. "Maybe it was his medical training that toughened him to the certain failures that awaited us all. Maybe it was an unwillingness to have any cause at all, at least any cause for which he was willing to risk his political skin. … It wasn't just causes he was willing to abandon, he was capable of acting the same with people."

Safety second: Dean, at a press conference explaining why he wanted Vermont's Agency of Transportation to stop removing some steep rock walls along a section of the interstate that the agency had deemed too dangerous: "I got sick and tired of looking at [the construction] on my way back and forth between Montpelier and Burlington. … I'm not a safety expert. … If someone gets killed, then it's one someone who didn't have to die. It's very hard to second-guess this. But I react the way a Vermonter has to, to this. I don't like it."

Davis, the former Burlington Free Press managing editor, cites the incident as a good example of Dean's managerial style, "which was to give the agency secretaries something close to full autonomy, but then to hold them accountable publicly." 

Dean's Kentucky campaign begins poorly: Letters received by Dean after he signed Vermont's civil-unions bill: "I was really sorry to read where you have allowed the passage of a bill recognizing queers to marry," wrote someone from Kentucky, "who vowed never to vacation in Vermont again." "I have been a Democrat all my life, but now that the Democrats are turning into queers, I am switching to the Republican Party. I hope you and all your queer buddies rot in hell."

Another said, "Dean Is a Faggot Lover. All Homosexuals, Go to Vermont, Dean Loves You. All Normal People, Stay Away From Vermont. A State Full Of Perverts—Run By Perverts. Boycott Fag Run Vermont." On one fund-raising walk after the bill-signing, an elderly woman walked up to Dean and said, "You fucking, queer-loving son of a bitch."


          A Browser's Guide to Campaign 2004   

Here's a quick guide to the good parts of Winning Back America, Howard Dean's campaign book to be published Dec. 3 (complete with a cover picture of the candidate trying his damnedest to look sunny):

Chapter 1: "I'm a Regular Guy." Dean touches on his family's roots and his childhood in New York City, and he makes passing mention of his Rhode Island prep school, but he says he "really grew up in East Hampton on eastern Long Island." His "idyllic childhood" involved being outdoors, riding bikes, a duck pond, fishing, sailing, and baseball. His dad wouldn't buy him a uniform for his baseball team because he thought it was a waste of money. The chapter concludes, "At heart, I'm a country person."

Chapter 2: Howard Dean, Farmer. Devoted to Dean's summer jobs as a teenager. Dean writes two sentences about working as a sailing-camp counselor but an entire page about his work on a cattle ranch in Florida. There he earned "agricultural minimum wage," cleared land, dusted crops, and in a yearning-macho voice worthy of Apocalypse Now's Col. Kilgore, he remembers "feeling the cool mist of the herbicide on my bare chest as the plane went over."

Chapter 3: "Unlike George W. Bush, I Had Black Roommates at Yale." Bush went to Yale, too, but his senior year was Dean's freshman year, 1968. "The gulf between our experiences was much larger, though; it was as if we were a generation apart," Dean writes, referring to the changes wreaked both by "the phenomenon of the sixties" and the increasing diversity of the Yale student body, including more Jews, more public school students, and in 1969, women.

Chapter 4: Howard Dean, Ski Bum. Dean's post-college years before medical school. He skis in Colorado (living in a cabin "in a little place called Ashcroft"), where he pours concrete and washes dishes to pay the bills. He becomes a teacher by virtue of a strange snap judgment after missing a plane to Bogotá, Colombia: "I've taken many hundreds of flights in my life, and this is the only time that's ever happened. I realized that there was a reason I missed the plane. I cut short my intended trip, went home, and decided to get to work." After teaching for a year, he takes a job on Wall Street. He decides he's too careful with other people's money to be a good broker, and that he doesn't really like New York City.

Chapter 5: Med School and Judy. Contains one of the more intriguing sentences in the book: "I didn't really get to be a happy person until I went to medical school." Dean's explanation for this is that he didn't work hard enough at Yale, and "If I'm directionless and coasting, I'm not happy." He meets his future wife, Judy Steinberg. He doesn't get into any of his top three choices for his medical residency. The University of Vermont was choice No. 4, and he moves to Burlington in May 1978.

Chapter 6: Dean Enters Politics. Is Dean a moderate Republican in disguise? He compares himself to his Republican father, a "fiscal conservative" who was "not particularly liberal on social issues, but he wasn't particularly conservative either. Today he would be considered a moderate, business-oriented Republican; he wanted the budget run properly. In that way, I am very much my father's son." Dean on why he's a "pragmatic Democrat": "I was friendly with the younger, more liberal Democrats because they were my age, but I didn't vote with them. I didn't relate to their political sensibilities."

Chapter 7: The Vermont Statehouse. A woman tells him, "You're going to do really well here, but you've got to get over this chip on your shoulder that tells you to fix somebody's wagon if they cross you."

Chapter 8: Governor. "Our telephone number remained in the book." Dean cuts marginal tax rates to improve Vermont's economy, but he insists he didn't engage in the "outrageous tax cutting that went on in some of the states." He also cuts spending programs over the objections of liberal Democrats. On one occasion, he visits Congress to talk about health care: "Bob Michel, the House minority leader, was there. He was a wonderful person. Newt Gingrich was there. He's not a wonderful person."

Chapter 9: More of the Vermont Miracle. Here's Dean's illustration of the "striking difference" between Republicans and Democrats: "When the Democrats controlled the National Governors Association (I was chair of the NGA from 1994 to 1995), we used to fight against our own party when it passed legislation that harmed the states. When the Republicans took over, however, they took orders from the G.O.P. in Washington, with few standing up for the people they represented. … Most Republican governors caved to the right-wing Republican White House because they were fearful; the folks in the White House are more than willing to threaten them."

Chapter 10: Pre-President Dean. He defends the Bush daughters: "I know that several thousand kids every year get caught with fake IDs." And he defends his wife's decision not to participate in his presidential campaign: "The notion that the wife is going to be dragged along in the wake of her husband's career is something that should have been left behind decades ago." Six sentences on religion, including "I'm a fairly religious person though I don't regularly attend church or temple," "I pray just about every day," and "I also believe that good and evil exist in the world, and I thoroughly disapprove of people who use religion to inflict pain on others."

Dean's favorite books: All the King's Men, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Ken Kesey's Sometimes a Great Notion; also Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed and David McCullough's Truman ("It is one of the books that has had the most impact on me in the last ten years").

Dean ranks the presidents: 1) Washington; 2) Lincoln; 3) FDR; 4) a four-way tie between Jefferson, Truman, TR, and LBJ, despite Vietnam. We also learn Dean's weight, about 167 pounds. And don't tell Arianna, but he drives a Ford Explorer.

Chapter 11: The Chapter Most Worth Reading. Dean on the execution of his brother Charlie by communists in Laos in 1975 and on the death of his father in 2001. His parents thought Charlie was CIA: "There was speculation that Charlie was in Laos because he was working for the CIA and I think my parents believed that to be the case. Personally, I don't think he was employed by the U.S. government in any capacity, but we'll probably never know the answer to that question." Dean admits that he has spoken to counselors about his brother's death, and the chapter ends, "I'm sure that, had he lived, he'd be the one running for president and not me."

The second half of the book is campaign boilerplate: True believers will nod in approval, but you've heard this stuff before.


          They Don't Like Him When He's Angry   

MANCHESTER, N.H.—Howard Dean tried, he really did. With the press huddled in the assistant principal's office at Manchester's Central High School, he's responding to charges from John Kerry that he's a "flimflam artist" who will say and do anything—"pander" to the NRA, stand with Newt Gingrich, flip-flop on NAFTA, Social Security, and the Confederate flag—to get elected. Dean's trying to play the front-runner, to not let his temper or his mouth get the better of him.

"We're not going to get down in the mud with Sen. Kerry," he says, then rolls off a Wesley Clark-worthy chestnut: "I want to say that I think this campaign has to be about the future, not the past." As the current president's father might have put it, Message: I'm above the fray. "I think what Sen. Kerry is doing is not helping the Democrats," Dean continues. "Our target has to be not each other, but our target has to be replacing George Bush as president of the United States. So, I would call on Sen. Kerry to try to lift his campaign a little bit higher." I, Howard Dean, have a positive, optimistic vision for America.

This is probably smart politics on Dean's part, but it's awfully disappointing. Just a little more than an hour earlier, he had turned to Jodi Wilgoren of the New York Times and said, "We're going to have a press avail later and blast Kerry." Dean's New Hampshire state director, Karen Hicks, looked surprised. Make sure we have the local press, too, Dean tells her.

What's he going to say? No one but Dean appears to know. Dorie Clark, the New Hampshire communications director, has no idea what I'm talking about when I ask her. Matthew Gardner, the campaign's New Hampshire press secretary, responds with a similar reaction when I tell him Dean said he was going to "blast Kerry." "He did?" Gardner says. "You're getting good insight into our speechwriting process." Later, when Wilgoren asks Gardner about it, he says, "We don't know if it's gonna happen yet."

But at 9:45 a.m., the assembled reporters are shuttled into the assistant principal's office. The press waits in the front section, around the administrative assistant's desk, while Dean and his team huddle in the next room. As the door closes, I see Dean seated at a chair in the center of the room, with his aides standing around him. I feel like Kay at the end of The Godfather, except the door that shut in her face didn't have a Garfield poster on it. Actually, Dean is closer to Sonny, and I think his aides are urging him not to go to war.

One of the best things about covering Dean is that he says things like, "I probably shouldn't say this," and then actually says things that he probably shouldn't. Most politicians use "I probably shouldn't say this" like they use "frankly," to preface either bland statements or red-meat panders in order to make them sound more straight-talking than they are. Sure, Dean employs that tactic, too (he's a master of the straight-talking pander), but he also lets his mouth get the better of him at times. For example, at Thursday night's town-hall meeting in Nashua, Dean said that President Bush "pooh-poohed" the foreign-policy notion of "constructive engagement" only "because he didn't think of it first. Which is probably not a surprise. I probably shouldn't have said that."

But when Dean comes out from behind the Garfield door, he's mouthing these second-rate platitudes. "I'm not going to attack Sen. Kerry in this press conference, other than to ask him to try to keep his focus on the task at hand, which is making sure that George Bush does not have a second term as president." He repeats the forward-not-backward bromide: "This is about the future, not the past." The reporters try to poke something interesting out of him, but he'll have none of it. "All I'm willing to do is to tell you what my positions are today, that's what's important." Give-'em-hell-Howard has gone from fire-and-brimstone to kumbaya.

But just before the availability ends, we get a flash of the old Dean, when he responds to a question about Kerry's criticism of his impending decision to turn down public financing for the campaign. Minutes after criticizing Kerry for personal attacks, Dean decides it's fair game to bring up Kerry's wife. It sounds like an implicit shot at Kerry's manhood for needing his wife's ketchup money in order to compete in New Hampshire:

"I would argue that Sen. Kerry has a very narrow place to stand on this issue, because if we opt out, we will raise money in small donations, which is exactly how campaign finance reform is supposed to work. He clearly does not have that financing capability. If he opts out, he will have a large check from himself, or his wife, to run the campaign. That's very different from what I'm talking about."

"OK, that's it," says one of Dean's aides. Dean talks for a little while longer, then says "Thank you very much," and walks out.


          Flag on the Field   

BOSTON—Who wants to bet that Howard Dean wishes he had said last week thathe wanted to reach out to people who have silhouettes of naked women on their mudflaps? Or people who sport, "American by birth, Southern by the grace of God" bumper stickers? Or people who display pictures of Calvin urinating on Chevy or Ford logos on their back of their trucks?

But no, he had to say, "I still want to be the candidate for guys withConfederate flags in their pickup trucks" in an interview with the Des Moines Register.  I happen to think this is a bogus issue. Recovering their appeal to white working-class voters is something of an obsession among Democratic Party politicians, and the Dean campaign rightly points out that the Confederate-flag comment is something that their candidate says all the time, and that he never received any criticism for it in the past. During tonight's debate in Boston, the campaign issued a press release pointing to C-SPAN footage from the February 2003 winter meeting of the Democratic National Committee that was attended by every candidate except John Kerry. There, Dean said, "White folks in the South who drive pick-up trucks with Confederate flag decals on the back ought to be voting with us because their kids don't have health insurance, either, and their kids need better schools, too." The campaign says he was received with a standing ovation, "even bringing Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe to his feet," and they say you can see it on C-SPAN here, right before the 2:09:00 mark.

That said, Dean handled tonight's kerfuffle over the Confederate flag poorly, and he did so in a way that raises a worrisome question about his candidacy. Why is he so obstinate about admitting that he was wrong? Earlier in the campaign, when Dean was confronted with changes in his positions on trade, on Social Security, and on Medicare, his first instinct was to deny that he had held the earlier position. Surely it would have been far easier to just say, hey, I made a mistake.

Something similar happens tonight. Dean could easily have pointed out that he phrased his comment slightly differently this time, and he could see how it was misinterpreted. It is, after all, somewhat different to say that you want to "be the candidate" for those who wave the Confederate flag than to say that you want to bring those voters into your party. The latter suggests at least some effort to change hearts and minds, while the former implies that you just want to be their standard-bearer. Sure, he calls the Confederate flag a "loathsome symbol," a "racist symbol," and he says the party shouldn't embrace it. But on the matter of admitting that he made a teeny, tiny error, Dean won't budge.

In a way he created his own mess tonight. Had he simply answered the question he was asked by an audience member—"Could you explain to me how you plan on being sensitive to needs and issues regarding slavery and African-Americans, after making a comment of that nature?"—he might have gotten off more easily. But instead of explaining what he wants to do for African-Americans, Dean decides to talk about white people. "There are 102,000 kids in South Carolina right now with no health insurance. Most of those kids are white. The legislature cut $70 million out of the school system. Most of the kids in the public school system are white. We have had white Southern working people voting Republican for 30 years, and they've got nothing to show for it." This is all fine and good, and I'm generally against targeting political appeals to specific ethnic groups, but it was shockingly tone deaf for Dean to respond this way. The question was, how will you be sensitive to the needs of black people? Dean's response was, by working to help white people.

Al Sharpton jumps on Dean and says, "You are not a bigot, but you appear to be too arrogant to say 'I'm wrong,' and go on." (After the debate, Dean mistakenly attributes this comment to John Edwards.) Then, John Edwards stands up to confront Dean and delivers one of the best shots of the evening: "Because let me tell you the last thing we need in the South is somebody like you coming down and telling us what we need to do." By the time Edwards is done, you can feel his poll numbers among Southerners with chips on their shoulders start to spike. Luckily for Dean, at this point Carol Moseley Braun decides to bail him out, by endorsing his explanation that the party should bring whites and blacks together. She says, "Yes, this is an important conversation. But it has to be done in a way that does not play into the real racists and the real right wing."

Here was the night's marijuana-use scorecard, for those who didn't hear all of it: Kerry, yes; Kucinich, no; Sharpton, no; Edwards, yes; Lieberman, no; Clark, no; Braun, no comment; Dean, yes.

This may be my own pangs of guilt for calling him "irrelevant" after the Detroit debate last week, but other than the fact that he was dressed like Wesley Clark's Mini-Me (in an identical black turtleneck and blazer), I thought Dennis Kucinich had a pretty good night. I agree with him on almost nothing, but this was the first debate in which he did more than switch from angry ranting to moon-eyed idealism and back again. He was even a little inspiring when he told the young people in the audience to trust their hearts and their "inner knowingness."

Still, Kucinich couldn't top Wesley Clark for the best moment of the evening. In the spin room after the debate, Matt LaBash of the Weekly Standard asks the general what he thought when he noticed the two candidates were wearing the same outfit. Clark pauses, as if he's unsure of how to take this, then says, "I thought Dennis Kucinich had excellent taste."


          See Dick Run   

SIOUX CITY, Iowa—Dean season! Gephardt season! Dean season! Gephardt season! If any lingering debate remained over which presidential candidate is currently enjoying his media moment, my two days with Dick Gephardt settled it. The 20 national reporters who follow Gephardt for all or part of his campaign swing from Des Moines to Sioux City are the latest sign that not only have the leaves turned in late October, but so have the media.

I came along to witness firsthand the evidence for something I wrote earlier this month after the Phoenix debate, that Gephardt's hard-nosed and well-organized Iowa campaign presents, at the moment, the biggest obstacle to President Dean (or, to be fairer, Democratic Nominee Dean). But I missed the media conspiracy memo that told everyone else to show up, too. During Gephardt's weekend swing in Iowa two days before, only three national reporters trailed the candidate. But now, David Brooks is here. So are Mara Liasson of NPR and Carl Cameron of Fox News. Throw in reporters from ABC, MSNBC, Knight Ridder, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Christian Science Monitor, Newsweek, and the New York Times. (Counting Brooks, on Wednesday there are two New York Times writers following Gephardt.) Just for the sake of overkill, there are reporters from the British press and from Japanese television along for the ride. At one event in Pocahontas, Iowa—a town with an absolutely gigantic statue of the Indian princess outside her teepee welcoming visitors from the highway—the number of journalists nearly matches the number of prospective caucus-goers.

The Gephardt campaign pushes its slow-and-steady-wins-the-race angle (or is it a plea for votes from Maryland Terrapins alums?) by emblazoning "Fear the Turtle!" on the front of the press itinerary, complete with a little clip-art turtle on every page. The packet includes the latest Iowa poll results, which show Gephardt and Dean in a statistical tie for the lead, with Kerry and Edwards lagging behind. For good measure, the campaign throws in last week's favorable press clippings, including Des Moines Register wise man David Yepsen's assertion that Gephardt is the Iowa front-runner and that Dean has "plateaued" in the state. Also enclosed is a much-discussed Washington Post report—distributed, in truncated form, to voters at campaign events—that Gephardt is the candidate "many prominent Republicans fear the most." Not included is a delicious metaphor for Gephardt supporters to latch onto: While hurtling from campaign stop to campaign stop in Iowa over the past few months, the Dean van has been pulled over multiple times for speeding.

At his first stop, a senior center in Des Moines (the first of three consecutive senior centers visited by the campaign), Gephardt is supposed to deliver a "health policy address," but it turns out to be a rehash of old Howard Dean quotes about Medicare. (Later, while being ribbed by reporters about the false advertising, Gephardt's Iowa press secretary, Bill Burton, protests that he never called it a "major" policy address.) The newest wrinkle: Gephardt wants to paint the 1997 balanced budget accord—generally thought to be one of President Clinton's major accomplishments, and one supported by Dean—as a "deep, devastating cut" in Medicare.

While Gephardt speaks in front of a sign that reads "Protect Social Security" and "Protect Medicare" over and over, like computer-desktop wallpaper, I wonder: Does he really want to play this game? Dredging up old quotes and votes about Gephardt's onetime conservatism is what helped to derail his '88 campaign. He voted against the establishment of the Department of Education. He voted for a constitutional amendment to ban abortion. He voted to means-test Social Security and to eliminate cost-of-living adjustments from the program. He voted for Reagan's 1981 tax cuts. He opposed an increase in the minimum wage. Does a man with a legislative record this long and varied really want to ostentatiously declare, "There are life-and-death consequences to every position taken and every vote cast"? If that's so, how many times was Dick Gephardt on the side of death?

For now, however, it's a more recent House vote that's preventing Gephardt from running away with the Iowa race. At nearly every campaign event I attend, Gephardt is forced to deliver, in effect, two separate stump speeches. The first is the one he would like the campaign to be about: universal health care, jobs, and the immorality of rapacious multinational corporations. Gephardt's not anticapitalist: "Capitalism is the best system," he says in Pocahontas. "But capitalism has to have rules, so the capitalists don't destroy the very system" they benefit from.

He describes his visits to Mexico, China, and India, where workers live in the cardboard boxes used to ship the products they make. "I smelled where they live," he says. They live without electricity, without running water, with raw sewage running down the streets and next to "drainage ditches filled with human waste." "They live in worse conditions than farm animals in Iowa," he continues. "This is nothing short of human exploitation, that's what it is, for the profit of some special interests in the world." I'm not sure I agree with Gephardt's proposed solutions—though I'm intrigued by his notion of a variable international minimum wage—but there's no denying that he's a powerful critic of global capitalism's excesses.

Then, once Gephardt has finished and the applause has subsided, almost invariably a voter raises his hand to ask: What about Iraq? Was this war about oil? How can we recover the world's respect? How can we pay for all your programs with a war on?

At this point, Gephardt is forced to unveil stump speech No. 2. Sept. 11 changed everything, he says. Government's highest obligation is to protect American lives. In a Gephardt administration, the highest priority would be to prevent a nuclear device—"dirty or clean"—from going off in New York, Los Angeles, or Des Moines. That's why he decided Saddam Hussein needed to be removed. He supported the war because he believed the estimates of the CIA and the warnings of former Clinton administration officials, not because he listened to President Bush ("I would never do that").

Slowly, Gephardt's defense of his vote for the congressional war resolution transitions into a critique of the president. Though in an interview he insisted that the president was smart, on the stump he's not shy about insinuating that the president (whom he often refers to as "Dubya") is stupid. "He's incompetent," "He frightens me," "He's hard to help," I told him America founded the United Nations because "I wasn't sure he knew the history," and "If you'd been meeting with him every week since 9/11, you'd be running for president," too. Because Bush refused to negotiate with Kim Jong Il, North Korea is now "weeks away" from producing nuclear bombs. Bush abandoned the peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine, saying, "It's not our problem." He's arrogant. He doesn't play well with others. By the end, people are satisfied enough with Gephardt's explanation, and maybe even a little terrified, but you get the sense that they're not enthused by it.

But Gephardt isn't counting on enthusiasm. He has a couple edges on Dean, in addition to his obvious union support. For one, a surprising number of Iowa Democrats just don't like the former Vermont governor. The opposition to Gephardt tends to be substantive, based on his support for the war or his failure as Democratic leader to enact a more Democratic agenda. But the opposition to Dean is stylistic, or maybe even cultural. In socially conservative Iowa, sometimes you hear it whispered: Where's Dean's wife? Before Gephardt arrives at an event in the town of Ida Grove, I overhear a woman grumble about Judith Steinberg's refusal to campaign for her husband. "I can't get used to that," she tells her companion. "It's supposed to be a family thing."

By the same token, Gephardt never fails to mention the "church loans" and "church scholarships" that allowed him to attend Northwestern and then Michigan law school. He also refers to his son, Matt, who survived prostate cancer as an infant, as a "gift of God." I don't think I've ever heard Howard Dean say the word "God" in reference to anything.

Just before the last stop in Sioux City, I'm granted a 10-minute ride-along interview with Gephardt. I've got a number of questions, but the one I really want an answer to is this: If balanced budgets and free trade—two things that don't get a lot of emphasis in the Gephardt platform—weren't the secrets of the Clinton economy, what were? Higher taxes for the rich? Gephardt explains that the '97 budget accord wasn't needed to balance the budget, and then he tries to explain why Bush's steel tariffs—which Gephardt supported, and which made the United States lose manufacturing jobs—aren't analogous to the retaliatory tariffs Gephardt wants to be able to impose on foreign products or factories that don't comply with minimal labor and environmental standards. Soon enough, we're so sidetracked that I've forgotten entirely what we were talking about.

But afterward, when I'm once again following Gephardt in my rental car, I'm left with my question: Clinton balanced the budget and promoted free trade, and the economy boomed. President Bush ran up enormous deficits and put new restrictions on trade, and the economy sputtered. Isn't Dick Gephardt's plan closer to President Bush's?


          Comment on Americans in Need of Another Option? by knowyouroptionselection2012   
I like your approach to this, Stacie. I have always wanted another candidate to be represented in the debates, but I suppose if they did that It would just take even more votes away from the Republican and Democratic parties. I think Americans need more options, and they have them but what they really need is for those options to have more of a chance. Who knows if that will ever happen... Maybe George Clooney can run for president next term... -Lizz Mullis
          BMB Ad Scheme - Interviews For All!   
BMB'sad scheme has launched..read on...

Hi all.

More gr(ad) scheme bits and bobs to tell you about. This time it's the turn of BMB.

They've been in touch to tell us about their advertising scheme; this time, they're doing things a little differently. Application forms are out - they want to chat, and to chat to everyone, grads and non-grads alike.

Here's what they've got to say:

"We're continuing our mission to challenge the status quo and democratise the interview process, so whether you're a grad, non-grad, martian or womble, if you want an interview, you can have one. We'll be doing it for one day only – November 22nd.

For those who are unfamiliar with how it works, it's simple really. We'll be getting you all to spin a virtual roulette wheel to let pot luck decide which one of our BMBers you will speak to via Skype for a 7 minute chat. Our BMB panel will be changing all the time, so you won't have a clue which one of our top dogs you'll be talking to. And neither will we.

Essentially, you'll need to come back and visit our website between 7am and 11pm on November 22nd (2012 – just to be totally clear). We'll be streaming the ever-changing interview panel live from an agency webcam – and it'll be up to you to spin the arrow to find out who you'll be chatting to for 7 minutes."

To learn more about the interview, and the job that's up for grabs, click here

Good luck!" 

Best of luck to each of you.

          Yingluck Shinawatra's Foreign Policy   
Thaksin's foreign policy

Friday, 20 January 2012
Written by Pavin Chachavalpongpun
Asia Sentinel

Taking over where Thaksin left off

It has been six months since the July election that brought the first woman into Thailand's top political position—Yingluck Shinawatra.

During this period, Prime Minister Yingluck has encountered several difficult issues, ranging from the devastating floods, the attempt to provide amnesty for her fugitive brother Thaksin, and the increasing cases of lèse-majesté.

But there is one area in which Yingluck has appeared to be doing well so far—foreign affairs. It is fair to say that since Thaksin’s downfall in 2006, Thailand has had no tangible foreign policy. The Samak Sundaravej and Somchai Wongsawat governments were short-lived. And the Abhisit Vejjajiva period was marked by conflicts with neighbouring countries, especially Cambodia.

It is therefore a real test for Yingluck to reinvent Thai diplomacy, the one that departs from antagonism toward neighbouring countries. In terms of Thai-Cambodian relations, Yingluck paid a high-profile visit to Cambodia, as the first country in her introductory tour. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen was gleeful to roll out a red carpet to receive the Thai female premier. For now, relationship between the two countries has returned to normalcy. And the secret to this success is that issues in this bilateral relationship have simply become less politicised, particularly on the Thai part.


Yingluck then went on to visit a number of countries which are members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), including Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Laos, Myanmar and recently the Philippines. Symbolic as they were, these visits signalled Thailand’s recovery from political illness at home and its eagerness to take a role in ASEAN. But a question must be asked: How realistic is the Thai eagerness?

During her visit to Naypyidaw in December 2011, Yingluck demonstrated that her government wanted to diversify Thailand’s policy options towards Myanmar, by reaching out to both the government as well as the opposition. Yingluck held a discussion with President Thein Sein and also paid a visit to Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the opposition National League for Democracy. At the end of her tour, Yingluck offered her support for national reconciliation in Myanmar, wishing to see further political reforms in the country long governed by the military.

Can Thailand, despite these bold moves initiated by Yingluck, expect a shift in its foreign policy which was traditionally seeking to achieve national interests at the expense of promoting universal values, such as democracy and human rights protection? My answer is rather pessimistic.

Ultimately, both Yingluck and her foreign minister, Surapong Tovichakchaikul, have no experience in diplomacy. And one must not forget that Yingluck is indeed Thaksin in disguise. Accordingly, it is likely that she will restore the Thaksinized foreign policy which was essentially commerce-driven without any respect for principles.

From 2001-2006, Thailand under Thaksin was so ambitious that it thought it could conquer the world. Thaksin, a successful businessman himself, was confident that he could transform Thailand into a hegemon dominating smaller and weaker states in the region.

Thaksin then bypassed Asean, once a cornerstone of Thai foreign policy. He perceived Asean as a representation of an “old politics”—the kind of politics sullied by rigid bureaucratic processes. Instead, Thaksin invented a myriad of business-centric cooperative frameworks, including the Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) and the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS). He also strengthened Thai economic cooperation with major trading partners through the conclusion of many free trade agreements. Undoubtedly, the Thaksin period witnessed the most colourful and innovative foreign policy Thailand ever had had in decades.

The remapping of Thailand in the age of globalisation put Thaksin’s foreign policy on the spotlight—he was tipped to become Asia’s next leader. Thaksin endorsed diplomatic activism; and in this, he wanted to place Thailand at the core of the regional order through which the Thai influence was wholly felt. In the latest reinvention of Thailand as a regional leader, Thaksin also turned the kingdom into a company, run by a CEO prime minister whose task was to evaluate economic costs and benefits in the conduct of diplomacy.

Not only did the content of foreign policy change. The operational mode within the foreign ministry also underwent an extreme makeover. Representatives of the nation and the monarch were now becoming CEO ambassadors who would visit their customer for products demonstrations. While CEO ambassadors were dressed with more power, the role of the Foreign Ministry in the formulation of foreign policy diminished.

The prime minister, his advisory team, and his chosen foreign ministers all sidelined the Foreign Ministry’s officials. And the House of Government became enormously influential in the making of foreign policy.

The radical transformation of the Foreign Ministry has left a deep scar of conflict between those who agreed and disagreed with Thaksin’s approach. And the immense polarization in politics in this post-coup period has further intensified such conflict within this state agency. Yingluck and Surapong must not attempt to politicise foreign policy issues, as seen in the previous administration.

If Thaksin is indeed behind the formulation of Thailand’s foreign policy in this Yingluck era, then he has to learn the mistakes he made while he served as prime minister. Thaksin’s past foreign policy initiatives might have provided his government with a channel to secure Thailand’s supposed national interests. But along the way, he and his family members were accused of stoking their wealth by using state mechanisms.

Yingluck needs to open up the foreign policy decision-making process, making it transparent to the public to avoid any controversy. More importantly, her foreign policy for the next few years, if she will ever serve the full four-year term, will have to be based proportionally on economic interests and good governance. This is because her government has received a popular mandate through democratic means and also because Thailand cannot run away from a new international environment that has become more democratic.

(Pavin Chachavalpongpun is a fellow at Singapore’s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Pavin is the author of “Reinventing Thailand: Thaksin and His Foreign Policy” (2005). Follow him at www.facebook.com/pavinchachavalpongpun.)

          Golf's democratic championship — the British Open   
  Last night in the Ontgolf.ca travel section, I posted a story I wrote after my first trip to Scotland, a visit that included a round at Turnberry’s Ailsa course, which will host the British Open this week  for the first time in 15 years. I was — and remain — very fond of the […]
          Bernie Sanders for governor of Iowa   
Jeff Cox examines the Democratic field of candidates for governor through a “Berniecrat” lens. -promoted by desmoinesdem All Democrats understand the great damage that Republicans have done to Iowa in a very short time, but we are far from being clear on how to undo the damage. Obviously, we must to elect a Democratic governor, […]
          Piazza San Carlo, duro affondo del Pd Morri: "Appendino come Schettino"   

Il segretario torinese dei democratici attacca: la sindaca porta la città a inabissarsi scaricando sugli altri le colpe per salvare se stessa. Avviso di...


          Gorsuch is already pushing the Supreme Court right on religion, guns and gay rights   

When Judge Neil M. Gorsuch went before the Senate in March as President Trump’s first nominee to the Supreme Court, he sought to assure senators he would be independent and above the political fray.

“There is no such thing as a Republican judge or Democratic judge,” he said more than once. “We...


          Democrats block Republican legislator's proposal for forensic audit of UC Office of President   

          California lawmaker pushing bill to jolt electric car market with $3 billion in subsidies   

California’s electric car rebate program needs a recharge to meet the state’s clean air goals, said Democrat Assemblyman Phil Ting of San Francisco.

His bill to provide $3 billion in subsidies for electric car buyers over 12 years is wending its way through the Legislature. On Wednesday, Ting held...


          Democracy Reporter - Toronto Star - Toronto, ON   
The assignment will focus on electoral and senate reform, as well as ideas, policies, technology and tools to aid democratic innovation. What You Will Be Doing....
From Star Media Group - Mon, 01 May 2017 20:02:39 GMT - View all Toronto, ON jobs
          Beyond the crisis: developing sustainable alternatives    
Conference co-organized by the Socialists & Democrats, the Greens and the ETUI, 9 February 2012, European Parliament The purpose of this conference is to obtain reactions and feedback – from MEPs, academics and social policy actors – to some of the ETUI’s research findings and policy proposals. How is the current situation to be evaluated? What are the most relevant considerations in constructing an agenda, a narrative, and policy alternatives to unadulterated austerity measures? These are the two major questions up for discussion.
          European Panel 2011: Workers’ participation – Building a more democratic and social Europe, 8&9 November, The Hotel, Brussels   
Over the last 60 years workers’ participation has developed into an essential component of the European socio-economic model. This year’s European Panel conference, organized by the Hans-Böckler and Friedrich-Ebert Foundations and the ETUI in cooperation with the German and European Trade Union Confederations, will debate in what way workers’ participation has made a more sustainable contribution than other corporate governance models to overcoming the crisis.
          The Cold War Kabuki   



Well, you all know what the big story was this past week. I wasn't going to post on it but enough people have asked and it seems germane to the ongoing Reality Show we're all unwitting (and unwilling) extras in. In case you've been on media blackout or a vision quest, here's a brief thumbnail sketch:
The United States launched a military strike Thursday on a Syrian government airbase in response to a chemical weapons attack that killed dozens of civilians earlier in the week. 
On President Donald Trump's orders, US warships launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the airbase that was home to the warplanes that carried out the chemical attacks, US officials said.
As it happens, the airstrikes apparently didn't even seem to have the desired deterrent effect. The air base was up and running soon after the strikes:
Syrian warplanes took off from the air base hit by US cruise missiles yesterday to carry out bombing raids on rebel-held areas, in a defiant show of strength. 
Just hours after the al-Shayrat airfield was bombed with 59 US Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from warships in the Mediterranean, aircraft struck targets in the eastern Homs countryside, according to a monitoring group. 
The airstrikes were carried out on Khan Sheikhoun - the same town Bashar al-Assad’s regime is accused of attacking with chemicals - and seven other towns around eastern Homs, some of which controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil).
This rebound seemed to catch the War Party off guard, since CNN reported on the same story but appeared to ascribe the airstrikes to phantom warplanes. I mean, it couldn't be the Syrians or the Russians, right?:
(CNN) New airstrikes targeted a town in Syria that was hit by a chemical attack earlier this week, activists said, less than a day after the US bombarded a Syrian air base to "send a message" to the Assad regime. 
It wasn't immediately clear who conducted the strikes on Khan Sheikhoun, which was hit on Friday and Saturday, though only Russian and Syrian regime aircraft have been bombing that area of rebel-held Idlib province.
CNN, who've been hammering Trump around the clock since he humiliated their network head in a post-election tantrum, suddenly changed their tune when he started raining bombs on Syria. Sam Kriss reports:
The media was kind to Trump’s attack on Syria. Every pompous outlet that has spent the last five months screaming incessantly about the threat to democracy, the inevitable deaths and the terror of wars, had nothing but applause as soon as the wars and the deaths actually got going. 
 A fleshy and dangerous idiot, a vulgarian, an imbecile – until those first perfect screaming shots of Tomahawk missiles being fired were broadcast – that’s our guy, you show them Donny! This is when, as Fareed Zakaria put it on CNN, Trump ‘became the president.’
The same mainstream media, which has become a hornet's hive of conspiracy theorizing since the election, was quick to shoot down any conspiracy theories about the Syria Bombshow.
A volley of US cruise missiles had barely been launched into Syria before the internet filled up with fact-free theories about the real reason for the international crisis.
A popular one on the right-most fringes: the US government actually carried out the chemical weapons massacre in Syria last week - a "false flag" to trick President Donald Trump into retaliating, thus entangling himself in a foreign war. 
A slightly more convoluted strain on the left: Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the chemical weapons massacre to help Trump - distracting Americans from an investigation into Trump's campaign ties to Russia by provoking the missile strike.
Alt-left conspiracy theorists prefer the idea that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the chemical weapons massacre to help Trump - distracting Americans from an investigation into Trump's campaign ties to Russia.
Ron Paul, whose son Rand is now a rising star in the Senate, was perhaps the most prominent public figure to cast shade on the Syria op:
“Before this episode of possible gas exposure and who did what, things were going along reasonably well for the conditions,” the former Texas congressman stated. “Trump said let the Syrians decide who should run their country, and peace talks were making out, and Al Qaeda and ISIS were on the run.” 
“It looks like, maybe, somebody didn’t like that so there had to be an episode, and the blame now is we can’t let that happen because it looks like it might benefit Assad.”
For his part, Doctor Bones speculates that the real mark for a possible elaborate sting wasn't Assad or Putin, but in fact another player altogether. The timing seems hard to argue with:
A gas attack launched by the fleeing Syrian rebels, a side quickly losing it’s CIA-sponsorship and well aware it’s continued health depends on American funds, sure has a shit-ton more to gain from wide swathes of civilians dying on camera. Even better if they die particularly gruesomely and in a way the rebels claim they couldn’t be responsible for despite being photographed with all the tech to do so. 
How does Trump’s seemingly pointless explosion-show play into this? The answer: perfectly...
Consider also that the Chinese President was in Mar-a-Largo when the strike was underway, that Trump not only told him it was going to happen but actually ate dinner with him as it went on and the event spirals into even greater significance. A show of force full of technical prowess in a contested warzone while the Russians stood back and watched sends a powerful message to a foreign leader currently dining in enemy territory.
Is this just swivel-eyed speculation? Is there any reason to believe this wasn't all some improbable coincidence, that Xi Jinping was indeed dining with Trump while the Bombshow began? Because if it's not a coincidence then it's one hell of a psyop; running a mindfuck on your most dangerous frenemy during a state visit. What's this all about then? Joseph Farrell reports:
While there have been a spate of articles recently about growing Russo-Chinese defense and security ties, matching their growing financial and economic ties, this one left me stunned, for there was a statement within it that caught my eye, and Mr. B's as well, and I'm sure the reader saw it as well. As one can imagine, this one fueled my "high octane speculation" mode to the nth degree. Here's the statement, and a bit of surrounding context:
Russia and China are tired of Washington's "defensive" military installations in their backyards — and they're already taking action. 
According to the Atlantic Council and other responsible thinkers, the Untied States reserves the right to park its missile shields anywhere it wants, whether it be in Europe, East Asia, or the dark side of the Moon.  
I guess we should have seen all this coming, no? Shortly before the Bombshow, Trump's top Praetorian removed Trump's assumed consigliere from the NSC:
President Trump on Wednesday removed controversial White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon from the National Security Council, part of a sweeping staff reshuffling that elevated military, intelligence and Cabinet officials to greater roles on the council and left Bannon less directly involved in shaping the administration’s day-to-day national security policy. 
The restructuring reflects the growing influence of national security adviser H.R. McMaster, an Army three-star general who took over the post after retired general Michael Flynn was ousted in February and who is increasingly asserting himself over the flow of national security information in the White House. 
Do yourself a favor and set a news alert for "McMaster." That's a name you're going to be hearing more of in the days ahead. Or you won't. Which is probably the more troubling scenario.

And with Bannon off the NSC there's apparently an effort to shuffle him off to some fat-salaried thinktank glue factory.  The not-news of Bannon's interest in The Fourth Coming was dragged out yet again, this time by The New York Times. But the article planted a helpful hint of why Bannon is on the elbow list and might be giving us a grim preview of the year ahead:
Bannon’s Views Can Be Traced to a Book That Warns, ‘Winter Is Coming’

WASHINGTON — Stephen K. Bannon has read the book three times. He still keeps a copy of it — one that’s creased and copiously underlined — in a library with the rest of his favorites at his father’s house in Richmond, Va. 
The book, “The Fourth Turning,” a 1997 work by two amateur historians, Neil Howe and William Strauss, lays out a theory that American history unfurls in predictable, 80-year cycles of prosperity and catastrophe. And it foresees catastrophe right around the corner. 
It also leads to unavoidable questions about war and whether Mr. Bannon, who has recommended the book to countless friends and made a film about it in 2010, is resigned to catastrophic global conflict. He says he is not. 
And he remains unconvinced that the United States can effectively intervene in overseas conflicts like the one unfolding in Syria. As one of the voices in the administration who expressed skepticism about a military strike in response to the Assad regime’s chemical attack on its own citizens, Mr. Bannon insists he is no warmonger.
Well, there you have it.

Is the Syria proxy war threatening to heat up again, or is this all just another dance in the Cold War Kabuki? Have actions like the Bombshow  become like sacrificial actions in ongoing magical actions? Or is the real war is for your mind and is playing out in thousands of manufactured headlines, blizzards of 30 second videos with deceptive text crawls and the endless babbling of overpaid talking heads?

I feel stupid even asking the question.

Just in case you're worried that this is all leading to nukes raining down on American cities,  the cognitive warriors seem to be trying to defuse any expectations of impending Armageddon: 
White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster says that while the U.S. would push for regime change in Syria, “We’re not the ones who are going to effect that change.” 
“What we’re saying is, other countries have to ask themselves some hard questions,” McMaster said in an interview on "Fox News Sunday." “Russia should ask themselves, ‘What are we doing here?’ Why are we supporting this murderous regime that is committing mass murder of its own population and using the most heinous weapons available?’”
Translation: No way in Hell we have the readiness needed for a hot war with a military superpower.

And since the mindfuck is the mother's milk of Cog-War, the careful inoculation of mixed messages into the mediafeed becomes just as vital a weapon as a cruise missile. Scratch that- much, much more so.
Trump Administration Is Contradicting Itself On Regime Change In Syria 
The Trump administration appears divided on whether the U.S. is pursuing a policy of regime change in Syria, days after the first direct American military attack against the Syrian government. 
Thursday’s strike “was related solely to the most recent horrific use of chemical weapons,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos on Sunday. The goal of the attack was to send a message to Syrian President Bashar Assad and its ally Russia that the U.S. wouldn’t tolerate the use of chemical weapons, he continued. “Other than that, there is no change to our military posture.”
But United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley said there can be no peace in Syria with Assad in power. “There’s not any sort of option where a political solution is going to happen with Assad at the head of the regime,” she told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday. “Regime change is something that we think is going to happen because all of the parties are going to see that Assad is not the leader that needs to be taking place for Syria.​”​
Though Haley stopped short of indicating the U.S. would take military action to overthrow the Syrian dictator, her comments reflect a sharp change from the administration’s previous position.
The difference here, of course, is that Tillerson sets and executes policy and Haley sits in a glorified debating society and blows smoke and fairy dust for a bunch of bored bureaucrats wishing they had their real government jobs back, the ones they enjoyed before being pushed upstairs to their present posts. The media only pays attention when bombs are falling.

It's all black magic, make no mistake about it. There are different terms and epithets for it all now,  but when you strip all the twenty-dollar words and the credentials and the technology away the intent and the effect is no different than a witch doctor's curse. 

William S. Burroughs understood this, since his uncle Ivy Lee was the creator of one of these modern strains of black magic, so-called "public relations." Burroughs considered his uncle a bonafide "evil genius." And Lee was a piker compared to the algorithm-fired masters of the dark arts striding the globe today.

Here's a story that probably won't pop up on your Facebook feed. Anyone paying attention to the Russia hacking story probably knows how incredibly weak the hacking evidence actually is,* but now Wikileaks is teasing out the Seth Rich mystery again.
‘Guccifer 2.0’ Chat With Nude Model Sparks New Conspiracy Theories About Murder of DNC’s Seth Rich 
New chat logs between alleged Democratic National Committee hacker Guccifer 2.0 and a Playboy centerfold model surfaced today via Wikileaks on Twitter, throwing more fuel on the conspiracy theories surrounding murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich. The Twitter conversation, conducted via direct messages, purports to reveal Rich as the primary leaker of the DNC e-mails that proved highly disruptive during the 2016 presidential election. 
In direct messages dated August 25, 2016, Guccifer 2.0 mentioned having a whistleblower at the DNC, and said he was looking for a “person of trust who can be a guarantee in case anything happens.”
When Young suggested trusting Julian Assange, Guccifer 2.0 called him “unsafe” and that he “may be connected with Russians” despite being his hero. 
“I’d like to find a journalist who can do an investigation and teel [sic] the real story of his life and death,” he said, and revealed that the whistleblower he was referring to was none other than a person named “Seth.” 
“I suppose u know who I’m talking about,” he said, adding that he felt sorry about the murdered DNC staffer’s parents and that he wished for journalists to uncover the truth of his murder.
  
Seth Rich, a 27-year-old mid-level DNC staffer, was shot and killed in the early morning of July 2016 in Washington DC, while he was walking home from a bar and talking with his girlfriend on his mobile phone. Rich’s killers left his watch and wallet untouched on his body. 
This wasn't floated by Alex Jones or David Icke, it popped up on Heat Street, which is owned by the Dow Jones Company and Rupert Murdoch's NewsCorp. This story looks like it's going to grow some legs yet.

So are you sick of the Cog-War and the Cold War Kabuki yet? Tired of your social media hijacked by proxy warriors fighting battles for cliques within the Intelligence community? Burnt out on the whole Reality Show Presidency and its discontents altogether?

Start looking into ashrams in Sri Lanka, then. This machine is just getting warmed up. 




*Maybe some bright young spark should see if maybe the hacking an inside job by intel people who correctly judged a Trump White House would be easier to dominate than a bloated, top-heavy Clinton one. Just throwing that out there for giggles and grins.


          Spy vs Spy: Stuck in the Funhouse   

Funhouses are only fun when you can leave them. When the distorting mirror images become your new, day-to-day reality construct, then it's not so much fun anymore. 

I dreaded the 2016 Election because I had a very strong feeling that no matter who won we'd be plunged into a dystopian paradigm in which major power blocs would erupt into all-out warfare. And I sensed that neither Trump nor Clinton possessed the political skills or the communicative powers to keep the carnage fully out of our view. Or our path.


And I was right.


Trump's only been in office for a little over two months and I'm exhausted already. I'm certainly not alone in this. It all feels like a TV sitcom in its seventh season, well after the writers ran out of story ideas. The shark has been good and jumped. And the ratings (the approval ratings, in this case) are plunging too.


What is truly demoralizing though is the utter transparency of the secret war playing out, the seemingly endless spy vs spy thrust and counter-thrust, and the obvious deceptions. Even more so is the Animal Farm-like metamorphosis of the Democratic Party into a full-blown, funhouse mirror of McCarthy-era Republicans, but with Glenn Beck-worthy conspiracy theories thrown in for good measure.


I don't know about you but all of a sudden the world seems especially cold, hard, gray, harsh. Masks are coming off, velvet gloves tossed into wastebins. It doesn't seem to matter who wins the scorpion fight, you're still stuck with a scorpion.  

We can't call out the play-by-play because it's largely being acted out behind closed doors. But we can look at the collateral damage and make certain speculations. There's no doubt that it would all be just as bad-- probably worse-- if Hillary won. Even so, this all feels especially grating.

You've probably seen this story:
Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on Friday apologized to the owner of a Washington pizzeria that became the subject of a conspiracy theory about human trafficking last year. 
Pizza shop Comet Ping Pong was thrust into the spotlight last year after a gunman allegedly fired a shot inside the restaurant. The suspect said he was investigating the unsubstantiated conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton and her campaign chairman, John Podesta, were operating a child sex trafficking ring out of the restaurant. 
The theory, which became known as Pizzagate, had circulated among far-right conspiracy theory websites and social media accounts. 
“In our commentary about what had become known as Pizzagate, I made comments about Mr. Alefantis that in hindsight I regret, and for which I apologize to him,” Jones, who runs Infowars, said in a video. James Alefantis is the owner of Comet Ping Pong. 
Jones said his website relied on reporters who are no longer employed by Infowars and that video reports about Pizzagate were removed from the website. He also invited Alefantis onto the show to discuss the incident.
It was preceded by this story:
FBI’S RUSSIA PROBE EXPANDS TO INCLUDE ‘PIZZAGATE’ THREATS 
According to McClatchy News, the FBI’s Russian-influence probe agents are exploring whether far-right news operations, including the pro-Donald Trump sites Breitbart News and Infowars, “took any actions to assist Russia’s operatives.”  Trump’s ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn and his son, a member of the Trump transition team, were among those who boosted the so-called “PizzaGate” pedophile conspiracy theory.
I doubt this will quell the fervor among the Pizzagaters on sites like 4chan and Voat. Given the suspicion many on the fringes regard Jones with it may in fact give the flagging movement a fresh jolt. Jones' apology may also have to do with the drive to purge YouTube of "extremist" content and the controversy over the use of advertising on videos corporate clients find objectionable. A World without Sin, as our Gordon might put it. 


Washington Post headline, pre-election.

So much for theories that the FBI was ready to make mass arrests of prominent Washington figures related to Pizzagate.  Has any "mass arrest" Internet story ever panned out?  

Maybe it has:
Donald Trump became president on Jan. 20. And in one short month, there were more than 1,500 arrests for sex crimes ranging from trafficking to pedophilia.  
Big deal? You bet. In all of 2014, there were fewer than 400 sex trafficking-related arrests, according to FBI crime statistics. Liz Crokin at TownHall.com has put together a great piece on the push by the Trump administration to crack down on sex crimes. And she notes that while "this should be one of the biggest stories in the national news... the mainstream media has barely, if at all, covered any of these mass pedophile arrests. This begs the question – why?
This may have nothing to do with Trump-- in fact, it's likely it doesn't-- since these kinds of actions are planned out months in advance. The arrests continue, in case you were wondering, with major busts going down on a near-weekly basis. Someone's cleaning house. 

For what it's worth, I always reckoned that Pizzagate was in fact cover/distraction for a more hidden struggle, one that would take place under the radar*. As I noted back in November:

No one is saying as much but this very much feels connected to a deeper, more covert war. 
Why would I say such a thing? Because at the same time the Pizzagate story went dark we've seen major strikes taken against international pedophilia, which actually is a global conspiracy, with its own networks, secret codes and moles within established centers of power such as schools, police departments and governments.  
With such combustible accusations-- and such potential for a scandal that could quickly spread out of control (ie., involve political figures you're not trying to destroy)-- you'd naturally expect the action to go dark and the fall guys to be placed pretty far down the foodchain. (Remember that a prior investigation bagged one of the most powerful people in Washington at one time, former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert).†


"EVER WONDER WHAT IT'D BE LIKE TO DIE IN A PLANE CRASH?" 



It may be sheer coincidence, but James Alefantis' former partner suffered a major heart attack this week
Media Matters for America founder David Brock was rushed to a hospital on Tuesday after suffering a heart attack. 
According to a press release from MMA, the founder of the liberal media watchdog and analysis website was rushed to the hospital early Tuesday afternoon and received treatment.
Sure, it may be coincidence. But I couldn't help but remember this story, published soon after the election
Dems to David Brock: Stop Helping, You Are Killing Us 
Democrats know they need someone to lead them out of the wilderness. But, they say, that someone is not David Brock.

As David Brock attempts to position himself as a leader in rebuilding ademoralized Democratic Party in the age of Trump, many leading Democratic organizers and operatives are wishing the man would simply disappear.
 
"Disappear." Huh. 
Many in the party—Clinton loyalists, Obama veterans, and Bernie supporters alike—talk about the man not as a sought-after ally in the fight against Trumpism, but as a nuisance and a hanger-on, overseeing a colossal waste of cash. And former employees say that he has hurt the cause.
It's worth remembering that Breitbart.com Andrew Breitbart died of a heart attack at the age of 43. A year before he'd posted a cryptic tweet that some have since linked to the Pizzagate imbroglio.  Just before his death he hyped some revelation about Barack Obama's past. 

A coroner in the office handling Breitbart's body subsequently died of arsenic poisoning. The day Breitbart's autopsy results were revealed, in fact.

COME BACK ROY COHN, ALL IS FORGIVEN


We also saw James Comey revive Russiagate, which had been flatlining after Vault 7. Any illusions among Trump fans that the FBI was secretly on their side were ground into powder, between this revelation and the Pizzagate conspiracy investigations. 

One can't help but wonder if the New Praetorians (I've noticed that the Praetorian meme has been picked up by more prominent commentators, but you heard it here first) are losing their last shred of patience with Donald Trump's shenanigans and are planning imminent regime change: 
WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI is investigating whether Donald Trump’s associates coordinated with Russian officials in an effort to sway the 2016 presidential election, Director James Comey said Monday in an extraordinary public confirmation of a probe the president has refused to acknowledge, dismissed as fake news and blamed on Democrats. 
In a bruising five-hour session, the FBI director also knocked down Trump’s claim that his predecessor had wiretapped his New York skyscraper, an assertion that has distracted White House officials and frustrated fellow Republicans who acknowledge they’ve seen no evidence to support it.
How surreal is the world in which you know live in? So much so that mainstream political site The Hill is comparing the action in Washington to a Stanley Kubrick film, one which has become notorious for the conspiracy theories that have been projected onto it (and is well familiar to Synchronauts):
On the 40th anniversary of the publication of The Shining, Stephen King must be wondering if Washington is working on its own sequel. For the last couple months, Washington has been on edge, like we are all trapped in Overlook Hotel with every day bringing a new “jump scare,” often preceded by a telltale tweet. Indeed, a Twitter whistle has replaced suspenseful music to put the entire city on the edge of their seats. 
In this Shining sequel, however, people are sharply divided on who is the deranged ax-wielding villain in this lodge, the president or the press. Ironically, with the recent disclosure that some of the Trump campaign may indeed have been subject to surveillance, the president is looking more like Danny Torrence, a character dismissed for constantly muttering “redrum, redrum” until someone finally looked in a mirror at the reverse image to see the true message.
Yeah, I'm not really feeling that metaphor there, but whatever. It's been that kind of year.

Now the Internet is burning up with theories that disgraced National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has "turned" and is going to testify against the Trump Administration, or at least figures attached to it. 


It's hard to imagine a three-star general can be stupid enough to be guilty of things Flynn's been accused of but that may speak to a culture of impunity in Washington, in which your misdeeds are only punished if you get on the wrong side of the wrong people.

LIKE A BAD CYBERPUNK NOVEL


One wonders if the secret war has spread outside Washington. Car service giant Uber seems to be having a major run of rotten luck lately: 
Uber Technologies Inc. is suspending its self-driving car program after one of its autonomous vehicles was involved in a high-impact crash in Tempe, Arizona, the latest incident for a company reeling from multiple crises. 
In a photo posted on Twitter, one of Uber’s Volvo self-driving SUVs is pictured on its side next to another car with dents and smashed windows. An Uber spokeswoman confirmed the incident, and the veracity of the photo, and added that the ride-hailing company is suspending its autonomous tests in Arizona until it completes its investigation and pausing its Pittsburgh operations.

The incident also comes as Uber, and Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick, are currently under scrutiny because of a series of scandals. The ride-hailing company has been accused of operating a sexist workplace. This month, the New York Times reported that Uber used a tool called Greyball to help drivers evade government regulators and enforcement officials. Kalanick said he needed "leadership help" after Bloomberg published a video showing him arguing with an Uber driver.
So who did Kalanick piss off? 

Coincidentally- there's that word again- the crash comes soon after Wikileaks revealed that CIA hackers had the ability to override the computer systems in automobiles. From Mashable:

WikiLeaks has published a trove of files it says are linked to the CIA's hacking operations — which apparently includes efforts to hack into cars.  
The first in a series called "Vault 7," "Year Zero" supposedly comprises 8,761 documents and files from an isolated, high-security network situated inside the CIA's Center for Cyber Intelligence in Langley, Virginia.  
"Year Zero" details the CIA's malware arsenal and "zero day" exploits against Apple iPhones, Google's Android operating system, Microsoft Windows and even Samsung TVs.  
 According to a document from 2014, the CIA was also looking at infecting the vehicle control systems used by modern cars and trucks. 
Oh, that's reassuring. Speaking of control systems, apparently pimps are controlling prostitutes with RFID chips:
It turns out this 20-something woman was being pimped out by her boyfriend, forced to sell herself for sex and hand him the money. 
 “It was a small glass capsule with a little almost like a circuit board inside of it,” he said. “It's an RFID chip. It's used to tag cats and dogs. And someone had tagged her like an animal, like she was somebody's pet that they owned.” 
This is human trafficking. It’s a marginal issue here in the U.S. for most of us. Part of that is because the average person isn’t sure what human trafficking – or modern day slavery – actually means.
Technology is our friend, right? And now this: 
Turkish Hackers Threaten To Wipe Millions Of iPhones; Demand Ransom From Apple 
Today, courtesy of CIO, we learn that a group of hackers referring to themselves as the "Turkish Crime Family", has been in direct contact with Apple and is demanding a $150,000 ransom by April 7th or they will proceed to wipe as many as 600 million apple devices for which they allegedly have passwords. 
The group said via email that it has had a database of about 519 million iCloud credentials for some time, but did not attempt to sell it until now. The interest for such accounts on the black market has been low due to security measures Apple has put in place in recent years, it said.

Since announcing its plan to wipe devices associated with iCloud accounts, the group claimed that other hackers have stepped forward and shared additional account credentials with them, putting the current number it holds at over 627 million.

According to the hackers, over 220 million of these credentials have been verified to work and provide access to iCloud accounts that don't have security measures like two-factor authentication turned on.
 
Of course, if credible, with an ask of just $150k, this is the most modest group of hackers we've ever come across.
Given the war that's erupted between the increasingly aggressive Turkish government and the EU, money may clearly not be the object here. Turkish PM Erdogan is clearly set on reconstructing the old Ottoman Empire and shivving Apple might just be part of the march.

Besides, Turkey is taking that recent coup attempt-- which is almost universally blamed on the CIA-- very personally.


Speaking of the EU, we've seen stories that Trump advisor Steve Bannon wants to dissolve the union. Which may be why Trump-adversary John McCain announced his unalloyed support for it- and the "New World Order" (his words, not mine):
The world "cries out for American and European leadership" through the EU and Nato, US senator John McCain said on Friday (24 March). 
In a "new world order under enormous strain" and in "the titanic struggle with forces of radicalism … we can't stand by and lament, we've got to be involved," said McCain, a former Republican presidential candidate who is now chairman of the armed services committee in the US Senate. 
Speaking at the Brussels Forum, a conference organised by the German Marshall Fund, a transatlantic think tank, he said that the EU and the US needed to develop "more cooperation, more connectivity". 
"I trust the EU," he said, defending an opposite view from that of US president Donald Trump, who said in January that the UK "was so smart in getting out" of the EU and that Nato was "obsolete". 
He said that the EU was "one of the most important alliances" for the US and that the EU and Nato were "the best two sums in history", which have maintained peace for the last 70 years. "We need to rely on Nato and have a Nato that adjusts to new challenges," he said.
Would McCain speak this way to a domestic audience? Of course not. Or maybe he would- I can't tell which way is up anymore. But either way it's good to know where he really stands.

Like McCain, China continues to sound a similar note of support for globalization, on which its very economic survival so desperately depends:
Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli told a gathering of Asian leaders that the world must commit to multilateral free trade under the World Trade Organization and needs to reform global economic governance. 
“The river of globalization and free trade will always move forward with unstoppable momentum to the vast ocean of the global economy,” Zhang said. China will remain a strong force in the world economy and for peace and stability, he said, adding that countries must respect one another’s core interests and refrain from undermining regional stability. 
I suppose this is why China is off the target list for our new Cold (?) Warriors.

I've resisted posting on all this because it's all so depressing. I've actually written a few pieces on this chicanery that I ended up roundfiling. But I suppose I just wanted to go on the record about all this skullduggery, for posterity's sake.



UPDATE: Sex trafficking arrests and trials continue to proliferate. Most recent bust, an international ring in Minnesota. There is way too much activity going down in too short a time for this to be spontaneous.


* Which is exactly why I refrained from commenting on it here for the most part, instead noting that it had become a kind of memetic virus in much the same way that the Franklin/Boy's Town scandal had in the 90s. (Note that prior to the election-- and Pizzagate-- Trump nemesis the Washington Post was all over the issue of sex trafficking in the nation's capital). 

† The ongoing legal and police actions coinciding with the moves to shut down the Pizzagate fringes on the Web seem like the exact kind of action one would expect if there were a serious operation at work. Shutting down the Internet chatter makes perfect sense in this context because it can only complicate cases made by prosecutors. 
          Walt Whitman: Singer of the Body Electric   
The fire, the sweet hell within,
The unknown want, the destiny of me.
— Walt Whitman
---
“By the time he was 12 years old, an apprentice printer in Brooklyn, Walt had lived in about a dozen different houses, each one more cramped than the last. Of the eight Whitman children who survived infancy, one was a mental defective and three were psychic disasters; three were normal, and one became the chief celebrant of what William James called ‘the religion of healthy-mindedness,’” wrote Justin Kaplan in Walt Whitman: A Life.
“Walt’s father … owned a copy of The Ruins, a celebrated attack on Christianity and supernaturalism by the French savant Count Constantin de Volney. Like others who grew up on such literature, Walt believed that a long, dark tyranny over man’s mind and body was at last coming to an end; the Children of Adam would be able to walk in their parents’ garden. Leaves of Grass borrowed the insurgent and questioning spirit of these mentors along with literal quotations from their writings.”
---
“Words, when he acquired language, became life itself, links to the external world and to his unconscious,” Kaplan wrote, quoting Whitman: “ ‘A perfect writer would make words sing, dance, kiss, do the male and female act, bear children, weep, bleed, rage, stab, steal, fire cannon, steer ships, sack cities, charge with cavalry or infantry, or do any thing that man or woman or the natural powers can do.’ Words were instruments of command and of relationship to a world waiting to be named for the first time.”
---
Whitman had the dubious benefit of a “…thrifty and national scheme of education devised by an English Quaker, Joseph Lancaster,” Kaplan noted. “Assisted by hierarchies of student monitors, one teacher was able to distribute rote learning, together with fundamental social values and strict notions of the good and the useful, to 200 and more pupils.
“Sometimes he invoked muscular Christianity and resorted to the birch rod, the cowhide strap and, in Whitman’s words, ‘other ingenious methods of child torture,’ mental as well as physical. He demanded unison, unquestioning obedience to regulations, undivided attention and a physical discipline that dictated the precise way to hold and close a book during recitations and the position of hands when students stood at parade rest.
“The Lancaster method was designed to separate children from their ignorance as cleanly and impersonally as Eli Whitney’s cotton gin separated fibers from seeds. It proved to be stupefying even for pupils less jealous of their emotional freedom than Walt.”
---
Whitman said that the first time he wanted to write anything was “…when I saw a ship under full sail, and had the desire to describe it exactly as it seemed to me.”
---
Whitman loved swimming with other young men, nude in the fashion of the 19th century, their bodies electric.

Poise on the hips, leaping, reclining, embracing, arm-curving and tightening,
The continual changes of the flex of the mouth, and around the eyes,
The skin, the sun-burnt shade, freckles, hair,
The curious sympathy one feels, when feeling with the hand the naked meat of the body,
The circling rivers, the breath, and breathing it in and out…

“The young men ran dancing and laughing along the sand, bathed in the surf, fished, dug clams, speared messes of fat, sweet-meated eel,” wrote biographer Kaplan. “He loved swimming, of a passive sort — ‘I was a first-rate aquatic loafer,’ he recalled. ‘I possessed almost unlimited capacity for floating on my back.’ Cradled, rocked and drowsing, his body rolling ‘silently to and fro in the heave of the water,’ he lay suspended between the depths and the light, between the unconscious and the world of necessity.”
---
As a young man, Whitman wrote a bad didactic novel about the evils of drink, and edited a newspaper attacking Catholics and the Irish. For solutions, like other Americans, he looked West.
“Continentalism and Union were to shape Whitman’s poetic vision (‘I am large. I contain multitudes’),” Kaplan wrote. “ ‘California’s shores’ were not only the western boundaries of the Union — they were the boundaries of the found and the ‘yet unfound,’ the measure of his psychic growth. (‘Eastward I go only by force,’ Thoreau said, ‘but westward I go free.’)”
Unfortunately, Whitman’s enthusiasm for freedom only went so far. While sympathetic to the plight of individual black people, Whitman regarded their race as unfit for freedom and decried the “ranting” and “abominable fanaticism” of the abolitionists.
---
“Sylvester Graham, temperance reformer, physiological guru and eponym of the delicious cracker, joined in the battle against dyspepsia, or indigestion, a malady of epidemic proportions for Americans,” wrote Kaplan. “The “Peristaltic Persuader,” as he was called, favored internal and external applications of cold water and repasts of boiled vegetables and bread made from unsifted whole-wheat flour. Alcohol, tea, coffee and red meat were proscribed, on the grounds that they stimulated the lower nature.
“In a celebrated lecture on chastity, Graham argued that there had to be something amiss with any organ that sent priority messages to the brain — an erect penis was no more wholesome than a bloated stomach or an infected finger. According to him and other popular theorists of the day, the seminal loss for a man in one act of sexual intercourse was the equivalent of 40 ounces of blood, a fifth of the body’s supply. This appalling figure was a warning against sexual overindulgence — meaning more than once a month — could cause tuberculosis, convulsions, indigestion and even imbecilism; sex — especially masturbation — withered the thinking organs of men, just as thinking withered the reproductive organs of women. Sex was a major disorder, even a catastrophe; it was a wonder the species had lasted as long as it had.”
And then came Whitman. “By 1855, when Whitman presented himself coatless and bare-necked, his pelvis thrust forward, in his Leaves of Glass frontispiece, men of fashion were dressed from head to toe like black tubes,” Kaplan wrote. “No other poet of his century wrote about the body with such explicitness and joy, anatomizing it at rest and cataloguing its parts, celebrating it as an instrument of love:

“Without shame the man I like knows and avows the deliciousness of his sex,
“Without shame the woman I like knows and avows hers.

“No other poet of his century paid such a continuing high price for his boldness, ostracism, ostentatious neglect, ridicule, censorship, suppression.”
---
“…Whitman saw few encouraging signs in 1850. Democratic hope was at an ebb tide. Two years earlier, the overthrow of Louis Phillipe in France had touched off a wave of revolutions all over Europe. Americans rejoiced in the expectation that soon no throne would be left standing anywhere.

“‘God, ‘twas delicious,’ Whitman wrote,
‘That brief, tight, glorious grip
‘Upon the throats of kings.

“But the forces of liberal nationalism — Emerson’s ‘party of the Future,’ ‘the Movement’ — were crushed with appalling ferocity. The revolutionaries of 1848 died on the battlefields, at the barricades and before firing squads, or they fled into exile. Karl Marx spent the rest of his life in London writing Das Kapital in the reading room of the British Museum. Mazzini and Carl Schurz also took shelter in London; Giuseppe Garibaldi dipped candles on Staten Island. Whitman was to see the Hungarian patriot Louis Kossuth riding up Broadway. Reaction, repression and militarism prevailed once again.”
And then came the Civil War.
---
Whitman poured his love of young men onto the emotional desert of war, soothing its victims at great cost to himself.
“(H)e dedicated all his resources of physical and emotional strength into service to wounded soldiers, the maimed, the sick and the dying, for well nigh three years — until his strength broke down and he was prostrated for six months, probably the start of his later paralysis,” wrote A.L. Rowse in Homosexuals in History.
“He did an extraordinary job as a nurse-missionary-almoner all on his own; the doctors said that his services in the Washington war-hospitals and camps were more valuable than their own. Today he would be described as a psychotherapist; he was healer, father-confessor, dispenser of consolation and gifts he collected for the men. But his outpouring of love was the most important. A good lady-worker told him that the men were unresponsive. Little did she know: with limbs shattered, sick or dying, they longed to be kissed. Here was one young wounded New Yorker among thousands. ‘He behaved very manly and affectionate. The kiss I gave him as I was about leaving he returned fourfold. I had several such interviews with him. He died just after the one described.
“One cannot go into all that Walt did for these men, writing their letters, always bringing presents, spending all he could collect on them to keep their spirits going, consoling, hearing their prayers, taking their last messages.”
---
Neil McKenna, in his The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde, reported that in his trip to America in 1882, “Oscar desperately wanted to meet Walt Whitman, whom he and many others considered to be America’s living poet… Whitman’s poetry spoke of the potency of friendship and love between men, particularly between working-class men, and positively oozed homoeroticism. Indeed, the Calamus section of Whitman’s great poetic cycle Leaves of Grass was so intensely homoerotic that it gave rise to the short-lived term ‘calamite’ to denote a man who loved men.”
They spent hours together, drinking elderberry wine. “One of the first things I said was that I should call him ‘Oscar,’” Whitman reported. “‘I like that so much,’ he answered, laying his hand on my knee. He seemed to me like a great big, splendid boy. He is so frank, and outspoken, and manly. I don’t see why such mocking things are written of him.”
And Wilde’s reaction? David Friedman wrote that, “A Philadelphian joked that it must have been hard for Wilde to swallow the homemade wine Whitman had offered. For once Wilde rejected an invitation to snobbery. ‘If it had been vinegar, I should have drunk it all the same,’ he said. ‘I have an admiration for that man which I can hardly express.’”
---
Bronson Alcott, Louisa May’s father, was present when Whitman met Henry David Thoreau in 1856.
“Observing the edgy traffic between them, Alcott was reminded of ‘two beasts, each wondering what the other would do, whether to snap or run,”” Kaplan noted.
“He decided that either Henry was afraid Walt would steal his woods or Walt had recognized that for once he had met his match in Henry, ‘a sagacity potent, penetrating and peerless as his own,; an ego as unbiddable, an eye as hawklike. (Emerson surmised that perhaps Henry’s ‘fancy for Walt Whitman grew out of his taste for wild nature, for an otter, a woodchuck or a loon.’)… Each had his own vector of self-willed resistance to a trade- and conformity-minded society.”
Thoreau became an evangelical booster of Leaves of Grass.
---
Ralph Waldo Emerson urged Whitman to cut some of the more physically vivid passages from the expanding editions of Leaves of Grass. No more “love-flesh swelling and deliciously aching” or “limitless limpid jets of loves hot and enormous.” And please no more references to…

…The young man that wakes, deep at night, the hot hand seeking to repress what would master him;        
The mystic amorous night — the strange half-welcome pangs, visions, sweats,        
The pulse pounding through palms and trembling encircling fingers — the young man all color’d, red, ashamed, angry;

Whitman asked Emerson if the book would be as good without such passages. Emerson paused, then replied, “I did not say as good a book. I said a good book.”
Years later, Whitman said, “Expurgation is apology — yes, surrender — yes, an admission that something or other was wrong. Emerson said expurgate — I said no, no... I have not lived to regret my Emerson no.”
---
Whitman’s optimism was hard-pressed during the Civil War. In a single year, 1864, Whitman’s brother George became a prisoner of war and Whitman had his violent brother Jesse committed to the Kings County Lunatic Asylum. His alcoholic, widowed sister-in-law Nancy became a prostitute and gave birth to a son who was run over and killed by a brewery wagon in 1868. And Whitman’s nursing of all those shattered and dying soldiers he loved finally brought him to the verge of physical and mental collapse.
Yet, faced with calamity, Whitman determined “…to be self-balanced for contingencies,
“To confront night, storms, hunger, ridicule, accidents, rebuffs, as the trees and animals do.”
---
Kaplan wrote: “Somehow I seem’d to get identity with each and every thing around me, in its condition,” (Whitman) said at Timber Creek. “Nature was naked, and I was also.” Earth rocks, trees and small living beings were lessons in imperturbability, concreteness and strength. “Being” was superior to “the human trait of mere seeming,” The human habit of “persistent strayings and sickly abstractions.”
---
Ironically, while Whitman could identify with small living beings, apparently he couldn’t do so with large ones who happened to be black.
Although opposed to slavery, Whitman remained a racist. Watching five black regiments of Gen. Ambrose Burnside’s army march in review, Whitman remarked, “It looked funny to see the president standing with his hat off to them just the same as the rest.”
---
The following is from a Bill Moyers essay: “American democracy grew a soul, as it were -- given voice by one of our greatest poets, Walt Whitman, with his all-inclusive embrace in Song of Myself:

“Whoever degrades another degrades me,
and whatever is done or said returns at last to me...
I speak the pass-word primeval — I give the sign of democracy;
By God! I will accept nothing which all cannot have their counterpart of on the same terms...
(I am large -- I contain multitudes.)”

Author Kathleen Kennedy Townsend has vividly described Whitman seeing himself in whomever he met in America. As he wrote in I Sing the Body Electric:
“-- the horseman in his saddle,
Girls, mothers, house-keepers, in all their performances,
The group of laborers seated at noon-time with their open dinner-kettles and their wives waiting,
The female soothing a child — the farmer’s daughter in the garden or cow-yard,
The young fellow hoeing corn --”
…Whitman saw something else in the soul of the country: Americans at work, the laboring people whose toil and sweat built this nation.  Townsend contrasts his attitude with the way politicians and the media today — in their endless debates about wealth creation, capital gains reduction and high corporate taxes — seem to have forgotten working people. “But Whitman wouldn’t have forgotten them.” She writes, “He celebrates a nation where everyone is worthy, not where a few do well.”
---
I dream in my dream all the dreams of the other dreamers.
And I become the other dreamers….
Now in a moment I know what I am for, I awake.
— Walt Whitman

Whitman was apparently subject to kenshō, that spontaneous mental state described by Dumoulin as “… an insight into the identity of one’s own nature with all of reality in an eternal now, as a vision that removes all distinctions.”
“He had shared the experience of countless people, irreligious by common standards, who had flashes of illumination or ecstasy — even Caliban saw the clouds open and ‘cried to dream again,’” Whiteman biographer Justin Kaplan wrote. “These experiences have a remembered correlative or ‘trigger.’ With Whitman it was the sea, music, the grass, the green world of summer. The rhythm of these experiences is sexual and urgent — tumescence, climax, detumescence — but the ‘afterglow’ may last a lifetime, as it did with him, and he invited it an prolonged it through poetry; the poet was the shaman of modern society — a master of ‘the techniques of ecstasy.’"

          Helen Gahagan Douglas: She Who Must Be Waylaid   
“Helen Gahagan Douglas … had not the slightest interest in politics until the late 1930s. Her conversion was as dramatic as a first-act curtain in the theater.”
  Eleanor Roosevelt

Congresswoman Helen Gahagan Douglas, a former movie star and opera singer, was a principled beacon of liberal light following the death of FDR.
She had once played She Who Must Be Obeyed, and when she ran for Senate in California, Congressman Richard Nixon regarded her as She Who Must Be Waylaid.
---
Helen Gahagan Douglas
“While sitting in a Viennese coffeehouse with an English music critic who was a friend of several colleagues, the two discussed her new contract,” wrote Sally Denton in The Pink Lady: The Many Lives of Helen Gahagan Douglas. “Suddenly, the man leaned in conspiratorially and whispered, ‘Of course, Miss Gahagan, you are pure Aryan?’
“Helen felt sick to her stomach as the man attempted to recruit her to the Nazi cause. ‘Aryans such as we,’ he told her, ‘(have) a duty to defend the superior race against Jews.’ At first she couldn’t speak. Until that moment the perspective of Jews in the world was a purely abstract notion. Now, as the Englishman spouted the familiar rantings of Hitler and Goebbels while asking her to enlist the support of fellow Nazi sympathizers in America, she felt forever changed. Her ‘Irish blood at the boiling point,’ she tore up the contract and left for home.”
It didn’t help the English critic’s case that her husband, the film actor Melvyn Douglas, was a Jew.
---
But it was the Dust Bowl that really blew Helen Gahagan Douglas into politics.
Once upon a time, specifically in California during the Dust Bowl 1930s, those much-despised “illegal aliens” were American citizens who’d fled West.
“Confined to filthy camps, thousands of starving families were ‘herded about like animals,’ living without toilet or showers, while local officials and growers fought to keep the federal government from supplying the migrants with food and medical supplies, fearing that they would form permanent communities, join unions and, most significant, interfere with the cheap Mexican laborers they were shuttling across the border and paying slave wages,” wrote Denton.
 “Importing labor was far cheaper than establishing schools and health-care clinics for American migrant workers, so the growers used every method possible, including force, to get the migrants to move on.
“Helen and Melvyn had attended dinner parties at which the subject of the ‘Okies’ was raised and they were frequently appalled at the lack of compassion shown by many of their peers. They ‘listened with astonishment to people making comfortable statements about how the situation was exaggerated or that the migrants should stop being so lazy and dirty.’”
---
Guided by Eleanor Roosevelt, she became more involved in politics even as she became less involved in her marriage. After Melvyn started a serious affair with a co-star, they separated, but would never divorce.
“I suppose it is commonplace that most long-time couples divide areas of emotional response, even as they share responsibilities and material goods,” Melvyn said years later. “Certainly our friends, the Roosevelts, had done something like that.”
Rising in politics, Helen had few illusions about it. “I was raised in a household of dominating men, and I learned early that men guard their authority over women jealously,” Helen said. “As for politics, they sincerely believe public life to be a male bailiwick. They reason that men have been running the country for the past two hundred years and are meant to do so for centuries to come. In short, men would never share power with women willingly. If we wanted it, we would have to take it.”
---
Fighting a conservative tide to keep the liberal Henry Wallace vice president in 1944, Douglas gave an eloquent speech at the Democratic National Convention.
“The Democratic party is the true conservative party,” she said. “We have conserved hope and ambition in the hearts of our people. We are the conservative party. We have conserved the skills of their hands. We have husbanded our natural resources. We have saved millions of homes and farms from foreclosure and conserved the family stake in democracy.
“We have rescued banks and trust companies, insured crops and people's savings. We have built schools. We have checked the flooding rivers and turned them into power.
“We have begun a program to free men and women from the constant nagging fear of unemployment, sickness, accident—and the dread of insecure old age. We have turned a once isolated, flood-ravished, poverty-stricken valley, the home of four and a half million people, into what is now a productive, happy place to live—the Tennessee River Valley. We have replanted the forest, re-fertilized the soil. Ours is the conservative party.
“We have guarded children, protected them by labor laws, planned school-lunch programs, provided clinics. Ours is the conservative party. Ours is the party that has created laws which have given dignity and protection to the working men and women of this country. Ours is the party that has made the individual aware of the need for his participation in a true democracy. We are the conservative party.
“We have conserved the people's faith in a people's government—democracy.”
---
Elected to Congress in 1944, Douglas was often compared to her glamorous right-wing counterpart there, Clare Booth Luce, the playwright and wife of Time Inc. founder Henry Luce.
“Driving cross-country with her secretary Evie Chavoor, and a friend, Jarmila Marton, having decided to make the move to Washington by automobile, the women tuned the radio to a morning news broadcast,” Denton wrote. “They listened with amusement to the announcement that Helen had defeated Luce as one of the 10 best-dressed women in public life.
“The rookie congresswoman had broken a cap on her front tooth, leaving a gap and stump when she opened her mouth to smile. Evie ‘turned around and looked at Helen, and there she was in the back seat with her terrible sloppy pants on … huddled in a blanket, her hair all streaming down.’ The women howled with laughter, wishing a photographer could see her in such a state.”
Douglas understood, though, that the trivial focus on women’s looks was a means of undermining their power. “Congresswomen’s ideas should rate above their clothes and looks,” she said. “Why this emphasis on the sexes anyway, in a serious thing like government?”
“I never felt I left the stage,” Douglas said, and her clipped, powerful, theatrically trained voice was a great asset in politics.
But there was nothing phony about her, nothing fake. She was a proponent of what philosophers call “virtue ethics,” giving a fair summary of it in this quote: “Character isn’t inherited. One builds it daily by the way one thinks and acts, thought by thought, action by action. If one lets fear or hate or anger take possession of the mind, they become self-forged chains.”
---
The liberal and idealistic Douglas was waylaid by the rising, conniving and unprincipled Nixon, sounding an ugly theme that has echoed in American politics right into the 21stcentury.
Nixon’s dirty tactics — among them smearing Douglas as a Communist and sponsoring calls to ask voters if they were aware that her movie star husband was “a Jew” — earned him the apt, lifelong nickname Tricky Dick. But Douglas was also hampered by her own lofty idealism and California’s Chinatown-like civic corruption. And the times were against her, the 1950 election coinciding with both the rise of McCarthyism and the height of the Korean war.
“There was the United States fighting communism and I was the person who said we should limit the power of the military and try to disarm the world and get along with Russia,” Douglas said.
“The worst moment, a sight I couldn’t shake, was when children picked up rocks and threw them at my car, at me. I knew that in order to survive I would have to accept the rocks and the Nixon campaign, shrug them off and move on. I wondered if I would be able to do it.”
She was, finding herself exhausted but strangely calm after Nixon’s huge victory. “I was so pleased that I had escaped the terrible burden of hating Richard Nixon that I was almost elated,” she said.
Nixon, in later years, at least feigned regret over his behavior in the campaign. “Years later, asked by British publisher David Astor to explain his campaign tactics, Nixon reportedly ‘cast down his eyes with a look of modest contrition’ and explained, ‘I want you to remember that I was a very young man,’” wrote Anthony Summers in The Arrogance of Power: The Secret World of Richard Nixon. “In 1950, (Nixon) was 37 and a veteran of four years in the House of Representatives.”
Douglas summed it up simply: “There’s not much to say about the 1950 campaign, except that a man ran for Senate who wanted to get there, and didn’t care how he did it.”
After Nixon revealed his true character to the world in Watergate, and was driven from office in shame, Douglas had the last laugh. But she didn’t laugh. She mourned.
“If the national security is involved, anything goes,” she said in 1973. “There are no rules. There are people so lacking in roots about what is proper and improper that they don’t know there’s anything wrong in breaking into the headquarters of the opposition party.”
After Nixon’s resignation, a bumper sticker started appearing on vehicles throughout California: “Don’t Blame Me, I Voted for Helen Gahagan Douglas.”
Her secretary Nan Stevens said, “People rather expected that she would be gloating over Richard Nixon finally being found out, but she was only said. She thought it terrible for the country and for America’s reputation abroad. I know that makes her sound almost too good to be true, but she was good. I’m not saying Helen didn’t have feet of clay. But you had to look awfully hard to find her tiny clay feet.”
---
Douglas and her husband often led separate lives. She had an affair with, among others, Lyndon Baines Johnson, but became estranged from with him during his presidency over her support for disarmament and opposition to the escalating Vietnam War.
But Douglas and Melvyn were always good friends, and he made an impassioned radio speech for her during her doomed Senate campaign. “It is easier — as a matter of fact it is the easiest thing in the world — to call people of good will dirty names, to call them Communists,” he said.

Melvyn was at her side when she died of cancer in 1980, and he wrote, “She was entranced always by the light. In every house we ever occupied, she wanted the windows to be wider. She always thought no room could have too many windows … She was always saying, ‘Look at the light! Isn’t it beautiful? Shewas the light. And she was beautiful.’”

          Unsolved Mystery: The Murder of an Eggner's Ferry Bridge Toll Collector   
Scattered in the pages of the Paducah Sun-Democrat during the fall and winter of 1940, among accounts of the Nazis’ movements in the Balkans and FDR’s defeat of Wendell Willkie for an unprecedented third term as president, a murder mystery unfolded on the eastern bank of the Tennessee River.
          Energy Stocks Face Their Own Fiscal Cliff   

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- While the battle between Democrats and Republicans for the White House and Congress is very much up in the air, investors in the energy sector should prepare to fall off a fiscal cliff, regardless of how the vote unfolds in November.

Energy investors should prepare for integrated oil and gas giants -- and independent drillers -- to be constrained by high debts and spending levels, that may force CEO's to rein in exploration budgets sharply in 2013, impacting earnings across the sector.

Notably, as drillers try to extract what's been deemed a hundred year shale oil and gas resource, Chesapeake Energy has spent much of 2012 selling assets to meet a $14 billion cash crunch, in last-ditch financial moves that may speak to wider industry pressures as firms try to balance drilling budgets with earnings and debt levels. ...

Click to view a price quote on CHK.

Click to research the Energy industry.


          Peace in the Center   
Last week, Democrat Jon Ossoff lost his bid to become a congressman in a race for the seat that was once occupied by Republican Newt Gingrich during his rise to the speakership of the House of Representatives. In the 1990s, Gingrich’s attention-grabbing tactics, political disruptions and personal peccadillos were viewed as edgy. By today’s standards,... Read More
          Michael Lee Keeps State Senate District 9 in Republican Hands, Beating Redenbaugh by Nearly 11%   
With an unpopular Democratic president in his second-term, Election Day saw the predictable Republican sweep in southeastern North Carolina.
          NC Senate Candidates Debate the 2013 Mobility Formula   
Economic development experts say aging transportation systems are holding back growth in southeastern North Carolina. The candidates for North Carolina’s Senate District 9, which encompasses most of New Hanover County, differ on whether the Mobility Formula is fair. Republican Michael Lee and Democrat Elizabeth Redenbaugh squared off during a recent Power Breakfast regarding the Department of Transportation’s Mobility Formula. Governor McCrory introduced the Formula last year as a means to align available funding with the greatest transportation needs. Michael Lee, appointed in August to serve out the remainder of Senator Thom Goolsby’s term, is now running as the incumbent for Senate District 9. He says the Mobility Formula provides an objective basis to fund transportation projects. "What we had before the Mobility Formula were politicians making political decisions and giving favors to have infrastructure put in certain areas to benefit certain constituents. And I for one want to
          Mark L. Hopkins: Here we go again on health care    
The Republican Health Care Plan is now before Congress. We have been told since the passage of The Affordable Healthcare Act back in 2009 that the Republicans intended to replace that legislation with something much better. All of us, Republicans and Democrats, would appreciate having a comprehensive health care plan that meets the needs of our citizens. The experts tell us that the current plan has not solved the two big health care issues which are access to services and containing costs. The [...]
          As Affordable Care Act Repeal Teeters, Prospects for Bipartisanship Build   

While he presses Republicans to get behind his bill for undoing Obamacare, Senator Mitch McConnell is also raising the specter of bringing Democrats into Senate health care talks. Source link

link: As Affordable Care Act Repeal Teeters, Prospects for Bipartisanship Build


          Schumer to Trump: Meet with Democrats on healthcare – The Hill (blog)   

The Hill (blog) Schumer to Trump: Meet with Democrats on healthcareThe Hill (blog)Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is asking President Trump to meet with Democrats to discuss a bipartisan deal on healthcare. “President Trump, I challenge you to invite us, all 100 of us, Republican and Democrat, to Blair House to …Hello, is anybody…

link: Schumer to Trump: Meet with Democrats on healthcare – The Hill (blog)


          Democrats realize they have a problem: Part 2 – Washington Examiner   

Washington Examiner Democrats realize they have a problem: Part 2Washington ExaminerTo that end, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced this week the creation of an office whose head has been tasked with the singular objective of training Democratic candidates on how to connect with voters in the Midwest. and more » Source link

link: Democrats realize they have a problem: Part 2 – Washington Examiner


          What Pro-Life Democrats Want from the DNC – The Atlantic   

The Atlantic What Pro-Life Democrats Want from the DNCThe AtlanticA group of pro-life Democrats met with Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez at DNC headquarters in Washington, DC on Tuesday, according to Kristen Day, the executive director of pro-life group Democrats for Life of America. Day said that … Source link

link: What Pro-Life Democrats Want from the DNC – The Atlantic


          Schumer Slammed for Blocking Senate Hearing on Obama 'Unmasking'   
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley Wednesday ripped Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer after using a rarely used procedural tool to block his panel from holding a classified hearing with top intelligence officials.
          Dent: GOP Should Not Make Mistake Dems Did on Healthcare   
Republicans will make the same mistake as Democrats if they pass healthcare reform legislation on a strictly partisan basis, Rep. Charlie Dent, one of the few Republicans to vote against the House's American Health Care Act, said Wednesday.
          Schumer to Trump: Get Dems Involved in Fixing Healthcare   
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called on President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers to work with Democrats in fixing healthcare, the Washington Examiner reported.
          Levi Tillemann, Obama administration alum, set to join crowded race to unseat Mike Coffman   
The Aurora Democrat had been publicly flirting with a run for Congress since mid-May, when he called President Donald Trump and other Republican leaders "a unique and terrible threat to American democracy."
             
Disinterested

Earlier attempts to build a better world have collapsed. The record is muddy at best - mired in ambiguity: Christians - They have founded schools and hospitals, helped abolish slavery and gladitorial games. Unfortunately they have also fought cruel religious wars. Democrats - The people have established governments, but unfortunately these governments have invaded, massacred, stolen, enslaved (see Andrew Jackson). Liberals - What if we are wicked and foolish? What worth is our freedom then? Scientists - Scientific discoveries have improved our lives, but we have a tendency to employ these discoveries to make weapons. Even medical discoveries, though they have benefited millions, have caused some of our worst problems - like overpopulation. I am afraid neither our godliness nor our goodness can save us.

But eugenics can save us. Lead us to Eden, Arcadia, Shangri-La, The Blessed Isles. The silicon revolution changed the world, but the DNA revolution will remake the world entirely. More can be done in this century to improve the lot of mankind than in all previous centuries combined. This generation, if virtuous enough and if far-sighted enough, can do more to benefit mankind than any other generation.

George Washington resisted the temptation to seize power in a military coup d'etat. Americans look back at him with gratitude and awe. Future generations (how many?) will look back on us with gratitude and awe if we can be as noble, as disinterested.
             
What is Populism?

Populism is embarking as the dominant left-wing party of the millennium, replacing those wrecks (like Lenin's Bolsheviks toward the left and Clinton's Democrats toward the right) that prevailed in the past.

We Populists champion the people and their traditions. We care for the poor and the sick, the young and the old. We protect the environment. We believe in the use of science to improve human nature. We are united - included in our party are people of all nations.

We Populists combat Zionist/Anglo-Saxon imperialism. We defend the people against imperial aggression. We confront the bloated corporations. We battle the decadent culture they try to force on the people.

We are giving birth to a new age, a golden age, when the downtrodden will be raised up. Our symbol is the violet, a lowly plant from which nevertheless blooms a flower of great beauty.
          Ministro Madia: «Innovazione è progresso sociale e democratico»   
Fondamentale l'estensione della banda larga e l'approvazione del FOIA, Freedom of Information Act), per la trasparenza della PA
          Italy Could Get New Premier This Week    

ITALIAN President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro is widely expected to decide on a premier this week.

President Scalfaro summoned caretaker Premier Silvio Berlusconi, who resigned Dec. 22, for talks at the presidential palace Sunday. The premier has pressed the president to rename him, but Mr. Scalfaro's intentions are unclear.

Scalfaro is to resume consultations with other political leaders today before naming a premier.

If he doesn't chose Mr. Berlusconi or a Berlusconi ally, Scalfaro could turn to a center-left combination dominated by former Communists and Christian Democrats.

Or he could ask a political outsider, such as an economist, to put together a government until new elections.

Berlusconi resigned last month after the leader of a former coalition partner, the Northern League, withdrew his support for the embattled premier.

On Sunday, Interior Minister Roberto Maroni openly challenged Umberto Bossi for leadership of the Northern League, further complicating Berlusconi's future.

Prince Charles hurts Britain's monarchy the most, poll says

PRINCE CHARLES has done more damage to the monarchy than any other member of the royal family, according to participants in a poll published Monday.

The poll for The Guardian newspaper also found that two-thirds were opposed to royals having relationships outside marriage, as Charles has admitted doing.

Asked who had most damaged the monarchy, 51 percent named Charles. Twenty percent picked ``Fergie,'' the Duchess of York, while 14 percent named Charles' estranged wife, Princess Diana.

Sixty-six percent said the royal family should set a moral example by not having relationships outside marriage. Charles publicly admitted last year that he had an affair after his marriage had broken down.

However, 63 percent thought that Charles should still become king even if he and Diana divorce. They've been separated since December 1992.

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          [ Rick Wolff // A Cure for Capitalism ]   
Professor Rick Wolff explains why growth has become a focus of our modern political system. He describes how inequality is created by the way our enterprises are organized. Because a significant portion of our lives are at work, how would our society look if democratic businesses became the new normal? What would be the environmental […]
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          Voting Pro-Life. What Does That Entail?   
A picture from the Facebook ad for "I Am Pro-Life"

So, here's the political conundrum for Christians:

We want to vote "Pro-Life," but what all does that entail? 

Certainly it means standing up for the marginalized voice of the unborn.

This is one of the moost pressing civil-rights issue of our time, in spite of what most Democrats mis-perceived it as (most Dems only see the abortion issue as a civil-rights issue for women, discounting the civil rights of the child).

Christians, in my opinion, must stand up for those that are oppressed by an unjust society - and there are none more oppressed than the unborn.

But being "Pro-Life" does not end in a woman's womb.

It also means standing up for the marginalized voices of those who's lives are in danger due to other issues that face society: wars, poverty, hunger, trafficking, environmental destruction that causes diseases and loss of life (just to name a few).

Which party is best positioned to deal with these Life Issues? To be Pro-Life, in other words, is more than the issue of abortion (though that is a major issue concerning Life). If a party seeks to expand the military, cut funds to the social safety-net, and ignore the impact of human actions that damage the environment because of business interests, is that "Pro-Life?"

What do you think? I'd love your input.
          High-stakes assessments   

The question of whether high-stakes assessments improve learning in schools is a controversial issue that is seen in schools today. Many teachers in school districts feel that they spend more time testing their students than instructing them. Should high-stakes assessments determine if students can progress to the next grade if the student has passed every test given by the teacher? When standard tests are given in each grade and the students perform poorly on the test the teachers and the administrators are the ones that are blamed. Therefore, the teachers that work in schools with high-stakes assessments are encouraged to focus their learning activities in the classroom on what the students will be tested on the standard tests. I feel that if students can pass the tests that they are given by their teachers in their schools to move on the next grade or graduate from college is the standard that schools should enforce. I do not feel that one test can decide this capability of learning that a student has. I agree with Ken Jones when he argues in the issue Do High-Stakes Assessments Improve Learning, “the current accountability approach, relying on the use of high-stakes tests mandated from above, is detrimental to local school improvement and erodes democratic principles” (Noll, J.W., 15th ed., pp. 132-133). I also feel that when schools use high-stakes test that it takes away from what students would normally learn in a certain class because the teachers are focusing on what the high-stakes test require the student to learn.
According to American Education, “both teachers and administrators are motivated to ensure that classroom instruction complies to academic standards and provides students with the specific knowledge and skills required by the tests” (Spring J., 2008, p. 219). Although high-stakes tests are a driving force in the schools systems I feel that they are limiting the amount of information that students should be learning in the classroom. Funding in schools is another issue that is associated with high-stakes assessments. According to last weeks debate, “if schools do not comply with standardized testing, they lose funds. Teachers and Principals gets bonuses for improved scores.” The amount of financial aid and federal powers over local schools does not match up. The money that is invested in education needs to be more effective. I feel that high-stakes testing puts to much pressure on students because they are threatened with the consequences of failure with just one test to determine this. Not only does it put an immense amount of stress on the students it also puts stress on the teachers because the majority of the time they are blamed if the students do not pass the tests. Therefore, high-stakes assessments are not an effective way of teaching.

          Flowers for Hillary   
What's with all the metaphorical bouquets being thrown by the media at Hillary's feet as she takes her big exit curtain call? It's a little annoying. Usually, this is the winner's moment in the sun. That would be Obama.

Okay, it's an historic campaign where for the first time a woman was a serious presidential contender, she got more votes than "any previous loser," blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

And it's weekend coverage, so what's the harm?

One problem is that we don't know for sure that Hillary is in fact bowing out gracefully. While she made a more-or-less gracious concession speech (I think -- I couldn't stand listening to much of it), can she in fact support Obama in some suitable way without making an issue of herself? Will an ugly, self-centered wish that Obama loses so that she can then become the 2012 "candidate of inevitability" sprout up through the cracks in her artificial smile? Only time will tell.

A quick review of the facts: Hillary lost my vote for her presidential campaign when, in 2002, she voted to authorize Bush to use force in Iraq and when she refused forever after to admit she made a mistake. Call me superficial, but I think that a voter's disapproval of a candidate's position on the most important issue of the decade is appropriately signaled by voting for someone else.

Not only was Hillary dead wrong in this position, but she also revealed herself as Bill Clinton redux -- an image-driven, poll-driven centrist pol, who will do or say whatever it takes to get into power and then, once there, forget that the whole point was to use that power to do good.

Ironically, Hillary's desperate effort to repackage herself as a tough, hawkish chief-executive-in-waiting -- again, signaled by that 2002 vote -- probably has not won her a single vote. The public perception of her as a liberal feminista -- a perception driving both the votes for and against her -- was probably immovable all along. Her best strategy would have been to stay true to the ideals of her youth.

And now we learn that her much touted "experience" was also hogwash. Her totally botched campaign was driven repeatedly and ultimately off the rails by a motley crew of (1) foxy, unscrupulous types who were not as smart as they think they are and (2) loyal friends who are incompetent political amateurs. Apparently, there was not one authoritative person among them who could tell Hillary the bad news when she needed to hear it. Her apparently terrible executive style did not bode well for the "candidate of experience" to run the White House.

Hillary's long run also symbolized the Democratic Party's self-destructive streak. This is the "perfect storm" for Republicans, the year they cannot possibly win -- they are responsible for (1) an unpopular and ill-conceived war that (2) has sent the economy hurtling into an impending crisis engineered by (3) a president with 25-28% approval ratings.

But Hillary would have been a weak candidate, for all she tried to spin her self-absorbed refusal to quit as toughness. With her unredeemed Iraq war vote and the stinky cloud of questionable financial dealings that trail her and her husband everywhere, she wouldn't have been able to hit hard enough on McCain's two biggest Achilles heels -- the War and his own involvement in the Savings and Loan crisis of the late 1980s (see the Keating Five), which resonates so powerfully with the current mortgage crisis.

Hillary was the one Democratic candidate that cannot win -- if her campaign mismanagement didn't kill us, her unusually high negatives would have. And we came within a hair's breadth of nominating her! I may not be right about her unelectability -- but thank goodness we'll never know for sure.
          Please, please, please ....!   
... do not pick Hillary as your running mate!

The idea that Obama should pick Clinton as his running mate to "heal the party" or, more precisely, to increase the ticket's appeal to "white, blue collar males" is ludicrous.

One of the facts of our political life is that Republicans win the white house more often than Democrats, even though more voters are registered as Democrats than Republicans. The reason for this is that many registered Democrats vote for the Republican presidential candidate in November.

It stands to reason that many of those Republican-voting registered Democrats will vote in Democratic primaries, particularly this year when the primaries continue to have an impact on the nomination. I seriously doubt that, in November, Hillary would win many votes of white males who can't stomach the idea of a black man as president. Chances are they're not too keen about a white woman either. They'll vote for McCain.

There are apparently white women who feel the same way. As for white women Democrats who would normally vote Democratic in November, but will take their ball and go home if Hillary doesn't get the nomination? How many of those are there, compared to independents among the majority of Americans who find her to be untrustworthy? The pollsters don't tell us that.

Anyway, having Hillary on the ticket doesn't pick up a single white male vote. Well, maybe one: Bill Clinton.
          In Search of a Candidate - Who'll lead the SPD in next year's election? | People    
Officially, the Social Democrats say they're going to wait to name their candidate for chancellor in the 2013 Bundestag election. But grass ... tags: Bundestag_electioncandidate_for_chancellordeutsche_welleGabrielGermanyMerkelpeople_politicsIn Search of a Candidate - Who'll lead the SPD in next year's election? | People
DW (English)
          The Social Democrats and their Candidate for Chancellor | People    
Germany's Social Democrats have thoroughly overhauled their platform, and chancellor candidate Peer Steinbrck is giving it to voters ... tags: chancellordeutsche_wellemerkelpeople_politicsspdsteinbrückThe Social Democrats and their Candidate for Chancellor | People
DW (English)
          Far Behind - Chancellor Candidate Peer Steinbrück | People    
All the recent opinion polls reveal that Peer Steinbrck and his Social Democrats are trailing the governing Christian Democrats. Now ... tags: deutsche_welledwgermanypeople_politicspollssocial_democratsspdFar Behind - Chancellor Candidate Peer Steinbrück | People
DW (English)
          Internet: ¿salida al conflico entre la democracia representativa y la democracia participativa en Venezuela?   
Las crecientes demandas que no pueden ser atendidas por el Estado van creando una crisis de legitimidad, dada la incapacidad que tiene el Gobierno para satisfacer las necesidades de la población. La democracia participativa apunta a la ampliación de lo público hacia la esfera social, democratizando la política y la gestión pública. En el caso venezolano, Acosta (2007) indica que la sociedad pasó “de tener y vivir una democracia elitesca y contemplativa” a una “democracia participativa y protagónica”, de acuerdo a la Constitución de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela de 1999, en la cual se dispone que el Gobierno nacional y las entidades políticas que lo componen “es y será siempre democrático, participativo, electivo, descentralizado,  alternativo, responsable, pluralista y de mandatos revocables”. En este sentido, Castells (2001) plantea que Internet desempeña un papel importante en la transmisión de valores morales y principios, y se ha constituido como un instrumento emisor y receptor de mensajes con carga política. Muchos elementos de la democracia participativa pueden ser potenciados gracias a la ayuda de la telemática, acercando el Estado a la sociedad y rompiendo los filtros que significan “esas mediaciones” de la política, en la figura de unos partidos políticos que no satisfacen las necesidades de la población en su conjunto, donde los intereses económicos tienen más poder de influencia en las esferas públicas que la misma voluntad popular y las formas institucionalizadas de  hacer política.

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          Conservation Award   
SAN DIEGO, CA (Sept., 2016) – Utah’s Hogle Zoo is proud to announce recognition for its contribution in rescuing and rehabilitation of gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  The Association of Zoo and Aquariums (AZA), the primary accrediting body for top zoos and aquariums in the United States since 1974, recently announced recipients for the Association’s […]
          Negative mailers land in House Democratic districts   
* Rep. Deb Conroy (D-Villa Park) just sent me a photo of a mail piece that landed in her district yesterday… * She also sent me this text… I just voted to freeze property taxes. Regardless if I liked the bill or not I took the vote in order to compromise with the Governor on [...]
          Question of the day   
* AP… Madigan demands of Rauner signal doom for budget deal House Democrats are advancing legislation this week designed to get a budget deal by appeasing Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner on the tangential issues he’s demanded. But a spending plan that has been absent in Illinois for two years appears doomed in advance of Saturday’s start of [...]
          The House Democratic perspective   
* Rep. Elgie Sims (D-Chicago) posted this to his Instagram account regarding today’s House floor votes on the Democrats’ “non-budget” bills. His frustration and anger is palpable… House Democrats have attempted time and time again to try to compromise with the Governor and House Republicans on their non-budgetary items yet they continue to say it’s [...]
          Rep. Brady to Rauner and Madigan: Back the heck off   
* Rep. Dan Brady (R-Bloomington) was interviewed by WJBC this morning. Despite frequent prodding by the hosts to attack Speaker Madigan and the Democrats, Rep. Brady tried to remain as focused as he could on the actual progress being made behind the scenes. Brady is right about that. Rank and file House [...]
          How the Student Loan Industry Is Helping Trump Destroy American Democracy   
Student loan servicers are engaged in economic terrorism, and DeVos is only making it worse.

Most of the discussion about student debt in the United States has centered on its excessiveness, the negative impact it has on home-buying for the next generation, various refinancing schemes, and (for the grossly uninformed) how borrowers simply need to “pay what they owe.” However, the untold story of student loan debt in the United States is that it is being used as a form of economic terrorism designed not only to redistribute wealth from everyday Americans to the elite, but to undermine and degrade American democracy as a whole.

Up until her confirmation as Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos had financial ties to a large student loan servicer in contract negotiations with the Department of Education. PRWatch reported in January that one of the firms DeVos divested from, LMF WF Portfolio, helped finance a $147 million loan to a student debt collection agency called Performant, which had more than 346 complaints brought against it with the Better Business Bureau. The student loan industry is said to be worth $1.3 trillion in total debt owed according to Forbes. While some might chalk this up to successful business management, it’s important to evaluate just exactly how the student loan industry works.

Contrary to what most students believe, many loans supposedly from the U.S. Department of Education are actually owned by big private banks. This acquisition of federal student loans by big banks was first introduced by the Federal Reserve in November of 2008, in which student loans, along with other forms of debt, are bundled and re-sold to banks as asset-backed securities (ABS). A few months later, with the blessing of former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, this program was dramatically expanded to include more than $1 trillion in collateralized debt. This means that for many borrowers, they're being jerked around by private loans deliberately dressed up in U.S. Department of Education attire.

Student Loan Servicers Are Engaging in Economic Terrorism

In a lecture delivered at Carleton University in Ottawa 2011, famed MIT professor and linguist Noam Chomsky argued that the American student debt system fosters fear and insecurity among people who, burdened by financial stress, anxious for their jobs or stuck in low-paying jobs, are afraid to question or challenge the system.

"When you trap people in a system of debt, they can't afford the time to think," Chomsky said.

One indebted borrower, Denise, whose fiancee, Kevin, spoke to AlterNet on condition of anonymity, is living proof of the dilemma Chomsky presented.

"I’ve wanted to marry Denise for years now," Kevin said. "But after seeing what she’s been put through with these student loan companies, I honestly don't want to risk having a bunch of crooks stealing my paycheck or my tax refund."

According to Kevin, the student debt Denise acquired for four years of higher education totaled approximately $35,000. Under the management of student loan servicer Navient (which broke off from Sallie Mae), her student loan debt quickly swelled to more than $75,000 in less than 10 years following her graduation from the University of Arizona. According to Kevin, loan fees and high interest rates quickly snowballed as a penalty for Denise not having enough money. (Multiple requests to reach Navient executives by phone or email were not returned.)

“The monthly payment they demanded was three times what Denise paid for her rent. She would send what she could afford, but it would end up being a fraction of the penalty fee they’d add to her loan balance for not having enough money to pay. They would then charge her interest on the penalty fee as though it were money she actually received for school," Kevin said.

Kevin’s account of what happened to Denise could be happening to millions of other distressed borrowers. A March 20 report from Bloomberg detailed how Secretary DeVos is now green-lighting punishing new fees on student borrowers even if they agree to make good on their outstanding debt. In a memo to the student loan industry, DeVos’ agency is allowing companies to charge struggling borrowers as much as 16 percent more of a debtor’s total loan balance in additional fees.

“It’s a con game that caused Denise so much stress that it began affecting her health and even made her fantasize about taking her own life as a means of getting out from crippling debt,” Kevin said. “These companies use the authority of the government to extort money from people who took out loans they thought were from the government and not just some crooked bank.”

In some instances, the tax refunds Denise counted on each year would be confiscated as penalty for not having enough money to pay her loans. According to Kevin, Denise earned a social sciences degree with the specific intent of pursuing a career that involved helping people and supporting positive change in society.

“Instead of doing that good work, she was forced to cling to whatever low-wage position she could find,” Kevin continued. “Even after I used my savings to help pay off the remainder of her student debt, the loan servicer, Navient, kept refusing to credit her account for the payment and continues to damage her credit.”

“It has taken such a huge toll on us,” he added. "I guess now we’ll have to gather more money to file a lawsuit to get them to acknowledge that they received payment in full. In the meantime, they can still take her tax refunds even though she doesn’t owe them money anymore.”

“This should be criminal. They’re just awful, awful human beings,” Kevin said.

Ironically, the Federal Student Loan Program was intended to make higher education affordable for students and families who lack the ability to pursue higher education without funding support. With the insertion of predatory banks and student loan shark servicer companies like Navient, Strada Education Network (formerly known as USA Funds), and others, the soul of the Federal Student Loan Program has shifted from that of opportunity and advancement to profit and subjugation.

Recently, Secretary DeVos announced that the Public Service Loan Forgiveness agreements the Department of Education made with borrowers who agreed to work in the public service field for at least 10 years might not be honored. The New York Times reported in March that students who signed up when the program began in 2007 may now be on the hook for those loans after all. A recent legal filing from the Department of Education argues that FedLoan Servicing's approval letters for the loan forgiveness program are non-binding and can be rescinded at any time.

This means borrowers, who chose professions in public service that are routinely paid less than those with jobs in other sectors, could now not only have forgone a much higher salary for over a decade, but could also find themselves on the hook for loans that the Department of Education agreed to forgive in exchange for their service.

Denise is not alone—the New York Fed reported earlier this year that 44 percent of student loan borrowers are underemployed. This means seemingly benign decisions when it comes to student loan policy ensure that a vast net of stress, fear, and insecurity is cast upon an entire generation. The lasting impact will, by default, stifle and root out any inclinations of challenge to the current political and economic system. In this way, the student loan industry is suppressing resistance to societal change by poor Americans, ensuring that whatever steps are taken in the name of neoliberalism to tighten the corporate grip on American society will be met with little to no resistance.

Who Has the Moral High Ground?

President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget includes a provision requiring already cash-strapped student loan borrowers to pay higher monthly fees on income-based repayment plans. While there is no evidence showing how an increase in payment requirements is needed for an already grossly lucrative industry, the Trump budget prioritized steep cuts to Medicaid, Food Stamps, Social Security and Disability Insurance, while also raising monthly payments for student loan borrowers. The combination of these two policies is a crushing blow for underemployed student debtors.

The Republican Party often campaigns on being the morally superior party based on its stance on issues like abortion and contraception. However, the student loan industry’s pillaging of the next generation of Americans has been met with deafening silence by the GOP. One would think that a majority in the House, the Senate and control of the White House would motivate the GOP to address an issue that affects 44 million Americans, but instead, Republicans choose to look the other way.

Democrats aren't entirely blameless in the student loan debacle. While a recent effort to address the greed and usurious practices of the student loan industry was championed by progressives like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), Patty Murray (D-Washington) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin), other neoliberal Democrats like Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) have joined the GOP's morality farce by teaming up with the private sector to ransack public schools and gut teacher’s unions in the name of “school choice” and “teacher accountability.”

If Republicans and Democrats alike hope to hold on to any credibility when it comes to ethics, they must take steps to address the student loan industry in favor of the hardworking Americans who put them in office, not their corporate masters.

 

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           How Privatization Could Spell the End of Democracy   
Between Trump and tech, never before have so many powerful people been so intent on transforming government into a business.

It’s a hot day in New York City. You’re thirsty, but your water bottle is empty. So you walk into a store and place your bottle in a machine. You activate the machine with an app on your phone, and it fills your bottle with tap water. Now you are no longer thirsty.

This is the future envisioned by the founders of a startup called Reefill. If the premise sounds oddly familiar, that’s because it is: Reefill has reinvented the water fountain as a Bluetooth-enabled subscription service. Customers pay $1.99 a month for the privilege of using its machines, located at participating businesses around Manhattan.

Predictably, the company has already come in for its fair share of ridicule. In Slate, Henry Grabar called it “tap water in a suit”. But while Reefill is a particularly cartoonish example, its basic business model is a popular one within tech. The playbook is simple: take a public service and build a private, app-powered version of it.

he most obvious examples are Uber and Lyft, which aspire not merely to eliminate the taxi industry, but to replace public transportation. They’re slowly succeeding: municipalities around America are now subsidizing ride-hailing fares instead of running public buses. And earlier this year, Lyft began offering a fixed-route, flat-rate service called Lyft Shuttle in Chicago and San Francisco – an aggressive bid to poach more riders from public transit.

These companies wouldn’t have customers if better public alternatives existed. It can be hard to find a water fountain in Manhattan, and public transit in American cities ranges from mediocre to nonexistent. But solving these problems by ceding them to the private sector ensures that public services will continue to deteriorate until they disappear.

Decades of defunding and outsourcing have already pushed public services to the brink. Now, fortified with piles of investor cash and the smartphone, tech companies are trying to finish them off.

Proponents of privatization believe this is a good thing. For years, they have advanced the argument that business will always perform a given task better than government, whether it’s running buses or schools, supplying healthcare or housing. The public sector is sclerotic, wasteful and undisciplined by the profit motive. The private sector is dynamic, innovative and, above all, efficient.

This belief has become common sense in political life. It is widely shared by the country’s elite, and has guided much policymaking over the past several decades. But like most of our governing myths, it collapses on closer inspection.

No word is invoked more frequently or more fervently by apostles of privatization than efficiency. Yet this is a strange basis on which to build their case, given the fact that public services are often more efficient than private ones. Take healthcare. The United States has one of the least efficient systems on the planet: we spend more money on healthcare than anyone else, and in return we receive some of the worst health outcomes in the west. Not coincidentally, we also have the most privatized healthcare system in the advanced world. By contrast, the UK spends a fraction of what we do and achieves far better results. It also happens to provision healthcare as a public service. Somehow, the absence of the profit motive has not produced an epidemic of inefficiency in British healthcare. Meanwhile, we pay nearly $10,000 per capita and a staggering 17% of our GDP to achieve a life expectancy somewhere between that of Costa Rica and Cuba.

A profit-driven system doesn’t mean we get more for our money – it means someone gets to make more money off of us. The healthcare industry posts record profits and rewards its chief executives with the highest salaries in the country. It takes a peculiar frame of mind to see this arrangement as anything resembling efficient.

Attacking public services on the grounds of efficiency isn’t just incorrect, however – it’s beside the point. Decades of neoliberalism have corroded our capacity to think in non-economic terms. We’ve been taught that all fields of human life should be organized as markets, and that government should be run like a business. This ideology has found its perverse culmination in the figure of Donald Trump, a celebrity billionaire with no prior political experience who catapulted himself into the White House by invoking his expertise as an businessman. The premise of Trump’s campaign was that America didn’t need a president – it needed a CEO.

Nowhere is the neoliberal faith embodied by Trump more deeply felt than in Silicon Valley. Tech entrepreneurs work tirelessly to turn more of our lives into markets and devote enormous resources towards “disrupting” government by privatizing its functions. Perhaps this is why, despite Silicon Valley’s veneer of liberal cosmopolitanism, it has a certain affinity for the president. On Monday, Trump met with top executives from Apple, Amazon, Google and other major tech firms to explore how to “unleash the creativity of the private sector to provide citizen services”, in the words of Jared Kushner. Between Trump and tech, never before have so many powerful people been so intent on transforming government into a business.

But government isn’t a business; it’s a different kind of machine. At its worst, it can be repressive and corrupt and autocratic. At its best, it can be an invaluable tool for developing and sustaining a democratic society. Among other things, this includes ensuring that everyone receives the resources they need to exercise the freedoms on which democracy depends. When we privatize public services, we don’t just risk replacing them with less efficient alternatives – we risk damaging democracy itself.

If this seems like a stretch, that’s because pundits and politicians have spent decades defining the idea of democracy downwards. It has come to mean little more than holding elections every few years. But this is the absolute minimum of democracy’s meaning. Its Greek root translates to “rule of the people” – not rule by certain people, such as the rich (plutocracy) or the priests (theocracy), but by all people. Democracy describes a way of organizing society in which the whole of the people determine how society should be organized.

What does this have to do with buses or schools or hospitals or houses? In a democracy, everyone gets to participate in the decisions that affect their lives. But that’s impossible if people don’t have access to the goods they need to survive – if they’re hungry or homeless or sick. And the reality is that when goods are rationed by the market, fewer people have access to them. Markets are places of winners and losers. You don’t get what you need – you get what you can afford.

By contrast, public services offer a more equitable way to satisfy basic needs. By taking things off the market, government can democratize access to the resources that people rely on to lead reasonably dignified lives. Those resources can be offered cheap or free, funded by progressive taxation. They can also be managed by publicly accountable institutions led by elected officials, or subject to more direct mechanisms of popular control.

These ideas are considered wildly radical in American politics. Yet other places around the world have implemented them with great success. When Oxfam surveyed more than 100 countries, they discovered that public services significantly reduce economic inequality. They shrink the distance between rich and poor by lowering the cost of living. They empower working people by making their survival less dependent on their bosses and landlords and creditors. Perhaps most importantly, they entitle citizens to a share of society’s wealth and a say over how it’s used.

But where will the money come from? This is the perennial question, posed whenever someone suggests raising the welfare state above a whisper. Fortunately, it has a simple answer. The United States is the richest country in the history of the world. It is so rich, in fact, that its richest people can afford to pour billions of dollars into a company such as Uber, which loses billions of dollars each year, in the hopes of getting just a little bit richer. In the face of such extravagance, diverting a modest portion of the prosperity we produce in common toward services that benefit everyone shouldn’t be controversial. It’s a small price to pay for making democracy mean more than a hollow slogan, or a sick joke.

 

 

 

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          Why It Makes No Sense to Separate the White Working Class from the Black Working Class    
The media consistently radicalizes the white working class as noble; meanwhile the money is going to the top 1%.

This article appears in the Summer 2017 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here

“After all, if every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hard-working white middle class and undeserving minorities, then workers of all shades will be left fighting for scraps while the wealthy withdraw further into their private enclaves.”  —Barack Obama, Farewell Address, Chicago, January 2017

After three losses to Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, a trifecta last accomplished by Presidents Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover, there was much hand-wringing among Democrats about the loss of the South and the vanishing loyalty of Southern whites. William Galston and Elaine Kamarck at the Progressive Policy Institute argued that the electoral math made the South the true presidential battleground; that Democrats could not win by being more liberal or hoping to motivate black and poor voters to increase their voter participation. Thomas Edsall and Mary Edsall similarly warned in the pages of The Atlantic that the South was key, and it was lost because the liberal orthodoxy was too tied to race, and out of touch with white working-class voters.

“Liberal” candidates like Tom Harkin, Dick Gephardt, and Michael Dukakis were out. Their message was deemed too Northern, elite, and alien to the needed Southern white voter. In was a candidate who could rebrand the Democratic Party and break liberal orthodoxy, proving the party could be tough on crime and defense, and reinvent welfare and the social state. This turned out to be Bill Clinton. Now, the defeat of Hillary Clinton has once again caused Democrats to argue about what is needed to win the white vote.

Countless articles have focused on what Democrats have done wrong. And much of the theme remains the same as in 1989—that there is a noble white worker who has been betrayed. Here is how the Edsalls portrayed one such voter back in 1989:

“You could classify me as a working-class Democrat, a card-carrying union member,” says Dan Donahue, a Chicago carpenter who became active in the campaign of a Republican state senator in 1988. “I’m not a card-carrying Republican—yet. We have four or five generations of welfare mothers. And they [Democrats] say the answer to that is we need more programs. Come on. It’s well and good we should have compassion for these people, but your compassion goes only so far. I don’t mind helping, but somebody has got to help themselves, you’ve got to pull. When you try to pick somebody up, they have to help. Unfortunately, most of the people who need help in this situation are black and most of the people who are doing the helping are white. We [white Cook County voters] are tired of paying for the Chicago Housing Authority, and for public housing and public transportation that we don’t use. They [taxpayers] hate it [the school-board tax] because they are paying for black schools that aren’t even educating kids, and the money is just going into the Board of Education and the teachers’ union.”

As President Barack Obama warned in his farewell address, this depiction of whites as hard-working, noble, and beset (compared with whom?) is nowhere to start a dialogue about an economy in which the real problem is that all economic gains have gone to the top 1 percent. The language presumes that there are not black workers who lost out to trade deals that sent thousands of auto-parts jobs from Flint, Michigan, to Mexico or shut steel mills in Baltimore, Maryland. Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, echoed Obama on the risks of reinforcing Trump’s cynical manipulation of race and the white working class:

Anyone who talks about dividing people in the country as a solution is a threat to the country, to democracy, the economy, and to working people, and we take every one of those seriously.

Oddly, much of the hand-wringing comes after victories by Presidents Clinton and Obama, each of whom demonstrated both the complexity of the white vote and the fact that the black vote matters. A core challenge is that many voters misunderstand basic economics, leading them to vote against the interests of working America as a whole. Many Americans still hold the view articulated by the Edsalls’ late-1980s white voter that government is not the solution. And their misunderstanding has been reinforced by actions of recent presidents.

One of those was Bill Clinton. The pursuit of white voters by Clinton led to attacks on the Social Security Act, first on the premise that budget discipline was more important, and second on the assumption that Social Security’s aid to the poor was too generous and too much of a handout to black women. Clinton supported partial privatization of Social Security pensions. Even Obama, pursuing deficit cuts, flirted with cuts in the cost-of-living formula.

The Social Security Act, let’s recall, was intended to protect the income of working-class American families. Yes, it was an entitlement, and proudly so. Social Security was first denied to most black Americans, but then extended. Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) was a core part of Social Security. Clinton’s view that single mothers should be written out of the act—for that is what the end of “welfare as we know it” meant—was not viewed as an attack on working people. But it was. Black women, who have historically had the largest labor force participation rate among all racial groups, and who work more hours than any racial group among women, were stigmatized as being made lazy because they finally had access to that part of the Social Security Act which had initially been denied them when it was passed.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the feeble successor to AFDC, removed a class of workers from Social Security protection. Because of the “Nannygate” scandal surrounding Clinton’s attorney general nominee, protections for domestic workers within the Social Security Act were watered down. Despite the ravaging effect of the Reagan-era downturn on unemployment insurance, the Clinton administration offered little to repair a state-based system that had gone bankrupt and then refinanced itself by cutting access to benefits and benefit levels.

THE HARD REALITY OF TODAY'S level of inequality is this: For an increasing share of the population—black and white—the market no longer works to serve basic needs like housing, health insurance, child care, or college education. As the share of income held by the middle 60 percent declines, the top 10 percent’s share continues to grow, and within that, the top 1 percent.

The effect of heavy concentrations of money in fewer hands means that market-based allocations of resources are dictated by a smaller set of decision-makers. Businesspeople react to where the money is, whether they are home-builders, college presidents, or day-care providers. In the market, price is used as the rationing device, and prices follow where the money is.

When the middle class dominated the economy, it meant that prices for key personal investments followed increases in the incomes of the middle class. The government stepped in with housing, health, and education policies to subsidize those in the bottom 20 percent whose incomes were not keeping pace, and who would be rationed out of housing, health, and education by a market outcome. Worsening income inequality meant rising demands on government programs to ensure fair access to health and education, as prices rose faster than low income. Through the 1990s, the effect of discrimination made blacks synonymous with the bottom 20 percent, as they were overrepresented in the bottom income group.

What has happened to more whites now is that the market has moved past them as well. Pricing for child care and college education, essentials for their children, are outstripping their income growth; instead, prices are tied to the growth in income for the top 1 percent in the case of college tuition. And whites in the bottom 20 percent of income, who hold considerably more wealth than blacks in any part of the income distribution, can no longer self-insure themselves against the bumps in the economy.

As it took almost 40 years to get to this point, in the near term no recipe of policy fixes will sufficiently remedy the effects. Democrats need to focus on reversing those long-term trends, but also must have something to offer workers now. But every year that Trump is in office, that goal becomes more difficult.

Union representation, a key element in reversing those trends, continues to fall. More states are likely to adopt “right to work” laws. It will be increasingly difficult to rebuild workers’ voice in deciding how corporate output will be divided between wages and profits. That is the greatest source of the rising inequality. The hollowing out of the middle is not the result of automation. Rather, it reflects the relative advantage of those workers more closely tied to management, who squeeze down the income share for the middle and below.

What Reagan achieved in the 1980s was the illusion that by letting the floor fall, the middle could be protected. Unfortunately, too many white workers still have a view of the economy fed by the Reagan framework of government’s role. The unabated concentration of income will make after-tax methods of redistribution more vital so that Americans can have access to housing, education, and health. The Affordable Care Act, a market-based approach to health access, is one example where the fix is inadequate to rising income inequality, and made worse because it naïvely assumed that states would expand public access to address the gap in affordability.

UNDER TRUMP, RACE WILL complicate the effort to devise palliatives to rising inequality until more effective remedies can take effect. His dismantling of anti--discrimination offices within the federal government will create new downward pressures on an already stressed black working class. And the decline in union membership is more dangerous to black workers, who have higher union density than white workers and who rely far more than whites on union bargaining power to get higher wages. Further, black union density is more heavily reliant on public-sector bargaining than is true for whites, and public-sector unions are a target of Trump, who will abet the attack on public-sector unions taking place at the state level.

Under Trump, the gap between the experience of black and white workers will grow. Trump has already changed the political discourse. He has revived a strain of Southern populism that allows for asserting white privilege.

For Democrats, the problem with language that emphasizes the white working class as a separate problem from rising inequality of income and wealth is that it will racialize the debate rather than emphasizing the common assault on all who are not rich. It evokes the negative part of Bill Clinton’s presidency. Hillary Clinton had a hard time convincing young black workers that welfare reform and mass incarceration weren’t key to the Clinton legacy. The lack of black enthusiasm for Clinton is as much a part of the story of 2016 as the enthusiasm of white voters for Trump.

Further, progressive forces in the Democratic Party have been too uncritical of Bernie Sanders’s inability to lay the proper foundation with the party’s African American base ahead of the primary season. It was curious during the 2016 primary season to see Republicans all hopped up about the “SEC primary” (so-called because the Southern states involved have flagship universities in the Southeastern Conference), but no mention among the Democrats of the SWAC primary (the Southwestern Athletic Conference, a complementary athletic conference of public historically black universities).

So, while in the fall of 2015 Republicans fawned over attending games between the University of Alabama and Auburn, not a peep was heard on the need for Democrats to be at a game between Alabama State and Alabama A&M. Black voters often determine the victor in the Southern Democratic primaries, but spending time in Iowa and New Hampshire would be a likely outcome of a party worried about white working voters.

Democrats need to spend more time developing a frame to combat inequality. They need to do a better job of explaining that income inequality is a threat to economic growth. They need to be spending time helping Americans take the blinders off and see that workers, of all races, are being given the shaft by a system where corporate greed has become an elite “entitlement.” They need to pull the Band-Aid off a false sense there is some white privilege that can spare some workers the wrath of America’s war on working people. They must fess up to their quiet, and sometimes vocal, support of an agenda that attacked America’s workers. They need to stop believing the problem confronting American workers is that they are uneducated or unskilled. They need to stop defining the white working class as the less-educated. Those are the perennial excuses meted out to black workers. Young black workers reacted angrily in 2016 to a perception that their pain was being ignored. They didn’t vote for Trump, but Clinton lost as much because they didn’t vote for her either as Trump won because white voters voted for him.

The Democrats won’t solve their electability issues repeating the debate about white voters that they had in the late 1980s. They need to focus on the urgency of the effect of income inequality on American democracy. They need to sound the alarm. And they need to wake up and see who they are in bed with. The power elite of the party think they have freed themselves of a dependency on union support. But the Wall Street vision of the economy is poison for workers of all races and for Democrats.

When the Republican Party of the 19th century cut its deal to end Reconstruction and concentrate on winning the white vote, it launched the Gilded Age and the unremittent growth of inequality that collapsed in the Great Depression. It was accompanied by a Southern populism that entrenched a harsh racial code. Trump’s victory puts us within reach of repeating that mistake in history. Democrats need to be wary, and shrewd. How they handle this could entrench the dystopia of more Trumps—or create a new multiracial coalition of class uplift.

 

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          "Democrats fume over early Gorsuch rulings; Conservative moves by the new Supreme Court justice draw mixed reviews"   
"Democrats fume over early Gorsuch rulings; Conservative moves by the new Supreme Court justice draw mixed reviews": Josh Gerstein of Politico.com has this report.
          Representative Democracy   
If I had a pound for every brexiter who had called me ‘undemocratic,’ I could probably take you all out for a slap up meal (I couldn’t, because that would be classed as ‘treating’ and there are laws about that kind of thing, and rightly so). But fear not, friends as they are wrong, of … Continue reading Representative Democracy
          The lessons of history   
There was a chilling inevitability about the findings of the Chilcot report. I was at a political crossroads in 2003. Today, I rewatched Charles Kennedy’s speech which was seminal in my decision to actively support the Liberal Democrats. It beggared my belief that a British Prime Minister would commit our Armed Forces to the invasion … Continue reading The lessons of history
          Threading the needle of democracy in Egypt   
In a word, Egypt is a mess. But which democracies in history arose from order? Which tyrannical dictatorships ended their regimes with an epiphany in favor of freedom and gave their nation an orderly exit? The hope and promise of a democratic awakening...
          Candidate for Dem Party chair explains resignation from ALEC   

As we and others reported on Friday, a candidate for state Democratic Party Chair, Donald Vaughan, was revealed in recent days to have been a member of the corporate-funded, arch-conservative group ALEC. Late on Friday, Vaughan sent us a letter in which he explained that he is resigning from the group. Click here to read the ...

The post Candidate for Dem Party chair explains resignation from ALEC appeared first on The Progressive Pulse.


          Candidate for Dem Party chair has a lot of nerve   

In case you missed today’s “Follies” edition of the Fitzsimon File, be sure to check it out — especially the part about State Senator Donald Vaughan’s candidacy for chair of the state Democratic Party. As Chris notes, Vaughan is: “a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a national right-wing organization that brings big ...

The post Candidate for Dem Party chair has a lot of nerve appeared first on The Progressive Pulse.


          Global Trends in Militarization Needs Global Explanations   


In my opinion, James Fearon misses an opportunity to link theories together in a productive way. Of the global decline of military spending (% GDP) and mobilization (soldiers per 1,000 citizens) in the postwar era:
On the domestic side of things, there is pretty good evidence that the spread of democracy has been a significant factor. Not worth getting into the details here, but if you look at the data country by country you find that on average, when countries transition to democracy their military spending and army sizes go down, quite substantially.* In fact they tend to go down when they transition from very autocratic to only somewhat autocratic (that is, to “anocracies”, or semi-democracies using the Polity data). The effect of a democratic transition on arms levels in the state in which the transition occurs looks to be larger than the effect of transitions in neighbors on a state’s own military spending, although this is hard to be sure about statistically due to endogeneity issues. I would guess that most of the democracy effect is a domestic matter—for instance, autocracies want bigger militaries to help put down domestic opposition or to pay off cronies, or democracies want smaller militaries to lower coup threats—but some of it might also be an international effect. That is, if democracies want smaller militaries then this could reduce the demand for big armies in their neighbors.
Fearon is reporting a trend, not advancing a well-formulated argument, but I still think this is fairly weak. Here are some other things we know about violence in the postwar era:

-- Interstate violence is at the lowest point in the capitalist era. Given that, it makes perfect sense for military burdens to be at a low point as well. We do not know for certain why the world is so peaceful, but quite a lot of IR theory suggests that American hegemony (which Fearon does not mention) and nuclear weapons (which he does) may have something to do with it. Regarding the former, the American security umbrella covers other democracies and (sometimes) extends to countries transitioning to democracy -- the pacification and democratization of Europe since 1945 is obviously the most pronounced example -- so that could help explain the domestic patterns without telling a ad hoc story about democracies being worried about coup threats (which strikes me as being ahistorical and is in contradiction to the best evidence). Regarding the latter, technology should push down military cost burdens and personnel needed as more and more security mechanisms become computerized and/or automated, at least during times of peace. Nukes are part of that but so are drones, missile technology, cyber capabilities, etc. Given the decline of international conflict and the lower marginal costs of defense why wouldn't we expect the military burden to decrease?

-- As for the fact that the drop in military burden has happened most in democracies I'd note several things. First, it appears from Fearon's description that many democracies were quite heavily armed in the middle of the 20th century. In Fearon's graph at the link above this is quickly seen by the number of people per 1,000 that were in the military in 1945-1950 in "the West". Given that, I don't think a regime-type explanation works very well. Second, democracies are richer, and richer countries should (on average) spend less on their militaries as a percentage of GDP. That is, there is a almost certainly diminishing returns to spending on security: the 10 trillionth dollar spent on national defense will not get you as much security as the 10 millionth. Among consolidated democracies only the U.S. and Israel spend more than 3% of their GDP on their militaries, and I think there is general agreement that much of the American spending is due to rent-seeking, bureaucratic politics, and its ongoing hegemonic project rather than its regime type.

-- Almost all conflict which does occur in the international system is intra-state. Intra-state violence tends to happen more in non-democracies than in democracies. Countries in a state of conflict should dedicate more of their resources towards the military than countries in a state of peace. Therefore, because they are more peaceful, democracies should spend fewer resources on the military. The only wrinkle in this involves transitions to democracy, which often involve conflict. The way I read Fearon he's saying that after transitioning to democracy the military burden decreases; I'm not sure if his data could tell us what's happening during democratic transitions, but it would be interesting to know.

I'm nit-picking a bit here, albeit for a reason. Fearon found some interesting trends, reported them, and then thought-aloud about what might be causing them. There's nothing wrong with that. But the quick-reflex pivot to explanations based on local factors such as regime type is, for me, unsatisfying. Once one takes that step it makes it difficult to think about broader systems, and makes committing an ecological fallacy much more likely. If we're seeing a systemic trend -- lower military burdens everywhere -- then we should seek to make systemic arguments which can account for the trends. Too frequently we try to explain global phenomena by reference to local factors.
          Tree Don't Care What A Little Bird Sings   


I have not read much of Robert Fogel's work, not much at all, but I may need to read more of it. A Fine Theorem, one of the more under-appreciated blogs, has a summary of Fogel's Without Consent or Contract. Here's part of it:
... the paradox rests on the widely held assumption that technological efficiency is inherently good. It is this beguiling assumption that is false and, when applied to [American] slavery, insidious.”  

Roughly, it was political change alone, not economic change, which could have led to the end of slavery in America. The plantation system was, in fact, a fairly efficient system in the economic sense, and was not in danger of petering out on its own accord.
Here's the rest.

There are multiple views of the politics of technology. (Technology is, at its core, information aggregation.) One says that technology is liberating. Another says that technology is enslaving. Another says that technology is fueled by the state for purposes of control. (Oddly, skeptics of markets often make the first point of that point without understanding that the second point is the corollary.) Technology can destabilize the political equilibrium (but does that only apply if it goes in one direction? I doubt it). It's worth googling a bit for the views of Farrell, Drezner, and Lynch on this. It's worth noting that modern authoritarian regimes try to get to the technological frontier as rapidly as possible but they tend to have a tough time managing it. Francis Spufford's Red Plenty is on sale at Amazon right now, if you don't mind probably giving some of your metadata to the NSA.

Sarah Jaffe (on Twitter) asked for a political economy of the surveillance state. (Here's a short take, not very good.) I haven't got the time or background knowledge to build a real model, but if I was going to I'd start with Tilly and Scott and Weber at the foundation and ask what purpose this really serves. Knowledge is power, is it not? Power is needed for protection (in the Tillian sense), is it not? After that I'd go to Orwell like everyone already is, but not the dystopian cliches. Remember in 1984 that Winston Smith was pretty much the only one in society bothered by Big Brother. (Probably not, if you've read your Timur Kuran, but as far as Smith could tell he nearly enough was.) Everybody else just got on with it. The proles sang their songs and read their magazines. Sure, Julia was a bit inconvenienced by the whole thing, but it's not like she really had principles.

Now think about Havel. Now think about samizdat. Is information so easily controllable? Can the state not oppress on the basis of allegation, innuendo, or missing data? Can the citizenry not resist simply by living? Does the state need all information to "keep the locals in line" or just a vague threat -- the vaguer the better? Corey Robin addresses this and gives a precis of his book on the politics of fear. Stalin didn't have Bukharin's metadata... just the ability to credibly say "we know where your kids are". That hasn't changed. Yglesias is right: the biggest thing to fear from the surveillance state isn't the state, per se. But that's a micro story, and micro stories can dictate macro policies.

The U.S. public is not concerned about this. To the extent they are it's for partisan reasons, not out of principle. Note that this is not new. Note that, so far, it appears that these programs are legal at least in broad terms. Intellectuals are more concerned that the median pollee, as they should be, since they are much more likely to be targeted than a randomly-selected person. (If I was Glenn Greenwald I'd go back to snail mail and pay phones for a good long while.) But so? Democratic politics does not guarantee puppies and roses. As we debate whether or not this is constitutional we should remember that James Buchanon's insights do not only apply to economic policy. We should also remember that politicians and celebrities have been subject to heavier levels of scrutiny than this for as long as there has been human society.

Data, even metadata, can be used for ill. (Or good, as the case may be, since the 21st century version of Paul Revere is probably someone Healy wouldn't meet for a beer at Ye Olde Tavern. Possibly this isn't what Healy's driving at.) But let's not get carried away. The U.S. government is sophisticated in many ways, but this program has only $20mn in funding. Let's say they spend $5mn of that on high-powered computers (that's probably less than what the supercomputer I ran a bunch of my dissertation on cost), and the rest on twenty-somethings making $200k/year each (as Snowden apparently did). That's 75 guys trying to make sense of the 2.5 quintillion bytes of data created each day. Good luck with that. (No I don't believe only $20mn was funneled into this. Not for a moment do I believe that. But I'm not sure how much $20bn could really do absent some good old fashioned police work.)

So after you've read the Spufford (or even before) you might want to read some of the discussion at Crooked Timber on the book. See especially this wonderclass by Shalizi which has as much to say about social science theory and methods as it does about historical political systems or the contemporary political economy of the surveillance state or novels. The key question is Shalizi's first one: what is being optimized?

Then recall that Hayek's slippery slope is a logical fallacy to which the historical record is not kind. Should we be less concerned? Probably depends on how concerned you were in the first place... anonymity is a myth.

Remember too that the government oppresses and kills and makes terrible decisions when it doesn't have good intelligence. Given that, is the expected utility of (American or other) society better or worse with PRISM or without it? Apparently this program stopped one or more attacks at the London Olympics. What would the cost of those attacks have been? Was preventing them worth $20mn dollars plus some false positives? (The TSA spends $6.5 billion a year and probably gets almost nothing for it.) Could PRISM have stopped Nidal Hasan had it been better-implemented? If it could have, would it be worth it? We are quite literally behind the veil of ignorance at the moment (just a bit less in the wake of Snowden's leaks), but if we take engaged citzenry to be a desirable normative end in itself we need to put our Bayesian caps on now and start updating our priors.

What tail event has a greater probability: that this program is abused in such a way that it devastates liberal society, or that it prevents a significant attack the fallout from which would devastate the same society?

In the end the biggest repercussions of NSA spying might be felt in the US-EU trade negotiations.

Nevertheless, I oppose PRISM and related programs very strongly. I do so because I am not risk-averse.

I believe this is the most Cowen-esque thing I've ever written. I also believe that every link in this post is worth clicking on.
          A Bunch of Acronyms and Some Trade Politics   
Last February Sarah and I* speculated in a short National Interest article that a EU-US trade deal (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP) could put pressure on the recent prevalence of investor-state dispute clauses (ISDs):
While ISD clauses are widespread, they usually exist within the context of treaties between states characterized by economic asymmetries. For instance, of the more than 2000 bilateral investment treaties (BITs) worldwide, none exist between two advanced industrial countries. The United States generally embraces investor-state dispute clauses; both their model free-trade agreement (FTA) and BIT contain such language. However, it is far from certain that a US-EU treaty would include an ISD clause. Generally, advanced industrial countries have shown they are more interested in promoting legal regimes that protect "their" multinationals while they are less willing to cede jurisdiction over investment disputes in which they might be defendants.
Today, via Simon Lester, we see that the EU is not super-thrilled with the idea of having an ISD in TTIP that is typical of US ISDs, although it's tough to know from the formal language exactly what the EU is after. Or as Lester puts it: 

What are the authors saying here? Are they saying: 
1. Investment protection and investor-state will only be included if high EU standards for investment protection, as opposed to the weaker U.S./Canadian standards, are met? 
or are they saying: 
2. Investment protection and investor-state will only be included if the usual provisions are weakened so as to ensure that public policy objectives can be pursued? 

I don't know the answer (perhaps Sarah could chime in?), but it seems clear that any ISD in TTIP will have to be different than that in the model US bilateral investment treaty. So far our article is holding up pretty well.

Meanwhile, Eyes on Trade doesn't like Obama's secrecy on another potential trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)**. They also nail the reason for the secrecy:
So why keep it a secret? Because Mr. Obama wants the agreement to be given fast-track treatment on Capitol Hill. Under this extraordinary and rarely used procedure, he could sign the agreement before Congress voted on it. And Congress’s post-facto vote would be under rules limiting debate, banning all amendments and forcing a quick vote.
Eyes on Trade think all of this is severely crippling democracy. In a way it is, it by "democracy" you mean legislators favoring parochial interests over the good of the nation as a whole. The Congress has often given the President fast-track authority. Clinton had it for part of his terms. George W Bush had it for most of his. The reason for this is so that individual Congresspeople can't fiddle with the deal in order to privilege local constituencies after its been agreed to by the negotiators of both sides. It's basically a legal way to curtail rent-seeking exceptions and other Congressional shenanigans. These are generally questionable on welfare grounds when things like tax bills are being debated, but when negotiating a trade deal they can be deadly: each new Congressional exception has to be approved by the foreign party, which will likely demand further concessions in exchange, which would have to be approved by Congress in turn, etc. Each iteration of this lowers the chance of any deal being reached. Fast track authority cuts that process out. Interested groups can still lobby the US Trade Representative, and Congress still has to approve any deal, so it's not exactly undemocratic. But fast track makes the policy process more efficient.

Obama hasn't been given fast track authority. Democrats have typically been skeptical of trade deals -- remember that renegotiating NAFTA was a big issue during the 2008 Democratic primary -- and Republicans seem intent on blocking anything Obama chooses to do on grounds of principle. It doesn't seem to have been a major priority for Obama until now, as he's preferred to focus on health care, immigration, and other issues first. But without fast track trade deals are much more difficult to complete. So much so that foreign countries often prefer not to negotiate at all because they know that whatever agreement they reach will end up being altered by Congress. Given that, what's the point of negotiating in the first place?

Although they are fairly obscure these issues are quite important. I continue to think there's a decent chance that Obama gets fast track, and if he does that some deals will get done. The business community is very interested in seeing agreements made, so they will likely push the GOP to give in to Obama. Democrats are a bit less enthusiastic, but are more likely to give Obama authority than they would be to lengthen Romney's leash. And if Sarah and my article is correct, there are not many important interest groups that oppose a EU-US deal. The TPP makes sense in a number of ways as well.

All of this remains to be seen of course, but I'm still pretty optimistic that we'll see some movement on trade during Obama's second term.

*Really Sarah. She knows much more about ISDs than me and wrote that part of the article more or less on her own.

**Yes I know. TPP and TTIP and ISDs, oh my.
          Marginalia   

Corey Robin has written a long article arguing that Austrian economic thought and marginalism in general is descended from Nietzsche. Hence, Hayek et al are a bunch of aristocrats dedicated to oppressing society. I'd be happy to be persuaded that the marginalists -- at least as Robin uses the term, which isn't the only way -- are Nietzschean, but Robin's article didn't do it. Too many strong assertions based on tenuous evidence, and Robin is not exactly an impartial observer. This follow-on John Holbo post -- while exceptional in many ways -- doesn't do it either. Partially because it rests so heavily on a peculiar (I think) reading of this quote from Hayek in The Constitution of Liberty:

To grant no more freedom than all can exercise would be to misconceive its function completely. The freedom that will be used by only one man in a million may be more important to society and more beneficial to the majority than any freedom that we all use.

This does not have to mean that "some people’s freedom is a lot more valuable than other people’s freedom", as Holbo wrote in a previous post and quotes here. In light of the rest of Hayek's work (or even the rest of the passage from which this quote is pulled: see below) it is strange to argue that this passage means anything like what Holbo thinks it means: "Ideally, we would find that one man and even make all others his slaves, if that is what it took to let him exercise his freedom to the fullest. Hayek thus affirms a freedom monster argument somehat analogous to the classic pleasure monster reductio."

The Hayek quote refers to the exercise of liberty, which may not be universal even if the liberty is extended universally. Hayek is arguing that it does not follow from the fact that the exercise may be non-universal that the liberty should be restricted. Instead, those who would exercise their liberty should be free to do so. In fact, there are a million liberties. None of us can act on all them, but all of us will act on some of them. Restricting liberties that the majority isn't exercising may be tempting, but it would be wrong to do so since the exercise of liberties leads to the improvement of society. That's the argument.

To get from Hayek to Holbo's interpretation of Hayek you have to take a few steps. First you'd have to ignore the footnote on the very passage Holbo pulls, which contains this quote (from some people I've never heard of): "If there is to be freedom for the few who will take advantage of it, freedom must be offered to the many." How does that imply enslavement of the masses for the benefit of one? Suppose I proposed universal suffrage while acknowledging that many people will stay home on election day. Would that make me anti-democratic? It's a strange argument.

Hayek believes that social progress occurs partially through experimentation, the results of which are ex ante unknowable. The "unknowable" part is extremely important for Hayek. It's how he can simultaneously support a welfare state and public provision of public goods while opposing egalitarian redistribution and social ownership of the means of production. "Knowable" advances can be socially planned, and Hayek was fine with using the power of the state to do so. ("It is the character rather than the volume of government activity that is important.") Unknowable advances cannot be planned but are nevertheless desirable, thus experimentation must be allowed through constitutionalization and encouraged by the preservation of (market) reward for experiments that succeed. Holbo is correct that this is Millian -- J.S. Mill's "utilitarianism" is dynamic, not static: society benefits at time t+1 from the exercise of individual liberty at time t. Whether this is actual utilitarianism or something else is, I suppose, the question -- but wrong when he implies that Mill, by way of Hayek, was Nietzschean.

Hayek seems to believe that the majority of society will choose not to experiment because they are risk averse -- "The freedom that will be used by only one man in a million..." emphasis added -- or because they are exercising some other liberty, but it is socially optimal to have somebody doing some experimenting. Those who are interested in doing so, those who will exercise their liberties while others do not, should be allowed to do so, since society will benefit if they succeed. The rest of the passage in The Constitution of Liberty quote above goes:

The less likely the opportunity, the more serious will it be to miss it when it arises, for the experience that it offers will be nearly unique. It is also probably true that the majority are not directly interested in most of the important things that any one person should de free to do. It is because we do not know how individuals will use their freedom that it is so important. If it were otherwise, the results of of freedom could also be achieved by the majority’s deciding what should be done by the individuals. But the majority action is, of necessity, confined to the already tried and ascertained, to issues on which agreement has already been reached in that process of discussion that must be preceded by different experiences and actions on the part of different individuals. 
The benefits I derive from freedom are thus largely the result of the uses of freedom by others, and mostly of those uses of freedom that I could never avail myself of. It is therefore not necessarily freedom that I can exercise myself that is most important for me. It is certainly more important that anything can be tried by somebody than that all can do the same things… What is important is not the freedom that I personally would like to exercise but what freedom some person may need in order to do things beneficial to society. This freedom we can assure to the unknown person only by giving it to all.

How can one (e.g. Holbo) read this and come away thinking Overman? It's more like the open source movement. Which makes sense, since Hayek's view on this goes back to his 1945 essay "The Uses of Knowledge in Society". He argues there that because much knowledge is local, and centralized planning cannot incorporate local knowledge, that centralized planning will fail. This argument is what he's drawing from to say that the exercise of liberty by some -- who are in possession of local knowledge not available to all -- is not suboptimal.

Now, possibly you could argue that Hayek's view of the masses is too dim (even though he includes himself in them) and that is where the aristocracy comes in and takes us to Nietzsche. Or possibly you could argue that the "knowable" advances are greater than the "unknowable" advances. Indeed, this is the argument against which Hayek dedicated himself to in writing The Constitution of Liberty, which was published in 1960 -- a time after Sputnik when Paul Samuelson was predicting that the USSR's GNP per capita would surpass the US's within a generation or so -- so you'd at least be meeting him where he is. The question Hayek is trying to address is whether society will benefit more from planning or from spontaneous emergence. He obviously believes it is the latter. He may be wrong, but not because he's a Nietzschean.

The better argument is the one made by Amartya Sen: it is not necessarily local knowledge which precludes some from exercising certain liberties, but rather material opportunity. It may not be that some will not exercise their ability but that they cannot do so. In this case they are not free. Hayek says almost nothing about this directly, but does say that just because some are free does not mean that all should be enslaved. Those who can exercise their freedom should do so, as this will provide benefit for society.

This is the point, I think, that Hayek goes astray. His argument about the importance of local knowledge and decentralization falls apart when those with local knowledge cannot employ it and opportunity is centralized. His claim that innovations by the few will benefit the many is empirical: sometimes they do, often they do not. His argument that order is spontaneous is contingent, in other words, not a law of nature. Complex systems can, and do, break down. To simply admit does not require giving anything else up.

But, again, this is not Nietzschean. Which is why Objectivists do not like Hayek. This is an argument that Hayek should revise his beliefs to include a role for a marginally bigger -- although not fundamentally different -- state, or some other redistributionary apparatus. This is doable using Hayekian language, even if Hayek himself and many of his supporters recommend a minimalist state. Hayek is reconcilable with somewhat-modest forms of social democracy, in other words, and social democracy is reconcilable with a deregulated-but-redistributionary political economy.

But to do that you'd have to admit that Hayek was not quite a moral monster. Corey Robin is dedicated to showing that the right wing is authoritarian in all its guises. He believes that when Hayek writes "Why I Am Not A Conservative" he simply cannot be trusted: he's a reactionary like all the rest, and all the rest are motivated first and foremost by a lust for exploitation and oppression. There is nothing inherently wrong with this intellectual project, and I've learned a lot by following it. But it is inherently limiting at the same time, and it commits one to answers before questions have even been asked.


          I want to be president – Sylvester Mensah   
A former CEO of the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) Sylvester Mensah has revealed he hopes to “occupy the Flagstaff House” one day, but for now he is “considering” numerous calls on him to contest the flagbearer position of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) ahead of the 2020 elections.
          Georgia Special Election Portends What the "Trump Effect" Will Be on GOP-Leaning Congressional Districts in 2018   
Today voters in the northern Atlanta suburbs go to the polls to vote in a special election, the most expensive congressional race in history.  Democrat Jon Ossoff faces Republican Karen Handel in the battle to replace former congressman and current Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price in Georgia House District #6.  Both parties, but especially Democrats, have poured money into the competition for a district that Price won by 23% in 2016, but President Trump only carried by 1%. The national media is focusing on the race as a referendum on Trump.  Republicans have won previous GOP-leaning special districts this year, but in every instance the Republican share of the vote has been substantially down over previous years.

The Real Clear Politics average of polls show Handel with a .2% lead.  Obviously a dead heat.


Karen Handel
Is too much made of this special election as a referendum on President Trump?  Certainly too much is based on who wins or loses.  If Handel, for example, wins by a handful of votes instead of losing by a handful of votes, there shouldn't be too much read into the result. However, the GOP is having to defend this heavily Republican seat is a significant development, apart from the actual result that rolls in tonight.  It should be noted that Georgia HD #6 has a highly education population.  Indeed it is in the top 10 in that measure.  The other nine congressional districts with the most educated populations are represented by Democrats.  There was a time when the more education one had, the more likely a person would be a Republican.  That appears to be changing.

While far from an inspiring candidate, Handel's moderately conservative views better fit the district than the bland Ossoff.  Politically, Ossoff, who is only 30 years old, is a traditional liberal who would be much better suited for a Democratic-leaning congressional district in Massachusetts or California, rather than a Republican-leaning district in Georgia.  Even more importantly than his age and liberal views being a handicap in the district, the biggest negative for Ossoff is that he doesn't actually in House District #6. While not a legal requirement, that issue has proven to be a deal-breaker for challengers who have attempted to convince voters they can properly represent a district in which they don't live. 

What I find most remarkable is that the Democrats, despite recruiting an extremely poor candidate for the district, have a real chance of winning tonight. That speaks volumes about the drag that President Trump will be on the Republicans going into the 2018 congressional elections.  Call it the "Trump Effect."
          Polls Show Georgia CD #6 Special Election a Toss-Up   
In what is considered the best barometer of politics post-Trump presidency,  the candidates in the special election run-off or Georgia's 6th Congressional District appear to be in a statistical dead heat. The latest poll conducted by WSB-TV/Landmark at the end of June shows Democrat Jon Ossoff leading Republican Karen Handel 49-48, well within the 4.4 margin of error. All other polls reported by Real Clear Politics, except one, show the margin as 2 points are less.  The outlier, a poll conducted by WXIA-TV/Survey USA, in mid-May, showed Ossoff leading by 7 points.

The district was formerly represented by Tom Price who was appointed Secretary of Health and
Human Services by President Donald Trump.  In the 2016 election, Price received 61.6% of the vote. While the Atlanta suburban district is normally reliably Republican, Trump performed poorly in the district barely edging out Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Despite the Republican-leaning nature of the district, Democrats have outspent Republicans in an effort to boost Ossoff.    Ossoff has been called an uninspiring candidate who has been criticized for residing outside the 6th district (Residency in a particular congressional district is not required to be a candidate for that district.)  Ossoff's strategy appears to make the special election, to be held on June 20th, a referendum on Trump who he has tied closely to Handel.
          Vice President Pence Damages His Reputation in Conveying False Narrative About Comey Firing   
Probably no one has done a better job of remaining unscathed by association with the administration of Donald Trump than Vice President Mike Pence.  In that capacity, Pence has acquitted himself quite well in the aftermath of a rocky term as Indiana Governor.

That all changed with the Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday.  On Wednesday, Pence and other Trump spokespeople went out to spread the narrative that Trump had acted on the recommendation of Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein to fire Comey because of his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.    Pence's mission was to convey that message to
members of Congress.

The problem was the Trump-Comey talking points were not true.   Journalists began digging and found that the Comey firing was because of every increasing Trumpian furor over the continued Russian investigation led by Comey.  Indeed, Comey had just requested it be expanded, with additional financial and personnel resources devoted to the investigation. The Rosenstein memo turned out to be after-the-fact cover for the decision.

The problem for Pence is that he was in the meeting during which Trump announced his plan to fire Comey, a meeting at which Trump requested Rosenstein write a memo to offer a false motive for his action.  So when Pence was on Capitol Hill he was knowingly offering a lie about how President Trump arrived at his decision.  The White House has since admitted the original tale spun by the Trump spokespeople, including Pence, wasn't true.

Pence's loss of credibility is a most unfortunate development.  I would rate the odds better than 50-50 he will be President before the official end of Trump's term and that he will lead the Republican ticket in 2020. His being damaged by his actions as Vice President further hurt GOP efforts to keep control of the White House and the Senate.

As far as the U.S. House, that most likely be won by the Democrats in 2018.  A Quinnipiac poll released yesterday showed that Americans by a 54-38 margin Americans want Democrats to win control of the U.S. House in 2018.  That 16 point spread is by far the widest margin ever measured on that question.
          Liberals Show Contempt for Free Speech in Silencing Ann Coulter   
By now many if not most people have heard that "conservative" columnist Ann Coulter's planned speech at the University of California at Berkeley has been cancelled.  Liberals on and off the campus acted to shut down the speech.  Fox News now reports on the latest development, support from a prominent actor:
Rob Schneider attacked UC Berkeley for cancelling conservative commentator Ann Coulter's speech, saying the university should "add burning
Ann Coulter
books to the curriculum." 
"UC Berkeley, after you done eliminating speech you don't like & words you don’t like what’s next?" the comedian wrote on Twitter adding, "Maybe add burning books to the curriculum." 
The outspoken star also tweeted, "Freedom of thought, speech, conscience & informed consent to medical risk taking. There's no greater calling for Americans in the 21st Century." 
... 
Earlier this month, a bloody brawl broke out in downtown Berkeley at a pro-Trump protest that featured speeches by members of the white nationalist right. They clashed with a group of Trump critics who called themselves anti-fascists. 
... 
In February, violent protesters forced the cancellation of a speech by right-wing writer Milo Yiannopoulos, who like Coulter was invited by campus Republicans.
I am no fan of Coulter.  I find her to be utterly repulsive, an ideological faud who has hijacked the "conservative" label to promote ideas that are full of hate and not at all conservative.   It is people like her, and President Trump, who are destroying the once great conservative movement that convinced me to become a Republican.

Nonetheless, college campuses should be venues where the open exchange of ideas is welcomed, even when those ideas are an anathema to many who study and work at the school.  One of the most unfortunate trends in recent years is the increasing lack of tolerance for free speech by people on the left, particular at our colleges and universities.  If you want to read a great book on the subject, written by a liberal Democrat no less, pick up The Silencing by Kirsten Powers.

          Democrats Strengthen Domination of Indianapolis Northside Townships   
I finally got around to looking at the Marion County (Indianapolis) election results from November.  I may write a few columns on the subject. Today's is about changing party fortunes in the nine Marion County townships.


At the turn of the century,  Republicans dominated the township boards in 8 of the 9 townships, i.e. all the townships except Center Township.  Now the story is that the Democrats dominate all the townships with the exception of the three southernmost, Decatur, Perry and Franklin.

This year, the number of township board seats changed from 7 to 5.  That didn't help Republican prospects any, however .  While the Democrats lost a seat in Pike, the party increased its domination in Washington, Warren and Lawrence Township.  Below are the results:

YEAR 2016
Township Republican Democrat
Center 0 5
Decatur 5 0
Franklin 5 0
Lawrence 1 4
Perry 5 0
Pike 0 5
Warren 1 4
Washington 1 4
Wayne 1 4
19 26
YEAR 2012
Township Republican Democrat
Center 1 6
Decatur 7 0
Franklin 7 0
Lawrence 3 4
Perry 6 1
Pike 0 7
Warren 2 5
Washington 3 4
Wayne 1 6
30 33

          McConnell’s health-care misery: a bad bill taken to new lows   
For a good laugh, or rather cry, zip backward to the beginning of 2014, when Democrats still had control of the Senate, and listen to Mitch McConnell’s lamentations about the … Click to Continue »
          Lawmakers Who Want To Carry Guns On N.H. House Floor Won't Be Required to Take Safety Training   
A proposal to require firearm safety training for New Hampshire lawmakers wishing to carry guns on the House floor has been defeated. Democratic Minority Leader Steve Shurtleff proposed the rule Thursday after a representative dropped her loaded gun during a committee hearing this month. House rules say lawmakers with the proper license can carry hidden guns in the House chamber. The new rule would have required them to take a speaker-approved gun safety course before being allowed to carry concealed weapons. Republicans quickly moved to table the proposal, effectively cutting off debate. The vote largely fell along party lines. On Jan. 12, Republican Rep. Carolyn Halstead dropped her loaded gun on the floor near some children. It didn't fire and nobody was hurt. Halstead has said she was "mortified" by what happened.
          N.H. Senate Passes Concealed Carry Gun Bill   
The New Hampshire Senate has voted on party lines to allow people to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. With Republicans leaders and Governor Chris Sununu favoring the bill, it’s expected to become law. Similar bills have cleared the GOP-controlled legislatures in the past but have been vetoed by Democratic governors. With Governor Sununu promising to sign this bill, Republicans are moving fast. Senate majority leader Jeb Bradley is the bill's lead sponsor. “We are talking about law abiding citizens being able to protect themselves. We are not talking about criminals. This is not radical, this is not ideological -- this is practical.” Democrats say current law, which allows people to carry guns openly but grants local police chiefs the power to decide if an applicant for a concealed permit is “suitable,” strikes the right balance. Vermont and Maine already allow people to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. Vermont never required one; Maine lifted its requirement in 2015
          Hassan Joins Democrats At Statehouse Gun Sit-In    
The state reps gathered in the house well. They mostly talked about how the nation needs to break the gridlock on the gun debate. Jackie Cilley represents Barrington. "It is a war zone, and there are practical, sensible solutions that we can promulgate and legislators, nationally and in this state that will make it a little less so." When Governor Hassan joined the sit in, she spoke briefly, but pointedly on guns. "It is absolutely essential that we expand background checks, so that known and suspected terrorist can't buy guns at gun shows or online." Afterwards, Hassan called the gun bill backed by Senator Kelly Ayotte, which would ban people on the no-fly list from buying guns, but would not expand background checks, as "better than nothing but not nearly enough."
          Almost 26 Hours Later, House Democrats End Gun Control Sit-In    
Updated at 1:15 p.m. House Democrats have ended their almost 26-hour-long sit-in to push for gun control legislation, pledging on Thursday afternoon to continue their fight once Congress returns from the July Fourth recess. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., ended the daylong protest surrounded by his Democratic colleagues. The civil rights leader proclaimed that this "is a struggle, but we're going to win this struggle." He pledged to come back on July 5 after the congressional recess "more determined than ever before" to push for reforms in the wake of yet another mass shooting last week at an Orlando gay nightclub. After they vacated the floor, Lewis and other Democratic leaders headed outside the Capitol to address supporters of their sit-in who had gathered throughout the push. The sit-in began before noon on Wednesday , when House Democrats took to the floor. Chanting "No Bill, No Break" and waving posters with the names of victims of gun violence, the Democrats vowed to allow no House
          Ayotte Supports 'No Fly, No Buy' Gun Bill   
As the U.S. Senate debates measures to keep guns out of the hands of terrorists, New Hampshire's Senator Kelly Ayotte is throwing her support to a proposal drafted by Maine Senator Susan Collins. The plan would bar people on the TSA's no-fly and selected lists from buying guns. It also creates an appeals process where people wrongly blocked from buying gun could recover legal fees from the federal government. "I hope that on both sides of the aisle we can work together to get a result to the American people and make sure that we get something done, so terrorists cannot purchase firearms.," Ayotte said, "But Mr. President, let's also make sure that we continue to go after ISIS, and defeat ISIS." Ayotte's support for the measure comes as top senate Democrats and Republicans are offering Orlando-inspired bills similar to ones that failed last year.
          Democrats Hold Senate Floor Until Early Thursday In A Push For Gun Control   
Updated 2:30 a.m. ET Thursday: Nearly 15 hours: The Associated Press reports that's how long Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy and his Democratic colleagues held the floor before yielding early Thursday, with a pledge that he would aggressively press for a legislative response to the Orlando, Fla., mass shooting. Murphy has been upset with congressional inaction on gun violence. Original Post: Senate Democrats say they are bringing Senate business to a halt in an effort to force some action on gun control. Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut said on Twitter that he was prepared to "talk about the need to prevent gun violence for as long as I can." "For those of us that represent Connecticut, the failure of this body to do anything, anything at all in the face of that continued slaughter isn't just painful to us, it's unconscionable," Murphy said, referencing the shootings at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. "I can't tell you how hard it is to look into the eyes of the family of those
          Saare Jahaan Se Achha Song   
The Indians celebrate the enforcement of the Constitution as Republic Day on January 26th every year. India became a totally sovereign, democratic and republic state on this day in 1950. This day is commemorated to remember the freedom fighters and great leaders of our country. A massive parade is taken out at the Rajpath in New Delhi. Melodious patriotic songs filled with love and patriotism are played on this day. 'Saare Jahaan Se Achha' is a well-known poem written by Urdu poet, Muhammad Iqbal. Though written in the ghazal style, this poem went ahead to become the anthem of opposition for the British Rule. Quite an old song, it is still cherished and sung with the same devotion and energy in the hearts of Indians. This song is better known as "Tarana-e-Hindi" or "Anthem of the People of Hindustan". To know the lyrics of this song, go through the lines given herein.

Saare Jahaan Se Achha Lyrics

sare jahan se accha hindostan hamara
hum bulbulain hai is ki, yeh gulsitan hamara

ghurbat men hon agar ham, rahta hai dil vatan men
samjho vahin hamen bhi, dil hain jahan hamara

parbat voh sab se uncha, hamsaya asman ka
voh santari hamara, voh pasban hamara

godi men khelti hain is ki hazaron nadiya
gulshan hai jin ke dam se, rashk-e-janan hamara

aye ab, raud, ganga, voh din hen yad tujhko
utara tere kinare, jab karvan hamara

maz'hab nahin sikhata apas men bayr rakhna
hindvi hai ham, vatan hai hindostan hamara

yunan-o-misr-o-roma, sab mil gaye jahan se
ab tak magar hai baqi, nam-o-nishan hamara

kuch bat hai keh hasti, milati nahin hamari
sadiyon raha hai dushman, daur-e-zaman hamara

iqbal ko'i meharam, apna nahin jahan men
m'alum kya kisi ko, dard-e-nihan hamara

sare jahan se accha hindostan hamara

ham bulbulain hai is ki, yeh gulsitan hamara

          Vande Mataram Song   
January 26th is one of the most remarkable days in the history of India and for all Indians. On this very special day in 1950, our constitution and our motherland became a totally sovereign, democratic and republic state. The day is honored with great respect and celebrated with immense zeal, fervor and grandeur. While the main event takes place at the Rajpath at India Gate in the capital of New Delhi, other states carry out their individual flag hoisting ceremonies. A large variety of patriotic songs can be heard from all across the country. 'Vande Mataram' is the national song of India, composed by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay. The song lyrics combine both Bengali and Sanskrit words. Find the lyrics of the 'Vande Matram' song in the following lines.

Vande Mataram Lyrics

Vande Maataram, vande maataram
Sujala sufala malayaja-shitalaam
Shashya-shyaamala maataram
Vande maataram

Shubhra-jyotsna-pulakita yaamini
Phulakusumati-drumadala shobhini
Suhaasini sumadhur bhaashini
Sukhada varada maataram
Vande maataram

Koti Koti Kantha Kalakalaninada Karaale
Koti Koti Bhujaidhritakharakaravale
Abalaa Keno Maa Eto Bale
Bahubaladharinim Namami Tarinim
Ripudalavarinim Maataram
Vande Mataram

Tumi Vidyaa Tumi Dharma
Tumi Hridi Tumi Marma
Tvam Hi Pranah Sharire Baahute Tumi Maa Shakti
Hridaye Tumi Maa Bhakti
Tomaara Pratima Gadi
Mandire Mandire
Vande Mataram

Tvam Hi Durga Dashapraharanadharini
Kamala Kamaladala Vihaarini
Vani Vidyadayini Namami Tvam
Namami Kamalam Amalam Atulam
Sujalam Suphalam Maataram
Shyaamalam Saralam Susmitam Bhushhitam
Dharanim Bharanim Maataram
Vande Mataram...

          Republic Day Parade   
Republic Day Parade
Republic Day is one of the national holidays in India celebrated on the 26th of January every year. It is considered as one of the most important days in the Indian history, as India adopted the Indian Constitution and became a sovereign, democratic and republic state on this day in 1950. The day is honored and celebrated with great joy, gusto, splendor and magnificence. The whole nation is engaged in true patriotic spirit by singing and playing patriotic songs and organizing cultural programs. However, the main event takes place at the Rajpath in New Delhi, the capital of India. People gather in large numbers at the India Gate to view the gorgeous parade. The entire parade is telecasted live on the national television. Read on to know the main highlights of the Republic Day parade that takes place annually.

Republic Day Parade At New Delhi


The day starts off with the Prime Minister laying a floral wreath at the Amar Jawan Jyoti to commemorate the martyrs, who sacrificed their lives for the nation. This memorial is situated at India Gate at one end of Rajpath. A two minute silence is observed in the memory of these unknown soldiers. The Prime Minister is then driven to the main dais at Rajpath, where he is joined by the President and other dignitaries. The President then unfurls the Indian flag which is immediately followed by the National Anthem. He is then accompanied by the honorable Head of State or Government from a foreign country as the Chief Guest. Soon after, a 21 gun salute is presented.

The President comes forward to award the medals for bravery, such as the Ashok Chakra and Kirti Chakra to the people who have shown exceptional excellence in their respective fields. This marks the beginning of the parade by the three regiments of the Armed Forces, namely the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. Dressed in their finery and official decorations, the soldiers march past, bringing down their weapons, while passing by the President as a gesture of respect towards the head. The President, who serves as the Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Armed Forces, comes forward and takes the salute. The winners of the gallantry awards also pass by in open jeeps. Kids, who have won National Bravery Awards, pass by on elephants.

The grand parade continues with the Indian Military showcasing its latest acquisitions, namely, tanks, missiles, radars, etc. Different helicopters from the Indian Air Force fly past the parade showcasing their stunts and showering rose petals on the audience beneath. This military parade is followed by a colorful cultural parade. Different tableaus display India’s rich cultural heritage from various states, with each one depicting its unique location, art and festivals. This section of the parade adds to the festivity of the occasion by exhibiting the diversity and richness of the Indian culture.

Various government departments and ministries also display their tableaus displaying new inventions and developments for the progress of the country. This is then followed by regional tableaus, with each region displaying its culture and heritage. School children perform different folk dances from across India on patriotic songs. This is followed by displays of dangerous and exciting skilful motor-cycle rides by the Armed Forces personnel. Last but not the least, jets and fighter planes from the Indian Air Force fly past the parade symbolically saluting the President thereby, traditionally concluding the Republic Day parade. The parade marches along the India Gate and ends into the Red fort in the walled city of Old Delhi.

          Republic Day Celebrations   
Republic Day is a national holiday that is celebrated every year with immense zeal and enthusiasm. The Constitution of India was enforced on 26th January, 1950 marking a historical moment in the Indian history. Hence, this day is honored with great joy, pride and vigor across the country as India was also declared a sovereign, democratic and republic state on this very day. The day calls in for grand celebrations, which are evident from the massive parades, cultural programs, recitation of patriotic poems and singing and playing of patriotic songs throughout. Though every Indian state holds its celebrations, but the capital of city of New Delhi witnesses a grand parade at India Gate, near the President's Palace. Read on to know all about Republic Day celebrations in New Delhi.

How Is Republic Day Celebrated

The Prime Minister lays a floral wreath at the Amar Jawan Jyoti early in the morning to honor the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the nation. A two minute silence is observed in their memory and the Prime Minister moves ahead to the main dais at Rajpath. The President joins him/her there along with the Chief Guest and other dignitaries. The Chief Guest is usually the Head of State or Government from a foreign nation. The President hoists the flag and soon, the National Anthem is played. This is followed by a 21 gun salute.

The parade starts off with the Armed Forces regiments walking past the President. All the three regiments, that is, the Army, the Navy and the Air Force dress in their best official uniforms and march past finely. The Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Armed Forces, that is, the President takes the salute as the regiment pass by. The parade also includes people from the armed forces and civilians who have shown exceptional courage and distinguished themselves in various acts of heroism in different situations. The military parade is then followed with a vibrant and colorful parade of regional tableaus.

Cultural and folk dances also form the part of the parade where school children sing and dance to patriotic songs. The parade ends by jets and fighter planes flying past the parade symbolically saluting the President. The parade is telecasted live on the national television, allowing the entire nation to view it. Lastly, the crowd stands up as the National Anthem is played. However, this is not the end of the Republic Day celebrations. It is, in fact, a three-day extravaganza, where on the 27th January, the creme of the NCC cadets hold a Prime Minister's rally. A wide variety of breath-taking performances and drills make the highlights.

All the major government buildings are beautifully illuminated with lights every evening from 26th to 29th January. On the third day after Republic Day, that is 29th, 'Beating the Retreat' ceremony is conducted consisting of massed bands marching to the popular tunes. The Drummer's Call follows wherein the drummers give solo performances. Thereafter, the Bugle Call follows which is characterized by the band master walking up to the President requesting to take the bands away. This marks the end of the closing ceremony of Republic Day. At 6 pm, the buglers sound the retreat and the National Flag is lowered. With this, the Republic Day celebrations are formally ended.

          Republic Day 26th January   
Republic Day is one of the three national holidays of India and the greatest festival celebrated in the country. It is celebrated every year on January 26, in New Delhi with great pomp, fanfare and pageant. While in the capitals of the States and other headquarters, it is marked with patriotic fervor. The most spectacular celebrations are marked by the Republic Day Parade that takes place in the capital of New Delhi at Rajpath. It includes march past of the three armed forces, massive parades, folk dances by tribal folk from different states in picturesque costumes marking the cultural unity of India. Further, the streak of jet planes of Indian Air Force, leaving a trial of colored smoke, marks the end of the festival.

It was the Lahore Session of the Indian National Congress at midnight of December 31, 1929 - January 1, 1930, that the Tri-Color Flag was unfurled by the nationalists and a pledge was taken that on January 26 every year, "Republic Day" would be celebrated and that the people would unceasingly strive for the establishment of a Sovereign Democratic Republic India. The professed pledge was successfully redeemed on January 26, 1950, when the Constitution of India framed by the Constituent Assembly of India came into force, although the Independence from the British rule was already achieved on August 15, 1947. It is because of this fact that August 15 is celebrated as Independence Day, while January 26 as Republic Day.

The Republic Day celebrations of India have rightly become world famous as one of the greatest shows on earth drawing thousands of eager sight-seers from all over the country and many parts of the world as well. No other country can draw on such a wealth of tribal traditions and cultures, with so many regional forms of dances and dress. And, no other country in the world can parade so many ethnically different people in splendid uniforms, all united in their proven loyalty to the Government elected by the people and in their proud traditions and legendary gallantry.

          N.C. Secretary of State calls impeachment effort a 'political attack'   
Hours after a House committee signed off on a resolution to begin impeachment proceedings, North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall calls the move nothing more than “a political attack.” The committee vote Wednesday went along party lines. Rep. Chris Millis (R-Onslow, Pender) has accused Marshall, a Democrat, of allowing her office to grant notaries public commissions to illegal U.S. residents – a claim she flatly denies in a statement. In a public letter he sent to Marshall in…

          Democrats Aren’t Being Honest When They Talk About North Dakota’s Budget Situation   
North Dakota House minority leader Rep. Corey Mock (D-Grand Forks) TOM STROMME/Bismarck Tribune
I’ve been pretty blunt in recent weeks talking about Republican handling of North Dakota’s budget situation. I think Republicans bungled. They spent too much. They built big budget increases on the back of unsustainable revenues driven by a boom in commodity prices. They have nobody to blame for that but themselves. I’ve also written, consistently,...
          Iowa, New Hampshire success rate in picking the Democratic nominee (UPDATE).   
What do the numbers tell us about the Iowa, New Hampshire success rate in picking the nominee? The closer we …

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          PDD 2017 Fundraiser – Tickets Available Now!   
· Hosted by Progressive Democrats for Delaware
          General Assembly Post-Game Wrap-Up/Pre-Game Show: Weds., June 28, 2017   
Wow. Democrats acting like Democrats in Dover. At least to an extent. Me likey. And, of course, Rethugs acting like Rethugs. Yep, R’s want to delay budget consideration through July while, in fact, they’re holding the budget hostage in order to push their ‘right to work for less’ obsession and to straitjacket future budget deliberations.  […]
          Why Black History Month Still Matters   

The stories that a nation tells about its history provide a foundation for building community, creating institutions and transmitting values. For a pluralistic democracy such as the United States, the work that historians call "constructing a usable past" is vital to the task of building a future. That's why it's imperative that people who want that future to be built on principles of inclusion, mutual respect and genuinely equal opportunity should understand and embrace commemorations such as Black History Month.

Let me start with a disclosure: I am a member of the advisory board of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), the organization that founded what is now known as Black History Month. I receive no compensation for that position; I do it to repay a debt to educators and scholars whose work was essential to my survival and development. The views presented here are strictly my own, and do not represent the opinions of ASALH.

The learning opportunities afforded by Black History Month (and other related celebrations devoted to the history of other groups who have been traditionally under-represented or misrepresented in social studies curricula) offer the following benefits:

  • They can help children of African descent form a positive self-concept and a critical perspective on the negative propaganda about blackness that continues to encourage self-sabotaging behavior among black youth.
  • They can promote informed conversation about "race" because the historical formation of the concept of "blackness" is linked to the process by which "whiteness" was constructed. As Judy Helfand explains: "Whiteness is defined by determining who is not white; it is defined as the superior opposite of non-white."
  • They offer insight and context for contemporary policy debates, such as the furor over former Rep. Tom Tancredo's recent claim that President Obama was elected because we lack a "civics literacy test" as a qualification for voting.
  • The 2010 Black History Month theme, the History of Black Empowerment, is relevant to contemporary efforts to achieve genuine economic recovery

A Personal Journey

When i was growing up in black working-class neighborhoods in Camden, New Jersey, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, I did not see people who looked like me doing the kinds of things I liked Wikimedia portrait of Sarah Vaughanto do: reading books, taking Saturday morning science classes, collecting rocks, writing poems. One day in elementary school, though, I found ASALH's Encyclopedia of Negro History on a bookcase at the Friends' Neighborhood Guild. I can still remember the delicious shock of poring over profiles of black inventors, scholars and artists.

I did not know then what I know now, that Carter G. Woodson, a child of slaves who became the second African American to earn a doctorate in history at Harvard, founded ASALH in 1915 to redress the "mis-education of the Negro" (a term that became the title of his most famous book. In addition to the encyclopedia that held me in thrall, Woodson founded two

journals that are still publishing: the Journal of African American History, found today in many university libraries, and the Black History Bulletin, targeted to middle and secondary-school teachers. 

When I flipped through Woodson's encyclopedia, I remember, especially, being transfixed by a glamorous portrait of singer Sarah Vaughan, (pictured above, left). She had skin like mine, a nose like mine and hair like mine, and she was beautiful and successful. This was heady stuff in 1966, and it opened a crack in my very limited view of what a black woman could become. (It was only later, upon further study, that I learned how colorism had kept her from appreciating her dark chocolate skin, and that her success was circumscribed by patriarchy.)

In high school, I learned of WEB DuBois and Paul Robeson, further confirming my growing belief in the power of principled scholarship and culture work. However, I was nearly 40 by the time I discovered Jessie Fauset, who had come from my home town, gone to my high school, and become the magazine editor who first published Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen and many of the other writers we now associate with the Harlem Renaissance. Despite my educational privilege I was 20 years out of journalism school before Patricia Hill Collins and David Mindich helped me understand why Ida B. Wells' exposure of Southern lynching and northern complicity had been ignored by my undergraduate history and politics professors and my graduate school journalism teachers. 

Today, when I teach my occasional class on WEB DuBois, or Race, Gender and the News, I still meet students who tell me that they've never encountered most of the American history we are studying. Others told me that while they may know some names, dates and places, they haven't been taught to think systematically about how African American or multicultural history helps to shape the nation in which they live today, regardless of their own racial or ethnic identification. A more comprehensive understanding of African American history would, I submit, substantially improve our civic discourse.

Robin Roberts Reads To Children For Black History Month

In other words, I agree with the Rev. Irene Monroe who rejected arguments against Black History Month by contending, "In order to move forward, you must look back."

 

Backlash and Confusion

 

In making this argument, let me acknowledge the anger and confusion that some people have around the rituals popularly associated with Black History Month. Womanist-Musings, for example, has been a vocal progressive critic of the way that corporations that market unhealthy products or engage in problematic labor practices use Black History Month as a marketing opportunity:

"Why should black history month be any different than any other public celebration?  That's right, commodify the shit out of it and then pretend that we seriously value it.  We certainly shouldn't be taking the time to educate children about the struggles of their ancestors through conversation, or even visit sites that are important in African Diaspora history, when we can conveniently purchase something to prove that we are culturally aware."

(A side note here - the history of the kind of cause-related marketing she's criticizing is an interesting African American history moment in and of itself. Moss Kendrix is credited with convincing corporations such as Coca-Cola to market products to black and urban markets in the 1950s and 60s. Many viewed his efforts as a step forward, because it gave black media and ad agencies access to advertising and promotional dollars that had been unavailable before. Many also also saw it as a way to break down stereotypes. When I was in corporate PR in the 1980s, I still read accounts of corporate advertisers being admonished that black consumers don't just buy cigarettes, alcohol and expensive cars. As late as 2004, broadcasting personality Tom Joyner found it necessary to campaign against a major media buying organization that labeled urban radio stations ad being full of "suspects, not prospects.")

Mural with Carter G. Woodson quote

(media credit: DB King, Flickr)

Let's also dispense with the kind of faux controversy that the musician Questlove set off when he posted a picture of the soul food menu in the NBC cafeteria. He later said he posted the picture because he thought the sign was funny, but a national discussion ensued over whether a racial offense had been committed. What's really unfortunate about the incident is that this non-story dominates the Google Blogsearch results for the term "Black History Month" when there are many substantive issues to consider.

 

Tom Tancredo's Toxic Brew

Former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) stirred up some of those issues this past weekend with his speech at the Tea Party convention. His speech was a call to arms against what he claimed was a decades-long drift toward socialism accelerated by President Obama:

"It seemed as though we were doomed to experience the political equivalent of the proverbial frog in the water syndrome. Every year, the liberal Democrats and RINO Republicans turned the temp up ever so slightly till it seemed we would all be boiled to death in the cauldron of the nanny state. "And then, because we don’t have a civics literacy test to vote, people who couldn’t even spell vote, or say it in English, put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House named Barack Hussein Obama. He immediately turned up the heat under that cauldron so high and so quick that people started jumping out of the water all over the place."

After critics, such as Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page, lambasted Tancredo for endorsing a practice that was historically used to keep African Americans from voting, Tancredo issued a statement denying any racist intent to his proposal.

Pro-democracy protest for Iran in Washington
However, as a former social studies teacher who launched his political career in 1975 when his school district introduced bilingual education, there's little doubt that he understood the incendiary history associated with these kinds of tests.

 

In 2004, my former student Scott Hoover created an interactive version of the Alabama literacy test that you can try out for yourself. I'm pleased to report, by the way, that Scott's work is going to be turned into an exhibit at the new International Civil Rights Museum, which opened Feb. 1 in Greensboro, North Carolina, on the site where the sit-in movement began exactly 50 years before.

I don't know what Tancredo thinks of educational projects such as Scott's or the International Civil RIghts Museum, but he's an avowed opponent of what calls the "cult of multiculturalism," a phrase he credits to blogger Michelle Malkin in one of his audio commentaries. In that commentary, he describes a purported "civil war" being waged by left-wingers intent on presenting American history in the worst possible light. He further mused on this theme in a radio interview last December, where he acknowledged the hardships endured by Native Americans and African Americans but asked:

"Now the question that we have to ask ourselves and certainly African Americans have to ask themselves is: Are they better off as a result of the fact that they came under any conditions? And it does not mean for a second–let me reiterate– it does not for a second mean that slavery was a good thing, that we should be happy about it. It is a black mark on our society and all societies that have had it since the beginning of time. Or recorded time… It doesn’t mean it is good. Is someone better off today in the United States of America as a result that they came under–or are Native Americans better off as a result that people came here from the West and created the society that we have here? Or would they have been better off if that had not happened?"

 

Tancredo is often dismissed as a fringe figure, but his claims about American history reflect a larger movement by some conservative academics and activists to discredit, and in some cases distort, multiculturalist scholarship. His efforts strike me as similar to those members of the Texas State Board of Education who want to revise that state's social studies standards to downplay such topics and civil rights in favor of greater emphasis on teaching about conservative leaders such as Ronald Reagan and Phyllis Schlafly.

The bottom line is that the discussion of the proper way to understand and teach American history, including the experience of African Americans, is part of the debate over the core values that will guide public policy in this country. Becoming acquainted with the credible, peer-reviewed scholarship in the field is one great way to prepare for the debate that may be coming to your school district sooner than you think.

Related: 

Sarah Vaughan portrait from Wikimedia Commons

ASALH posters from ASALH

Robin Roberts and Tom Tancredo images from Picapp.com

Kim
BlogHer Contributing Editor|KimPearson.net|


          General Assembly Pre-Game Show: Tues., June 27, 2017   
Are you bleeping kidding me? ‘Leadership’ has announced that the General Assembly will not tackle anything controversial during the last week of session. Meaning that, for the most part, legislators will presumably twiddle their thumbs while ‘leadership’ tries to hammer out a budget deal.  Can someone please tell me which bleeping Democratic senator(s) won’t even […]
          ACA replacement monstrosity will pass because – fuck it   
Republicans fear their base, (and primary challenges from the right) a lot more than they fear losing to Democrats (scoff) in general elections. They also feel (rightly) that they were elected to fuck shit up. Fucking shit up is not a bug, it is a feature of GOP governance. So yes... this monstrosity should kill them but it will only make them stronger. You can read a longer version of this lament here if you are into that sort of thing.
             
Cosa Di.Co. della Famiglia?


Il buon Fassino, in attesa di dare inizio alla Pagliacciata Democratica, afferma che sulla laicità e sulle coppie di fatto nessuno ha intenzione di tornare indietro. Bene. Il problema è che in P.zza Navona erano in 4 gatti. Mentre in P.zza San Giovanni c'erano quasi un milione di persone. Ora mi chiedo: ma se i Di.Co non interessano a chi per primo ne dovrebbe usufruire perchè dobbiamo farli per forza? La legge sarebbe già tristissima di suo, con telegrammi e raccomandate da spedire a se stessi. Perchè perseverare nel ridicolo? Perchè, per esempio, non si fa prima di tutto chiarezza su cosa significa Famiglia in Italia? All'interno dei dibattiti politici sento sempre sbaraitare l'una e l'altra parte senza mai arrivare ad un punto fermo. Che però c'è ed esiste da un pezzo. Una coppia di fatto, eterosessuale o meno, non è una famiglia. Punto. Se non sta bene si cambi la Costituzione ma la si finisca di dire che due uomini, due donne o ancora un uomo e una donna non legati dal matrimonio siano una famiglia. Non lo sono! L'art 29 della Costituzione stabilisce infatti che "La Repubblica riconosce i diritti della famiglia come società naturale fondata sul matrimonio. Il matrimonio è ordinato sulla eguaglianza morale e giuridica dei coniugi, con i limiti stabiliti dalla legge a garanzia dell'unità familiare". E prendendo il vocabolario, alla voce matrimonio, si legge: "La unione di un uomo e di una donna che si impegnano, davanti a un’autorità civile o ecclesiastica, a una completa comunione di vita nel rispetto dei reciproci diritti e doveri". Qui c'è già scritto tutto, il resto è fumo per chi ha tempo da perdere.



          Dem Rep Moulton: People Think Democrats Are ‘Really Out of Touch With Most of America’   

Tuesday on NPR, Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) said Democrats are not winning elections because he said that it was seen as “out of touch with most of America.” Partial transcript as follows: SIEGEL: What was so big about the loss in Georgia that it shows the Democrats need a new message, a new vision? MOULTON: Well, now we’re 0-4 in these congressional special elections. And we’re at the worst electoral position that the Democratic Party has been in in decades. And so when you keep losing like that, you can’t keep doing the same old thing. SIEGEL: Well, first, as to message, I went to the website of Jon Ossoff, the Democrat who lost in Georgia last week. And there’s a list of priorities. Number one, it says, our economy. John’s a small business owner, executive, entrepreneur. He knows what it means to grow a company, meet a payroll, balance budgets. And it goes on to say that he has the experience to help Georgia develop into an economic powerhouse. And he also stands for raising the minimum wage to equal pay for equal work. What’s the matter with that message? What’s wrong with the priority there? MOULTON: Well, that’s actually
          As Trump Inquiries Flood Ethics Office, Director Looks To House For Action   
Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub Jr. is calling on the chairman of House Oversight Committee to become more engaged in overseeing ethics questions in the Trump administration. In an interview with NPR on Monday, Shaub said public inquiries and complaints involving Trump administration conflicts of interest and ethics have been inundating his tiny agency, which has only advisory power. "We've even had a couple days where the volume was so huge it filled up the voicemail box, and we couldn't clear the calls as fast as they were coming in," Shaub said. His office is scrambling to keep pace with the workload. But while citizens, journalists and Democratic lawmakers are pushing for investigations, Shaub suggested a similar level of energy is not coming from the House Oversight Committee, which has the power to investigate ethics questions, particularly those being raised now about reported secret ethics waivers for former lobbyists serving in the Trump administration.
          China OKs 38 Trump Trademarks; Critics Say It Violates Emoluments Clause   
President Trump is on his way to getting something he has wanted for a long time: dozens of valuable "Trump" trademarks in China. China's Trademark Office has now given preliminary approval to 38 new trademarks, covering everything from hotels to golf clubs, insurance and more. After AP reported the news Wednesday, Senate Democrats expressed outrage, noting that Trump's lawyer Sheri Dillon had promised in January that there would be "no new foreign deals" during the Trump presidency. But by pursuing new trademarks, the Trump Organization, which the president continues to own, may be laying the groundwork for expansions in China. Maryland's Ben Cardin said, "For a decade prior to his election as president, Donald Trump sought, with no success, to have lucrative and valuable trademarks granted in the world's biggest market. He was turned down each and every time. The floodgates now appear to be open." Cardin called on the federal departments of Justice, State and Commerce to "brief
          Trump Team Promises To 'Dismantle' Dodd-Frank Bank Regulations   
During his presidential campaign, Republican Donald Trump said he would "get rid of" Dodd-Frank — the sweeping legislation passed in 2010 to address problems underlying the 2008-2009 financial crisis. Many Republicans hate the 2,300-page law, saying it is layered with far too many regulations. But Democrats say it provides valuable oversight of an industry that they believe took too many risks on Wall Street and too much advantage of customers on Main Street. Now President-elect Trump's transition team is promising to "dismantle" the complex Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act . "Bureaucratic red tape and Washington mandates are not the answer" to improving the financial system, the team said Thursday on its website . Repealing the entire law probably would take more time and attention than Congress could muster in a 100-day rush. In fact, Dodd-Frank is such sprawling legislation that it has taken years to write and implement all of the detailed rules. But even if
          Financial Markets Plunge As Trump Emerges Victorious   
Updated 10:28 a.m. ET On Tuesday night, as the presidential election's outcome headed toward an unexpected Trump victory, stock futures plunged. Investors had bet heavily Monday on Democrat Hillary Clinton. As Republican Donald Trump picked up many more votes than polls had predicted, markets reacted violently to the change in expectations. But then on Wednesday morning, U.S. investors reassessed – and calmed down. After the opening bell on Wall Street, stocks rose across the board by a slight 0.2 percent, then drifted down about 0.2 percent. That minor seesawing did not reflect how tough the night had been for equities and currencies around the world. In the immediate aftermath of Trump's victory, Japan's Nikkei index closed down more than 5 percent. The Hang Seng Index was down more than 2 percent. European stocks fell too, though less dramatically. In general, global investors were shifting money out of stocks and into safe havens. The Japanese yen shot up against the U.S. dollar
          Comment on BLOG DAN PODCAST SEBAGAI ALAT PENDIDIKAN POLITIK by meinardus   
dear friends in indonesia, while i cannot read your post, you seem to be quoting me. thank you for the courtesy. i am happy that blogging and podcasting is picking up with you also, and i would be honoured if our foundation contributed to this ... liberal and democratic progress. greetings from greece, where i am just taking a short holiday. <strong><em>@) Oke Pak Meinardus...memang ini bagian dari presentasi anda.... ;)</em></strong>
          Predictions for 2008   
As it is the start of the year, I thought I would put down a few predictions for the year ahead. I am no Mystic Meg, and most of it is pretty much guesswork so I don't know how accurate I will be.

Football
  • Premier League winners: everyone seems to think it will be Man Utd or Arsenal. I don't know though, I can see Derby having a good run of form. Failing that and a few intimidated referees later, Chelsea do have an outside chance out of the remaining 2 in the top 4. So, let's go with Arsenal.
  • FA cup winners: I would like to see an outside team win it, but I think Chelsea may have the edge as they tend to do well in tournaments.
  • Champions League: I will say this much, it won't be an English team.
  • England team: a year of optimism for future will be brought to a stuttering halt by a few players continuing to not find form. Rooney to become a super sub, Lampard to dropped completely after a dismal performance against Switzerland.
Politics
  • UK election: not while Gordon Brown is in power. If one is called, a slim majority for the Conservative party (maybe a hung Parliament?) with Labour losing out to both Tories and Liberals.
  • US election: isn't there one due soon? Don't know if it is this year or not, but if so, expect the Republicans to retain by 1% again, after multiple recounts, suing of the balloting machine developers and within 2 months everyone complaining that they didn't vote for them. The Democrats will blame Michael Moore for losing them votes.
  • Middle East: more of the same, I'm afraid.
  • Australia: they have just had an election, so they will be happy for a bit longer.

Economy:

  • Housing: prices down, then up, then down, then up. Then everyone will realise that Halifax's economic predictor is suffering from a previously unseen Y2K bug.
  • High-street spending: more on-line spending leads to less high street spending. By the end of the year, queues at on-line checkouts match high street stores.

Technology:

  • Facebook: mass desertions as everyone gets tired of being poked, bitten by Vampires and receiving dubious "do you find me hot?" requests. That, and people read the privacy statement.
  • iPhone: new one introduced, the world goes crazy. Steve Jobs has more followers than Ghandi, is canonised by the Pope, starts managing the US Football team, forms a US cricket team, cures cancer, etc...
  • Next big thing: not sure. Last year it was Facebook and the year before that You Tube, as a guess I will go with an application that syncs all your contacts, emails, instant messages, calendars, etc across work and home, mobile phone, etc. There are a few options already available in this field, but none of them have really taken off yet.
  • This blog: sporadically updated ;)

I will try and remember to check these out at the end of the year.


          The Rise of the Instagram Brands   

As time goes on, I fall in love with Instagram more and more. Our love affair was pretty touch and go after last year’s much publicised algorithm change – truth be told it’s still a sore point so let’s just skip past that. As with any romance, it’s had it’s ups and downs, but on the whole we’re pretty solid.

We’ve been through a lot together over the years. I guess I could be described as an early adopter of social media platforms. I’ve been on both Twitter and Instagram since their infancy, when putting up a post resulted in a bale of tumbleweed just rolling past. It’s all change now, with millions of users fretting over their Instagram strategy and resulting engagement levels, especially after that algorithm update. I’ll let it go one day…!

Instagram has evolved into the one form of social media that really matters. Facebook and Twitter are relatively neglected now while influencers, brands and everyday users pour their time and energy into creating the perfectly curated feed. And it’s paying off.

Instagram has democratised fashion somewhat. There’s a growing appetite for accessible fashion seen on real girls, not statuesque models airbrushed to within an inch of their lives. It’s has given birth to dozens of influencers, you don’t even need a blog now as long as you have a great photographer and a strong following, that’s enough. The same goes for models, their Instagram following is almost as important as their book – just look at the likes of Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid.

Personally, I love seeing girls of all sizes and nationalities on my feed and discovering what their wearing and how their doing their make up. Instagram is where you go for inspiration. Glossy editorials are becoming less of a reference point and much less important to consumers.

I’ve also discovered dozens of brands really harnessing the power of Instagram to break through the saturated fashion industry. Fledgling Turkish handbag brand Manu Atelier became an overnight success after Eva Chen, Head of Fashion Partnerships at Instagram, featured one of their bags on her feed. With price points hovering around £400-500 it’s an attainable price point compared to the likes of Givenchy and Chanel, but the brands really flourishing on Instagram are the lower price point fast-fashion brands.

While fast-fashion veterans Missguided and Boohoo paced the way for daily website updates and unbelievably low price points, there are plenty of new kids on the block snapping at their heels. The likes of Miss Pap, Missy Empire and Lasula are pretty hard to miss on Instagram. They came to my attention when I literally couldn’t scroll through my feed without seeing an influencer wearing something super cute and covetable by one of those brands. My interest was piqued so I gave each a follow and in the following weeks, I’ve placed orders – solely due to the power of Instagram. That’s pretty incredible.

All three brands that I highlighted are very similar in terms of attitude (fierce AF) and products – I’ve seen lots of nearly identical pieces on each site. The vibe is actually very similar to the early days of ASOS, when it was known as As Seen On Screen. It’s fun, full of attitude fast fashion which is influenced by celebrities. All three are great at harnessing the power of bloggers to amplify their brand and have an ‘Insta Shop’ where you can find products featured on influencers and their feed.

As with life, it’s not all sunshine and roses. The ethics around fast fashion are highly questionable. Price points are super accessible, but someone has to pay. Often this is the expense of garment workers, who work in appalling factory conditions for pittance. The fashion industry was aghast after the Rana Plaza factory complex in Bangladesh collapsed killing over 1,000 factory workers and maiming many more. Despite pledging to improve conditions, little has changed in the last three years – this article on The Guardian goes into more depth on the issue. 

There are also huge differences between the service you expect and receive. More established retailers like ASOS have extremely streamlined logistics, sometimes it feels like my orders are catapulted to my door they’re so fast and returns are super simple and quick. I’ve had issues with shipping with some of these brands, I placed an order for Miss Pap before Paris Fashion Week only to not receive my order in time despite paying for next day delivery. Returns are also an issue. Returns are an inevitable part of running an online business and most brands allow 30 days to return goods. However, most of these brands only allow 14 days for a refund so watch out!

On the whole, I love discovering new brands through Instagram and welcome the diversity. Have you discovered new brands through Instagram or social media?

          Voices of Women with Host Kris Steinnes: The Importance of Collaboration in Leadership with Author and Activist Starhawk   
GuestStarhawk is an author, activist, permaculture designer and teacher, and a leader in feminist earth-based spirituality. Her new book, The Empowerment Manual: A Guide for Collaborative Groups is based on her decades of experience in circles and collectives. With the rise of the Occupy Movement, her work on power, process and group dynamics is vital for understanding how directly democratic groups can function and grow.
          Voices of Women with Host Kris Steinnes: - The Empowerment Manual: a Guide for Collaborative Groups with Author Starhawk   
GuestStarhawk is an author, activist, permaculture designer and teacher, and a leader in feminist earth-based spirituality. Her new book, The Empowerment Manual: A Guide for Collaborative Groups is based on her decades of experience in circles and collectives. With the rise of the Occupy Movement, her work on power, process and group dynamics is vital for understanding how directly democratic groups can function and grow.
          Elezioni amministrative 2017. Matteo Renzi da i numeri.   

          Putin Accuses "Foreign Spy Agencies" Of Supporting Terrorism To Destabilize Russia   
Putin Accuses Foreign Spy Agencies Of Supporting Terrorism To Destabilize Russia In the first public accusation that "foreign spy agencies" are seeking to destabilize Russia made in recent years, during a meeting with Russia's foreign intelligence agency President Vladimir Putin said that "some foreign special services" are directly supporting extremist and terrorist groups to destabilize the situation near Russia’s borders, President Vladimir Putin said at a meeting with Russia’s foreign intelligence agency.

“In general, the growing activity of foreign special services against us and our allies is obvious,” Putin said quoted by Bloomberg during the televised speech in Moscow on Wednesday, without specifying which nations he was referring to. *“There are operations to influence the domestic political and social processes in our country.*”

Tangentially, the AP reported that according to an unclassified report by the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency, released on Wednesday, *Kremlin leaders are convinced America is intent on regime change in Russia, *"a fear that is feeding rising tension and military competition between the former Cold War foes."

"The Kremlin is convinced the United States is laying the groundwork for regime change in Russia, a conviction further reinforced by the events in Ukraine," the report says, referencing the claims by President Vladimir Putin's government that the U.S. engineered the popular uprising that ousted Ukraine's Russia-friendly president, Viktor Yanukovich, in 2014. Russia responded by annexing Ukraine's Crimea region and supporting pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.



Thursday's report, prepared long before Trump's election, reflects the Pentagon's view of the global security picture shifting after nearly two decades of heavy American focus on countering terrorism and fighting relatively small-scale wars across the Middle East. Russia, in particular, is now at the center of the national security debate in Congress, fed by political divisions over how to deal with Putin and whether his military buildup, perceived threats against NATO and alleged election interference call for a new U.S. approach.



According to the AP, the 116-page report portrays Russia as increasingly wary of the United States. It cites Moscow's "deep and abiding distrust of U.S. efforts to promote democracy around the world and what it perceives as a U.S. campaign to impose a single set of global values." One almost wonders why.



"Moscow worries that U.S. attempts to dictate a set of acceptable international norms threatens the foundations of Kremlin power by giving license for foreign meddling in Russia's internal affairs," the report says. Titled "Russia Military Power," it is the agency's first such unclassified assessment in more than two decades.



The report also discusses recent military developments, with a focus on the middle east.



It cites the example of Moscow's 2015 military intervention in Syria. The Kremlin cast the effort as designed to combat Islamic State fighters. Washington saw Moscow largely propping up Assad by providing air support for the Syrian army's offensive against opposition forces.

 

The report says the Syria intervention is intended also to eliminate jihadist elements that originated on the former Soviet Union's territory to prevent them from returning home and threatening Russia. In any case, the report credits the intervention for having "changed the entire dynamic of the conflict, bolstering the Assad regime and ensuring that no resolution to the conflict is possible without Moscow's agreement."

 

"Nevertheless, these actions also belie a deeply entrenched sense of insecurity regarding a United States that Moscow believes is intent on undermining Russia at home and abroad," the report says.



The report harkens to Cold War days when the intelligence agency published a series of "Soviet Military Power" studies that defined the contours of the superpower rivalry. Those reports ended with the 1991 demise of the Soviet Union. Now they return, DIA's director, Marine Lt. Gen. Vincent R. Stewart, says, with an eye on the future of U.S.-Russian relations.

"*Within the next decade, an even more confident and capable Russia could emerge," *Stewart wrote in a preface to the report. No new, global ideological struggle akin to the Cold War is forecast, but the report cautions that Moscow "intends to use its military to promote stability on its own terms."

Which is why the "deep state", the Military-Industrial Complex. the neo-cons or whatever one wants to call the permanently bellicose wing in control, will *never *allow Trump to pursue a detente with Putin. To be sure, while Trump's campaign rhetoric was widely seen as sympathetic to Russia, ties have not improved in his first six months of his presidency. In April, *Trump said U.S.-Russian relations "may be at an all-time low." *Trump is expected to meet Putin for the first time at an international summit in Germany next week.

Meanwhile, to perpetuate the anti-Russia witch hunt, on Wednesday Rep. Adam Smith, the House Armed Services Committee's top Democrat, issued a "national security manifesto" on Russia. *He and a group of lawmakers writing in Time magazine cited the threat of "Putinism," which they termed "a philosophy of dictatorship" that seeks to extinguish democratic ideals such as government transparency by exploiting "discontented facets of democratic polities worldwide.*"

Which, of course, is not to be confused with CIA-ism, which is a philosophy of suberting any government around the globe with promises of globalist, credit-card driven expansion, and if that fails, with outright threats (and actions) to overthrow the existing regime by supporting its closest adversaries, both domestic and foreign.

Taking McCarthyism to the next level, at a Senate intelligence committee hearing Wednesday, Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the panel's ranking Democrat, said Russia is becoming more brazen.

*"Russia's goal is to sow chaos and confusion - to fuel internal disagreements and to undermine democracies whenever possible, and to cast doubt on the democratic process wherever it exists," *Warner said.

In other words, Russia is becoming just like the US... One can see why the Deep State and Democrats are so terrified. Reported by Zero Hedge 16 minutes ago.
          It isn’t Leadership Problem, it is Followership Problem   
Power inserts godlessness in a lot of people. A lot of times, people who were once morally sound, start abusing their authority when they get power. Power creates a hallucination among these people of being demi-gods. This is why we see a lot of leaders abusing their power, the trust of their followers and compromising on their ethics.

When people talk about leadership problem in Nepal in all sectors, be it politics, business, bureaucracy, civilian society, I get amused. As I wrote earlier, it is human psychology to act differently when one gets power. One believes one can do anything and get away with it. So, selfishness creeps in and the responsibility towards society goes down the drain. And this happens all over the world. Be it in global superpower USA – President Nixon of Watergate case or President Clinton of Lewinsky case or ex-CEO Skilling of Enron case. Or in very unstable countries like Zimbabwe – President Mugabe. Once they attained power, they thought they could get away with any misdeeds, thus the demi-god hallucination. Leaders who can control these urges and still work towards the good of society are very few in numbers.

So, despite the global superpowers like USA having their fair share of faulting leaders, these countries have grown and remained to be the great economies while Nepal is still an underdeveloped nation? (you can call it developing, but you know that is a lie)

Is it really a leadership problem that we have in Nepal or is it something else? In the developed nations, there is so much of scrutiny from public and press when any leader sways from his responsibilities. The public and press acts as a controlling mechanism. The pressure on performance is so high that faulty leaders find it so hard to sustain their positions. This is totally opposite in Nepal. People support leaders for their own selfish agendas.

If the NC candidate in my constituency gets my drunkard, eve teaser, uneducated son into a government job, I will vote for him. If the Maoist candidate gives money for my booze, I will vote him instead. If my CEO will ever try to point fingers at me, no matter how bad my work is, I will join the union and protest to remove him. On the other hand, if I get a healthy bonus, I don’t care if my CEO is taking money from the company coffers to make personal investments.

And above all, we (public) never fight for our rights. We never protest against any misdeeds of our leaders. Our Prime Minister is always right. Our CEO is always right. Our leader is always right. A leader loses in First-Past-The-Post from three constituencies and he still gets nominated by the party. What did the other members in the party do? Nothing. Leaders of a party are exposed in an audio recording of their ill motives to capture the state. What did the public do? Nothing. A party hands over leadership only to family members but talks of being most democratic. What did the other members in the party do? Nothing.

This is how the followers are in Nepal. We do nothing when the leaders fault. We either are coward enough not to protest their decisions or lazy enough to get out of our comfort zone and ask questions. Maybe it is the selfishness in us that stops us from questioning our leaders. Maybe we have taken some benefits from the leaders in the past or intend to do so in the future. Maybe we had asked the leaders to free our crook son from prison, maybe we asked the leaders to donate healthy sum for our daughter’s marriage, maybe we asked the leaders to give us the government projects, maybe we asked them to help our nephew get a driving license without appearing for test, maybe we asked the Principal extra leaves from our duty schedule, maybe we asked the CEO to give us high appraisal rating, maybe we want the elected leaders never to audit our VAT bills so that we can evade taxes. So, who is to blame when the leaders think and act as if they are demi-gods? Of course, the followers.

So, it is not that Nepal has leadership problems. We have our fair share of faulty leaders. We do have smart, intelligent and morally sound leaders. But, our selfishness ensures that the faulty ones remain in power while the good ones just make news in the inner pages of some local newspapers. We as followers have failed to move away from short-term individual benefits towards long-term social benefits. We have only boosted the demi-god hallucination among our leaders. So, it is we – the followers- who are to be blamed for the situation Nepal is in. It is not a leadership problem, it is a followership problem.

          Khanna backers fight back against Honda charges   
An independent expenditure group is riding to Ro Khanna’s rescue with a radio spot pushing back against a TV attack ad that Rep. Mike Honda of San Jose is running against his fellow Democrat in the South Bay, which you can see here: The pro-Khanna radio ad, which slams Honda’s TV spot and quotes a
          One debate not enough in Bera vs. Ose congressional contest?   
Democratic Rep. Ami Bera and Republican Doug Ose have finally agreed to square off in an Oct. 8 debate, but Ose says that’s not nearly enough in the suburban Sacramento congressional district that has become one of the hottest contests in the country. “One debate is not sufficient to talk about all the problems our
          NY governor, Billy Joel join NY beach cleanup   

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and singer Billy Joel helped pick up trash at a beach on New York's Long Island.

Joel joined Cuomo and other elected officials Saturday at the 21st annual Oyster Bay Beach and Harbor Cleanup.

Newsday reports (http://nwsdy.li/1wT25jd ) that Cuomo and Joel arrived about 10 a.m. by boat at Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park.

They walked ashore bearing black garbage bags that they filled during the event.

Joel said he has firsthand experience seeing what kind of garbage people throw in the bay because he sees it washing up on his property.

Cuomo, a Democrat, is seeking re-election.

His Republican opponent Rob Astorino was also on Long Island on Saturday.

Astorino joined fellow Republican Rep. Peter King at a kickoff event for King's re-election campaign in Wantagh.

___

Information from: Newsday, http://www.newsday.com


          Schwarzenegger reveals portrait by Austrian artist   

Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger lifted the curtain on his official portrait Monday, revealing a photograph-like giant image of the onetime bodybuilder standing in front of the official California seal.

Schwarzenegger unveiled the portrait at a ceremony in the state Capitol in which he made a rare appearance in Sacramento nearly four years after he left office.

The oversized portrait of a youthful Schwarzenegger, which will eventually hang on the third floor, was painted by Austrian artist Gottfried Helnwein, a realist who previously illustrated Andy Warhol and John F. Kennedy.

Schwarzenegger, a movie star before he ran for governor in the chaotic recall election of 2003, said he owes all his successes in life to California, which he called a mythical place "where nothing is impossible." As a boy growing up in Austria, he dreamed about the state, he said.

"I dreamt about California every day, and I knew that one day I would have to come here to this beautiful state if I wanted to make my dreams a reality," he said.

Schwarzenegger said that while he always dreamed big, he never envisioned his portrait hanging in the state Capitol, joking "I might have envisioned a sculpture on Muscle Beach."

Two of Schwarzenegger's five children attended the unveiling, Christopher, 16, and Patrick, 20, which also included political notables including at least three former speakers of the state Assembly, Willie Brown, Bob Hertzberg and Fabian Nunez. He also posed for photos with former staff and lawmakers and hugged 28-year-old John Masterson, who has Down syndrome and worked in the governor's mailroom.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said the massive image of Schwarzenegger is appropriate because Schwarzenegger is "larger than life."

Singer Jerry Garcia "had a wonderful quote saying, 'You don't want to be the best of the best. You want to be the only one that does what you do,' " Newsom said. "And it's a way to describe Arnold Schwarzenegger."

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, called it "just right."

"I thought it was very dignified. It actually looked like a photograph to me," he said.

True to his outsized life, Schwarzenegger's portrait is larger than those of other modern-day governors, roughly half a foot wider and a foot taller than his predecessor, according to the Department of General Services. The former governor paid for the portrait himself at an undisclosed cost.

The portrait unveiling followed an event earlier Monday in which Schwarzenegger's University of Southern California-based institute hosted a climate symposium that also featured Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat.

The seminar highlighted the state's aggressive efforts to tackle issues such as reducing carbon emissions.

"While the politicians in Washington can't get anything done because of being stuck in these ideological foxholes, we here in California have two governors from two different parties, together in the same room fighting for the same green energy future," Schwarzenegger said at the summit.

Organizers are using the state's policies to prompt further action ahead of United Nations climate-change conferences in Peru and Paris.

During his tenure, Schwarzenegger signed California's landmark 2006 global-warming law, AB32, which paved the way for the state's system of selling carbon pollution credits aimed at reducing emissions.

Brown praised Schwarzenegger's accomplishment in winning bipartisan support for the climate change law.

"To get AB32 through the California legislature, that is heavy lifting, and I don't think anyone should underestimate that. I'm not sure any other governor might have done this," he said at the symposium.

Schwarzenegger said that California leaders of all political stripes have chosen to address climate change because not doing so will cost much more in the long run in things such as state infrastructure at risk of failure because of flooding, increased heat- and pollution-related deaths, and a never-ending wildfire season that stretches state budgets.

As governor, Schwarzenegger promised to bring fiscal accountability, but the state faced a huge budget deficit when he left office. In one of his final acts in office, Schwarzenegger commuted the involuntary-manslaughter sentence of the son of Nunez, a former political ally.

Months after Schwarzenegger left office, embarrassing revelations emerged about an affair he had with his maid that resulted in a son born out of wedlock. The disclosure devastated his marriage to Maria Shriver, and the two are separated.


          Democratic Backsliding and the Reach of ISIS in Southeast Asia   

In early May 2016, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines made a major announcement. The three countries, which often have trouble cooperating on transnational challenges, and have long disputed ownership of some of their adjacent waters, said they would begin coordinated patrols at sea and install a threeway hotline to discuss kidnappings and other militant activities.


          White House eyes Kearns for ITC commissioner    
WASHINGTON D.C. — President Trump plans to nominate Jason Kearns, chief international trade counsel for the Democratic staff to the U.S. House's Committee on Ways and Means, to be a commissioner of the U.S.
          Verso un Egitto Democratico   

Il 30 giugno è una data storica per la transizione egiziana.

È il giorno dell'atteso passaggio del potere dalla Giunta militare, alla guida del paese dalla caduta del Rais Hosni Mubarak, al neo-presidente Mohamed Morsi, il primo democraticamente eletto in Egitto con il recentissimo voto del 16-17 giugno. È una vittoria del fondamentalismo?

Il presidente dei Fratelli Musulmani metterà in piedi una repubblica islamica o sarà, come promesso in campagna elettorale, il "presidente di tutti"? Dove sono finite le istanze laico-liberali che avevano animato Piazza Tahrir?

Il presidente Morsi si trova a capo di una repubblica di fatto ancora in fieri, senza un assetto istituzionale certo né una Carta Costituzionale definitiva.

In "Verso un Egitto democratico", Antonio Badini, ex ambasciatore al Cairo e autore del precedente ebook "Il futuro dell'Egitto", analizza le poste in gioco e i retroscena di questa storica transizione, aiutando il lettore a capire il complesso gioco delle forze in campo.

L'autore individua chiaramente colpe e meriti dei due attori che finora hanno retto il paese in un costante braccio di ferro, esercito e Fratelli Musulmani, e non tralascia di valutare il ruolo giocato dall'Egitto nello scacchiere internazionale.


          Egitto Magico Religioso   

Tra gli innumerevoli modi con cui si può indagare e spiegare la civiltà dell'antico Egitto, certamente il più efficace quanto a risultati e suggestivo quanto ad esposizione è quello della scuola egittologica di A. Varille di cui Boris de Rachewiltz è stato capofila, e che si basa sull'applicazione del più assoluto rigore scientifico nell'analisi filologica ed esegetica dei testi e nello studio oggettivo dei reperti, non disgiunta però da una particolare sensibilità verso quella dimensione che, con termine purtroppo abusato, viene definita "esoterica".

Frutto di tale sintesi è l'opera che qui si ripresenta, "Egitto Magico Religioso", che era divenuto ormai un classico introvabile.

Al di là di molti falsi preconcetti e di tante fantasiose teorie oggi in voga, ci appare qui il reale volto enigmatico dell'antico Egitto nella sua essenza più profonda, religiosa e magica ad un tempo. Dalla eredità della preistoria si penetra nel concetto di "dio" e nella escatologia; l'oltretomba aristocratico e quello democratico, approfondendo il problema della morte e le condizioni indispensabili per la sopravvivenza. Riti e tecniche magiche ci introducono infine nell'affascinante mondo dei Misteri, che qui ricevono nuova luce.

L'Autore, con uno stile piano e affascinante, stimola il lettore a compiere egli stesso correlazioni e approfondimenti delle tematichesvolte, "vivendo" in forma attiva quel che a prima vista appare solo il pensiero di un mondo ormai scomparso. E forse qualcuno più sensibile degli altri, potrà avvedersi che non si tratta di disparate tradizioni, bensì tout court della Tradizione.


          Congressman Don Beyer to Introduce Groundbreaking Congressional Election Reform Bill, "The Fair Representation Act"   

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 26, 2017

FOR INFORMATION, CONTACT:

David Daley, Senior Communications Fellow, at ddaley@fairvote.org

Austin Plier, Communications Manager, at aplier@fairvote.org

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Congressman Don Beyer (VA-08) today announced his introduction of The Fair Representation Act, groundbreaking legislation that would reform Congressional elections, defeat gerrymandering, combat political polarization, and most importantly, give voters real voice and choice when electing their representatives.

Under the Fair Representation Act, all U.S. House members will be elected by ranked-choice voting in new, larger multi-winner districts. This system would replace today’s map of safe red and blue seats that lock voters into uncompetitive districts, and elect members of Congress with little incentive to work together and solve problems.

"Polarization and partisanship, both among voters and in the Congress, have reached dangerous and scary heights," said Rep. Beyer. "The Fair Representation Act is the bold reform America needs to be sure every vote matters, to defeat the gerrymander, and ensure the House of Representatives remains the people's House."

“The Fair Representation Act is the most comprehensive approach to improving congressional elections in American history,” said Rob Richie, the executive director of FairVote. “It creates an impartial, national standard that gets at the core of FairVote’s mission: Giving voters greater choice, a stronger voice, and a representative democracy that works for all Americans.”

This legislation directly addresses the most crucial problem in our democracy: A system fundamentally broken by a dangerous new era of fierce partisan divisions. Upwards of 85 percent of Americans live in districts increasingly skewed toward one party. Too many votes simply don’t matter. The current system rewards partisans, destroys electoral accountability, and discourages innovation or crossing party lines.

The Fair Representation Act gives voters of all political stripes the power to elect House members who reflect their views and will work effectively with others. It increases voter choice and provides a fair reflection of voter preferences -- the majority elects the most seats  but everyone earns their fair share, including urban Republicans, rural Democrats and innovative thinkers of all kinds. Independents and third-party candidates could run without being spoilers.

Here’s how it works: Smaller states with five or fewer members will elect all representatives from one statewide, at-large district. States with more than six will draw multi-winner districts of three to five representatives each. Congress will remain the same size, but districts will be larger.

They will be elected through ranked-choice voting, an increasingly common electoral method used in many American cities, whereby voters rank candidates in order of choice, ensuring that as many voters as possible help elect a candidate they support. Under ranked-choice voting, if no candidate reaches the threshold needed to win, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. When a voter’s top choice loses, their vote instantly goes to their second choice. The process repeats until all seats are elected.

Using this approach, four in five voters would elect someone they support. The number of voters in position to swing a seat would immediately triple -- from less than 15 percent in 2016, to just under half.

The districts themselves will be drawn by state-created, independent commissions made up of ordinary citizens. These larger districts would be nearly impossible to gerrymander for political advantage – and would force politicians to seek out voters with different perspectives and remain accountable to them.

“Under the Fair Representation Act, every voter will live in a district that matters, and be able to cast a vote that makes a difference. We’ll open elections to more voices, wider debate and greater diversity. And fairer elections, in turn, will discourage deep polarization,” said Richie.

Cynthia Terrell, founder of Representation2020, added that “No single reform would create more opportunities for women and people of color from across the spectrum to compete in fair elections. It is central to our vision of how we achieve parity for women in congressional elections.”

The Act will transform our broken politics and, once again, create a government designed of, by, and for the people. House leadership will reliably shift with whichever party’s candidates won more votes in the election and members will be rewarded for working cooperatively with others.

“The Fair Representation Act is effective, constitutional and grounded in American traditions of remodeling our system to ensure every vote counts and all our voices are heard,” said Richie. “It is the transformative change we need to make democracy work for all Americans.” To learn more about the Fair Representation Act, read FairVote’s Monopoly Politics report, and explore resources associated with the proposed legislation.

 

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FairVote is a nonpartisan champion of electoral reforms that give voters greater choice, a stronger voice, and a representative democracy that works for all Americans. Since its founding in 1992, FairVote has advocated for this comprehensive reform vision, and applauds the introduction of the Fair Representation Act as a monumental step forward for election reform.


          Maryland Legislator Aims to End Congressional Gerrymandering through Interstate Compact with Virginia   

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 1, 2017

FOR INFORMATION, CONTACT:

Michelle C. Whittaker, Communications Director, (301) 270-4616 or mwhittaker@fairvote.org

 

 Legislation Looks to Break Stalemate on Redistricting Reform

ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND -- Delegate Al Carr of the Maryland House of Delegates on January 30th introduced HB 622, the Potomac Compact for Fair Representation. Delegate Carr’s ground-breaking legislation is aimed at breaking the national stalemate on reform of congressional redistricting through an innovative interstate compact first pioneered last year by Congressman Jamie Raskin. Delegate Carr was joined by six co-sponsors: Delegates Barnes, Fennell, Hixson, Luedtke, Moon, and Wilkins.

The Potomac Compact for Fair Representation focuses in particular on an opportunity for two notoriously gerrymandered states -- Virginia and Maryland -- to jointly establish congressional election plans that are fair and representative in both states. It is grounded in the constitutionally established power of states to enter into binding interstate compacts. HB 622 would enable Maryland to enter into a compact in which Virginia and other participating states would mutually agree to form an independent redistricting commission that could think outside the traditional gerrymandering box.

"We are creating an opportunity for Maryland and Virginia to lead the nation by ending an undemocratic process and giving power to the people,” stated Delegate Carr.

The commission would be encouraged to consider nonpartisan plans to create larger congressional districts where multiple candidates would be elected, like those used to elect the Maryland House of Delegates. If the commission adopts such multi-winner districts, it would then establish an election method that produces fair and proportional outcomes, such as ranked choice voting that allows like-minded voters to elect candidates in proportion to their voting strength.

Maryland and Virginia are natural partners for initiating the compact. The two states mirror each other in their partisan configuration. Both the Democratic and Republican governors in Virginia and Maryland, respectively, confront legislatures with a significant partisan advantage for the other major party. In addition, the redistricting process in Virginia and Maryland has resulted in legal challenges and national attention for the unfair and often odd-looking districts. Currently, there is no sponsor in the Virginia legislature, but advocates hope that changes in the coming year.

The Potomac Compact was first introduced in the 2016 legislative session by former Maryland state senator Jamie Raskin. “The compact is an excellent model that could be joined by other states to give voters a stronger voice on Election Day and fair representation,” said FairVote’s Rob Richie. “States can be laboratories of democracy to prevent political corruption and create fair representation by addressing winner-take-all systems that don’t give all voters a voice.”

FairVote is a longtime proponent of fair representation methods like ranked choice voting. When evaluated by academics and political strategists, ranked choice voting has been rated as likely to have the single most powerful positive impact on elections, such as at the April 2015 National Democracy Slam at the Washington College of Law and in an August 2015 report based on ratings by 14 leading political scientists and law professors.

To learn more about FairVote’s fair representation plan for Congress, read FairVote’s Monopoly Politics report, which highlights the winner-take-all problem facing U.S. House elections, and explore resources associated with the proposed Fair Representation Act.


          Maine Voters Adopt Ranked Choice Voting, Lead the Way for More Choice, More Voice   

Lead the Way for More Choice, More Voice

EDITOR'S NOTE: Ranked choice voting is a voting system that gives voters the freedom to rank candidates in order of choice on a ballot. It is used in a dozen cities across the U.S. including San Francisco (CA), Minneapolis (MN), and Portland (ME). For more information on how ranked choice voting works, go to fairvote.org/rcv.

Question 5 passed in Maine by a margin of 52% to 48%. Benton County adopted ranked choice voting by 54% to 46%.

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 9, 2016

CONTACT:

Kyle Bailey, Campaign Manager, Yes On 5 | kyle@rcvmaine.com

Jill Ward, President, League of Women Voters of Maine | jmward23@gmail.com

Michelle Whittaker, Director of Communications, FairVote | (301) 270-1238 | mwhittaker@fairvote.org

 

PORTLAND, MAINE — On November 8, Maine voters passed Question 5 and became the first state in the nation to adopt Ranked Choice Voting for state and federal elections. The Yes On 5 campaign was led by the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting, a grassroots, Maine-based organization founded by former independent state senator Dick Woodbury of Yarmouth, and led by Kyle Bailey of Gorham.

“Passage of Question 5 is a historic victory for the people of Maine,” said campaign chair Dick Woodbury. “Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Greens, and Libertarians across Maine understand that the system is broken, and they have taken an important step to help fix it.”

“Maine people have exercised their right to change the way we elect our leaders,” said campaign manager Kyle Bailey. “Question 5 levels the playing field for candidates with the best ideas and gives more choice and more voice to voters, so you never have to vote for the lesser of two evils.”

Question 5 was endorsed by over 500 civic, business, labor, and faith leaders and organizations, and newspapers across Maine. The campaign was supported by a politically diverse campaign committee and county co-chairs. The nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Maine endorsed Ranked Choice Voting in 2011 and convened a working group that drafted the law on which the initiative was based.

“Maine has not elected a governor to a first term with majority support since 1966,” said Jill Ward, President of the League of Women Voters of Maine. “Ranked Choice Voting restores majority rule and puts more power in the hands of voters.”

FairVote, a national organization that advocates for Ranked Choice Voting and other proven solutions to give more voice to voters, supported a project in Maine to educate voters about this reform.

“The adoption of Ranked Choice Voting in Maine marks a dramatic step forward for American democracy,” said FairVote executive director Rob Richie, “Maine's groundbreaking victory promises to inspire other states to embrace this better system.”

Under the new law, Ranked Choice Voting will take effect in Maine in 2018 for primary and general elections for U.S. Senate, Congress, Governor, State Senate, and State Representative. “The voters of Maine have spoken,” said Ward. “We’re ready to get to work to ensure that this new law is implemented efficiently and effectively, and that the will of the people is upheld.”

 

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          Presidential Primary Turnout at 29%; Disparity in Turnout for Major Parties   

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 22, 2016

FOR INFORMATION, CONTACT:  

Michelle C. Whittaker, (301) 270-4616 or mwhittaker@fairvote.org

 

Presidential Primary Turnout at 29 Percent

Disparity in Turnout for Major Parties

Takoma Park, MD - FairVote has compiled and analyzed state-by-state data on voter turnout for the presidential nomination contests,including both primaries and caucuses. Today's report reviews trends in voter turnout in primaries nationally since 2000, as well as differences in turnout by party. The analysis includes a deeper examination of the 23 states which held competitive primaries in both 2008 and 2016, exploring the effects of primary type (open, closed, or hybrid) and voter access laws. A full report can be downloaded from FairVote’s website.

Record Breaking Republican Turnout; Decreases in Democratic Turnout

Overall, slightly fewer voters participated in the 2016 presidential primary elections compared to 2008 with nationwide turnout dropping to 29 percent of eligible voters. (Estimates of eligible voters are from Dr. Michael McDonald and the United States Elections Projectwhich is the go-to source for estimates of eligible voters and for turnout information since 2000.) Almost all states, however, saw higher participation in Republican primaries and lower participation in Democratic primaries. Turnout data shows that more Americans than ever before participated in the 2016 Republican primaries. In summary, compared to 2008:

  • 6 million fewer voters participated in Democratic primaries,

  • 8 million more voters participated in Republican primaries, and

  • 29% of eligible voters nationally participated in the primaries, down from 31% of eligible voters in 2008 (when there were fewer eligible voters).

Wisconsin experienced increased participation by more than 10% compared to the 2008 primary elections. In Wisconsin, 49% of eligible voters participated in the primaries, the second-highest in the nation behind only New Hampshire, where 52% participated in the first-in-the-nation primary. Primary participation was lowest in Louisiana (18.2%), South Dakota (18.9%), New Jersey (21.0%) and Connecticut (21.0%).

Evidence of Voter Switching in Open Primary States

Republican participation increases and Democratic participation decreases are most notable in states with open primaries:

  • Republican participation increased 29% in closed primaries and 68% in open primaries

  • Democratic participation decreased 11% in closed primaries and 31% in open primaries

For these states, the relatively small changes in turnout contribute to evidence of party switching, wherein likely 2008 Democratic primary voters choose to cast ballots in Republican primary contests.

Voter ID Laws Have Minimal Impact Nationwide but Disproportionate Impact within Parties

Among the voter access laws studied, laws requiring voter identification impacted participation levels among Democrats and Republicans differently.

  • Overall turnout impact was not measurable. The mean 2016 turnout in states with ID law changes is 32%, states that never implemented an ID law averaged 34% turnout, and states that maintained ID laws averaged 27% turnout.

  • Republican participation increased by an average of 38% in states that did not change existing voter ID laws, with a similar margin for states without ID laws. Republican turnout increased 77% in states that introduced voter ID laws since 2008.

  • Democratic participation declined 31% in states that strengthened ID laws and 2% in states that made no changes to ID laws. Turnout declined 6% in states that never implemented an ID law.

Our report with detailed analysis and comprehensive voter turnout information (using data published by each state) is available for download on FairVote’s website.

FairVote is a national non-partisan organization advocating for electoral solutions that give voters more voice and greater choice in elections.


          Presumptive Nominees Represent Small Portion of Eligible Voters   

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 10. 2016

FOR INFORMATION, CONTACT:  

Michelle C. Whittaker (301) 270-4616 or mwhittaker@fairvote.org

 

FairVote Analysis Reveals Presumptive Nominees Represent Small Portion of Eligible Voters

Wasted Votes Impact Military and Overseas Voters

 

Takoma, Park, MD — FairVote, the Center for Voting and Democracy, has compiled and posted an online Popular Vote 2016 spreadsheet with detailed state-by-state data on votes cast in the presidential primaries and caucuses to date. The data tracks vote totals for individual presidential candidates in each state that has held a primary or caucus. Additional information includes voter turnout, “wasted” votes cast for withdrawn candidates, and each candidate's share of the total voting population. Data analysis is available for voter turnout in primary elections only since caucus votes are not fully reported to the public.

View the data at PopularVote2016.com.

Frontrunners Garner Votes from Small Percentage of Eligible Voters

Overall, only 4.7% of eligible voters cast a ballot for Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee after both Ted Cruz and John Kasich suspended their campaigns following the Indiana primary. The Democratic frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, has received only 5.6% of eligible voters nationwide. “It’s telling that barely a tenth of eligible voters have voted for either of the two presumptive nominees,” remarks FairVote’s executive director Rob Richie, “even in a year of relatively high primary turnout.”

Trump has won 10,706,130 votes out of 26,590,345 counted in Republican contests so far, representing:

  • 40.2% of all Republican votes counted so far

  • 21.9% of all votes counted so far this year in 2016 presidential contests

  • 4.7% of all eligible voters in the United States

  • 4.3% of all adult residents in the United States

  • 3.3% of all people living in the United States

Hillary Clinton has won 12,575,576 votes out of 23,376,193 counted in Democratic contests, representing:

  • 56.2% of all Democratic votes counted so far

  • 25.7% of all votes counted so far this year in 2016 presidential contests

  • 5.6% of all eligible voters in the United States

  • 5.0% of all adult residents in the United States

  • 3.9% of all people living in the United States 

Richie notes, “we ultimately should explore ways of opening up our general elections in November to greater choice through reforms like ranked choice voting.”

Votes Cast for Candidates after Withdrawal

More than 700,000 votes were cast and counted for a candidate that has withdrawn from the race, with a significant portion (619,261) cast in the Republican primary. In Indiana, for example, 28,038 votes were cast for one of the six Republican candidates listed on the ballot but no longer in the race on Election Day (May 3). Other notable vote totals cast for withdrawn candidates came out of Florida (117,187), Arizona (99,306), and Pennsylvania (35,576). In New York, such wasted votes aren’t even reported &mdash including a significantly higher percentage of votes cast by overseas military personnel who received ballots in advance of the primary that often include many withdrawn candidates.

Such absentee and early voters are among those most obviously affected by candidates that drop out of the race between the time when they cast their vote and Election Day. Some voters chose on Election Day to cast a vote for a candidate that had already dropped out. “It’s time for states to uphold voting rights for our troops and all those voting early by using ranked choice voting ballots,” says Richie, “as done already in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina in congressional elections that might go to a runoff.”

The Horserace: Primaries vs. Caucuses

FairVote’s Popular Vote 2016 spreadsheet includes sheets with all results by party as well as ones with votes only cast in caucuses and only cast in primaries. One key finding shows that comparisons overstate similarities between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders supporters. In primaries only, Sanders’ share of the vote is 41.62% compared to 65.14% in caucuses. For Trump, however, he earns 40.73% of primary votes as compared to 27.24% of caucus votes.

FairVote will continue to update our Popular Vote 2016 spreadsheet (see www.PopularVote2016.com) following the release of official vote totals in every nomination contest, so it can continue to serve as an analysis tool for any journalist interest in voter turnout trends. We will also be releasing an in-depth analysis of presidential primary voter turnout trends.

FairVote is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that seeks to make elections fair, functional, and fully representative. The data provided in the spreadsheet has been collected from publicly available state election pages, state party pages & other sources as indicated.


          New Poll & Report: How Better Polling Tells Us What Republican Voters Really Think   

Download PDF Version of Release

WASHINGTON, DC -- The College of William of Mary and the nonpartisan electoral reform organization FairVote have released a report on a national survey offering new insights into voter preferences and views on electoral reform. In partnership with YouGov and scholars Alan Abramowitz (Emory University) and Walter Strone (UC-Davis), they conducted a national online survey of a representative sample of 1,000 Republican and independent voters, with half of the sample from January 21-25 (before the Iowa caucuses) and half from February 4-8 (before the New Hampshire primary).

Read Full Report

The new survey’s innovative methodology incorporated presidential candidate rankings (with more than nine in ten respondents ranking all 11 candidates who were surveyed), issue analyses, and opinions on electoral reforms. “Our survey provides journalists, pollsters, and campaigns with valuable insights into voter preferences that have been largely overlooked in national polling,” said FairVote executive director Rob Richie.

The full report, with analyses and appendices with all responses and crosstab information for questions involving electoral reform, is available at FairVote.org. The ranking data is also presented at http://www.GOP2016poll.com with an interactive data tool that allows users to see how candidates fare against each one-on-one, who is the second choice of backers of different candidates and which candidate would win under a ranked choice voting, “instant runoff” election system.

A panel discussion will be held today at 1 pm at the Zenger Room at the National Press Club. Featured panelists are:

  • Ronald Rapoport, John Marshall Professor at the College of William and Mary,
  • Rob Richie, Executive Director at FairVote – The Center for Voting and Democracy,
  • Emily Ekins, Research Fellow, Cato Institute, and
  • John Fortier, Democracy Project Director of the Bipartisan Policy Center

Key Findings

● Presidential Race - Trump’s high floor comes with relatively low ceiling as underscored by loss to Ted Cruz in instant runoff: The College of William and Mary/FairVote survey echoes most other national polls indicating that Donald Trump is far ahead in voter intentions, with 38.5%, compared to 17.8% for Ted Cruz, and 12.3% for Marco Rubio. However, when a ranked choice voting tally is run that results in a one-on-one “instant runoff” between Trump and Cruz, Trump trails 51% to 49% and loses ground to other candidates in every single round of the tally. Although Trump does defeat all other candidates one-on-one, including a 54% to 46% over Marco Rubio and 66% to 34% over Jeb Bush, he is the last choice of more than one in five respondents.

● Republican and independent voters are ready for electoral rule changes: Voters are generally ready to embrace changes in the nature of congressional elections and the composition of Congress, albeit some hesitation and uncertainty exists. As consistent with past surveys of right-of-center voters more than four in five respondents on an absolute scale support voter identification requirements (86.5%) and term limits for Congress (82.6%). Support was also high for a voter registration system that registers all eligible voters while blocking ineligible voters (78.6%), easier ballot access for third parties and independents (73.2%), limits of political donations, (72.7%) impartial redistricting (66%), and a national popular vote for president (66.4%). Ranked choice voting was backed most strongly for primary elections (51.8%) and local elections (49.3%), and had more support than opposition for its use at every level of election. When it comes to imagining changes by 2030, large majorities of those with an opinion support a Congress with more third parties, women, people of color and major party representatives from the opposition party’s strongholds – with no more than 18.9% opposing any of these changes.

 Voters ready for presidential nomination rules changes: Although respondents are not passionate about any single change to the nomination process, they have little support for the rules as they are. Strong majorities are ready to support ranked choice ballots in the nomination process ((57.1%), a national primary among the top candidates (57%), changing the schedule so Iowa and New Hampshire don’t always come first (55.8%), and delegates in all states being awarded proportionally rather than by winner take all (51.7%).

● Millennials most ready for electoral changes: Millennial voters (under 30) had the highest intensity of support for electoral changes when compared to other age groups. For example, 23% of millennials in the survey strongly favor having more third party and independents in Congress, as opposed to 13% of respondents over 60. Substantial, if slightly smaller gaps exist between those age groups for having more women and people of color in Congress. When it comes to reform, ranked choice voting had the backing of 61% of all respondents with an opinion about it, but a whopping 79% of millennials.

● The Tea Party remains influential: A majority of Republicans identify as Tea Party supporters (53%) to some extent, and in 2014, Tea Party supporters accounted for more than two-thirds of active Republicans (those Republicans who campaigned, donated to, advocated for, or voted for a Republican candidate). An overwhelming majority of Ted Cruz supporters are Tea Party supporters (84%), however, Donald Trump receives high support from both Tea Party and non-Tea Party supporters.

● A three-party race in November: Only about one-in-four Republicans are willing to support the Republican ticket both with Donald Trump as the nominee and with Marco Rubio as the Republican nominee against Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton and an independent candidate.

The data-rich report, with detailed questions about a wide range of issues and more information about how voters see the election, is available in full on-line. The interactive feature allowing users to see the impact of voter rankings of candidates is at http://www.GOP2016poll.com

For more information, contact FairVote communications director Michelle Whittaker at mwhittaker@fairvote.org or call its offices at (301) 270-4616.

FairVote is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that seeks to make elections fair, functional, and fully representative.

The College of William and Mary is the second-oldest college in the nation, known for cutting-edge research.  


          FairVote Partners with Civinomics to Release RCV App   

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

FOR INFORMATION, CONTACT:  Michelle C. Whittaker (301) 270-4616 or mwhittaker@fairvote.org

FairVote is pleased to partner with Civinomics to launch a new tool for understanding electoral politics and voter inclinations in multi-seat contests across the United States. Our ranked choice voting (RCV) application allows users to rank candidates in order of choice. With the large Republican presidential field dominating attention around which of the 17 candidates will be included in the first presidential debate, the need for comprehensive polling tools to understand voter preferences is essential. FairVote and Civinomics are launching the RCV tool for two important contests: the Republican presidential candidate field and the Democratic presidential candidate field.

Civinomics and FairVote share a strong desire to give communities the best possible forms of government -- and that begins with how we conduct elections. “A ranked choice poll,” Rob Richie, Executive Director of FairVote notes, “provides clarity about which of the top candidates has the broadest support.” Manu Koenig, Founder & CEO of Civinomics believes that it is important for voters “to have all the voting tools possible to determine the best outcome for their group, community or government.”

App Features

The app allows users to rank candidates and cast a ballot for the particular contest. Once the ballot is submitted, users can view the results of a contest. 

One of the unique features of the tool is the interactive results display that allows users to view RCV counts round-by-round and eliminate candidates to see how how the departure of that candidate impacts others still in the contest.

screen shot 2015 08 03 at 8 17 08 pm

 

How Ranked Choice Voting Works

Ranked choice voting (RCV) ensures that the voice of voters is heard. Current voting methods and too often political polling data only considers a voter’s first choice. Using RCV, voters rank as many candidates as they want in order of preference. After adding up all the first choices, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. Voters whose first choice candidate is eliminated have their vote added to the total for their second choice. This process continues until two candidates remain, the candidate a majority of the active votes wins.

When voters are able to rank candidates, they have the freedom to choose the candidates that truly represent them. This maximizes the power of voters and choice among candidates, and upholds a  fundamental principle of representative democracy that is of, for, and by the people.

More to Come

We are encouraging civic organizations, political pollsters, journalists, and policymakers to try our new app. FairVote is showcasing the app this week at the annual convention of the National Conference of State Legislatures and next month at the annual convention of the American Political Science Association. Later this month, an "all-party" presidential contest will be released that includes Republican, Democratic, and independent candidates/parties; in addition to a version of the app for the general public that allows any registered user to create their own contests.

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For more information on this tool, please contact  Michelle Whittaker, Director of Communications at (301) 270-4616

FairVote is a nonpartisan non-profit organizations that seeks to makes democracy fair, functional, and representative by developing the analysis and educational tools necessary for reform advocates to win and sustain improvements to American elections.

Civimonics is social and civic engagement site. Their mission is to strengthen the democratic process by making it easier for people to get involved and implement solutions that improve their communities.

 


          FairVote Reformer: Winner-Take-All Electoral System is a Loser for Democracy   

Spotlight: President Obama, Red & Blue America & and the Perils of Winner-Take-All 2011 State of the Union

In his State of the Union speech on Tuesday, President Barack Obama put particular stress on the theme that launched him into national prominence in 2004 at the Democratic Party convention, declaring “that we are still more than a collection of red states and blue states; that we are the United States of America.” Later in the week, he visited two strongly Republican states, Idaho and Kansas, to explain his policy proposals.

The fact that it was the president’s first visit to Idaho of his presidency tells us how his vision of a “united states” clashes with the unforgiving logic of winner-take-all elections. The three, remaining unvisited states -- South Carolina, South Dakota, and Utah, -- are also firmly “red,” underscoring how the White House political team has prioritized swing states in his first team. In 2008, for example, Obama won 49.7% of the vote in North Carolina and 44.7% in South Carolina. That may look a small difference, but he visited North Carolina 18 times in his first term and held the 2012 Democratic convention there; yet he hasn’t been back to South Carolina since his key primary win there in January 2008.

Why? There simply is no way his campaign could turn 44.7% into a win in 2012. Today, nearly all competition between the major parties only takes place within the 47% to 53% spectrum of partisanship. Outside that narrow range, you’re almost certainly wasting money, whether running for president with winner-take-all rules for allocating electors or running for U.S. Congress.

In presidential elections, winner-take-all voting means that the White House is effectively elected by the small - and ever shrinking - number of swing states, rather than by the voters in all 50 states. Citing FairVote’s research, The Los Angeles Times’ George Skelton in a new column favoring the National Popular Vote plan for president writes that: “Under a winner-take-all system, the vast majority of states are shunted to the sidelines, forced to watch from afar as the candidates fight it out in a few battleground states.” The Washington Post last week used FairVote data to show visually how partisan lines are dividing America.

The same is true of congressional elections. Winner-take-all is so decisive, in fact, that FairVote was able to project the outcomes for the 2014 congressional elections for 370 out of 435 races – missing only one. The same goes for the 2016 congressional election outcomes, which FairVote projected only two days after the 2014 elections in more than 85% of U.S. House Seats.

Fortunately, there is an alternative to winner-take-all. The National Popular Vote plan for president would make every vote in every state in every election count equally, creating new incentives for equitable campaigning. With fair representation voting for Congress, the left, right and center of every region of the country while ensuring that every voter can take part in a meaningfully contested election. This is something President Obama has a record of supporting: as a state senator, he introduced a billto bring fair representation voting to Illinois and another bill to establish ranked choice voting (“instant runoff”) for primaries.

That reform history is consistent with his call during the State of the Union speech to uphold voting rights, when he stated “surely we can agree that the right to vote is sacred." Such statements are an encouraging sign that the president will once again address fair representation and voting rights, issues that he was generally a champion for during his early days as a politician in Illinois. Reaching across the aisle for support to change winner-take-all elections is the best say to end the political dead zones in red and blue states, which leave voters helpless and resulting in less fair representation. (See our summary of 2016 dead zones that underscores how much of the country is stuck in a false “red” or “blue” reality based on winner-take-all voting.)

News on our Feb. 5-6 conference, Ranked Choice Voting campaigns and more

•           Attend our Conference! FairVote is co-sponsoring the ninth annual Voting and Elections Summit, Feb. 5-6 at George Washington University. The first day will include a keynote address done by Congressman Keith Ellison and a FairVote plenary with a great lineup of 20-minute dialogues. The second day will include FairVote-run workshops on getting involved in our Promote our Vote project and our full reform agenda.

•           Right to vote amendment reintroduced: US Congressmen Mark Pocan and Keith Ellison introduced a Right to Vote constitutional amendment at a press conference on Thursday morning, and FairVote staffer Dania Korkor spoke in support. Watch the video here, and call for a constitutional Right to Vote here.

•           Ranked choice voting advocacy and news: Ranked choice voting (RCV, or “instant runoff”)- made headlines this month, with a new editorial endorsement from the Washington Post, in support of new RCV legislation in Washington, D.C and with ”don’t miss” comments from Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges in a prominent event in DC (see Hodges talk about RCV at the 29 minute mark). In Maine, the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting has collected more than 60,000 signatures to put RCV on the November 2106 ballot and won support from Maine’s largest newspaper. The system will also be used to determine the winner for Best Picture category at the Oscars. Take the poll here to show us how you would rank the contenders.

•           FairVote analyses garners attention: FairVote’s work has been getting attention recently, with a piece from Aaron Blake in the Washington Post on the decline of swing states, a prominent citation from Dylan Matthews at Vox that stirred vigorous debate (to which our Nathan Nicholson responded in posts here and here.), and the George Skelton Los Angeles Times column on the National Popular Vote plan.

•           Thank you! Our thanks to all of our supporters and donors for their generous year end support. We surpassed our end-of-year goals, but it’s not too late to help make a difference in 2015 with a new donation!

 

Highlights from the FairVote Blog

 

See more from our blog at www.fairvoteblog.com, and also see longer form blog posts by clicking here.


          FairVote Reformer: Spotlight on Projections in 85% of 2016 Congressional Elections   

Minter despondent photo NYT Dec 10 updateOn November 6, 2014, more than two years before the 2016 congressional elections, FairVote projected the outcomes of the 2016 congressional elections in more than 85% of U.S. house seats. In other words, FairVote projects that 373 house districts are so deeply entrenched for one party that the incumbent can keep their seat just by seeking re-election, 
irrespective of who else runs or how much money is spent in the race.

Whole regions of the country are politically dead. We project winners in every seat for 27 states. In a group of 14 southern and border states, we project winners in 125 of 126 seats – and 123 seats even if every election were an open seat with equal financing. This means that literally hundreds of districts are beyond competition with real consequences for voters being part of meaningful debates. For a powerful example, see the New York Times “op-art” piece by Marco Ricci, following the candidacy of Mike Minter, a Democrat running in what may be the most Republican district in the nation.

A partisan skew that distorts accountability has also emerged. Of the 373 safe seats, Republicans hold 212. That means that Republicans only need to win six of 62 unprojected seats to win 218 seats and keep their majority. To retake the House, Democratic candidates would likely need to win some 55% of the vote.

Our method of projection is remarkably accurate. In 2013, FairVote projected 368 house seats and those projections matched the results in 367 contests without any analysis whatsoever of polling data or campaign spending. In 2012, FairVote projected 333 seats and those projections matched the results in all 333 contests: 100% accuracy.

Shortly after the election, our executive director Rob Richie authored a piece in The Nation highlighting just how unfair congressional elections have become. It echoed pre-election pieces making the case for fair representation voting by Krist Novoselic in the Open Standard and by Reihan Salam in Slate. These pieces demonstrate that broken congressional elections hurt everyone, and how there is an all-partisan solution on the table.

FairVote has consistently promoted the fair voting solution. By noting that the problem is not merely gerrymandering but actually inherent in districting itself, the way out becomes clear: replace the exclusive use of winner-take-all districts with fair representation voting. With fair representation voting, voters have the power to choose their representatives, irrespective of what district they happen to be drawn into, using American, candidate-based forms of proportional voting like ranked choice voting. This constitutional and historically-grounded way of conducting elections could be applied to Congress by using larger districts, each electing between three and five candidates. We are helping to craft model legislation that would enact these practices.

FairVote has drawn sample maps demonstrating how this solution would truly represent the left, right and center of every state while making every vote count. Those maps can be easily viewed along with detailed analysis at fairvoting.us. Look up your state, and see what fair voting could mean for you.


Other News

  • FairVote is co-sponsoring the ninth annual Voting and Elections Summit, Feb. 5-6 at George Washington University. We’ll have sessions with prominent speakers on the 5th, and two workshops on the 6th digging deep into how people can get involved in our core reform work.
  • The largest newspaper in Maine reports on signature drive for ranked choice voting, which they have endorsed already. A nearly all-volunteer effort has collected about two-thirds of the necessary signatures for a statewide vote to use RCV for all state and congressional elections in Maine.
  • FairVote’s staff frequently makes presentations. Our executive director Rob Richie presented in the past week on instant runoff voting in Newport News, the right to vote amendment at the Rainbow PUSH annual conference and on redistricting reform in Washington, D.C.
  • Friday, December 12, Rob Richie and policy analyst Andrew Douglas will present during a FairVote-sponsored session at the National Conference of State Legislatures’ winter meeting. FairVote staffers talked with hundreds of elected officials and civic leaders at booths recently at the annual meetings of the National League of Cities and National Conference of State Legislatures.
  • The Washington Post has editorialized on behalf of ranked choice voting in its instant runoff form twice in the past month, including this strong piece. See highlights of FairVote’s high profile news coverage throughout 2014.
  • FairVote submits testimony on Michigan Electoral College “reform” plan, providing criticism of both the current winner-take-all system and Michigan’s proposed alternative formula. FairVote’s Roll Call piece on November 7 was the first to flag this potential bill and why the National Popular Vote plan remains the best way for states to move forward.
  • Positive results in Oakland’s high profile RCV race for mayor demonstrate that Oakland voters understood and used it well there and in three other California cities. See our visual demonstration of the Oakland race, and stay tuned for results of a new telephone survey that will confirm the findings of a similar survey last year.

From the Blog

See more from our blog at www.fairvoteblog.com, and also see longer form blog posts by clicking here.


          The Reformer: Special Edition, FairVote's Reforms Featured in Washington Post and New York Times   

We'll be back next month with more detailed news from FairVote, but as summer comes to a close we wanted to share two
high-profile commentaries on our core reform proposals.

First, Katrina vanden Heuvel had a widely syndicated commentary published in the Washington Post, where she makes a powerful case for advancing our fair representation plan and builds upon her recent piece on the National Popular Vote plan. Vanden Heuvel extends the logic of her previous analysis to showcase how House elections can be reformed using multi-seat districts and a fair representation alternative, highlighting our interactive flash map (which shows such plans for every state in the country with more than one House district). Take a look -- and please sign this petition to ask your House Member to support a bill to make this change.

Second, Executive Director Rob Richie had a letter published in the New York Times, making the case for a right to vote in the Constitution. The letter dovetailed nicely with new advances for our Promote Our Vote resolutions and our new website, which highlights various efforts to secure a constitutional right to vote.

We've attached both pieces in full below. You also might enjoy Richie's Gainesville Sun commentary on how Florida could resolve its redistricting lawsuit with the 2014 elections, as well as John Burbank's piece on proportional representation, and Larry Bradley's commentary about Instant Runoff Voting. There are also several new pieces on FairVote's blog.

 


New York Times. August 17, 2014. By Robert Richie.

Trying to ensure the fundamental right to vote

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/18/opinion/trying-to-ensure-the-fundamental-right-to-vote.html 

To the Editor:

Your Aug. 12 editorial “Where Voting Is Now Easier,” about the divergent directions states are taking on the accessibility of voting, underscores an unsettling reality: Our 50 states and more than 10,000 local jurisdictions structure and administer elections that are all separate and unequal. Our nation is long overdue for an explicit right to vote in the Constitution.

In 1787, our founders were not ready to establish that right. Over time, the right to vote has advanced largely as a state right. Federal constitutional changes have expanded suffrage, but they have never established it as a fundamental right of American citizenship. Until we join most states and other nations in enshrining the right to vote in our Constitution, some states and localities will infringe on voting rights, whether by design or as a byproduct of running democracy on the cheap.

Congress is entertaining H.J. Res. 44 to put a right to vote in the Constitution, a measure backed by a growing number of local governments. Let’s end the voting wars and accept voting as the fundamental democratic right that it is.


Washington Post. August 19, 2014. By Katrina vanden Heuvel.

We need a fairer system for choosing House members

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/katrina-vanden-heuvel-we-need-a-fairer-system-for-choosing-house-members/2014/08/19/bf93c84c-271c-11e4-8593-da634b334390_story.html

In the original conception of our Constitution, the House of Representatives was to be the branch of government that best reflected the will of the people. House members cannot serve without being elected — vacancies are not filled by appointees — and they must face the voters every two years. Notably, the House holds pride of place as the first branch of government to be described in the Constitution. The framers move directly from “We the People” to the House, underlining the notion that, for our Constitution (and our government) to function, representatives must be accountable to the people.

Unfortunately, as we near the 2014 midterm elections, the reality of House races today clashes with that goal.

Let’s start with the connection between votes and seats. In 2012, we faced a major choice between the major parties and a mandate on President Obama’s first term. In the presidential race, Obama defeated Mitt Romney in the national popular vote by almost three percentage points, and Republicans suffered the worst performance in Senate elections by any major party in a half-century.

In House races, Democratic nominees overcame incumbent advantages for Republicans and won the national popular vote by more than 1.1 million votes. By those numbers, Americans painted the Capitol royal blue. Shockingly, though, Republicans won 54 percent of the House seats,establishing for themselves a 33-seat majority. And looking ahead, analysts estimate that Democrats may need as much as 55 percent of the popular vote in November to secure a majority.

Such a disconnect between voters and those who are installed as their congressional leaders goes far beyond any distortion we’ve seen in the Electoral College in presidential elections. It’s absolutely unacceptable in House elections, and it deserves far more debate than it has received.

The most-discussed culprit for the abysmal nature of House elections is gerrymandering. Every decade, states redraw congressional districts. Given the sophistication of today’s technology, the growing partisan divide among voters and the relatively low-profile nature of the process, those in charge of mapping have the means, motive and opportunity to use redistricting to help their friends and hurt their enemies. Republicans in states such as Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia did just that. Barack Obama carried all those states in 2008, but today, Republicans hold a 68-31 edge in those states’ House seats.

But while gerrymandering matters, we must think more broadly. The core problem turns out to be districting, not redistricting. Congress’s 1967 law that mandates use of single-member districts for House elections has institutionalized the practice of shoehorning voters into boxes that restrict choices and distort representation. That is, districts are drawn in ways that lead to results predetermined by the powers that be. But today, there’s a growing call, from members of Congress including James Clyburn (D-S.C.) to institutions such as The Washington Post editorial board, to consider allowing voters to define their own representation in multi-seat district elections.

FairVote has created just such a fair-representation plan that Congress has full authority to establish. Every state would keep its same number of seats, but districts would be combined into larger districts drawn by independent commissions. Of critical importance: In each new “superdistrict,” like-minded voters could elect candidates of choice in proportion to their share of the vote. To illustrate: In this “open-ticket system,” a voter would cast a vote for one candidate. This vote counts for the candidate and, if that candidate is associated with a political party, also for that party. Seats are then allocated to parties in proportion to their share of the vote using a proportional-representation formula — like that used by Democrats to allocate convention delegates in their presidential primaries. Each party’s share of seats is filled by its candidates who won the most votes. An independent wins by exceeding the minimum share of votes necessary to win. (Watch FairVote’s excellent video for a primer on the system.)

In Massachusetts, for example, more than a third of the state’s voters consistently vote Republican, but the GOP has not won a House seat there in two decades. Yet by consolidating Massachusetts’s nine districts into three districts of three seats each, and by using a fair-representation system, that significant bloc of Republican votes would consistently win three — rather than zero — of Massachusetts’s nine seats, a direct translation of the voters’ will. Similarly, Democrats could end Republican monopolies and exaggerated majorities in states such as Kansas, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Texas.

Although novel, fair representation has the potential to draw a strong coalition of support. Women, for example, are deeply underrepresented in House elections, with more than four in five seats still held by men, and women win about 10 percent more seats in multi-seat state-legislative and city-council elections than they do in congressional districts. Other supporters would be those in favor of 50-state parties, as we would engender two-party competition in every corner of the nation. Third parties would be able to field viable candidates, not mere spoilers, and our ideological polarization would be lessened with a new mix of representatives that better reflects the diversity of our thoughts and interests.

How we can move such a bold plan forward? To start, Democrats who are crafting a redistricting reform package should enable commissions to create such plans. State leaders should petition Congress for an exemption from the 1967 mandate. Maryland state Sen. Jamie Raskin (D) has proposed that two states that have done partisan gerrymanders — one for Democrats and one for Republicans — could even enter into an interstate compact in which they agree to utilize a fair-representation plan together.

We may have an opportunity this year. In July, Florida’s congressional gerrymander was tossed out by a state judge on the grounds that two districts did not comply with the state’s Fair District constitutional amendments, which had been approved by voters in 2010. A FairVote proposal has shown how, in a fair-representation system, the five Florida districts affected by the ruling could be combined into a single district, its representatives chosen by the open-ticket rule. It would make every voter count, provide fairer partisan representation and uphold the Voting Rights Act.

People are thinking creatively about how to re-energize American democracy. It is not acceptable to sit on our hands as we watch the value of a vote get more and more skewed. It’s time to launch a drive for a fair-representation system for Congress so that the House of “We the People” can finally live up to its name.

 

 

 

 


          The Reformer: Encouraging Examples of All-Partisan Support for Reform   

The Reformer, July 30, 2014: Encouraging Examples of All-Partisan Support for Reform

With political polarization at its highest point in more than a century, observers often assume opposition to reform is inevitable. Election reform is no exception; when one major party supports a proposal, the other often opposes it. But as Ciara Torres-Spelliscy explains on the Brennan Center blog, some reform efforts earn cooperation, as evidenced by the Presidential Commission on Election Administration Reform and the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Commission on Political Reform. This ability to find across-the-aisle cooperation is reflective of recent developments for FairVote’s Reform 2020 agenda that we spotlight below.

Highlights

  • National Popular Vote’s big win in New York State 
  • Voter turnout task force in large county recommends ranked choice voting
  • Both Virginia Democrats and Utah Republicans use ranked choice voting in key state legislative nomination contests
  • Louisiana governor signs groundbreaking voter pre-registration bill
  • Major parties finally put forward nominees for Election Assistance Commission
  • Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) lead push to restore voting rights for people with felony convictions, and a Bipartisan Policy Center commission earns unanimous support for significant reforms
  • Both major parties back ranked choice voting ballots for overseas voters in congressional elections in five states
  • Rest of the News:
  •    Remembering Kathleen Barber 
  •    Primary turnout plummets
  •    FairVote in major media
  •    Norm Ornstein: Top 4 improves Top 2
  •    Hendrik Hertzberg’s Birthday

 

Win for National Popular Vote in New York State

In April, New York became the 11th jurisdiction to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, giving backers a total of 61% of the electoral votes needed to activate the compact and ensure that the candidate who wins the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC is always elected president. With overwhelming support from both major parties in the legislature (including 27-2 among Republican state senators and 30-2 among Democratic state senators), this victory demonstrates emerging bipartisan support for a national popular vote. Read Rob Richie’s Reuters’ article here and his piece with Andrea Levien in Presidential Studies Quarterly here.

All-partisan task force in Maryland County backs ranked choice voting

Montgomery County (MD), with more residents than six states, has a history of national leadership. Last year it passed one of FairVote's Promote Our Vote resolutions, affirming support for a constitutional right to vote and a commitment to improve voter turnout. The resolution resulted in a 12-member voter turnout task force, composed of an all-partisan mix of Republicans, Democrats, minor party backers, and independents. Its impressive collection of recommendations includes FairVote ideas like moving toward 100% voter registration, a lower voting age, and independent redistricting. The task force supported adoption of ranked choice voting for all county elections 11-1 to ensure more representative outcomes and less mudslinging in campaigns. The task force proposed the instant runoff form of ranked choice voting for single member districts and fair representation version for at-large seats. The report was presented to the county council and will be the subject of hearings this fall.

Virginia Democrats and Utah Republicans use ranked choice voting in key party elections

Rip Sullivan became the Democratic nominee for Virginia's 48th state House of Delegates District - and the strong favorite to win the seat - after the Democrats used the instant runoff (IRV) form in their firehouse primary. The district includes part of Arlington County where Democrats used IRV twice this year for county nomination contests that each drew more than 3,000 voters. In Utah, Republicans have used IRV for many key nomination contests since 2002, including the nomination of Jon Huntsman for Governor and the selection of replacements for state legislators in at least five districts. Given Republicans’ fractured 2016 presidential field and the chance to implement IRV in early caucus states like Iowa, FairVote’s Drew Spencer suggests that Republicans use IRV in more of their presidential nomination contests.

Louisiana governor signs groundbreaking voter pre-registration bill

In Louisiana, voter pre-registration earned bipartisan support this year. Governor Bobby Jindal, a leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, signed a youth pre-registration bill into law this May. The new legislation requires 16- and 17-year-old citizens to be automatically pre-registered to vote unless they choose not to register. It received strong bipartisan support, with a unanimous vote in the state senate, and features an innovative “opt-out” approach to registration, which will facilitate more complete and accurate voter rolls once young Louisianans reach voting age.

Bipartisan recommendations on voting from Rand Paul, Ben Cardin, and Bipartisan Policy Center

We applaud two recent national calls for reform across the aisle. Two Senators, Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ben Cardin (D-MD), are leading a drive to restore voting rights for citizens with felony convictions, as explained on the FairVote blog. Senator Cardin’s bill, S. 2235, and Senator Paul’s bill, S. 2550, would expand voting rights in federal elections to citizens with felony convictions and establish a system to notify them of this change. In addition, both bills grant the Attorney General, the Department of Justice, and private citizens a framework to sue for full and equitable application of the law.

Last month, the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Commission on Political Reform took on a full range of issues, with a number of substantive calls for change that have unanimous backing from a commission that included former U.S. Senator Majority Leaders Tom Daschle and Trent Lott. They called for redistricting reform, early voting, changes in campaign finance, and reform of Congressional procedures. One particularly promising reform is the establishment of a single election day for congressional primaries. This would allow for more focused media coverage and greater public awareness.

Promised revival of Election Assistance Commission: Major parties supply nominees

Created by the Help America Vote Act in 2002, the Election Assistance Commission provides a means to achieve more national coherence in our election administration through research, promotion of best practices, and certification of recommendations for voting equipment standards. As FairVote has reported, partisan bickering has left the commission without a quorum for nearly the entire Obama presidency. Finally, the major parties have both put forward two nominees to fill the long-time empty positions on the EAC board. We hope to see confirmation votes in September, and with it, the return of a fully functioning EAC.

Bipartisan support leads to five states using ranked choice ballots in congressional elections

FairVote has helped win ranked choice voting (RCV) for municipal elections in more than a dozen American cities and in dozens of major associations and universities. We expect more chances to win RCV reform in states and cities, and we are encouraged that both major parties are using RCV in various elections. This year, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi and, South Carolina provided ranked choice voting ballots to all their overseas voters in runoffs, which ultimately boosted primary voters’ participation. Louisiana's overseas and out-of-state military voters will use ranked choice ballots for congressional elections in November. See FairVote’s recent blog post and congressional testimony on the proposal.

Electoral Roundup

Thank you, Kathleen Barber: We were saddened to hear about the death of Kathleen Barber, author of one of the most important books about changing winner-take-all elections to American forms of proportional representation. A former city councilor, professor at John Carroll University, and a FairVote founding advisory committee member who spoke at our founding meeting in 1992, Dr. Barber edited a collection about the use of ranked choice voting in five Ohio cities and then a stand-alone volume. She will be missed.

Plunging primary voter turnout draws Dan Balz’s welcome attention: The Committee for the Study of the American Electorate has given a mid-term report card for turnout in congressional and state primary elections this year – and we’re flunking! In the 25 states with statewide primaries for Senate and/or governor, turnout has declined from 18.3% of eligible voters in the 2010 midterm elections to just 14.8% this year. Turnout in 15 states was the lowest ever. The Washington Post’s senior political reporter Dan Balz highlighted the CSAE report, calling on candidates to say more about their plans to encourage participation. See our web resources on voter turnout and Promote Our Vote project to learn more.

FairVote in the media: Our executive director Rob Richie has recently been quoted in publications like the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and The Boston Globe. Richie and FairVote's research intern Duncan Hosie also published Huffington Post articles about low and unrepresentative turnout in California and reforms to boost turnout. Hosie also commemorated the 166th anniversary of the Seneca Falls Convention in a post on our Representation 2020 website. Our board chair Krist Novoselic talked about FairVote during an hour-long interview on Reason TV, and board member Michael Lind featured fair representation voting in Salon.

Norm Ornstein touts Top Four with ranked choice voting over Top Two: Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called for the nation to adopt California-style Top Two primaries in a New York Times commentary. While we congratulate Schumer for seeking to change our broken system, our recent California primary analysis shows how the Top Two system is problematic due to split votes and low turnout in primaries that reduce November choices to just two candidates. A better alternative is the Top Four system, which would advance four candidates and use ranked choice voting in November. We were pleased to see prominent scholar Norm Ornstein tout this idea in detail on the Diane Rehm show on National Public Radio.

Happy birthday, Hendrik Hertzberg: We toast our long-time board member Hendrik Hertzberg, who celebrated his birthday this month. Rick has written eloquently in The New Yorker and The New Republic about proportional representation, instant runoff voting, and the National Popular Vote plan; keep up with his latest on his New Yorker blog.


          Reformer: Is Your State Representative? See Where Your State Stands.    

A newsletter to keep you informed about all things election reform from FairVote. Visit this page to read the Reformer online. For more updates on FairVote’s work, visit our website and find us on Facebook and Twitter. Stay informed by signing up for more updates.


The Reformer: States of Reform Issue June 16, 2014

FairVote is an electoral reform leader with a strong vision of where we want to go and practical strategies for how to get there. We value research and analysis, regularly adding posts to our blog and website research section.

Highlights

  • Updated Monopoly Politics 2014 Report projects 371 House races and showcases a reform plan for your state
  • Washington Post editorial suggests time for fair representation voting
  • Report shows State of Women's Representation in your state
  • Massachusetts enacts voter pre-registration
  • Colorado reformer improves on Top Two primary model
  • New FairVote report shows the value of National Popular Vote
  • Second California jurisdiction adopts a fair representation system this year
  • Task force in county of 1 million recommends ranked choice voting
  • FairVote is hiring a new program director and welcomes new colleagues

 


Understanding House Elections: Monopoly Politics 2014 and the Fair Voting Solution

We urge you to visit the interactive map and comprehensive state-by-state profiles in Monopoly Politics 2014 and the Fair Voting Solution. Recently updated with analyses of open seats, the report allows you to know whether you live in one of the 371 districts already projected for one candidate in November and why. In 1997, we influenced a generation of political analysts by publicizing a way to categorize the partisan leans of House districts, and this latest update builds upon our 20-year history of reporting on House elections.The report also showcases state plans for achieving a better democracy through fair representation voting and details what our analysis means for issues like redistricting, campaign finance, and voting rights. Take a look tosee where your state stands, and come back on November 6 to see a list of projected winners in more than 380 of 435 districts for the 2016 House elections.

Washington Post editorial on June 15 suggests time for multi-member districts for Congress: The lead editorial in the Washington Post yesterday was entitled Blending Red and Blue, with a subheading "Americans want lawmakers to work together, which may require changing the political system." The author states: “Rebuilding the political center might require more radical measures such as the revival of at-large or multi-member congressional districts, which used to be common in many states." The editorial does not assume use of fair representation voting, but such systems are clearly the best way to achieve the goals of the editorial. In the past two years, the Post has published two commentaries by FairVote Executive Director Rob Richie that made the case for fair representation voting.

A note on Eric Cantor's defeat: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s June 10th primary loss was truly remarkable, but its shocking nature underscores how most primary elections are noncompetitive. Cantor is only the second House incumbent to lose this year, and 99% incumbent success in primaries is the norm. Most incumbents win easy primary victories and then easy general elections -- more than 97% of all House incumbents can be expected to return to Congress next year despite low ratings. We have more to say on our blog, but Cantor's defeat was not due to the “usual suspects” of closed primaries, redistricting and campaign spending.


 Representation of Women: The State of Women’s Representation 2013-2014

Our Representation 2020 project has produced a great resource, with extensive analysis and state-by-state profiles about representation of women in elected office and strategies for achieving parity: State of Women’s Representation 2013-2014.

Women seem poised this year for gains in Congress (currently 83% men) and potentially governorships (90% men), and many are winning nominations in certain House districts that are safe for their party. Women will be competitive in several statewide races, including Republican Senate candidates Joni Ernst (IA) and Terri Lynn Land (MI) and Democratic Senate candidates Alison Lundergan Grimes (KY) and Michelle Nunn (GA).One example of a likely U.S. House winner is Bonnie Watson Coleman, who won herprimary election for New Jersey’s 12th district on June 3rd. Running in a heavily Democratic district, she is expected to be New Jersey’s first African American woman elected to Congress. She almost certainly will be joined by Mia Love, an African American Republican in Utah. More women of all parties should be elected to Congress and represented in our government. To learn more, visit our Representation 2020 website.


FairVote Reforms Moving in the States

FairVote often works to pass legislation and ballot measures, but our greatest influence has come from developing policy ideas, introducing them to key players, and proposing strategies to win them. Here are recent examples:

Massachusetts adopts voter pre-registration for 16-year-olds: Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has signed a strong election reform law that includes voter pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds. A decade ago, FairVote identified this policy as a way to achieve the goal of getting young voters registered as they reach voting age, and played a direct role in winning it in Maryland, Rhode Island, and Washington, D.C. We also play supportive role in Colorado, Delaware and Florida. We congratulate MassVote and Common Cause Massachusetts for their leadership in the multi-year campaign in Massachusetts.

 Fixing top two primary systems with ranked choice voting and the Colorado innovation: In a recent Innovative Analysis, we wrote about primary elections and how to fix them. Voter turnout is plunging in primaries, and is far less representative than the November electorate. One proposal, the “top two primary system,” addresses real problems by increasing voter choice in primaries. But it also has unfortunate, correctable problems, as we explain in a timely review of this month's Top Two primary in California.

The Coalition for a New Colorado Election System is circulating a ballot measure that largely corrects the downsides of the California Top Two system – the key innovation being advancing more candidates and relying on ranked choice voting (“instant runoff”) in November. See our team’s detailed analysis of the Colorado plan. We also like key elements of the proposal developed by Nevada's Doug Goodman, who is gaining support from legislators and publishing op-eds.

National Popular Vote looks forward after big New York win / Listen to new podcast: FairVote has played an important role backing the National Popular Vote plan and is thrilled with this spring's big win in New York State. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the National popular Vote, it is a state-based means of achieving a presidential election. The candidate who receives the most votes in all 50 states and DC will win the presidency. This plan is on target to be in place for the 2020 election. To learn more about the plan, listen to a great radio podcast with MoveOn.org’s Ben Wikler that features FairVote Board Member Hendrik Hertzberg of the New Yorker magazine, and read this Presidential Studies Quarterly article by FairVote’s Rob Richie and Andrea Levien. Richie and Levien also coauthored a report last week that debunks one of the primary myths about the National Popular Vote: that candidates will only spend their time in major cities. 

California jurisdiction adopts fair representation voting system: California’s Santa Clarita Community College District has agreed to move elections to November of even years and to extend cumulative voting rights to resolve a California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) case. The District also volunteered to host informational sessions for potential candidates. Board president Michele Jenkins said, “This is a fair settlement that ... promotes greater participation.” Read FairVote’s news release about an agreement earlier this year to extend cumulative voting rights in city council elections in Santa Clarita (a growing city of 180,000) and our amicus brief submitted in a CVRA case in January.

Promote Our Vote success in Montgomery County leads to support for ranked choice voting: We’re thrilled with the work of the Voter Turnout Task Force in Montgomery County, the Maryland county of a million people where our office is located. The task force, which was Montgomery Countycreated after the county council unanimously passed its version of our Promote Our Vote resolutions,recommends a slew of great pro-suffrage ideas, including extending voting rights to more residents and adopting ranked choice voting for all county elections. Stay tuned on what the council does with these recommendations.

Voters in Takoma Park back FairVote-supported reforms like ranked choice voting: FairVote conducted a survey of voters during Takoma Park’s Ward 3 special election for city council. The survey focused on respondents’ opinions of Takoma Park’s suffrage laws and their views on the city's innovative voting policies. Our overview of the results tells the full story, but a few highlights: in the hotly contested race, 49% of voters said there were fewer examples of candidates criticizing one another while 2% said more, and of those with an opinion about city practices, 93% support ranked choice voting, 89% back Election Day registration, 80% back voting rights for noncitizens, 76% support voting rights for all citizen residents with felony convictions, 75% support guaranteed candidate access to apartment buildings and 72% support voting rights for 16 and 17-year-olds. And once again, more 16 and 17-year-olds voted than all 18 to 30-year-olds combined.

We also did an exit survey last month when more than 3,000 Arlington County (VA) Democrats voted in a firehouse primary with ranked choice voting. This contested race needed an instant runoff to determine the winner, and the system was widely praised. We will release our survey results later this year. We also have been tracking the growing use of ranked choice voting in elections on campuses (used in more than 50 American colleges and universities, as discussed in our recent pieces on RCV elections in UCLA and Oregon State) and organizations (including many major associations, and also the Academy Award Oscar for Best Picture).



Inside FairVote: We’re Hiring, Welcomes & Farewells, Marathon Success

 FairVote’s hiring a new program director: We are looking for a talented and experienced leader to help lead our growing team. See our job announcement for a program director to work in our Takoma Park office.

FairVote crosses the “marathon” finish line: Thanks to the many generous contributions we received from supporters like you, we were able to achieve our donation challenge of $26,200 for Executive Director Rob Richie’s First Marathon – with each dollar matched by FairVote board members. But we still have a long way to go to reach our First Million goal. To contribute or learn more, visit our donations page.

FairVote submits testimony and on the road: Our Executive Director Rob Richie submitted testimony about innovations for overseas voters to the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration in May and FairVote chair Krist Novoselic addressed the Libertarian Party of Washington. Rob also was a featured speaker at a May forum of the League of Women of Voters of DC, a Stanford conference on electoral reform, our Oakland ranked choice voting forum, and a New York City ranked choice voting briefing. 

FairVote bids farewell to staff members and welcomes new additions: We have hired a remarkable group of eight Democracy Fellows, who will join our team in September. We welcome Rebecca Hellmich, who has begun her fellowship, and a terrific crew of summer interns (pictured to the right) who are already making excellent contributions to our FairVote blog. We also wish the best to 2013-2014 fellow Amanda Gaynor, who has a great new job, and to departing research and policy staffers Devin McCarthy and Andrea Levien, who will be entering graduate school this fall. Their contributions have been innumerable, and they will be missed.

 

 

 

 


          Labrador's bill to limit refugee resettlement clears House Judiciary on party-line vote    

Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador’s legislation to limit refugee resettlement cleared the House Judiciary Committee this morning on a 15-11 party-line vote, with all Republicans present supporting it and all Democrats opposing it. The bill was reported out to the full House with just one amendment, sponsored by Labrador, to delete one section that sought to limit when victims of violence in foreign countries could be considered refugees. Nearly a dozen other amendments proposed by Democrats on the panel were rejected along party lines. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Labrador said in a statement, “I am very pleased the committee approved my bill today. As Americans, we have a long tradition of helping refugees who, through no fault of their own, are fleeing war and persecution and wish to become contributing members of our society.  However, our first priority when it comes to America’s refugee program is ensuring the safety and security of the American people. There are already documented cases of terrorists infiltrating the program, and with ISIS vowing to exploit it further, the time for congressional action is now.”

The bill would reduce the maximum number of refugees resettled in the United States from 110,000 to 50,000 a year, a change sought by President Trump; give states and local governments veto power over any refugee resettlement within their borders; step up security monitoring of resettled refugees until they qualify as permanent residents; and require a review of all prospective refugees’ social media postings, among other provisions.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., called the bill “an un-American assault on our country’s bipartisan humanitarian record of welcoming those who are fleeing violence.” She said right now, one person is being displaced every 3 seconds in the world, and said, “We are going to meet the 50,000 cap next week, at a time when there is such turmoil in the world and such a need to welcome refugees.”

Labrador’s bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee; it also has drawn eight other GOP co-sponsors. Labrador introduced a similar bill last year, setting the maximum number of refugees at 60,000 a year. It drew 25 co-sponsors, all Republicans, and passed the Judiciary Committee last March, but didn’t proceed beyond that.

Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee criticized the bill as mean-spirited and lacking in compassion, but none of their proposed amendments were approved. When Jayapal proposed an amendment she said would protect victims of sex trafficking and forced prostitution from being rejected for refugee status due to having committed crimes, Labrador told her he was willing to work with her on that issue, but not to accept her amendment, which he said would go beyond just those victims.

“I oppose the amendment, but I would invite the gentle lady to work with us to see if there’s some language that we can do what you said in your words, which is not what the amendment does,” Labrador told her. “What you said in your words is that you’re trying to protect victims of forced prostitution. And I think we can agree that maybe that’s something we can do. But if you read the language of your amendment, it is much broader than that. … It protects people from any crime they have committed, not just forced prostitution.”

At Goodlatte’s request, Jayapal withdrew her proposed amendment.

The one approved amendment deletes Section 13 of the bill, according to Labrador’s office, because Labrador decided that issue could be addressed in other legislation. Here is the deleted section:

SEC. 13. LIMITATION ON QUALIFICATION AS A REFUGEE.

Section 101(a)(42) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(42)) is amended by inserting “For purposes of this paragraph, a person may not be considered a refugee solely or in part because the person is displaced due to, or is fleeing from, violence in the country of such person's nationality or, in the case of a person having no nationality, the country in which such person last habitually resided, if that violence is not specifically directed at the person, or, if it is directed specifically at the person, it is not directed at the person on account of that person’s race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” before “The term ‘refugee’ does not include”.

The bill now can proceed to a vote in the full House, at the discretion of House GOP leaders.


          Democrats send union negotiation bill to Rauner   
The Democrat-led Illinois Senate has approved a measure that would allow an outside arbitrator to settle state-employee wages and working conditions if union negotiations reach an impasse.
          Roma 22 giugno: Serata palestinese al femminile   
22 giugno, ore 20,00 presso il Caffè letterario Roma in via Ostiense n. 95 In occasione del convegno internazionale della Federazione Democratica Internazionale delle Donne (WIDF/FDIM) che si svolgerà a Roma dal 19 al 23 giugno p.v., tra le altre iniziative culturali e di solidarietà, il WIDF ha dedicato una serata alla Palestina. L’iniziativa sarà […]
          Hillary Needs All the Help TRUMP and the GOP Can Give Her   
Obama called Hillary,"Not Nearly Enough BAD" in his own unique way, but with Michele as VP...and TRUMP Perot-ing away critical GOP votes, she can at last grasp "The BRASS RING".

On the very day after former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced her favvorite hat "in the ring" for president of the United States, she hobnobbed at a Chipotle in Ohio with top advisor Huma Abedin. Both wore sunglasses and the same color dress probably. Few photos exist, if any. They did not hold hands but ordered at the counter where nobody noticed, saying,"WOW, There is the former first former lady!" They sat down at a table and guess what... nobody noticed. They sat at the table for 25 minutes, paid their bill FIRST because who gets to eat it THEN pay, and ambulated out. Nobody noticed that they were "incognito".
Nobody had to take a purloined pistol from an exasperated Democrat because she had failed to be distraught, depressed, and even grab one to pretend to be "ending it all". Hang your head, and say, "AW SHUCKS!"

Down Low but otherwise upper echelon Democrats who "sabe mas como el BURRO" and want to appear to know seem to believe that Hillary Clinton has magic. The Democratic National Committee all but prayed over her and anointed her with cottonseed oil as their nominee just scant moments after her lollapaloosa announcement. Barack Obama almost endorsed her. The media drooled on their bibs, swooned over her statement that she would be going on a tour in a van, and got all excited. 
Nevertheless that episode in the Chipotle says and ingonito Hillary and good buddy, Nana, can go anywhere and do not need a "rope barrier" to corral the over-caffinated and wild-eyed adoring media. Hillary is 100 percent infamous on name identification. She is not an anonymous Chicago senator with a paper-thin resume who recommends abortion, writes bills that are ignored and gets major attention anyway. She is better than hot fudge on a stick - she’s an unapproachable, insincere, - elitist who proudly calls herself the B-word. And most of all, everybody is all too well aware of her "status".

there are three HUGE reasons that Hillary is no B.O. or whatever people want to call him:

Hillary lacks that "I'm Special" racial appeal. The hierarchy of major victimhood in the leftist thought system places blacks at the top with 300 free points on job-related qualifying tests. Latinos get 150 and gays and lesbians are ranked somewhere below blacks and Latinos free-points-on-test-wise because they were mostly whites rowdy at Stonewall Bar and Grill. Latinos and Native Americans rank below both groups, then women. Jews and Asians, mainly an afterthought in the rankings take the lower tiers because they are the most taken for granted. Barack Obama promised that as a half-black man, his election would unify the country, and people bought that jive, hook, line and sinker. Barry Soetoro was elected to moving America beyond the racial polarization of the past. Naive Republicans joined equally naive Democrats in celebrating the symbolism of his election, although some knew it was a power grab beyond all expectations that it quickly became.  Senator Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) wrote in his book that he cried when Obama was elected. and stated:

    I was so proud to be an American, and so moved by the powerful symbolism of the moment, I couldn’t stop myself from tearing up."

Nobody will peel onions and become all leaky-eyed when Hillary is elected, because nobody, down deep, believes a woman cannot be elected in America. Three out of four US Secretaries of State were women and there are presently and have been - numerous overly-powerful female senators. Hillary Clinton is in no way, shape or fashion - a victim.

Even more telling, Barack Obama’s 2012 election, representing a wised-up example of his actual support level, relied heavily on black electoral support. Palefaces and "browns" intilidated by dozens of blacks in voting lines expected to vote for you-know-who, did not bother to vote. Likewise, Obama needed and got - critical black support in the 2008 primaries. Had it not been for black support in 2008, Obama would have been beaten by Hillary Clinton. Hillary can "shuck and jive" practically plastic-like and robotically but lacks that same level of support from blacks in either the primaries or the general election.

Hillary is a somewhat lackluster female. Hillary may have a child that Mike Obama can never have to be truly female, but Hillary will emphasize the fact that she is female in her own boring, repetative fashion but the fact remains that her bond-ability with female voters leaves something to be desired. Her upper middle class elitist upbringing helped her to "marry well"- snaring the future governor of Arkansas. The Arkansas governor's coattails landed her in a prestigious law firm, then First Lady, Senator, and as a consolation prize, Secretary of State. She does not emote or bond particularly well with moms or grandmothers, in spite of her baking cookies and lying about Chealsea jogging at the Twin Towers. The mainstream alphabet TV and print media tries valiantly to portray her as a regular human being, but falls flat on its collective face.

Hillary Clinton rhetorically wants assist students heavily in debt by taxing the rich, especially the rich who favor everyone paying 1% and incrementally more topping at 15% for millionaires.
Hillary Clinton's her backpedaling on coal reveals her coal miner roots may be a total fabrication.
An August 2015, polling on the pubs holds that Hillary Clinton is somewhat dominant with 'somewhat liberal' voters percentage-wise (57 to 22), moderates (54 to 18), women (56 to 21), and seniors (58 to 19). For Hillary Clinton,  designated 'very liberal' voters are (49 to 39), males (47 to 30), and younger voters sometimes called "wippersnappers" and "skulls full of mush" (46 to 31).

hillary is ancient in age. Under 30 voters constituted about 19 percent of 2012 voters. That bodes ill for Hillary, who must rely on contributions from women and youth (Yutes) to pick up the slack she is sure to see with a diminished black vote turnout. With Hillary, they have seen "Par-ee" so it will be difficult to keep them "on the plantation" or farm - in the tank - for her. The ageing face full of wrinkles is bad news for Hillary. Pollsters easily predicted that Hillary would do well with youth voters when an early April Fusion poll piled up victories over Jeb (Common Core lover) Bush, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Governor Scott (Dynimite) Walker, Bobby Jindal and Marko Rubio. In these days of looking important on TV, Hillary polls well when she goes missing-in-action (MIA), but when the ones polled actually SEE HER, they are UNDERWHELMED.

Perhaps more than anything else, Hillary represents the past. Marko Rubio presented a  contrast splendidly in his "gonna run for POTUS " announcement speech which punted "patooty" posteriorly:

Just yesterday, a leader from yesterday began a campaign for President by promising to take us back to yesterday. But yesterday is over, and we are never going back.

Similarities of Hillary remain for comparison to Obama since the mainstream media will automatically favor her as a Democrat giving her softball questions instead of gruelling headache-inducing ones she deserves. Similarly, her checkered-infamous past will be whitewashed. As an Ivy League elitist, she comes across as a fake intellectual, having no Rhodes Scholar or epic grades from long ago when the chisels recorded court transcriptions.  Unlike Obama, nobody will just GIVE HER the presidency because she is a Democrat and the Republicans will grovel and worship at her feet.  She will have to pump up her own following. And when Hillary forced to portray herself, she is at a loss to "act naturally". 
If she had done a few hundred homicide trials, she would have that stony demeanor that would set her apart as a rock between steel and a hard place.

          Candy Crusaders   

Like Linus, I've learned never to discuss politics with people.
So I've focused on fantasy elections and saved the best for last.

Extraordinary

Feeling empowered today,
Even a priss can be President,
It's just the opinions you have to sway

The simple life is not for me,
I lean towards the extraordinary,
The stars are high, but I can reach higher
Don't put me out now while I am on fire

Feeling neurotic today,
But it's perfectly okay,
With the stars in my eyes,
I use this madness as a guide

I'm going to steal every star from the sky,
This little lady has no reason to hide.

Little Gothic Horrors nominated me for Presidency here!
I think Mr. T should be President though,
so I'll be his M.V.P. (Mad Vice President).
We have more in common than our last names starting with T.
We aren't Republican or Democrat. We are The Mad T Party.
And nothing makes us madder than Cancer and Muscular Dystrophy.



 Sadly we can't help sick kids with our doctorate degrees.


Dr. Mr. T, Foologist

But we can help them with prayers, positivity, and candy!


That's why I created the Candy Crusaders.
I want it to be a sweet (literally!) charity like Treat A Tot,
which has volunteers bring treats to kids in hospitals on Halloween.
Mine will be year round and treat sick kids at home though.
The treat will be a long twisty lollipop, the C. C. weapon of choice.
It will be delivered by a carrier bat finger puppet,
who will be their battle buddy.


I'm buying them from batconservation.org,
so the money goes to save the bats.

A letter from my alter ego will also be included.
Such as this:

Dear ______,

I'm sorry you're going through a tough time, but it's made you stronger.
That's why I want you to be a Holly's Horrorland Candy Crusader.
Whose mission is to fight sickness with sweetness.
Slay it away with this sweet saber.
This carrier bat will be your battle buddy.

Godspeed,

@QueenHollyWeen
Holly.Ween.Candy.Queen@gmail.com


I'll send these FREE to any child in the U.S. with a serious illness.
Just email their story, name and address to me.
You can also buy them for $10 (shipping included within the U.S.)
Email to order or if you'd like to make a donation, please!
It doesn't have to be money. It can be an item to sell or raffle off.
I'm creating Candy Clinic items to sell soon. Stay tuned!

          Guillén destaca que la futura Ley de memoria democrática busca "mitigar el sufrimiento de mucha gente" por el franquismo   

El consejero de Presidencia del Ejecutivo de Aragón, Vicente Guillén, ha destacado que la futura Ley de memoria democrática, que se aprobará por el Consejo de Gobierno el 18 de julio, busca "mitigar, de alguna manera, el sufrimiento de mucha gente" derivado de la Guerra Civil y la posterior etapa franquista.


          TexMessage: More Democratic heavyweights to stump with Pete Gallego   
Pete Gallego's race against incumbent Republican Francisco "Quico" Canseco is widely considered a toss-up as well as an integral part of the Democrats' long-shot strategy to win the 25 seats necessary to regain a majority in the House.
          Cruising the Web   
I never thought that Trump's travel order was necessary, but I didn't doubt that he had the power to issue that order. Given that he first issued the order about five months ago and it was only temporary while the administration figured out new vetting procedures for issuing visas. Well, that original time has now just about elapsed and there are going to be three to four months until the Supreme Court hears the case. So, the whole question may become moot by then if the administration actually does what it said it was going to do.

Jonathan Turley chastises the legal pundits and appellate judges who thought that the order wasn't within the president's executive authority.
For those of us who have long argued that the legal authority supported Trump, the order was belated but not surprising. However, the order does offer a brief respite for some self-examination for both legal commentators, and frankly, the courts. At times the analysis surrounding the immigration order seemed to drop any pretense of objectivity and took on the character of open Trump bashing.
Turley argues quite accurately that Trump's persona and his own attacks on the media have driven the media so crazy is that they've dropped their supposed standards and ethics. The same appeared to be happening with the lower courts.
For those of us who have long argued that the legal authority supported Trump, the order was belated but not surprising. However, the order does offer a brief respite for some self-examination for both legal commentators, and frankly, the courts. At times the analysis surrounding the immigration order seemed to drop any pretense of objectivity and took on the character of open Trump bashing....

The court ruled “when it comes to refugees who lack any such connection to the United States, for the reasons we have set out, the balance tips in favor of the Government’s compelling need to provide for the Nation’s security.” The preliminary ruling on this type of stay indicates that, when the final merits are decided, a majority of the court is likely to make the changes permanent and binding.

Indeed, three justices — Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch — did not want any limitation on lifting the injunction and dissented from that part of the opinion. To use Johnson’s rhetoric, the date of the hanging is set for the October term absent a dramatic shift on the court. That gives us some time to contemplate how this controversy has impacted our core institutions.

I previously wrote that Trump seems at times to bring out the worst of people — supporters and opponents alike. Yet, his signature attacks often cause people to fulfill the very stereotypes that he paints, particularly among some reporters and judges. Ironically, Trump’s attacks on the media as biased may not have been true at the outset but they are true now. Mainstream media have become openly hostile to Trump.

There is often little distinction on some cable networks between the hosts and their guests in attacking Trump, who brings much of this criticism on himself in ill-considered and often insulting attacks. However, the media is trained to resist such personal emotions and retain objectivity. Throughout much of its history, it has done precisely that ... until Donald Trump.

He seems like the itch that reporters and commentators just have to scratch and frankly sometimes it seems like a few are enjoying it too much. With ratings soaring, hosts and legal experts have shown little interest or patience in the legal arguments supporting his case, even though the Obama administration advanced similar arguments in court.

The hostile (and often distorted) analysis in the media was disconcerting but predictable, given the trend toward greater opinion-infused coverage. Networks are fighting for greater audience shares based on formulaic coverage — offering echo-chamber analysis to fit the ideological preferences of viewers. For the anti-Trump networks, the legal analysis is tellingly parallel with the political analysis. These cable shows offer clarity to viewers in a world without nuance. The law, however, often draws subtle distinctions and balancing tests. In this way, viewers are being given a false notion of the underlying legal issues in these controversies.

What has been more concerning is the impact of Trump on the courts. Trump shocked many in both parties by his personal attacks on judges as well as general disrespect shown to our courts. These were highly inappropriate and inaccurate statements from a president. However, once again, courts seemed to immediately become the very stereotype that Trump was painting.

Of course, the White House gave the courts a target-rich environment in the first travel order, which was poorly drafted, poorly executed and poorly defended. Yet, the courts did not just strike those portions that were problematic. Where existing case law requires courts to use a scalpel in striking down provisions, judges pulled out a meat ax. They enjoined the entirety of the order while lashing out at Trump’s most sensational campaign rhetoric....

In the Fourth and Ninth Circuits, judges brushed over the obvious improvements and again relied on Trump’s own comments and tweets. It seemed like sensational tweets were more important than long-standing precedent or official statements from the administration.

The level of reliance on campaign statements by the courts was wrong in my view, as I have repeatedly stated. The record had conflicting statements from Trump and his associates but courts seemed to cherry-pick statements, relying on those that fulfilled their narrative while ignoring those that did not. The analysis of the order should have turned largely on the face of the document. While such political statements can be relevant to analysis (particularly in areas like racial discrimination), the court has always minimized such reliance in favor of more objective textual analysis.
That doesn't mean that the order was good policy. But the basis on which the lower courts decided was to stretch the law just to deliver a blow to Trump.
Courts that once gave President Obama sweeping discretion in the immigration field seemed categorically opposed to considering the same accommodation for President Trump. For commentators, viewers were given a highly distorted view of the existing law — brushing aside decades of cases while supporting the notion that a major federal policy could live or die by the tweet.
The Supreme Court notably didn't pay any attention to Trump's statements. If all you knew about the executive order was what you heard in the MSM, you would be amazed that the Supreme Court struck down most of the injunctions against the implementation of the order. The media will have to search out

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Andrew McCarthy explains why the Supreme Court order on the travel order is not as big a deal as perhaps President Trump would like to brag.
This ruling is unworkable and actually doesn’t much narrow the lower-court stays.

Let’s try to keep it simple here. The lower courts granted standing to challenge the travel ban to American persons and entities that had special relationships with aliens outside the United States. Ostensibly, the lower courts claimed that the rights of these Americans were harmed by the travel ban’s exclusion of aliens — specifically, aliens who a) are close relatives whose exclusion would deny family reunification to an American; or b) are scholars whose exclusion would deprive their contributions to American universities that had extended offers to them. In effect, however, the lower courts were vicariously granting American legal rights to aliens outside the United States, despite the judges’ grudging admission that the aliens technically had no such rights.

In its order this morning, the Supreme Court did not disturb this arrangement.

To be sure, the justices rejected the lower courts’ extension of vicarious rights to aliens who did not have such special “bona fide relationships” with American persons or entities. The lower courts’ reasoning for that extension heavily relied on the imputation to Trump of anti-Muslim bias — that’s part of why we can infer that most of the justices are not persuaded by that rationale. Nevertheless, six of the nine justices, at least for now, appear inclined to rule that Americans in these “bona fide relationships” with aliens have not only standing but legal interests sufficiently compelling to block enforcement of presidential orders that address national-security threats.
Read the rest of his post for the evidence he marshals to criticize the Supreme Court's Monday ruling.

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Rich Lowry refutes the idea that the GOP health care bills are doing anything all that radical in reforming Medicaid. What was radical is how the program expanded on Obama.
The Democrats now make it sound as if the Obama expansion is part of the warp and woof of Medicaid. In fact, it was a departure from the norm in the program, which since its inception has been, quite reasonably, limited to poor children, pregnant women, the disabled and the ailing elderly. ObamaCare changed it to make a priority of covering able-bodied adults.

ObamaCare originally required states to enroll able-bodied adults with incomes less than 138 percent of the federal poverty line starting in 2014. The Supreme Court re-wrote the law to make the expansion voluntary, and 31 states and the District of Columbia took it up.

Traditionally, the federal government had paid more to poor than rich states, with a match ranging from 75 percent for the poorest state, Mississippi, to 50 percent for the rich states. ObamaCare created an entirely new formula for the Medicaid expansion population. It offered a 100 percent federal match for the new enrollees, gradually declining to a 90 percent match — supposedly, forever.

So, perversely, ObamaCare had a larger federal match for the able-bodied enrollees in Medicaid than for its more vulnerable populations.

“This higher federal matching rate,” writes health-care analyst Doug Badger, “allows states to leverage more federal money per state dollar spent on a non-disabled adult with $15,000 in earnings than on a part-time minimum-wage worker with developmental disabilities, who earns barely half that amount.”

According to Badger, West Virginia received seven times as much federal money for spending $1 on an able-bodied adult than for spending $1 on a disabled person.

This obviously makes no sense, and the Senate health-care bill phases out the enhanced funding over four years. But it doesn’t end the expanded Medicaid eligibility for the able-bodied. And a refundable tax credit will be available for low-income people that is meant to pick up any slack from Medicaid. This is hardly social Darwinism.
THe other change is a change in how the federal government funds Medicaid in the states.
The other, longer-term change in the House and Senate bills is moving to a per-capita funding formula for Medicaid, with the Senate bill ratcheting the formula down to per-capita growth plus the inflation rate — in 2026. Maybe this will prove too stringent, but it used to be a matter of bipartisan consensus that the current structure of Medicaid creates an incentive for heedless growth in the program.

The way it works now is that Mississippi, for instance, gets nearly $3 from the federal government for every $1 it spends. Why ever economize? In the 1990s, the Clinton administration advanced what it portrayed as an unobjectionable proposal to make Medicaid more efficient while preserving the program’s core function — namely, a per-capita funding formula.
So remember all this when you hear Democrats moaning that the GOP is set to kill millions of people. As Lowry analogizes, for progressives, the welfare state has become the equivalent of the Brezhnev Doctrine that once the Soviets dominated a country, it could never break free. Now once the welfare state has been expanded, it should never be trimmed back.

Guy Benson is also trying to refute the Democrats' demagogic hysteria about the Senate plan.
Republicans' plan would make Medicaid fiscally sustainable, and gradually revert back to a model that prioritizes help to the poorest people, who need the most help. It's perverse that the federal government provides a more generous funding formula for Medicaid's better-off, better-situated expansion enrollees than the original, neediest population for whom Medicaid was supposedly created in the first place. And while the GOP proposal would reform the structure of the program by offering a capped per-capita annual allowance to each state (which would foster restraint, prioritization, innovation, and creativity), the notion that it makes drastic "cuts" to the overall program is deeply misleading. ...

This funding increase of tens of billions of dollars is nevertheless cast as a "cut" because it would spend less than Obamacare would.

Just imagine what the media would be saying if Claire McCaskill were a member of Trump's administration.
n March, Sen. Claire McCaskill was unambiguous. The Missouri Democrat said she never once met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in her 10 years serving on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"No call or meeting w/Russian ambassador. Ever," McCaskill tweeted. "Ambassadors call members of Foreign [Relations Committee]."
Soon after that tweet, it was revealed she did interact with the Russian ambassador.

And now, CNN has learned, McCaskill spent an evening at a black-tie reception at the ambassador's Washington residence in November 2015.

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Yesterday I speculated that the Supreme Court's ruling in the Trinity Lutheran case might be used to overturn states' Blaine amendments blocking state aid to schools with a religious affiliation. Well, it seems that that was indeed the Court's intention with an order remanding a case back to the lower courts that they issued on Tuesday. The WSJ reports,
In 2011, Colorado’s Douglas County adopted a Choice Scholarship Program to let 500 students attend a local private school. But groups including the American Civil Liberties Union sued. The Colorado Supreme Court killed the program citing the state’s version of the Blaine Amendment, one of many state anti-Catholic laws from the 1800s to prevent public money from funding religious schools ( Doyle v. Taxpayers for Public Education).

The Douglas County School District and the Institute for Justice, which represents three families in Colorado, appealed to the Supreme Court in 2015, but the Justices held the petition pending the resolution of Trinity Lutheran v. Comer on Monday. On Tuesday the Court vacated and remanded Doyle to the lower court for reconsideration in keeping with Trinity Lutheran’s holding that Missouri’s application of the Blaine Amendment violated the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause.

The High Court typically vacates and remands only when the Justices think there is a “reasonable probability” that the lower court got it wrong. Colorado’s do-over is a warning to other states that might use Blaine Amendments to derail school choice programs that threaten teachers unions and the public school monopoly.
I'm for as much choice as possible in education. I've seen what it means at the charter school where I teach and at the charters in Washington, D.C. where my daughter has worked. The more opportunities there are for students to get out of bad schools and for their parents to choose other options, the better.
The win comes at a good time for school choice advocates who have been building momentum in the states. In May three families successfully challenged a Montana rule that prevented a voucher program from being used at religious schools. On Monday the Georgia Supreme Court unanimously upheld a program of tax credits for scholarships to some 13,000 students to attend private schools.

School choice is spreading because parents want the chance to get their child a better education than they receive in local public schools. Sometimes that enhanced opportunity is offered by religious schools, and the First Amendment does not allow the state to discriminate on the basis of religion.

          What Could Be More Democratic Than Pushing Vouchers for a Billionaire US Ed Sec?   

What Could Be More Democratic Than Pushing Vouchers for a Billionaire US Ed Sec? By Mercedes Schneider | From Mercedes Schneider’s EduBlog | 2017 | Follow Mercedes Schneider @deutsch29blog | Photo credit: Gage Skidmore | Syndication made possible through Patreon. By Mercedes Schneider US ed sec Betsy DeVos has one principal goal for American public education: Slice […]

The post What Could Be More Democratic Than Pushing Vouchers for a Billionaire US Ed Sec? appeared first on Garn Press.


          God beats Congress in poll–is anyone surprised?   
By Kelsey Williams, SFGate.com A new poll found that most Americans think God is doing a pretty swell job running things. The same can’t be said for Congress. A Democratic polling company, Public Policy Polling, conducted a survey of 928 Americans, and found that 52 percent of voters approve of the deity with only nine
          What’s Actually in the Manafort FARA Filing?    

On June 27, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort retroactively filed disclosure forms under the Foreign Agents Registration Act detailing his business relationship to the pro-Russia Ukrainian Party of Regions. The forms describe $17.1 million in receipts to Manafort’s company, DMP International, LLC ("DMP"), all from the Party of Regions. They also describe $3.9 million in expenses, including $2.6 million in travel and living expenses. DMP earned a net total of $13.2 million from Party of Regions. Here’s the 87-page filing Manafort made yesterday: