Republican Senator on DC Madam List!   
Ha! Wonderful! Senator’s Number on Escort Service List Jul 9, 10:31 PM (ET) WASHINGTON (AP) – Sen. David Vitter, R-La., apologized Monday night for “a very serious sin in my past” after his telephone number appeared among those associated with an escort service operated by the so-called “D.C. Madam.” Vitter’s spokesman, Joel Digrado, confirmed the […]
          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.


          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.


          One Nation Under Bush   

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla.—"I want you to stand, raise your right hands," and recite "the Bush Pledge," said Florida state Sen. Ken Pruitt. The assembled mass of about 2,000 in this Treasure Coast town about an hour north of West Palm Beach dutifully rose, arms aloft, and repeated after Pruitt: "I care about freedom and liberty. I care about my family. I care about my country. Because I care, I promise to work hard to re-elect, re-elect George W. Bush as president of the United States."

I know the Bush-Cheney campaign occasionally requires the people who attend its events to sign loyalty oaths, but this was the first time I have ever seen an audience actually stand and utter one. Maybe they've replaced the written oath with a verbal one.

This may be the first and only time the "Bush Pledge" has been taken at an event I've attended (or any event for that matter), but I'm not the best witness. One of the unfortunate drawbacks of traveling with a presidential candidate is that you arrive at a political rally when he does, which means you arrive right before he speaks. Neither President Bush nor John Kerry spends a lot of time waiting backstage while the warm-up acts address the crowd. Those speakers are timed to end when the candidate arrives (although, given that Kerry is habitually late, I wonder if they tell the introductory speakers to go long), so the traveling press typically misses their remarks.

Because I've been traveling "outside the bubble" of the campaign planes for the past week, I arrived at a Thursday rally for Laura Bush before it began, and I sat with the local press. For only the second time, I witnessed a Bush campaign event in full. It wasn't a particularly notable experience, except for the fact that it opened with that weird pledge of fealty, reminiscent of the cultlike cheer that Wal-Mart forces its employees to perform. There were a few good lines, such as this one from Florida state Sen. Mike Haridopolos: "Our president likes to sign the front of your check. His opponent likes to sign the back of your check." But the second-most memorable event was a remarkably mendacious speech given by U.S. Rep. Mark Foley, a Republican from Florida's 16th District.

Foley had the gall to condemn Kerry for his "reckless disregard for the facts" in a speech in which the least of his errors came when he sloppily claimed that John Edwards has served in the U.S. Senate for four years, rather than six. The main target of Foley's attack was Kerry's criticism of the president for allowing the al-Qaqaa weapons dump to be looted, presumably by terrorists, during a war that was designed precisely to prevent such an event from occurring. "The senator from Massachusetts immediately grabbed onto that without doing any checking, any fact-checking. He didn't even call Dan Rather," Foley said. But "NBC News followed up saying, oh-ho, not so fast. We don't have all the facts yet. Yet he went on national TV and announced, with reckless disregard for the facts, that somehow during George Bush's administration, these weapons were stolen." Foley's right in one sense, that we still don't have all the facts. But here's a fact that emerged after Foley's speech: Former weapons inspector David Kay said on CNN after viewing the footage of the site filmed by ABC News, "There was HMX, RDX in there. The seal was broken. And quite frankly, to me the most frightening thing is not only was the seal broken, lock broken, but the soldiers left after opening it up. I mean, to rephrase the so-called Pottery Barn rule. If you open an arms bunker, you own it. You have to provide security."

Foley continued, "Well, folks, one thing it does prove: There were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq before we went there." Well, um, there were weapons. The explosives weren't biological, chemical, or nuclear. And they were locked up by the international weapons inspectors derided by the administration, and they were "liberated" by the president's war. But instead of concluding that the war was a mistake, or at least that it should have been conducted differently, Foley declared, "The other thing it proves is that Saddam Hussein was the most important weapon of mass destruction to remove, and this president took him down." If we invaded North Korea and that country's nuclear weapons ended up in the hands of al-Qaida, would that prove that the invasion was a success?

But if you don't believe the Iraq invasion was justified, you can still vote for President Bush because he hugs little girls and, most important of all, he threw a baseball. After telling the audience of his personal experience of Sept. 11, Foley revisited the story of Bush throwing out the first pitch of the World Series in 2001, which received a hilariously somber treatment in a video narrated by Fred Thompson at the Republican convention. Like any tall tale, the story has become more and more embroidered with time. In Foley's version, the president boldly strode to the mound "without a bulletproof vest." But the entire point of the convention video was that throwing the ball from the mound was so difficult because Bush's arms were restricted by a bulletproof vest.

I'm not sure which is crazier, thinking that al-Qaqaa proves that the Iraq war was justified, or that President Bush stood on the mound at Yankee Stadium less than two months after 9/11 without wearing a flak jacket. Based on his speech, Mark Foley is either delusional or he has a serious problem telling the truth. But you can't blame him. He's probably angling for a job in a second Bush administration.


          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.


          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."


          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 Speaks French   

ORLANDO—Let's see: Your opponent is characterizing you as an effete internationalist willing to "turn America's national security decisions over to international bodies or leaders of other countries." In particular, he suggests, in all seriousness, that you want to call up Jacques Chirac for permission before deploying the military. At the Republican National Convention, you were portrayed as a beret-wearing poodle named "Fifi Kerry." How should you defend yourself against these slanders?

By speaking French on the stump, of course. Click here to hear John Kerry's foray into the language of Paris during a Monday rally here. I wasn't watching Kerry on stage when he made his remarks, but from the context he appears to have seen someone from Haiti and decided to acknowledge the person in his or her native tongue.

What does Kerry say? My knowledge of French is limited to the lyrics to "Lady Marmalade," so I consulted my friend John Wilkerson, a Washington journalist and French speaker. He translates the first part as, "You're Haitian? OK," but says the rest sounded like gibberish. "I think at that point he was just a character on Saturday Night Live," Wilkerson says.

Readers? Can anyone make it out? Post your explanations, serious or otherwise, in the Fray. Slug them "Kerry's French translation."

Scotland's Sunday Herald called Kerry's French fluency a "campaign secret" yesterday. Looks like the secret is out. Here's some suggested spin for the Kerry campaign: He wasn't speaking French. He was speaking Freedom.

Update, 10/19/04: According to the New York Times, Agence France-Presse, and bazillions of readers, Kerry said, "Je vais aider les Haitiens," which means, "I will help the Haitians." Sticklers say Kerry mispronounced both "Haiti" and "Haitians," which caused several people to think he said, "I will help the states." Canadians said they had the easiest time understanding Kerry, since they're used to listening to American-accented French.

Assessments of Kerry's accent ranged from "impeccable" to "good" to "mediocre" to "abominable" to "better than Bush's Texas-twinged Spanglish." One correspondent wrote, "It sounds more like, 'I'm going to help the Chechens!' "

My favorite fanciful translation: "I have a plan to learn French."


          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.


          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.


          Dorian Warren & Josh Eidelson   
On Fireside Chats, Dorian and Josh talk about the troubles facing America's labor movement. They discuss a recent attempt to silence union picketers that was defeated with help from the Tea Party, and how public-sector unions remain a ripe target for Republicans. How does labor law affect union strength? Can labor organizers take lessons from the 1930s? Finally, Dorian and Josh explore the role of unions in articulating a vision of workplace democracy.
          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.


          No, Really, It's About Vietnam   

TORONTO—At its simplest, George Butler's pro-Kerry documentary Going Upriver is a powerful rebuttal of the errors—factual and moral—made by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. But the movie also tries, with limited success, to do something more ambitious: to argue implicitly that the current war in Iraq is directly analogous to the war in Vietnam, and that John Kerry's actions of 30-odd years ago really are the most important issue facing Americans in this election. Kerry was right then, the movie implies, which makes him right now.

"You can't understand John unless you understand what Vietnam is to him," a voice—I think it's Max Cleland—declares during Going Upriver's opening moments. The answer to that mystery isn't entirely clear by the end of the film, but it's obvious what Vietnam symbolizes to George Butler: Iraq. Neil Sheehan, an author and historian (and former Vietnam correspondent) who gets a lot of screen time in the movie, is one of the first to make the implicit comparison between the mistakes of Vietnam and the mistakes in Iraq. "Everyone believed in the war at first," he says. Next, we see LBJ making the moral and humanitarian case for war, to "help the little nations" against the tyranny of larger aggressors. Butler doesn't connect the dots for the audience, but it's impossible to miss his drift.

In another scene, we see video of a dead Vietnamese man while listening to Kerry's words about how the orders he is following are supposedly for the benefit of dead men like this one. Sheehan, the historian, makes the obvious parallel: "They were coming as liberators," but the Vietnamese resisted, no matter the cost, no matter how long it took. A veteran debating John O'Neill on the Dick Cavett Show says that opposing your government isn't the same as opposing your country, and that the war in Vietnam has nothing to do with democracy or freedom. "We're destroying ourselves as a nation," he says, instead of being the country that others want to emulate. Sound familiar?

After Sheehan's "liberators" comment, the moment in the film with the most contemporary resonance is at the Winter Soldier hearings, when a soldier displays a photo of himself, grinning ear to ear, over a dead body. Other soldiers tell how they weren't given instructions in the Geneva Conventions or taught how to treat prisoners of war. One soldier says he was told to count POWs only after unloading them from a boat, never when boarding them, in case one or two didn't make it.

There are reminders, at times, of how different the two wars are: The casualties in Vietnam were much higher, 1,500 dead and 8,000 wounded in the Tet Offensive alone. And Max Cleland says he felt betrayed by the occupant in the Oval Office, something I doubt many troops feel today (though active-duty military support for Bush isn't as high as it has been in recent years for Republicans). "Here we are, mid-assault, and the commander-in-chief turns his back on us," Cleland says of LBJ's decision not to run for re-election.

But the film repeatedly emphasizes the youthful Kerry's statements about his lifetime opposition to war. We hear his letter to Julia Thorne after the death of his friend Dick Pershing, in which Kerry writes that if "I do nothing else in life," he will work to convince people that war (this war, or all war?) is a "wasteful expenditure." During the Vietnam Veterans Against the War march on Washington, Kerry declares that his protest is "not the struggle of one day" but of a lifetime, and that admitting a mistaken policy doesn't mean that America is a "craven, hollow place."

What lessons has Kerry learned, though? When will he explain them to us? It's become a cliché to wonder what happened to the youthful Kerry, to the eloquent young man who risked his political viability to oppose a war out of principle. Just because Kerry opposed Vietnam doesn't mean he has to oppose the war in Iraq, of course, but the largely antiwar crowd at the premiere was stoked by Going Upriver into believing that. During the Q&A after the movie, one man stood and asked, if Kerry he opposed the war in Vietnam out of patriotism and love of country, why doesn't he do the same today? Chris Gregory, a former Army medic and VVAW member who appears in the movie and attended the premiere, objected and said, "It's a little too broad a brush" to say that Vietnam and Iraq are one and the same. "John is very focused on winning this job," Gregory said. "He wants to be right. But he wants to win more than he wants to be right."


          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?


          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.


          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 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 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.


          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.


          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?


          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.)


          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.


          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.


          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.


          Who's No. 1?   

DES MOINES, IOWA—To give you an idea of how crowded Iowa is with presidential candidates and those who follow them, here's what happened in the first hour and a half after I landed here Wednesday night: At baggage claim, I encountered two Kerry campaign workers in need of a lift, so I dropped them off at Kerry HQ, which is downtown in what used to be a car dealership. Moments later, when I pulled up in front of my hotel, the "Real Solutions Express"—the big, blue, star-spangled Edwards bus—was sitting outside. After I checked in, I rode up the elevator with Juan Williams. Ten minutes later, my next elevator ride was with Aaron Pickerel, the Iowa political director for the Edwards campaign. In 20 minutes of TV viewing, I saw ads for Dean, Kerry, Kucinich ("Did I approve this commercial? You bet"), Edwards, Dean again, and Kucinich again.

Two days ago, the Iowa storyline seemed pretty clear: Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt would duke it out for first place, and John Kerry and John Edwards would compete for third. But now, if the latest Zogby poll is to be believed, it's a four-way run for the finish. No one seems to have any idea how things are going to go down on Monday, but at the moment, the race feels so close that the results won't winnow a single candidate from the race.

Right now, the biggest mystery of the campaign to me is what's gotten into John Edwards? After his spectacular performance at the Des Moines Register debate earlier this month, I thought to myself, "Too little, too late." After the Register endorsed him, I yawned. But a campaign rally this afternoon at the Renaissance Savery Hotel is the first Edwards event I've witnessed where an enthusiastic crowd gave him the aura of a winner. Before today, I'd only seen Howard Dean and Wesley Clark perform this well. (I'll weigh in with a judgment on John Kerry after I see him tonight.)

North Carolina Gov. Michael Easley introduces Edwards with the best introduction speech I've heard for any candidate this campaign. He praises Edwards' opponents, saying: "They've all served our country well. I don't have anything negative to say about any of them, and neither does Sen. Edwards." Then he says something artfully negative about them anyway. "I'm running [for re-election] this time, and I want to run with someone I can run with, not from." Easley prepares the crowd for Edwards' theme: The North Carolina senator has dropped his aw-shucks, son of a mill worker, I've-done-this-my-whole-life campaign, and now presents himself as a fighter who has defeated powerful interests and powerful Republicans. "When he decided to run [for U.S. senator], he took on the toughest Republican establishment in the history of this country," Easley says.

Edwards has expanded one of the most effective portions of his stump speech, the part about "two school systems, one for the haves, and one for the have-nots," and turned it into the campaign theme. There are "two Americas," he says: two school systems, two tax systems, two economies, even "two governments in Washington, D.C." America also has "two images all around the world," the shining City on a Hill versus a new, less flattering image that's been created by President Bush.

Edwards has always gone after lobbyists, but now he's more strident about it. "We ought to cut these lobbyists off at the knees," he says. "We ought to ban them from making political contributions." He rails against the "revolving door" between lobbying and government, and he condemns "war profiteering." "We ought to ban these companies from making political contributions at the same time they're bidding on Iraq."

Of the corporate lawyers who underestimated him in the courtroom, Edwards yells: "I beat 'em. And I beat 'em again. And I beat 'em again." Ditto for "the Jesse Helms political machine," which underestimated him during his race for the U.S. Senate, he says. "And now I'm the senior senator from North Carolina, not Jesse Helms! And that is good for America!" (This fires up the crowd, but won't John Edwards not be the senior senator from North Carolina next year, because he decided to run for president instead of re-election? Is that bad for America?)

By the end of his speech, Edwards is sounding more and more like the man he's been chasing, Howard Dean. Up to now, most of the non-Deans have been trying to copy Dean's message by mimicking his anger, but Edwards zeroes in on another part of Dean's pitch, the part about empowering "you." Edwards promises to take away Washington from "that crowd of insiders in Washington, D.C.," and restore it to you. He can't do it alone, he says: "You and I are going to do it together." And the last line of his speech is no longer about himself, about an America in which the son of a mill worker can beat the son of a president. Instead, the son of a mill worker sounds like the son of a stockbroker: "I believe in you."

On the subject of speaking precisely: I've been inundated with complaints about my recent piece that listed six statements made by Wesley Clark in New Hampshire. Unfortunately, I lumped statements that are objectively inaccurate (there were no terrorists in Iraq before the war) with statements that are demagogic (we could find Osama Bin Laden "if we wanted to") with statements that are imprecise (the statement that Bush "never intended to put the resources in to get Osama Bin Laden" can be defended logically, but so can Howard Dean's statement about the "Saudi tip-off" conspiracy theory that a secretive administration breeds conspiracy theories; neither are smart politics) with statements that are merely provocative and controversial and could be used to tar Clark unfairly (for example, I think it's unwise for Clark to focus on whether 9/11 was preventable). And I didn't outline which statement I believe falls in which category.

The point of the piece, which was admittedly not clear, was to suggest that Clark may not be the "electable Dean" that his supporters believe he is. Both candidates have a propensity to make statements that range from impolitic to provocative to simply inaccurate. If you like Clark or Dean, you're predisposed to excuse these statements or to see them as courageous truth-telling. If you don't like them, you have a different reaction. I wanted to highlight this similarity between the two candidates, which belies the consensus that Clark is supported by careful centrists and Dean by angry liberals. I wish I had been more precise.


          Wesley Clark's Loose Lips   

Whether it's true or not, Gen. Wesley Clark's rise in the polls in New Hampshire is being partly attributed to some voters having "cold feet" about former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, especially Dean's penchant for making statements that are quickly seized upon by Fox News or the Republican Party as evidence of unpatriotic disloyalty. But Clark has the same propensity for speaking imprecisely off the cuff. Here are some statements I heard him make last week during my trip with him in New Hampshire:

Bush was "warned" about 9/11? "President Bush didn't do his job as commander in chief in the early months of his administration. He was warned that the greatest threat to the United States of America was Osama Bin Laden, yet on the 11th of September in 2001, the United States had no plan for dealing with the threat posed by Osama Bin Laden. The ship of state was on autopilot. There were good CIA officers and FBI officers and everybody doing what they'd been taught to do, but the essential leadership process of putting focus on the resources of the United States, and giving these agencies a real target and a mission, it wasn't done. At least, I think that's what the evidence will show if we ever get the results of this presidential commission, and if they've asked the right questions." (Jan. 6, McKelvieMiddle School, Bedford.)

Bush "never intended" to get Osama Bin Laden? "We bombed Afghanistan, we missed Osama Bin Laden, partly because the president never intended to put the resources in to get Osama Bin Laden. All along, right after 9/11, they'd made their mind up, I guess, that we were going to go after Saddam Hussein. That's what people in the Pentagon told me. And they capped the resources, stopped the commitment to Afghanistan, and started shifting to prepare to go after Saddam Hussein." (Jan. 6, McKelvieMiddle School, Bedford.)

There wasn't a single terrorist in Iraq before the war? "The president was not and has not been held accountable yet for misleading the American people. He is continuing to associate Saddam, Iraq, and the problem of terrorism. Yet the only terrorists that are in Iraq are the people that have come there to attack us." (Jan. 7, Town House, Peterborough.)

Fifty-five million voters are "ill-informed" dupes of the Christian right? "Now, there's one party in America that's made the United Nations the enemy. And I don't know how many of you have ever read that series of books that's published by the Christian right that's called the "Left Behind" series? Probably nobody's read it up here. But don't feel bad, I'm not recommending it to you. I'm just telling you that according to the book cover that I saw in the airport, 55 million copies have been printed. And in it, the Antichrist is the United Nations. And so there's this huge, ill-informed body of sentiment out there that's just grinding away against the United Nations." (Jan. 7, FullerElementary School, Keene.)

Does Islam need an Enlightenment or just Match.com? "Young men in an Islamic culture cannot get married until they can support a family. No job, no marriage. No marriage, unhappy young men. They get real angry, they feel real frustrated, they feel real powerless. And a certain number of them are being exploited in the mosques by this recruiting network." (Jan. 8, Havenwoods Heritage Heights senior center, Concord.)

President Bush doesn't even want to find Bin Laden? "Newsweek magazine says he's in the mountains of western Pakistan. And I guess if Newsweek could find him there, we could, too, if we wanted to." (Jan. 8, Havenwoods Heritage Heights senior center, Concord.)

[Update, 1/15/04: Click here and scroll to the bottom to read a more precise explanation of this article.]


          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.


          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.


          Notes From New Hampshire   

MANCHESTER, N.H.—Notes on a day in New Hampshire:

The first Wednesday of every month is Meetup day for Howard Dean supporters, so they're gathered in a cramped restaurant called Merrimack, waiting for the candidate to arrive. It's close to a Holiday Inn where Dean and the other candidates will participate in a "women's issues" debate sponsored by Planned Parenthood. Merrimack is packed with media, including Joe Klein ("Hi, Joe," Dean says when he gets there) and George Stephanopoulos, who appears to be dressed in the same black turtleneck Wesley Clark and Dennis Kucinich wore Tuesday night.

Once Dean arrives, he stands atop a chair to address the crowd. "It's not true that I'm the shortest candidate in the campaign," he says. "In fact, I may be in the top half." This isn't as preposterous as it sounds. There are nine candidates, and only John Kerry, John Edwards, and Dick Gephardt are indisputably taller than Dean. Dennis Kucinich and Carol Moseley Braun are shorter. That leaves a fierce battle for the vital center among Dean, Wesley Clark, Al Sharpton, and Joe Lieberman. Maybe at the next debate they should all line up in their stocking feet.

During his speech, Dean clearly urges his supporters (who are voting this week on whether the campaign should turn down federal matching funds) to let him bust the federal spending caps: "It's a gamble, and there's good things to be said for both sides. But I fundamentally do not believe we can compete with George Bush if we limit our spending to $45 million."

Earlier in the day, Dean delivered a speech in New York (which I watch from the comfort of my Manchester hotel room, on www.howarddean.tv) to announce the vote. What catches my eye: While criticizing President Bush's "powerful money-bundlers," Dean said, "They are people like Walden O'Dell, a 2004 Pioneer, who is also manufacturing electronic voting machines to count our votes, and has said that he is, quote, 'committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year.' " Does Dean believe that the Republican Party is going to manipulate electronic voting machines to steal the 2004 election? At Merrimack, I ask him. He admits that he doesn't know much about the subject, but he sounds open to the possibility. "I think it's a serious issue," he says.

A line Dean says to a supporter that he might want to consider dropping: "The only difference between me and McGovern is we're going to be in the White House."

Things of interest during the Planned Parenthood debate:

The candidates are asked to grade themselves on their parenting, and Dean and Clark give the most interesting answers. "I will not pretend for a moment that I did 50 percent of the work, but I did a lot," Dean says. Clark is even more honest. "I don't give myself a very good grade, but I had an A-plus wife," he says. "Sometimes you get better than you deserve in life, and I've been lucky."

They are also asked, "Do you practice a faith, and would you invoke the name of God when discussing a policy?" Nearly every one of them gives the safe answer, that their faith is important to them, but that they respect the separation of church and state. "I pray every night, but don't go to church very often," says Dean. "My religion does not inform my public policy, but it does inform my values," is Edwards's answer, and he adds, "The president of the United States should not be setting policy for the country based on his or her faith."

Only Kucinich dissents. (Along with Clark, Kerry, and Braun, he's one of four Catholics at the debate. Although Braun and Clark self-identify as Catholics, Braun attends an Episcopal church and Clark attends a Presbyterian one.) He says that within the context of a pluralistic society, religious values can and should influence public policy. "We must live our spiritual values in our public policy," such as full employment, health care, and education, he says. "A government that stands for peace reflects spiritual values." After the debate, I try to ask Kucinich about the relationship between his faith and his public policy, but I get off on the wrong foot by saying that he changed his abortion position to pro-choice "right before" he started running for president. "Wrong," Kucinich says, it was spring 2002. The discussion goes nowhere from there.

Since the topic came up, after the debate I also ask Clark why he converted to Catholicism as a young man, and why he no longer practices.

"When I was in England during the Vietnam War, the Nonconformist churches over there were just extraordinarily political. And I just couldn't go to service and have them condemn the armed forces that I was serving in. I mean, they were my West Point classmates there, and they were being accused of terrible crimes, and it wasn't so," he says.

"I believed in the structure, and the balance, and the long-term durability of the Catholic Church, and that's why I converted to Catholicism. But over the years as we went from location to location and saw the church, we found that our spiritual needs were better met by attendance at Protestant services. The services were richer in their spiritual meaning. And of course I still consider myself a Catholic. But I enjoy the singing, I enjoy the sermon, I enjoy the fellowship in the Protestant services. It's just a much deeper spiritual experience. That's for me."

Back to the debate. Three of the candidates say 18-year-old women should be required to register for Selective Service, just like 18-year-old men. "If you have different standards, that begins the path toward discrimination," Dean says. Clark and Kerry say yes, too. Edwards says no, and Braun says it would be OK if it weren't for the fact that one in four women at the Air Force Academy are victims of sexual assault or rape. Kucinich gives my favorite answer, an attempt to have it both ways: "No, not that they can't, if they want to."

What role would a "first lady, first man, or first friend" play in their administrations? There are three interesting answers. Dean confirms that "I'd very much like to be the first president who has a working wife in the White House" who does not participate in his career. Braun, who is divorced, says, "This is an impossible question. There has never been a First Man or First Gentleman." Like Dean, but with more flair, she concludes, "You'll get me, but you'll get no one for free."

But it's Kucinich, who also is divorced, who steals the show. "As a bachelor, I get a chance to fantasize about my first lady. Maybe Fox wants to sponsor a national contest or something," he says. He adds that he wants "someone who would not want to just be by my side," but would be a "dynamic outspoken women who was fearless" in her support for peace in the world and universal, single-payer health care. So, "If you're out there, call me."


          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?


          The Republicans’ Secret Health Care Bill   
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          The Secret Republican Plan to Unravel Medicaid   
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          Senate Republicans Are Screwed on Trumpcare, and They Know It   
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          "La lectura no entusiasma a los chicos de hoy. ¿Acaso lo hacía en el pasado?"   
ANNE-MARIE CHARTIER DOCTORA EN CIENCIAS DE LA EDUCACION.
Entrevistada por Claudio Martyniuk. cmartyniuk@clarin.com


De la exigencia por memorizar en la Edad Media a la necesidad actual de manejar todos los soportes, leer es siempre una actividad que oscila entre el placer y los obstáculos. La escuela no es ajena a visiones tan extremas.
La historia de las tecnologías de escritura y lectura, así como de los soportes materiales de los textos, se entrelaza con la historia de la alfabetización. Y la lectura de ese pasado brinda una renovada comprensión del presente y de las tareas de la escuela ante un objeto clave de nuestra cultura: el libro. Sobre él descansa, ambiguamente, la pretensión civilizatoria. Anne-Marie Chartier es una especialista en la historia de las prácticas de enseñanza de la lectura y escritura reconocida internacionalmente. Visitó Buenos Aires para dictar un seminario en el posgrado en Lectura, escritura y educación de Flacso. En la Edad Media pocas personas sabían leer y accedían a los libros. En los conventos surgió la lectura silenciosa, interna. Esa innovación, ¿qué proyección tuvo?Fue muy importante porque instaló los gestos intelectuales del trabajo con los libros que se mantienen hasta hoy. Pero si bien instaló la lectura mental, moderna y muy rápida, hay una diferencia fundamental con la manera de leer actual: en el medioevo, leer era memorizar íntegramente los textos fundamentales, mientras que hoy lo que esperamos de la lectura mental es la extracción de las informaciones principales de un texto y no su memorización literal. Durante siglos se enseñó a los niños que leer era fijar la memoria literal de un texto. Y los saberes que eran considerados fundamentales para los niños eran los religiosos, los cuales son leídos, repetidos, cantados, recitados. El lugar donde hoy podemos encontrar este estilo de lectura es la poesía. La lectura de poesía nos da una idea de lo que era la lectura en la Edad Media.La minoritaria lectura de poesía en parte parece tener que ver con la falta de lectura en voz alta. ¿Es una pérdida irremediable?No. Felizmente existen los cantantes. El lugar donde nos vemos obligados a pensar la relación entre la voz y el texto son las canciones. En el espectáculo, también en la ópera, esa cuestión de la relación entre la voz y el texto no es algo residual. En la publicidad y en los medios modernos se integran imagen, texto y voz. Pienso que los medios audiovisuales, con las revoluciones de la imagen y el sonido, restituyeron a nuestra vida de lectores una tradición de lectura en voz alta que muestra que nuestra memoria fija las cosas con más fuerza cuando lee con todos nuestros sentidos, con la imagen, el texto y la voz.Sin embargo, la "Galaxia Gutenberg", centrada en el libro, parece desplazada por la imagen. La "Galaxia Gutenberg" perdió el mundo de la imagen y del color para entrar en un mundo en blanco y negro, un mundo gris. Ese descubrimiento extraordinario de la modernidad -la imprenta- en parte suprimió la riqueza de la tradición medieval que vinculaba imagen de color y texto. En la modernidad, la introducción de imágenes en el texto exigió un largo tiempo de trabajo tecnológico hasta llegar a insertar viñetas, pequeñas láminas en el interior de los libros. En la actualidad, reencontramos la riqueza estética medieval en textos que incluyen imágenes en color. La novedad es el sonido. Texto, imagen, color y sonido están conectados en los nuevos soportes tecnológicos.Pero es problemática la comprensión de las imágenes. El procesamiento de la imagen no es secuencial o lineal, como lo es el procesamiento del texto escrito, y hay interacciones entre las imágenes y el texto que no son fáciles de analizar. No hay un procedimiento de lectura de imágenes que pueda enseñarse como se enseña la alfabetización. Siento preocupación cuando se habla de leer imágenes o situaciones, como si la lectura fuera el paradigma de todo entendimiento. Es una metáfora: no se leen las imágenes, las imágenes se comprenden, se analizan, se perciben, se sienten. Decir que las leemos es una manera de hablar que obstaculiza. Las imágenes funcionan de la misma manera en diferentes culturas, y niños que no hablan el mismo idioma pueden comprender la misma imagen. Hay fenómenos que son específicos de la imagen. Yo puedo leer un libro del siglo XVIII con el sentimiento de que hay una continuidad entre esa escritura y la actual. Pero la forma en que están ilustrados los libros del siglo XVIII no tiene nada que ver con la ilustración de los libros actuales. Para la educación esto es un problema porque no hay tradición en la escuela de una cultura de la imagen que no sea una ilustración de lo escrito. En la escuela primero está lo escrito y la imagen aparece como un complemento para adornar, mientras que en la vida no es así.¿Sólo esa función cumple la ilustración en los libros escolares?Hay una evolución desde fines del siglo XIX, con la creación de la escuela republicana -con Sarmiento, aquí en Argentina, y Jules Ferry en Francia; la historia de la creación de la escuela republicana en Argentina y en Francia se parece mucho. En ella, lo prioritario es el texto y las imágenes están para fijar la memoria, utilizando también la emoción en la representación de los próceres de la patria. El libro de Héctor Rubén Cucuzza "Yo, argentino. La construcción de la Nación en los libros escolares (1873-1930)" muestra que ante los próceres que marcaron la historia -que es como la historia de los santos que marcaron la historia de la Iglesia- hay un relato mítico que necesita imágenes, porque ellas fijan la representación de los héroes que jalonan el relato del texto. También los textos de ciencias tienen imágenes.Pero es distinta la ilustración de esos libros escolares que quieren dar una idea del discurso científico con lecciones sobre el agua, el aire o la circulación de la sangre. Se ilustran con esquemas. Los chicos tienen que reproducir el esquema de circulación de la sangre, por ejemplo, mientras que no se les pide que dibujen al prócer. Hay una introducción al gesto científico de representación abstracta de la realidad, la que parece aportar una verdad invisible. En libros escolares muy simples aparece la representación de la variedad de los discursos que existen en el mundo científico. En geografía es el mapa, y en la escuela cada disciplina científica está marcada por un tipo de uso diferente de la articulación imagen-texto. La alianza imagen-texto funciona como un indicador disciplinario, y los chicos saben de inmediato, al abrir un libro, en qué disciplina están, aunque no sepan leer. La escuela encontró un medio muy eficaz para darles a los niños una clasificación de los saberes.¿Hoy los chicos no se entusiasman con la lectura?Parece que no, pero tampoco en el pasado, ¿no cree? En definitiva, habría que probar que la lectura no entusiasma a los chicos hoy y que los entusiasmaba ayer. No hay que mezclar los recuerdos nostálgicos de los amantes de los libros con la realidad de la generación anterior. Yo no tengo la sensación de que en la generación de mi abuela había entusiasmo por los libros. Existía mucha desconfianza respecto de los libros y cuando a las chicas les gustaba leer, se pensaba que eran malas amas de casa y madres y que perdían el tiempo. Había desconfianza hacia los libros en los sectores populares; los consideraban pasatiempo de ricos. Y la mayoría de la gente no leía, salvo el diario para saber las noticias locales y quiénes habían muerto, pero no se tenía la idea de que a uno le faltaba algo cuando no leía. Esto se ha olvidado. Se tiende a reconstruir el pasado con la cultura de las clases medias, que son las clases que enseñan. La extensión de la alfabetización, ¿generó más lectores?Se esperaba, con la generalización de la alfabetización y de los estudios prolongados, un aumento del número de personas que irían a bibliotecas, comprarían libros y leerían. Cuando eso se volvió posible -con los libros de bolsillo y los diarios accesibles- llegó la revolución tecnológica de la televisión y después Internet. ¿Y qué puede hacer la escuela en esa batalla?La escuela está tironeada por dos objetivos: existe para desarrollar una cultura general, científica y literaria, pero debe preparar a los chicos para el mercado de trabajo, algo que nunca antes había tenido que asumir. La cuestión del mercado laboral dependía de una formación profesional o de la demanda local, pero no era rol de la escuela preparar a los niños para oficios, simplemente porque la mayoría de los oficios no requería saber leer. En la actualidad, todos los oficios, aun los de bajo nivel de calificación, exigen el conocimiento de la lectura y la escritura. Un ejemplo: en los hoteles Accor, una cadena internacional, el personal de limpieza tiene un protocolo de 40 ítems para verificar. Cada vez que entran en una habitación, deben ver si funciona la luz, etc. Es una lista escrita y se debe tachar con una cruz. Una mujer que no sabe leer y escribir no puede ser mucama. Eso era impensable antes, cuando para las tareas manuales se requería fuerza de trabajo, no competencia de lectura. ¿Cómo afecta esto a los maestros?Los docentes no desean quedar sometidos a la demanda económica, pero saben que los chicos vienen a la escuela también con una expectativa de inserción social y de éxito en el mercado laboral. Esos imperativos económicos pesan y, como consecuencia, los imperativos culturales de la escuela quedan un poco como de lujo. Se duda: "¿Es necesaria la poesía en la escuela?" Esto trae un problema de identidad cultural en los docentes porque no eligieron la profesión con esa perspectiva.

Copyright Clarín, 2009.

          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
          Analysis: GOP Health Bill Could Cost California $114B   
CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 28: Demonstrators protest changes to the Affordable Care Act on June 28, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. After more senators said they would not offer support, senate Republican's yesterday announced they would delay a vote on their revised health-care bill. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)California officials say the state's budget could take a $30 billion annual hit if health care legislation proposed by U.S. Senate Republicans is passed.
          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, […]
          Jon Jacobsen will represent Iowa House district 22   
Republican candidate Jon Jacobsen, an attorney and former weekly radio host, won yesterday’s special election to represent Iowa House district 22 with 1,069 votes, about 44 percent, according to final unofficial results. Carol Forristall, who filed as an independent candidate after losing at the GOP special nominating convention, placed second with 803 votes (33 percent). […]
          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   

          Senate Republicans aim for new healthcare bill by Friday, but skeptics remain   

          We Saw a Vision   

On this day, September 18th, in 1914, the Government of Ireland Act had reached the statute books in Westminster. This act was set to give Ireland Home Rule; something that the Irish politicians and the Irish people had been aiming towards for decades. But, as is natural in Irish history, bad luck has to mock the wishes of the downtrodden Irish (as if Father Time and Mother Éire had had a very difficult divorce. This probably originated in the early Middle Ages when Ireland refused to experience the Dark Ages. )

World War I shook the Home Rule Bill off the table in Westminster. And it would only be back on the table after the conflict had ended.

“Hmmm, lunchtime, maybe? If not, then surely by Christmas?”

Eh, no.

And so, frustrated by this, the IRB (Irish Republican Brotherhood) met to decide the fate of Irish republicanism. The Easter Rising was the ultimate result of this meeting. In commemoration of the importance of the site (north Parnell Square), the Garden of Remembrance was opened in 1916, on the 50th anniversary of the 1916 Rising. 

For those who gave their lives in the fight for Irish freedom…




Incidentally, also on this day, in 1922, another bill rose to attention. This was the Constitution of Saorstát Éireann Bill, which W. T. Cosgrave (the first Taoiseach/Prime Minister/President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State) introduced to enable the implementation of the Treaty between Great Britain and Ireland.

And its successor is still on the table.

In Dublin, not Westminster.  

          LOOP: Senate GOP delays health care vote for a week   
HEALTH CARE // Lacking the 50 votes need to pass health care, Senate Majority Leader delayed a vote on the GOP plan for a week. Senate Republicans then visited with President Trump at the White House where he warned them of the ‘cost of failure.’ http://cvote.it/2skdgl3 HEALTH CARE // A pro-Trump group decides to pull ads slamming a Republican Senator who attacked [...]
          The Senate plan means 22 million uninsured? Let’s take a honest look at that number   
Senate Republicans have announced that they are delaying a vote on their health care plan by at least a week. The news comes after several Senators had second thoughts because a report from the Congressional Budget Office suggested that under the GOP plan 22 million people would not have health insurance. The U.S. Bishops cited the [...]
          Republicans Aren’t Sure President Trump Is the Best Person to Sell Health Care   
"Add some money to it!" he said
          ‘Let’s Talk Together.’ Schumer Challenges Trump on Health Care Plan   
"Either Republicans will agree and change the status quo, or markets will continue to collapse and we’ll have to sit down with Sen. Schumer”
          President Trump Calls on Congress to Pass Bills Aimed at Undocumented Immigrants   
President Trump hosted the families of victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants at the White House on Wednesday as a part of an effort to put pressure on Republicans in the House to pass legislation targeting so-called sanctuary cities. “You lost the people that you love because our government refused to enforce our nation’s…
          June 28th 2017, 2-3pm   

President Trump welcomed the World Champion Chicago Cubs to the White House today. The State of Illinois may not be able to pay lottery winners. Republican leaders have put a hold on a healthcare bill in the Senate. James Capretta is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Mark takes calls on healthcare.


          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. 
          Frank Lloyd Wright: American Architect   
 By the dawn of the 20thcentury, architect Frank Lloyd Wright had discovered something I didn’t learn until the 21st century — that kleptocapitalism must finally and necessarily destroy the standards of every profession with which it comes into contact.
In his 1900 speech to the Architectural League of America in Chicago, titled The Architect, Wright “…reminded his colleagues that in this country commerce had triumphed over art,” wrote Robert C. Twombly in his book Frank Lloyd Wright: His Life and His Architecture. “The lust for money had reduced the architect to a servant of the business community.”
Wright charged that the American architect “…panders to silly women his silly artistic sweets,” trading experimentation and individuality for financial security. Wright called typical turn-of-the-century Chicago homes for the well-to-do “fantastic abortions” and said they “lied about everything.”
“(The architect) now modeled commercial buildings after Greek temples and luxury homes after Louis XIV palaces, all because the businessman and his wife ‘knew what they wanted,’” Twombly wrote. “No longer an independent spirit, the architect had become a salesman, peddling prepackaged ‘styles’ from the files of huge ‘plan-factories.’
“At the height of the industrial revolution in America, Wright was painfully aware that the new corporate elite had usurped the status of the professional, reducing him to an employee at its beck and call.”
In 21st century capitalism-gone-wild America, that sad state of professional degradation applies not just to architects but to physicians, professors, military officers, police officers, attorneys, journalists, you name it.
For pity’s sake, judges have been caught framing innocent American children because they’ve been bribed by private prison corporations to provide warm bodies in order to increase the corporation’s lucrative taxpayer subsidy.
---
Wright employed stylistic innovations to achieve an inobvious family privacy in his prairie houses. The windows were easy to see out of but, because of overhanging features, difficult to see into. Shielded by broad eaves, windows could stay open even in rain. Exterior doorways were hidden in recesses, behind walls or around corners.
“A house that has character stands a good chance of growing more valuable as it grows older, while a house in the prevailing mode, whatever that mode may be, is soon out of fashion, stale and unprofitable,” Wright said.
The McMansions that now litter our landscape, with their bludging, tumorous protrusions, are an example of the latter.
Twombly noted that with five children by 1901, Wright, in his home designs, “…took greater pains to provide for group solidarity than for individual interests. Whether it was a symbolic inglenook, a formal entryway, a playroom for his children or his many exquisite dining and living rooms, his most elaborate efforts were areas of group activity.”
“Wright understood the family to be a tightly knit group within a larger community from which it withdrew occasionally (but did not reject) for its own sustenance. More concerned at this stage of his life with family unity than personal freedom, he assumed the former made the latter possible.”
Twombly suggests that Wright’s turn-of-the-century prairie houses offered a combination of innovation and protection that appealed to their forward-looking but finally insecure upper middle class owners.
“As independent businessmen likely to own their own moderate-sized manufacturing concerns, and as conservative Protestant Republicans, they frowned on eccentric social behavior, liberal causes and protest literature,” he wrote. “In a period of ‘progressive’ reform, they clung to 19th century values and like others in the rapidly growing metropolis felt themselves engulfed by sweeping changes not entirely to their liking…
“Wright’s designs satisfied needs and wishes murkily understood but deeply felt by large numbers of city dwellers and satisfied them more fully, in fact, than conventional styles. The prairie house appealed to an apprehensive upper middle class by emphasizing in literal and symbolic ways the security, privacy, shelter, family mutuality and other values people found increasingly important in a period of urban dislocation and conflict.
“Rapid industrialization and urbanization in late 19th century America created a disorienting situation. Armies of working class immigrants from Europe and from American farms and small towns helped escalate social tensions and instabilities in the cities. Newcomers of all classes, having lost their roots, found their places of residence determined not by family tradition or landholding but by unpredictable and insecure market situations. Vast impersonal corporations assumed control over the lives of laboring people, over white collar workers and executives, and over self-employed businessmen and professionals whose livelihoods depended upon the whims of an incomprehensible and seemingly capricious economic system. The depression of the 1890s, the most devastating in American history to that point, exacerbated the general uneasiness as even more people began to sense their helplessness.
“Few individuals could count on uninterrupted upward mobility, permanent employment or a secure future for their children. Even the upper middle class, especially people like Wright’s clients who did not possess inherited wealth, faced the specter of possible downward mobility and the loss of everything.”
---
As an inspiration for Ayn Rand’s architect hero Howard Roark in The Fountainhead, Frank Lloyd Wright had, in a sense, helped her write her fiction by overdramatizing his career.
In a 1914 Architectural Record article, Wright presented “…his first proclamation of the ‘persecuted genius’ legend, an interpretation of his life as a continuous battle against overwhelming odds, as a struggle for principle despite social ostracism, personal indifference, financial hardship, public ridicule and personal rejection,” Twombly wrote.
“Publicly begun by Wright in 1914 and perpetuated by his closest admirers until the present day, the ‘persecuted genius’ legend became a major component of his self-image.”
In fact, Wright had notable professional support and public acclaim at the beginning of his career.
“Even Hollywood paid its respects,” Twombly noted. “Warner Brothers asked him to design sets for The Fountainhead (1949), based on Ayn Rand’s novel by the same name, but when Wright demanded $250,000 for the job — he did not want it — negotiations ended.”
---
Wright died in 1959, just before his 92nd birthday, a venerable, outspoken sage whom some called a crackpot. But we’d have recognized many of his concerns easily enough.
“Continued growth of the military establishment and the mushrooming of governmental bureaucracy and of corporate hegemony made him despair for the future of democracy,” Twombly noted. “Fearing that centralized authority manipulating a mass society would crush individual liberties, he interpreted American foreign policy as a cover to advance overseas corporate interests and attacked internal anticommunism as a ‘smoke screen’ for political consolidation to further selfish partisan gain.”

Too bad we didn’t listen to the architect. We might have built something better than the shabby, ramshackle structure this country has become.


          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
          Temer entra na História pela porta dos fundos   

Não que o advogado Michel Temer, vice de Dilma Rousseff — chapa nascida da aliança entre PMDB e PT, negociada em bases nada republicanas —, fosse de absoluta confiança. Mas, político rodado, presidente da Câmara dos Deputados três vezes e do próprio partido, Michel Temer assumiu no impeachment de Dilma com o trunfo de, com base em toda esta expertise de transitar com facilidade pelo Congresso, poder aprovar, em pouco menos de dois anos, as principais reformas de que o Brasil necessita para voltar a crescer. Conquistaria lugar de destaque na República.

Temer conseguiria, de fato, lugar na História, mas como o primeiro presidente em exercício a ser denunciado por corrupção. O passado e as práticas do PMDB — em especial, do grupo do presidente na Câmara, em conexão com o encarcerado Eduardo Cunha — foram mais fortes que possíveis intenções de Temer de abrilhantar a biografia. Por isso, manteve os esquemas do fisiologismo do toma lá dá cá, e, como se vê, não obstruiu o fluxo de dinheiro de propina pelos subterrâneos do partido. Ao contrário, transferiu o propinoduto para o porão do Palácio do Jaburu, já na condição de presidente da República.

Encaminhada na segunda à noite ao Supremo Tribunal pelo procurador-geral da República, Rodrigo Janot, a denúncia de corrupção passiva se baseia em depoimento e gravação de conversa com o presidente feitos pelo empresário Joesley Batista, do grupo JBS. Mas não só. Joesley, segundo acordo de delação premiada assinado com a PGR, colaborou, ainda, em uma “operação controlada”, nos termos da legislação, em que, além de gravações, foi feito vídeo da entrega de mala com R$ 500 mil ao deputado Rodrigo Loures (PMDB-PR), indicado por Temer ao empresário para tratar de “tudo”, de qualquer assunto de interesse de Joesley.

Somadas, as provas sustentam uma denúncia sólida contra Temer: gravação do presidente indicando Loures para Joesley abordar temas subterrâneos, na falta do ex-ministro Geddel Vieira, sob investigação; Loures, também em gravação, dispondo-se a defender interesses de Joesley no Cade e na CVM; e o acerto de uma generosa mesada a Loures, em troca da ajuda na solução de uma pendência com a Petrobras sobre o preço do gás cobrado a uma termelétrica da JBS.

O quadro se fecha com um depoimento do executivo do JBS Ricardo Saud comprovando ser correta a evidência de que Loures recebia o dinheiro em nome de Temer. Os dois, como disse o executivo, teriam bela “aposentadoria” . Pois, paga ao longo de 25 a 30 anos, a propina chegaria a centenas de milhões.

O presidente decidiu rebater a acusação da PGR em pronunciamento, ontem à tarde, no Planalto, diante de uma plateia de aliados, com os quais espera contar na votação da denúncia, a ser enviada à Câmara pelo Supremo. Mas, em vez de responder a questões objetivas da acusação, partiu para o ataque a Janot. Para Temer, a PGR “reinventou o Código Penal”, ao instituir a “denúncia por ilação”. Mais: a delação de Joesley Batista foi negociada por um ex-procurador que trabalhara com o procurador-geral e, por este trabalho, teria ganhado muito dinheiro. Aproveitou para insinuar que Janot teria recebido parte do pagamento, mas disse que não faria a denúncia, porque, assim, repetiria a acusação da PGR contra ele.

É muito difícil que a aplicação do velho chavão — a melhor defesa é o ataque — funcione diante de tantos indícios e provas em sentido contrário. Para descredenciar a gravação feita por Joesley da conversa noturna no porão do Jaburu, Temer insistiu com o laudo feito por perito contratado por sua defesa, quando a Polícia Federal acabara de atestar como verdadeiro o áudio. As 294 paralisações da gravação, segundo a PF, não são intervenções fraudulentas, mas característica do gravador, que para quando ninguém está falando.

Ainda há mais acusações a caminho contra Temer. A de obstrução da Justiça foi reforçada com a elucidação, pela PF, de trechos que eram inaudíveis. A criação de obstáculos para a ação do Estado na repressão ao crime ficou configurada quando Joesley e Temer trataram da ajuda financeira a Eduardo Cunha e a Lúcio Funaro, operador financeiro de Cunha e de outros do PMDB.

Joesley fazia pagamentos periódicos a Cunha e Funaro, em troca do silêncio dos dois. Houve grande controvérsia em torno de algumas palavras, mas o trabalho feito nos laboratórios da PF reforça a acusação do procurador-geral de que Temer, naquela noite, estimulou o empresário a continuar com os pagamentos aos dois. Esta é uma passagem tóxica para Michel Temer.

Na segunda-feira, o presidente aproveitou solenidade no Planalto para dar um grito de guerra: “Nada nos destruirá, nem a mim, nem aos ministros” . Resta saber como. À noite, depois de formalizada a acusação, Temer se reuniu em Palácio com o ministro Moreira Franco, da Secretaria-Geral da Presidência; a advogada-geral da União, Grace Mendonça, e advogados que o defendem no STF. As tropas de Temer, porém, são mais numerosas.

Elas já devem estar fazendo intenso trabalho junto aos membros da Comissão de Constituição e Justiça, para onde a presidente do Supremo, Cármen Lúcia, enviará a denúncia. Conseguir que a CCJ rejeite o pedido — mesmo que ele siga de qualquer forma ao plenário — é importante para Temer. Deverá ser feito “o diabo”, nos termos usados por Dilma Rousseff, na obtenção de votos na comissão. Caberá vigilância estreita sobre as transações que inevitavelmente transcorrerão na Câmara.

São conhecidas as manobras para trocas de deputados com assento na CCJ, para se garantirem resultados nas votações. Nesta hora, pesam os vínculos e compadrios construídos por Temer e seu grupo durante muito tempo de convívio no Congresso. A não ser que conte a impopularidade recorde do presidente. Mas ele jogará tudo para fazer morrer na Câmara a acusação, evitando que chegue aos 11 ministros do Supremo, Corte muito diferente do TSE.

O resto é zelar pelos trâmites constitucionais, sem manobras protelatórias, para se desatar o nó político-institucional, pelas regras legais. A economia ainda emite sinais positivos decorrentes do que pôde ser feito até o porão do Jaburu ser iluminado pela delação de Joesley. Mas seria um milagre o PIB se desconectar de uma crise que tem nome: Michel Miguel Elias Temer Lulia. Porém, importa agora é que as instituições decidam, essencial para manter a segurança jurídica, independentemente de qual será o desfecho.


          Republican Incumbent Michael Lee Wins North Carolina Senate District 9   
After a fiercely competitive race with numerous attack ads against both candidates, Republican incumbent Michael Lee has won North Carolina’s District 9 Senate seat. This district covers most of New Hanover County, with the exception of a small patch in downtown Wilmington. In his second term, he wants to tackle economic development and education. Michael Lee says education dovetails with job creation because of workforce development. He wants to reach out to innovative teachers for new ideas that can be implemented throughout the state. In particular, he wants to expand lab schools, which are elementary and secondary schools operated within a university or college. Such schools both help train future teachers and allow for educational experimentation: "So we’ve already tried to do some of those things with lab schools, like we’re doing with UNCW and others. I think we can also look into lab school concepts within the community college system. I really think that we need to integrate,
          Senator Michael Lee (R) Says North Carolina Is Still Playing Catch-Up with Teacher Pay   
Republican Senator Michael Lee is running for a second term representing North Carolina’s Senate District 9. Though the legislature approved a 4% increase in teacher pay this past session, Lee says the state still has a long way to go. Three years ago, North Carolina was ranked 47th in the nation for teacher pay. Now the state has risen to 41st, according to the National Education Association. The state legislature projects that average teacher pay will rise to fifty thousand dollars, but that number won’t be confirmed until at least December. And it relies on low teacher turnover, which might not happen, according to fact-checking by WRAL. If that average salary checks out, that’s still eight thousand less than the national average. Here’s Senator Michael Lee: "Make no mistake, we are nowhere near where we need to be, but the average is up more than 20% since 2013-2014. And I know everyone is not seeing that because there are different places in the pay scale where the increases have
          NC Senate's Budget Proposal Moves to Defund High School Driver's Education   
As the North Carolina General Assembly reconvenes this week, one budget item remains on the chopping block: high school driver’s education. The Senate’s current budget proposal would eliminate driver’s education classes as a learner’s permit requirement. Senate Republicans say the driver’s education isn’t working because roughly half of students fail the Department of Motor Vehicle’s license test. That’s statistic comes from a report by the legislature’s Program Evaluation Division. But that figure is an average from the past six years. Looking at the statistical trend, the failure rate steadily declined from 59 percent in 2008 to 33 percent in 2013. Senator Michael Lee says the Senate wants the State Board of Community Colleges to develop a plan to take over the role of driver’s education: "That may involve a variety of different things. It could mean that they offer courses, it could mean that they have online courses, it could mean that they have satellite courses. I’m not really
          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
          Candidate Profile: Michael Lee (R), NC Senate, District 9   
Wilmington lawyer Michael Lee is vying for a seat in state Senate District 9—with hearty endorsement from incumbent Senator Thom Goolsby. Lee, a fellow Republican, has twice previously run for the same seat--to Julia Boseman in 2008, and to Goolsby in the 2010 primary. While Lee has never won an elected position, he serves on the Port Authority Board, as well as the state Department of Transportation’s board. Lee views job growth, education reform and a balanced budget as integrated pursuits. WHQR's Katie O'Reilly: Tell me about your top three priorities in office. Michal Lee: I think economic development, jobs, and education, and they all kind of interrelate with each other. Jobs in New Hanover County, the state of North Carolina, really anywhere, rely upon a strong education system—not just K-12, but also our community college system and our university system. So that is really how it relates into jobs and economic development, in the way that we not only educate our children, so
          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 [...]
          Republicans fear onslaught of green group lawsuits – The Hill   

The Hill Republicans fear onslaught of green group lawsuitsThe HillRepublican lawmakers on Wednesday held a hearing to address what they fear is “excessive litigation” against the Interior Department from green groups and other liberal activists. “In reality, a legal subindustry has thrived from endless environmental … and more » Source link

link: Republicans fear onslaught of green group lawsuits – The Hill


          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)


          Republicans Repeat A Shockingly Dishonest Argument To Sell Their Health Care Plan   

Their professed concern over the uninsured rings untrue. Source link

link: Republicans Repeat A Shockingly Dishonest Argument To Sell Their Health Care Plan


          What's Next For the Senate GOP Health Care Bill?   

Senate Republicans are regrouping on health care legislation. Here’s what you need to know about what comes next. Source link

link: What's Next For the Senate GOP Health Care Bill?


          How Republican governors could kill the GOP’s health-care bill – Washington Post   

Washington Post How Republican governors could kill the GOP’s health-care billWashington PostBehind a significant number of GOP senators who oppose their party’s health-care bill is a governor who also hates it. Of the 12 GOP senators who have concerns about or don’t support the legislation, six of their state’s governors also don’t support it.If Republicans…

link: How Republican governors could kill the GOP’s health-care bill – Washington Post


          Trump Today: President says Republicans will get health-care ‘over the line,’ targets Amazon’s Bezos again – MarketWatch   

Trump Today: President says Republicans will get health-care ‘over the line,’ targets Amazon’s Bezos againMarketWatchThis column provides a daily update on key presidential actions as well as comments, whether spoken aloud or on Twitter, by President Trump. Like the stock market, the deadline for Trump Today action is 4 p.m. Eastern time, even as we…

link: Trump Today: President says Republicans will get health-care ‘over the line,’ targets Amazon’s Bezos again – MarketWatch


          Senate Intel putting Russia probe on fast track – Politico   

Politico Senate Intel putting Russia probe on fast trackPoliticoThe Senate panel probing Russian interference in the 2016 election aims to finish its work by the end of this year and plans to double the number of witness interviews to nearly 90 before lawmakers break for the August recess, the Republican leader of … and more »…

link: Senate Intel putting Russia probe on fast track – Politico


          Opposition to GOP Health Bill Spurring Support for Single-Payer Plan   
The Republicans' push to reduce government's role in healthcare by repealing and replacing Obamacare has emboldened progressive politicians and activists to promote the exact opposite, a single-payer system in which the government would completely run a health system which...
          Quinnipiac Poll: 58 Percent Oppose GOP Healthcare Plan   
Fifty-eight percent of Americans oppose the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, with 71 percent against Congress making aid cuts to Medicaid, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday.
          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.
          Blackburn: House GOP Delivered 'Great Foundation' on Healthcare    
House Republicans are disappointed that their counterparts in the Senate did not move forward with a vote on their healthcare bill, as they were sent "a great foundation to work from," Rep. Marsha Blackburn said Wednesday.
          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."
             
Mother of all Establishments

The ruling class, the creme de la creme, the establishment - the mother of all establishments in fact - what is it like? Its wit tends to be both dry and acerbic. Its city is New York. Its profession is attorney. Its manner cool. Its clothes black. Its heroes Kennedys. Its music is mostly jazz standards I think. Its passion is film, or maybe dating. (Though I doubt their self-conscious coupling deserves the name of passion.) Its ethnicity is mixed, but the Anglo-Saxon and Jewish elements predominate. Its politics are moderate but liberal on certain social issues like abortion.

Many minor-league establishments send their best players to the big leagues. The ultimate establishment draws from corporate CEO's; judges; college presidents; the highest ranks of the military; union bosses; partners in prestigious law firms; titans of finance; media royalty; upper echelons of the ever-spreading government bureaucracies; nabobs from the political world - governors, senators, etc.; successful entertainers of all kinds- talk show hosts, rap artists, journalists. Powers from other nations are included: prime ministers, despots, treasury secretaries, generals, top smugglers and rights activists. The distillation of all these subsidiary elites, everyone from bankers to performance artists, physicists and film stars, mayors who've clawed their way up from the streets alongside the residue of the most aristocratic families - are all blended together to create the mother of all establishments.

Don't confuse the ultimate establishment with the penultimate establishment. The penultimate establishment consists of conservative Republicans picked to play the role of the ultimate establishment. They are the designated target, the Simon Legree at whom we are directed to hiss. They, very visibly, perform the disagreeable but necessary tasks of Power. They are the millionaires who keep the economy moving, the generals who keep the armies moving. They are the father figures who can, eventually, be safely discarded.

If you think these Republicans are in fact the ultimate establishment they are supposed to be you are wrong: 1) Conservative Republicans always lose the bitter battles over social policy - the struggles over segregation, abortion, feminism, gay rights, etc. 2) The supreme establishment would never, at least visibly, ally itself with the rich or the military. The rich are wildly unpopular (They like escaping their tax obligation as much as cutting badly-needed services to working people.) The military commanders may be popular domestically, but they are hated abroad. The supreme establishment instead derives power from pretending to battle these dangerous forces. 3) Businessmen are ruled by the market, by the desires of consumers. The government, in contrast, can do whatever it wants - it can arrest you; jail you; take your house, your children, all your money.

What are the beliefs of the mother of all establishments? While hostile to the world's religions, especially those denigrated as "fundamentalist", the ultimate establishment does possess a faith. They hate any restrictions placed on individuals by churches or clan patriarchs or rural communities - any restrictions placed on individuals by Tradition.

The era of this ultimate establishment is nearly over. Soon they and their urbane vanities will disappear. Then I think people will wonder how so few ruled over so many for so long.
          RESUMEN DE NOTICIAS DEL MUNDO........Seeking Alpha   
La segunda etapa de las pruebas de resistencia bancarias anuales de la Fed se dará a conocer hoy. Los resultados del CCAR determinarán si las 34 instituciones financieras estadounidenses más grandes pueden seguir adelante con sus planes de distribución de capital, incluyendo mayores dividendos o recompras de acciones. ¡Manténganse al tanto! Los accionistas del banco y los inversionistas generales estarán observando atentamente, ya que los resultados es probable que mueva el mercado.

El euro ha alcanzado un nuevo máximo de 2017 de $ 1,1369, ya que los mercados digerieron los recientes comentarios de Mario Draghi. El banco central podría "ajustar" su política en respuesta a "mejorar las condiciones económicas", declaró en un evento en Sintra, Portugal. Mientras tanto, Janet Yellen dijo ayer que no esperaba otra crisis financiera en "nuestras vidas" y advirtió contra cualquier relajación de las reformas financieras.

¿Un golpe a la agenda de Trump? Los mercados bursátiles estadounidenses se vendieron el martes después de que los líderes republicanos pospusieran una votación en el Senado sobre la reforma de la salud hasta después del receso del 4 de julio. El líder republicano del Senado, Mitch McConnell, dijo que hay una "muy buena oportunidad" de que el proyecto de ley sea finalmente aprobado a pesar de la demora y un número de legisladores republicanos expresando sus reservas.

Lo llamó "La Red de Engima". Hace seis semanas, David Webb, un inversionista activista y ex director de la bolsa de Hong Kong, emitió un informe sobre "50 acciones que no son propias". Ayer, la mayoría de las acciones que nombró abruptamente se desplomaron, señalando problemas crónicos de regulación sobre las acciones de pequeña capitalización en el centro financiero asiático. Hang Seng tomó otra pierna hacia abajo durante la noche, cayendo un 0.6% a 25.684.

El presidente Trump está cada vez más frustrado con China por su inacción sobre Corea del Norte y asuntos comerciales bilaterales y ahora está considerando posibles acciones comerciales contra Pekín, dijeron a Reuters tres altos funcionarios del gobierno. Está estudiando una gama de opciones, incluyendo los aranceles sobre las importaciones de acero. Las noticias llegan cuando los negociadores japoneses y de la UE que se reúnen en Tokio presionan con un acuerdo de libre comercio que tiene como objetivo contrarrestar el proteccionismo estadounidense.

Bahrein ha acusado a Doha de una "escalada militar" en la crisis que ha afectado a la región, advirtiendo que habría consecuencias después de que Turquía desplegara tropas adicionales en su base en Qatar. Varios estados árabes han cortado las relaciones diplomáticas con la nación, así como los vínculos comerciales y de viajes, en la más grave crisis interna desde la formación del Consejo de Cooperación del Golfo.

Las tensiones son altas en Venezuela cuando un helicóptero de la policía disparó 15 disparos al Ministerio del Interior durante la noche y dejó caer cuatro granadas en la Corte Suprema, sin embargo, no hubo informes de lesiones. Se adelanta a la votación del presidente Maduro el 30 de julio para un super cuerpo especial llamado Asamblea Constituyente, que podría reescribir la carta nacional y reemplazar a otras instituciones como el Congreso controlado por la oposición.

Un comité del Senado brasileño revisará hoy un proyecto de ley que desaceleraría la ley laboral mazelike del país, que ha sido un gran disuasivo para la inversión. Los mercados se han reunido a medida que avanzaban a través de la Cámara Baja a principios de este año, pero nuevas acusaciones de corrupción contra el principal partidario de la propuesta, el presidente Temer, han aumentado la oposición, lo que complica su aprobación.

Los piratas informáticos han golpeado de nuevo en otro ciberataque a gran escala que apunta a algunas de las mayores corporaciones del mundo y la infraestructura gubernamental. Se trata de un malware conocido como "Petya", que bloquea las computadoras de las víctimas y les pide que paguen un rescate basado en Bitcoin de 300 dólares. La interrupción se ha extendido a Maersk (OTCPK: AMKAF), Merck (NYSE: MRK), WPP (NASDAQ: WPPGY), Reckitt Benckiser (OTCPK: RBGLY) y Rosneft (OTC: RNFTF).

Facebook ha llegado a 2B usuarios activos mensuales, lo que representa una duplicación de su base de usuarios en los últimos cinco años. Llegó a la marca de usuario 1B en octubre de 2012, el año en que se hizo público. Es el último de unos cuantos hitos métricos para Facebook (NASDAQ: FB), que celebró 250 millones de usuarios diarios de Instagram Stories la semana pasada, e Instagram alcanzó 700 millones de MAUs en abril.

Toshiba (OTCPK: TOSYY) dijo que presentaría una demanda contra Western Digital (NYSE: WDC), reclamando ¥ 120B ($ 1.07B) en daños por interferir con la venta de su división de chips de memoria. Toshiba también decidió excluir a los empleados de Western Digital -basados ​​fuera de la planta de chips de Yokkaichi- de acceder a información relacionada con la empresa conjunta de ambas compañías.

Alibaba (NYSE: BABA) está cerrando un acuerdo para adquirir la filial de software de ZTE (OTCPK: ZTCOY), dijeron fuentes a Bloomberg, citando un precio de entre 2 y 3 millones de yuanes (294 millones a 441 millones de dólares) ). Una venta también ayudará a reponer las arcas de ZTE, agotadas por una multa récord de 1,2 millones de dólares impuesta este año por el gobierno de Estados Unidos por violar las sanciones a las exportaciones de tecnología.

El Departamento de Seguridad Nacional comenzará la construcción de cuatro a ocho prototipos para un muro fronterizo en el área de San Diego este verano, aunque todavía no ha elegido proveedores. El financiamiento para el muro no fue incluido en el presupuesto presentado por la Casa Blanca para el año fiscal 2018, pero el DHS ha asignado $ 20M de otros programas para pagar los prototipos. Posibles beneficiarios: ACM, CX, CXW, EXP, FLIR, FLR, GEO, GVA, KBR, MLM, NUE, STLD, SUM, TPC, TTEK, USCR, USG, VMC, WMS, X

CNN se retractó de una historia falsa que sugirió un vínculo entre un asociado de Trump y un fondo ruso tras ser amenazado con una demanda por difamación de 100 millones de dólares, según el NY Post. El drama se produjo en medio del escrutinio federal de la empresa matriz Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) en espera de compra por parte de AT & T (NYSE: T) y la creencia generalizada entre los ejecutivos de medios que Jeff Zucker no puede sobrevivir a una fusión.

Japan Tobacco (OTCPK: JAPAY) espera alcanzar el "IQOS" de Philip Morris (NYSE: PM) en el tabaco sin humo al ampliar el número de lugares públicos que permiten que su producto vaping "Ploom Tecnología Las firmas tabacaleras ven a Japón como el centro de pruebas de la industria vaping, ya que los cigarrillos electrónicos que usan líquido con nicotina no están permitidos bajo las regulaciones farmacéuticas del país.

Philips (Nyse: PHG) ha aceptado comprar Spectranetics (NASDAQ: SPNC) por 38,50 dólares por acción en efectivo, o un valor total de 2,2 millones de dólares, incluida la deuda. Spectranetics utiliza técnicas como láseres y pequeños globos cubiertos de drogas para limpiar el interior de venas y arterias que se han atascado debido a enfermedades del corazón. SPNC + 25% pre-venta.

La selección del jurado en el juicio de Martin Shkreli está programada para entrar en su tercer día, ya que la dificultad de encontrar un jurado imparcial se hace evidente en un caso que involucra a la compañía farmacéutica Retrophin (NASDAQ: RTRX). "Yo entiendo que el Sr. Shkreli, Dios lo bendiga, ha traído esta notoriedad sobre sí mismo", dijo su abogado al Juez de Distrito Kiyo Matsumoto. "Sin embargo, Shkreli tiene derecho a tener jurados que no estén sesgados".

La Junta de Comisionados de Port Canaveral tiene previsto considerar la propuesta de SpaceX (Private: SPACE) hoy en las instalaciones en expansión para almacenar sus propulsores de cohetes reutilizables, ya que aumenta el ritmo de sus lanzamientos. ¿Otro sueño de Elon Musk? Está hablando con el alcalde de Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, sobre la posibilidad de excavar un túnel desde el centro de la ciudad hasta el aeropuerto O'Hare.

Acelerando la seguridad aeroportuaria ... American Airlines (NASDAQ: AAL) está comprando nuevos protectores de bolsas de mano 3-D que desplegará en ocho aeropuertos de Estados Unidos una vez que las máquinas sean certificadas por la TSA. Los escáneres 3-D no sólo dan a los agentes de TSA una visión más clara de los problemas potenciales, sino que las máquinas - construidas por Analogic (NASDAQ: ALOG) - están diseñadas para ir dos veces más rápido que las bolsas de mano.

La NASA ha despejado un hito significativo para revivir los viajes supersónicos de pasajeros en los Estados Unidos. Se completó una revisión preliminar del diseño de un avión, elaborado con Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) como contratista líder, que utiliza la tecnología supersónica silenciosa, Golpe "en lugar de un fuerte auge sonoro. El auge es lo que llevó a las autoridades federales a prohibir el vuelo supersónico de pasajeros por tierra en 1973.


          Selling the GOP health care bill: Does Trump help or hurt?   
WASHINGTON (AP) -- It was a platform most politicians can only hope for: A captivated, 6,000-person crowd and more than an hour of live, prime-time television coverage to hype the Republican vision for a new health care system....
          Protesters Stage ‘Die-In’ At Sen. Gardner’s Office In Health Care Bill Opposition   
Disability rights activists with the group ADAPT, spent Tuesday gathering both inside and outside of Sen. Cory Gardner's office to show their opposition to the Republican health care bill.
          David Barton exposed on NPR   

Republican activist David Barton speaks before testifying before the Texas State Board of Education in 2009.I'm still amazed how many evangelicals, because they WANT to believe that America was founded as a Christian nation, buy into David Barton's revisionist history.

His new book on Thomas Jefferson is a farce.

NPR’s “All Things Considered” has an excellent piece on Barton, interviewing evangelicals like Warren Throckmorton of Grove City College and John Fea of Messiah College. Listen to this (or read the transcript).

Listen to the Story  [9 min 8 sec]

The Most Influential Evangelist You've Never Heard Of

Of course Christians should seek to influence society so that it better reflects the will of God... but we do not need to make up history to do so. This simply serves to undermine our task.

          How the Media Wastes Our Time During Political Campaigns   

Have you ever watched coverage of political campaigns on television and wonder, “Why does this sound so much like ESPN?

The experts on politics on cable news channels, on Meet the Press, This Week, and Face the Nation sound more like they are talking about a NASCAR race than a political race – who is out in front, how the guy trailing can gain on the leader, strategies for moving up and past the leader, strategies for saying in the lead. When the public is in desperate need for thoughtful analysis on public policy issues, the media instead focuses on other things.

Now we know why. A new report by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism (reported at journalism.com) examined in detail the media’s coverage of the Republican primary race.

“The media often focus heavily on tactics, strategy and the numbers of the horse race. On top of that, during the primaries the policy differences between candidates are sometimes fairly minimal as rivals contend for the favor of party primary voters. In 2012, horse race and strategy dominated, but not to the degree they had in 2008.

From November 2011 to April 15, 2012, the coverage devoted to the strategic elements of the GOP primary fight (horse race, tactics, strategy, money and advertising) outnumbered the combined attention to all foreign and domestic policy issues by about 6:1.

Frames_of_2012_Campaign_Coverage

Overall, 64% of campaign coverage examined was framed around polls, advertising, fundraising, strategy and the constant question of who is winning and who is losing…

Over the last five and a half months, the candidates’ policy proposals and stands on the issues accounted for 11% of the campaign coverage. The vast majority of these focused on domestic issues…[which] accounted for 9% of the coverage…

There was far less attention paid to foreign policy issues such as Iran’s nuclear program, negotiations with Russia, and relations with Israel, all of which accounted for just 1% of the campaign coverage…

The candidates’ public records accounted for 6% of the overall campaign coverage studied.”

Frames_of_2012_Campaign_Coverage_Over_Time

So, only 17% of the media’s campaign coverage was focused on the issues: the candidates’ stands on issues and their records.

We Christians are complicit in this demise of political public discourse in the media.

Instead of taking the time to read deeply and widely about policy, we watch the claptrap that the media serves and parrot it back to each other. We rarely seek to understand the opposition’s arguments. Instead, we act like simpletons, watching only the shows that we think we already agree with so that we don’t have to think too deeply.

Instead of debating with civility with others about issues, we mimic the talking heads on our favorite cable talk shows by attacking the opposition’s character. We take this easy route since it is so much easier to dismiss those we disagree with by portraying them as utterly evil.

Instead of demanding that mass media coverage dive deeper into public policy issues, we continue to watch the junk the media shows, providing them with high ratings and little incentive to change their ways.


          GOP touts lower premiums, but other insurance costs to rise   
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republicans are touting lower premiums under their health care legislation, but that reflects insurance that would cover a smaller share of the cost of medical bills....
          1920-08-05 Sammy Mandell W-TKO5 Eddie Corbett [Stephenson’s stone quarry, Belvidere, IL, USA]   
1920-08-06 Belvidere Daily Republican (Belvidere, IL) (page 9)
FIRST BIG PICNIC GIVEN BY LEGION
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BIG CROWD TURNS OUT FOR STAG OUTING AND PICNIC GIVEN AT STEVENSON'S STONE QUARRY THURSDAY AFTERNOON--BAND CONCERT IS GREATLY ENJOYED--BOXING CARD AND VAUDEVILLE ACTS.
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Yesterday was play day for Boone Post of the American Legion, hosts of Legionnaires from other nearby posts and invited guests, the occasion marking the first annual outing and picnic of the organization.

The bosky cliffs and dells of Stevenson's stone quarry were over-run by a crowd of men estimated at upwards of 1,000 who turned out to have a good time.

There was a program that fairly bristled with features. The boxing card included three events and won much applause.

Sammy Mandell, the Rockford bantam, disposed of Eddie Corbett, veteran Chicago ring gladiator, in the fifth of their scheduled six-round go. Corbett was dead on his feet when "Red" Ryan stopped the mill and gave the decision to the dark skinned Rockfordite.

Corbett showed the effects of lack of training throughout and was bested in every round. He totes a nasty right hand haymaker which he endeavored to sneak over time after time but Mandell always was able to step out of the way and punish the red headed Chicagoan wickedly in the infighting.

Mandell had his man on the defensive throughout and Corbett was covered up or working himself into a clinch. Eddie was a game boy, however, and took his punishment without a grimace. It was this same exhibition of gameness that saved him from a knockout in the fifth session. Just before the bell Corbett threw up his hands and the bout was stopped.

The "brick top" staggered to the ropes and told the crowd that he "knew when he had enough."

In the opening bout Hamill of Camp Grant ran Young Kid DeMunn of Belvidere all around the ring and showered blows to his head and face. The referee stopped the fracas in the second session and announced that DeMunn had forfeited.

Kid Bush was cut short in the second round of the semi-windup by Scully of Capron. The bout was halted in the second round after Bush had been hopelessly beaten and sustained a cut over his left eye. It was announced that Bush had been overmatched with the Capronite.

But there were other things on the program besides boxing. There were games and sports of all kinds and sorts together with some vaudeville features. Music was furnished throughout the afternoon by the Belvidere band and following the boxing card the picnic spread was enjoyed.


1920-08-06 Rockford Morning Star (Rockford, IL) (page 10)
SAMMY MANDELL STOPS VETERAN ED CORBETT IN THE FIFTH ROUND

Sammy Mandell had an easy time with the ring veteran, Ed Corbett, in the feature bout of the Boone post American Legion picnic at Belvidere yesterday, scoring a technical knockout when referee "Red" Ryan stopped the fight in the fifth round to save Corbett from taking the count. Sammy carried the battling throughout and was complete master of the situation at all stages.

Eddie Corbett has been out of the boxing game for a long time and the lack of training showed plainly on the veteran. He put up a game fight, but the going was simply too fast for him, and he couldn't stand up to the wicked right and left jabs of the local mauler. The crowd gave him a good hand, however, for his gameness and with a little more work, Corbett should be able to regain the old-time speed and punch for which he was noted.

Sammy Starts Fast.

Sammy started off with a shade in the opening round although the exchange of blows was about even, the local bantam pushing Corbett around the ring with a ceaselessly working left jab.

The second and third rounds went to Sammy by a wide margin. Toward the end of the third Corbett began to slow up and the effect of Sammy's punches were having a marked effect on him. He kept backing away, barely able to land a blow while Sammy rained short punches to the head and body incessantly.

Only Corbett's gameness saved him from a knockout in the next round. Sammy had him against the ropes a greater part of the time, landing telling blows with apparent ease. The local fighter started a cross fire with the right that took Corbett off his feet. Corbett was fighting a losing battle and he knew it, but he stuck. The crowd was yelling for a knockout. The bell saved Corbett from the dream wallop.

Stops Fight in Fifth.

Sammy rushed out of his corner at the start of the fifth and landed several blows before Corbett put up a good defense. The going was too tough, however, and Red Ryan stopped the slaughter, with Corbett pleading to continue. The crowd cheered Ryan's decision when the bout was over.

In the opening bout Hamill of Camp Grant stopped Adams of Belvidere in the second round. Both lads weighed 135 pounds. Adams was beaten from the start, Hamill landing punches at will.

In the final preliminary to the main attraction, Honk Garrett's protégé, Kid Bush, was cut short in the second round by Phil Vergis of New Orleans, a former Great Lakes boxer. Vergis, a ringer, and an old experienced fighter, was substituted for Scully, who was supposed to meet the Olympic Athletic club man. Vergis has been visiting Scully and as the southern lad wanted a chance to step into the squared circle again, Scully and the show officials agreed to the change. Bush put up a clever fight, in spite of the big odds against him, but Vergis was too much of a match for the local lad.

Over 800 people, including a number of Rockford legionnaires, attended the picnic, and the affair was pronounced a decided success.


1920-08-06 The Rockford Daily Register-Gazette (Rockford, IL) (page 15)
MANDELL BEATS CORBETT
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Sammy Earns Technical Knockout in Fifth Round When Referee Stopped Milling.
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SAMMY MANDELL WINS FROM EDDIE CORBETT

Sammy Mandell, Rockford bantam, earned a technical knockout over Eddie Corbett, of Chicago, in the fifth round of their scheduled six round windup, at the American Legion picnic in the woods outside Belvidere yesterday. Corbett, who is a veteran of the ring, plainly showed lack of condition, having been a private and peaceful citizen for the last two years. From the initial gong Corbett hid behind his gloves and took what Sammy had to offer, the little Italian fighting in his usual style--sailing in for a lively mix and then cleverly retreating to draw his opponent on. Corbett wasn't severely damaged but his lack of staying power laid him open to repeated attacks, and the bout was stopped in order to save him from further punishment.

In the first bout of the afternoon, Hamil of Camp Grant stopped Adams of Belvidere, who substituted for Brentz, in the second round. Brentz suffered a broken hand the day before and was unable to keep the date. It wasn't much of a scrap, the soldier mauler walking through his opponent.

In the other bout, a ringer named Phil Vergis of New Orleans, stopped Kid Bush of the Olympic club in the second round, it being no fight. Bush was scheduled to meet Scully of the Great Lakes, but the latter run out of the match to allow Vergis to go on.


1920-08-06 The Rockford Republic (Rockford, IL) (page 16)
SAMMY GIVES EDDIE CORBETT TRIMMING

Youngster Has Little Trouble in Beating Veteran from Chicago--Kid Hamel Stops His Man in the Second.

Sammy Mandell finished off Eddie Corbett of Chicago in short order in the scheduled six round windup bout at the Belvidere legion picnic yesterday afternoon, the local boy beating the game veteran all the way. Referee Ryan stopped the battle in the fifth to save Corbett from needless punishment. From the tap of the gong in the first round it was apparent that Sammy had Corbett outclassed, Mandell's left jabs and right hooks shaking up Eddie and soon had him near the helpless stage. Corbett is one game fighter and he refused to quit although he was punished severely. The action of Ryan stopping the battle was applauded by the spectators.

In the first bout Kid Hamel of Camp Grant stopped Adams of Belvidere in the second round, the soldier handing the Boone county scrapper a bad beating in the two fracas. Hamel is improving right along in every fight and he will soon be given a chance in one of the preliminaries at one of the Camp Grant boxing shows. Bush, the Olympic club boxer, was no match for Phil Vergis of New Orleans and the fight was stopped in the second round. Bush, who was making his debut in the ring, was supposed to fight Scully of Capron but for some reason or other the veteran Vergis, who has a long string of battles behind him, was substituted without letting the local scrapper know of it. Bush is an inexperienced boxer and was booked to box a fighter of his own calibre and the substitution of Vergis did not sit well with the local fans there.

A crowd of over 800 attended the picnic. A Belvidere band and a Hawaiian quartet furnished the music and vaudeville numbers followed the boxing.
          Selling the GOP health care bill: Does Trump help or hurt?   
WASHINGTON (AP) -- It was a platform most politicians can only hope for: A captivated, 6,000-person crowd and more than an hour of live, prime-time television coverage to hype the Republican vision for a new health care system....
          The Latest: Trump promises 'big surprise' on health care   
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Latest on Republican legislation to repeal and replace the Obama health care law (all times local):...
          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.
          McCain's combover and "reverse Swift-boating"   
I have a mental image of John McCain as a basically bald guy who keeps his remaining hair in a crew cut, which is what I had in mind when writing yesterday's post. Apparently I projected the crew cut onto his head -- maybe because of his military background -- but checking old photos, it looks like he's done the combover since at least as far back as 2000.

DBP's comment in yesterday's post is worth deconstructing:
Actually Oscar, he doesn't do it. He lost the ability to raise his arms to head-height at some point in N. Vietnam. His hair gets combed by someone else. I suppose he directs how they do it, but maybe he either doesn't care or just trusts the judgement of the comber--or comboverer, if you will.
I haven't bothered to fact-check DBP's assertion about the arm-raising thing, but either way, the comment -- a ploy to trick me into believing I'd made fun of someone's disability --succeeds only in exposing DBP's ignorance of the problems of male baldness. A combover is not a question of how you choose to comb your hair. It's a question of how you choose to grow your hair. You have to decide to grow those strands out long enough to cover all that bare scalp. (For mysef, I've already decided that if and when I have as little hair as McCain -- which I consider to be likely in my future -- I'm going crew cut or shaved head.) Few of us cut our own hair, so an arm-raising disability has nothing to do with it.

Nice try, DBP. To paraphrase Larry David: you sir are obviously not a member of the bald community.

But the more bothersome aspect of DBP's comment is its subtext of "reverse Swift-boating." Republicans like DBP are already girding their loins for the argument: "how dare you take potshots at John McCain, who suffered in a POW camp while serving his country and now carries the scars!"

Of course, Republicans are no great respecters of war records of wounded Vietnam vets. It's not just their all too recent and unbearably cynical hyping of Bush's Air National Guard "service," or even the disgusting "Swift Boat" campaign from 2004. Another one of Rove's triumphs was his successful Swift-boating of Max Cleland, defeating the Georgia Senator's re-election bid. Cleland had lost both his legs in combat in Vietnam, but that didn't stop the Republican sleaze machine from raising phony questions suggesting that Cleland's injuries were somehow ignominiously received.

So let's not here more of this "how dare you" nonsense from the GOP.
          1913-12-29 Jack Britton ND10 Al Dewey [Peerless Athletic Club, Wilkes-Barre, PA, USA]   
1913-12-30 The Scranton Truth (Scranton, PA) (page 8)
JACK BRITTON DEFEATS DEWEY
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Too Fast and Clever for Luzerne County Fighter Who Makes Good Showing.
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YOUNG CONWAY ON TOP
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Jack Britton, known as the Chicago wizard, and who has trimmed nearly all the topnotch 135-138 pound boys in the land, Packey McFarland excepted, outpointed Al Dewey of Wilkes-Barre last night in ten rounds before the Peerless A. C. in that city. The battle was one of the most exciting staged in that burg in years. Every round was a thriller, Dewey doing his utmost to land a knockout blow while Britton was jabbing away at him and avoiding wallops in clever fashion. About 1,700 spectators were in the arena.

Britton's principal stock of trade was his left hand which he used to jab his rival throughout the fight. Sometimes he would land five jabs on Dewey's face and head without getting a return. Jack didn't do much at infighting for the simple reason that this is the department in which he is weak. He is a wonder at long range and whenever Dewey permitted him to fight at that style, the visitor had things his own way.

Two Went to Dewey.

Dewey had two rounds in the fight and the others were Britton's by a wide margin. The first was Britton's and the second went to Dewey. For the next seven rounds Britton outboxed Dewey enough to give him a good lead. Dewey made a garrison finish and deserved the round, although he didn't do all the fighting in that period.

The second, seventh, ninth and tenth rounds were the stellar periods of the engagement. The seventh found each boy standing toe to toe walloping away at one another. In this round Britton shot his famous right across twice and one of them gave Dewey a shaking. In the ninth round Britton shot the same right to Dewey's jaw but Al simply smiled and went back for more. Dewey took good punishment, but was not cut up very much. Had he been able to get away from Jack's left handed jabs it would have been a closer exhibition.

Conway the Winner.

In the semi-final Scranton had a representative in the person of Young Conway of the South Side. He met Rubber Gibbons of Ashley for the fifth time in about two months. Conway won the bout by a good margin, although neither scored a knockdown and neither was marked up to any great extent. It was a first class scrap and pleased the sports who were put out by two preliminaries that had been cut short.


1913-12-30 The Tribune-Republican (Scranton, PA) (page 12)
DEWEY OUTPOINTED BY JACK BRITTON; FIGHT GOES LIMIT
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Famous Chicago Pugilist Finds Wilkes-Barre Boy Tough Customer. Young Conway Winner.
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Special to The Tribune-Republican.
  WILKES-BARRE, Dec. 29.
Jack Britton, of Chicago, considered one of the greatest fighters in the world, outpointed Al Dewey by a good margin before 1,100 fans in the Peerless club arena tonight. The combat went ten rounds, the limit, with neither boy suffering a knockdown and with neither being badly cut up. Britton was by far the cleverer and there was no question but that he won. However, it must be said that Dewey put up a slam-bang argument--his showing being better than was expected of him by some of his best friends.

Britton had height and reach on Dewey and used the reach to good advantage. The Western fighter was as heavy, if not heavier, than his opponent. It was said both boys entered the ring weighing under 138 1-2 pounds. But if one of them was over the person was Britton.

Britton Had Good Left.

Only occasionally during the battle did Britton shoot his terrific rights over. In most rounds he was satisfied to jab away at Dewey, some of these reaching his face, but a majority going to his forehead. He did little fighting in the clinches. With his advantage in reach he managed to keep away from a number of Dewey's hard rights, although on one or two occasions Al made them reach their mark and Britton's face took on a surprised look.

It was a splendid battle. Each round had a lot of action, Britton satisfying the sports by his clever footwork and boxing, while Dewey's continued forcing of the milling won for him the admiration of the big crowd. Britton had about seven of the rounds by a good margin. Three were fairly even and one went to the local boy. Dewey's best rounds were the second, ninth and tenth. He was fighting in wonderful style at the close.

Dewey a Tough Boy.

After the battle I asked Britton what he thought of Dewey and he said: "He's a good, tough boy, and don't let anyone think otherwise." Dewey was well pleased with his showing. He admitted that Britton was one of the cleverest boys he ever tackled. "He has a dandy left jab and that right of his carries a wallop, too," said Dewey.

It was the greatest crowd that the Peerless club has ever catered to. The total receipts amounted to about $2,400, of which Britton received $1,000. He fought under a guarantee with a privilege of percentage. It isn't known what Dewey pulled down.

Young Conway, of Scranton, and Rubber Gibbons went the limit in the semi-final, with Conway winning by a larger margin than he did last Thursday, when the two boys fought in Scranton. Conway hit the harder blows tonight and worked better at infighting. Gibbons' best work was in using his left hand jab. It was a dandy bout.

The referee announced that Porky Flynn, of Boston, and Jack Curfey, of England, heavyweights, fight next Monday night. On the following Monday night Frankie Burns tackles Tommy O'Toole.

There were about 100 Scranton sports at the mill.
  BUB.


1913-12-30 Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader (Wilkes-Barre, PA) (page 14)
DEWEY FORCES BRITTON IN TEN ROUND DRAW
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DEWEY STAYS LIMIT WITH JACK BRITTON
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In a battle "Al Dewey of Edwardsville stayed the limit with "Jack" Britton of Chicago in 10-round mill at the Peerless A. C. last night. The local boy was on the short end at the close of the fifth round, but from that time on Dewey took the aggressive and forced the fighting. It must be conceded that Al proved himself a game, clever fighter and that he gave his opponent all he was looking for.

The crowd was one of the largest that ever attended a mill at the Peerless A. C., nothing left but standing room at 8:30, and the fans continued coming until time for the main bout to start. Naturally the majority were in favor of Dewey, but Britton also had his admirers.

The latter was there with a wicked left jab which he shot to Al's face time after time, only to have Al come back with a vicious right to the head or body. Britton's famous right did not seem to be working and he seldom landed with it. Dewey forced the going and kept boring in all the time, but he was wild and many of his blows were wasted through the clever dodging of Britton.

The first round was fairly earned by Dewey, who landed left and right to the wind and a corking left to the head. Britton jabbed Dewey in the face with his left, but not hard enough to hurt.

Britton won the second, third and fourth rounds, by pushing that left jab over on Al's proboscis with alarming regularity and drawing blood from the Edwardsville lad. Al came back with a couple stiff lefts to the face, but not enough to balance up with Britton's jab.

The fifth was one of the best of the match. Dewey rushed matters at the start and landed two left hooks to Britton's face which shook the latter. "Jack" then came back, assuming the aggressive and took the round. His best blow was a right uppercut which fairly raised Dewey off the floor.

Dewey showed a lot of stuff in the sixth round and made a wonderful spurt, planting a right hook to Britton's head and then coming through with three smashes to the mouth. The visitor was unable to keep Dewey back with his left jab in this round. Dewey won all the way.

The seventh session was pretty even, Britton trying to score with a chopping right, but Dewey made him miss several times. The eighth was a repetition of the seventh.

Dewey put on steam in the ninth, but Britton kept him away in fine shape, neither boy doing much damage. The tenth and last round was full of action and Dewey had a shade on his opponent, landing several hard rights.

The semi-final between Rubber Gibbons of Newtown and Jimmy Conway of Scranton was a fine battle. Both boys were in there fighting all the time. Conway earned the decision by a shade. Gibbons was bothered by a bad right hand which he sustained in his bout of Christmas afternoon.

Billy Welsh of Pringle and Kid Pritchard of Forty Fort met in the first preliminary and Welsh put his opponent away in the third round with a hard right to the jaw.

In the second preliminary Johnny Cooney of Ashley put the kibosh on Spike Hennessey of East End after one minute and forty seconds of the first round had elapsed.

In an added bout Johnny Cooney took on Freddy Haefling for four fast rounds and the milling was about even.

Jack Curphey, heavyweight from England, a new man in Dewey's stable, was introduced and it was announced by the referee that he would meet Porky Flynn in the wind-up at the Peerless A. C. next Monday night.

SHORT SPORTS OF ALL SORTS
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Crisp and Breezy Comment on Current Events; Pertinent and Newsy
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Were you at the Peerless A. C. last night?
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If you weren't you missed a corking good bout.
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Dewey fought the best battle of his career and surprised a lot of the knowing ones.
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Britton's left jab was a beautiful thing to watch and he kept banging away at Dewey's head all through the bout.
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Rubber Gibbons put up a great fight considering the condition of his right hand, which he injured in the bout at Scranton Christmas afternoon.
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With all Britton's jabbing, Dewey kept boring in every minute and the Chicagoan was kept moving all the time by the West Side boy.
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That sure was some crowd at the Peerless A. C. last night. Just goes to show that the fans will patronize good attractions. Dewey and Britton must have cleaned up right on the battle.
          1914-12-28 Jack Britton ND10 Al Dewey [Peerless Athletic Club, Majestic Theatre, Wilkes-Barre, PA, USA]   
1914-12-29 The Scranton Truth (Scranton, PA) (page 8)
DEWEY OUTCLASSED BY JACK BRITTON

WILKES-BARRE, Pa., Dec. 29.--Al Dewey, of Edwardsville, was completely outclassed by Jack Britton in a ten-round fight which went the limit here last night. Dewey was at the mercy of the New Yorker at all times and suffered severe punishment from an unerring left jab which landed many times in each round.

Dewey was wild. In the fifth round he steadied and again in the ninth but aside from these two flashes he did not worry his opponent. He landed only a few solid wallops.

Al Murphy, of the Tripp Park section of Scranton, gave a classy exhibition in his bout with Joe Peters, of this city. Peters was game and both had a punch. It went six rounds. Miles Moran, of Scranton, severely punished Pete Farrell, also of Scranton, and the bout was stopped in the fifth round by Referee Jack Gallagher. A large house attended the mills. Young Driscoll and Kid Brown, both of this city, drew in the prelim.


1914-12-29 The Tribune-Republican (Scranton, PA) (page 10)
JACK BRITTON DEFEATS DEWEY

WILKES-BARRE, Pa., Dec. 28.--Fifteen hundred fight fans saw Jack Britton, of New York, win from Al Dewey, of Edwardsville, tonight at the Luzerne theater. The bout went the scheduled ten rounds, but Britton won by a larger margin than when he tackled Dewey about a year ago in this city. The receipts amounted to about $1,500.

Dewey's only rounds were the fifth and ninth. In the fifth he caught Britton with a sharp left hook that staggered him while in the ninth he rallied again, rushing Britton all over the ring. Outside of those rounds Britton had everything his own way, his left hand meeting Dewey's jaw time after time. Neither boy scored a knockdown during the ten rounds.

In the preliminaries Al Murphy, of Scranton, won from Joe Peters, of this city, in six rounds, but in doing so hurt both his hands. In another prelim Miles Moran, of Scranton, stopped Pete Farrel, of Scranton, in the fifth round.


1914-12-29 Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader (Wilkes-Barre, PA) (page 13)
AL DEWEY BEATEN BY JACK BRITTON IN GOOD BATTLE
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New Yorker is Too Clever for West Side Boy and Wins by Good Margin
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JOE PETERS IS DEDEATED
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Al Murphy Too Strong for Peters, Who is Very Game But Lacked Weight
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Jack Britton of New York defeated Al Dewey in ten-round wind-up.
Al Murphy of Scranton won over Joe Peters in six rounds.
Miles Moran and Young Farrell of Scranton were so bad that bout was stopped in fifth.
Young Driscoll of East End defeated Young Brown of East End in six rounds.
Referee--John Gallagher.
Timekeeper--Elwood Smith.

Al Dewey, the pride of Northeastern Pennsylvania, was defeated last night at the Majestic Theatre by Jack Britton of New York, in their ten-round battle. The Gothamite carried off the honors in six of the ten rounds, taking the second, fourth, fifth, seventh, ninth and tenth rounds. Dewey made a good rally in the eighth and won by a shade, while the first, third and sixth were fairly even. The West Side boy didn't have a chance with Britton, who hit him at will.

Britton boxed all around Dewey, stepping around the ring and pecking away with left jabs until Al's face was red as a ripe tomato. Jack would vary the attack with an occasional right swing to the face, but the principal method of attack was a left jab, which landed with the nicety of a piston rod and with the force of a trip-hammer. This method of attack had a tendency toward slowing Dewey up, but he never stopped fighting for a second, and the 1,600 fans gave him credit for his earnest trial against Britton. But all those in attendance, who saw the battle between these boys last winter, claimed that Dewey didnot put up as good a battle as he did on their first meeting. But it might be remembered that at that time Britton was far from being a well man, while last night he was in the pink of condition.

Britton was out to score a decisive win and that is just what he did. While he didnot punish the local boy severely, he landed enough punches to the face and body to give him the decision by a good margin. Britton started to rough matters in the fourth round, hitting in the breakaway and apparently trying to get Al's goat. Referee Gallagher cautioned Britton, who claimed that Dewey was hanging on.

The first round was fairly even, with both boys sparring and feeling each other out. There were no blows of any consequence struck in this session. The second round was faster, with Britton starting to use his left hand to advantage. He sent it to Dewey's face hard and often, while Al played for the body, landing several light blows to the wind.

The third round was fairly even. Dewey landed several hard body blows, but Britton came back with a bundle of left jabs, which evened the going. The New Yorker took the fourth with east. He walloped Dewey with both hands to the face. Britton was very rough in this round, wrestling Dewey and hitting in the breakaway. The clever Britton also took the fifth, continuing to peck at Dewey's face with left jabs, causing the latter's map to take on a pinkish hue. But Al came back for more and continued to play for Britton's face and wind.

The sixth was fairly even. Dewey made Britton miss with right and left swings repeatedly and the crowd applauded Dewey and booed Britton. Britton continued to jab, while Dewey sent several hard rights to Britton's face. The seventh and eighth were all Britton's, who jabbed Dewey around the ring, there being hardly a return from the local boy. The ninth was different. Al got busy right from the start of the session and carried the fight to his opponent in a surprising manner. The latter roughed matters considerably, but Al stayed right with him. The tenth belonged to Britton, who forced the going in this session.

The first preliminary was between Young Driscoll and Young Brown, both of East End. Brown had height, weight and reach on Driscoll, but that made no difference to the little Scotchman, who gave Brown, the East End poet, a fine lacing. Young Farrell and Miles Moran, both of Scranton, were supposed to fight in the second preliminary, but they panhandled around for five rounds and then the referee stopped it. Joe Peters of East End was defeated by Al Murphy of Scranton in the semi-final. Murphy was too strong for the local boy and possessed the harder wallop.
          With U.S. healthcare bill in disarray, Republicans demand revamp   
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senate Republican leaders faced calls from critics within the party on Wednesday for substantial changes, rather than mere tinkering, to a major healthcare bill if they are to salvage their effort to repeal major parts of the Obamacare law.

          GOP touts lower premiums, but other insurance costs to rise   
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republicans are touting lower premiums under their health care legislation, but that reflects insurance that would cover a smaller share of the cost of medical bills....
          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 [...]
          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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          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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          "KILLED OSAMA BIN LADEN"   


La frase que llevo largo tiempo deseando escuchar.







Post scriptum: la gente de El Catoblepas ha establecido un paralelismo, inconsciente en el  imaginario colectivo pero muy interesante entre las figuras de Obama y el arquetipo del héroe de "El Sargento Negro" de John Ford (este, no obstante, declarado republicano), con el trasfondo de la "Operación Gerónimo" que ha llevado a la muerte de Osama Bin Laden.
          Valle de los Caídos: derecho, información y poder.   

Hace unos años escribí sobre la retirada de la estatua de Franco en Madrid, realizada con nocturnidad y alevosía por el Gobierno nacional. Las cosas no parecen haber cambiado mucho. La decisión se tomo entonces recién aprobada Ley de Memoria Historia (LMH) y sin preguntar a los madrileños; asunto que me parecieron mal.

En aquella ocasión relacione el acto con la practica legal romana de dejar a aquel que asaltaba una casa particular en manos de su dueño para que dispusiera como gustase de su vida (desde esclavizarlo a matarlo, pero también dejarlo libre). Hoy día esta solución nos puede parecer excesiva, pues quien no podría aprovechar para fingir o simular dichos asaltos con el fin de vengarse o ajustar cuentas personales (los romanos lo hacían), sin embargo, su fundamento se encontraba en el respeto y delimitación correctas de las esferas publica y privada, de lo común y de lo privativo, en el fondo de los derechos que a cada cual correspondían. Los romanos consiguieron, y he ahí su grandeza, conjugar dos tradiciones opuestas, ambas de origen griego y que en su momento habían dividido a la sociedad ateniense: la “vida cívica” de Solon y Pericles, pero también en las versiones críticas o realistas de Platón o Aristóteles, con aquellas creencias de estoicos o hedonistas en el individualismo y la exhaltación de la vida privada e interior. Fue la traición a dichos ideales lo que acabo con Roma, siendo las otras causas (conversión en Imperio, persecución o asimilación del cristianismo, intervencionismo económico) meras consecuencias del abandono de sus principios, haciendo buena la máxima de que la crisis moral es el primer cáncer de las sociedades políticas, siendo la crisis institucional o la económica su continuación natural. Nada de esto ha dejado de ser cierto.

Volviendo a la Estatua de Franco, que es en realidad a la LMH, a la Guerra Civil española, la Dictadura y finalmente a los fundamentos de nuestro orden político y social democrático, estos días hemos tenido noticia de la apertura de tumbas en el Valle de los Caídos. Familiares de soldados del ejercito republicano durante la Guerra habrían reivindicado la identificación de los restos de sus fallecidos supuestamente allí enterrados. La noticia no esta en este hecho, perfectamente respetable, sino en que el acto habría sido ocultado a la opinión pública deliberadamente (después de anunciarse que no se haría) y realizado sin autorización judicial (autorización a la que obliga la propia LMH). Por otro lado la LMH reconoció, con el apoyo de todas las fuerzas políticas con representación parlamentaria, a este monumento como lugar de culto y apoyaba su despolitización.

John Stuart Mill consideraba a la centralización de la información (es decir resolver el problema de su dispersión natural y el ocultamiento interesado) y la limitación del poder como dos factores esenciales de una sociedad libre. Uno y otro están relacionados, dando lugar a su defensa de la libertad de expresión y Prensa más absolutas. Para Mill, solo los individuos bien y suficientemente informados, pero sin demasiado poder como para que puedan usar dicha información en exclusivo beneficio propio, hacían a una sociedad libre y justa (tal vez pecase de demasiado optimismo, pero eso es otro tema). Desde el principio la actuación del gobierno en relación al Valle… ha significado la búsqueda de todo lo contrarío. El cierre del monumento y su basílica con fines de restauración se hizo casi de tapadillo, apenas mencionado en la Prensa. Conozco de personas, de izquierdas y de derechas, españolas y extranjeras, que se han quedado sin visitarlo por esta razón, lo que supone un daño a un bien que también es una atracción turístico. Hemos echado de menos una comparecencia pública de la Ministra de Cultura y de los responsables de Patrimonio Nacional (ahora será Patrimonio del Gobierno de España) explicando cúal es la situación real del monumento y despejando así las dudas sobre cuales son verdaderos intereses.

Vivimos en un país en que para secuestrar una publicación es necesario el concurso de un juez y en el que se mantiene la ancestral costumbre procesal penal de que sin autorización judicial no pueda levantarse un cadáver. Por el contrario, tenemos que una menor pueda abortar, aplicarse la eutanasia pasiva un enfermo, expropiar propiedades, y en un futuro tal vez hasta cerrar webs, sin que un juez de su visto bueno a priori a tales actuaciones. Curioso e inquietante ¿verdad?, pues tan relevantes para los derechos y libertades de los ciudadanos son unas y otras. En el caso del Valle… el Gobierno abre tumbas, cierra un lugar de culto e impide el disfrute público de un monumento que es Patrimonio Nacional (que recordemos, la Constitución hace gozar de una protección por las leyes penales y no solo las civiles) reclamo turístico, ocultando cual es su autentico estado de conservación.

El gobierno socialista se sitúa, una vez más, en las antípodas del liberalismo de Mill y del respeto al derecho de la Roma clásica, mantiene desinformados a los ciudadanos y hace uso y abuso de su poder, no por democrático menos ilegitimo cuando se actúa así. 

Esta claro que Roma no cayo en un día, pero por algún sitio se empieza.

          8 Emmys para "The Pacific"   



Con 8 Emmys (lástima que no este entre ellos su magnifica banda sonora) ha sido premiada la magnífica miniserie bélica producida por Steven Spielberg y Tom Hanks. Los 10 episodios de The Pacific continuan la narración de los grandes episodios de la Segunda Guerra Mundial iniciada en 2001 con la también miniserie Band o f Brothers (en español titulada Hermanos de Sangre, fue emitida por Telecinco a las tantas de la madrugada de los viernes) solo que ahora le toca el turno a las operaciones en el Pacifico contra le Imperio del Japón. Fue emitida esta primavera por Canal + casi al mismo tiempo que en los USA, y solo puedo decir que ha sido para mi una experiencia impresionante a varios niveles.

Técnicamente impecable, han pasado 9 años de la anterior serie, ya de gran calidad, pero los medios con los que cuenta -un presupuesto de más de 200 millones de dolares- en nada tienen que envidiar a los de muchas películas comerciales (el resultado puede verse en los vídeos que acompañan este texto). Banda sonora y efectos de sonido y sobre todo la fotografía te meten de lleno en el axfixiante escenario bélico de las Islas del Pacífico. En el plano de las interpretaciones estas rozan un alto nivel en todos sus actores tanto principales como secundarios, destacando el carisma de John Seda en su papel del héroe de guerra, John Basilone.

Conceptual y temáticamente se trata de una obra arriesgada, recibiendo algunas criticas menores acusándola de racista y por su exceso de violencia explicita en pantalla, en la linea realista de filmes como Salvar al Soldado Ryan (del propio Spielberg) y posteriores. Basada en la experiencia de tres marines de la 1º División de este cuerpo: Robert Leckie, Eugene B. Sledge y ya mencionado héroe en las batallas de Guadalcanal e Iwo Jima, John Basilone, presenta con toda crudeza la campaña del pacífico por parte de los marines de los EEUU, luchando isla por isla y cuerpo a cuerpo con los soldados japoneses.

La anterior serie, Band of Brothers respondía a la necesidad de recuperar la memoria de la "Guerra en Europa" y su "Generación Perdida" en una época en la que está empezaba a menguar por la muerte de sus últimos supervivientes y la llamada al "Fin de la historia" que fueron los 90 del siglo pasado -con sus guerras televisadas y de ejecución aséptica desde el aire. The Pacific, a parte de continuar dicho memorial con los Marines, -cuerpo cuya supresión se considera hoy por lo caro de su mantenimiento y la ausencia de operaciones militares anfibias- tiene una segunda lectura a nivel más profundo y en clave moderna. Si la de Band of Brothers podía ser una crítica al clásico "aislacionismo" republicano, el de la Old Rigth previo a la era del "consenso liberal", con el que se iniciaba la era Bush -y rápidamente roto por los atentados del 11-S-, la de The Pacific me lleva a relacionar la cruenta lucha a muerte contra el Imperio del Japón con la actual Guerra contra el Terrorismo islámico. La convicción de que la Guerra del Pacífico solo pudo ganarse con un máximo de sufrimiento y manchándose las manos de sangre, puede servir de inspiración ante las dudas que despiertan hoy los teatros de operaciones en Afganistan e Irak.

Los estadounidenses solo pudieron dejar Japón cuando dicha nación fue derrotada militarmente, aceptando sus responsabilidades y siendo asimilada en lo político a los regímenes democráticos coocidentales. No es arriesgado ver en los soldados japones, dispuestos a morir matando y negándose a rendirse al enemigo, a los actuales guerrilleros talibanes, terroristas de Al Qaida o ex-miembros de la Guardia Republicana de Sadam. Como dejo escrito en sus memorias el soldado Sledge:

"There is no 'mellowing' for me - that would be to forgive all the atrocities the Japanese committed against millions of Asians and thousands of Americans. To 'mellow' is to forget."
Sustituyan donde pone "japoneses" por las palabras terroristas y regímenes islámicos radicales. Y donde "asiaticos" y "americanos" pongan musulmanes, estadounidenses, europeos, etc.

En resumen, The Pacific es una serie dramática y bélica de primera categoría, que encierra ciertas lecciones históricas de gran interés, y que seguro no deja indiferente a nadie, por eso recomiendo a todos mis lectores su visionado.

Trailer extendido.

Gran diseño el de los títulos de apertura de cada capitulo, acompañados del emotivo y épico tema central de su BSO.

Making of.

          El peligro de las "asociaciones profesionales de militares"   

Coincidiendo con la celebración de la Pascua Militar (¡ay! esa separación Iglesia-Estado que tanto predica, señor Zapatero) la Ministra de Defensa, Carme Chacon, mas apropiadamente vestida para la ocasión que el año pasado, pero igual de atractiva (que quieren que les diga a mi me lo parece), anunciaba que podía haber una reforma legal que permitiese a los militares asociarse, aunque dijo que esta reforma no se haría sin “consenso”. Pues bien, considero esta posibilidad alarmante, innecesaria y un retroceso histórico.

Lo primero, los militares no son unos ciudadanos comunes y corrientes, sino los gestores de la fuerza bélica del país, y su razón de ser y principal virtud es responder en su vida diaria a una disciplina estricta de la que están exentos el resto de españoles que habitamos en la ociosa, anárquica y espontánea sociedad civil que ellos protegen de cualquier amenaza exterior. Esto debería bastar para entender porque algunos derechos no pueden ser disfrutados por los militares de la misma forma que los disfrutamos los demás (de ahí que no puedan crear ni afiliarse a sindicatos o partidos políticos). Dicha circunstancia debería compensarse con una debida remuneración y un respeto y gratitud de la que muchas veces no hace gala la sociedad civil española y sus representantes políticos. Pero esto es una cosa y otra bien distinta es la peligrosa vía que se abriría con la expansión del derecho de asociación en nuestras Fuerzas Armadas que piden insistentemente algunos de sus miembros (desconozco cual es el grado real de aceptación de la reivindicación en la comunidad militar). El debate no esta exento de su parte demagógica, y es que en principio los militares si tienen reconocido el derecho de asociación, con carácter general, pudiendo libremente constituir y entrar a formar parte de asociaciones con fines varios. Lo que no pueden hacer los militares es pertenecer a determinadas asociaciones cuyos fines son incompatibles con su actividad y disciplina, pero esto debe dejarse a la discusión en cada caso concreto. 

Tampoco tienen derecho los militares, y este el meollo del asunto, a asociarse entre ellos con fines relacionados con la profesión militar, es decir, no existe la posibilidad de crear “asociaciones profesionales de militares”. Y dado el antecedente que tenemos en el caso del reconocimiento de las “asociaciones profesionales de jueces” y como esto ha afectado a la independencia y “profesionalidad”, valga la redundancia, del Poder Judicial, no es para estar contentos ni tranquilos. La introducción del asociacionismo entre los militares puede llevarnos al absurdo de que en menos de una década existan asociaciones de militares de izquierdas, de derechas, republicanos, monárquicos, mediopensionistas e, incluso, ecologistas; y como no, en aplicación del Estatuto de Cataluña: asociaciones de militares catalanes. En pocas palabras la “politización de la carrera militar”.

Decía al principio de la anotación que estamos ante lo que puede ser un gran retroceso histórico. Una de las vicisitudes de nuestra historia durante los dos anteriores siglos fue la contaminación de la vida política por los militares y viceversa. Estos saltaban de la vida militar a la vida pública y al revés, un camino que muchas veces no solo era de ida de la misma forma que hoy lo hacen algunos jueces (con resultados a la vista de todos). El asociacionismo militar supone la invasión directa del Ejercito por la Política, y contra ella, ni los tanques ni los portaviones pueden hacer nada.

          #Republicans Repeat A Shockingly Dishonest Argument To Sell Their #Health Care Plan   
Republicans have made some pretty dishonest statements about their plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act in recent days, including that it would not cut Medicaid (it would) and that it would lower premiums (it would not). What might take the ...
          GOP senators aim to get amended #Health bill to CBO by Friday   
June 28 (UPI) --Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is planning to send a revised version of the Republicans' embattled healthcare plan to independent government analysts no later than Friday, aides and GOP officials said Wednesday. Sen. John Thune, R-S ...
          ¿República de trabajadores de todas las clases?   
"Cuando veo a un trabajador, veo un ciudadano". José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

Ahí va, si resulta que hemos vuelto a aquello de la "república de trabajadores de todas las clases". Aunque yo a esto lo veo más una "república de desempleados de todas las clases". A este paso ZP se va quedar sin ciudadanos y muy lejos del ideal segundorepublicano.

Mientras tanto, en la Oposición quien se mueve no sale en la foto. Total, si ya han aceptado que están mejor parados.

          ¿Miss España ó Miss México?   

¿Alguien me puede explicar por qué este año el certamen de Miss España se ha celebrado en Cancún, México? Por lo visto el patrocinio del evento ha recaído en las autoridades mexicanas. Los miembros del jurado también eran de aquel país. Solo les faltó el que las aspirantes fueran mexicanas, pero, oigan, denles tiempo, que todo es empezar.

El evento ha tenido escasa publicidad en España, y ni siquiera llegó a ser emitido por cadena de televisión nacional alguna, ni pública ni privada. La cobertura informativa ha sido casi nula. Vale, me dirán que se trata de un evento “privado”, o mejor dicho: “no oficial”. No obstante, el mismo ha sido sufragado con fondos públicos, aunque sean de otro Estado (supongo que los ciudadanos mexicanos tendrán algo que decir), y además hace uso del nombre de España como reclamo. En mi opinión, debería exigirse de este certamen un mínimo de transparencia o bien que se cambie el nombre y deje de aprovecharse de una nación de la que parece renegar salvo por la marca.

Es posible que yo no me haya enterado y que España ahora este al sur de Texas (al modo en que el Gobierno segundo-republicano recabó en México tras la Guerra Civil). También que se esté vendiendo por partes la
nación española, sin consultar antes a sus ciudadanos, y Miss España sea una de esas partes.

¿Fue a esto por lo que Rajoy marcho a Mexico tras la derrota en las últimas elecciones? ¿Será Miss España grado en la masonería? De vergüenza.


          McCain Will Push For Ground Troops In Iraq, Syria If GOP Wins The Senate   
- If Republicans gain the Senate majority in November, President Barack Obama could face pressure from Congress to send ground troops into Iraq and Syria. "Frankly, I know of no military expert who believes we are going to defeat ISIS with this present strategy," Sen. John McC …
          GOP touts lower premiums, but other insurance costs to rise   
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republicans are touting lower premiums under their health care legislation, but that reflects insurance that would cover a smaller share of the cost of medical bills....
          Selling the GOP health care bill: Does Trump help or hurt?   
WASHINGTON (AP) -- It was a platform most politicians can only hope for: A captivated, 6,000-person crowd and more than an hour of live, prime-time television coverage to hype the Republican vision for a new health care system....
          The Latest: Trump promises 'big surprise' on health care   
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Latest on Republican legislation to repeal and replace the Obama health care law (all times local):...
          Trump Toady: Reince Priebus Remix   

Trump Toady: Reince Priebus Remix

Trump Toady: Reince Priebus Remix (2017)

 

Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus condemned Donald Trump's sexually aggressive comments about women in a curt statement: “No woman should ever be described in these terms or talked about in this manner. Ever.”
--Politico

 


          Trump Transition Team 9 Remix   

Trump Transition Team 9 Remix

Trump Transition Team 9 Remix (2016)

 

To identify what's wrong with conservatism and Republicanism -- and now with so much of America as we are about to enter the Trump era -- you don't need high-blown theories or deep sociological analysis or surveys. The answer is as simple as it is sad: There is no kindness in them.
--Neal Gabler

 


          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.
          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.
          Montana Special Election Shows What Is Wrong With Early Voting   
I have never been a fan of early voting, but after last night's debacle in Montana I am dead set against it.

For those who haven't been paying attention, on the eve of a special election Montana GOP congressional candidate Greg Gianforte, "body slammed" Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs who dared to try to ask the candidate about the CBO scoring of the Republican health care plan.  Then to compound matters Gianforte's campaign issued a press release blaming the incident on the reporter. NPR reports:
Gianforte's campaign spokesman claimed in a statement that Jacobs interrupted an interview "without permission, aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg's face, and began
asking badgering questions.

"After asking Jacobs to lower the recorder, Jacobs declined. Greg then attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face. Jacobs grabbed Greg's wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground," Gianforte spokesperson Shane Scanlon said. "It's unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ."
Unfortunately for Gianforte, Jacobs had an audio recording of the altercation and Fox News reporters were nearby waiting to interview Gianforte.  The recording and the Fox reporters contradicted Gianforte's "alternative facts" his campaign tried to spin, namely that Jacobs and not Gianforte instigated the incident.  Gianforte has been charged with misdemeanor assault.

As a result of the attack, several Montana newspapers immediately revoked their endorsement of Gianforte.  But the wannabe thug will probably get elected to Congress despite widespread negative publicity the day before the election.  Why?  Because close to 70% of Montanans have already cast their ballot due to the state's liberal early voting laws.

I am not against making voting easier.  In fact, I am a strong supporter of vote centers, which would allow voters to cast ballots at any county voting location on Election Day.  As far as early voting, that reform has not been shown to increase participation, but only changes when people who are going to vote cast their ballots.  But the negative is that early voting results in people casting ballots long before the campaign narrative has played out  It is like allowing jurors to cast votes in a trial before all the evidence is in.  Well, in politics, all the evidence is not in until Election Day.  Sadly 70% of Montana voters are stuck with a choice many of them now regret.

Hopefully, the Gianforte experience will help put the brakes on early voting.
          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

          VP Pence Shows Pres. Trump How Conservatives Can Successfully Handle The Liberal Media   
The Indianapolis Star reports:
WASHINGTON – Vice President Mike Pence joked Saturday night that the most embarrassing part of the recent news that he used a personal email account while Indiana’s governor is that millions of Americans learned he was one of the few people in the country to still have an AOL account. 
Vice President Mike Pence
“My wife said it was good for my image,” Pence said at the Gridiron Club dinner, a white-tie dinner of speeches, skits and songs put on by Washington's oldest journalism organization. “She said now America knows I’m not stuck in the ‘50s. I’m just stuck in the ‘90s.” 
Pence also read some of the comments made on Twitter after IndyStar broke the story Thursday that raised questions about the security and government transparency of the AOL account, which was hacked last summer.  
Among the social media slams: “Your grandma is hipper than Mike Pence.” Another said: “This is the most I’ve heard about American Online since I last saw the free disks on a counter at Blockbuster. #MakeAOLGreatAgain.” 
Pence was the headline speaker at the dinner, which takes a humorous look at the political scene.  He wore a black tie to the white-tie event, which he said he thought he could get away with until House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi asked him to refill her coffee.  
... 
Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, who represented the Republicans, said she’s impressed that Pence never needs a teleprompter. “Maybe that’s because every speech begins with, `Let me explain what the president meant to say,’” Ernst said. “And thank you for that. 
The Mike Pence I remember from law school was an outspoken, unapologetic conservative. But he also had an engaging personality and a wonderful sense of humor that won over even die-hard liberals at that school.  I am not sure where Pence's personality and sense of humor went during his four years as Governor (I blame his advisers who didn't know how to use Pence's greatest assets), but they appear to have returned as Vice President.  It is good that they did.  He will need those tools given the train wreck that the Trump presidency appears to be.

Pence's performance at the Gridiron shows how conservatives should handle the media.  No doubt most journalists have a liberal-bent and want to see conservative politicians fail.  But journalists also have many other things that influence their writing, even more so than political philosophy.  Pence appears to understand that and knows that winning them over as a "nice guy" goes a long way to developing more positive news coverage.


          Trump Administration Vows to Crack Down on Pot, Enthusiastically Embraces Other Failed Criminal Justice Policies   
The Hill reports:
White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Thursday suggested the Trump administration will step up enforcement of federal laws against recreational marijuana.  
“I do believe that you’ll see greater enforcement,” Spicer said, while adding the exact policy is “a question for the Department of Justice.” 
It’s the latest sign President Trump is poised to take a tougher approach than the
Attorney General Jeff Sessions
Obama Justice Department did in states that have legalized the use of recreational marijuana.  
... 
Spicer telegraphed the administration won’t take a get-tough approach against medical marijuana, saying Trump believes in its ability to "comfort" people suffering from debilitating diseases.  
But he said he takes a different view of recreational marijuana, linking it to the abuse of opioid drugs in states across the U.S.  
There is little evidence showing a link between abuse of the two drugs. Some researchers believe medical marijuana could help reduce demand for opioid-based painkillers.  
Eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational use. Twenty others have laws allowing medical marijuana. 
If revival of the failed War on Drugs (at least against marijuana) was not enough, Trump's administration appears ready to enthusiastically embrace other 1980s era criminal justice failures.  Trump has already signaled support for civil forfeiture, which has a well documented history of abuse.  His administration also appears ready to end the Obama-era moratorium on the feds renewing contracts for the use of private prisons, another enormous policy failure.  Is federal sentencing reform out the window as well?  Could be as Attorney General Jeff Sessions worked to block sentencing reform while in the U.S. Senate, despite widespread bipartisan support.
The sad thing was that pre-Trump the GOP was moving in the right direction on all these issues.  Reform though seems endangered by a "law and order" Republican President who seems oblivious to the failed history of the policies his administration supports.

          As wildfires rage out west, D.C. lawmakers fight over forest policy   
With wildfire season raging in western states, Congress is embroiled in a battle over how best to fight the fires. Many Republicans want to help prevent and fight wildfires by … 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
          N.H. Lawmaker Apologizes For Dropping Loaded Gun at Hearing   
A state representative faced a strong rebuke from the Speaker of the House after she dropped her loaded handgun while entering a House Education Committee hearing Thursday. Milford Republican Carolyn Halstead apologized for the incident, in which her gun fell to the floor, but did not fire. She says it came loose from her waistband while she removed her backpack. Halstead was entering a crowded public hearing for a bill to increase funding for full-day kindergarten programs. There were some children in the room, but the incident appeared to go unnoticed by most of those in attendance. Halstead says she has a concealed carry license and the gun's safety lock was on. In a statement, House Speaker Shawn Jasper said he spoke to Halstead about the incident and called her lack of control unacceptable. Lawmakers and members of the public are allowed to have guns in the Statehouse and legislative offices.
          N.H. To Report People With Mental Illness To National Background Check System   
Attorney General Joseph Foster says New Hampshire will start reporting certain individuals suffering from mental illness to the national gun background check system. Federal law prohibits the possession of firearms by people who have been "adjudicated as a mental defective" or committed to a hospital. But New Hampshire is one of a few states that doesn't report these records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Foster says a line in the bill reauthorizing Medicaid expansion gives the state authority to report people who have been involuntarily committed, found not guilty in a court by reason of insanity or committed after being found incompetent to stand trial. But Republican Rep. JR Hoell, author of the amendment to include this language, says sending names to NICS was not his intent. You can read the attorney general's memo explaining the new provision here .
          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.
          The budget bill provision that aims to lure thousands of jobs to N.C.   
As Republicans override Gov. Roy Cooper's veto and put the official stamp of approval on North Carolina’s $23 billion budget, economic developers are eyeing a new incentives provision.

          SPEAKING UP FOR CHARLES   
Although I was a monarchist at the time of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation – I was easily bought by thoughts of a street party – I am now a Republican.


OK I am a benign republican who is happy to see the Queen see out her days on the throne. Then I would bung the remaining members of the Royal Family a million quid each and leave them to their own devices.

All the palaces and assets would become State property and I am sure the tourists would still flock, especially as they would then have access (for an admittance fee) to the various residences.

Perhaps somewhere like St James’ Palace would then become the home of the president. Just who would be president remains to be seen but it would be a symbolic post. As the majority of the world uses this model I see no reason why Britain shouldn’t. I am sure Ireland would lend us Mary Robinson for a term whilst we get used to the idea.

So given that scenario you may wonder why today I am speaking up for Prince Charles. It’s simply this - this week’s headline story has been he has seen his taxpayer funding increase by nearly 18 percent. This is at a time when Her Majesty’s subjects were tightening their belts due to harsh austerity measures.

The heir to the throne’s income from the British government rose 17.9 percent from £1.66 million in 2009-10 to £1.96 million in the past year, according to his official accounts.

However much of the funds covered travel costs with Charles and his wife Camilla travelling 34,000 miles to and from official engagements, including more than 14,000 miles on overseas trips.

Paddy Harverson, Charles’s spokesperson, who may also be the person responsible for putting his toothpaste on his brush, stated: “Spending on royal travel is decided by the government, not the prince. This is because the government determines where members of the royal family go on official overseas visits.”

Quite so. If the British Government decides to send Prince Charles off on trips on its behalf the money should come from Foreign Office funds and not be loaded on to the Royal Family’s account.

Hapless Charles comes in for enough stick as it is, much deservedly so, but beating him with a bat when he is representing Britain simply isn’t cricket.
          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,...
          Republican Legislative Leaders: We Balanced the Budget and Didn’t Raise Taxes   
This guest post was submitted by House Majority Leader Al Carlson and Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner As the legislature leaves Bismarck, we are returning home with a balanced budget and no tax increases. This session has proven the importance of exercising fiscal responsibility and saving for lean times. Despite facing one of the largest...
          Newswire: Jason “poor people shouldn’t have phones” Chaffetz is heading to Fox News   

If you’re already an established Republican politician, getting a gig on Fox News must be one of the easiest things in the world. Basically, all you have to do is make a name for yourself by saying or doing something completely outrageous that promotes conservative talking points in some way, and you might as well be an A-list celebrity. The latest lucky duck to figure that out is Representative Jason Chaffetz, who Politico says will be resigning from his job in Congress on July 1 so he can becoming a correspondent on Fox News.

For those who aren’t familiar with Chaffetz, he’s a particularly delightful brand of asshole who thinks he deserves everything while everyone else deserves nothing, which is a roundabout way of saying that he’s a Republican politician. He’s also the guy who said that people should buy healthcare instead of a new ...


          Trump Criticized at Senate Panel Hearing on Response to Russian Hacking    
A former top diplomat in Republican U.S. president George W. Bush’s administration criticized President Donald Trump for being “unwilling to act against Russia” in retaliation for the Kremlin’s interference in last year’s election. Nicholas Burns, who served as undersecretary of state for political affairs in the Bush administration, told lawmakers, “I find it dismaying and objectionable that President Trump continues to deny the undeniable fact that Russia launched a major cyber attack...
          Trump Optimistic on Health Care Overhaul, But Concedes It Will Be 'Very Tough'   
President Donald Trump voiced optimism Wednesday that fractious Republican senators would be able to reach agreement to overhaul national health care policies, but he concedes it will be "very tough." "I think we’re going to get at least very close, and I think we’re gonna get it over the line," Trump said. He offered his assessment the day after Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell dropped plans to vote this week on a Republican proposal to dismantle much of the...
          GOP touts lower premiums, but other insurance costs to rise   
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republicans are touting lower premiums under their health care legislation, but that reflects insurance that would cover a smaller share of the cost of medical bills....
          La Habana tendrá una réplica de la estatua de José Martí situada en Nueva York   

La Prensa

La Habana, Nueva York.

La estatua ecuestre del prócer cubano José Martí que se encuentra desde 1950 en el Central Park de Nueva York, obra de la escultora estadounidense Anna Hyatt Huntington, tendrá una réplica a partir de septiembre en el casco histórico de La Habana, informaron hoy medios estatales de la isla.

Se trata de una escultura en bronce de 5,6 metros de altura que inmortaliza a Martí sobre su caballo en el momento en que cae herido de muerte durante la batalla independentista de Dos Ríos (1895), y que fue un regalo del pueblo de Cuba al pueblo de Estados Unidos decidido por el entonces Gobierno republicano del país caribeño.

El emplazamiento elegido para la reproducción de la obra es un "gran jardín" en el Parque 13 de Marzo, en La Habana Vieja, dijo al diario Juventud Rebelde la directora de Comunicación de la Oficina del Historiador de La Habana (OHCH), Magda Resik.

La iniciativa ha sido durante más de una década un empeño del propio historiador de la ciudad, Eusebio Leal.

"Nuestro país regaló esa escultura a Estados Unidos, y una reproducción en estos momentos históricos significa extender las manos al pueblo de EE.

UU.

y desde el pueblo de EE.

UU.

, para favorecer un abrazo solidario entre pueblos", ha afirmado Leal sobre el proyecto.

"El proceso" de Kafka vuelve a Berlín donde empezó la historia de la obraCuba y EE.

UU.

-bajo la Administración de Barack Obama- reanudaron sus relaciones en diciembre de 2014 y reabrieron embajadas en 2015 tras más de medio siglo de enemistad, aunque el nuevo presidente del país norteamericano, Donald Trump, anunció este mes varias medidas que suponen un retroceso en el "deshielo" bilateral.

La escultura fue fundida en Filadelfia (EE.

UU.

) y será colocada en La Habana en la primera quincena de septiembre, "de cara al mar, al puerto de La Habana, y mirando a la nación que (José Martí) conoció como pocos", aseveró el historiador de la capital cubana.

La base de la estatua, un pedestal de granito, también es una fiel reproducción de la que se erige en Nueva York, y su dedicatoria, según Eusebio Leal, rezará: "Del pueblo de Estados Unidos al pueblo de Cuba, englobando en el concepto de pueblo estadounidense no solo a sus ciudadanos, sino también a los cubanos patriotas que allí fijaron su residencia".

Resik recordó que la escultura original, que fue la última gran estatua ecuestre concebida por Anna Hyatt a los 82 años, comparte una plazuela en el área sur de Central Park con los monumentos consagrados a los héroes independentistas americanos Simón Bolívar y José de San Martín, en el inicio de la Avenida de las Américas".

Se supone que ese célebre espacio verde neoyorquino fue muy frecuentado por Martí durante la época en que residió en la ciudad estadounidense, entre 1880 y 1895.

La Habana cuenta con otras obras de Hyatt Huntington como "El relevo", en las cercanías de la Plaza de la Revolución, o el conjunto escultórico "Los portadores de la antorcha".


          Trump recauda fondos para Trump en su hotel   

La Prensa

Washington, Estados Unidos.

Las próximas elecciones estadounidenses están a más de 1,200 días de distancia, pero el presidente Donald Trump ya está pidiendo dinero para financiar su campaña, y eligió al Trump International Hotel, a dos pasos de la Casa Blanca, como recaudador de fondos.

El miércoles, el presidente de Estados Unidos participará en una cena a beneficio del Partido Republicano y de su propia campaña de reelección, con lugares en la mesa a partir de los 35,000 dólares.

Unas 111 Personas optaron por el suicidio asistido en CaliforniaMientras que la situación es para muchos incómoda, ha sido parte de la vida política estadounidense por mucho tiempo que el presidente contribuya con los eventos de recaudación de fondos, sean para su partido o para su propia causa.

Pero en el caso del magnate de negocios convertido en presidente, las cosas son un poco más complicadas: los ricos donantes que van a escucharle hablar el miércoles por la noche estarán contribuyendo no sólo con su futura campaña, sino también con su imperio inmobiliario.

Hotel internacional de Trump en Washington.

AFP/ArchivoAunque el millonario mandatario ha confiado a sus hijos la gestión cotidiana de sus intereses empresariales, conservó toda su participación en la Organización Trump.

Unos 200 legisladores demócratas recientemente presentaron una demanda contra Trump, argumentando que está violando la Constitución al aceptar pagos extranjeros a través de su imperio de hoteles, campos de golf y otras propiedades.

Acusan de abuso sexual a pareja que atrajo a menor a vivir en EUAOtra demanda presentada por los fiscales generales de Maryland y Washington DC afirma que el Trump International Hotel, que abrió unas semanas antes de las elecciones de noviembre, goza de una ventaja injusta sobre los locales rivales debido a sus vínculos con la presidencia.

La ubicación del hotel de lujo, en un antiguo edificio de correos, es un símbolo en sí mismo: la Avenida Pensilvania une a la Casa Blanca con el Capitolio, sede del Congreso.

AFP


          Trump se reúne con víctimas de crímenes cometidos por inmigrantes   

La Prensa

Washington, EUA.

El presidente de EUA, Donald Trump, se reúne este miércoles en la Casa Blanca con víctimas de crímenes cometidos por inmigrantes indocumentados, mientras el Congreso tramita una ley que intensifica las penas a los deportados que reingresen al país.

Trump recibirá a esas víctimas a partir de las 15.

00 hora local (19.

00 GMT) y prevé urgir a la Cámara de Representantes a aprobar una ley para "salvar vidas estadounidenses", según la agenda divulgada por la Casa Blanca.

Esa ley en cuestión está siendo debatida y la Cámara Baja quiere aprobarla esta semana, antes del receso por el festivo del 4 de julio.

Bautizada como Ley de Kate en memoria de una joven que murió en 2015 por un disparo de un indocumentado, la medida busca incrementar las penas para los inmigrantes condenados por ciertos crímenes que, tras ser deportados, han vuelto a ingresar a EUA de manera ilegal.

Kate Steinle, de 32 años, murió por un disparo efectuado por un inmigrante que se encontraba en situación irregular en EUA mientras caminaba en un muelle de San Francisco con su padre.

El sospechoso, Juan Francisco López Sánchez, había sido deportado varias veces y tenía varias condenas por delitos graves en su expediente cuando acabó con la vida de la joven.

La Cámara baja, controlada por los republicanos, también prevé votar esta semana antes del receso una ley para quitar fondos a las llamadas "ciudades santuario", que protegen a los inmigrantes, si no colaboran con los agentes del Servicio de Inmigración y Control de Aduanas (ICE).

A comienzos de año, en su primer discurso ante una sesión conjunta del Congreso, Trump llevó a su palco de invitados a víctimas de inmigrantes indocumentados.

Además, en abril el Gobierno anunció la apertura de la "Oficina de Enlace para Víctimas de Crímenes por Inmigración", destinada a dar "voz" a esos afectados y a cumplir una de las promesas de campaña de Trump.

Desde la campaña Trump ha relacionado la inmigración irregular con un aumento de la criminalidad procedente del narcotráfico con el fin de justificar la necesidad de una política migratoria más dura, pese a que las estadísticas oficiales no respaldan esa teoría.


          Let's Pretend: A Civil Health Care Discussion   

I should probably accept that corporate and deeply entrenched political interests would not allow a comprehensive health care system to gain traction in the United States. Yet I can’t let go. One of the things that hurt me deeply is the lack of civil public discourse. It could have been different. Come with me to the set of the imaginary Vixen News Network as Becky Glenne shows us how it could have been possible for pundits to peacefully share differing opinions on health care reform.
Stethoscope on Indian banknotes of different denominations

Becky Glenne/VNN: Thank you H.C. Andersen for that follow-up report on the tragic situation the nation has come to know as “The Little Match Stick Girl.” Her identity is still unknown at this time. I have been joined by a panel of bloggers who have strong opinions and, at times, the facts to back them up.

Each of the panelists has been given the question “How does the death of The Little Match Stick Girl relate to the health care debate in the United States?" The order of the panelists has been selected by random draw to prevent accusations of favoritism.

VNN: Fulvia Tiberius, how does this tragic incident relate to the health care debate?

Fulvia: Well, Becky, as far as I can see it has nothing to do with it. It does speak to a higher natural law of survival of the fittest. It is indeed a shame a life has been lost, but I nor should anyone else feel that they have a so-called moral obligation to help, aid or assist another human being unless it is in that specific person’s vested interest to do so.

I reject the intervention of the government into private matters. I oppose the use of any federal state or local taxes to help or prolong the existence of vulnerable or unproductive members of the society. Let the market and environmental forces regulate the health care needs and wishes of the nation. Allow the forces of nature to adjust the population accordingly.

VNN: Germana Servius, your response to the relationship between The Little Match Stick Girl and health care reform, please.

Germana: When compassion is measured in dollars and cents terms, I am deeply saddened. It is not that we are incapable of designing a fair and equitable heath care system, it is that we are profoundly selfish and unwilling to provide the quality of services that members of Congress have currently enjoyed for years. I believe that no child or adult for that matter should be denied affordable health care.

If we seriously looked at waste and fraud within the federal budget, we could have the kind of coverage we could be proud to have as citizens. Stopping an illegal war would go a long way to providing health care funding.

VNN: I wish to remind the panel that the subject is health care, and to the extent possible please confine your responses to that topic. The next name to be drawn is Sabina Aculeo.

Sabina: Socialism! The victim mentality will destroy the nation. Give me my country back!

VNN: That is it? That is your entire response?

Sabina: Yes.

VNN: Moving on, up next is Claudia Laterensis.

Claudia: Glad to be here, Becky. Look,  there is a finite amount of money. We as a nation cannot fund every well meaning but financially unrealistic desire each citizen might want to have in terms of governmental services. Just as in our personal lives, we have to be fiscally prudent in our national spending.

However, there does need to be some form of a health support system. It would be unrealistic and in fact dangerous not to have a base level of health care resources as the incident with The Little Match Stick Girl illustrates.

Is this the time to implement a full-scale health delivery system? I don’t think so, but it might be a time of public/private option that does not require the full engagement of government support.

VNN: Finally we have Marcella Plauta to give her response to the topic.

Marcella: Thank you, Becky. It is the gift of passion and concern that has engaged the nation in this debate. Quite honestly, it has been a challenge to hear authentic and not politicized voices. I want no less than what the majority of industrialized nations have, an equable and accessible health care system.

It does not make me disloyal to my country to want to be able to obtain health treatment without losing my home, my stability or my piece of mind. It should not be a reflection of my character if I believe the interference for profit of the health insurance companies is not the best way to administer health treatment in this country.

I am profoundly disappointed that Congress and both political parties could not create a cohesive workable solution for the nation. There is only one approach at this time; a single-payer plan that does not involve the health insurance industry. This will happen, maybe not in my lifetime, but it will happen.

And so another dream of an engaged population rising above partisanship is once again deferred. Perhaps the next time.

Blogs to Consider If You Are Looking for Alternate Views:

Objectivists

Liberal/Progressive Blogs on Health Care

Conservative/Libertarian

Gena Haskett is a BlogHer CE. Blogs:Out On The Stoop and Create Video Notebook


          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|


          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.
          Comment on Utah lawsuits to test president’s power to shrink monuments by comments   
The corrupt garbage president's plan to put into effect a health plan far worse than Obamacare and make the rich richer got smacked down hard, even by republicans. How do you ignorant wingnutter clowns feel about that?
          Comment on Brian Head fire increases entering Panguitch City’s watershed by Brian   
This fire and the decisions that lead to it are such a good analogy for the ruin that comes out of many liberal policies (see Detroit, Baltimore, etc as examples). Conservative locals have known this day was coming for 15 years because its the natural, predictable consequence of shutting down all logging and not spraying for bark beetles. Yes, it's "natures way", but so are pandemics and serious disease. Should we stop medications and vaccines since they interfere with natural cycles? Similarly, its no surprise that it was during the over-regulating "capitalism is evil" obama era that more businesses went under than were created for the first time on record. Just like its no surprise that Seattle is finding that raising the minimum wage so high, so quick is killing jobs. Just like its no surprise that getting government involved in healthcare has caused premiums and deductibles to skyrocket. Just like its no surprise that the government getting involved in student loans caused a massive and continuing spike in tuition costs and debt. Just like its no surprise that the government changing to buy any and all mortgages caused a massive bubble leading to the 2007 crash. It is worth noting that some of these examples fell under "republican" "leadership" (I used that word VERY loosely), but the actions in question were done by progressives, with conservatives screaming at the top of their lungs against it (which led to the creation of the tea party). The next big fire and smoking ruin may very well be our economy... I guess we should get used to it.
          Nevertheless She Persisted -- GO LIZ   


Republican senators voted on Tuesday to formally silence Elizabeth Warren for
'impugning' Senator Jeff Sessions, by condemning his nomination for Attorney General and choosing to read a letter from Coretta Scott King who criticized Mr Sessions record on civil rights.



Appar...
          Sen. Rand Paul calls Republicans ‘their own worst enemy’ on health care bill   
"We’re splitting the difference with Republicans who want to keep Obamacare."
          Poll: Majority Prefer ObamaCare to Struggling Senate GOP Bill   
Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell
As the GOP's Senate healthcare reform bill struggles to gain momentum, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) punting a vote beyond his previously stated July 4 deadline due to a lack of support, it seems the public is even less enthused than Republican lawmakers.
          John Oliver turns 20-year-old children's book into bestseller   
What happens when John Oliver uses your 1996 children's book about a kid running for president to poke fun at the 2016 election? You have a belated bestseller.

Dan Gutman wrote "The Kid Who Ran For President" in the 1990s, and has had a steady career in children's books for decades, but when that book cover was prominently featured on screen, people flocked to Amazon to buy it. The slim volume tells the tale of a 12-year-old class clown who runs for President, and the humorous lessons he learns along the way.

Oliver used the book to illustrate similarities between a child who has never read the constitution and the verbiage used by Republican candidate Donald Trump, ending the bit with an invitation for the candidate to appear on his show.

No matter what happens between Trump and Oliver, the real winner is Gutman. As of August 31, his book ranked #6 in its category on Amazon.

"That's the highest any of my books have ever been in my 30-year career," said Gutman in an IndieWire interview. He added that he regularly watches the show, but that the mention came as a complete surprise to him. He surmised that someone on Oliver's staff read the book as a kid, remembered it and came up with the idea for the bit.

"The book has probably sold over a million copies in the last 20 years," Gutman said in the interview. "But it's nice to have it get a little publicity now of all times."

The full segment is available on YouTube.





          Retiring Rep. Jason Chaffetz Calls for Extra $2,500 for Housing Congressmen   
Jason Chaffetz
Even as he serves his last days in Congress after announcing his retirement, Utah Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz is calling for the government to give another $2,500 per month to each member of Congress to help them with housing costs.
          After 22 Years, Is NAFTA Headed Back To The Drawing Board?   
Pull out your blue pencils, green eyeshades and rule books; it may soon be time to start rewriting NAFTA. Leaders in the United States, Canada and Mexico say they're open to giving the North American Free Trade Agreement, in place since 1994, a hard look. Here's what's been happening: In the wee hours of Wednesday, Republican Donald Trump claimed victory in the U.S. presidential election. In his action plan for his first 100 days in office, the president-elect said he would "renegotiate NAFTA or withdraw." On Thursday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he is " open to talking ." He told reporters, "If the Americans want to talk about NAFTA, I'm more than happy to talk about it." Also on Thursday, Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo told Reuters in a phone interview that his country was "ready to talk," though not ready to rip up the agreement. At this point, "we're simply talking about dialogue," he told the news agency. NAFTA covers nearly 500 million consumers
          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
          3 Ways President-Elect Trump May Shake Up Trade Policy   
During his campaign, President-elect Donald Trump often was fuzzy on details of his economic plans. But he was clear about one goal: getting much tougher on trade relations with our most important partners, i.e., China, Canada and Mexico. Analysts say they don't doubt he will follow through. "We are definitely shifting to a world where the landscape is far less favorable to trade," said Eswar Prasad, professor of trade policy at Cornell University. These are the three most likely steps to be taken in this new environment: Step 1: Kill TPP. For years, the Obama administration has been negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade pact involving 12 Pacific Rim nations, including the United States, Japan and Australia. President Obama had hoped to get Congress to approve the pending deal after the election. But Trump has said TPP would benefit special interests that plan to "rape" this country. In coming weeks, Republican leaders wouldn't want to pass an agreement that would not get
          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
          Ali Velshi destroys lying GOP Congressman as he schools him on Trumpcare (VIDEO)   
Ali Velshi destroys lying GOP Congressman as he schools him on healthcare (VIDEO)

Ali Velshi did not allow this Republican Congressman to misinform on the air. He schooled him not only on Trumpcare but healthcare in general.

The post Ali Velshi destroys lying GOP Congressman as he schools him on Trumpcare (VIDEO) appeared first on EgbertoWillies.com.


          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.


          Who can I abuse now?   
Well, after much procrastinating our wonderful Prime Minister has thrown in the towel and is going to leave office in June. Obviously this is not too soon for the country as it is being dragged further and further down by his vain-glorious policies designed to leave a "legacy". One of the most expensive has been the imposition of a major IT programme that is not only is way over budget, but is also failing to meet the key targets. Not too great a legacy...

But what about peace in Northern Ireland? I'm sorry but if a group of power-mad Islamic terrorists had not started trying to pick fights with the US, there would likely be no power-sharing, NORAID will still provide funding to the republican terrorists and sectarian killings would likely be happening. Blair thinking that he has a special touch and can apply that to bring peace to the Middle East is just delusional.

Maybe if he hadn't been so quick to follow GW down the road to war could he have been taken seriously...
          Brown says state shouldn’t legislate diaper-changing stations   
With a couple of vetoes, Jerry Brown reminded the GOP why he’s probably the best Republican governor they can hope for these days. SB1350 by state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, and SB1358 by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens (Los Angeles County), called for businesses across the state to install baby-changing stations in their restrooms, both
          Giants rumors are making life hard for GOP hopeful   
It’s tough for a big-city mayor to be elected to statewide office, and Republican Ashley Swearengin of Fresno is finding out exactly why. The San Francisco Giants are rumored to be moving their Pacific Coast League affiliate from Fresno to Sacramento, where the Rivercats have just told the Oakland A’s minor league franchise to take
          Zero is a good number for Brown to take from debate   
People looking for the biggest takeaway from Thursday night’s mano-a-mano meeting between Gov. Jerry Brown and Republican Neel Kashkari can focus on a single figure: zero. That’s the total number of press releases and statements the governor’s team sent out after the hour-long event, televised live from Sacramento. That’s not the story for Kashkari, who
          GOP’s Swearengin won’t say she’ll vote for Kashkari   
Republican gubernatorial hopeful Neel Kashkari’s faux-hobo trip to Fresno may have cost him at least one vote. When Ashley Swearengin, the Republican candidate for state  controller, was asked at a Sacramento Press Club lunch Tuesday if she would vote for Kashkari, she said she “was still evaluating the candidates.” Of course, Swearengin also is mayor
          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
          What's Happening? Fremont County Republicans offering sponsorship to attend YCCLC and more   
Fremont County Republicans offering sponsorship to attend YCCLCThe Fremont County Republicans will once again this year be sponsoring a young Christian conservative between the ages of 16 and 20 from Fremont County to attend the Young Christian Conservatives Leadership Conference at the Colorado Christian University in Lakewood from July 16-23.
          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


          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.

 

###

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.


          David Daley Joins FairVote as Senior Fellow   

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 5, 2017

FOR INFORMATION, CONTACT:

David Daley, senior fellow, (347) 721-4576 or ddaley@fairvote.org
Austin Plier, manager of communications (301) 270-4616, aplier@fairvote.org

National best-selling author joins FairVote to report on and analyze democracy solutions

David Daley, the former editor-in-chief of Salon and author of a national best-seller on the strategy, technology and politics behind Republican redistricting successes during the 2010 cycle, has joined FairVote as a senior fellow.

In this new position, Daley will continue expand his writing, reporting and speaking on redistricting and democracy issues, while also guiding FairVote’s communication efforts and building a team to expand original journalism efforts and the organization’s social media presence.

“This is a pivotal time to cover redistricting and the democracy agenda, with new legal and political strategies and new awareness that elections in the next three years may define most people’s representation in the 2020’s. With so many people thinking seriously about the state of our democracy, it’s the ideal moment to build awareness around FairVote’s analysis and essential reforms,” said Daley. “Extreme partisan gerrymandering is dangerous for democracy – especially when powered by sophisticated map-making software and all-knowing data sets. FairVote’s nonpartisan reforms hold the solution.”

Daley led Salon’s resurgence as an essential voice on politics and culture, launched the careers of dozens of today’s most vital and diverse voices, and more than quadrupled the site’s readership during his three years as editor in chief. His book, “Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America’s Democracy” (W.W. Norton/Liveright) was hailed by the New York Times, Washington Post, New Yorker, Vox and Vice as one of the most important political books of the year. Daley has spoken about the book on CNN, National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air,” “Here and Now,” “On the Media” and many other broadcasts, and before audiences in 20 states.

Daley’s work has appeared in New York magazine, the Boston Globe and many other publications, including in the Washington Post Outlook section on April 2nd. He has been a digital media fellow at the University of Georgia’s Wilson Center and Grady School of Journalism. He has also lectured at Duke University, New York University, the University of Pennsylvania, Wesleyan University, Boston College, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Schwarzenegger Institute at the University of Southern California, and many other leading universities. He is also a former reporter and editor at the Hartford Courantthe Louisville Courier-Journal and senior editor of Details magazine.

“We’re thrilled to add a journalist of David’s caliber to our team, and a high-profile national voice on gerrymandering and democracy,” said Rob Richie, FairVote’s executive director. “Everyone is thinking right now about ways to make our democracy more functional and representative, and David will be a great help in advancing our ideas into this vital national conversation – and have the space to create his own independent analysis as well.”

FairVote is a longtime proponent of ranked choice voting, as approved by Maine voters for all their major elections in 2018, and as central to the Fair Representation Act proposal to be introduced in Congress later this year. When evaluated by academics and political strategists, the fair representation form of 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. Highlights of Daley’s writings are available on his FairVote bio page.

For more information, contact Daley at DDaley[at]fairvote.org or manager of communications Austin Plier at aplier[at]fairvote.org


          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 Angle: Lurking Trumpcare Edition   

Not dead yet: Sen. Mitch McConnell’s announcement on Tuesday that he’ll delay the vote on Trumpcare didn't settle Jim Newell’s nerves overmuch. The Republican leadership in the Senate could still come back after the July Fourth break and offer holdouts just enough to get their support.


          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.


          Labor Board Declares Illinois Contract Talks at 'Impasse'   
The Illinois Labor Relations Board has declared contract negotiations between Gov. Bruce Rauner's administration and the largest public-employees union at an impasse. The decision allows the Republican governor to impose his terms on the 38,000-member state council of the American Federation of State, Council and Municipal Employees. That gives the union the opportunity to accept the terms or vote to go on strike. Either side may appeal in court.
          Court order enforced? or physical custody?   

mother violated visitation 6 times with 3 years.I have every other weekend visits and she has physical custody, and we share joint legal custody..If i file for a enforcment what are the options? because she violated my visit on October 19, and left to Dominican Republican without my permission,and telling me my daughter would be back with her grandmom and it was a lie. I wont file custody, but i want more visitation with my daughter who 6 years, and me and the mom live in NYC, i told her let me have her 1 week with her and i take her to school . and she could 1 week with her, she said no. that's not stable.and talking crap about me....I'm trying to talk to her many times, but is like talking to a 15 year old, i will be seeing a lawyer soon. any idea would be great, Should i be filing for physical custody? because she complains that she works hard, do the child h.w etc, and as a father being the honor to do that and spend time with my child she says no, she works full time, she get home late like around 8 or 9pm


          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!

          Swearing In Texas   
Since the start of the New Year, Texas has seen the pomp and ceremony of swearing in multiple statewide political offices--all of them Republicans. So...
          Ted Poe compares Obama administration to a monarchy   
Rep. Ted Poe joined other Congressional Republicans in denouncing the Obama Administration's proposal to avoid the fiscal cliff.
          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.

          "Specter is the key, and then it comes down to moderate Republicans and where we were in May." - Carl Tobias   
"Specter is the key, and then it comes down to moderate Republicans and where we were in May." - Carl Tobias
          In Praise of the Intelligence Oversight Process: Our New Anti-Populist Paper    

Years ago, when Lawfare was still in its infancy, the two of us made an entirely serious video (well, maybe not entirely serious) for YouTube about the emergent problem of abusive internet comments. Entitled "Comment or Vote," it proposed a constitutional amendment to deprive of the franchise anyone who left a comment on any website. For some time after we posted it, until it was finally removed, the first comment on the YouTube site read: "You guys are faggots." No, we're not making that up. 

The issue "Comment or Vote" spoofed was not a joke. Lawfare does not take comments, and it's always interesting to watch how offended some readers are by that. It's as though people think they have some inalienable right to participate, including in a website published by someone else. 

The broader issue of which this expectation is only a tiny slice—the populist cult of mass participation—is really not a joke. It is wreaking havoc on our political system. And it is the subject of a Brookings paper we released late last month, entitled, "More Professionalism, Less Populism: How Voting Makes Us Stupid and What to Do About It." The full paper is available below. An interview we did yesterday on the subject with the Brookings podcast, Intersections, is available here:

Most of this paper has little to do with the national security law and policy. But one section is a real exception, which we wanted to highlight here: A key case study of how anti-populist institutions function better than highly participatory ones focuses on the intelligence oversight system. We thought the thematic connections between Lawfare's subject matter and this discussion warranted excerpting it here. So what follows is the paper's introduction, along with the section on the intelligence oversight system:

“Americans—especially, but not exclusively Trump voters—believe crazy, wrong things,” runs a post-election Washington Post headline. The article, by columnist Catherine Rampell, worried about polls showing that more than a third of the public (and about half of Republicans) believe that Barack Obama was born in Kenya and that Hillary Clinton was involved with a satanic pedophilia ring (“Pizzagate”)—among many other things. “To me, they’re terrifying,” Rampell wrote of the public’s misconceptions. “They result in misused resources, violence and harassment, health risks, bad policy, and, ultimately, the deterioration of democracy.”

Political scientists might be excused for emitting an exasperated yawn. The literature on voter ignorance is one of the oldest, best established, and most dismaying in all of political science. Every so often, journalists and commentators dip into it and emerged “terrified.” In recent years, however, a wave of research has shown ignorance and irrationality to be even bigger problems than previously believed, and has cast new doubt on standard remedies. Neither theory nor practice supports the idea that more participation will produce better policy outcomes, or will improve the public’s approbation of government, or is even attainable in an environment dominated by extreme partisans and narrow interest groups.

Such scholarship has not shaken the faith of many commentators and reformers that increasing popular involvement in politics and government is the remedy for the ills of our political culture—the chicken soup of political reforms. Unfortunately, the country and the political-reform community have come to expect far too much from increased political participation. Participation is effective only when supplemented by intermediation, the work done by institutions (such as political parties) and substantive professionals (such as career politicians and experts) to organize, interpret, and buffer popular sentiment. In this essay, we argue that restoring and strengthening political institutions and intermediation belong at the center of a modern political-reform agenda. More specifically, we advance the following contentions:

  • Always empirically questionable at best, the populist-progressive idea that more participation will reliably improve either the products or the popularity of governance has taken a pounding in recent years, to the point where it is basically untenable. The populist model assumes that voters are better informed, more rational, and more engaged than is the case—or ever will be.
  • Even implausibly well-informed and rational voters could not approach the level of knowledge and sophistication needed to make the kinds of decisions that routinely confront the government today. Professional and specialist decisionmaking is essential, and those who demonize it as elitist or anti-democratic can offer no plausible alternative to it.
  • Professional intermediaries make democracy more inclusive and more representative than direct participation can do by itself. In complex policy spaces, properly designed intermediary institutions can act more decisively and responsively on behalf of the public than an army of “the people” could do on its own behalf. Intermediated systems are also less likely to be paralyzed by factional disputes and distorted by special-interest manipulation than are systems designed to maximize voter participation and direct input.
  • Nonetheless, the predominant ethos of the political-reform community remains committed to enhancing individual political participation. This is a costly oversight. Some populist reform ideas are better than others, but, as a class, they have eclipsed a more promising reform target: strengthening intermediating actors such as political professionals and party organizations.

James Madison and the other Founders were right to reject both direct democracy and elite rule. Instead, they insisted on a hybrid of both, believing that the two together would achieve better representation and better governance than either could achieve on its own. We believe that the country can benefit from relearning what they knew.

. . . 

[M]odern anti-institutional populism, with its instinctive suspicion of anything or anyone deemed “elite,” often underestimates and unfairly denigrates how much intermediation has to offer—and how successful it has been.

Here it is worth distinguishing between two types of intermediaries, types that play very different roles in our democratic culture. The first is the political intermediary: people such as elected officials and political party professionals. These people’s job is to make political judgments on behalf of the electorate or to help candidates and politicians frame their—and the public’s—choices. A second type is the substantive intermediary: the technical expert or specialist whose job is actually to know things about the policy space in which the government acts. The lines between these two types are not bright ones; some people play both roles at once. But broadly speaking, the political intermediary stands in for the voter in deciding fundamental policy choices: Should Congress adopt the Affordable Care Act? Should it repeal and replace it? The substantive intermediary, by contrast, frames responsible policy choices and implements them in a fashion consistent with law and technical realities. Neither of these functions is one which voters can perform competently on their own.

To see vividly the successful interaction of voters, political intermediaries, and substantive intermediaries, let’s take a close look at the area in which our system functions at its least populist: intelligence oversight.

The intelligence oversight system has been largely immune to populist reform, but not because the area has lacked for reformist instincts. (It has actually seen a lot of reform over the years.) Rather, the very nature of intelligence makes it resistant to populism. The public has no access to the CIA and the NSA and their day-to-day work. In sharp contrast to the public’s regular interaction with law enforcement officers, members of the public don’t generally interact with intelligence professionals doing their jobs. And the oversight system for all of it is uniquely opaque. Intelligence oversight is technically dense across a number of different dimensions; some of the law at issue is arcane and unusually intricate, and much of the subject matter involves highly technical electronic surveillance taking place on complex computer networks. It also involves material that is nearly always classified at the highest levels. So while the activities of the intelligence community stoke all manner of public passions, the subject is simply not amenable to populist reform. There is just no way to involve the public in decisions that, by their very nature, have to be kept from the public.

The result is that reforms in intelligence oversight have empowered intermediary actors—politicians and experts—to stand in for the public. And these mechanisms have proven remarkably durable and effective.

The intelligence oversight system operates in all three branches of government. Within the executive branch, a series of compliance regimes, inspectors general, and Justice Department officials oversee operations, particularly those involving technical collection at the National Security Agency. Collectively, those actors investigate suggestions of misconduct, rigorously count more mundane compliance failures, and review activity for legal compliance—and they report errors both internally and to the other branches of government. They also build legal compliance into the very design of technical systems; to see certain data, for example, analysts often have to enter into computer systems the facts and analysis that would justify their access to the information they seek. 

In the judiciary, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court both reviews applications for national security surveillance of U.S. persons and, more broadly, reviews the legality of surveillance programs taking place domestically but targeting overseas actors. The FISA structure does not merely put a federal judge between the intelligence community and electronic surveillance targets. It also creates bureaucracies within intelligence agencies that are designed to speak to that federal judge—bureaucracies deeply invested in keeping their agencies within the law and maintaining credibility before the judiciary. Representing the agencies before the court are Justice Department lawyers, who likewise act to keep the agencies in line. The system of judicial intermediaries thus dramatically reinforces and empowers executive-branch intermediaries, who have ongoing reporting obligations to the judicial branch.

The executive and judicial branch intermediaries are, generally speaking, substantive experts. But the intelligence oversight system uses political intermediaries too, particularly in Congress. The congressional intelligence committees review intelligence programs, get briefed on covert actions, and investigate major matters within the intelligence agencies—everything from torture to Russian hacking of the 2016 election. Unlike other congressional committees, they are staffed with intelligence community professionals cleared at the highest levels, and they have access to the most sensitive programs the government runs. The public never sees the vast majority of the work these committees do, but anyone in the intelligence community will tell you that fear of upsetting congressional overseers is a major restraint on intelligence community behavior. Note that the members of these committees are not specialists; they are just regular members of Congress. Their job is to stand in for the members of the public who cannot know what the intelligence community is up to, and to make major political decisions in the public’s stead and on behalf of the rest of the legislature.

Most people who have engaged the congressional intelligence committees agree—notwithstanding the House committee’s recent flap over the behavior of its chairman, Devin Nunes—that they function on average dramatically better than other committees do. The reasons are all related to their intermediary, non-populist nature. The professional nature of the staff reduces partisanship, for example. And the secrecy with which they operate discourages political grandstanding on the part of the members. A hearing of a normal congressional committee, which takes place in public, is a show whose audience is the public. Witnesses are chosen for C-SPAN. Questions are asked because they offer opportunities for theatrics and gotchas. By contrast, most intelligence-committee hearings have no audience beyond the staff and members. They are actually designed to convey information from the executive branch to Congress. They are arguably the only part of Congress for which hearings still consistently serve that role.

While the intelligence oversight process is decidedly intermediary-based and non-populist, it has not proven itself remote from “the people” or incapable of responding to public concerns. To the contrary, it has proven over the years to be highly responsive to public sensibilities. In other words, if the populist anxiety is that relying on intermediaries makes government distant and unrepresentative, the experience of the intelligence oversight process suggests otherwise.

The most recent example of this responsiveness is the system’s response to the Edward Snowden revelations about NSA activity in 2013. The congressional oversight process was critical in helping the community weather the storm, as when the bipartisan intelligence committee leadership spoke up publicly in defense of the legality and propriety of NSA’s programs. But the system also adapted relatively swiftly in response to the revelations and generated serious change. Congress passed the USA Freedom Act, substantially altering one of the key programs that Snowden revealed and generating new transparency with respect to certain categories of NSA and FISA Court activity. It is currently considering reauthorization of a much larger program, and further reforms are certainly on the table as it does so.

These adaptions are only the latest in a long string of legislative updates to FISA and other authorities—major changes to which took place at least in 1994, 2001, 2007, 2008, and 2012. This flurry of loving attention to the statutory scheme over time—legislative attention to make sure the statutory architecture of intelligence remains up-to-date as technology and public attitudes change—stands in sharp contrast to the more general environment of legislative dysfunction. In what should be a sharp challenge to reformers who believe that increasing public participation makes the policy process more responsive to public concerns, the portion of Congress that is least populist is exceptionally capable of actually responding to public concerns.

The long-term success of this oversight system is actually hard to overstate. America is a country, after all, whose popular culture produces movies like “Minority Report” and “Enemy of the State,” and whose civil libertarian culture is predicated on a deep suspicion of intelligence operations and government power generally. It is also a country with a history of genuine intelligence community abuses. Yet, even within the context of this culture, the oversight system allows the intelligence community the political and legal latitude to wield extraordinary powers.

And, amazingly, it does so with relatively high confidence from the population in general. The Pew Research Center has for more than a decade been polling Americans on whether they believe the government has “gone too far restricting civil liberties” or whether they believe the government has “not gone far enough to protect the country.” With the exception of a brief blip around the time of the Snowden revelations, many more Americans believe the latter than the former. Although good data on public attitudes toward the intelligence community over time do not exist, this poll question—asked since 2004—suggests that majorities do not believe the intelligence community is out of control. At a time of rock-bottom confidence in public institutions, it is notable that the intelligence oversight system, a system with hardly a trace of populism in its design, actually works effectively at its core purpose: assuring the public that the intelligence community is doing its job within the law.

The system shows that when intermediation is designed and empowered carefully, it can accomplish in a durable and robust fashion many of the objectives that populist reformers purport to seek.

 


          A religious case for repealing the Affordable Care Act   

The proposed changes to America’s health care system advanced by the Republican Congress have been condemned by patient advocates like AARP, doctor advocates like the AMA, and hospital advocates like the American Hospitals Association. But there’s a religious case that has been made in its defense that is worth examining, even though it’s not a […]

The post A religious case for repealing the Affordable Care Act appeared first on The Blogs | The Times of Israel.


          US Supreme Court Rejects Gun Rights Appeal   

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The United States Supreme Court has rejected another call to decide whether Americans have a legal right to carry guns outside their homes.

The high court released rulings on a number of cases Monday. But it refused to hear a case against a California law that sets limits on carrying guns in public.

The high court left in place an appeals court ruling in the case.

The appeals court confirmed the legality of a measure to limit permits for concealed weapons -- those placed out of sight.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that the United States Constitution guarantees the right to carry a gun, at least for self-defense at home. But the court has refused repeated requests to expand on its understanding of gun rights.

More than 40 states already have rules giving gun owners a right to be armed in public.

A new study shows that Americans are as deeply divided about gun policy as they are about immigration, health care and other issues.

The Pew Research Center questioned 3,900 people nationwide. The resulting study found sharp differences of opinion between gun owners and those who do not own guns.

The study found that more than half of owners support creation of a federal database for recording gun sales. Eighty percent of those who do not own guns also support such an effort.

About half of gun owners support a ban on assault weapons, compared to almost 80 percent of non-gun owners.

Assault weapons have been compared to guns used in armed conflicts. Gun control activists say such weapons are meant to kill multiple people quickly, and not for civilian use.

Yet there was common ground among gun owners and non-gun owners on other issues.

Nearly 90 percent of all those questioned believe the government should bar the mentally sick from purchasing guns.

Also, about 80 percent of those who own guns believe people named on federal no-fly or watch lists should be prevented from buying guns.

Strong majorities of both groups support background investigations of those who buy guns from an individual or at gun shows.

The study also found that at least two-thirds of Americans have lived in a home with a gun. About half of those questioned who have never owned a gun said they had fired one.

About 1,300 of the 3,900 people questioned said they own guns. The rest said they did not.

Most of the gun owners described themselves as white males who are members of the Republican Party.

The study found that people who live in the Northeastern United States are less likely to own a gun than are people in other parts of the country.

I’m Caty Weaver.

Wayne Lee wrote this story for VOANews.com. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section, or visit our Facebook page.

Words in This Story

concealed – adj. hidden from sight

database – n. a collection of pieces of information that is organized and used on a computer

assault weapon – n. a gun that can shoot many bullets quickly and that is designed for use by the military

multiple – adj. more than one​; many

background – n. the experiences, knowledge, education, etc., in a person’s past


          22 Million Americans Could Lose Health Insurance Under Senate Bill   

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The Congressional Budget Office says the number of uninsured people in the United States would rise to 22 million within the next ten years under the Senate health care bill.

The Senate’s bill would replace the Affordable Care Act, a law that former President Barack Obama supported. The Affordable Care Act is often called Obamacare. Republicans have spent about seven years attempting to cancel Obamacare.

The CBO said in a study released Monday that the Senate bill would decrease the federal budget deficit by $321 billion by 2026.

This is the second health care bill to be considered in Congress. Both the House and the Senate have different health care bills. In order for a bill to become law, it needs to pass both the House and the Senate and be signed by the president.

Senate leaders plan to vote after the July 4th holiday on their version of the bill. Currently, Americans are required to buy health insurance or pay a fine if they do not. The Senate’s bill would end that requirement.

In addition, the bill would end subsidies meant to help lower-income people buy insurance. It would also decrease some taxes on higher-income people. And it would cut billions of dollars of government funding for the health care program for poor and disabled people over the next few years.

Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of N.Y. and his fellow Democratic Senators, hold photographs of constituents who would be adversely affected by the proposed Republican Senate healthcare bill Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of N.Y. and his fellow Democratic Senators, hold photographs of constituents who would be adversely affected by the proposed Republican Senate healthcare bill

Opposition to the bill

To pass a bill in the Senate, a majority of senators must vote for the bill. If there is a tie, the vice president can vote to break the tie. Currently Republicans hold 52 of the 100 seats in the Senate. All 46 Senate Democrats are expected to vote against the bill. In order for the bill to pass, Republicans can risk losing only two of their senators.

A group of Republican senators has already said they will not vote for the bill in its current form.

When Obamacare became law in 2010, it passed without any Republican votes. Since the 2016 elections, Republicans gained control of the presidency, the House and the Senate. A change to Obamacare could be possible now.

About 20 million people have received insurance with Obamacare. Many of those people are covered under the government’s Medicaid program for the poor and disabled.

The two bills to change Obamacare propose to cut about $800 billion in federal funds for Medicaid over the next few years. President Donald Trump had stated during his campaign for office that he would not cut Medicaid funding.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer told ABC that he hopes that Republicans will talk with Democrats and work together on a solution to make Obamacare better.

I’m Mario Ritter.

And I’m Olivia Liu

Olivia Liu adapted this story for Learning English from VOA News and AP reporting. Mario Ritter was the editor.

Words in This Story

uninsured –adj. not having an agreement with a company or agency that helps pay for the cost of a service such as health care

subsidiesn. government payments to producers or individuals that reduce the cost of a good or service to make it easier to get

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.


          Another Republican for Cut and Run   

Lindsey Graham: "We're on the verge of chaos, and the current plan is not working."

Seems the Republicans are finally ditching Dubya.

I love what Nancy Pelosi said at the end of her 60 Minutes interview on Sunday, when asked if she would go for impeaching Bush after she becomes Speaker of the House.

"Wouldn't they just love it, if we came in and our record as Democrats coming forth in 12 years, is to talk about George Bush and Dick Cheney? This election is about them. This is a referendum on them. Making them lame ducks is good enough for me."
Those were the last words in the interview, and they reverberate.

No matter what, we've got the change we were looking for, even if the Republicans retain control of Congress. They can't recover in two years from the kind of internal warfare they're waging against each other now. No matter what, Bush is already the lamest of lame ducks.


          Apocalypse Averted   

It turns out that the doomsday predictors were wrong. Even the Mayans are probably wrong.
President Barack Obama was re-elected and the sky didn't fall. Hell did not freeze over. The dollar is still worth basically a dollar. The Dow did not go to zero. Hedge fund managers did not jump out of the windows of their boardrooms. People did not take to the streets en masse toting semi-automatic assault rifles.
President Barack Obama
The President won this election because his appeal was universal. Ironically, the only group that didn't support the President was composed of white men who for some reason still feel threatened by this President. The GOP shamelessly appealed to this group to the exclusion of everyone else and the results showed up on election night. The days when white men dominate this country are over and the GOP needs to recognize that it will not survive as a political force by only appealing to white males and white evangelicals. These two groups have a difficult time recognizing that they are now just two minority groups among so many other minority groups. Unfortunately for the GOP, there are still remnants of hostile, arrogant white males who feel entitled and resent that the rest of the country has a growing piece of the democratic pie. Most baffling of all, is the paranoia among the well-heeled, many of whom act as if they live in a banana republic where the ruler can just arbitrarily confiscate all their wealth.
Exemplifying this latter group is Donald Trump who still acts like the buffoon-in-chief. His antics ranging from his sham run for the presidency to his obsession with the president's birth certificate, college records, and other trivial matters not related to governance would be simply be fodder for comedians if it did not have serious resonance among swaths of the population. When George W. Bush was President, Trump couldn't have cared less about his college records. But he felt these issues were important when it came to the current President. Trump’s narcissism knows no bounds. Here are the comments he tweeted after the announcement of Obama's win:
“This election is a total sham and a travesty. We are not a democracy!”
Donald Trump
“More votes equals a loss...revolution!”
“Lets fight like hell and stop this great and disgusting injustice! The world is laughing at us.”
“We can't let this happen. We should march on Washington and stop this travesty. Our nation is totally divided!”
“He lost the popular vote by a lot and won the election. We should have a revolution in this country!”
“House of Representatives shouldn't give anything to Obama unless he terminates Obamacare.”
“The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy.”
“Hopefully the House of Representatives can hold our country together for four more years...stay strong and never give up!”
Donald Trump is an embarrassment to himself, to the Republican Party and to the nation. The bigger point, however, is that the Republican Party has lost credibility when it allow statements of this low caliber to reflect on themselves. If the GOP is to become a relevant political force in the future it has to figure out a way of weeding out this kind of anachronistic thinking. This is not a trivial point. In order for us to succeed as a country we need the adults to take over and work together.

This is a plea for people, all people, 
especially politicians, to behave as adults, 
and not as spoiled children. 


There is no time for infantile antics à la the Tea Party. We have already witnessed what happens when the Tea Party Congressmen stamped their feet during the debt ceiling debate with the unfortunate result of our bond rating getting downgraded. For the Nation to succeed we will need the cooperation of both parties. The President has repeatedly indicated that he is willing to work with the opposition. It is really up to the responsible people in the Republican Party to accept this challenge and work constructively with the newly re-elected President.
This is not a plea to muzzle any thoughts. People are free to think as they wish in America. We have a Constitution that guarantees that. This is a plea for people, all people, especially politicians, to behave as adults, and not as spoiled children. The GOP has some serious thinking to do. Do they continue to allow clowns like Trump. Limbaugh and Bachmann  to speak for the Party with impunity? At what point does the Republican leadership disavow their messengers of intransigence?
Mitt Romney made a good concession speech in which he exhorted his party to work with the President to solve problems. In Romney's own words, “The nation, as you know, is at a critical point. At a time like this we can't risk partisan bickering and political posturing. Our leaders have to reach across the aisle to do the people's work, and we citizens also have to rise to the occasion.” The GOP would be wise to follow Romney's advice, not only for their own survival as a Party, but for the sake of a nation that needs more solutions and less chest-thumping.
I predicted on October 31 on this blog [The Next Four Years] that President Obama's second term will be characterized by more bipartisanship and more consensus building now that the obsession with making the President a one-termer is past. I believe that the American people collectively harbor this hope and that is why they re-elected him. Let's hope we are all right.



I thought that was the logical next step




The book is published and available on Amazon and on Create Space.

For international readers it is available on Amazon Europe.

Specifically, it is available in Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain.

In Asia, the book is available in Japan.


          The Next Four Years   

One of the few things we can all agree with is that either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney will be elected President next Tuesday. Either we will have a Republican or Democratic House of Representatives and we will have either a Democratic or Republican Senate.
What exactly will happen is anyone's guess as nobody has those kinds of powers of prognostication. But prognosticate we must – not only on the outcome of the election but what it will mean if either of the two principle candidates wins.
The Republicans have invested a lot of time and money telling the American voters that if the President is re-elected expect four years of gridlock and paralysis. Their version of “gloom and doom” is not so much that Barack Obama will do irreparable harm to the country – they also say that – but that the next four years will be wasted as bickering and partisanship will continue unabated, and the important business of the American people will just not get done.
I think they are wrong.
President Barack Obama
The first Obama term was characterized by a deliberate unwillingness on the part of the Republican leadership to cooperate with the President for the express purpose, in the immortal words of Senate leader Mitch McConnell, “my number one priority is making sure president Obama’s a one-term president.” The incurably petty will argue whether Mitch said this in 2009 or 2010 (he said it in 2010) but it matters little when he said it since it perfectly illustrates the Senate leader's attitude towards the President. If you examine the record you will see this strategy in action, especially in the Senate, where Mitch McConnell led a record number of filibusters which thwarted majority votes in both Chambers even when the Democrats had the majority in the House of Representatives. This was indeed government by hostage and the intent was clear. Make the President as weak and ineffectual as possible so that come election time the case could be made that he did not deliver on key pieces of legislation, especially important ones like the Jobs Bill. [see “What's Wrong with the Jobs Bill?” October 13, 2011, on this blog] Just the Jobs Bill alone would have made a big dent in our unemployment numbers, but the Republicans were not about to help the economy because that would have practically insured an Obama second term.
The History of the Filibuster
(Graph: Todd Lindeman; Data: Senate.gov)

If the president wins a second term all of that goes out the window.
Freed from the tyranny of the “one term Presidency” strategy, the Republican Senators could once again vote their conscience and do what they do best: horse-trading and seeking solutions, rather than obstruction for the sake of denying the President a second term. Not that it would spell the end of partisanship or argumentation. That was present during the founding of America and will stay with us as long as there is a Constitutional democracy in the United States. But because the overall obsession of denying Obama a second term will be gone, the Senate will return to a more “normal” state of collegiate belligerence, where both Parties understand the people expect results and cooperation, not continuous obstruction. An Obama second term will be, therefore, full of controversy, but with bipartisan solutions hammered out in vigorous debate. The American people will get a more functional government, spirited, divided, but anxious to find solutions.
President Mitt Romney?
So what can we expect from a Romney administration? Regardless of whether the Congress ends up in the hands of the Democrats or the Republicans – it looks like the Republicans will keep a smaller majority in the House, and the Democrats will retain a slim majority in the Senate – the final composition will not matter much. Especially in the Senate where Senator Harry Reid will either stay as a majority or minority leader. Either way will be lethal to a prospective Romney agenda. Senator Reid will become the second most powerful man in the country, second only to the new President himself. Does anybody have a doubt, that after all the humiliation heaped on Senator Reid for the last four years, he will not seek to turn the tables on the Republicans? It is hard to say if the good Senator from Nevada will be more dangerous as the majority or minority leader. There is no plausible scenario that the Republicans will achieve a 60+ majority in the Senate, thereby rendering the Senate filibuster proof. Even the most partisan Republican prognosticator does not contemplate such a dream scenario for the hypothetical President Romney.
So a President Romney would have in Reid an implacable foe who would not hesitate to return the favor of filibustering Republican legislation, if in the minority or just killing it outright if in the majority. In any case, Romney would reap what his party sowed with Obama these last four years and he would have Senator McConnell principally to thank for that. Four years of partisanship and gridlock would face the new President and the merry-go-round would keep turning. This is what happens when shortsighted political expediency is chosen over consensus building governance. And blaming the President for the lack of bi-partisanship is a new height of shamelessness, a new definition for chutzpah.
Romney's potential first term has disaster written all over it, and he only has his compadres in his own party to blame. On the other hand, if it were not for the high-handed conduct of Republican Senators, making the best of their minority status by denying the President a clear path to governing, Romney would not be neck to neck with the President at this late date. He would be hopelessly behind with no chance of capturing the White House.
So the McConnell strategy did work. Whether the Republicans succeeded at making the President a one term President or not we will find out soon enough.

          The Closer Versus the Strategist    

Mitt Romney spent the better part of this presidential campaign criticizing Barack Obama's foreign policy. He characterized the President as weak, ineffective, and lacking in leadership. But when given the opportunity to debate the President on foreign policy last night he engaged in a surprising amount of “me-too-ism.” All of a sudden, with the election on the line, Romney decided to make another one of his now famous flip-flops and found, when given the occasion to show what he would do differently, he chose the more prudent course of agreeing with the President's main foreign policy initiatives. He even went so far as to agree with 2014 as a hard deadline for withdrawing our troops from Afghanistan, a position for which he had previously derided the president for.

By now, nobody should be surprised with the flexible Romney who has pivoted from being a “severe conservative” in order to best his conservative rivals in the Republican primary to being a “moderate” in order to win the presidential election. In Ted Kennedy's immortal words, “I am pro-choice, and Mitt is multiple-choice.” That leaves the American public and the entire world, however, in doubt about what would a President Romney in fact do if elected. He has changed positions so many times on so many topics that voters could be excused for being somewhat confused as to what the Republican candidate stands for. For a man who makes a point that the business world needs consistency and certitude in order to conduct business, he has offered us neither.
There was one major point where Romney departed from the President on military policy, however. He made clear once again his desire to spend significantly more money on defense. He is always careful not to say exactly how much more, so as not to scare the average taxpayer already weary about our substantial debt, but the implication is clear, that a massive, Ronald Reagan style military buildup is in store if Romney gets the commander in chief job. There was a point in the debate that was almost comical when he stated that the US Navy had less ships today than before 1917 in an attempt to show that Obama had neglected his defense obligations. The President responded with:
“You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets — because the nature of our military’s changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.”
Judging by the laughter in the audience, the President drove home the point that Romney was hopelessly out of touch with how the modern military actually works, that sheer numbers is not what makes our military strong. It is all about capabilities, deployment, and strategy. Obama last night clearly demonstrated his command of military strategy and Romney sounded like a student who had been cramming for an exam.
Even though the President clearly won the foreign policy debate last night, the election will most likely not be won or lost based on foreign policy, which is why Romney ceded the point. He knows he won't best Obama on foreign policy so he is counting on the economy as his strong suit. And that's where it gets interesting.
As pointed out in earlier articles, Romney is a formidable closer. He has made millions convincing skeptical investors to plunk down their millions in business schemes that offered high risk and potential high profitability. He won the first debate hands down exhibiting these closing skills. He lives in the moment and knows how to maximize opportunities. This is how he has run his campaign and it has, by and large, worked if you are inclined to believe the polls. Many people see him as a credible alternative to the cooler, more deliberate Obama who can be frustratingly opaque at times.
When Obama got us involved in the murky war against Muammar Gaddafi, it was not clear what the President was up to. Was he leading? Following? Hence the celebrated phrase “leading from behind.” The phrase was not intended as a compliment, but looking back, he got the job done with a fraction of the cost and no American loss of life, unlike the plodding effort in Iraq. As an added bonus, Obama got the French to conduct airstrikes alongside our pilots. Unlike Iraq, the Libya action was a truly allied effort that led to the elimination of a dictator. Best of all, it happened without thousands of American soldiers dead and injured, not to mention another mega-increase in the deficit. This was truly smart power at work. If this is leading from behind then let’s have more of it.


if you ask any general worth his or her salt, 
they will tell you that strategy 
wins over tactics almost every time.

Mitt Romney, the consummate business tycoon, is all about quick results -- the quarterly report -- and in his profession, it is essential. A venture capitalist does not have time to waste on unnecessary items such as developing long term relationships or projecting too far in advance. The turnaround expert is quick to act, get the job done, and walk away as expeditiously as possible. As a matter of fact, expediency is a virtue in Romney's world of business closings.
Governing a complex country with a deeply divided population while dealing with responsibilities all over the world requires patience and lots of it. Romney has shown us time and again that he is not a patient man. He grew tired of governing the infinitesimally smaller territory that is Massachusetts only two years into his governorship. By the time he finished his first and only term he was fed up with governing and allowed Massachusetts to slip to 47th in job creation among our 50 states. His approval rate was in the 30's and he was deemed unelectable for a second term. This is what happens when people are convinced by a quick turnaround artist to govern their state. There is nothing quick about governing. Governing is a marathon, not a sprint. Romney, for example, would make an excellent consultant on a commercial deal with Bolivia, but as CEO of the whole enterprise that is the United States of America he would be a flop, even though he would no doubt shamelessly take advantage of the groundwork prepared by the current President.
Barack Obama, on the other hand is the consummate strategist. He showed us in his primary battle with Hillary Clinton back in 2008. Hillary had all the advantages. She was considered almost the prohibitive favorite and had a hard core of dedicated fans. She had Bill Clinton campaigning for her. Mark Penn, her campaign manager, was one of the best in the business. But unfortunately for her, she was pitted against a real strategist. Obama's supporters kept their hearts in their mouths the whole time, not knowing where Obama was going. He kept things close to the vest much to the consternation of his supporters. He kept everyone in suspense and pulled it out with forward thinking and a superior strategy. The Hillary camp had tactics, Obama had strategy. And if you ask any general worth his or her salt, they will tell you that strategy wins over tactics almost every time.
Barack Obama is one of our first truly strategic Presidents. Richard Nixon was also a strategist but was also a victim of his own self-doubts and paranoia. What is frustrating for many voters, including some of Obama’s most ardent supporters, is that there are always questions about what exactly his strategy is. That’s all part of the plan since a strategic thinker rarely conveys his strategy, because that is the nature of the master chess player. You are not sure how he does it, but he gets it done with little bombast and fanfare.
It has taken a few years for the Iranian leadership to figure this out. Which is why they are willing to negotiate, albeit in secret. I'm sure the President would love to share what he is doing behind closed doors to bring Iran, kicking and screaming, into dropping their plans for a nuclear weapon, but he can't. That is the nature of power politics. We only get to see the tip of the iceberg. We can only guess what goes on under the surface.
Americans will have a major choice this November. And the choice is not between fake issues like Socialism versus Capitalism. (Hint: both candidates are pro-capitalism.) Or Liberal versus Conservative. (Hint: both candidates are moderates.) No, the choice is more profound and personal.
We have in Mitt Romney, the classic business closer. The king of the deal. The super salesman. The guy you want to convince people to give him their hard-earned cash and sink it into something they never heard about. Those qualities come in handy at times and it would be an intriguing idea to hire Mitt as a consultant on tangible and complex deals.
We have in Barack Obama, on the other hand, the classic strategic thinker. Calm, cool, and collected. The guy with the steady hand on the tiller of the ship of state. The guy who does not get rattled easily. The guy who is not just thinking short term, but long term as well. The man who will bring this country back slowly, but steadily.
It remains to be seen which quality will prevail among a most volatile electorate.

          Joe Scores a KO   

It was Joe Biden's night. Those of us who have followed Biden's career knew he had it in him. When paired against the light-weight Palin four years ago they tied one hand behind his back and gave him strict instructions not to manhandle his opponent who had a glaring glass jaw. We have come a long way in gender relations, but there are still many who don't like the sight of a man of the caliber of Joe Biden beating up on a relatively defenseless woman. So fightin' Joe was reduced to a shadow of himself during that bout with the challenged ex-governor of Alaska. It was an awkward moment in American politics.
Last night, no such restrictions were placed on the Vice-President. His opponent this time was the darling of the conservative set -- a legitimate intellectual leader of the Republican Party. A man of bold ideas we have been told. President Obama had even said before the 90 minute session that “Joe should be Joe.” And Joe he was, warts and all.
Joe Biden and Paul Ryan
It was not all smooth sailing, however. Ryan had a few sucker punches planned much like his running mate had against the President. But unlike the CEO of Bain Capital, Ryan is no closer. In his debate with Obama, the world saw what a first class closer Romney is. You could tell why he was a successful businessman. It is not hard to imagine, that after the staff at Bain worked painstakingly to explain the intricacies of a complex deal to potential investors the seasoned Romney would appear and put it all together and forcefully close the deal. The great WC Fields summed it up many years ago with his famous quip, “Never give a sucker an even break or smarten up a chump.” Romney was not in the business of smartening up anyone. He knew that many of the deals he was promoting were risky, but he knows how to sell iffy to sophisticated investors. That is how he made his living and that is how he beat the intellectually superior Obama. Brawn, when properly applied, can sometimes best brains.
But much as he tried when it was his turn, Ryan was bested from the outset. He did find some weak spots and scored some good blows, but on the important matters he was just outmatched. The murky situation in Libya worked to Ryan’s advantage, for example. Being a Monday morning quarterback (if you pardon the mixed metaphor) was relatively easy since the tragic loss of our Ambassador was a result of much confusion on the ground. Romney, in real time, didn't even wait for Monday to commence his second-guessing. He was already pontificating at half-time when we didn't even know what the final score was. It is always unseemly when our people are in harm’s way overseas and politicians score cheap political points at their expense. When our soldiers or diplomats are victims of an operation gone wrong, that is not the time to second guess the operation. In the case of the events in Benghazi, considering the intelligence was dicey at best, the prudent (dare I say say conservative) course would have been to stay silent until all the facts were in. But Mitt, always the businessman looking for opportunities, couldn't resist taking advantage of the tragedy to score points against the President. He has been so offensive that the mother of one of the slain Navy SEALS told him to stop using her son as a prop in his campaign. But clever Ryan, with little substance to offer, took the cheap shots against Biden and scored early.


 “Folks, use your common sense, who do you trust on this? 
A man who introduced a bill that would raise it 
sixty-four hundred dollars a year, knowing it, 
and passing it, and Romney saying 
he would sign it, or me and the President?” 
- Joe Biden -

However, when the topics turned to substance and matters of concern to the American voter, Ryan was no match for the well versed Biden, who finally, after waiting four years, could deliver his jabs on substance. On weighty matters such as Medicare, Social Security, the Economy, and the war in Afghanistan, Ryan was taken to school. At one critical point, the Vice-President had to explain the military strategy in Afghanistan to the clueless Ryan, and in the process, educate the American people. Yes, there is a strategy in place, and the reason that fewer American soldiers were engaged was that the Afghan troops we trained were getting more and more involved in securing their own country. And yes, the Taliban are so desperate that they have been able to recruit a few Afghan soldiers to their cause and a few American soldiers tragically lost their lives. Biden correctly pointed out that these were the exceptions, not the rule and the overriding factor was that, imperfect as they are, the Afghans are slowing taking over the responsibility of defending their own country. Unlike the old Soviet Union, America is not out for territorial conquest, just providing a vehicle for the Afghans to create a society where terrorism will have a harder time getting organized to threaten the world.
It is not the intent of this article to go into the whole Vice-Presidential debate blow by blow and document the ups and downs of the clash of the two candidates for the job as a potential Presidential replacement. There will be plenty of commentary examining the details including the equivalent trivial points made about the Presidential debate concerning facial expressions, posture, demeanor and other matters unrelated to governance. I doubt if the American public is that interested in measuring how many seconds Joe Biden smiled, or was that a grin or a smirk on Paul Ryan's face. I leave it to others to discuss these non-issues.
Biden talks directly to the Nation
The American voter is more interested in the future of his or her country and whether the teams vying for the privilege to lead this great nation have what it takes to tackle the big issues. On that score the Vice-President showed us all that, unlike Mitt Romney, he won due to his command of the facts and better policies, not due to his superior business closing skills. But he showed us much more. We saw a man whose whole career has been dedicated to defending ordinary Americans. Biden showed us real passion when it came to defending the middle class, seniors, students, women, working people. Ryan, on the other hand was the consummate policy wonk, a cold numbers calculator.
Joe scored the knockout blow when he looked into the camera, referencing Medicare and said “Folks, use your common sense, who do you trust on this? A man who introduced a bill that would raise it sixty-four hundred dollars a year, knowing it, and passing it, and Romney saying he would sign it, or me and the President?” This statement alone distilled Biden's direct appeal to the Nation. He forcefully illustrated his passion to defend the ordinary citizen. Ryan could only counter with more policy options, more numbers.
Joe Biden showed why in spite of his reputation for speaking off the cuff he has the confidence of the President. Biden did what he had to do. He forcefully defended the interests of most Americans and did it with passion and humor.
President Obama, please take note.

Link to C-SPAN for debate archives and more.


          Romney's Military-Industrial Complex   

“A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction...
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower – Farewell to the nation speech, January 16, 1961

In spite of his immense military credentials – or maybe because of them – President Eisenhower warned the nation as he departed the White House of a pernicious trend that portended “the disastrous rise of misplaced power” and the need to guard against it.
While most political pundits were bemoaning the head movements of President Obama,
the body language of his challenger, and any number of inconsequential facial movements, physical posture, and general demeanor of the two candidates for the most powerful position in the world during their first debate, largely omitted from serious discussion was the President's unchallenged allegation that candidate Romney was proposing a two trillion dollar increase in military spending.
Mitt Romney
There was more hue and cry over the cutting of Big Bird and the gang at PBS, a savings of approximately $1.25 per average household per year, than the ramping up of our defense establishment to the size of the Cold War years. In those days there was the terrifying thought of nuclear annihilation at the hand of an implacable enemy whose nuclear arsenal was roughly the equivalent to ours and had the wherewithal to deliver a decisive blow that would reduce the United States to ashes in the blink of an eye. Certainly fodder for the hawkish among us.
Nothing approaching this level of Armageddon exists today. The various threats coming from assorted terrorists and potential rogue nations like North Korea and Iran are hardly in the same class of the mighty Soviet Union.
So why, if Mr. Romney is reluctant to borrow a few million from China, as he puts it, to save Big Bird and his pals on Sesame Street, would he be willing to borrow an extra two trillion dollars from presumably the same Chinese? To guard against threats he is not willing to specify? Apparently, children's programming on TV designed to encourage literacy, needs further ample justification but extra trillions for defense only require us to be “concerned.” No specifics necessary.
The folks at Foreign Policy magazine have provided us with a chart that illustrates candidate Romney's dream of ramping up defense spending with a historical context dating back to the 1950's, the peak of the Cold War. Please note the smaller spikes for the Korean War and the Vietnam War. The spikes for Iraq and Afghanistan are not on the graph because those wars were not “on the books” as it was an unprincipled trick of the Bush people not to make their reckless spending too obvious.
[source: Foreign Policy]

If most Americans don't get alarmed by this graph, the prospect of a Romney presidency will without a doubt gain the attention of the rest of the world, and not in a good way. America's current enemies will not run and hide, rather they will redouble their efforts, because this is all the proof they need that America would be on a course of world domination. Expect more violence, not less.
As in partial reassurance to our friends and foes alike overseas, let me try to convince you that this is not proof of Romney's desire for world conquest but rather proof of the influence of those who support his campaign.
The infamous Citizen’s United Supreme court decision, unleashing untold secret money to be lavished on our political candidates, has produced a nightmare scenario that even the astute Dwight Eisenhower could have never predicted. He correctly predicted that there was a kind of vicious circle quality to defense spending by the “Military-Industrial Complex” as he called it. This is a self perpetuating system whereby big defense contractors become reliant on government largesse. Kind of like the welfare queens Republicans like to warn us about. But this is dependency on a massive scale. It is nothing like a poor family relying on food stamps to feed their kids. Rather, it is a mega-empire built on taxpayer funded businesses large, small, and huge depending upon defense contracts to make them profitable. It is government stimulus gone amok.

The infamous Citizen’s United Supreme court decision, unleashing untold secret money to be lavished on our political candidates, has produced a nightmare scenario that even the astute Dwight Eisenhower could have never predicted. 


If Obama had dared spend this kind of money on his stimulus program we would not have any unemployment to speak of and we would indeed be a shining city on a hill. Think Dubai. Yes, the kind of spending proposed by Romney would indeed stimulate the economy. Much employment would be generated, many businesses large and small would thrive, but the country's infrastructure would stay essentially the same. More schools would crumble as would bridges, ports, roads, and so on. We would look fairly good on paper - many people who invested in Romney would get filthy rich - but we would be poorer as a nation because all we would have bought would be a greater capacity to blow up the world many more times over. Overkill on top of more overkill. Not to mention the massive debt we would incur.
I like Big Bird as much as the next guy, but conversation of his survival dwarfs in comparison to the idea of turning this great country of ours into a military nightmare even Eisenhower himself could never have imagined. This is the stuff of dark science fiction movies. Only we’re not talking about a movie plot. I have to laugh when I hear folks tell me it makes no difference who gets elected president.

Ralph Nader, are you listening?



Link to C-SPAN for debate archives and more.


          Mitt's Pyrrhic Victory   

Most people agree: Mitt won the first debate against the President. The question, therefore is, how did he win it?
Governor Romney and President Obama
He was clearly the aggressor and people generally like their President to be aggressive. Romney correctly figured out that if he was to have a shot at the presidency, he would have to take the fight to the incumbent. Just like in boxing, the challenger has to clearly put the champ on the defensive.
But how did he do it?
In short, he did it by changing his positions one more time, by re-inventing himself. If one is keeping track of Romney's positions over his career you could be forgiven if you thought he had multiple personalities. Since Mr. Romney does not have the burden of leading the free world, he is free to change his positions on just about anything to suit his purpose. His hammering away at Obama may have consequences that may not be helpful to the challenger, however. For one, there will be increased scrutiny of Romney’s more outlandish claims.
Let's start with the opening of the debate. Romney and Ryan both have been talking about lowering taxes on the “job creators.” [for a discussion about job creators, read “The Real Job Creators” on this blog] It is practically Republican gospel that lowering taxes on wealthy people is the path to job creation. George W. did it with disastrous results and, while Obama wants to let the Bush tax cuts die, Romney has indicated that not only does he want to keep the Bush cuts to the very rich, but then lower them even more.

“I will not reduce the taxes paid by 
high income Americans.” - Mitt Romney

During the initial exchange of last night's debate, however, we learned that no, no, no, the Governor is not about to give any breaks to the rich. His exact words were “I'm not going to reduce the share of taxes paid by high income people.” I did a double take so fast that I think I sprained my neck. Later on, in the same segment he said that he wants to bring tax rates down “both for corporations and for individuals.” Romney has raised flip-flopping to a new height -- he is now flip-flopping within the space of five minutes! He topped his thought when he boldly stated that he would not introduce any tax cut that would “add to the deficit.” He doubled down when he reiterated “I will not reduce the taxes paid by high income Americans.” Well, that clears it up then. I guess if you have this level of shamelessness, and you don't care about math, it is easier to score debate points.
This is not some small detail in an otherwise great plan. It is the core of Romney's plan, similar to Ronald Reagan's and both Presidents Bushes' plans which gave us astronomical deficits. The older Bush had to actually renege on his “no new taxes” pledge just to prevent the deficits from getting any steeper.
But the whoppers did not end there and we haven't even left the first segment yet. Romney has found a new love for the middle class and wants to lower taxes on them too because he knows that is what people want to hear. And to top it off, he wants to raise defense spending, a cute trick on the way towards his claim of balancing the budget.
In the next segment, when the President repeated his desire to end any tax incentives for companies to ship jobs abroad, Romney played dumb and said he never heard of such a thing in his years in business when his company, Bain Capital took full advantage of that loophole. After many attempts to eliminate the loophole failed in Congress due to Republican opposition it is the height of hypocrisy for Romney to pretend he never heard of this tax break. Again, when you don't have the responsibility of governance, you can make outrageous remarks like this.
On the hot topic of Medicare, after lambasting the President for finding savings in the program, he vaguely alludes to younger recipients that they will be taken care of without specifying how. He is telling young people to just trust him.
On healthcare, Romney elevated hypocrisy to a another level. He finally came across praising his own “Romneycare” which he had been ducking until now and had the gall to say how well it worked in Massachusetts and how “Obamacare,” which is based on the Massachusetts model was going to be a disaster for the Nation. He had previously avoided talking about his own healthcare success for fear of being compared to the President's reform. Last night, he threw caution to the wind and just boldly stated that what worked so well in Massachusetts could never serve as a model for the Nation.
When Obama made his case for the federal government having a role in helping education, Romney replied by assuring Americans that he too, supported education, not exactly in the same way as the President, but he too was a believer in teachers, in quality education even though his budget belies his allegations. Obama actually put resources and programs to work to help education, including taking away billions the banks were making at the expense of students seeking college loans. Romney would never have supported that, but claims he is a strong supporter of education. There was no end to the Romney double talk.
One of the truisms Romney uttered last night was that the private marketplace in order to work properly needs rules and regulations. The same applies to debates, one of the ultimate expressions of the free market of ideas. But unlike in boxing, in debates there is no referee. There is nobody taking away points for sucker punches. In boxing, the ref can even disqualify a fighter for fighting dirty. No such things happen in a political debate. There are no rules, no points taken away for low blows, or even for bringing a knife to the fight. Anything goes in politics.
There is an important difference between boxing and debates, however. In boxing the decision is made immediately after the fight and that's all she wrote. In politics winning a debate is more like winning one round. The people are the ones who will ultimately decide what the impact of this first round win will be. There will be at least two weeks of poll numbers to judge whether Romney moved the numbers significantly in his direction. Will the celebrated swing states swing in his direction or will they stay with the President, for example. The next debate between the two Presidential candidates will be round two and you can bet that it will go differently depending on where the two stand in the battleground states.
I think Romney may yet regret that he got what he wished for. Winning the first round can produce many unpredictable consequences.



Link to C-SPAN for debate archives and more.


          Why We're Voting for Obama   



Brenda A.

MELBOURNE, FL



I gained great inspiration from President Obama to take a chance on opening my wine shop, and hope and change have been very good to me.

We just hit the three-year mark on my business, and it's paid off! President Obama is making sure that small business owners like myself can succeed. I know the economy needs to continue improving, and he's doing everything he can for small businesses.

I remember when I saw Barack Obama speak in 2008 in Kissimmee, I knew then that he would be elected president. I've had his back ever since. I believe in Barack Obama.

Tom C.

WEST PALM BEACH, FL

I just graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the Warrington School of Business. But the four years of rigorous, demanding coursework and the sacrifice I made isn't the real story here. Nor is the fact that the school is ranked 11th overall nationally for its distinguished finance program, an industry I plan to work in. Neither is the story about how I worked full-time throughout the last four years while studying, exchanging vacations and socialization, nice dinners, time with friends and family, and so much more for life as a student.

No, the real story is this: that without the combination of low cost federal loans and federal Pell grants, as well as state grants, I wouldn't have my degree today. What an abomination and stunt to American ingenuity, cultural and socio-economic progress cutting these funds for future generations would be. Although I'm through college, I care deeply, perhaps now more so than before I started on my degree, about the importance of ensuring Pell grants and low-cost loans are widely available, and stay available to any and all who seek them.

I'm confident a vote for President Obama this year is a vote towards protecting our commitment to future students that depend on these social nets. I, for one, am happy to pay my taxes throughout my lifetime to do my part. Unfortunately, not everyone feels that way. But my convictions simply come from my experience - nothing else.

Thank you, President Obama, and members of Congress, who champion, in the face of unadulterated and unrelenting populist pressure, that our long tradition of helping to fund higher education needs to continue to preserve opportunity for all, and investments in the next generation of ambitious innovators, thinkers, and doers are just too important to simply “give up”.

Susan R.

BONNIE DOONE, NC

My story isn't going to be about economics, or healthcare. It's not going to be about anything that catches the eyes of a news reader. My story is a simple, but my life depends on people like President Obama.

I am a military spouse. I am a proud Air Force wife. I am a mother, an advocate, a supporter, and I too take orders and try not to question those in charge. Though I don't actually own a uniform, I put one on every day.

In my lifetime, I have never witnessed and now been a part of an administration that focuses so much on the military and the military family.

I would like to thank President and Mrs. Obama, for caring about us. For putting into place initiatives like Joining Forces that really do help military families. I would like to thank the First Family for listening to us.

Not many have had to experience the military life and though this is a life that we choose, it is still one that is fraught with fear, anxiety, depression, and stress.

I truly believe that if our nation works hard and joins forces that good people like President Obama can continue making change!

Kim J.

ORANGE, CA

I wasn't a supporter of President Obama in 2008. I didn't go to any phone banks or attend any rallies, and there was one simple reason for that: I was a Republican.

Raised in Orange County in a staunchly Republican family, naturally I became very involved in GOP politics. By the end of my junior year in college, I had volunteered on a Republican campaign and interned twice for a Republican member of Congress. Those experiences were meant to be stepping stones toward my dream job: a political career in Washington, D.C., working for a GOP congressman. But after working so hard for Republicans for so long, I came to a very humbling realization – I had been fighting for the wrong side the entire time.

Last summer, it finally struck me how much this administration's policies helped me as a young woman in her college years. From student loan reform to the Affordable Care Act, I have benefited tremendously from the work of President Obama. I re-registered as a Democrat and soon after, jumped at the chance to work for Obama as an organizing fellow with the campaign. I have been volunteering ever since.

Four years ago, I never would have thought I would be a supporter of President Obama, much less a volunteer on his campaign, but I now understand how much the President has fought for me, even when I wasn't fighting for him.


Joyce B.

MC KINNEY, TX

Our adult son was born with the birth defect, Spina Bifida, 44 years ago, and in his 20's was diagnosed with leukemia. We were fortunate enough to have health insurance through an employer that covered the cost of 38 surgeries due to his birth defect, a bone marrow transplant to cure the leukemia, wheelchairs, leg braces, many doctor's vists, therapy sessions, etc. We know firsthand the tremendous expense parents have when faced with the birth of a child with birth defects. Our son was helped first by the government program, Supplemental Security Income, before he had worked enough to qualify for Social Security Disability Income. He has never been able to obtain a full time job because of his physical and learning disabilities, but has worked part-time for many years in minimum wage jobs. He now qualifies for Medicare which is life-saving for him, since he is uninsurable under current law due to his pre-existing conditions. The Affordable Health Care Law will now allow those with pre-existing conditions to obtain health insurance. Although we were fortunate to have healthcare coverage for these many surgeries, we know there are many families with children with disabilities who do not have adequate insurance. Those who oppose this law need to step into the shoes of those who aren't able to obtain health insurance due to pre-existing conditions. President Obama stood by his promise to pass the Affordable Health Care Law which will benefit many people, and we with many other families thank him. He has accomplished many things during his presidency even though he has had tremendous opposition from the Republican party membership. We believe he is leading our country in the right direction on all the major issues facing our country. We will support President Obama during this campaign by volunteering and by our financial contributions as we did in 2008.

David & Joyce B.

Jillian M.

DEER TRAIL, CO

My husband & I live in a VERY rural area in eastern Colorado. We're pretty much surrounded by people who support the republican point of view. We proudly drive our pick-up around with our Obama sticker on it, and do all we can to support "our" President. Things are tough out here...our daughter is a teacher & can't find a job. We believe in what Obama stands for...what our country needs to support for all of our futures. We donate whenever we can & you have all our support. Thanks for all you have done for us and for what you continue to do for Americans.


















Link to C-SPAN for debate archives and more.


          Voodoo Two   

When candidate George H. W. Bush ran against Ronald Reagan he coined a phrase which became synonymous with the economics policy of the Reagan administration and could easily be applied to Republican orthodoxy since then: “Voodoo Economics.”
Mitt Romney
Bush, the last moderate Republican president, was appalled that Ronald Reagan was proposing to increase federal spending, cut taxes, and balance the budget, a feat that in fact turned out to be impossible. Reagan characterized Jimmy Carter's economic deficits as “obscene” and promised his Presidency was going to erase Carter's deficits and balance the budget.
Bush 41 stated that Reagan's economic views were nonsense and correctly predicted that, if implemented, they would drive up deficits substantially. Calling the Reagan economic proposals, “Voodoo Economics” was his way of alerting the voting public that Reagan’s policies were a type of “magical thinking” and had no basis in reality. Just a quick gaze at a chart provided by Wikipedia illustrates the consequence of Reagan's policies on deficits. In comparison, Carter's deficits look downright puny, although compared to Richard Nixon, they were much larger, leaving Carter vulnerable to the charge that he was increasing the debt more than the frugal Nixon.
(source: Wikipedia)
Unfortunately for the nation, Reagan's flirtation with supply side economics led to deficits the likes of which America had never seen before. How and why Ronald Reagan is still considered a hero to conservatives to this day in light of his pursuit of extravagant government spending is beyond my comprehension. The only explanation I can come up with is that in the conservative world, military spending does not count -- as by some twisted logic, the Defense Department is not really part of the Federal Government.
Of course, most of us remember that the Soviet Union collapsed during Reagan's term, so he received credit for containment policies dating back to the Truman Administration. If there was one consistent bipartisan thread in American foreign policy since World War II it was an implacable opposition to the Soviet Union. Actually, it was the much maligned Jimmy Carter who stood up to the Soviets the hardest, not with just rhetoric but with bold action. First, he dealt the Soviets a humiliating blow to their collective egos by boycotting the Moscow Olympics, ostensibly for their invasion of Afghanistan. But the most consequential action Carter took was to halt precious shipments of grain to the Soviets, an action that disrupted their food supply chain and led directly to food riots in Poland which marked the beginning of the end of the Soviet empire. But no matter, Reagan uttered those memorable words, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” in Berlin and almost by magic the wall came down. Voodoo indeed.
The Reagan legend was cemented and all the spending was forgiven since Reagan single-highhandedly brought down the despised Soviet empire. Even New York's Mayor Giuliani, running for President himself kept repeating the anecdote that Ronald Reagan had such magical powers that the day he was inaugurated the Iranians released all the hostages from the US Embassy in Teheran. Never mind that the Carter administration had been working feverishly for over a year to negotiate their release, working with as diverse countries as Switzerland and Algeria (the final go-between) to secure the release of the Embassy personnel. No siree, according to the good Mayor of New York City, the mere walking into the White House of the Voodoo Master himself was sufficient to scare the hell out of the Ayatollah, who, out of fear that Reagan might utter magic words like, “Let my people go!” and the hostages would mysteriously disappear from Iran, released them before lunch. It is astounding that there are people who would believe such a fantastical yarn, even devoid of the embellishments I added for effect. Reagan, for the diehard Republicans (and a few Democrats), was the proverbial knight in shining armor and everything he did turned into gold, even when he was selling missiles to the Ayatollah.
Such is the power of magic that Mitt Romney, who in an earlier incarnation put as much distance between himself and Ronald Reagan as he could, has now seen the light and is promoting another version of wizardly wisdom, call it Voodoo Economics 2.0. For brevity sake, let's call it Voodoo Two.
Voodoo Two, or the return of Voodoo Economics, is essentially warmed-over Ronald Reagan. If you listen carefully to Mitt Romney (and it is my job to listen carefully to the would-be President) you will get to the essence of what Romney is proposing. He is telling us that he would increase defense spending, lower income taxes for everybody, keep most of the safety net for the poor, save all the entitlements for future generations, and (wait for it) balance the budget. Of course, the main difference between suceeding Obama and suceeding Carter is that between George W. and Obama (mostly George W), the debt has exploded right through the ozone layer. Obama likes to blame Bush for the debt, but he increased the debt by 10% himself, although 90% of it is George W.'s accomplishment.
So Magical Mitt, as we should probably be calling him, together with his wonder-boy Ryan are going to perform a Reagan encore act on an exploding deficit and they expect the American public to believe that Reagan's tripling of Carter's deficit is in no way related to Romney's new voodoo. There are plenty of people who wish to believe. Faith, they call it. But faith in the divine is one thing. Many people believe that faith in the divine is a good thing and who is to say they are wrong? Faith in something we cannot see or comprehend can be construed as optimism, of belief in life with purpose. But confidence in a politician who is doing a bad impersonation of another politician who was responsible for huge deficits is not the kind of faith that can be said to be optimistic. That is just gullibility.
As George W. famously said, "There's an old saying in Tennessee – I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee – that says, fool me once, shame on – shame on you. Fool me – you can't get fooled again."
Or something like that.



Link to C-SPAN for debate archives and more.


          Bopp 'til you Drop   

James Bopp, is a rather obscure lawyer from Terre Haute, Indiana. I say obscure, because he is not known by the general public, but to the anti-abortion crowd he is kind of a hero. He has served as the general counsel for National Right to Life since 1978 and as the special counsel for Focus on the Family since 2004. Bopp was the editor of Restoring the Right to Life: The Human Life Amendment. (Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1984)
James Bopp
This story is not, however, about Bopp's abortion bona fides. He is better known as the guy who brought us rivers of money to political campaigns as he argued successfully for Citizens's United in front of the Supreme Court.
His success had a improbable start. He was literally laughed out of court when he had the temerity to state that the hit piece on Hillary Clinton, Hillary: The Movie, was legitimate news and should be allowed to air on TV as would any news piece. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) told Citizens United that it couldn't air the film during primary season, because it amounted to a 90-minute campaign ad. In court, Bopp argued that the movie wasn't so different from what you'd see on 60 Minutes, and its creators deserved First Amendment protections. At that point, US District Court Judge Royce Lamberth laughed out loud. "You can't compare this to 60 Minutes," he said. "Did you read this transcript?"
But funnier things happened on the way to the Supreme Court since the justices saw fit to overturn the FEC's decision, thereby ushering in a new age of unlimited campaign spending whereby billionaires could contribute unlimited cash – anonymously if they wish – to support the candidates of their choice, virtually annihilating the years of campaign reforms that had been painstakingly achieved on a bipartisan basis over many years. One stroke of the pen eliminated years of legislative work. President Obama famously predicted that the decision would go down in history as a terrible experiment much to the visible disapproval of justice Alito during a State of the Union address.
The assumption, of course, by both Democrats and Republicans, was that the Republicans, with their billionaire minions would have a huge advantage and that cash advantage does seem to have materialized in that candidate Mitt Romney, the self-confessed candidate of the plutocrats, has been awash in campaign cash, much of it of dubious origin and difficult to account for. He used his cash advantage to blow away his Republican primary competition which is certainly evidence of poetic justice since Republicans generally welcomed the Supreme Court decision with open arms, not to mention open wallets. The Romney rivals never had a fighting chance as they were severely outspent by the faux conservative Romney and, in an ironic twist worthy of an Agatha Christie novel, the more conservative candidates were pulverized by the very money they worshiped, allowing the moderate and more “flexible” Romney to win the nomination. Never was the saying, “Be careful what you wish for...” more true.


Never was the saying, “Be careful 
what you wish for...” more true.

Romney has demonstrated that the well-heeled are the ones in the best position to rake in the cash, not necessarily the ones with the most conservative ideas, which is why we have a Romney/Ryan ticket and not the converse. There is even loose talk among the conservative claque that Romney should step aside and allow for the ideologically more “pure” ticket of Ryan/Rubio.

But it is too late.

Romney, the poster child of unfettered capitalism, has won the money race fair and square under the new Bopp rules, and Bopp, as a modern Dr. Frankenstein, has joined his newly created monster who turns out to be exactly what the system created. He is an unfeeling money hound with no scruples or core principles aside from a strong desire to win at any cost, much like the mythical Gordon Gekko, that fictitious lizard of Wall Street fame.
The final irony is this. All that humongous horde of cash cannot hide the fact that Romney is a deeply flawed candidate and the instincts of the American people are proven correct once again. Romney is perceived as the phony he is by friend and foe alike. The only thing keeping his campaign even remotely competitive is that 1) there are people who genuinely dislike the President and would vote for Joe the Plumber before voting for Obama, and 2) the economy is in a sluggish recovery so therefore there is more pain out in the country than usual.
If it wasn't for these two factors, all the money in China wouldn't be enough to save Mitt's candidacy. What will be interesting to see is after the Bopp experiment has run its course, and the big money fails to win, what will the Congress do about campaign finance reform? To quote the great poet ee cummings,
“how do you like your blueeyed boy
Mister Death”


Link to C-SPAN for debate archives and more.


          Dirty Harry Meets Harvey   

Clint Eastwood at the Republican Convention
Film buffs remember Jimmy Stewart's iconic portrayal of a simple man who had a six foot two invisible rabbit as a friend. Stewart carried the 1950 film classic, Harvey which centered around the question of whether Jimmy Stewart's character was sane or insane.
There is no question that the rambling Clint Eastwood is sane. His performance at the Republican National Convention, where he conversed with an invisible Barack Obama, may have been a bit bizarre but it nicely encapsulated the fiction that continues to be the criticism of the President. Clint Eastwood was short on specifics, but he tried to reinforce the myth that the President is a nice guy but in over his head, that he is not up to the job.

The media generally has panned Eastwood's convention performance, alleging that he sounded like an “old,” almost senile man who was generally an embarrassment and out of synch with the Republican convention. Certainly, he was a shadow of himself if you compare his performance in Tampa with the powerful Superbowl commercial he did for Chrysler. The Chrysler commercial was criticized by Republicans for sounding too pro-Obama. Somehow, truth-telling, which is what Eastwood was doing in the commercial, seems to benefit the President. But Eastwood went beyond truth-telling in that hard-hitting Dirty Harry style spot. The commercial not only reminded Americans of the critical role the President had in saving the US automobile industry, but Clint made that all-American pitch, that we were merely at halftime, alluding to not only the break in the football game but also, some concluded, to the halfway mark of Obama's presidency. Therefore, it became imperative for the Republican Party to make clear to the voters that Eastwood was a supporter of the Republican ticket.
But Eastwood is no old senile man. Far from it. He is as clever as a fox. His performance was not only designed to pander to the delegates at the convention but was also designed to plant seeds of doubt among the undecided voters. Unfortunately for Clint, it was too clever by half and he got lost in his contradictions. It is hard to make the point that Obama is a “nice guy” who is in over his head while simultaneously attributing epithets such as “go fuck yourself” and “shut up” to him since most people think of their President as a mild-mannered man. Eastwood did, however, capture the essence of the Republican message and talking to a non-existent Obama pretty much says it all. The Romney/Ryan campaign is entirely dependent on perpetuating a critique of a non-existent Obama. The following is a small representative sample:
The Stimulus was a Failure
It is a classic fallacy that if something does not solve every problem it must have failed. In order to make this statement believable one must suspend all reality. The only legitimate critique is that the stimulus could have been larger, but that is counter to Republican orthodoxy that government is powerless to solve anything. Thousands of jobs were either saved or created. All manner of projects, both in the public sector and private, were brought to success. For example, Governor Rick Perry of Texas, would never have been able to balance his budget without stimulus funding. All manner of infrastructure work was accomplished in spite of a few projects which were not quite “shovel ready.” The Republican critique only works if one concentrates on the few failures. A short quote from Energy.com tells a small part of the story:
Today, the Obama Administration announced the selection of the first public-private pilot institute for manufacturing innovation in Youngstown, Ohio, to help revitalize American manufacturing and encourage companies to invest in the United States. This new partnership, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII), was selected through a competitive process to receive an initial investment of $30 million in federal funding and matched by $40 million from the winning consortium of manufacturing firms, universities, community colleges, and non-profit organizations from the Ohio-Pennsylvania ‘Tech Belt.’ August 16, 2012 [source: Department of Commerce]
There are countless initiatives that did not make the news. Unlike the simplistic slogans characterizing the media as “liberal,” the media gravitate more to sensational stories. For example, the closing of a single plant such as Solyndra in California is simple to report, while telling the bigger story of NAMII (the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute) is more complex and nuanced and therefore a more difficult story to tell in a five minute segment.
The Elimination of the Work Component of Welfare Myth
This blatant falsehood is essential to paint Obama as a protector of the shiftless and lazy class, complete with racial overtones since so many people assume that welfare recipients are mostly blacks. The best numbers available on welfare recipients: Black – 39.8%, White – 38.8%, Hispanic – 15.7%, Other – 3.3%, Asian – 2.4%. [source: answers.com]
All the fact-checkers agree that Obama did not eliminate the work component for welfare recipients. He simply gave, within the provisions of the law, some flexibility to governors, such as Mitt Romney himself, regarding how to attain the work requirement. For a party that is constantly promoting states rights not only is this critique a lie but it is disingenuous as well as hypocritical.
The Gutting of Medicare Myth
This is clearly one of the most pernicious of all the Republican lies. The $716 billion number Republicans bandy about as “taking” from Medicare is really a tightening of the program by negotiating with hospitals and other providers smaller reimbursements based on the expectations of an expanded population insured under the American Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). The Republicans, on the other hand, have made no secret of their desire to eliminate Medicare by forcing future seniors into the private insurance market with the promise of a fixed subsidy that may or may not cover the insurance premiums, which will undoubtedly be extremely high based on probability factors. Ironically, only the full implementation of Obamacare with its insistence of insuring people with pre-existing conditions might palliate the Republican voucher plan. Of course, to add insult to injury, Ryan has the exact same cut to Medicare in his plan as Obama does.
Obama Believes Jobs Come from Government
This particular myth is actually quite easily disproved, although Republicans have repeatedly demonstrated that repeating a lie over and over again has an effect on the body politic. Public sector jobs grew by 4% under George W. Bush and shrank by 3% under Barack Obama, a fact that is just not generally known thanks to a failure of the Obama administration to push that point coupled with the media's infatuation with more sensationalist stories. Not only do too many people believe Obama is “growing” government but too many people don't realize he cut most of their taxes as well.
This is why Clint Eastwood's dialog with a non-existent Obama rings true. Critics have had a field day accusing President Obama of the most outrageous fantasies. The above examples are merely a few selected policy fabrications, but the concoctions have been many and varied. The smears on his reputation seem to be endless, from raising doubts about his own birth, his faith, his convictions, almost everything about him has been called into question – not as legitimate inquiry, but as deliberate fraudulent statements designed to misrepresent. The Republicans have been criticizing a non-existent Obama for years and getting away with it.
Clint indeed made their day.



Link to C-SPAN for debate archives and more.


          Ryan's Medicare Problem   
In the point, counter-point world of campaigns, much is lost in the hyperbole and obsession over details. Most issues are not black and white, so to reduce them to slogans based on one esoteric point over another, doesn't give voters a chance to properly evaluate the competing claims.
Representative Paul Ryan
The Medicare debate is particularly complicated because it involves scores of factors, many of which are difficult to control. Most slogans actually say very little that is useful to the voter. “End Medicare as we know it” is a truism that says nothing just as “government takeover of healthcare” is a falsehood that doesn’t provide any information. The first slogan, used by Democrats, is true but