Saturday, July 29, 2006


Latest on Lieberdem

I have a post up on Lieberdem that aims to puncture the myth that Joe Lieberman supported the Alito nomination to the Supreme Court. While you are there, check out the post my partner Matt Smith put up that exposes several other myths that the Lieberman-haters have been peddling.

Sunday, July 16, 2006


Club Meds

The New York Times has a rather disturbing front-page article today about the proliferation of prescription drugs -- in particular, behavior modification meds -- being dispensed to children at summer sleepaway camps. Sort of reads like another obituary for childhood innocence in America.

Now, I am in no position to judge how many kids are being helped versus harmed by the growing use of anti-depressants and anti-ADHD stimulants like Ritalin. And I have to assume that for at least some kids these meds are lifesavers. But the more I read about this trend, the more concerned I am that we are overreacting in medicalizing normal child behavior, overprescribing heavy-duty drugs with not insignificant potential side effects, and thereby needlessly putting a lot of kids at risk just to make ourselves as adults feel good.

It's passages like these in today's Times story that really make you wonder:

[M]any experts say family doctors who do not have expertise in psychopharmacology sometimes prescribe drugs for anxiety disorders and depression to children without rigorous evaluation, just as they do for adults.

“There is no doubt that kids are more medicated than they used to be,” said Dr. Edward A. Walton, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Michigan and an expert on camp medicine for the American Academy of Pediatrics. “And we know that the people prescribing these drugs are not that precise about diagnosis. So the percentage of kids on these meds is probably higher than it needs to be.”

A few medicines growing in popularity, like Abilify and Risperdal, are used for a grab bag of mood disorders. But according to the Physicians’ Desk Reference, the encyclopedia of prescription medications, they can have troublesome side effects in children and teenagers, including elevated blood sugar or the tendency toward heat exhaustion, which requires vigilance by counselors in long, hot days on the ball fields.

Some doctors, nurses and camp directors are uneasy about giving children so-called off-label drugs like Lexapro and Luvox. Such medications are used for depression and anxiety, and have been tested only on adults but can legally be prescribed to children. Clonidine is approved as a medication for high blood pressure but is routinely used for behavioral and emotional problems in children.

This debate has been bubbling on the periphery of American public life for the last several years, and there have been a few obscure Congressional hearings on the subject here and there. But I hope this Times story, by underscoring just how prevalent these drugs are, will help elevate this discussion as a matter of public policy and prod our attention-deficited leaders in Washington to take some concrete action.

The fact is, we're not just talking about a minor cultural phenomenon anymore, but a major health issue affecting the lives of millions of families. And before we allow the mass medicalizing of children's behavior go any further, it would nice to have some credible answers to the hard questions that continue to be raised about this trend. Is it necessary? Is it safe? What role are the pharmaceutical companies playing in "stimulating" demand for these meds? What will it take to bring the medical community to a consensus? I'm sure more than a few parents would like to know.

Saturday, July 15, 2006


Today's LSOTA (Latest Sign Of The Apocalypse)

This story out of Tennessee offers so many bad pun possibilities my head is about to explode. Let's just say that maybe for once we know exactly why the chicken crossed the road.

Oh, and for any campaign manager thinking about using the old chicken suit debate ploy, this incident may encourage you to think again.

Saturday, 07/15/06
Corker worker, man in chicken suit have run-in
Police investigate hit-and-run case

Staff Writer

Feathers flew Friday in downtown Chattanooga when a volunteer for U.S. Senate candidate Bob Corker says he was hit by a car driven by a man in a chicken suit who had been heckling the candidate.

"I will definitely not be having poultry for dinner. That's for darn sure," said Bryan Shannon, 30, who works for an insurance company in Chattanooga.

The impact was hard enough to throw Shannon off his feet and into the car's windshield, shattering glass. Shannon said he was left with a headache and cuts on his left hand and arm.

(You can find the rest of the story here)

Thursday, July 13, 2006


Responding to Sirota

Earlier today I put up a post on the new pro-Joe Lieberman blog (Lieberdem) that was meant to rebut recent commentaries from Democratic blogger David Sirota and Washington Post columnist Harold Meyerson.

Among other things, I challenged Sirota's credibility by revealing that he had interviewed for jobs in Lieberman's Senate office and presidential campaign not long before he began viciously attacking the Senator. Sirota responded on his blog much as I expected, with a slew of personal attacks, disingenuous claims, and easily-documented inaccuracies.

Here is the follow-up post I put up on Lieberdem earlier this evening.


A friend forwarded me David Sirota's reply to my post from earlier today, in which I exposed the fact Sirota had interviewed to work for Lieberman's Senate office and presidential campaign not long before he began viciously attacking the Senator. I fully expected Sirota to attack me personally and rationalize his hypocritical behavior, but there is no way I could have predicted the masterstroke in self-delusion he produced.

In explaining his decision to interview in 2003 with the target of his current hatred, Sirota actually goes so far as to claim he thought he of all people might be able to bring Lieberman to his senses:

"I figured Lieberman might have been considering a reform of his politics back to the old days when he was far more progressive, and that they wanted me to discuss progressive strategy with them. What other reason would Lieberman people call me and ask me to chat with them?"

The rest of the piece is so similarly and comically self-aggrandizing that I am tempted to just let it stand for itself. But because Sirota's delusions get in the way of the truth in a number of relevant places, and might cloud the impressions of casual readers, I thought it was important to clear up the worst inaccuracies in Sirota's reply.

1) I am not Joe Lieberman's "top political consultant." If Sirota had bothered to check his facts, he would know that I stopped working for Senator Lieberman in the spring of 2004, and have not been in his paid employ since. I have no formal association with his reelection campaign, though I am trying to helpful as a friend and admirer of my old boss. And no one asked me to do this post -- it was purely my idea.

2) This is not my blog. It was recently started by a Lieberman supporter named Matt Smith, who I never had any contact with until a few days ago, when I asked him if he would mind if I contributed a post here and there. (If anyone is interested, I do have my own blog:

3) Notwithstanding Sirota's overheated use of the word lie, he does not in the slightest disprove anything I said about his seeking jobs with Lieberman. I wrote that he had job interviews both with the Senate office and Lieberman's presidential campaign in 2003, and I think any reasonable person would deduce that if Sirota wasn't interested in working for the man he so despises now, he wouldn't have interviewed in one of those shops, let alone both.

4) I have never said a word about the outcome of those interview processes, on this blog or anywhere else, nor accused Sirota of sour grapes. I only noted that Sirota came in for interviews, which was more than enough to reveal his rank hypocrisy. Plus, after seeing more closely how he operates, the last word I would ever use to describe my feelings about Sirota not coming to work with me for Lieberman is "angry."

Now, others have noted to me that it is curious that Sirota only discusses his interview with the Lieberman Senate office, and says nothing about the presidential campaign. Maybe that is because Sirota did not take himself out of the running for that job, but was rejected by the campaign, something that was confirmed to me by a person with firsthand knowledge of the interview. That same person noted that when Sirota was asked why someone who seemed so liberal wanted to work for Joe Lieberman, "he specifically said that he was excited to have a Jew in the White House."

4) Speaking of Jewish, nowhere in my post did I "play the Jewish card" against Sirota in my post, as he disingenuously suggests. I simply made a general point about the views of Lieberman-haters about Israel and other issues. Here is the passage in question:

"Once you strip away these flimsy arguments and faulty claims, what you see is that Meyerson and Sirota and their comrades-in-anger are simply projecting their own views and biases, not those of Connecticut's Democrats. THEY think Lieberman is wrong on trade and Israel and other pet issues of the angry activist base, most everyone they talk to in the blogosphere thinks Lieberman is wrong on these same matters, and so of course most Democrats in Connecticut must agree -- which ipso facto makes Lieberman out-of-touch with his constituents."

Nowhere in there do I accuse anyone of anti-Semitism. And to the less self-aggrandizing reader, it would be obvious that the use of the word "they" there was meant to be general and not to single out Sirota. But if Sirota feels I mistakenly lumped him into the category of those haters who think Lieberman is wrong on Israel, then I apologize for my lack of precision, and I look forward to getting Sirota's statement of support on Lieberman's position.

5) My favorite part of Sirota's post is his accusation that I am making "a great living off Big Money's dime." As he could have seen from simply checking my website, a courtesy I gave Sirota, almost all of my consulting clients have been small, progressive advocacy groups -- such as the community coalition that is fighting the massive basketball arena development in Brooklyn, for whom I do pro-bono advising. Frankly, I would bet that between all Sirota's consulting work, his speaking appearances, and his thoughtful new book, he is making a good bit more money than I am.

In full disclosure, I did do some work to help Duke University launch a new environmental policy center, but don't think that's what Sirota had in mind. My only corporate client I have had to date is the Connecticut-based Pilot Pen Corporation, and in that case I helped them arrange an event in Washington to promote a widely-praised reading program they had funded.

As for political clients, I have had two. One was a progressive Democratic candidate for Public Advocate in New York City named Andrew Rasiej, who made it his cause to take on Time Warner, Verizon and other big telecom companies that were standing in the way of universal Wi-Fi, the centerpiece of Rasiej's agenda. The other is Tom Suozzi, the reform-minded Nassau County Executive, who is running against Eliot Spitzer in the Democratic primary for governor in New York. Suozzi dismantled the corrupt Republican machine in Nassau to become County Executive, and his gubernatorial campaign is focused on taking back New York's dysfunctional state government from the big-monied special interests Sirota detests and making it work for the people again.

Sirota is right about one thing. I am technically a political loser -- Rasiej got his head handed to him, Suozzi is way behind in the polls to Spitzer, and we all know what happened to Senator Lieberman's presidential bid. I'd like to think I added some value to those campaigns, which were all longshots from the start for varying reasons, but there is no denying the results. I'm not sure, though, how that distinguished me from other Democrats, I'm sad to say. Nor, more importantly, do I have any idea how that is relevant to the question at hand, which is whether Sirota and other out-of-state Lieberman-haters have any legitimacy in speaking for most Connecticut Democrats or judging what's mainstream.

I thought my original blog post fairly effectively discredited Sirota's credibility on this count -- notice in his post that he does not contest the fact that he has attacked Bill Clinton and Barack Obama for being bad Democrats. But if there were any doubts after reading my post, Sirota's fantastical reply should eliminate them once and for all.


Meet Lieberdem

I made my debut post today on Lieberdem, the pro-Joe Lieberman blog that launched last week as a counterpoint of sanity to the deranged purge campaign that is being waged online against my former boss. I plan on being a regular contributor to the site, and will cross link my Lieberdem posts here. But check out the site when you get a chance for a different perspective on this defining race.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


Today's LSOTA (Latest Sign Of The Apocalypse)

Introducing the granddaddy of all drug dealing schemes.....

Pa. Man, 80, Admits Dealing Crack for Sex
Jul 12 5:33 PM US/Eastern

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- An 80-year-old man acknowledged Wednesday that he dealt drugs at his house in return for sex with prostitutes. Felix Cocco of Pittsburgh pleaded guilty to charges of possession of a controlled substance, possession with intent to deliver and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Police said Cocco had been dealing drugs for nearly a year when he was arrested in November. Officers seized crack cocaine, a digital scale and packaging materials, police said. Authorities said they caught Cocco dealing again in February.

When an Allegheny County judge asked Cocco why he chose a new profession so late in life, Cocco replied, "I was trying to stay alive, your honor _ pay my bills."

Cocco's lawyer, Martha Bailor, told the court her client wanted to remain sexually active after his wife died three years ago, and turned to prostitutes.

"He decided it's cheaper to pay for sex with crack than cash," she said.

Prosecutors said they would not seek mandatory sentences if the defense agreed to a six-to-18-month jail term.

The judge ordered an evaluation of Cocco's health after Bailor expressed concern about Cocco's vulnerability in jail.

Cocco remains under house arrest while he awaits sentencing scheduled for Oct. 2.


Free Ride

There has been a lot of Huffington and puffing in recent days about the Bush Administration's cynical smear campaign against the New York Times and the rest of the news media, and rightly so. But sadly, most of the denunciations have provided far more heat than light and done little to help people put this story in a larger context and understand why it is so pernicious.

One exception is New Yorker Editor David Remnick's exceptional commentary on the subject in this week's issue, which is the most cogent and contextualized analysis of the Bush team's "shoot the messenger" strategy I have come across yet.

Remnick makes the case that the latest attack on the Times is not just another ploy to distract Americans from the Administration's incompetence and malfeasance, but part of sustained effort to discredit and marginalize the press that has its machiavellian antecedents in the uniquely Nixonian paranoid style. That's their best hope of escaping accountability for their misdeeds, Remnick contends, to take our democracy's primary watchdog out back and shoot it.

"Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and others in the Nixon-Agnew-Ford orbit left Washington believing that the imperial Presidency had been disastrously hobbled by a now imperial press. When they reappeared in 2001, under the auspices of George W. Bush, the Nixon-Agnew spirit was resurrected with them—this time without the Joycean wordplay. More than any other White House in history, Bush’s has tried to starve, mock, weaken, bypass, devalue, intimidate, and deceive the press, using tactics far more toxic than any prose devised in the name of Spiro Agnew.

"Firm in the belief that the press can be gored for easy political gain, the Bush Administration has set about reducing the status of the media (specifically, what it sees as the left-wing, Eastern-establishment media) to that of a pesky yet manageable interest group, nothing more. As Andrew Card, the White House chief of staff at the time, told this magazine’s Ken Auletta, 'They'—the media—'don’t represent the public any more than other people do. In our democracy, the people who represent the public stood for election. . . . I don’t believe you have a check-and-balance function.'

"In the past six years, the Administration and its surrogates have issued a stream of disinformation about intelligence and Iraq; paid friendly 'columnists' like Armstrong Williams and Maggie Gallagher tens of thousands of dollars to parrot the White House line, accredited to the White House press corps a phony journalist and ex-prostitute (Jeff “Bulldog” Gannon, a.k.a. James Dale Guckert) as a reliable pitcher of softball questions, tightened Freedom of Information Act restrictions; and pioneered a genre of fake news via packaged video 'reports.' The President has held fewer solo news conferences than any of his modern predecessors. The Vice-President kept the Times reporter off his plane because he didn’t like the paper’s coverage. The atmosphere, in general, has been one of crude manipulation and derision. After Seymour M. Hersh published, in this magazine, his third article on the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in as many weeks, the Pentagon spokesman Lawrence DiRita, overlooking the truth of the reports, publicly declared that Hersh merely 'threw a lot of crap against the wall and he expects someone to peel off what’s real.' (Hersh’s articles, he said, composed a 'tapestry of nonsense.')"

After reading Remnick's piece, it seems to me that Democrats have a great opportunity to use this scapegoating crusade against the Republicans and to shuffle the deck in the "security vs. liberty" debate. But to seize it, we are going to have to reframe the discussion, to stop defending the press and their rights and start attacking the conservatives for their assault on freedom.

Much as Remnick has done, but more broadly, we need to connect the dots and show how this Administration and its allies in Congress -- which has so piously proclaimed its commitment to spreading freedom abroad -- are systematically stifling it at home. Bit by bit, they are taking away our freedom to know what our government is doing. They are taking away our freedom to dissent and petition our government for redress. They are taking away our freedom to choose what is best for our country. And they are doing it because they don't trust we the people.

This is a case where language really matters. Ever since 9-11, Republicans have tried to corner the market on freedom, and apply that word as a shield to hide and/or rationalize all manner of freedom-diminishing policies and tactics. They have managed to get away with this hypocrisy largely because Democrats have fallen back in to the rights trap that marginalized us in 1960s and 70s on crime, where it now seems like we care more about the civil liberties of foreign terrorists (and the journalists who abet them) than the basic security of the American people.

That's a myth, of course, but we have allowed ourselves to be painted into that caricatured corner by our rhetoric and in particular our emphasis. Most Americans do care about the balance between security and liberty, but if all they hear out of our mouths is the liberty side of the equation, it's easy for them to write us off as being soft on terror. And we compound that misperception when we make the New York Times (the people who brought us Jason Blair) the issue instead of the freedom of all Americans.

To change this damaging dynamic, we have to refocus our message and reiterate our commitment to fighting terrorism -- ideally, as I have lobbied for many times before, by issuing an aggressive strategy to crush Al Qaeda and talking about it incessantly through the November elections. Once we begin to do that, we will be in a position to highlight the Republicans neo-Nixonian behavior, hold them accountable for their hypocrisy, and reclaim our rightful status as the party of freedom.

Thursday, July 06, 2006


The Anti-Baucus Caucus

It has long been a mystery to me how the Democratic Party's activist base could target so much venom at my old boss Joe Lieberman for his deviations from party orthodoxy while ignoring the damaging deeds of Montana's Max Baucus, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee.

Even if you stipulate that Lieberman has undermined the party, which is a debatable proposition, nothing he has said or done on Iraq or any other issue has had anywhere near the tangible impact of Baucus' unforgivable sellout on the original Bush tax cut (which Lieberman strongly opposed from the beginning).

Few people remember this, but it was Baucus in 2001 who singlehandedly paved the way for the passage of the most unfair, lopsided, and fiscally-irresponsible piece of fiscal policy of at least the last half century. He is the one who threw the Democrats under the Rovian bus by cutting a colossally bad deal with the Administration early in the process, obliterating any chance of holding the party behind a unified position or leveraging meaningful changes.

In addition to putting the party in a huge political hole, Baucus helped decimate the country's fiscal stability, widen the growing gap in income inquality, and deplete the government of resources it needs to meet a range of big challenges that Democrats are hungry for action on -- such lowering the cost of health care, improving our public schools, and strengthening homeland security.

Thankfully, the New Republic is on the case. The magazine put out an excellent and long overdue editorial this week exposing Baucus as the Senate's "most dangerous Democrat," noting that he was in the process of selling out the party all over again on the estate tax fight, and calling for his ouster as the ranking Democrat on the Finance Committee.

Here's the crux of their argument:

"There is something a bit troubling about the Democrats' current obsession with discipline, as though there were no higher aspiration than matching the ruthless efficiency of the House Republicans. A political party is not the same as a Third World liberation movement. It ought to accommodate moments of dissent and occasional deviations from the party line without the forms of retribution that have recently taken hold in the liberal blogosphere.

"But apostasy comes in gradations: There is heterodoxy, and then there is Montana Senator Max Baucus. Baucus isn't in the mold of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who flirted with reasonable ideas taboo among Democratic constituencies. He doesn't take quirky procedural stands, à la Russ Feingold. He's not even a Zell Miller-like figure who rhetorically strafes his party but does little substantive damage. What Baucus does is use his influence as the top Democrat on the Finance Committee to systematically undercut his party and enable George W. Bush's most egregious domestic legislation. So why does his party entrust him with so much responsibility.

"We were reminded of this question during this month's estate-tax debate. On one side was the vast majority of Republicans, who kvetch about the cosmic unfairness of taxing the top 1 percent of family fortunes. On the other side was the vast majority of Democrats, who see the estate tax as a reasonable, if modest, curb on the excesses of dynastic wealth. And in the middle was Baucus, an opponent of the tax, pushing a last-minute compromise that would dramatically scale it back. Baucus says he was trying to make the best of a difficult situation, since the tax will be reined in one way or another. But his compromise doesn't merely split differences; its price tag is nearly 70 percent of the cost of outright repeal, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. And it reveals precisely why Baucus shouldn't be in such a sensitive position: He understands statesmanship strictly in terms of the size of the concession he makes; the more he concedes, the more Churchillian he thinks he is."

I would like to see how the folks over at Daily Kos and MyDD and the other big liberal blogs respond, and how they can continue to reconcile their ongoing silence on Baucus with their vendetta against Lieberman.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


Have a little faith

If you are looking for way to honor the spirit of July 4th, take a few minutes to read Barack Obama's inspiring speech from last week on the meaning of one of our most cherished freedoms, the freedom of religion.

E.J. Dionne's column Friday called it the most important speech about faith and politics since John F. Kennedy's famous address in Houston during the 1960 campaign declaring his independence from the Vatican, and this is one of those rare cases where you can believe the hype.

Speaking at a conference of progressive religious leaders sponsored by Call to Renewal, Obama talked with great insight and candor about the various ways that Democrats and Republicans alike have misused and misunderstood this first freedom and in the process made religion a point of division in our country rather than the source of unity and strength it traditionally has been.

For some time now, there has been plenty of talk among pundits and pollsters that the political divide in this country has fallen sharply along religious lines. Indeed, the single biggest "gap" in party affiliation among white Americans today is not between men and women, or those who reside in so-called Red States and those who reside in Blue, but between those who attend church regularly and those who don't.

Conservative leaders have been all too happy to exploit this gap, consistently reminding evangelical Christians that Democrats disrespect their values and dislike their Church, while suggesting to the rest of the country that religious Americans care only about issues like abortion and gay marriage; school prayer and intelligent design.

Democrats, for the most part, have taken the bait. At best, we may try to avoid the conversation about religious values altogether, fearful of offending anyone and claiming that - regardless of our personal beliefs - constitutional principles tie our hands. At worst, there are some liberals who dismiss religion in the public square as inherently irrational or intolerant, insisting on a caricature of religious Americans that paints them as fanatical, or thinking that the very word "Christian" describes one's political opponents, not people of faith.

Not surprisingly, Obama targeted the bulk of his message at his progressive brethren. In particular, he warns Democrats that it would be a mistake to not acknowledge the powerful role that faith plays in the every day life of most Americans, and to cede the field of religious discourse to conservatives.

Because when we ignore the debate about what it means to be a good Christian or Muslim or Jew; when we discuss religion only in the negative sense of where or how it should not be practiced, rather than in the positive sense of what it tells us about our obligations towards one another; when we shy away from religious venues and religious broadcasts because we assume that we will be unwelcome - others will fill the vacuum, those with the most insular views of faith, or those who cynically use religion to justify partisan ends.

In other words, if we don't reach out to evangelical Christians and other religious Americans and tell them what we stand for, then the Jerry Falwells and Pat Robertsons and Alan Keyeses will continue to hold sway.

More fundamentally, the discomfort of some progressives with any hint of religion has often prevented us from effectively addressing issues in moral terms. Some of the problem here is rhetorical - if we scrub language of all religious content, we forfeit the imagery and terminology through which millions of Americans understand both their personal morality and social justice.

Imagine Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address without reference to "the judgments of the Lord." Or King's I Have a Dream speech without references to "all of God's children." Their summoning of a higher truth helped inspire what had seemed impossible, and move the nation to embrace a common destiny.

Our failure as progressives to tap into the moral underpinnings of the nation is not just rhetorical, though. Our fear of getting "preachy" may also lead us to discount the role that values and culture play in some of our most urgent social problems.

After all, the problems of poverty and racism, the uninsured and the unemployed, are not simply technical problems in search of the perfect ten point plan. They are rooted in both societal indifference and individual callousness - in the imperfections of man.

Perhaps the most daring point Obama made was about the nexus between religion and morality -- terrority that my old boss Joe Lieberman tiptoed into in 2000 and got his yarmulke handed to him -- and the folly of trying to denude the public square of faith.

What I am suggesting is this - secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square. Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Williams Jennings Bryant, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King - indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history - were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause. So to say that men and women should not inject their "personal morality" into public policy debates is a practical absurdity. Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Moreover, if we progressives shed some of these biases, we might recognize some overlapping values that both religious and secular people share when it comes to the moral and material direction of our country. We might recognize that the call to sacrifice on behalf of the next generation, the need to think in terms of "thou" and not just "I," resonates in religious congregations all across the country. And we might realize that we have the ability to reach out to the evangelical community and engage millions of religious Americans in the larger project of American renewal.

Obama punctuated the speech by calling on progressive and conservatives alike to show a greater sense of proportion in creating a safe space for faith in the public square. This passage stood out most to me:

. . . [A] sense of proportion should also guide those who police the boundaries between church and state. Not every mention of God in public is a breach to the wall of separation - context matters. It is doubtful that children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance feel oppressed or brainwashed as a consequence of muttering the phrase "under God." I didn't. Having voluntary student prayer groups use school property to meet should not be a threat, any more than its use by the High School Republicans should threaten Democrats. And one can envision certain faith-based programs - targeting ex-offenders or substance abusers - that offer a uniquely powerful way of solving problems.

Obama managed to pull this off without sounding self-righteous or holier-than-thou. In fact, if anything, the power of Obama's message was multiplied exponentially by his humility, both as a Christian and as a politician.

My favorite part was the closing, which helps explain why Obama has risen so far so fast. Obama recounted the story of a pro-life constituent who sent him a gracious congratulatory note after his election in 2004, in which the author quite respectfully complained about the shrill pro-choice boilerplate Obama had on his campaign website, and asked Obama to use more "fair-minded words." After reviewing the language on his website, Obama said he felt "a pang of shame."

It is people like him who are looking for a deeper, fuller conversation about religion in this country. They may not change their positions, but they are willing to listen and learn from those who are willing to speak in fair-minded words. Those who know of the central and awesome place that God holds in the lives of so many, and who refuse to treat faith as simply another political issue with which to score points.

So I wrote back to the doctor, and I thanked him for his advice. The next day, I circulated the email to my staff and changed the language on my website to state in clear but simple terms my pro-choice position. And that night, before I went to bed, I said a prayer of my own - a prayer that I might extend the same presumption of good faith to others that the doctor had extended to me.

Of course, fair-minded seem to be an endangered species in the blogosphere, and true to form, Obama's speech was condemned by a number of liberal bloggers. Typical was this post by Chris Bowers at MyDD, who denounced Obama's inconvenient truths as "dangerous":

One of the reasons there is so much angst over what Obama said about Democrats and religion today is that, in Peter Daou's formulation, Obama's comments lend tri-partisan support (Democrats, Republicans and the media) to a narrative that Democrats are hostile toward people of faith. This tri-partisan support will result in a "closing of the triangle" against Democrats where it become conventional wisdom that Democrats are hostile to people of faith. This has been how the DLC has managed to reify ever anti-Democratic narrative it likes within the national discourse. So thanks Senator Obama, for reifying this Republican-driven talking point about Democrats. Now almost everyone will think that Democrats are hostile to people of faith. Well done. Your mentor, Joe Lieberman, would be proud.

The only conclusion one could reach after reading Bowers' reaction is that the DD stands for Delusional Democrats. I spent 11 years on Capitol Hill and top ranks of national politics, from 1993-2004, and the condescension and hostility towards religion and people of faith within the party was palpable.

That was even apparent within Al Gore's presidential campaign in 2000. I will never forget the day that Lieberman was formally unveiled as Gore's running mate at a ceremony in Nashville. Lieberman said a few prayers in Hebrew to express his joy and thank God for this historic opportunity, and I overheard more than a few campaign staffers make disparaging marks, along the lines of, "enough with the God stuff." This discomfort with Lieberman's religion peaked later in the fall, when the Gore campaign leadership repeatedly tried to stifle Lieberman from giving his own meditation on the role of faith in public life. Lieberman ultimately delivered the speech at Notre Dame to rave reviews.

So I would respectfully suggest to Bowers and his peers in the ostrich wing of the party that they open their eyes and ears, and their minds for that matter, and stop shooting the messenger. The electoral math here is simply undeniable. Democrats are getting crushed in the competition for faith-based voters, and because our base is considerable smaller than the Republicans, we simply don't have the luxury to ignore (or God forbid insult) this considerable bloc any longer if we want to become a majority party again. To acknowledge that deficit and work to fix it is not giving aid and comfort to the enemy -- it's taking common sense to its logical conclusion.

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