Wednesday, February 28, 2007



This is not something you see everyday: Politico editor John Harris posted a column today acknowledging his error in using the phrase "slow bleed" to brand John Murtha's plan for stopping the Bush troop surge in Iraq.

After reading Harris's confession, you could either see the glass of spilt milk as half full or half empty. You could give some Harris some credit for personally owning up to the mistake, rather than hiding behind some passive-voiced, third-person correction that most dead-tree publications typically run. Or, as the always even-handed Kos did, you could use it as an opportunity to blanketly accuse Harris and The Politico of being "a treasure-trove of bullshit negative Democratic framing?"

To be fair, Kos did give some Harris a modicum of credit at the bottom of his post, after he worked in a gratuitous, self-important dig at yours truly. But that notwithstanding, his comments on the whole are just another example of the far left's troubling tendency to write off media reports they don't like or disagree with as damning evidence of deep bias -- what might be called Fox-o-phobia.

Surely Kos can do better than that. Maybe it's time to apply a little accountability at home, and ask Kos back up his "treasure trove" assertion.


techPresident Check

For those interested in how technology is changing politics, I would encourage you to check out a new site called

An offshoot of the Personal Democracy Forum, bills itself as a new group blog that covers how the 2008 presidential candidates are using the web, and vice versa, how content generated by voters is affecting the campaign. Per the founders:

The 2008 election will be the first where the Internet will play a central role, not only in terms of how the campaigns use technology, but also in how voter-generated content affects its course. plans to track all these changes in real-time, covering everything from campaign websites, online advertising and email lists to the postings on YouTube and who's got the fastest growing group of friends on MySpace.

A recent post on the site that caught my eye was a study by Performics (DoubleClick's market research arm) on how Americans plan to learn about the 2008 Presidential campaign. According to the survey, 42 percent of Americans expect they will seek out
more information from the Internet in 2008 than they did in the 2004 presidential election.

That's a remarkable jump, and goes to show that the major candidates are not scrambling in these early days to maximize their Web presence and outreach out of faddish folly, but to keep up with the rapidly-advancing curve. Will be fascinating to watch the online race evolve and see how the campaigns fare in hitting this moving target.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Talking Points Didn't Get the Memo

Over at Talking Points Memo today, Greg Sargent did his best to try to manufacture a minor controversy about a column I recently wrote for The Politico about the Edwards blogger scandal. Usually I would not respond to this kind of trivial stuff, but because TPM is one of the most widely-read and respected liberal blogs on the block, I want to take a moment to clear up any confusion Sargent's post caused.

To boil this down as quickly as possible, Sargent's big gripe is with how The Politico identified me in the tagline at the bottom of my column (yes, some people do obsess over this stuff). He insinuates that the editors breached journalistic ethics and duped their readers by failing to note that I am currently a paid advisor to Lieberman.

Now I am all for full disclosure. In fact, the reason Sargent knows I am a paid advisor is because I asked to be identified that way in a Lieberman profile The Politico posted today that quoted me -- and that prompted Sargent's conspiratorial post. But the idea that readers of my column were somehow deceived by not knowing that is just ridiculous.

First off, The Politico left little doubt that I am a Lieberman partisan -- the tagline at the bottom noted that I "served as communications director for Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman's successful general election campaign." (Let's not dwell on the irony of bloggers who have villified me for the past several months as a "Lieberman hack" or "Lieberman thug" suddenly claiming ignorance of my ties to said Senator.)

Second, and more important, whether I am a paid, unpaid, or former advisor to Lieberman was not relevant to my column. I was not writing in any Lieberman capacity or on his behalf -- I was expressing my own opinions. And the content of the column was not about Lieberman -- it barely mentioned him -- but about the blindness and irresponsibility of many liberal bloggers. (I will leave it to readers to decide whether Sargent's process point undercut my arguments or unwittingly reinforced them.)

The question that I keep coming back too is what would have been gained by highlighting my current status as a paid advisor in this particular context. The reason for disclosing that kind of information is to avoid hiding conflicts of interest or presenting interested opinions as independent ones. As I noted above, that was not at issue here -- both the column itself and the tagline at the bottom made clear my Lieberman affiliation. So what would have been the point? I would suggest you ask Greg Sargent.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Republicans and Iraq

Washington Post political blogger Chris Cillizza has quite a revealing deconstruction of a new poll on Republican attitudes about Iraq and the implications for the 2008 Republican presidential primary race.

Most notably, Cillizza says, the poll makes clear why Romney and Giuliani are joining McCain in backing the surge and not backing away from the war in general, something most Democrats are completely befuddled by, given the apparent overwhelming public opposition.

Breaking down the Republican electorate into "hard" and "soft" factions, the survey, conducted by a Republican firm called Moore Information, showed that 65 percent of hard Republicans (65 percent) said the U.S. was doing a good job in Iraq, while only 27 percent said we were doing a bad job. "Soft" Republicans were much less supportive; 48 percent said the U.S. was doing a good job in Iraq compared with 41 percent who chose the "bad" descriptor.

In addition, when you asked those "bad job" voters who deserves the blame for what's gone wrong in Iraq, one-third said Bush alone was to blame for the situation. Three-in-ten voters said Bush and "all the Members of Congress who voted for the war" were responsible, while only 24 percent said it was Bush and Republicans in Congress who should be blamed -- meaning Republicans generally, and not just Bush.

As Cillizza goes on to point out:
. . . [T]he Moore Information poll makes clear that the views of the most reliably Republican voters stand in stark contrast to those of the American public at large. These "hard" Republicans also happen to be the key constituency for each of the Republican candidates hoping to make a strong showing in early primary and caucus states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Given that fact, it would be political suicide for any of the Republican frontrunners to oppose the current course in Iraq or President Bush's plan to secure victory in the country. (These numbers also suggest little room in the Republican nominating contest for a candidate who is calling for a change of direction in Iraq -- a point we made in the recent case against Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel.)

Second, even among those who believe the United States has done a bad job in Iraq, President Bush -- and Bush alone -- bears considerable blame. The strong belief that the war is primarily Bush's doing (and fault) provides a glimmer of hope for Republicans hoping to hold the White House in 2008. If the American public primarily blames Bush and not the wider Republican party for the problems in Iraq, voters may not punish the eventual GOP nominee. While this may be a bit of wishful thinking, it does provide empirical evidence that Bush owns this war in the eyes of the American voter.
That's the big bet the Republican candidates are making, that they can finesse that fine line of showing resolve on the war in the primary without owning Bush's failures in the general.

It's not an impossible mission, especially if the Democrats nominate someone the Republicans can effectively tar as weak on terror, as Bush did with Kerry.

But given what an albatross the war proved to be in the mid-terms for the Republicans in Congress, and how Bush's surge policy is intensifying opposition beyond the Democratic base, I suspect the Republicans will have an easier time putting a camel through a needle's eye than using this strategy to enter into the White House.

Monday, February 19, 2007


Democrats or Autocrats?

According to many political analysts, a big reason the Democrats were able to retake control of Congress was their effective wielding of the "culture of corruption" club against the crony-cozying House Republican leadership.

And a big reason this charge stuck was because of the dictatorial, banana-republican way Hastert, DeLay and company ran the place, preventing Democrats from offering amendments, shutting them out of conference committee meetings, while literally opening the door to special interests lobbyists to write bills for them.

One would have assumed, then, that the new Democratic majority would have been extra careful to live up to their promises to behave more fairly and more openly, and avoid ceding the moral high ground they worked so hard to claim.

So far, not so good.

As the Washington Post reported over the weekend, of nine major bills passed by the House since the 110th Congress began, Republicans have been allowed to make amendments to just one, a measure directing federal research into additives to biofuels.

And last week, according to the Post, "the strong-arming continued during the most important debate the Congress has faced yet -- the discussion about the Iraq war. Democrats initially said they would allow Republicans to propose one alternative to the resolution denouncing a troop buildup but, days later, they thought better of it."

The Post story -- which ran under the damning headline, "In Majority, Democrats Run Hill Much as GOP" -- went on to ask and almost answer the question of whether the Democrats have a hypocrisy problem on their hands:
Some say Democrats risk being accused of the same abuse of power that Republicans were charged with when they were running Capitol Hill. Republicans became notorious for tactics such as prolonging a roll call vote for three hours in order to round up enough Republicans to pass a bill or failing to notify Democratic members of committee meetings or negotiating sessions.

"They're on thin ice now," Norman J. Ornstein, a congressional scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, said of the new Democratic leaders. "I'm getting uneasy about this lack of amendments. . . . They're getting to the point where you're past the initial period where you've got an excuse to operate with a firm hand. It's going to be increasingly difficult to rationalize."

This is hardly a mortal threat to the new majority, which has much bigger tests to pass going forward. But the Democratic leadership would be wise to treat this carping as an early warning of a low-grade fever and take steps to prevent it from spreading into conventional wisdom.

The Pelosi regime had a passable excuse for hustling through their 100-hours agenda -- most of those bills had been committeed to death under the GOP leadership. And they won't pay much of a price for limiting debate on the Iraq resolution, given the overwhelming opposition to the war.

But I am concerned that if the Democratic leadership continues on this anti-democratic course, they will not only smudge a bright line of distinction between the parties, but eventually put the "abuse of power" club back in the hands of our opponents -- and potentially the Speaker's gavel with it.

Now let me be clear. I am not equating Pelosi with her predecessors -- there is a big difference between limiting amendments and selling off the Capitol to the highest bidder. But the reality is that given the high standard the Democrats set for themselves in the last campaign, there is a long way for them to fall if they feed the perception that they are engaging in the same repressive tactics as the Republicans.

Ruling more freely will cause some pain in the short-term -- there will inevitably be some modestly-embarrassing losses. But the long-term gain we will reap -- call it the integrity dividend -- will be more than worth it. We will show that we not only can win on a level playing field, but that we deserve the voters continued trust. That's the recipe for more majority.

Sunday, February 18, 2007


Kudos to Matt Stoller

I was pretty tough on the Netroots' wagon-circling response to the Edwards blogger scandal in my Politico column on Friday. So it's only fair, in terms of giving credit where credit is due, that I call attention to this standout post by Matt Stoller on MyDD yesterday.

Matt and I disagree on a lot of things -- he was one of Lieberman's fiercest antagonists during the campaign -- but I was impressed by his cold-eyed, sophisticated assessment of what went wrong here and the mutual responsibilities of bloggers and campaigns when they join forces. I hope more activist bloggers and Democrats who hire them heed his advice.

Saturday, February 17, 2007


More Thoughts on the Edwards Blogger Scandal

I just got a chance to read Salon Editor Joan Walsh's post-mortem on the Edwards blogger scandal, and while she comes at it from a slightly different perspective, I was struck by the thoughtful, challenging questions she raises. I was particularly interested in her accounting of Salon's initial report that the offending Edwards bloggers had been fired -- which the Edwards campaign vigorously denied -- and the liberal blogosphere's response to that news.
. . . [A]s Salon reported the rumors of the firing, we noticed something disturbing: Instead of the blogosphere joining the search for truth, we encountered a decision to close ranks. The bloggers had never been fired; Salon was wrong; everyone move along, there's nothing to see here; please return to your stations. It started to look as though protecting the Democrats, the Edwards campaign and the role of bloggers in the new political firmament -- or some combination of all three -- was much more important. Only Steve Gilliard at the News Blog defended Salon and confirmed he too knew the bloggers had been fired -- and only in a comments section on his blog. "Anyone who thinks they weren't fired are dead wrong," wrote Gilliard. "I spend much of my day communicating with other bloggers ... I had been told they were fired when the Salon piece ran. Then the negotiations began and a LOT of people held their fire ... I have multiple sources on this, but because of who they are, I won't name them." A few days later Gilliard would denounce Salon for our perceived vendetta against Obama, not entirely unreasonably, given the headline mess.

When Edwards announced he was "keeping" the bloggers, the lefty blogosphere declared victory. Edwards' decision, wrote Chris Bowers on MyDD, "increases the power of the netroots as a voice in the Democratic party. They listened to us, not to the establishment, and not to the right-wing. This will help build the movement, and free the Democratic Party from conservative Republican influence in our primaries. We are one step closer to choosing our leaders on our own." But a few days later, Marcotte and McEwan resigned.

Maybe I'm the one who's naive, but the whole episode made me wonder: What does it mean if liberal bloggers aren't warriors for the truth, but rather for candidates? What does it mean for media, and what does it mean for politics? Why did either John Edwards or Amanda Marcotte enter their relationship so seemingly unready for what was likely to happen (assuming anyone in the Edwards camp had read Pandagon)? Either Marcotte would blunt her commentary, and lose the constituency Edwards was attempting to court, or else she'd alienate a whole lot of other people, and Edwards would spend the whole campaign defending her. That was clear to me from the start, and I'm not that smart. Why did anyone assume otherwise?

Going forward, I suspect most major campaigns will learn from the Edwards campaign's mistake, work from the assumption that anything their online staff has said in the past can and will be used against their candidate (just like any other staffer), and be more diligent in their vetting and careful in their hiring.

The more complicated issue, and one that will take much longer to sort through, is the line between journalism and activism that many bloggers apparently want to hopscotch across at their convenience. Walsh is right to highlight the need for transparency in her piece, especially when bloggers are getting paid by campaigns. But to me the issue goes much deeper than that, and raises real questions about accountability, both for bloggers and the campaigns for which they advocate and volunteer.

Take, for example, blog-celeb Jane Hamsher's dual role in the Connecticut Senate race. By all practical measures, Hamsher was part of the Lamont campaign, albeit on an unpaid basis -- she moved to Connecticut to get more involved, traveled with Lamont's entourage, participated in strategy sessions, and helped raise money for them. Yet after Hamsher embarrassed Lamont by posting a doctored blackface photo of Lieberman on her own blog site, both the Lamont campaign and Hamsher tried (unsuccessfully) to deflect blame by claiming she had no association with the campaign and was just a blogger. (The New Republic has perhaps the most instructive account of this episode.)

In the future, as more and more bloggers get involved in campaigns, be it as volunteer organizers, researchers, or fundraisers, and exercise more and more influence, the Hamsher defense will be even less persuasive. That's just as it should be. Bloggers have every right to wear two hats, as long as they are open about it, but they have no right to a double standard. Just like any other outside fundraiser or active volunteer, they have to be prepared to accept responsibility for their actions on behalf of candidates, as well as their independent writings, once they are in the arena. So do the campaigns with which they are involved.

Friday, February 16, 2007


DT on Politico

This morning the Politico published a post-mortem I wrote on the John Edwards blogger fiasco, which looks at the response of the liberal blogosphere to this recent mini-scandal and what it says about their maturity, credibility, and upward mobility within the Democratic Party. You can find the article here.

For what it's worth, my hope is that this piece will provoke at least some meaningful discussion within the Democratic firmament about the party's unqualified embrace of this volatile community and its potential political consequences. In an ideal world, it might also prompt some serious self-reflection in the more sane quarters of the liberal blogosphere.

Hard as this may be for my critics in the Netroots to believe, I want this incredibly powerful medium to reach its potential as a democratizing and empowering force in our politics. But for that to happen, it has to grow up and shake off its growing reputation as an online "Lord of the Flies" theme park. In that respect, my column was another attempt to hold up a mirror to the madness. (You can find a longer, more personal post I did on the same subject here.)

That said, I don't harbor any illusions about what's to come. Based on past experience, I fully expect many liberal bloggers to prove my point and then some by lobbing more personal attacks and insults my way, instead of responding to or rebuting my actual arguments. So do my politically-active friends, who keep warning me to check under my car before starting it.

But god forbid if they want a meaningful debate, let's have at it.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


Mac the Nice on Hillary

Roger Simon's latest column, in which he gets Terry McAuliffe to open up about Hillary's likeability problem, provides some interesting insights.

Two anecdotes in particular stand out. First, this one from Maureen Dowd:

"I had traveled with Dukakis really early, maybe his first campaign trip to Iowa," she recalled, "and I asked him what I always ask people: 'What do you do for fun?'

"And he said: 'Black mulch.'

"And I said: 'Black mulch?'

"And he said: 'I like to put black mulch on my tomato plants.'

"And I thought to myself right then: This man will never be president."

Then there is this story McAuliffe told when asked for an example of Hillary's lighter side:

"We were at Camp David once," McAuliffe said, "and my son ran over her in a golf cart and she got up and said, 'Did Bill teach you to drive?' "

Something tells me that Senator Clinton is going to, pardon the pun, get a lot of mileage out of better half on this front.


Chuck Jet Blue

Maybe I am overreacting because I have had some horrible airline experiences, but this Jet Blue story is one of the most outrageous things I have ever heard.

I have been a fan of Jet Blue up to this point. But trapping people on a plane on the tarmac for 10 hours -- and then canceling the flight? There is just no excuse for that -- legal, economical, or practical. Or for Jet Blue's exceedingly lame efforts yesterday and today to compensate the passengers who were victimized for their lost time. Some guy forfeits a $3000 trip to Aruba with his wife on Valentine's Day because of your negligence, and all you are going to do is offer him a generic apology and a free flight? Please.

This is one of those cases where the only logical response actually is "there oughta be a law." I know that the trial lawyers will be all over this one, and while I usually don't favor the lawsuit solution, on this one I hope they bleed Jet Blue dry. But these tarmac hold-ups seem to be getting more common. And outside of these extreme cases, it just seems unrealistic to count on the threat of class action suits to deter the airlines from essentially imprisoning people for hours at a time. As yesterday's fiasco shows, we need a greater accountability hammer.

This cause is tailor made for New York's Chuck Schumer, who has built a great reputation as a consumer advocate and can be a relentless pain in the you know what, which is just what Jet Blue deserves at the moment. Time for an angry letter to the FAA, hearings on what kind of new standards we need to stop airlines from abusing their passengers like this, and then legislation.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


On Anti-Anti-Semitism

To my friends in the liberal blogosphere who have trouble recognizing anti-Semitism in their ranks, I would recommend reading this article by Bret Stephens on The New Republic website

Stephens, an editorial writer for the Wall Street Journal, reviews the growing public debate about whether the charge of anti-Semitism is being leveled too loosely in our politics today (re: the controversial Walt-Mearsheimer academic paper on the Israel lobby to Jimmy Carter's use of the word apartheid in his new book title), and provides a compact, compelling defense of today's anti-anti-Semites.

In doing so, Stephens provides a smart primer on the insidious nature of the canards that too often are casually tossed around on so-called progressive blogs, and explains why these hurtful comments, even if they do not betray anti-Semitism on the part of the writer, help advance that ugly cause.

Saturday, February 10, 2007


Anna Canruinya

Is the media frenzy over Anna Nicole Smith's death a sign of the apocalypse?

Los Angeles Times media writer Tim Rutten tends to think so:

"Who knew? This is the way the world ends — neither with a bang nor a whimper but with cleavage."

The rest of Cullen's column is almost as good as that snappy line in its dissection of today's celebrity culture and the news media's role in creating it.

Friday, February 09, 2007


Myopia Space

I rarely respond to the personal attacks and trivial distortions of my words and work that frequently pop up in the liberal blogosphere, for the obvious reasons. But sometimes the shots are so wildly inaccurate that they are actually instructive, in so far as what they reveal about the direction the angry left is moving the Democratic Party, and as such warrant some examination.

Take Marty Kaplan's mocking rant yesterday on Huffington Post, in which he attacked my comments on Tuesday's Tucker Carlson Show on MSNBC and not too subtly suggested I was a moron (one of the blogosphere's favorite terms of endearment). Here's the sum total of his indictment:
I was watching Tucker Carlson on MSNBC (I know, I know, it's like getting high on cough syrup, but acknowledging my sickness is the first step toward recovery). There on the panel, sitting next to Pat Buchanan, was Dan Gerstein, the former flack to Joe Lieberman. He was saying that the problem with Democrats -- the reason they oppose the President's Plan for Victory in Iraq - is that they just don't understand the threat that global jihadism poses to civilization.
Now let's compare that characterization with what I actually said (taken from the official transcript):
CARLSON: Thank you for stating the obvious and puncturing my outrage with the truth. Quickly now, the “New Yorker” suggests, in a recent issue, that Joe Lieberman might leave the Democratic party. He was dissed by the Democrats pretty dramatically, of course, in the primary this year. But if the Democrats vote to defund in the Senate, he might just throw up his hands and leave. You worked for him for many years. Is that going to happen?

GERSTEIN: No, and I think this sort of constant speculation on the far left about this just sort of shows a bizarre obsession. He said during the campaign that he is a proud Democrat. He‘s going to stay in the Democratic party. He‘s going to caucus with the Democratic party. He is just concerned about the future of the Democratic party and where some of the more extreme elements are taking it, in sort of a pacifist, isolationist direction.

And they don‘t understand the fundamental threat of radical Jihadism to the American people. I think he is making a very important point about the future of the Democratic party.

As you can plainly see, I did not mention the war in Iraq, imply anything about the war in Iraq or the reason Democrats oppose the President's new surge strategy, or even say the word Iraq. I was clearly addressing the threat of radical Jihadism broadly speaking and raising questions about the peace wing of the Democratic Party's grasp of this danger and their commitment to fighting the war on terror.

The fact that Kaplan read Iraq into my answer when it wasn't there at all is a perfect example of the angry left's myopia about the war. There are no other issues for Kaplan and his ilk -- where you stand on Iraq trumps all other positions and makes you good or evil. There is no room for meaningful distinctions -- between the rightness of going to war versus the wrongness of its conduct, for example, or between the policies of George Bush versus those of others who are similarly focused on fighting Al-Qaeda. And too often there is no capacity for coherent, rational argument -- their motto is res ipsa shut up.

This is yet another way that the extreme anti-war crowd has come to resemble the crude, simplistic, intolerant thing they profess to hate about Bush and his far right supporters. Either you are against the lying, immoral, bloodsucking Neocons or you are with them. You cannot honestly believe the surge is the last best and only real hope of stabilizing Iraq and preventing it from becoming a safe haven for jihadist terrorists, as Joe Lieberman does. Nor can you be a Democrat anymore if you take that stance. You must be a Bush sycophant (and if you are Jewish, a tool of Israel).

Just look at the latest anti-Lieberman diatribe from DownWithTyranny, which speaks to the myopic obsession with Lieberman's party-designation I referenced on Tucker Carlson. Seizing on a picture from yesterday's New York Times of Lieberman sitting with Republicans John McCain and Lindsey Graham, his Republican allies on the Iraq resolution, the anonymous DWT writes:
Now he caucuses with the Democrats, and they allow him to use his Democratic seniority inside the committee system-- where he daily betrays Democratic policies, values and principles. But he sits with the Republicans... and votes with them. Today's New York Times says it was no surprise that when every single Democrat (plus two Republicans) voted to go forward with a debate on Iraq, Lieberman stuck with the GOP decision to adhere to Cheney's demands that no debate be permitted. Lieberman is constantly running after TV stations-- which insist on identifying him as a "Democrat"-- so that he can spin Rove's patently false and misleading talking points about how unpatriotic Democrats are. The Times points out that Lieberman is more of a White House shill than most Republicans are these days.
As this catalogue of baseless assertions shows, it does not matter that Lieberman is a registered Democrat -- meaning he is a member of the Democrat Party, not just of the Senate Democratic caucus. It does not matter that Lieberman has not cast a vote or made a statement on a domestic issue since the new Congress convened that could be reasonably classified as betraying Democratic values (for example, look at his statement on the Bush budget). Nor does it matter that Lieberman has been friendly with and working with Republicans on issues throughout his 19 years in the Senate, meaning he is doing nothing different now. The only thing that matters is that he had the gall to break from his party on Iraq (as he has been doing since 1991 and the Gulf War). That now alone makes him a Republican, or to be more precise, a traitor.

All of which goes to prove the fundamental point I originally made on the Tucker Carlson show about how Democrats are responding to the threat of jihadist terrorism. Kaplan and friends, who speak for the increasingly dominant wing of the party, don't just fail to grasp this danger, they are contemptuous of it. It is just something to be disparaged and discredited, in large part because it is the primary cause of their political enemies. And in doing so, they are only validating the conservative movement's cynical arguments that Democrats hate Bush more than bin Laden.

This is why the posturing and positioning of the anti-war movement is so troubling -- it is increasingly defining Democrats not just as the anti-Iraq war party, but the anti-war on terror party. Most noticeably, it is putting pressure on national Democratic leaders to take positions that can easily be marginalized and caricatured as McGovernite. Just look at the beating John Edwards took from the liberal blogosphere when he had the temerity to suggest that we can't preclude the use of force to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons -- and how quickly he started to backpedal in response.

We can get away with that approach for the time being, because opposition to Bush and his Iraq policies is so high, and Democrats are winning by default. But once Bush is out of the equation and the fight over Iraq wanes, the voters of all stripes are going to be looking to both parties for a more convincing and more effective strategy for defeating the jihadist threat and keeping the country safe.

We know the Republicans are going to do everything in their power to reclaim their advantage on this critical issue. If Democrats respond by paying lip-service to jihadist terrorism in 2008 and beyond, or even worse by projecting weakness, we are writing ourselves a one-way ticket back to minority-land for the foreseeable future.

Monday, February 05, 2007


Today's LSOTA (Latest Sign Of The Apocalypse)

Guess baby needed more than a new pair of shoes. . .
(CBS/AP) ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. An Atlantic City woman playing the penny slots Saturday morning left the Resorts Atlantic City casino with her own little jackpot -- a new baby boy.

Thirty-two-year-old Nyree Thompson was eight months pregnant when she went into labor on the casino floor.

At first, she said she mistook the labor pains for gas.

(MORE HERE. . .)

Friday, February 02, 2007


The Real Shame of Biden's Blunder

In all the harrumphing about Joe ("Live by the Mouth, Die by the Mouth") Biden's scandalous gaffe this week, it's been striking to see how relatively little has been said about the actual content of his comments -- and what they reveal about racial attitudes in the America of 2007.

The fact is, whatever Biden meant to convey, his actual uncoded words expressed something significant that many white Americans -- including many well-educated, supposedly enlightened folks -- tend to think in the private confines of their own minds but don't dare express out loud. That is, the rule to Barack Obama's exception is the black man who talks/appears/acts as if they came, as the famous rap song suggests, straight outta Compton.

We could spend days debating how pervasive that ghetto stereotype is, why it persists in this multicultural day and age, and what it will take to get past the prejudiced perception that Biden was not so implicitly tapping into. And we should -- that's the only way we ever seem to make social progress in this country, when we are forced to confront our own worst fears about our identity differences.

In that sense, Biden did the country a great service by flushing this buried bias out into the public domain and setting the table for desperately-needed conversation about how whites and blacks converse among themselves, to each other, and too often to no one at all. What is perception and what is reality? And does the emphasis on "keeping it real" in some African-American cultural quarters actually keep things unreal in the minds of white America?

But instead of considering those and other hard questions, we took the easy way out and followed the typical script when a public figure makes racially-indelicate comments. Freak out, speak out, and apologize -- then fervently speculate about the fallout for and rehabilitation of the offending party.

That's the real shame of Joe Biden's blunder -- what didn't get articulated at all, and the opportunity we missed because of it. We are all glad to know that Al Sharpton bathes daily (the Reverend deserves kudos for the most humorous line of the news cycle). But I'd much rather find out why so many smart white people think like Joe Biden spoke -- and how we get them to change their minds.

UPDATE: For a smart take on the larger political implications of the Biden mess for the presidential campaign, check out this article on the Newsweek site, which a friend forwarded me. The key takeaway graphs:
But there is a more important lesson in the Biden foible, a cautionary tale for other Democrats running in 2008: Every mistake counts triple this time. Why? Well, all the obvious changes that geeky political reporters love to write about-24-hour media cycles, the vigilance of the blogosphere and this nifty new contraption called YouTube, for starters. But each gaffe will count extra this time for a more simple, old-fashioned reason—the Democrats running this time know how it’s done. It’s hard to remember the last time the Democratic primary field had so many contenders who’ve been there before. Love her or hate her, Hillary Clinton knows how to run for president. So does John Edwards. So do some of the second-tier candidates. As a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Chris Dodd knows more about the Democratic primary calendar than most people who end up being the party’s nominee. Ditto for Bill Richardson. These are professionals, candidates who aren’t going to squander years of preening practice for some rookie’s mistake.

That might be a good thing for the party. The most amazing thing about Howard Dean’s infamous “scream speech” in 2004 wasn’t that it destroyed his candidacy—it was that he had risen so far so fast before the yelp heard round the world brought him tumbling down. A first-timer, Dean was an unpolished, at times reckless, candidate who most likely wouldn’t have even made it to Iowa had he been facing a more seasoned foe. When Dean showed his true colors, the most disciplined, experienced candidate for Democrats to glom on to was John Kerry—who went on to show his own rookie weaknesses time and time again.

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