Saturday, January 24, 2004

Kucinich: Catholic Voters Forum, Derry NH 


Dennis Kucinich might be completely unfamiliar with irony.

I arrived early, and there was a priest talking to some people about the relatively small voice that Catholics play in American politics, urging Catholics to speak with one voice. If you are wondering what Dennis Kucinich was doing here, you weren't alone. The room was already buzzing with questions about how Dennis Kucinich could be pro-choice and still maintain that he is a Catholic.

The room was mostly older voters. I saw relatively few young people until Kucinich's "opening act" arrived. It was a guy and a girl, newlyweds whose honeymoon was to cross the country with Dennis Kucinich. They performed a mixture of beat box rapping with hindu "ohm's" and drones generated through a sampler that he had strapped to his belt. His acappella stylings were less rap, and more like Buddhist chanting: "By replacing the patrioooooooot aaaaaact/ we can take our liiiiberty baaaaaack." An old man in the front row looked dismayed for the entire duration of the performance, which lasted a full half hour. Say what you want about mantras putting the mind at peace, all I can tell you is that by the end of the event, the old man was yelling at other people's kids to sit down and be quiet. The thing is, the newlyweds were happy people, probably the happiest people in the room. For all the weaknesses of a candidate who is oblivious to irony, when it is right there and completely unashamed of itself, there's a definite strength to it. These people didn't give a shit if you thought they looked like assholes, they were happy.

Dennis Kucinich was finally introduced by a Priest who spoke at great length about the tragedy of Abortion, how Catholics had no voice in the Democratic party, how more people were slaughtered by abortion than by the last three wars combined. Then, ladies and gentlemen: Give it up for Mr. Dennis Kucinich, darling of the extreme left!

Kucinich has the liability of changing his pro-life position in the middle of his political career, standing up for Gay Marriage in the religious sense, and not merely the purely secular "civil unions". While all of this makes perfect sense to me, a great deal of the justification for these stands seems to get lost when you deliver them to a room full of Politically Mobilized Catholics.

The good news for Kucinich is that the Pro-Life contingent of the Catholic Church is not merely against abortion, but also against the Death Penalty and War. Abortion is not the entire issue of a "pro-life" ideology. The complexity may have helped Dennis Kucinich politically, but Dennis Kucinich does not seem interested in exploiting political handicaps. Instead, he basically stood on stage, delivered one of the best speeches I've ever heard from a politician on the issue of spirituality, and then proceeded to talk almost exclusively about abortion.

The Kucinich stand on abortion: The rights of a woman cannot be taken away. They are constitutionally protected, and to remove the right to a medical procedure is making women into second class citizens. Instead, Kucinich argued, we need to keep abortion open as a choice, but work on addressing the fundamental issues that lead to abortions in the first place. This, Kucinich argued (to a room full of Catholics) could only be achieved by the Vatican-friendly policies of early sex education and access to birth control.

The room was not entirely silent, but how many people clapping were Kucinich supporters vs Catholics is hard to really tell. When Former Boston Mayor and Ambassador to the Vatican, Ray Flynn, (a Democrat) stood up, he argued that he vehemently opposed Mr. Kucinich's position, and said that there ought to be at least one Democratic Candidate that could stand up and declare themselves pro-life. Flynn wrapped up his speech by declaring that "what is good for your Catholic Faith is good for America".

Then came the Q and A. "What you're saying is fundamentally opposed to the Dogmatic teaching of the Catholic Church!" There was no question mark involved. Kucinich addressed this by saying that he didn't claim to represent the Catholic Church, but that he represented Catholic laity and that the issue of Abortion could not simply be addressed by who's in and who's out.

The next "question" was a man who stood up, rambled a bit about his support for the war, and then concluded by saying, "A woman may have the right to choose, but she must also submit to God's will." That God's will also happens to be that guy's will didn't seem to strike him as a little bit too convenient. I'm not a big fan of men standing up and declaring what women should submit to, but that's me. Next question: "When you're a mother like I am, you know when the baby starts kicking you that it's a for real life."

The Priest had to go to the podium and explain that Mr. Kucinich had already made his statements on abortion known, and so has the Catholic Church, and requested that we try to move on from the subject. Next question, please?

"Do you think you're a Catholic in good standing?" This woman claimed to sense hesitation in his support for abortion, and wondered if he had surrendered what he believed in his heart in order to succeed politically. Kucinich felt the issue was too divisive, that people needed to have the right to choose, but needed to find a way to reduce abortions without resorting to an outright ban. The woman responded that she couldn't vote for him or any Democratic candidate because she was a Catholic and followed the Catholic doctrine.

Kucinich started snapping back. He explained that he embraced the basic principles of human kindness, of workers, of the poor, that he was against the war and wanted to address issues of violence at all levels of our society, from spousal abuse onward. "If you're going to judge me based on my view of abortion, then you know what? You're not going to have a Democratic candidate for the nomination." The woman walked away, shaking her head.

When he was asked about birth control his feistiness seemed to linger. "We can talk about abstinence all we want, but we're also going to be talking about teen pregnancy." He said that people who advocated abstinence education at the behest of distributing birth control had their "heads in the sand." That went over real well.

I talked to a campaign worker and told them that this was the definition of trial by fire. She just stared at the line of questioners with her jaw wide open. I knew Kucinich's itinerary, and he had another event at 12:30. It was 12:30. Despite the line of Catholics going toward the microphone on a crusade for the unborn, Dennis had to leave. Some people shook his hand, thanking him for standing up for their rights. Other people ignored him and talked to Ray Flynn. That anyone was willing to approach him and shake his hand from that crowd was a feat.

Kucinich may be a candidate oblivious to political irony and detachment. He might be a guy who brings a chart to a radio debate to show to Howard Dean, and not understand why it's funny. But that also translates to his performance today. In a situation where you would expect weasel words to fly out of any politicians mouth, back pedalling and cheap accolades, Kucinich said it straight. Boiled down, "This is what I believe in, and I am going to explain why, and at the end of my speech maybe you'll change the views you've probably held for longer than some of my supporters have been alive."

While Dennis Kucinich has no operant understanding of irony, it may work for him. Certainly he's the last candidate to drive around in a white minivan. Certainly he's the only candidate that would send hippies with a flute and a digital sampler face first into a crowd of 50 year old Catholics to rap about his trade policies. He comes across as delusional about his own candidacy. But while he's oblivious to why these things don't make sense, his obliviousness is somewhat earned. What is cynicism doing to our idea of politics, and why should we give in to that? Why can't we get out of NAFTA and the WTO? Why can't we bring Dogmatic Catholics into the Democratic party based on the idea of tolerance?

Cynicism can be a good thing. Democracy works best when its citizens are cynical, and it is empty idealism, I think, that lends the Republican Spectacle so much support. Americans want to believe they are good without a shred of effort, good by virtue of being Americans. Bush may give America ample opportunity to be blessed by their victimhood on September 11th, but Dennis Kucinich is looking at liberation the hard way, the ridiculous way, the completely fucking unabashedly liberal way. If on the way to that goal he looks ridiculous to everyone except himself, maybe he knows he's right on a level that most of us can't even find.

Friday, January 23, 2004

On the Ground in Manchester 

Since I couldn't do it, I'll link to a great behind-the-scenes look at the debates. Dean could have used some of his offstage persona onstage, I think.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Experts Agree: Manchester Debate "Total Snoozer" 

Fox News showed an hour and a half of a two hour debate, then cut to analysis of its winners and losers. Note to Football fans: Don't let Fox News cover the Superbowl.

The Big News of the night- if you watch Fox, anyway- is that Michael Moore said something bad about George W Bush last week, and so wasn't Wesley Clark a traitor to his country? Moore called Bush a deserter at a Clark event, Clark "missed an opportunity" to "distance himself from extremists". But Michael Moore has already taken care of the charge, and if there was a "missed opportunity" for Clark it was to bring it out into the open.

Here's my impression of the pretty much non-substantive debate: Blah blah blah. Hey, John Edwards, Islam? John Edwards: What's that? Blah blah blah. Hey John Edwards, Marriage Protection Act? John Edwards: Poor people. Blah blah blah. Union Leader: John Kerry, how much of an asshole are you for protesting the Vietnam war? John Kerry: What? Are you on fucking crack? (Huge applause.) Blah blah blah. Hey, Joe Lieberman, why don't you attack some of these guys? Joe Lieberman: No, no. Blah blah. Hey, Joe Lieberman, come on! You sure you don't want to? Lieberman: Nice try, but no. Blah blah blah. Hey, Howard Dean, why don't you insult some people? Howard Dean: Uhhh, No.

John Kerry wins. Dean stands his ground but no home runs. Losers: Clark, who failed to distinguish himself, and Edwards, who didn't live up to expectations. Go read it.

Also, what's up with these ads right after the debate that are all "PETA wants to kill your children?" It's literally what they're like. There's pictures of kids in the hospital, and then there's a narrator talking about how PETA wants to take animals out of medical research. Implying that the children will die if you love animals. Or another one that's like, "I teach my kids to love animals, but PETA gives money to convicted arsonists so they can teach people to build bombs."

There's Two Primaries 

Primary Day in New Hampshire is not just for Democrats. January 27th brings us the first Republican primary in the nation, and New Hampshire voters will have a choice on the ballot. So, here's a round up of the New Hampshire opposition to President Rove (limited to those who have websites):

Blake Ashby. Blake is a long time Republican who is against Bush based on fiscal policy. "The President likes to talk about his tax cuts. My Republican Party knows the difference between a tax cut and a tax deferral [...] It's ironic, but this President, our President Bush, will go down in history as the Republican President that most increased the tax burden on U.S. citizens." He also speaks out about the Neo-Conservative agenda Bush is following: "...because of the Neo Conservative's insistence on invading Iraq, we have significantly undermined our efforts against our real enemy, al Qaeda, which has allowed al Qaeda to lick its wounds and regenerate itself. Time and again, this Administration has failed our country, recklessly gambling with our security and losing."

Richard P. Bosa. It appears his campaigns most pressing issue is why the media isn't paying attention to him (he quotes one news editor as saying, "WE ARE TIRED OF DICK BOSA. HE HAS WORN US OUT. WE'VE BEEN DEALING WITH DICK FOR 20 YEARS AND WE WERE GLAD WHEN HE MOVED TO BERLIN, AND SAD WHEN HE MOVED BACK." The caps are his, I assume.) His economic strategy is a return to a manufacturing economy, including the use of co-op systems for factory workers.

John Buchanan. John Buchanan is another president with a blog. He's running for President as "The 9/11 Truth Candidate", "some may thus dismiss me as a single-issue candidate and in a narrow sense that is true. But if you consider that 9/11 has led us into fiscal ruin, endless war and constitutional twilight, my issue is the mother issue of our age." His Speech is an interesting read.

Michael Callis. "The United Nations made a mistake in creating the Jewish state of Israel, Israel should have been designated a country not a religious state. The U.N. should take the initiative to correct this critical roadblock to peace, blocking the whole Middle East." He also wants you to know he's a history buff: "I have a passion for New Hampshire history, the Republican party was started in Exeter NH in 1853."

Bob Haines. An interview on his website sums up his whole candidacy:

Q: Can you win?
HAINES: Of course. If I didn't believe I could win why would I be out here doing it. It's a tremendous sacrifice.

Q: But given the fact that 99.9 percent of Americans have probably not heard of you--?
HAINES: That's not true. I campaigned in 36 states.

Q: Maybe 90 percent of Americans haven't heard of you.
HAINES: That's not true. I'm the man who captured the person who tried to assassinate President Clinton in front of the White House in 1994.

That'll make him real popular with Republicans!

Millie Howard. "1992 and Beyond", indeed. Her campaign starts when 75 million americans send her a dollar. "When $75,000,000 is collected, no matter how short or long a time it may be I shall quit my job, hire a campaign manager and hit the road." I like her idea of the "$10,000 birth right stipend", which grants every American $10,000 at birth, but eradicates all social programs (and therefore all income taxes).

Billy Jack. Oh lord, just go look at that website. I don't know what's better- the picture of him, the slogan "I just go berserk!" or the section with testimonials from Republican leaders with no attribution.


Billy Wyatt. Billy Wyatt seems more like a gonzo journalist trying to figure out how the Presidential process works, and his website is pretty much an investigation and watchdogging of the state of political competition in the Republican primary. It's actually an interesting read.

That Republicans haven't been able to see these people debate with George W Bush is unfortunate. At the very least, Presidential Candidates, including incumbents, would benefit from simply being forced to endure a debate with these people.

In a choice between a waste of the President's time and an arbitrary selection process, I'd go for wasting our Presidents 90 minutes in a heartbeat. What the hell is a nomination race if there's no debate or discourse in the nomination process? Is it party level damage control? Why not a system that embraces some threshold for a debate, not at the level of popular support by volume, but support by percentage? A world where the candidate with .5% support among registered party voters battles it out with the .375% guy for the last remaining seat in a debate would be brilliant, and probably a hell of a lot of fun. At least one state should make this mandatory for the nomination process, and for good measure, it ought to be the most politically irrelevant state in the union.

Off The Ground Today 

Given that there's a televised debate in Manchester that I have no chance of getting into, I'm staying in with a pizza to watch it on WMUR, then catching the Howard Dean interview with Diane Sawyer and a rumored Letterman appearance afterwards. There'll be more on the ground blogging over the weekend.

Edwards: VFW Hall, Portsmouth NH 

Since Iowa there has been a lot of talk of an elusive but charming snake named momentum. The candidates want their mo', and when they get that mo' they want to hold on. Sometimes the mo' gets you envy, sometimes it turns around and bites you. When you lose momentum, you're a naked emperor, when you get it, you're a coroneted prince. But none of this exactly describes just what the fuck the beast looks like, what it wants, and what it is that guides the hand of the only ones who control the momentum: the fickle, emotionally fixated puppetmaster named "voters."

There's a rising sentiment among them toward John Kerry, it seems. But you wouldn't guess that from the litter of the Portsmouth landscape. Down by the old church, a three way intersection of Clark, Dean and Edwards supporters at each turn made a honking primary problematic. Up the road, there was a Dean/Edwards intersection. Kerry supporters were nowhere to be found, outside of two signs at a small intersection island on your way to Market Street, the main strip of the city. Edwards signs were out in force, taking up the same position once graced by Joe Lieberman signs.

Dean signs hang all over the windows of small businesses here. The Local Dean HQ seems to have moved to a bigger space, and now has a "Volunteer HQ" as well. Kerry supporters had been in the same building as the Dean HQ- the same hallway, in fact, one door over, on top of a health food store. They shared a bathroom. I remember a note from the management of the building declaring that the toilet was not to be used to disseminate campaign literature.

Wesley Clark had been at the same VFW hall earlier, and I am told that they had 150 in attendance. John Edwards, by comparison, had an overflow. True to his stump speech, he had to hold two town hall meetings- one for the people upstairs (pause, extend other hand) and one for the people downstairs. I was in the room with a candidate graced by momentum.

It was the most mixed crowd I've seen at any event, which implies a broad interest, which is very different from a broad support. The people I talked to said they have liked Edwards for a while, but were only supporting other candidates because they thought Edwards was a long shot. Voila! Phase two of "Momentum!"

Momentum Phase One is a boost to your perceived chances in a general election. Dean's momentum started with the moveon primary. That led to an increase in donations, which led to a greater increase of donations, which then led to the announcement of those donations. Which kept on growing, and then came the magazine covers, followed by the endorsements. It has never really struck me in quite this way, but the entire essence of any campaign seems to be the controlled expansion of "momentum". Too much mo in one place is no good: it's bound to make you bloated, and you have to know when to shift gears based on where you are in your momentum timeline. But at the heart of all of this, particularly in this election year, is simply the voter perception of electability. If the voters see you keeping up your momentum, they believe in your inevitability and they believe your momentum will continue to expand. If there is an echo chamber of negativity, it reverberates across voters and as doubts rise polls drop. Dean rose too high to stumble, but he did- I blame Deans showing in the Iowa Debate, coming at the end of a long assault by the Democratic / negative press echo chamber. The momentum leapt to Kerry, and momentum went to Edwards.

Tonight, I saw voters for Dean made nervous by his poor showing in Iowa look at Edwards, who was "Likeable but never really a serious contender." Gephardt people are coming to Edwards to see what he's about "now that he has a chance." It seems to be happening to Kerry, too- but Kerry is a politician who knows how to steer his momentum. I've read that he has signs (somewhere) that say "Doubting Dean? Vote Kerry." Tonight, I met the first Kerry and Edwards supporters of the whole campaign season, and both sides have only come over since Iowa (and not by way of Dick Gephardt).

John Edwards walks into the room; shakes hands, kisses a woman on the cheek. The press is there, pretty hardcore. Judy Woodruff was in the back, a woman with a CNN bag kept trying to get in front of my seat to take still pictures. He's handsome in person, too, not merely a telegenic specter like Wes Clark. His stump speech has the same weaknesses, though: comment, applause, comment, applause. Nothing was very in depth. "I'm for clean water" he writes in his booklet. It's hard to call that a genuine applause line, but that's basically the formula he used. "We've got to put an end to this war profiteering." (Applause.)

His message stayed away from contentious issues. He didn't mention Civil Unions at all. He talked about racism to an all white audience, but he didn't have a very nuanced argument, and also attacked a phantom Democrat: "Some candidates are talking, you hear them talk about a time and a place to talk about racism, well, I don't believe that. I think we've got to talk about racism everywhere." I'm not sure I really know which Democratic candidate has ever suggested that candidates should limit who they talk to about racism.

Wes Clark avoided racism altogether when I saw him, but has spoken loudly about civil unions and stood up for civil rights in his military career. Dean had one of the most interesting arguments- maybe because I come from a primarily white state, like he does- where he argued that there are biases built in to who we are, to favor people we think of as ourselves, and he used an example of a woman hiring all women in his office "until I was in the middle of a matriarchy." He used that example to launch into a nuanced defense of affirmative action, about how it is not about "handouts" and division but about correcting the natural bias inherent in people. Yes, Edwards said the word "racism" to the crowd tonight, but I failed to see how he would address it, outside of assuring it's widespread condemnation.

But you don't have to be smart to beat the Republican Spectacle, all you've got to be is a good politician. Intelligence is probably a liability. The final summation on Edwards is that he seems sincere and genuine, but not particularly nuanced. It would be hard to call him smart, easier to call him earnest- a heart in the right place, so to speak, and that might be all he needs, if: a) he's the candidate in the right place on the mo-continuum, and b) He knows how to ride it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Clark: Palace Theater, Manchester, NH  


The Clark campaign hit Gold with the idea: Invite Clark supporters to a theater, show them a documentary on Wes Clark, let Wes do a live interview from the theater and put it on stage, then let Clark speak about the State of the Union. Watch the State of the Union together, and then listen to Clark's gut reaction to it immediately afterward.

Arriving at the Palace Theater, the first thing that struck me is that no one was smiling. The campaign staff wasn't smiling as I checked in. The people arriving after me, waiting in line, weren't smiling. They were polite, they were talkative, but they were dour. I was a member of the "Draft Clark" movement, so I was able to leverage that for front row seats. The people were talking about politics. Dean was a literal laughing stock.

When the screen went down to show the live interview between Clark and Paula Zahn, (yes, we saw the General on Television before we saw him, even though he was in the same building) they showed a brief clip of Dean in Iowa, and the entire audience was laughing. It is, sadly to say, understandable. It may go down in the yearbook for 2004 that losing Iowa was the moment Dean not only lost momentum, but effectively jumped the shark. While I am loathe to admit this, it was a moment where Dean the movement turned into Dean, the parody of a candidate that spawned the movement. Dean got the grassroots support he had before he ever decided to be the embodiment of that movement, and I wish he would stop acting like the movement is who he has to be. I don't know how else to explain it, but lately he's started acting like you'd expect a "grassroots insurgent" to act, instead of acting the way that got him the movement in the first place. That said, NH radio footage has been surprisingly positive for Dean, and his tactics are apparently going to be "more substance and less red meat." Let Dean be Dean, I think.

Clark's campaign manager got on stage with a podium that was about to keel over, and all I could see was a white version of Big Pun. The guy had a suit with the bling turned to 11 speaking with the intensity of Dick Cheney on sedatives. "Let's not understate what this election means," he said, and then proceeded to understate what the election means. The men at the end of the stage were all decked out as well, and watching men in expensive suits talk about the middle class was a hair short of inspiring. It made me miss the Dean campaign, where people dressed like, you know, people.

The documentary was brilliant. Clark is a legitimate war hero, he's a brilliant man. He knows he is telegenic, and if he is running this campaign like a war, he is winning on the propaganda front. Pixelization is very kind to Wesley Clark. His commercials, and this documentary, are brilliant at presenting a candidate that didn't seem to come through in person. On television he has poetry in his eyes. It may sound flaky, but whenever I see him on television his eyes are a mixture of brilliance and sadness that says he could be a President on par with Lincoln. When he finally arrived on stage, in human form, he had a different look to him. His eyes aren't as intense. He was fit, but the energy seemed forced; when he spoke he read from a paper and it hurt him. When he came off the speech and talked about issues that affected him, he had something back. But the overwhelming sense I got from him tonight was inauthenticity. Whoever Wes Clark was, he has been transformed into a politician by the same rich white men that turned Al Gore into a centrist plank of wood.

Clark's comments almost entirely consisted of applause points, but I never actually felt like I wanted to clap. I think the longer you go between clapping, the more substance there is to the speech, and this was seriously a non stop clapathon. I mostly only clapped because someone in the back row was clapping. Whenever I did feel like clapping- twice- he got a standing ovation from everyone else. His points were good enough- he's probably the most intellectually gifted candidate in the race- but this event felt like pageantry and spectacle. It was also, by contrast to Dean, all about Wesley Clark, while Dean is all about the movement. I think Joe Trippi would rather die than show a documentary on Dean's life at a Dean rally. The stage was perfect political stagecraft. A Muslim woman in a headdress and a Muslim man in a long beard, veterans in full veteran garb, etc. Even my amateur photographs made Clark look presidential, just look at them. They're dramatic and noble looking. But after three years of George W Bush, I am absolutely sick of the spectacle and pageantry of politics.

2. State of the Union Meets Rocky Horror

The State of the Union was abysmal, and what else did we expect? Watching it in a room of Democrats was a huge relief, I think. It was like a CSPAN version of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Whenever Bush said "nucular" we all yelled "nuclear!" When he spoke about his education plan, the crowd was in hysterics: "All skills begin with the basics of reading and math, which are supposed to be learned in the early grades of our schools. Yet for too long, for too many children, those skills were never mastered." We can assume Bush knows this from personal experience. There was a GOP mole in the crowd who stood up and clapped every once in a while, but no one paid him any mind, which is good, because he looked like he was itching for some mind to be paid to him.

Clark's remarks were pre-scripted, I am pretty sure, but at least they were memorized. He seemed a lot more natural for the second half of the event. He called the President's smirk divisive, that everything he did was divisive. "That's who he is, that's what he does." The questions went on pretty much as you would expect: Mercury in fish, why didn't Bush talk about the environment, etc.

I felt like a guy who cheated on his wife, and the affair reminded him of how much he loved her? There's those pins in Iowa, "Flirted with Dean, married Kerry?" Well it's kind of like that. I still intend to go into every campaign with an open mind, but Clark just couldn't deliver in bed.

3. Clark's Knighthood, The IMF, and You

A kid in the back stood up and started yelling that he had a question. A girl a few rows behind him yelled "We have a song for you! Call on us, we're young people and we want to speak!" But Clark didn't call on them. So another audience member began to sing a spiritual. He kept going, even when the expensive suits pounced on him, and he refused to leave. Clark tried to turn our attention to his wife, and she said, nobly, to let the boy speak. So Clark did.

The boy was handed a microphone, and he moved his hands around so no one could hear him anyway. He rambled something involving "Dick Cheney" and "IMF", mentioned that Wesley Clark had been Knighted by the Queen, and then finally it all made sense. People were yelling at him, shushing him, and the girl yelled "Why are you shushing him? This is about your freedom! General, why won't you let Lyndon LaRouche debate? Why don't you support the voice of the people? Why won't you stand up for freedom?" The third boy started singing again while the boy with the microphone finally presented a question about closing down the world bank. The men in suits counterintuitively roared with applause. Clark gave an answer about Reagan and how Reagan invented trickle down economics to justify tax cuts for the rich. It was a moment of absolute discord in a very glossy campaign event organized by rich white men. Clark wrapped up quickly; I shook his hand, then headed over to talk to the boy who asked the LaRouche question.

The boy was telling me that LaRouche was the only one standing up to Dick Cheney. I didn't understand that, I argued that everyone who isn't a Republican understands that Cheney is bad news. But they said that the Democrats lacked courage, and that "this" was all bullshit (meaning the Clark event) because no one was addressing Dick Cheney or the IMF. They kept using that. I'd bring up Kucinich, they'd say he was a coward. Howard Dean, coward. LaRouchians, it seems, believe that the British Monarchy is secretly in control of the world bank, which finances the Jewish World Order, which owns both the DNC and the GOP. That's why Clark was Knighted.

We were asked to go outside because Clark was doing a live interview. When I got into the hall, I asked the boy about how LaRouche organized people, and he began talking to me about the network of city states that Aristotle developed. From my polling sample, LaRouchians either have a frenzied sadness in their eyes or alcohol on their breath. I was handed a glossy magazine entitled, I swear to God, "Children of Satan 2: The Beast Men." It had a picture of Dick Cheney on it. When I told the guy that independent media was a better way of getting their message out than disrupting other campaign's events, the last guy talking to me was outraged, so outraged he was stuttering, and then finally walked off in mid sentence. They were outside, singing negro spirituals, and I got profoundly depressed.

I talked to one of the Clark volunteers, he said he knew every single one of the people here for LaRouche, that he expected them and knew there would be trouble from the minute they showed up.

The police came and asked them to leave. On the way back to my car, I came across them and asked if they were threatened. "The police aren't our enemy," one of them said, "Dick Cheney is."

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Lieberman and the Union Leader vs the New Hampshire Gazette 

Joe Lieberman was bragging last night, in the midst of the Iowa ruckus, about the endorsement of the Manchester Union Leader. The "Union" "Leader" has an incredibly deceptive nomenclature that belies a staggeringly blatant right wing orthodoxy in its editorials. This includes enormous favorable coverage of Pat Buchanan when he was running on his infamous "Kill Everyone" platform, and it was a huge factor in deciding his unlikely and embarrassing win in New Hampshire. So much so that the Buchanan campaign sent out a memo:

"Dear Brigade, (here's) another GREAT column from AMERICA's NEWSPAPER - the Union Leader!!!!!! GO PAT GO!!!!!!!!..." They still lovingly publish every piece of paper Buchanan spills ink on.

Here's another anecdote about the paper:

I grew up in New Hampshire, and over the years learned what a ridiculous newspaper the Union Leader is. For example, the late publisher, William Loeb, editorialized in the 1970s that the miniseries "Roots" was part of a communist conspiracy. Similarly, the civil rights movement was also apparently directed from the Kremlin, according to a 1964 editorial. Jim Carville tells this story in the film "The War Room:" They were on the campaign bus in New Hampshire and were driving past a mud puddle with two big hogs wallowing in it. Someone threw a copy of the Union Leader out the window into the mud, and the hogs got up and left.

Seriously, you know the newspaper that has pictures of Space Aliens with Bill Clinton? Imagine if it was published by Rupert Murdoch's Newscorp, and you have a pretty close estimation of what the Union Leader is. So, congratulations to Joe Lieberman.

There's another paper that is much more newsworthy, a sort of anti-Union Leader- a Liberal Libertarian, fiscally conservative, liberty-embracing, hardcore transparent Democracy demanding newspaper run by former Veterans. It's called the New Hampshire Gazette, and it's the oldest newspaper in the country. This weeks front page has this paragraph, written by a guy who used to work for Nixon:

"George HW Bush was the first CIA director to come from the oil industry. He went on and became the first vice president - and then the first president- to have either an oil or a CIA background. This helps explain his persistent bent towards the Middle East [...] In each of the government agencies he held, he encouraged CIA involvement in Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and other Middle Eastern countries, and he pursued policies that helped make the Middle East into the world's primary destination for arms shipments."

This newspaper is free, a ten dollar subscription for out of towners, and it's everywhere you go to eat or drink in Portsmouth and several surrounding cities. You may enjoy its online Chickenhawk Database, a collection of politicians, media folk and others who are "enthusiastic about war, provided someone else fights it; particularly when that enthusiasm is undimmed by personal experience with war; most emphatically when that lack of experience came in spite of ample opportunity in that person’s youth."

Dean: Portsmouth NH, 2AM 


Two in the morning is not the ideal time to drive to a rally for your candidate that's just been trounced in a state he owned a week prior. The drive is cold and dark. The streetlights get lost in visions of John Kerry getting sworn in at the Fleet Center. I blow a light thinking about John Edwards' Two Americas. Bob Dole's admonitions to Wesley Clark ring in my head: I imagine his line is delivered directly to me: "Someone's going to lose in New Hampshire, and I think it's going to be you."

Pease Tradeport is an old Air Force Base. It's still home to Air Force One whenever the Spectacle descends to show his Dad what new country he got that week. The place is designed to deter a ground invasion of any kind, and tonight that included the army of Deaniacs that invaded at 2AM. I got turned away by an official Pease pickup truck with giant Dean signs in the back. I followed the fucking media like any typical American voter and got stuck driving in circles behind a giant satellite dish. There was a convoy of 7 cars or so, driving in circles, hitting dead ends, turning around and guessing which direction to go. But finally, we arrive at our destination, and a guy calling himself Bazooka Joe is shredding his axe to a rock and roll cover of "Play That Funky Music White Boy."

I'll tell you what I expected on the drive over: 38 people, which was the estimate on the website. I figured we'd be outside waving at a plane. I imagined Dean would come out, offer us all coffee and have a good long heart to heart with all 38 of us about what's next, about what he should do differently. Maybe Joe Trippi would take notes on some of my ideas. But it wasn't that. By 2AM, we had what had to be at least 650 to 750 people in a packed air port hangar, screaming their lungs out for Bazooka Joe. Bazooka Dean wasn't arriving for another hour and a half.

It was a lot of kids, girls and boys, a lot of college kids, some kids that had to be in high school. Older women were in short supply. But there were old guys. Old guys who really, really dug Bazooka Joe. Bazooka Joe was playing "Sweet Home Alabama" and I have to say, it felt pretty damned optimistic to play it at a Dean rally.

Two things happened when Dean arrived. First: the media. Deaniacs were screaming like nobody's dirty business. Candy Crowley of CNN looked genuinely astonished. Her jaw literally dropped. Whether it was surprise or sheer outrage at being forced to endure a rally at 2AM, I don't know. Second was Joe Trippi, Dean's campaign manager. Joe Trippi looked like he was in the grasp of some atrocious flu. His eyes were surrounded by blue circles, his hair looked unkept, he looked like he hadn't slept, showered, or eaten for days. But when I went up to him, I told him I just wanted to shake his hand. It wasn't the pow wow I'd expected, the exchange of strategies that would energize Dean's meteoric rise to the White House and assure me a job in the West Wing. But he was gracious, he was smiling, he was happy, and he had a grip.

When Dean finally came out, he looked like a man who had been hit head on by the full fucking hell that Presidential politics must be. He had that same wretched disease look that Trippi had, a political junky in the throngs of withdrawal who just saw his fix go down an Iowa toilet. But Dean did it. He smiled genuinely. He spoke sincerely, he stayed optimistic, he made jokes that he had made a thousand times before but he still sounded fresh. He caught the one moderate Republican in the crowd raise his hand when he mentioned that moderate Republicans were coming into the campaign. He was on it. He was exhausted, beaten, jet lagged, on the evening of either losing everything or getting a fresh start, and he was still on it.

The crowd was excited. But looking at people, you wonder if they understand this campaign, and if the campaign can work if not everyone understands its structure. The structure goes like this: You have the internet, and you have your meetups. These are broadcast points where people come and get the fever. The idea is- and this idea is the centerpiece of Trippi's strategy- that those people with the fever pass it on. They spread the meme, the disease, the idea. They're supposed to pass it on with a vengeance. It is not enough, in Trippi's strategy, for a voter to vote for Dean. A voter is supposed to spread the virus. But do they? Is the enthusiasm contagious? In the crowd, there were clusters, and there were people standing alone, and the groups didn't interact. This is typical behavior, of course, but we're looking at the core target of Dean's strategy- "the infected," infected enough to show up at 2AM an airport hangar and listen to Bazooka Joe kick the wheedle for an hour and a half as the sun went down on a shocking loss. But they aren't talking to each other. In Tipping Point terms, this was a crowd of Mavens without connectors. The infected are not infecting others. Grassroots can't work unless the grass is set on fire, and spreads both wide and with equal intensity. The notion of the ripple effect has failed in Iowa. Because while Dean's voters were grassroots, they didn't set their neighbors lawns on fire. Television did.

Dean finished his speech and evaporated into the crowd and out of the hangar. Joan Jett came on stage at about 3:45AM and played a few songs, including "Crimson and Clover," and I caught Zephyr Teachout dancing like Charlie Brown with the aforementioned moderate republican convert. You know the campaign gets it, the campaign knows that Howard Dean becomes president when Howard Dean supporters mingle. But mingle as they may, Deaniacs just might not be any good at it. My neighbor may help put down some rumors about Howard Dean that I heard on CNN, my buddy may talk for a while about the campaign. Maybe the campaign has changed his life, maybe the campaign is the first time he's interested in politics, who knows. But it is a special thing, a special skill, to be able to pass on enthusiasm. That is the job of politicians, of salesmen, of Priests and advertising executives. A plumber in Des Moines, a cop in New York, a Carpenter in San Diego, these people might not have the skill to persuade, much less politically inspire.

In the end, maybe we all just watch TV, and go out and vote for the TV candidate. John Kerry and John Edwards were TV Candidates in Iowa. You can add Clark on as a TV Candidate in New Hampshire. Kucinich and Edwards are also radio candidates, and NH picks up three NPR Affiliates. Dean is an internet president, an animal we've never seen before and can't predict.

So is the Dean campaign toast? I don't know. Maybe Iowans talk to each other less than New Hampsherites. Maybe we're ruder out here, maybe we want it more, maybe we get what it means. But the ultimate question for Dean is: do we mingle?

Monday, January 19, 2004

On the Caucus 

A comment from Charles, an Iowa Caucus Voter, over at Atrios:

Having just returned from the caucus, let me remind you outsiders of a plain and simple fact: nobody WINS Iowa. The Iowa Caucus is not a majority vote winner takes all, the delegates are apportioned. You may win the most delegates but that doesn't mean you won "the state." Dean won delegates, Kerry won delegates, and Edwards won delegates. It is impossible to win Iowa, it is only possible to lose Iowa. Gephardt and Lieberman polled less than 15% so they get nothing. So, the winners are Dean, Kerry, and Edwards, the losers are Kucinich, Gephardt, Clark, and Sharpton.

The really interesting part of the my local caucus is how Kerry tried to shift some of their voters to Edwards to screw Dean out of 1 delegate. Instead, it backfired and Kerry lost one of his own delegates.

It's a good point. Watching Dubuque 20 you got the same sense. No one votes in Iowa, they negotiate for delegates. You show up to support Dean, and someone else drags you over to help get a delegate. If Dean has enough people, you can leave and help another candidate get some delegates.

Holy Fucking Shit.  

Dick Gephardt has dropped out. That's bigger news than Kerry's Iowa win. You might as well have told me that George W Bush is using his state of the union address to resign and hand the nation to Al Sharpton and Noami Klein tomorrow. I cannot provide intelligent commentary right now, all I can say is: Holy shit.

All of 2003's nomination politics are meaningless from now on. Who would have guessed that Dick Gephardt would drop out before Dennis fucking Kucinich? Dean third in Iowa, crushed by John Edwards? John fucking Edwards? Holy fucking shit. Kerry is a viable candidate now? What. The. Fuck.

Dean still has strong numbers nationwide, but Gephardt's resignation could send votes scattering, especially if he endorses Kerry. How much of this is because of the peculiarities of a caucus and how much will carry over to a general election? What will Clark do to Kerry and Edwards? I don't know. Why would I pretend to know anything any more? What's gravity? What's this thing I am writing on? Will Dean get new energy from this? Maybe he'll get some more fire under his ass and start talking again?

What the fuck?

Scissors beats Rock 

And Mo beats Org.

Dubuque, Iowa via CSPAN 

Watching the CSPAN coverage of the caucus in Dubuque Precinct 20, Kucinich supporters are coming off as completely uneducated and unrealistic voters. Particularly this one scruffy kid who is completely confrontational about leaving to help any other campaign, even though Kucinich was already rendered below 15% and had to disband or recruit. So he's trying to recruit people from other delegates, who keep pronouncing it "Koo-soo-nitch". "We don't give up! We're gonna win because I'm not giving up!" he says. "You're gonna trust John Edwards?" After the delegates were counted, he was still looking to convert Gephardt over to Kucinich, and when they told him the vote counting was done, he said, "Who says the votes are done? The American People?" Jesus.

Interestingly enough, it seems that the desire for an "outsider" is translating to Edwards, who, outside of Clark, is the most outsider candidate, despite Dean's assertion to the contrary. I suspect this means that Clark and Edwards should do pretty well.

Last Minute Prediction 

Iowa Caucus Prediction: Dean wins.

I have come up with at least 20 theories on how to predict the winner, so when they say "There's no way to predict it", well, god damn, thinking about it, I know what they mean. Dean wins, I am sure, and Edwards will do surprisingly well. I almost want to say he'd be second, but I can't underestimate Gephardt's organization or Kerry's surge. So, this isn't what I am predicting, but this is what I am hoping for:

1. Dean
2. Edwards
3. Gephardt
4. Kerry

Don't hold this as a prediction of anything except for how happy I will be when the results are finally in.

Maybe Not The Best Idea 

Howard Dean told the news media today to “get a new life.”

From Joe Trippi: "The Iowa Commission on the Status of African Americans today sponsored a memorial to honor the late Martin Luther King Jr. at the State Historical Building. Governor Dean attempted to attend the memorial to pay his respects to the late civil rights leader. Unfortunately, Governor Dean was met by a crush of reporters who were so disruptive that, out of respect for those attending, the Governor spoke to representatives of sponsoring organizations and explained that he felt it was best to leave rather than allow the media to disrupt their event."

Kucinich Endorses Edwards, Sort Of, "Just for Tonight." 

Briefly, how a caucus works: "A candidate's group must have at least 15 percent of the people in attendance for the candidate to be considered "viable." Supporters of candidates who are not considered viable must join another group." It appears that Dennis Kucinich is urging his backers to vote for Edwards if it appears that Kucinich's votes won't make 15% in attendance. The NRO, for once, have a pretty on point analysis that I find myself agreeing with:

Since he has no chance, he can only be hoping to get through with a pure message in hopes of pulling the party left. But at this point, with Dean in trouble, doesn’t Kucinich realize that his own candidacy is draining votes from the best hope the anti-war left has of gaining a reasonably sympathetic nominee? True, Dean is a moderate in many respects compared to a purest like Kucinich. But since Kucinich doesn’t have a prayer, and Dean is clearly the most left-leaning of the serious candidates, it is madness at this point for leftists not to support Dean.

Now, it makes sense for Edwards to back up this deal, because Edwards really has nothing to lose. But for Kucinich, it really does seem like he's trying to pull a Ralph Nader.

Comment On The GOP Blog 

Gillespies Blog, the official Blog of the GOP, has a post on Clark's "flip flops" on Iraq, which I responded to. But the comment process involves "review" of the comments made, so we'll see if the GOP will post my lunatic rantings, which I have pasted below as well. Keep in mind I have certainly "moved center" on this issue for the sake of the GOP's approval process:

Clark seems to have a nuanced range of emotions towards the war, as many of us did and continue to. Saddam Hussein is gone, and that is a triumph over dictatorship and oppression. But there are certainly questions to be asked about our initial justifications, why we were told about WMD's, why we were told that we knew where they were, why lawmakers were told that Saddam had missiles that could hit the East Coast. Why we were told that Saddam had ties to Al Qaida, and why so many people believe that Iraqis were responsible for 9/11. None of this makes sense now. If the war wasn't about terrorism- and new reports showed Saddam tried to dissuade his fighters from teaming up with al Qaida- then what was it about? If it was about the liberation of the Iraqi people, pure and simple, then why weren't we, and the UN, told that in the first place? I don't think "Bush Lied" but he certainly did not go about engaging in international diplomacy with very good results.

I just happen to think that because Clark supports some elements of the war, and not others, that it doesn't necessarily mean he was "pro-war" or "anti war." There's a range of issues related to the war and a range of positions you could take on them. Sometimes, results we deem good come of bad things, just as bad things can come from good things. In this case, the liberation of Iraqis has come at the expense of 500 soldiers lives, with countless injured and an unknowable number of dead Iraqi civilians. It is costing this country, at a time of enormous fiscal pressure, billions of dollars. Because we chose to go it alone, we have alienated the US from the UN, who we are now seeking out to help us in rebuilding the country after we essentially said it has outlived its usefulness. We were wrong to go it alone.

Some good has come of this war, and much worse has come since. Wesley Clark seems to understand this. I don't understand why there is such a constant positive outlook on Iraq from Bush, when there are clearly problems in the area. I feel that Bush is not being as straight forward as he could be on this issue, and that is a weakness that Wesley Clark can easily exploit in a general election.

So, we'll see if Gillespie lets that one get through, and what happens to me if he does. I'll say, by the way, that I don't know if the ousting of Saddam Hussein has "ended oppression" in Iraq, it's only relieved a very drastic form of it and replaced it with a subtler one. It's a typical Bush tactic: Lose 2.7 million jobs, and then when you generate 1,000 you can say the recovery is on an upswing. Remove a dictator who used torture and murder and replace it with a government that has no direct connection to ordinary citizens and essentially works as a corporate playground for American Interests, and then call that "freedom".

The State of Iowa vs The State of the Union 

A republican insider who "did not want to be named for fear of angering White House officials who insist that there is no political element to Mr. Bush's address" has told the NYTimes that the proximity of the State of the Union address (tomorrow) and the results of the Iowa Caucus (today) is no coincidence, even though the White House insists it is.

It's not a huge atrocity, frankly, I think it's nothing worse than good political strategy being employed by the side I want to lose, but saying that a major speech outlining his 2004 campaigning points is only "coincidentally" breaking up a post-caucus news cycle is just another example of the ridiculous shit this administration expects us to believe.

Clark vs War 

Having placed all my psychic resources into defending Howard Dean from the media, I have overlooked, sadly, some of the media assault on Wesley Clark. This post does something I should have done myself, which is to break down the idea that Clark was Pro-War (which doesn't jive with his stance now, or even a lot of what I liked about him as a commentator on CNN.)

The idea is that Clark was "against" the war, just not as rabid about it as some people would like. This can be weighed on its own merits. Do you want a president who is completely against the Iraq Invasion and is unwilling to suffer compromises on the issue, because he believes its perpetrators are entirely corrupt? Then vote Dean or Kucinich. Do you want someone who still assumes that the Bush administration is rational but error-prone and too misguided to run the country? Then maybe look at Clark. (This may also explain why Dean is "bloggable" and Clark isn't: Dean represents the binary position of "no war", Clark is more ambiguous.)

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Dean vs O'Reilly 

Cablenewser gets a scoop straight off of CSPAN.

Triumph of Industry: Coca Cola 

A New Cola War is underway: Coca Cola may be on the receiving end of one of the largest world wide boycotts it has ever faced.

By way of explanation, here's a description of just one plant in India is doing:

"Two tube wells draw hundreds of thousands of liters of ground water each day. Geologists have estimated that the company's voracious consumption may have lowered the groundwater level as much as 40 feet. The area's water crisis was further aggravated by the World Bank-funded Golden Quadrangle superhighway project, which shut off the water pipeline from a neighboring area. The Coke plant's proximity to the holy city of Benares has created further controversy. The factory's waste product was being disposed in a nearby canal that emptied into the holy Ganges River."

"Local Indians were enraged when they discovered that polluted waste was being dumped into the Ganges. Until recently, there was no clear way to test for Coke-related pollution in the vast Ganges. But in order to make way for the superhighway, construction workers dislodged Coke's waste disposal canal. The company then began disposing its waste products into neighboring fields and mango groves."

I'm not sure why the documentation of these sorts of abuses bothers people with no connection to corporate power- when people decry the listing of abuses and greed of corporations at a protest, who are the people booing or calling them ungrateful, and why? Part of it, I suppose, could be because we're perceived to be powerless over international corporate power. It's not like Americans can pass a bill regulating environmental policy for American corporations in India. But we have a dollar vote- everything you spend money on is a vote for how you want the world to be. It's a more direct form of democracy than electoral politics, because you either keep your money or give it away. I have to wonder if anyone can capture the rediscovered sentiment that "every vote counts" that came out of the 2000 election, and translate it to the "dollar vote" concept.

Katherine Gun 

I could care less what "stars" are thinking, but I am glad it is bringing some stateside attention to the plight of Ms. Katherine Gun, who blew the whistle on the US Government's spying on undecided nations in the UN prior to the Iraq War Resolution.

The Baltimore Sun sums it up: "[She] exposed a highly secret memorandum by a top U.S. National Security Agency official. Dated Jan. 31, the memo outlined surveillance of a half-dozen delegations with swing votes on the U.N. Security Council, noting a focus on "the whole gamut of information that could give U.S. policy-makers an edge in obtaining results favorable to U.S. goals" - support for war on Iraq.

The NSA memo said that the agency had started a "surge" of spying on diplomats at the United Nations in New York, including wiretaps of home and office telephones along with reading of e-mails. The targets were delegations from six countries considered to be pivotal - Mexico, Chile, Angola, Cameroon, Guinea and Pakistan - for the war resolution being promoted by the United States and Britain.

Cold Calling For Democracy 

Working on a campaign really gives a crystal clear understanding of what the state of politics is in this country.

On September 5th, 2003, I'd done two days of calling democrats and unregistered voters for the Dean Campaign in New Hampshire, calling essentially random people and talking to them about their ideas for this country and thoughts on the political process. I mean it's one thing to sit around and say, "America needs ______" or "America wants _______" but it's another thing altogether to actually interrupt America while it's eating dinner, and ask them. I'm reposting something I wrote back at the time, because some might be interested in knowing what's going on in New Hampshire, and also because I'm vain enough to repost things.

1. May I Ask Your Husband About Your Political Views, Ma'am?

I called this woman who was unregistered- meaning, basically, that they haven't ever voted in a primary before, or chose to remain independent for whatever reason, to vote for whatever primary. She says, "Let me ask my husband." Her husband comes on with, "Let me tell you, I am a Republican, and I am certainly not going to vote for Howard Dean; after his gross incompetence in Vermont, he should not be president of this country." The guy hung up before I could ask him what exactly Deans "incompetence" was in Vermont. I don't care what the guy thought of Deans incompetence in Vermont- where like, everyone on Earth basically says he single handedly saved the state from fiscal disaster. What I am interested in is the number of people who gave me their opinion and immediately hung up the phone afterwards, with no chance to actually discuss anything. That makes me really nervous. It's at the heart and soul of what's rotten about politics.

2. Score: 6. (Hostile to Dean / Voting Bush)

"Let me tell you something, I don't believe in gay rights and all that shit so don't call me anymore." (click)

3. Stats

Then on the other hand you have totally amazing people who you find. I mean, seriously, the atrocities shine brightest here, but 3 out of 5 people who answered the phone were great, and only 1 out of 5 seemed really rude. Maybe that's a kind of primary in and of itself.

4. Kings of New England

One woman wanted a triumvirate- and she was serious. She had read up on it, thought about it, wanted to talk to me about it. I said: "I'm speechless. I have nothing to say to that!" and she said "I know you don't!" She explained that she's lived all over the country, that there was no way that any one candidate could represent all the people, and that we should split the country into three regions- the west, the northeast, and the south east. Then have the three people work as a Council of Presidents. She also said Dean couldn't win in the south, but should be able to represent the people he represents- the northeast. I like this idea, especially because it means LA and NYC will basically run the country and Louisiana and Kentucky will be forced to reckon with its liberal tidal waves in off the coasts.

5. What Is Said To The People, Say It Through The Phones.

"Hello, my name is Eryk and I hope this isn't a bad time? But I am a volunteer here at Governor Howard Dean's Presidential campaign, and we're just trying to get in touch with voters and see what people are thinking about here at the start of the political season."

Then pause. If they say nothing, I say, "Have you considered who you're going to support in the upcoming election?"

The original script is totally telemarketing. "I am (name) and I am working for Governor Howard Deans Presidential Campaign. How are you today? (Pause). We know it's early in the primary season, but..." then we ask about who they want to support.

I decided to be "authentic" about it and it works. I got through more pages than anyone else and I also got a lot of positive responses. The kid next to me was really bad at it. Anyone who just reads the script at people is doomed to failure. One key thing I did was emphasize the word "volunteer" with an "Aw, shucks!" sort of emphasis. "Aw geez, I dunno what I'm doin, maybe you can help a poor fellow out, who just wants to hear what you have to say?" Poof! People with crying kids in the background are talking to me, or asking me to "call back later, but really I mean it, call back." I was told I should go into a career as a telemarketer.

6. A Good Man.

I like how older people said, "Howard Dean, I know he's a good man, but that's about all I can tell you right now." I would say "Well thank you, that's very kind of you, how about I send you some mail on Howard Dean's ideas?" and they say "sure!" But they said it like that a lot, "Howard Dean, he's a good man." It makes me want to vote for the guy. We need commercials of old ladies saying that. "Howard Deans? I don't know much about him, but I know he's a good man." Just like that, with the name wrong and everything.

7. A Short Conversation With Roger, In Which The Tables Are Turned Upon Me

Me: Hi Roger! I'm a volunteer for Governor Howard Dean's Presidential campaign, and I really hope it's not a bad time for you, but we're trying to see what voters are thinking about this time of year and see what issues are important to them.

Roger: Sure! I have the time.

Me: Great! Thanks. So, who are you leaning towards in the-

Roger: I have the time, but this is my time. Thank you! (hangs up phone)

8. Barroom and Billiard Hall Politics

After we made phone calls, a bunch of the campaign staff were going to the nearby bar to catch the Democratic debate on the tv there. And here, my friends, is the problem with politics in this country: voters.

While we're sitting down watching the tv in the corner, some of us are in Dean shirts, (not me, but I got a free sticker that I was still wearing).

"I hate Howard Dean. What does Howard Dean think about supporting the troops?" I hear from the corner.

"Well, Howard Dean supports better retirement benefits that George Bush took away from them while sending people over-"

"Yeah yeah yeah, whatever." says Barstool Guy. "What does he think about ______?"

"Well, Howard Dean has come out to say-"

"Yeah yeah yeah." Then he said something I couldn't hear, and Campaign Guy turned around, really annoyed looking. Barstool Guy yelled something else- he said "All you assholes know how to do up there in Vermont is make cheese." Campaign Guy turned around and had this expression of total bewilderment. Barstool Guy keeps yelling these anti-Vermont slogans.

"None of us are from Vermont." says Campaign Guy, "We're not getting offended by the things you are saying about Vermont."

"Yeah yeah yeah." says Barstool guy.

9. And The Problem Is...

I got a voter, Unregistered, 26 years old, and I called her up. She was on the phone, talking to me, and I say, "What issues are important to you this year?" She says, "No issues are important to me." I was shocked, on the phone. I had to repeat it back:

"No issue is important to you." I wrote it down, just like that, on the piece of paper where we list comments on the caller.

There's two wars in two countries; people are out of work, 1 in 10 people in our society are at the mercy of the supreme court just to be able to see someone they love who is in the hospital. I looked at the TV, tonight, when I came home, and there's this commercial of this guy walking through a hotel with a blindfold on. He navigates the hotel perfectly. I think to myself, "That's the most important issue, to some people- to be able to navigate through as much space as we can with a blindfold on."

10. Barroom and Billiard Hall Politics, Volume II

We were watching the debate when two people behind us got up to talk to the waitress and tell her that they were leaving because their dinner was ruined by having the debate on in the back of the room.

Today, I spent three hours calling people on the telephone, and every number I called I was terrified of getting a phone slammed in my face, or finding sleeper cell Republicans. But how do we convince the people who hang up in our faces, who can't hear a word we say? That's what I want to know.

How do you talk to the people who say, in a genuine statement, that there are no issues that affect them? Or people who state their cases into a phone, hanging up before I can even ask if they want to be taken off the list? People who are angry at people who simply ask them questions about what they believe. How do we ask them- how do we ask ourselves, really- to listen to the other side of what we're all thinking?

Weekend Blog Outsourcing 

The Blogging of the President is a phenomenal read this weekend, with Matt Stoller hitting my exact feelings on both Dennis Kucinich and John Edwards. And if that wasn't enough, Chris Lydon posts an interview with the most amazing name in politics since Spiro T. Agnew, Zephyr Teachout, "queen of the Dean geek corps".

American Amnesia is a great blog looking in detail at the situation in Iraq, ignoring the elements of "WMD search" and "Casualties" that override Iraq Media Coverage. It's done in a smart way, though, and anyone interested in the process will enjoy this one, which is critical but fair.

The Mahablog, who I don't link to quite enough, has a great analysis and roundup of commentary on Bush's Yes to Mars, No to Hubble Schizophrenia. Respectful of Otters has got some good info on the same theme, including some detailed criticism on the subject. Both of them are liberal coalition members who rarely link to me. Just sayin.

Get Your War On, the second best comic on the web, takes on the Mission to Mars. My favorite line: "Today I literally asked myself, are we gonna get distracted from rebuilding Iraq because of our mission to Mars? Now, what the hell kind of president brings about a state of affairs where his citizens have to ask that question?" (link via Pen-Elayne, who is a short-hit blogger with some good hits, if y'all know what I'm saying.)

You've got to love this Corrente post over how Bush is using maps from 1918 to plan out his Iraqi Strategy.

Edwardpig on the Omnibus Bill, which I just don't have the strength to complain about. I am just so sick of crammed-in bills that are so big they're voted on before anyone can read them. It's all we get these days. The Patriot Act, The Medicaid Bill, now, the "Omnibus" package. It's almost like if I can just get to the elections fast enough I won't need to worry about all this other crap, but I do have to. So, thanks to edwardpig for giving us a template for a letter to your dear old Senators expressing your outrage. He links to me sometimes.

Collective Sigh gets in under my new rule: Write something defending National Public Radio, get a link in the outsourcing. It's simple enough, I think.

You know I love long blog entries, so feast on this: Echidne has a wrap up and end all summary on this week's "Judith Steinberg-Dean Is An Awful Wife and Mother" Meme Traffic. Echidne? LC'er. Rarely links to me. Just sayin'.

Trish Wilson finally gets a transcription of "The Daily Show's" "Bush v Bush Debate". It's worth the read. Trish Wilson is a LC'er that rarely links to me. Just sayin'.

Musings... has a post on Dean's pragmatic but left-leaning centrism.

That, my friends, is this weekend's Weekend Blog Outsourcing.

George McGovern Endorses Wesley Clark 

While the media has been throwing the "New McGovern" label on Dean, McGovern is throwing his own label on Wesley Clark. George McGovern, who lost to Nixon with his campaign against the Vietnam War, has endorsed Wes Clark who, ironically, voted for Nixon in 1972.

But that's behind Clark now, and you can tell. Even Michael Moore has endorsed him, and you know how that translates into general election gold. Interestingly enough, Dean, the "too Liberal" Democrat, is getting centrist endorsements, whereas Michael Moore and George McGovern are going with Wes. (Dean, to be fair, might not be seeking "liberal" endorsements as aggressively, but then what the hell was Rob Reiner doing in Iowa?)

Joe Trippi's decision to limit media access to Howard Dean might cost him Iowa and hurt him in New Hampshire. Because while Dean is sticking to his stump speech, news space is being filled by coverage of his "slips" or news of other candidates, mostly, it seems, Wesley Clark, who isn't even in the Iowa Caucus. Since Dean has stopped talking, I've been hearing better and better things about Clark.

Atrocity Predictor: Bush Popularity Hits 50% (Again) 

A while ago over at Blogging The President they showed us how Bush's approval ratings end up looking like a Christmas tree since 9/11. Spectacle brings a big boost in approval, which gradually fades to 50%, then another Spectacle boosts it up, then it gradually fades back to 50%. Well, he's back at 50%. Just in time for the State of the Union! The fact that the approval bumps are smaller everytime is good news for America, and it's worth noting that the State of the Union is going to cover a) Mars, b) "Ownership Society", both strategies that simply haven't caught fire with the American People. So maybe the Spectacle/Purge cycle has been ended. The only boost-worthy spectacle Bush could produce at this point is Osama Bin Laden's head. Without that, he's left floundering in the idea of "vision", which we all know is not his strong point.

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