"Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you”


Friday, July 13, 2007

WY-Sen II - Does Freudenthal Plan to Take on Sen-Select Barrasso?

According to the AP, Wyoming Democratic Governor Dave Freudenthal is expressing disappointment with the newest US Senator, Tom Barrasso (R-WY). The Billings Gazette ran the story with the headline "Gov: Barrasso "tepid" on Thomas issues."

The Governor, you may recall, selected Barrasso from a roster of three Republicans last month to fill the vacancy created by Sen. Craig Thomas' death in early June. Unlike in most states, Wyoming law requires the governor to fill a vacancy with a member of the same party as the deceased. The choice of Barrasso, a medical doctor, was viewed by many on both sides of the aisle as the candidate who could wage the strongest campaign in 2008, when he goes before the voters to fill the remaining four years of this term.

Does this AP report mean the governor holds a different view? Might he be considering a challenge to the man he selected less than a month ago?

When Freudenthal made his selection, some bloggers speculated on whether he would make a strategic selection. Could he select the weakest candidate, hoping a Wyoming Democrat could run a successful campaign to "steal" a Senate seat for the Dems in one of the most scarlet red states in the country?

While the governor acknowledges it's early in the new senator's tenure, he isn't hesitating to call him out on some key environmental legislation state voters closely identify with Sen. Thomas.

Gov. Dave Freudenthal says Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., has been tepid so far in his support of two landmark pieces of environmental legislation that Sen. Craig Thomas was pushing before his death last month.
But Freudenthal also said it's too early to start pressuring Barrasso, who has been in office less than a month. "I think in fairness, we should give the guy a break here," Freudenthal said. "But it ain't going to be a very long break, but we ought to give him a little one."

-- snip --

Shortly before his death, Thomas had introduced legislation to protect more than 400 miles of the Snake River and its headwaters under the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Thomas had also said he intended to introduce legislation to prevent further energy development in the Wyoming Range.Since succeeding Thomas, however, Barrasso has been noncommittal on whether he will continue to carry Thomas' environmental measures in the Senate.

Can Democrats win on environmental and land-use issues in the Interior West? David Sirota believes the conflict over energy and the environment provides progressives an unprecedented opportunity in the region.

Is Gov. Freudenthal positioning himself to win a Wyoming senate seat if Barrasso fails to understand this new political reality?

Cross-posted at Daily Kos and An Enduring Democratic Majority.

Chrispy's Political Prattle for Friday the 13th

A "Baker's Dozen" quick hits list from around the West (and more!) on Jason Voorhees' favorite day:

  • WA-08: Recent GOP-convert Rodney Tom announced he will be a Dem candidate in the suburban Seattle district of GOP Rep. Dave Reichert. 2006 Dem nominee is hard at work raising money and working the netroots (she'll be liveblogging at FireDogLake on Saturday morning -11AM PDT, 2PM EDT)
  • OR-Sen: In the "Revised Comments" section, Sen. Gordon Smith - facing re-election in 08, told Fox News the other day that his December 2006 observation about the Iraq War as "criminal" was inaccurate. He now describes the war as "Insane" - will any of his GOP colleagues agree?
  • Show Me the Money: How important are the Q2 fundraising numbers? Political analyst Stuart Rothenberg has an interesting article "Historical Review of Second Quarter Fundraising." Does money at this stage of the cycle predict who wins? Hint: Howard Dean.
  • Iraq - the Endgame: Craig Crawford @ CQPolitics.com points out Thursday's House vote (223-201) represents a molasses-like pace movement away from the president's Iraq surge. Needing another 67 votes to override any presidential veto means the Dems won't get enough support until summer 2008 if the current pace continues.
  • MT-Sen: From the "Majority Matters" file: Montana Sen. Max Baucus (and Finance Committee Chairman) reports his fundraising total for Q2 2007 has doubled over the same period back in 2001. His CoH amount ($4.3 million) is a considerable sum, particularly in a state the size of Montana. His broad based support across the state helps explain why the GOP has only put Loony Mike Lange as an opponent to the five-term senator.
  • NM-01 & ID-01: The trend of Iraq War veterans jumping into politics continues - Democrat Byron Paez has tossed his hat in the ring in New Mexico. This comes a week after Republican Matt Salisbury announced his primary challenge to freshman GOP Rep. Bill Sali.
  • AZ-03: The "gut-check" terror alarm: Arizona GOP Rep. John Shadegg apparently shares the same gastro-intestinal pyschic abilities as Homeland Secretary Chertoff. Since we know the administration doesn't need factual intelligence to go to war, does it surprise anyone that the person responsible for monitoring terror threats relies on his tummy?
  • GOP House Outlook: NRCC Chairman Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) is already 'spinning' his party's 2008 House election prospects and you know they're worried when he says, "Nobody gets two 2006s in a row," Cole said. He pointed out that the 202 seats Republicans currently occupy are ten seats better than President Reagan held "on his best day."
  • Rudy's Rough Ride: The Giuliani campaign's foundation seems to be crumbling with each passing news cycle. The people that know him best - the firefighters and the voters of New York City don't seem to like him. How long will it be until Rudy's front-running campaign follows McCain into the second tier of GOP contenders.
  • NV-03: Swing State reports the DCCC may have finally suceeded in recruiting a top tier challenger to Vegas area GOP Rep. Jon Porter in Clark County prosecutor Robert Daskas.
  • CA-44: What is it with California's GOP delegation? A grand jury ruled GOP Rep. Ken Calvert and two business partners bought and sold real estate in violation of state regulations. The Hill reports the decision will not affect Calvert's re-election plans, nor cause him to lose his seat on the powerful House Appropriations Committee.
  • WA-GOV: Christine Gregoire, the Democrat narrowly elected over Dino Rossi in 2004, is credited by Forbes Magazine with making Washington State one of the top five business-friendly states in US, undercutting the GOP argument that Democratic regulations hinder economic activity. It remains unclear whether Rossi will mount a challenge in 2008 (the state Dems argue he's declared and then undeclared already). The news this week that an investigation has been launched into whether his non-profit Forward Washington organization violates state law means a rematch would likely be a 'no-holds barred' contest between the two parties.
  • From deep in the heart of BLUE TEXAS, one last picture, in memory of Lady Bird.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

If the Lips are Moving, He Must be Lying...

Cross-posted at Daily Kos.

Yesterday, the Budget Busting Buffoon delivered his mid-session budget review. It was twenty minutes of purely revolting revisionism and conservative propaganda. He wasted no time in shaping the budget debate as an ideological battle the conservatives are winning, proving yet again the White House's Alice in Wonderland reality.

If Congressional Democrats don't aggressively refute the President's propaganda, misinformation and lies, they're going to find themselves being blamed for a budget mess that is solely the responsibility of a bankrupt and failed conservative economic policy.

If we fail to expose this Administration's fiscal lies, we will needlessly forfeit the mantle of fiscal responsibility - and miss a political opportunity to cement a sustained Democratic majority.

Put on your boots (the BS gets pretty deep) and join me below the fold.

The full video can be found here. Transcript here.

The President uses his bully pulpit to outline the ideological underpinnings of the budget battle by stating:

The release of the mid-session review is a good opportunity to take stock of the debate over taxes and spending in Washington. At its core, the debate is between two very different economic philosophies and fiscal philosophies. One philosophy says that politicians in Washington know best; says taxes should be high and government should decide where to spend the money. And the other philosophy says that the American people know how to spend their own money better than the government does -- so government should spend less and the taxpayer should keep more. And that's the fundamental debate here in the nation's capital.

For the past six years, my administration and our allies in Congress have pursued the second philosophy.

Really? Is that what the Republicans were doing as they managed our way into an unprecedented budget deficit, played a shell game with annual Iraq "emergency" supplementals, scandalously abused the Appropriations process, and underfunded critical agencies? Is that he's talking about? If so, the philosophy is bankrupt and has FAILED, Mr. President.

He discusses the declining federal budget deficit, glossing over the fact when he and his congressional allies took full control of the federal government in 2001, there was a budget surplus. Conveniently overlooking this important detail, he craftily diverts blame for the deficit away from his tax cutting philosophy.

A shrinking deficit is good; no deficit is better. So earlier this year I proposed a balanced budget that will eliminate the federal deficit by 2012. The deficit is not caused by under-taxing; it's caused by over-spending. So the budget we proposed keeps us on the path to low taxes and spending restraint. And according to the mid-session review, that path will lead to a surplus of $33 billion in 2012. In other words, despite the unprecedented challenges we face, the United States is going to be back in the black.

The policies of low taxes and spending restraint have produced a clear and measurable record of success. You can't argue with what I'm telling you. These are the facts. Yet, in the face of all the evidence, Democrats in Congress still want to take us down a different path.
We've shown what works. They must not believe us, because they passed a budget framework that calls for $205 billion in additional domestic spending over the next five years. The budget framework they passed calls for $205 billion additional of federal spending in a five-year period. That works out to nearly $680 per person. It's no surprise that their budget framework also includes the largest tax increase in American history.

Some of this might sound familiar to some of you older hands around here -- it's the same old tax-and-spend policy that the Democrats have tried before. It would have the same bad result. Tax-and-spend would add to the burden of families and businesses.
(emphasis MINE)

After setting the stage, Bush goes on clear attack - accusing the Democrats of inaction, fiscal abuse and mismanagment. This is where Democrats MUST respond, in my opinion.

The Democrats are also delaying the 12 basic spending bills that are needed to keep the federal government running. At their current pace, I am not likely to see a single one of these must-pass spending bills before Congress leaves Washington for a four-week recess. And by the time they return, they will have less than a month before the fiscal year ends on September 30th to pass the appropriations bills.

It's important that they honor the pledges they made when they took control of the Congress, and that is they pledged a policy of transparent government and fiscal responsibility. Well, now is the time to show that they're serious. And one way they can do so is they can pass spending bills on time, instead of creating a massive bill at the end of the process that will be so large that no one can possibly read it and anyone can hide wasteful spending in it. The Democrats should honor their commitment to fiscal discipline by passing these bills in a way that sustains our growing economy and balances the federal budget.

Does the president recall that last year, his Republican allies failed to enact ALL the appropriations bills EXCEPT Defense and Homeland Security for FY 2007? Even though they controlled both the legislative and executive branches, the Republicans FAILED to pass domestic spending bills, practically across the board. Now, which party is fiscally irresponsible?

Bush also neglects to point out that he's threatened to veto nine of the dozen appropriations bills working their way through the House. He's playing politics with the nation's finances - the reason he's threatened to veto the Foreign Service bill is because he's opposed to the omission of the "Mexico City" anti-abortion language).

The President next turns to a real vulnerability - earmark reform. This practice, viewed by many congress critters as critical to re-election efforts ingites anger in the electorate. Both parties have participated - although it was the Republicans who oversaw the broad expansion of this secretive practice (pdf).

First, there's the matter of earmarks. Earmarks are spending provisions that are slipped into bills by individual members of Congress for projects in their own district or state; they're just slipped in the bill. Often, the earmarks occur at the last hour and without debate. This violates the trust of the public and often leads to unnecessary spending. The problem is growing, and over the last decade, the number of earmarks has more than tripled.

So earlier this year, I proposed reforms that would make the earmark process more transparent, end the practice of concealing earmarks in so-called report language, would eliminate wasteful earmarks and cut the overall number and cost by at least half. Democrats and Republicans have taken a good step by agreeing to list all earmarks before bills are passed so the public can see them and lawmakers have a chance to strike them down, get rid of them. Now Congress needs to uphold the commitment and the Senate needs to make this transparency part of its formal rules. The American people deserve to know what they're getting for the money they're sending to the nation's capital. There ought to be full disclosure and full transparency in the appropriations process.

Bush fails to acknowledge the fiscal irresponsibility of the Congressional Republicans and disingenuously claims the 'reformer' and clean government mantle that the Democrats MUST have as their own. Failing to work toward more transparency WILL have unhappy political consequences for Democrats. They cannot allow Bush (and the GOP minority) to win this rhetorical battle. Real reform needs to happen - and Democrats need to be the ones who claim (and deserve) the credit.

Not once during his remarks did he acknowledge that the escalating costs for the Iraq Invasion are "off the books," as all operations have been funded through "emergency" supplementals.

Will the Democrats allow the President and the Republicans to escape the responsibility for the federal fiscal mess? Or will they stand up to the propaganda? Conservatism has failed.

The task is simple - just keep reminding Americans of what they already know: If his lips are moving, he's probably lying.

Conservatism is a bankrupt and failed ideology. It has failed in Iraq. And it has failed in America.

The House Horse Race - the Q2 Fundraising Filings (UPDATE Thursday 7:30PM EDT)

Cross-posted at An Enduring Majority.

Previously, we reported that Democrat Darcy Burner was on a record-setting fundraising pace for a Washington State congressional challenger this early in the race.

With Q2 filings due this Sunday, the fundraising numbers for challengers and incumbents are beginning to trickle in. For the most part, the Senate numbers will become public at a slower pace - and the first to report from the Western races is Colorado contest for the open seat.

Colorado Senate - Rep. Mark Udall has reportedly raised $1.1 million in his effort to win the seat for the Democrats, and has more than $2.5m in the bank. GOP opponent Bob Schaffer has yet to release his Q2 numbers.

In the House, an up-to-the-minute listing is available via CQPolitics' Moneyline. A review of the house candidates from around the West who have raised over $50,000 in the quarter reveal where the races are already heating up - first number is Q2 take, second is the Cash on Hand (CoH).

Thursday, July 12, 8:30 AM EDT:

The Democratic Challengers showing early dedication:

CA-26: Russ Warner - working to unseat gazillion-term Rep. David Dreier raised $100K - with $150K CoH (cash on hand). For more on the Warner candidacy see here. Warner, along with Darcy - have not yet officially filed with the FEC - so we'll keep an eye out for exact numbers and update with actual totals.

CA-26: Hoyt Hilsman, another Dem looking to take on Dreier also raised an impressive amount ($106K, with $105K CoH), REVISION: a commenter noted that $100K of the Q2 income reported by Hilsman was a personal loan.

NM-02: Bill McCamley - a 29-year old County Commissioner looking to unseat Rep. Steve Pearce has pulled in an impressive $140K with $133 CoH.

GOP Incumbents Raising Cold, Hard Cash
(listed in order of Q2 money raised)
AZ-06: Rep. Jeff Flake - $217K in Q2, $581K CoH
WA-05: Rep. Cathy McMorris - $147K, $165K CoH
OR-02: Rep. Greg Walden - $137K, $503K CoH. A cursory review of Eastern Oregon conservative Walden's website reveals another powerful indication of the GOP's tarnished brand - can't find his party affiliation anywhere on the site, but Walden does publicize his membership in the Small Brewers Caucus. He wants you to know he's a micro-brewer, but not a Republican?
ID-02: Rep. Mike Simpson - $87K, $75K CoH - Simpson is rumored to be thinking about running for GOP Sen. Larry Craig's Senate seat.
CA-24: Rep. Elton Gallegly - $77K, $832K CoH

Democratic Incumbents With the Tip Jar Out
(listed in order of Q2 money raised)
HI-01:Rep. Neil Abercrombie $47oK, 1.o87M CoH
UT-02: Rep. Jim Matheson $205K, $588K CoH
CA-27: Rep. Sherman $163K, $1.517M CoH
AZ-07: Rep. Raul Grivalja $90K, $85K CoH

Thus far, only 233 registered candidates have filed with the FEC (and that includes a slew of inactive campaigns of retired congress critters). I'll check back in with updates over the next few days to see who's got the serious money MoJo and who might be thinking about retirements.

UPDATE (Thursday, 7:30 PM EDT)

Dem Incumbents:
(listed in order of Q2 money raised)
NV-01: Rep. Shelley Berkley, $406K, $1.212M CoH
CO-07: Rep. Ed Perlmutter, $206K, $338K CoH
OR-03: Rep. Earl Blumenauer, $150K, $461 CoH

GOP Incumbents:
(listed in order of Q2 money raised)
NM-02: Rep. Steve Pearce, $246K, $383K CoH
CA-40: Rep. Ed Royce, $184K, $2.014M CoH
CA-50: Rep. Brian Bilbray, $154K, $224K CoH (Correction: previously erroneously listed as a challenger)
CA-25: Rep. Buck McKeon, $88K, $205K CoH
CA-26: Rep. David Dreier, $56K, $1.997M CoH

No additional Dem challengers filing with more than $50K raised Q2 GOP

Of note, no GOP $50K+ challengers have thus far filed in any Western House race.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Top Chef - Back "Four" More

Since I missed last week's episode, I've got two fresh hours (to me) of my favorite reality series, Bravo's Top Chef. This week, we're looking at the top dozen. Who will be asked to pack their knives tonight?

Top Chef - Episode Four

It seems no one is missing Micah...was she less popular than Hung?

Quickfire Challenge: There's lost of cocktails on the table. Jamie Walker from Bombay Sapphire Gin has prepared a 'plethora' of cocktails (Walker's words, not mine). The Chfes will be pairing an appetizer for their drinks. Full access to the pantry. They're off!

Hung doesn't like this challenge. Hard alcohol doesn't mix well with his elegant, high-end food, he tells us. And the judge agrees...NICE! As he goes around, many of the chefs appear to have impressed.

Least favorite - Joey, Hung (Hung, "I'm thinking he was a little confused - that's why I called him out." - with

Who did well - Casey, Tre & Dale - Casey is the winner - and receives immunity.

Elimination Round: The chefs divide themselves into teams of three - and each of them will be making a dish, using the same ingredients. Brian decides to do it by random lottery.

That sytem doesnn't last long, as the teams start breaking down - Casey gets stuck on a team with Howie and Joey. It's getting strategic. There's lots of conflict on this team. Money seems to be a huge issue for this challenge, as most of the teams have to leave ingredients behind.

Casey, "In my mind, I keep telling myself, sometimes in the kitchen you're going to be forced to work with people you don't like."
The menu & teams:
First course - Shrimp - Lia, Hung & Brian: Padma - this is good! Tom - overall, very successful
Second Course - Tuna - Howie, Joey & Casey: Howie isn't convinced this is going to go over well. The dinner guests think it's way overboard, tastewise
Third Course - Filet Mignon - Tre, CJ and Sara - Padma- the presentation is beautiful. The table seems impressed.
Fourth Course - Pineapple - Sara, Dale & Camille - Dale says it would be better if the dinner guest were blind. Why did they choose to do a dessert? The semi-freddo is awful. The desserts are dreadful.

Judge's Table: The more impressive courses - shrimp - but people didn't really like Hung's foam. The judges seem to be coalescing around Brian. But, in a surprise winner is Lia - who will be a guest chef this summer in the Hamptons.

The lower end is comprised of two groups of chefs - Tuna Course & Pineapple Course - half the chefs are put on the chopping block. The desserts were difficult - as most of them have no pastry experience. It was a HUGE risk, according to the judges. They seem to want to punish these guys for rolling the dice. Now, let's target the tuna team - Tom says that Casey's dish was REALLY weak. Casey admits her dish was underseasoned. Casey breaks out into tears over the fact that either Howie or Joey could be sent home because her dish was what put her team at the bottom.

Who is going home? Joey, Howie? Dale, Camille, Sara? The desserts were unsuccessful, all around.

Tom lectures the dessert team. Padma- "Camille, please pack your knives and go."

Top Chef - the Third Course

After watching the first two episodes of my favorite reality shows - Top Chef on Bravo TV - I missed episode three...so, this week, I've got two hours of couch potato-hood ahead of me.

Top Chef - Episode 3: Two down, thirteen remain standing.

Howie: "I don't like Joey, but I'm not here to be liked." Micah: "I'm not a quitter. I'm here to win."

Today's Quickfire Challenge: The guest judge is Alfred Portale of Gotham Bar and Grill in New York, winner of the Beard Award. The ingredients are in an aquarium - piles of seafood. It's called "Catch and Cook" - 30 seconds to fish and then 30 minutes to cook. Hung goes first - and it's clear he's not popular with his fellow contestants.

Padma - "who is going to sink and who is going to swim?"

Cleaning the seafood is time-consuming. No one seems too confident (except our pal Hung). When Hung gets criticized by the judge, he defensively says, "he obviously didn't understand the concept."

The Quickfire Results: Micah, Camille and Tre are the disappointments this week. Favorites: Howie, Brian, and CJ - and the winner of immunity is Brian.

The Elimination Challenge - update the classic American diets in a low cholesterole fashion. The dishes will be served to the Miami Elk's Club Lodge.

On the menu: Sloppy Joe, Franks & Beans, Tuna Casserole, Pork Chops & AppleSauce, Fried Chicken, Chicken a la King - it looks like mom made the menu - although where's the Friday night pizza?

Micah, the foreigner "My reaction to American comfort food: ugggh!"

Dale is making chicken and dumlings...Tom is surprised everyone is doing a literal approach to the dishes. He's not impressed.

Sarah discovers the oven is on "cool down" - and guess who may be the culprit? You guessed it. Hung. Is this on purpose or an innocent mistake? Hmmmm.

Good Lord, CJ's pile of green mush looks horrendous. Let's hope it tastes better than it looks. The judges HATE it.

Sarah's not even sure hers is cooked thoroughly. Again, another horrific presentation. Next up - franks and beans. The seniors do not like it. The lentils aren't even cooked correctly, according to the judges. Three strikes.

CJ comes out and saves the day. Now, we've got Hung with fried chicken, mac & cheese. Sara N has fish & chips. Micah's meatloaf - the consensus is that it's TERRIBLE. It's crunchy.

Brian does lobster and cabbage....is this supposed to be low cholesterol? Casey gets raves for the sloppy joe. The judges appear resoundingly underwhelmed.

Howie impresses - both the judges and the Elks.

Judge's Table - Padma says there are a few surprises and some definite disappointments.
Micah's meatloaf was the dish that kept giving, but not in a good way. Dale scored well with the audience and the judges.

Favorites: Dale & Howie. Padma urges Howie to smile. They're impressed with the Apple Slaw as a replacement for the sauce. And, they're impressed with the dish, despite the instant potatoes on Dale's dish. Howie wins - and he gets to cook at the Gotham restaurant for a week. Wow! This is a good turnaround for Howie, who I thought was going home last week.

The bottom-dwellers include: Micah, CJ, Lia, Sara and Brian (wait, he's got immunity, right?)
Brian gets lectured because he chose to use lobster in a low-cholesterol challenge. Tom urges him to move past the seafood dishes and prove he is capable of more. Micah is combative and defensive regarding her meatloaf. Sara has never had chicken a la king - and her dish had no resemblance to the original dish. CJ's dish failed because it was too green and too muddy in flavors. Lia - did you cook anything? It seemed a little lazy for a dish you had two hours to prepare.

Tom - this was a straighforward challenge.

Micah is asked to pack her knives and go.

Three gone, a dozen remain.

Dems & the White House - Do We Lose Because We're Stupid or Squeamish?

As I read an article in the Arts section of Tuesday's New York Times trumpeting this year's "big idea" in Democratic political circles, I found myself wondering, "Are Democrats really this clueless and spineless?"

Are Democratic politicians tone-deaf to the extent indicated in the article? Is their inability to understand human behavior - and the American electorate - this pervasive? How do presentations that would be greeted with a dismissive shrug by the general public repeatedly produce "A-ha!" responses from gatherings of our politicians?

What is 2008's "Big Idea?"

The article, "Counseling Democrats to Go For the Gut" discusses the rave reviews Democratic leaders are giving to Emory University psychology professor Drew Westen's recent book, "The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation." Why all the raves?

Dr. Westen takes the unlikely position that the Democratic Party should, for the most part, forget about issues, policies, even facts, and instead focus on feelings.

What he calls “the dispassionate view of the mind which has guided Democratic thinking for 40 years” is deeply flawed, Dr. Westen argues. What decides elections, he maintains, are people’s emotional reactions, even if they don’t know it.

As Homer Simpson might say, "Du-oh."

How many times do Democrats need to be beaten by 'the candidate the voter would most like to share a beer with' before they grasp the simple concept that elections are popularity contests? Voters don't want nuance. They want easy to understand messages that require minimal effort to understand and comprehend.

Of course, we WANT people to consider their vote more carefully. But, in a nation where more people can debate the vocal strengths of the final DOZEN American Idol contestants more easily than they could describe ANY presidential candidate's issue positions, that's an unrealistic expectation.

The article reports Bill Clinton - the only Democrat to convince the voters he was the "more likable" presidential candidate over the past three decades - is among Westen's admirers. Apparently, he's taken his highlighter to his copy to make sure Hillary gets the book's message.

“To say I think it’s a very important book is an understatement,” Mr. Clinton said in a telephone interview yesterday, adding that he particularly liked the discussion of how one could “evoke emotion without being intellectually dishonest.”

“One of the things I do for Hillary is research,” he said, referring to his wife’s presidential campaign. “I read things and underline them. I want her to look at it; I think she’ll largely agree with its findings.”

According to the article, Westen advises a starkly different approach than what Al Gore recommends in "The Assault on Reason." He advocates strong , unequivocal, emotion-driven responses rather than relying on thoughtful, rational, detail-dominated proposals. He argues that running from the "wedge" issues hurts Democrats:

As Dr. Westen sees it, the decision to keep quiet when confronted with negative attacks or difficult and controversial subjects like race, abortion and gay rights is always a mistake. “Democrats run from every issue where there’s passion involved,” he complains. “If you don’t say anything, you are giving them” — your opponents — “the right to define the public’s feeling.”

This is where the Democrats (and progressive activists) may run into difficulty implementing powerful, emotional (and, successful) campaigns. Weston advocates strategies many may find ethically troubling. Some may view his recommendations as sinking to the level of Republican operatives.

Yet even those who agree with his analysis may criticize Dr. Westen for using the same kind of manipulative techniques that he takes Republicans to task for. Although he called the 1988 ads with the furloughed murderer Willie Horton and a revolving door of black men in and out of prison subtly racist, he suggests the Democrats take a similar approach and use images of Middle Eastern men buying guns as a way of linking gun control to terrorism fears.

Is Westen arguing in favor of a Machiavellian 'win at all costs' approach? Politics is viewed by many (particularly among our opponents) as relentless, hand-to-hand combat, a no-holds-barred contest. From my reading of this article, the critical question here is, "does building a successful, emotion-based political campaign require appealing to fear, hatred and intolerance?"

Westen believes there is a way to present competing visions in a positive manner, saying he would "pose the issue as one between two competing value systems, not between two competing plans or policies." It's about reframing the debate in a manner that presents progressive policies as the positive alternative to our opponents.

How would this work? Consider Westen's advice to Gore:

Writing of the 2000 presidential debate, Dr. Westen says that instead of saying he was “not going to respond in kind” to Mr. Bush’s attacks on his credibility and character, Vice President Gore should have said that he was going to teach his opponent “a few old-fashioned lessons about character,” mentioning Mr. Bush’s drunk-driving incidents, business practices and Vietnam-era Air National Guard service, using the words “coward,” “drunk,” “crooked” and “disgrace.”

Sounds like a simple, straightforward argument that would have provided a clear choice for the American electorate.

The questions for 2008: Are progressives ready to take off the gloves? Can we present our arguments concisely without compromising our ethical standards? Or are we doomed to failure because we continue to expect American voters to engage intellectually and rationally?

Cross-posted at Daily Kos.

Tales from the Bordello - Or the Southern DisComfort Trifecta

News that GOP Sen. David Vitter's phone number appears in the little black book of DC Madam Palfrey has ignited a mini-firestorm in political circles, exposed the hypocrisy of the "family values" party and awakened memories of disgraced ex-Rep Mark Foley's personal picadillos.

Bob Novak writes in his "insider email" about the ramifications of this latest round of bad news for the GOP - and how the fallout hurts GOP Gov. candidate (and Vitter associate Bobby Jindal) and Rudy Giuliani (boy, can this guy pick his friends) while helping Mary Landrieu in her 2008 re-election effort.

Vitter: The admission by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) that before being elected to the Senate he was at some point a client of an infamous Washington escort service may appear to have little political significance for now. The senator does not face re-election until 2010, and his wife was apparently made aware of the situation long ago.

However, the matter will not rest there by any means. First of all, the accused madam involved -- Deborah Jeane Palfrey -- is going to trial and has announced she will subpoena Vitter. Her defense is that her service was not a prostitution ring, so the nature of Vitter's testimony, under oath, would be to show exactly what he did while using the "escort service" and how many times he did it. Vitter could avoid going into such lurid detail by taking the 5th Amendment (after all, solicitation is a crime), but that would also look very bad for him.

Second, this is not the first time Vitter's morals have been called into question. When he ran for Senate in 2004, his enemies brought up old accusations (from when he first ran for Congress) that he had had a year-long affair with a prostitute in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

Beyond that, tales about Vitter's behavior abound in Louisiana. Even if every single one is false, this revelation suddenly gives them new currency. In the future, Democrats will send mailings at the right times and exploit his weakness.

Unlike the embattled Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.), Vitter is a Republican. His base will be much harder to mollify when it comes to charges of wrongdoing. True, Jefferson is actually accused of malfeasance in office (bribery), but Republicans are always held to a higher standard by their own voters, who tend to place special value on family issues.

As Louisiana's only statewide-elected Republican, Vitter is currently the don of GOP politics there. This scandal not only devalues his political currency, but it also embarrasses other Republicans. Rep. Bobby Jindal (R-La.), a Vitter protégé, is far and away favored to win the governor's race later this year. But now he is saddled with Vitter. Jindal has already called for Jefferson to step down. Will he call for Vitter to do the same?

Democrats will have lots of fun with this. They may not be able to win the governor's race, but they could make it more competitive by using Vitter to embarrass Jindal. Vitter cannot step down right now even if he wants to, because he would be replaced by a Democrat. If he wants he leave, he has to wait until Jindal becomes governor.

Vitter is also a supporter of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) for President. After losing his Iowa chairman to the Bush Administration and his South Carolina chairman to cocaine charges, Giuliani is lightly burned once again by a key supporter.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

WA-08 Darcy Fundraising Records - Liveblogging Saturday

News from Washington - Darcy Burner has raised $200K - reportedly a record for a challenger this early in the race. She's got Rep. Dave Reichert running scared - and while he's raising money at a furious pace, Darcy's got more money in the bank.

Reichert's fundraising, meanwhile, is well ahead of Burner's for the period from April 1 to June 30, and he pulled in more than twice as much as she did in the first half of 2007, said his chief of staff, Mike Shields.
Shields said the two-term congressman will report to the Federal Election Commission this week that he took in approximately $245,000 during first-quarter 2007. Reichert now has raised more than $444,000 to Burner's $218,879 since Jan. 1.
Burner has more cash on hand, $185,264 to Reichert's approximately $160,000 as of June 30 after Burner added money rolled over from her 2006 campaign.
The 2006 nominee's goal is two-fold - she's clearly got Reichert in her sights but she's also working to clear the Democratic field, as both State Rep. Christopher Hurst and State Sen. Rodney Tom are considering runs for the seat. Local media reports Tom is likely to make an announcement this week. For previous discussion about a primary see here.

Burner continues to make all the right moves, working to build a strong, ongoing dialogue with the netroots. This Saturday, she'll be liveblogging at FireDogLake (11AM PDT, 2 PM EDT) - Down With Tyranny has a preview of what's to come. She'll be running a campaign on Iraq, the environment and healthcare.


Monday, July 9, 2007

Who "Lost" Iraq?

It may seem like an inconsequential - perhaps even obscene - question to pose, as the answer is so obvious to those of us who inhabit the liberal blogosphere. The answer, however, is NOT as clear to the rest of America - and a failure to proactively and repeatedly reinforce the message that the REPUBLICANS are responsible for "losing Iraq" could result in long-term Democratic electoral difficulties.

As the political establishment grudgingly accepts that Bush's Iraq Disaster is approaching its inevitable - and much belated - endgame, the question as to which party will be held responsible for "Losing" Iraq will become a central - if subtle - theme in American politics. In fact, the talking points are already fully developed if we take a look behind the red curtain.

If the progressive netroots doesn't engage in this debate, WE will be held responsible for the Iraq "defeat."

Please note my deliberate use of quotations in the discussion - the point is to illustrate the American public's "perception" regarding Iraq - not necessarily the reality. It behooves us to understand that the conflict over Iraq is increasingly (and arguably always was) viewed by many Inside the Beltway politicians and strategists as a battle of ideas, slogans and themes. I'm not trying to define winning/losing or debate whether or not Iraq was ever winnable. I'm acknowledging that Americans will perceive a troop withdrawal as a "loss" and we must not only accept this but also do everything in our power to make sure the blame for this "loss" is placed on the Republicans. After all, they've earned it.

I find myself motivated to write this post as a result of a recent conversation I had with a close friend - a steadfast, yet pragmatic liberal. He expressed concern over the American public's view of the Democratic Party as 'pacifist' and vulnerable on defense and national security issues. I won't go into the details, but it got me to thinking - and worrying.

Of course, we all know this fear permeates the Inside the Beltway mindset. The spectre of looking soft on defense paralyzes Democratic officials. Hillary's steadfast refusal to apologize for her original Iraq vote and the Congressional leadership's Memorial Day capitulation on the Iraq supplemental arise from this fear.

Let's face it - Americans don't like to lose. And, when we do, someone must be made the scapegoat. In the early 50s, the refrain was "Who Lost China?" in the aftermath of the Communist victory. In the mid-70s, the fall of Saigon prompted another round of finger-pointing. In both cases, the American public perceived the Democrats to be responsible for the "defeat." Truman and the Dems were vilified for the defeat in China, paving the way for McCarthy's excesses and eventually a Democratic-led escalation in Southeast Asia. The Vietnam defeat, at least in the public's long-term recollection, was blamed on the anti-war protest movement. And, because the protestors were associated with the McGovern Democrats, the Dems paid a political price. This explains why the current Democratic leadership continues to be leery of the netroots' anti-war demands. They fear being labeled as the "losers" in future elections.

Make no mistake - the perception as to who "lost" is more important than who is to "blame." The American public - at least for the time being - places the blame for getting into Iraq where it rightfully belongs - with Cheney/Bush. We've won that argument. Finally, most Americans understand the link between 9/11 and Saddam was non-existent.

Now that a majority of Americans finally agree Iraq was a mistake, ironically, the question becomes less important. Being identified as the instigator evaporates relatively quickly (especially to an electorate who posesses a long-term memory shorter than the average goldfish). But, the stigma of losing can linger for decades (as it still does with Vietnam).

The next stage of the Iraq debate is fast approaching - and it's critical to understand the long-term political and strategic consequences of allowing the other side to successfully label the Democrats as "Defeatocrats." If the right convinces the general public a troop withdrawal represents the Democrats "capitulating" to the anti-war extremist netroot base, we risk becoming marginalized within our own party. Achieving all of our other goals will become more difficult.

So, how do we confront this situation? We repeat LOUDLY and OVER and OVER and OVER again the gross incompetence of how this Administration conducted this war. This may not go over well amongst this audience, but the debate over whether the war was immoral or unjustified (of course the answer is YES to both questions) is irrelevant at this point.

The Republicans LOST this war, and it is our duty to make sure the American public remembers this simple truth.

Cross-posted at Daily Kos.

On the Campaign Trail - Iraq Causing Problems for Leaders of Both Parties

It looks like leadership puts a "bull's-eye" on your back.

In the Senate, USA Today has a story about Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's troubles back home. The two most divisive issues - Iraq and immigration have got poor Mitch in a vise and, despite a campaign account with over $2.7 million, Democrats see him as vulnerable:

The local congressman, Rep. Ed Whitfield, is a Republican and a McConnell ally, but he doesn't dispute the forecast. "All of us on the Republican side do have concerns about the political climate next year," Whitfield said.
McConnell denies that he's worried, but there are signs that he's moving to protect his political flanks:
•Two weeks ago, after helping to shepherd the president's immigration bill through several tough fights on the Senate floor, he helped kill the legislation by voting against it.
Conservatives took credit for changing the senator's mind. "If he had voted for that legislation, his position would have been in danger," said Leland Conway, a Lexington radio talk-show host and blogger.
•Last week, McConnell qualified his defense of Bush's war policy. He said the president should be allowed to commit additional troops to Iraq but added, "People are running out of patience — with good reason."
Compounding McConnell's problems is the reelection campaign of ethically challenged GOP Gov Ernie Fletcher, who won the party nomination despite McConnell's public endorsement of his primary opponent. The results were viewed as evidence of McConnell's declining influence back home - and the rift caused Fletcher and his supporters to vow revenge. Local blog, "Ditch Mitch" has daily political news from the Bluegrass State.

War protester Cindy Sheehan made news this weekend by threatening to move to the City by the Bay and challenge Speaker Nancy Pelosi if she doesn't impeach President Bush within the next two weeks. Now, I don't think this is a smart strategy for a number of reasons. Let me say I respect Cindy Sheehan's position - and cannot begin to comprehend the loss she has experienced as a result of this immoral war. The WaPo reports:

"Democrats and Americans feel betrayed by the Democratic leadership," Sheehan said. "We hired them to bring an end to the war."
Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly said the congresswoman has said repeatedly that her focus is on ending the war in Iraq.

Daly is right. And, Sheehan needs to understand that Pelosi is NOT the enemy, and by focusing on her and the Democrats, she undercuts the movement she has worked so hard to build. As a citizen in Pelosi's district, I don't believe Sheehan can mount a credible challenge to the Speaker. And, if she can't win in San Francisco, the war's supporters will point to her defeat and say, "See, even in liberal San Francisco, Sheehan's anti-war position is too far left." It might be smarter for her to run against a war supporter and see how the voters in a district there respond to her message. No one would expect her to win, but if she got a respectable (over 40% of the vote) it would be a HUGE victory.

Pelosi has been consistently against the war. Her pragmatic approach to the political realities have certainly been frustrating - and her hesitancy to directly confront the Bush/Cheney assault on our Constitution has been more than disappointing. In the aftermath of the Libby Liberation, I think it's time to at least put "impeachment" back on the table.

But, I don't think Cindy running is a good idea.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

The Gray Lady Speaks - NYT Urges End to Iraq War

Today's Sunday New York Times in a sobering editorial titled "The Road Home" finally acknowledges the reality in Iraq by stating the obvious:

"It is time for the United States to leave Iraq, without any more delay than the Pentagon needs to organize an orderly exit."

It's about time! What took them so long? The Times goes on,

"A majority of Americans reached these conclusions months ago. Even in politically polarized Washington, positions on the war no longer divide entirely on party lines. When Congress returns this week, extricating American troops from the war should be at the top of its agenda."

Once again, the wisdom of the people leads the way.

The media awakens, slowly acknowledging the obvious.

After years of enabling a doomed policy, the fourth estate finally demands the "decision-makers" change course.

Now, the question lingers: Will the politicians finally listen?

It's time to tell this administration we've "Had Enough."