Sunday, December 31, 2006

"Only answer this question if you were a Dean supporter in 2004. "

Take the poll on MyDD:
Who are you leaning towards in 2008?

"Edwards Declares War On Hope (and it's about time)"

Blue Hampshire:
You want to know what a preemptive strike on the Obama candidacy looks like? Here is it is, textbook perfect, from John Edwards himself. Today, standing in front of a sign asserting "Tomorrow Begins Today" he stated:

"Identifying the problem and talking about hope is waiting for tomorrow."

And in perhaps the most brilliant framing I've seen in this campaign so far, he began to weave a theme into the rest of the remarks: There's hope, and there's action. I'm action.
Examples? Well, perhaps you were waiting for the Federal Government to raise the minimum wage. Not Edwards. He is fresh off a campaign to raise the minimum wage state by state, and has had success so far in six states. He has worked with organizing unions.

It continues. Asked what he will do about issue X, the response is invariably twofold. First, let me tell you what we are already DOING, and second let me tell you what we all can do, with or without me.

And it comes back to us as well. "What are you all doing about it?", is a question he's not shy about asking. We've got to invest in renewables, but we also have to conserve. We have to address economic injustice, but we can start by organizing, and getting laws passed on the state level. Don't wait for me in the White House in 2009. And for God's sake, don't talk about hope. Do it, now, today.

Edwards, in an unorthodox move, is not asking you to join a campaign. He is asking you to join a movement.

And in perhaps the most unorthodox but also most intriguing message, he is saying that he plans to use the power of his campaign to get stuff done before 2008. That's right. He wants to use his campaign to get things done.

I am still processing this, thinking of historical parallels, and trying to figure out how he believes his campaign will push political change before the general election.

And I'm still really blown away by the uniqueness of his voice in this field. This is not the "I can win the South" Edwards we knew in 2004. This is Edwards as Community Organizer (and yes, the irony of that when Obama is in the race is not lost on me).

I've seen some press on Edwards and the poverty focus, remarks on Edwards and Gay Marriage, remarks on this or that regarding the Iraq War. I think all these miss the most interesting point about his campaign.

Asked by a blogger from Below Boston whether he planned to run a grassroots campaign, Edwards said yes, but it was much bigger than that, because grassroots activism is woven into the DNA of everything they are doing.

That claim is either bullshit, or it's the most essential thing he said today, something beyond the issue matrix. I don't know which it is yet. But I'm hoping we can find out.

So help me out in the comments...Edwards, Man of Action? Or simple pose?

R.I.P. (2003-2006)

Mike Begley founded on June 28th, 2003, supporting the site in his basement on his own server. In November, 2003, Mike turned it over to me to pursue new personal and professional interests. It took him about 45 minutes on a desk in the Washington state Dean campaign office to show me html code and give me access to the site. My life hasn't been the same since. I started Howie in Seattle in November, 2004 and began cross-posting there and here then.

By Janaury, 2006 had gotten over 1,000,000 "hits" and was averaging over 5,000 per day. The site was always the target of hacking and finally "died" sometime in the fall of 2006, as the result of a massive attack. If you go to now, you will get a message directing you here.


"You don't fight barbarism with acts that I deem as barbaric. The death penalty is not compatible with democracy."
-European Union Aid and Development Commissioner Louis Michel.

John Edwards Explains How He Differs From Barack and Hillary (video)

Chris Matthews of MSNBC's "Hardball" asks Edwards about his "unique selling point" via YouTube (video):
Edwards insisted the post-9/11 feeling of patriotism is not completely lost and recovering that sense of unity will be a challenge for the next president.

“If you actually want America to be great, you’re going to have to step out and take some responsibility yourself and do something.”

Edwards said this perspective — the idea that it will take many Americans to solve the country’s problems — is what differentiates him from potential Democratic challengers like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, who have not yet officially declared their candidacy.

Puti Punches Back (video)

Courtesy of Daryl on, via this CNN video on YouTube:
More from the worst leader/president in the world. I give you the always idiotic George Bush! Here Bush asks Putin and says that many americans would like Russia to be a democracy like Iraq!?(listen to the reporters laugh) LOL NOW THATS A LAUGHER!!! He just can't help himself when that trap opens!

“The David Goldstein Show” tonight on 710-KIRO

Ring in the New Year EARLY from 7-10 pm (Pacific) with Seattle's favorite liberal blogger.The lineup is still taking shape, but I am told there will be a call-in or two from a certain up and coming media personality and the Washington State Patrol will be on board. You can make your own splash as well by calling in to Dave ---1-877-710-KIRO (5476)---from your own location. Listen online here or on the dial in Seattle. Whatever you do, don't drink AND drive AND call-in.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Dollars and Sense

Ezra Klein:
Mark Schmitt reminds, correctly, that the country will need more than an acceptance of moderate deficits over the next few years: It'll need revenue increases. Whatever enthusiasm John Edwards generates for rejecting fiscal conservatism should be tempered by the knowledge that, without tax increases, he'll have very little room for social spending. Relevant here is a question asked at the press conference following his announcement speech. The reporter asked whether tax increases would be necessary to fund Edwards' social spending. Edwards replied:
Well, I'll give you a few examples: We ought to be patriotic as americans, not just as a government, though the government plays a critical role in helping to rebuild New Orleans. We ought to be patriotic in doing something about global warming. And I don't mean in an abstract way -- we walked away from Kyoto unilaterally which was a very serious mistake...[long digression on global warming, which I don't have the energy to transcribe]

Q: Taxes, Senator?

Oh, I'm sorry, the answer to that question is, we do need, in my judgment, to get rid of some of the taxes cuts thats have been put in place, particularly for people at the top. I think it may be necessary to put in place a tax on some of the windfall profits the oil companies are making in order to put in place some of the changes I've just talked about [on global warming], I think it's also really important to be honest with people: we've gotten into a deep hole in terms of our deficit, we have investments that need to be made, I've talked about some of them: investments to strengthen the middle class, investments in poverty, universal health care, which I'm completely committed to do, some of the energy proposals I've talked about today -- these things cost money. So we're going to have to invest if we're going to transport America the way it needs to be transported to be successful in the 21st century, which is going to require rolling back some of these tax cuts.

So Edwards sort of dodged initially, then answered that he'd roll back the tax cuts and possibly impose a windfall tax on oil companies. Even assuming the latter is a good idea (and I'm not really sure about that), it'll generate a paltry amount of revenue, so we're really looking at a rollback of the tax cuts. Add in redeployment in Iraq and he'll have some extra money to work with, but not an extraordinary amount, particularly not early in his hypothetical term. But a real term might be different than a hypothetical one.

Were I advising Edwards, I'd sooner quit than sign off on him pulling an early Mondale. The American electorate remains enamored of low taxes and high spending, and since your political competitors won't join in a spontaneous explosion of fiscal truth-telling, he can't, either. Nevertheless, Edwards, in his deficit reduction answer, said that his top priority -- well, below that of getting elected -- is investment, and he appears serious about that. So not proposing tax increases doesn't necessarily mean he won't seek them, it means he thinks he can't sell them.

That said, I'm a little less certain than others that taxes are intrinsically unsellable. Dedicated taxes -- a VAT for health care, say, or a gas tax for renewable energy research -- seem somewhat more politically defensible than mere increases in marginal rates. If the American people know precisely what they're getting, it's a bit more concrete a conversation -- more like a purchase than a donation, and there's a fair amount the government can sell that the public may want. Too often, taxes are but a vague plea to fund government, which seems far more wasteful in the abstract than it does in the specific, and so they're easy to trump with the concrete promise of money in your pocket; you know, after all, where that money will go. Conversely, payroll taxes, which directly fund Social Security and Medicare, have been far safer than general revenue in recent years. When politicians try and cut them, they're cutting something voters can see and feel and touch. That's harder. And so I'd think it'd be proportionally easier to sell taxes in the same way.

On the other hand, I don't actually have to win any elections, so I've the freedom to muse optimistically about tax increases. Three cheers for the fourth estate!
Howie question: Are bloggers the fifth estate?

John Edwards: "behind the scenes" (videos)

Courtesy of WA for Edwards, via YouTube, you can watch the first "webisodes" from the Edwards campaign trail here.

"Where Were the Mass Graves?"

Cenk Uygur:
As I watched nonstop coverage of Saddam's Death Watch, I was told over and over that this was a heinous mass murderer. There were mass graves. That up to 300,000 people were killed during his reign.

Then they told us what he was actually convicted for -- 148 dead in Dujail. That's a terrible crime. But there's at least that amount of people killed every two days in Iraq now.

Now, I looked into the mass grave claims and the US government found graves that contained hundreds of bodies in some places. And prosecutors claimed that Saddam gassed 5,000 Kurds in Northern Iraq.
This hardly adds up to 300,000 killed. I am not saying that he didn't kill that many, I just don't know why we didn't do our homework and convict him all of his crimes. As Robert Jackson, the lead prosecutor in the Nuremberg trials famously said, "We must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow."

We need history on our side on this one. Remember we invaded the whole country and turned it upside down because Saddam was such a bad guy. It would have been nice to prove how bad. I don't know why the trial seemed so rushed and third rate. Actually, I do know why. It's because Iraq is a complete mess and this whole fiasco is being run by the same incompetents who have screwed everything else up.

Please spare me the nonsense about how the Iraqis are a sovereign government and they were running the trial and we had nothing to do with it. Saddam did cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of people when he started a war with Iran. That didn't get brought up much in the trial.

I am sure the fact that United States supported him in that war and Don Rumsfeld sold him weapons to use in that war was not a factor at all as to why that was not emphasized in his trial ... run by the Iraqis. Remember starting a war of aggression is the highest war crime. And Saddam clearly started one with Iran, let alone Kuwait. But then we're not in a very good position to talk about wars of aggression anymore.

The hotel I'm staying at today only has Fox News Channel (Dick Cheney must stay here when he's in town). So, first I was subjected to the inane chatter of Sean Hannity claiming this might turn things around in Iraq. That our troops were very happy about the execution of Saddam and that it was really going to help their morale. The Vulcan mind meld he did with them must have proved this.

As usual, there were two lackey former colonels on the air to parrot everything Hannity said right back at him, "Yes Sean, our troops our ecstatic that this man will be hung. Yes, things are probably going to get much better now."

Then Greta had one of Saddam's lawyers on, and he clobbered her. She said that Saddam had been convicted of killing the 148 people in Dujail and prosecutors had information about another 5,000 Kurds killed. First, he said some completely unconvincing nonsense about how some of the dead people in Dujail were still alive. But then he made a fair point that Saddam was never convicted of the crimes against the Kurds and that now we would never truly know.

When Greta said those are some tremendous numbers referring again to the two incidents of 148 and 5,000 killed, the lawyer responded that those numbers were not nearly as tremendous as the 750,000 Iraqis killed since the US invasion. Ouch.

It sucks to get outdueled by Saddam's lawyer. But the man has a point. As we all know, and have repeated ad nauseam, Saddam was a really bad guy and a dictator that killed many people. But I don't see where the 300,000 number came from and I'm pissed they never proved it. And that still doesn't match up to how many Iraqis have been killed in just the three and half years of the Iraq War.
We didn't kill all those people and our objective is not to oppress the Iraqi people for our own gain (well, not exactly at least; though their oil is yummy for our cars' tummy). But Saddam was executed for killing a 148 people. And our invasion has cost the lives of at least several hundred thousand people that otherwise would not have died.

I'm not drawing any conclusions and I'm not even making any inferences. I'm just saying it's something to be pondered.

Friday, December 29, 2006

John Edwards Version 2.008

John Nichols:
Most indications suggest that Edwards gets it. That does not mean he is the perfect contender, nor that he is the perfect progressive. But he has grown a great deal over the past several years, and that growth has been in a serious, smart and savvy direction that progressives would be wise to note at this relatively early stage in the 2008 contest.
AJ in DC on AMERICAblog:
Compared to Barack Obama's "I have tons of leadership potential" and Hillary's "Who needs leadership when you have infrastructure" impressions, the idea that Edwards would risk immediately calling people to action is both risky and impressive. He's basically saying, I'm going to lead now, and if people follow, great." The monthly action days, the focus on progressive issues, even the metaphor of him literally picking up a shovel and getting to work in New Orleans -- it all points to what could be a very innovative campaign.

"Newspapers That Once Called Upon Clinton To Resign Are Silent On Bush"

Marc McDonald:
George W. Bush is a crook.

He has violated the Constitution. He has violated his oath of office. He lied America into a disastrous war of aggression that killed 650,000 Iraqi men, women and children. He made the United States the most feared and hated nation on the planet.

By contrast, all Bill Clinton did was lie about a blow job.

Guess which president our nation's media called upon to resign?
In 1998, Kenneth Starr released his special counsel's report, the product of a $50 million, blatantly partisan GOP witchhunt aimed at bringing down the Clinton presidency. Despite this incredibly intense probe into every detail of his life, the only real "dirt" the report had on Clinton was that he lied about his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

Americans never really gave a damn about the Lewinsky affair. Even at the height of the impeachment "crisis," Clinton enjoyed strong approval ratings in the high 60s. I always got the feeling that the American public just wanted Congress to move on from this silly affair and get back to the real business of the nation.

What's remarkable is the American people believed this way despite the fact that, day after day, the "liberal media" was desperately hyping the Lewinsky story and trying to convince the public that it was a serious "crisis" for the White House.

In fact, after Starr released his report, dozens of major U.S. newspapers called upon Clinton to resign. The biggest circulation newspaper in America, USA Today, led the way.

In a Sept. 15, 1998 editorial, USA Today said:

"Has the President so failed in his duties to the nation that he should leave office? The answer to that question is yes, and the time for the President to leave is not after months of continued national embarrassment but now. Clinton should resign."

Many other major newspapers joined in the call for Clinton to resign, among them The Seattle Times, The New Orleans Times-Picayune, The Des Moines Sunday Register, The San Jose Mercury-News, The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Looking back on all this eight years later, it's difficult to fathom what the fuss was all about.

Today, America is saddled with an unbelievably corrupt occupant in the White House. Bush is guilty of a long list of serious crimes, from embracing torture as official state policy to illegal wiretaps to lying America into a war that has turned out to be the biggest strategic blunder in U.S. history.

And what's the U.S. media's reaction to all this? (You know, the same "liberal media" that was screaming and hollering for Clinton to resign for lying about a blow job?)

Not one major newspaper has called for Bush to resign.

In fact, since Bush first took office six years ago, the nation's media has fallen into an eerie slumber. From GannonGate to PlameGate to the Downing Street memos, the media has snoozed through one major Bush scandal after another.

Not to worry, though. With the Dems now back in power in Congress, we can expect the media to shake off the cobwebs and go back to its watchdog role of holding Democratic politicians' feet to the fire (even if this "watchdog" role will consist of non-stories with no basis in fact: see HairCutGate, Whitewater, etc.)

It's great to live in a democracy with a free press. Someday I hope I have such an experience.

"Ford's Mistake"

Dave Johnson:
Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon, which prevented a full criminal investigation and trial. He felt it would help to heal the country, which had been through assassinations, riots and the divisive Vietnam war. But the pardon had the unintended consequence of creating an impression that those in the highest office really aren't accountable to the public if their actions violate the law.

Four years later the Reagan administration picked up right where Nixon's had left off, and got caught. Other select insiders made the decision not to pursue Reagan.

As chair of the Select Committee to Investigate Covert Arms Transactions with Iran, Hamilton chose not to investigate President Ronald Reagan or President George H. W. Bush, stating that he did not think it would be "good for the country" to put the public through another impeachment trial.

At a time when thousands were being sent away for years for smoking a joint or doing a line, the country was learning that things really are different for those at the very top.

Bush1 then pardoned everyone involved, especially those being pressured by Lawrence Walsh to testify against him for his own possibly criminal part in it. The public got the message clearly that time.

So by the time Clinton took office the public was ready to believe that all of the country's leaders are corrupt and pay no price for it. The conservatives had an opening to demand that a President finally be held to account. It's the old Seeing the Forest Rule: Republicans accuse others of what they are in fact doing themselves. They accused Clinton of everything, but the investigations found nothing. They impeached him anyway. Now the public understood just who the rules were for and not for. After what Nixon, Reagan and Bush1 had gotten away with, Clinton didn't even have to break any rules, yet he was impeached.

And so here we are. Bush2 can do anything with impunity - and says so with a smirk. His cronies loot, lie and steal. The public and especially the Washington insider class are conditioned to accept that this is the way things are done. All partly tracable back to Ford's subversion of accountability. A mistake. A big one.

Let's learn from Ford's mistake. HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE! Demand that the actions of those in power in the last six years are investigated and any crimes discovered are punished to the fullest extent of the law. Let's set the country and democracy back on course.
Tim Dickinson of the Rolling Stone National Affairs Daily:
Gerald Ford was a good man, who probably didn’t deserve the ruthless parodies he suffered at the hands of Chevy Chase, but his meaningless half term in office merits little of the post-mortem cud chewing we’re now suffering in this pre-new-year’s news lull.

His placekeeper presidency was followed by a quiet, private, irrelevant retirement.

The fact that “Ford Disagreed With Bush About Invading Iraq,” would have been totally un-newsworthy if the man were still alive. But now that he’s dead his Monday-morning quarterbacking is front-page news.

Perhaps if he had used his ex-presidential platform to speak out prior to the invasion of Iraq, this might have been interesting, even important. But Ford’s from-the-grave “I wouldnta done that” is just about as uninteresting as the fact that he almost fired Henry Kissenger:

“I often thought, maybe I should say: ‘Okay, Henry. Goodbye,’ ” Ford said, laughing. “But I never got around to that.”

Perhaps in another life president Ford could have built a legacy beyond the controversial pardon of his predecesor. But, well, he never got around to that.


Riverbend, from her new post on Baghdad Burning:
A day in the life of the average Iraqi has been reduced to identifying corpses, avoiding car bombs and attempting to keep track of which family members have been detained, which ones have been exiled and which ones have been abducted.
Cindy Sheehan, in Crawford, Texas:
“We’re the only people that can stop Bush now,” she said, standing with about 30 other peace protesters at a barricaded Secret Service checkpoint outside the Crawford-area ranch.

BlueOregon: Edwards and Obama Compared

Steve Novick:
Which leaves Edwards and Obama. Now, Obama started out with a big advantage over Edwards: Edwards voted for the war, and Obama, as a state senator, was opposed. But since then, Obama went to Connecticut and loudly endorsed Joe Lieberman in the primary against Lamont. Meanwhile, Edwards is, as far as I know, the only Senator who voted for the war to declare, simply, “I was wrong.” He was also the first to call Lamont after his primary win, and campaigned for him. So at this point, I call them even on the war.
Specific votes? Obama looks good on interest group ratings, at least. Probably more liberal than Edwards looked – but I do cut Edwards some slack for being from North Carolina.

I do enjoy Obama’s bemused attitude toward his own celebrity. That’s a big selling point. And I respect the fact that he didn’t use Harvard Law School as a springboard to just making money at a big firm; shows character.

But I am annoyed by his reflexive support of the environmentally meaningless domestic corn ethanol industry, to the point where he supports sugar tariffs, undermining the possibility of fighting global warming with more energy-efficient sugar-based ethanol. I’m glad Obama has stopped flying on Archer Daniels Midland corporate jets, but disturbed that he ever did accept such rides.

So what’s next? Since this is BlueOregon, I say, take a look at the Web sites.

If you look at the Web site for John Edwards’ One America Committee, it’s all about the working poor. There are links to articles on striking janitors. Articles about housing costs. Gobs of material on the minimum wage: Edwards helped raise money for the six state minimum-wage initiatives. This really is what John Edwards is all about now: Inequality – the poor – organized labor. There is literally nothing not to like.

If you look at Barack Obama’s Senate Web site, you see virtually nothing about the minimum wage – nothing about the poor – nothing about labor. You see uninspiring pablum on a variety of issues. And one thing that sticks out:

Military Funding Since arriving in Washington in 2005, Senator Obama has been a strong supporter of defense funding. He has supported the annual Defense Department appropriations bills and supplemental appropriations bills that fund American troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Senator has also supported pay raises for the troops, efforts to improve military readiness, and the acquisition of new weapons systems.

Focus on that last point for a second. Pay raises for the troops? Sure. But a blanket endorsement of “new weapons systems”? That is the mark of a complete sellout to the military-industrial complex. And of a politician sorely lacking in fiscal responsibility. “Cutting weapons systems of the kind originally designed for the Cold War that have nothing to do with fighting terrorism” isn’t just a relatively safe position; it’s a totally safe position - a standard New York Times editorial page position. Here’s the latest from former Reagan Administration deputy secretary of defense Lawrence Korb:

“First, cancel outright the following weapon systems: the F/A 22 Raptor fighter attack aircraft; the SSN 7-74 Virginia Class attack submarine; the DDX Destroyer; the V-22 Osprey Tilt Rotor transport aircraft; the C-130 J transport aircraft; and all offensive space-based weapon systems. In addition, the Pentagon should slow down the development of the tri-service F- 35 Joint Strike Fighter and the Army’s Future Combat System. These steps will save $30 billion in 2006 alone and more than $100 billion over the next five years.”

The fact that Obama doesn’t even have a nod toward those ideas shows a stunning degree of fealty to the military-industrial complex, and/or unjustifiable political timidity. And no, I don’t know where Edwards stands on these issues (other than being against Star Wars) – but at least he’s not going out of his way to endorse “new weapons systems.”

Or maybe it shows that experience does matter – that Obama hasn’t gotten around to reading Lawrence Korb. Which would be equally troubling.

Should I really base my decision on Web sites? Why not? That’s where voters can see, in writing, what candidates really, truly want them to see, without buying their books or whatever. (I shouldn’t have to pay $24.95 to find out what anyone stands for.) Everything Edwards gives me, I like, a lot. Obama gives me nothing to like very much and one thing to intensely dislike.

The new Senator from Vermont: "This state can lead the nation" (video)

"Video - Bernie Speaks With His Supporters Before His Acceptance Speech"(11/7/06, 3:43).

"Howard Dean, vindicated"

Joe Conason, writing on November 10, 2006:
The DNC chairman's "crazy" strategy of rebuilding the Democratic Party across all states helped it ride the national wave against the GOP.---

Only weeks after the Democratic National Committee chose Howard Dean as its chairman last year, the nasty whispers began to circulate around Washington and among longtime party donors and activists in cities from New York to Los Angeles. "He's going to be a disaster," they muttered. "He can't raise any money. He doesn't know what he's doing. And what does he mean by this crazy 50-state strategy?"
Those early days must have been painful for the former Vermont governor -- still smarting back then from his presidential primary defeat and that endlessly looped "scream" video -- and he endured a barrage of snarks and snipes from the Democratic congressional leadership as well. Unfortunately for Dean, he doesn't play the Washington press corps nearly as well as do rivals like Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., who ran the House Democrats' campaign committee, or Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who performed the same role in the Senate.

But this week, he is enjoying vindication far earlier than he ever expected.

Despite all the complaints and demands directed at him over the past 18 months, Dean stuck to his principles. He and his supporters in the netroots movement believed that their party needed to rebuild from the ground up in every state, including many where the party existed in name only. These Democrats prefer to think of their party as one of inclusion and unity. They openly disdain the divisive strategies of the Republicans who have so often used racial, regional and cultural differences to polarize voters.

And they believe that relying on opportunistic attempts to grab a few selected states or districts as usual -- rather than establishing a real presence across the country -- conceded a permanent structural advantage to the Republicans that would only grow more durable with each election cycle.

Breaking that advantage would be costly and difficult, as Dean well realized, but it had to be done someday, or the Democrats would fulfill Karl Rove's dream of becoming a permanent minority party -- or fading away altogether. Against the counsel of party professionals, whose long losing streak has done little to diminish their influence, the new chairman began the process of re-creating the Democratic Party in 2005. And contrary to the gossip and subsequent press reports, he succeeded in raising $51 million last year, about 20 percent more than in 2003 and a party record for an off year.

Much of that money was spent in ways that obviously paid off on Tuesday, including the 2005 election of Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine in Virginia -- where Jim Webb's upset victory over incumbent Sen. George Allen overturned Republican control of the Senate. Several million dollars was spent on rebuilding the party's national voter files, yet another essential sector in which the Republicans have enormous technological superiority.

Less obvious but equally significant was the spending on hundreds of organizers and communications specialists -- and their training -- in every state. In some places this meant taking the chains off locked, dusty offices that had seen no real activity in years; in others, it meant bailing the state party out of literal bankruptcy and convening meetings in counties where party activists had given up.

In Indiana, among the reddest states north of the Mason-Dixon line, the Democratic National Committee placed two field organizers and a new party communications director on the ground a year before the midterm elections. While that doesn't sound like a very impressive assault on a Republican stronghold, those few organizers created a party presence and started preparing for battle in vulnerable congressional districts. Suddenly the Republicans had to deal with ground opposition where traditionally they had faced no field operation at all -- not only in Indiana but in deep-red Idaho, Wyoming, Kentucky and Nebraska, too.

The Democrats didn't win in all those districts, of course, although they did enjoy several unexpected victories. What Dean and his organizers created, however, was an environment that allowed insurgents and outliers as well as the party's chosen challengers to ride the national wave of revulsion against conservative rule. That enterprise, in turn, surprised and overwhelmed the Republican capacity to respond. Faced with many more viable challenges than anticipated, the Republicans made mistakes in allocating resources -- and were forced to defend candidates in districts that are usually safe.

For now, Dean has reached a peaceful accommodation with his internal critics and enemies, many of whom were motivated by his outspoken opposition to the war in Iraq and his support from the unruly netroots. Debate will continue over the wisest national strategy for 2008. Should Democrats continue to pursue the 50-state strategy, even in the difficult terrain of the deep South? Or should they seek to consolidate and expand the gains made this year in the mountain states and the Midwest?

Ultimately, the party's presidential nominee will make that decision. In the meantime, the party chairman has won the argument he started last year. Rebuilding the Democratic Party in every state is as much a matter of pragmatism as principle. There would have been much less for the Democrats to celebrate on Election Night if Howard Dean hadn't been so "crazy" -- and so persistent.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Video clips of John Edwards from Fox and CNN

Via YouTube (9:47).

See Gerald Ford and Dick Cheney and Rummy

Here. Bob Woodward interviewed Ford and fast forwards us to their current status with "Ford disagreed with Bush on invading Iraq:"

In the sessions, Ford fondly recalled his close working relationship with key Bush advisers Cheney and Rumsfeld while expressing concern about the policies they pursued in more recent years.

"He was an excellent chief of staff. First class," Ford said. "But I think Cheney has become much more pugnacious" as vice president. He said he agreed with former secretary of state Colin L. Powell's assertion that Cheney developed a "fever" about the threat of terrorism and Iraq. "I think that's probably true."

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

"John Edwards joins presidential race"

AP (Nedra Pickler):
Former Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards jumped into the presidential race Wednesday a day earlier than he'd planned, prodded by an Internet glitch to launch a candidacy focused on health care, taxes and other domestic issues.

The North Carolina Democrat's campaign accidentally went live with his election Web site a day before an announcement Thursday that was supposed to use Hurricane-ravaged New Orleans as a backdrop.

The slip-up gave an unintended double-meaning to his campaign slogan on the John Edwards '08 Web site: "Tomorrow begins today."
Aides quickly shut down the errant Web site but could not contain news of the obvious, even in the shadows of former President Ford's death.

"Better a day earlier than a day late," said Jennifer Palmieri, an Edwards adviser.

Earlier Wednesday, Edwards visited the site of his planned announcement for a photo opportunity. He did yard work at the home of Orelia Tyler, 54, whose house was gutted by Hurricane Katrina and is close to being rebuilt.

The campaign Web site featured some of Edwards' expected campaign themes.

"This campaign is about changing America," the Web site read, listing five priorities that fit neatly with Edwards' message of economic equality. Among them: "Providing universal health care for all Americans," "Rebuilding America's middle class and eliminating poverty," and "Creating tax fairness by rewarding work, not just wealth."

Edwards, 53, also issued a statement on Ford's death, saying he was deeply saddened by the news and calling the former Michigan Republican a "true leader."

"He called on us to never lose faith that we can change America," Edwards said.

Taking turns with about 30 young people shoveling loads of dirt in Tyler's backyard, Edwards declined to discuss the campaign, focusing instead on the slow recovery in New Orleans, where whole neighborhoods remain a wasteland.

"Anyone who's not concerned with the rate of recovery is not paying attention," said Edwards. He said finger-pointing is part of the problem, adding that the student volunteers he worked with provided an example of what can be accomplished through cooperation.

Edwards arrived promptly at 1:30 p.m., clad in jeans and a khaki work shirt. His aides kept more than two-dozen reporters and photographers at bay as he and the students prepared Tyler's yard for landscaping.

Tyler is still living in a Federal Emergency Management Agency trailer in her yard.

"I feel like a child with Santa Claus," Tyler said before Edwards arrived.

The son of a textile mill worker, Edwards has been on a fast track most of his life despite his up-by-the-bootstraps roots.

A standout law student who became a stunningly successful trial lawyer, Edwards vaulted from nowhere politically into the U.S. Senate and then onto the 2004 Democratic presidential ticket — all in less than six years.

In 1998, in his first bid for public office, Edwards defeated incumbent Sen. Lauch Faircloth, R-N.C., a leading advocate for impeachment of President Clinton.

Edwards began building support for his first presidential bid shortly after arriving in the Senate. He quickly made a name for himself in Congress, using his legal background to help Democratic colleagues navigate the impeachment hearings.

Edwards launched a bid for the Democratic nomination in 2003 and quickly caught the eye of Democratic strategists. Although he won only the South Carolina primary, his skills on the trail, his cheerful demeanor, and his message of "two Americas" — one composed of the wealthy and privileged, and the other of the hardworking common man — excited voters, especially independents and moderate-leaning Democrats.

Edwards' handsome, youthful appearance also gave him a measure of star quality.

Those were among the qualities that led Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, the Democrats' 2004 standard bearer, to select Edwards as his runningmate. It was a stunning success for someone who had majored in textile management as an undergraduate as a kind of insurance policy in case a law career didn't pan out.

Republicans have sought to cast Edwards as a money-chasing trial lawyer. It is an image that Edwards has tried to counter by arguing that he represented ordinary people wronged by big corporations.

"I spent most of my adult life representing kids and families against very powerful opponents, usually big insurance companies," he liked to say. "And my job was to give them a fair shake, to give them a fair chance."

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

"A Democrat Who Thinks Like A Democrat"

John Nichols:
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair Rahm Emanuel, the corporate-friendly centrist who actively worked against a number of anti-war progressives in 2006 Democratic primaries for U.S. House seats and then refused to support at least some of those candidates in November, is handing his DCCC leadership position off to a congressman who has a dramatically better track record on foreign and domestic policy issues.
Emanual, the former Clinton administration "fixer" who organized support for the North American Free Trade Agreement and other Wall Street-favored policies and who then went to Congress as a pro-corporate, pro-war Democrat, has tried to spin his management of the DCCC during the 2006 election cycle as a success. In fact, many of the Democrats who prevailed on November 7 did so despite the Illinois congressman's efforts, not because of them.

In primaries from California to New Hampshire, Democratic voters rejected Emanuel's hand-picked candidates and nominated progressives who went on to win in November. Indeed, while candidates such as Illinois centrist Tammy Duckworth, who had Emanuel's full support, were going down to defeat, the list of breakthrough winners included contenders such as New Hampshire anti-war candidate Carol Shea-Porter, who never got any support from Emanuel or his DCCC team.

While Emanuel was an effective fund raiser and a reasonably good strategist in some close races, no one should doubt that he worked the 2006 cycle with ideological blinders on. And that caused him to make choices with regard to key races that erred on the side of candidates who shared his White House-friendly views against candidates who adopted more progressive positions -- and who had more grassroots support.

Could Democrats have won additional seats in 2006 with a different DCCC chair -- one who not only knew how to raise money and had a good strategic sense, but who was willing to support candidates who tapped into the anti-war and anti-free trade sentiments that ran so strong this year?

Of course.

For that reason, it will not just be progressives who welcome Emanuel's exit.

At the same time, there is every reason to be enthusiastic about the choice to replace him: Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen.

The new head of the DCCC has a far steadier record of opposing the Bush administration on the war in Iraq, on the Patriot Act and other civil liberties concerns and on economic policy. Van Hollen also knows a thing or two about running in a primary against high-profile candidates with lots of national support and money. Before ousting a Republican incumbent in the difficult 2002 election cycle, he won a Democratic primary against Mark Kennedy Shriver, a member of the Kennedy clan who, seemingly, had most of the advantages in the race.

Van Hollen is not a perfect player. But he is far more in touch with the values of Democratic voters than Emanuel ever was. And he is far more likely than Emanuel to support candidates based on their ability to win -- rather than their willingness to muzzle their message so as not to offend Wall Street and the foreign-policy hawks in Washington.

"I’m Tom Vilsack! Who the Hell Are You?"

Rolling Stone:
If you know Tom Vilsack’s name at all, you’re either a farm-state politics junkie, or a fan of the Daily Show, which has seared the appellation of the two-term Iowa governor into the minds of America’s youth by tweaking the Aflac duck call into…Vilsack!

Though his name may be the butt of jokes, don’t you dare question his qualifications, or worse yet, suggest he’s another Kucinich candidate. He doesn’t like that. And though he has nothing but praise for Hillary Clinton, he’ll also bristle if you wonder aloud whether he’s running to help take Iowa off the table for his friend on the Democratic Leadership Council.
Howie question: Hillary stand-in or legitimate candidate? You decide.

"Internship also links Obama, Rezko"

Chicago Sun-Times:
In addition to a land deal, Sen. Barack Obama's ties to indicted dealmaker Antoin "Tony" Rezko include an internship the senator provided the son of a contributor at the request of Rezko, an Obama spokesman confirmed Saturday.

John Aramanda served as an intern for Obama for about a month in 2005, said Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs. His father is Joseph Aramanda, a Rezko business associate who was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in a federal corruption case against Rezko. Aramanda has contributed $11,500 to Obama since 2000, Gibbs said.

"Mr. Rezko did provide a recommendation for John Aramanda," Gibbs said. "I think that it's fairly obvious that a few-week internship is not anything of benefit to Mr. Rezko or any of his businesses."

The internship revelation comes after Obama acknowledged he erred in buying property from Rezko in January. The transaction took place when it was widely known Rezko was under investigation by the U.S. attorney's office.

"It was a mistake to have been engaged with him at all in this or any other personal business dealing that would allow him, or anyone else, to believe that he had done me a favor," Obama -- a likely presidential candidate -- told the Chicago Sun-Times in November.
Howie question II: Swift-boating or legitimate scrutiny? You decide. "Obamarama - Backlash beginning?" from the Capitol Fax Blog (IL), chews over reactions to the Obama boom (be sure to check the comments).

Monday, December 25, 2006

"Christmas at War" (video)

Ava Lowery (video, 2:01):

2,948 American families will be missing a family member this Christmas due to this immoral war in Iraq. According to a recent study it is estimated that around 650,000 Iraqis have also died since the war begin. This Christmas we need to all take time out of our busy holiday schedules to think about those who have been killed in the Iraq war. It is up to us to make sure that this coming year brings many changes to help get our country back on track. Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ - who taught love, compassion, understanding, and most of all PEACE. Let this holiday remind us that peace is a possible goal and that we have much work to do in order to achieve it.
Ava is interviewed on CNN here (video). She is an inspiration

"Democrats waste no time campaigning for 2008"

Political operatives and officials from both parties usually take long lunches, long weekends and long vacations in the two months right after an election — win or lose.

But fired up by the outcome of the November midterm elections, Democrats scrapped that practice and are going after potential 2008 Republican candidates.

With their party leadership in transition, GOP presidential front-runners are confronted with a Democratic Party that decided not to close shop after the elections.
"It didn't happen by accident," said Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Stacie Paxton. "We're tired . . . but we always had plans for after Nov. 7."

Since the election, there have been some long days for the opposition-research department at the DNC, which has circulated reports on Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Across the country, more than 100 DNC staffers remain in the field, continuing to build up Chairman Howard Dean's grass-roots "50-state program" and laying groundwork on a coordinated campaign to support the 2008 Democratic presidential nominee.

The Democratic committee showed some of its research prowess just before the election, issuing a Nov. 3 statement calling on Giuliani and another want-to-run Republican, New York Gov. George Pataki, to cancel appearances with embattled, and ultimately defeated, upstate Rep. John Sweeney.

The "oppo" Democrats, led by research director Devorah Adler, have spent the year compiling research on prospective GOP candidates. Staffers sift through everything from legislative votes and bill proposals to public and personal financial records.

The Democrats have compiled dossiers on every prospective candidate.

Adler declined to be interviewed, but in a memo to staff, she joked about the GOP field, saying, "Oh, our '08ers. They're an endless source of entertainment for us."

The Republicans have their own oppo researchers, but after the painful defeat the GOP suffered at all levels this year, followed by the resignation of party Chairman Ken Mehlman, their outfit has not kept up with the Democrats, one GOP insider confided.

The Republican National Committee must revive and rebuild operations after the new year under the stewardship of the incoming chairman, Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla..

"We will be back in plenty of time for the '08 race," the GOP source added.

"Sen. Biden touts experience in 2008 bid"

Democratic Sen. Joe Biden wants you to know he is running for president. Definitely. Unequivocally. Absolutely.

"I'm the only guy who will tell you honestly what I'm doing. The others won't tell you, but I will," Biden said, wrapping up a fundraising trip to New York before heading to New Hampshire, his ninth visit in just over a year. He's also campaigned extensively through other early voting states, spending 17 days in Iowa, nine in South Carolina, and four in Nevada.
In a potentially crowded Democratic field dominated by New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama — neither of whom has formally entered the race — a Biden candidacy seems a bit of an anachronism.

But the 64-year-old Delaware lawmaker insists there's never been a better time for him to run.

"Frankly, I think I'm more qualified than other candidates, and the issues facing the American public are all in my wheelbarrow," Biden said. "I know I want to be president, I know what I believe and my message is important."

Considered one of his party's most experienced spokesmen on international affairs, Biden will assume the chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee next month. He plans immediately to convene a series of hearings on the Iraq War — a high visibility platform for him to showcase his expertise. He's also been actively promoting a detailed plan for peace in Iraq that would divide the country along ethnic lines.

With Iraq and global terrorism likely to remain key issues in the 2008 election, advisers say Biden's credibility in foreign affairs is his greatest asset — particularly for Democrats concerned about Clinton's electability and Obama's short tenure in public life.

Still, observers say Biden's biggest obstacle is likely to be the lingering "been there, done that" perception of his candidacy.

"The problem for Biden is he's old news," said Dennis Goldford, a professor of political science at Iowa's Drake University. "Some people consider him one of the smartest guys with regard to foreign policy. But what makes you a good, experienced legislator is not necessarily what makes you a good presidential candidate."

Polls suggest Biden's candidacy has barely registered with most voters. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll of potential Democratic candidates taken earlier this month found Biden won the support of just four percent of respondents. He trailed not only Clinton and Obama, but also former North Carolina Sen.
John Edwards and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee.

First elected to the Senate in 1972 at age 30, Biden is a career politician in an era where many voters seem to be craving something fresh. And Biden's first presidential bid collapsed 20 years ago amid allegations he plagiarized a campaign speech from then-British Labor Party leader Neil Kinnock.

Like many senators who've given countless floor speeches, Biden can also be a tad long-winded. Grilling then-U.S. Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito last winter, Biden, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, asked just five questions of Alito and spent the rest of his allotted 30 minutes talking.

But longtime strategist Larry Rasky called Biden "a terrific retail campaigner" and argued that his garrulous reputation is largely a Washington complaint.

"In places like South Carolina and Iowa, he comes across as very authentic, illuminating, and respectful," Rasky said. "He's a very smart person, and when he talks, no one thinks he's wasting their time."

Indeed, Kate Vaughn, a New Hampshire attorney who hosted a Young Democrats party that Biden recently attended, said she came away impressed.

"He met lots of people, spoke about Iraq, and really talked about why he's running for president," Vaughn said. "People thought he was very smart and knows as much as anyone does about foreign policy."

Despite his generally liberal record, supporters insist Biden will appeal to so-called red state voters who have not looked kindly in the past on Democratic senators from the northeast.

"The ability, in the south, for a white male to connect with the African-American community is very important, and he has that," said David Mack, a South Carolina legislator and Biden supporter.

And while Mack acknowledged it would be hard for any Democrat to win a general election in staunchly Republican South Carolina, he said Biden had a crossover appeal that could bring other southern states his way.

Biden, who has about $3.5 million in his campaign account, will formalize his intentions in January when he sets up a presidential exploratory committee. But for him, the race has already started.

"I'm proud of my record," Biden said, "but all the things I care about I'm not likely to make an impact on as a sitting senator.

Rabbi Hillel: "If not now, when?"

Robert Weitzel on
When once a republic is corrupted there is no possibility of remedying
any of the growing evils but by removing the corruption . . . every
other correction is either useless or a new evil.
- Thomas Jefferson -

If Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota were unable to remain
in office because of health reasons, his replacement would be
appointed by the state's Republican governor, effectively returning
control of the Senate to the GOP and Dick Cheney.

Initially, the thought of losing the precious 51-49 margin in the Senate disturbed me. But when I remembered that Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the new Democratic Speaker of the House, said that impeachment is "a waste of time" and "is off the table," I thought, so what if the Dems do lose the Senate. It's back-scratching politics as usual in Washington regardless.
How is it possible that a member of Congress can say it is "a waste of time" to impeach a president who has lied—under oath of office—to justify invading a nonbelligerent country, conspired to torture
prisoners and to strip them of their constitutional rights, illegally spied on American citizens, violated international treaties against aggressive war and treatment of POW's, and, quite possibly, is
complicit in treason and war profiteering? Think Valerie Plame and Halliburton!

Rabbi Hillel asked of a different time and circumstance, "If not now, when?"

Precisely. When?

What will it take short of fellatio in the Oval Office for politicians to show some spine and stop hiding behind self-serving excuses: "we don't want to be seen as vindictive" or "it would be political suicide" or "let the electorate 'impeach' him at the polls" or "the country needs to move on" or "we need to do things for the country . .. blah, blah, blah?"

How much more egregious does the abuse of power have to be—can it be—before members of Congress take seriously their oath to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic?"

The Constitution is barely seven paragraphs old before the founding fathers gave the people's elected representatives the power to impeach the president and whomever in the executive branch for "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors." Unfortunately, they could not give their descendents' representatives the political—dare I say the moral—guts to use that power.

What better, more patriotic, thing can an elected representative do for the country than to temper the Constitution and, consequently, the Republic itself in the crucible of impeachment when it is so obviously warranted?

David Corn of The Nation was only half right when he said that impeachment is an extreme action. He should have said it is an extremely rare action, which has been used only nine times in the history of the nation.

But the Framers never intended impeachment to be either extreme or rare. It was meant to be used forcefully and unapologetically and as often as necessary to check the excesses of power or wanton corruption of the temporary occupants of the White House.

That it has been so rarely used has led us to the unconscionable level of abuse by the Bush administration. They proceed as though they have nothing to fear, as if the Constitution is powerless to hold them accountable. It is this lack of fear that is sounding the death knell of our democracy; the final taps at the twilight of the Republic.

John Nichols, author of The Genius of Impeachment writes, "The founders of the American experiment, who expressed deep fears about the corruption of elections and the elected, saw in impeachment not a challenge to democracy but a tool for its rejuvenation in those periods when decay would set in."

We cannot hope to rejuvenate a decaying democracy unless we have the fortitude to endure the unpleasant political process of impeachment. Citizens will be pit one against the other, tempers will flare, friends will disagree and scream, issues will be discussed and debated, pundits will pontificate, and the talking heads will incite while politicians monitor the direction of the wind.

If, in the end, elected representatives still lack the political spine
to see the impeachment process to its conclusion, the nation will have
passed through the crucible and fear it less and be more willing and
quick to light the fire under the caldron . . . to the peril of the
abusing power.

Our Republic was forged in the crucible of a revolution and
strengthened in the crucible of a civil war. The blood and the gold of
past generations were mixed in the caldron to that end. This
generation should expect to offer no less.

But if not now, when?

"It's Beginning To Feel A Lot Like Christmas"

A gaggle of videos from "Eat The Press" on The Huffington Post. My favorite is "Do they know it's christmas."

"The Progressive John Edwards Should Run"

Matt Stoller:
I see in John Edwards an aversion to any sort of conflict and a lack of killer instinct - just look at his debate with Dick Cheney in 2004. In his speeches, Edwards is constantly upbraiding us to live up to our progressive ideals, but he rarely talks of the opponents to our ideals. As far as I can tell, he is unwilling to take on entrenched centers of reactionary power, believing, or rather hoping, that a genuine desire for the country to unify around someone necessarily means the bullies will just move out of the way. Reagan unified the country against liberals, and the opportunity exists for Edwards to unify the country against conservatives. But he hasn't as far as I can tell made a move to do that. I worry that as a result of this lack of killer instinct the Edwards' value good deeds over fighting injustice and loyalty over competence.

So in thinking about whether Edwards should run for President, or whether you should work for him or support him, here's what I would say. Tell me one time he's risked a piece of his political career to stand up to the right. Give me one example of where he led, one fight where he had to prove he's with us. Oh sure he talks a good game about poverty, but will he actually call out the bad actors or work to identify villains and fight them? I can offer you a good example of how he could betray us, aside from the massively important war vote. He said in late July and August that he'd come to Connecticut to help Lamont and the three Connecticut candidates, and then backed out afterwards when he was no longer under scrutiny. Towards the end of the campaign, he wouldn't even issue a statement against Lieberman. He knows, as we do, that that was a real litmus test, and he chose them over us.
P.S. from Howie, if you think he likes Obama, think again. From the same post:
"In fact, a number of my progressive friends are working for or advising John Edwards in some capacity or other. The calculation is that Senator Clinton is awful, Obama isn't fully formed, and Edwards is the only possible candidate who can win and govern as a progressive. As you know, I think Obama should run for President. I think he'll lose and possibly grow into a principled and effective progressive instead of a cautious cipher."
P.P.S. from Howie: I looked up cipher in the dictionary and can't figure out exactly what Matt means. But I do understand what the word "cautious" means.

Al Gore Gets Angry

From the interview in GQ:
We had several instances when the CIA’s alarm bells went off, and what we did when that happened was, we had emergency meetings and called everybody together and made sure that all systems were go and every agency was hitting on all cylinders, and we made them bring more information, and go into the second and third and fourth level of detail. And made suggestions on how we could respond in a more coordinated, more effective way. It is inconceivable to me that Bush would read a warning as stark and as clear [voice angry now] as the one he received on August 6th of 2001, and, according to some of the new histories, he turned to the briefer and said, “Well, you’ve covered your ass.” And never called a follow up meeting. Never made an inquiry. Never asked a single question. To this day, I don’t understand it. And, I think it’s fair to say that he personally does in fact bear a measure of blame for not doing his job at a time when we really needed him to do his job. And now the Woodward book has this episode that has been confirmed by the record that George Tenet, who was much abused by this administration, went over to the White House for the purpose of calling an emergency meeting and warning as clearly as possible about the extremely dangerous situation with Osama bin Laden, and was brushed off! And I don’t know why—honestly—I mean, I understand how horrible this Congressman Foley situation with the instant messaging is, okay? I understand that. But, why didn’t these kinds of things produce a similar outrage? And you know, I’m even reluctant to talk about it in these terms because it’s so easy for people to hear this or read this as sort of cheap political game-playing. I understand how it could sound that way. [Practically screaming now] But dammit, whatever happened to the concept of accountability for catastrophic failure? This administration has been by far the most incompetent, inept, and with more moral cowardice, and obsequiousness to their wealthy contributors, and obliviousness to the public interest of any administration in modern history, and probably in the entire history of the country!

"Clinton, Obama Clearing The Field"

Dan Balz, writing in the WaPO:
Without Declaring, They Beat Back Would-Be Rivals---Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), trading on star power, the capacity to raise tens of millions of dollars with relative ease and an ability to dominate media attention, are rewriting the script of the 2008 Democratic presidential campaign, driving potential rivals to the sidelines and casting a huge shadow over all others who may run.
What once shaped up as a sizable field of Democratic candidates is now shrinking. Sen. Evan Bayh (Ind.) announced on Dec. 16 that he would not seek the Democratic nomination, a surprising decision that came just days after he witnessed firsthand the megawatt voltage of Obama's drawing power in New Hampshire. As Bayh drew small crowds on his seventh trip to the Granite State, Obama enjoyed sold-out audiences and saturation coverage on his first.

Bayh became the third Democrat to quit the race before Clinton or Obama have taken formal steps to enter. Former Virginia governor Mark R. Warner and Sen. Russell Feingold (Wis.) abandoned their bids after lengthy periods of exploration. All chose not to run for their own reasons, but Obama's sudden emergence creates a significant obstacle to those hoping to become the alternative to front-runner Clinton in the Democratic nomination contest.

"Simply put, it's the Obama factor," said Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart. "Obama's entry into the presidential race essentially raised the ante. Candidates who used to do careful exploration with the hope that they could catch fire in Iowa and New Hampshire and move from there recognize that there's no oxygen left out there for their candidacies."

Republicans have their own celebrity candidates in Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, but they cast a far smaller shadow on their rivals. Those so far sidelined in the GOP race -- Sens. Bill Frist (Tenn.) and George Allen (Va.) -- have landed there through their own mistakes, not the looming presence of the two early poll leaders.

Dominating candidates are not new to presidential campaigns, nor is it uncommon for some politicians to explore a candidacy but not run. In 1992, many prominent Democrats chose not to run, fearful that President George H.W. Bush could not be defeated. In 2000, George W. Bush was the clear front-runner for his party's nomination, but the Texas governor still drew a large field of rivals. The winnowing did not begin until late summer of 1999 -- nine months later in the process than is happening this time.

Even though neither has announced for president, Clinton and Obama have demonstrated the benefits of celebrity in a world of constant cable news and expanding Internet communities. That culture serves to reinforce the advantages of celebrity, repeatedly focusing attention on the celebrities (as this story is doing) rather than paying close attention to the doggedness of dark horses -- at least until serious campaigning begins and the voters weigh in.

At this point, Clinton and Obama are eclipsing a group of Democratic heavyweights that includes the party's presidential and vice presidential nominees in 2004, Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.) and former senator John Edwards (N.C.), as well as several other senators and governors with impressive r?sum?s, from Sens. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.) and Christopher J. Dodd (Conn.) to governors Bill Richardson (N.M.) and Tom Vilsack (Iowa).

Only former vice president Al Gore might be able to command the kind of attention Clinton and Obama receive, say veteran strategists. But he has made no serious moves toward running.

Edwards plans to launch his campaign next week, the timing dictated in part by his advisers' belief that he will get more attention during an otherwise slow news week than he might in January, when the new Congress begins and President Bush unveils his new Iraq strategy. The others are weighing when or whether to jump in.

Money is another factor that could make running more difficult for those in the shadow of Clinton and Obama. Democratic strategists say the two celebrity senators will have no trouble attracting the biggest share of the party's best fundraisers and will bring in substantial funds online. That will put virtually everyone else at a big disadvantage in what is likely to be the costliest nomination fight in Democratic history.

This will be the first campaign in which all serious candidates for the nomination will opt out of the public-financing system, say strategists in several campaigns. That means candidates will pass up federal matching funds and will not be bound by spending limits in the nomination battle or restrictions on what can be spent in each state.

That freedom to spend comes with the difficult task of raising extraordinary sums of money; the campaign could necessitate raising half a million dollars each week next year -- or easily twice that much. Some campaign teams are talking about raising $100 million by March 2008. Some see $25 million to $30 million by the end of 2007 as the minimum needed to compete seriously in the early contests, but others say $45 million or $50 million is more realistic.

"I think the money is the most daunting part of this, particularly if you are not a candidate who is going to excite the Internet world to raise money," said Steven A. Elmendorf, who was a top adviser to former representative Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.) when he sought the nomination in 2004, and who later joined Kerry's general-election campaign.

Bayh advisers say money was not the determining factor in his decision. He had more than $10 million from his Senate campaign committee that he could have transferred to a presidential campaign, making his decision not to run all the more surprising.

Bayh's preparations for a campaign provided a textbook example of how a lesser-known candidate lays the foundation for possible success. He began his 2008 quest just days after Kerry lost to Bush in 2004. He recruited additional advisers, prepared a detailed blueprint for fundraising and organizing by December 2004 and began running hard early in 2005.

Over the next two years, Bayh made a dozen trips to Iowa and seven to New Hampshire, two states with early nominating contests. Through his political action committee, he trained and financed young staffers to work on congressional and legislative campaigns in those and other states. He courted fundraisers and wooed the media at countless lunches and dinners. As Bayh spokesman Dan Pfeiffer put it, "It's a three-year process to get to the primaries."

After the Democratic Party's losses in 2004, Bayh saw an opening to run for the nomination by presenting himself as a Democrat who could win Republican states, such as his home state of Indiana. After the Democrats' victories last month, Bayh's advisers found that his experience as a senator and a governor and his potential in red states were less appealing to Democratic activists looking toward 2008.

The Bayh camp's research found that activists want a candidate who can give voice to their frustrations with Bush and the war in Iraq and who can channel it into a crusade-like campaign. Bayh's advisers concluded that made Obama and possibly Edwards more likely than the Indiana senator to become alternatives to Clinton.

Vilsack came to a different conclusion -- that there may still be room for a dark horse to challenge the big names. Vilsack watched the Obama phenomenon up close in September, when the Illinois senator attended the annual steak fry hosted by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). The hoopla surrounding Obama's visit did nothing to dissuade Vilsack from becoming the first Democrat in the race.

Jeff Link, Vilsack's communications director, said the quality of candidates' ideas and the ability of candidates to pitch themselves are critical to the success of dark horses. "You have an idea of how to make the country better, and you have to believe that your idea is an idea worth fighting for and worth putting yourself through a lot to make that change, to implement those ideas and plans," he said. "That's where Tom Vilsack started."

But Link acknowledged that is only a starting point. "At some point in the process . . . you've got to put spark to gas to really take off," he said, noting that Vilsack will try to light the match on his home turf in the Iowa caucuses.

William Mayer, a political science professor at Northeastern University who has written extensively about the nominating process, said rivals of Clinton and Obama could have an especially difficult time finding an opening for their candidacies. "They are both very appealing to Democrats on a symbolic level," he said. "The Democrats would dearly love to elect the first woman or black president. Given that, it's going to be tough to run an insurgent campaign against these people."

Democratic strategist Anita Dunn cautioned against assumptions that the Democratic race is largely going to be a contest among Clinton, Obama and Edwards, who leads the polls in Iowa. "One of the reasons for elections is that you don't know at this point how things are going to play out," she said. "History teaches us that the front-runners usually win the nomination, but front-runners often stumble -- and that gives an opportunity to someone who is well positioned."

"What is it about Obama?"

Terry McDermott, former Seattle Times reporter, writing in the LA Times:
Maybe it's his message of inclusion, his smarts or his million-dollar smile. Whatever it is, people seem smitten. Chicago politics, viewed from afar, often seems a monolithic thing. The words most closely associated with it — "the machine" — imply an implacable, unbreakable force. On the ground, nearly the opposite is true.

Far from being a monolith, the machine has many parts.
Anyone seeking to navigate and survive it, much less prosper, must master a set of equations that includes fine gradations of locale and clan. There are, for starters, the South Side and the Near North Side, the Loop, the South Loop, the West Loop, West Town, Irving Park, Portage Park, Hyde Park, this Catholic parish or that, the Poles, the Czechs, the Jacksons, the Bridgeport Irish (who are not to be confused with the Lace Curtain Irish, or with anyone else, for that matter).

You'll encounter a hundred fiefdoms without ever leaving Cook County, beyond which lie still more divisions — the collar counties around the city, and, of course, downstate, which seems to include everything that isn't Chicago, from the northwest suburbs to the sundown towns (as in, if you were black, you'd better be out of town before the sun set) of Little Egypt, which are closer in almost every way to Alabama than Chicago.

It is a place, in other words, of great divisions and, maybe because of that, uncommonly well-suited to have initiated U.S. Sen. Barack Obama into politics.

Obama-mania has exploded across the country this fall, propelled by a wave of adulation that greeted the publication of his second book, "The Audacity of Hope," and by shrewd manipulation of the opportunity that attention afforded. He has popped up everywhere from the cover of Men's Vogue to "Monday Night Football." He has been urged to run for president by everybody from Oprah Winfrey to a shockingly large number of ideologically opposed political commentators.

For the moment, Obama has demurred. A decision, he says, is forthcoming in the new year. Hardly anybody who knows him doubts that he wants to run. But he has two young children, and whether he enters the race for the 2008 Democratic nomination will largely be a family matter, friends say.

Outsider in a big city

Obama arrived in Chicago in 1991, unbidden, with a fresh Harvard Law degree, big ambitions and virtually no reason to think they would ever be fulfilled. In a place of fervid group loyalties, he was a nearly complete outsider, having spent just three of his prior 30 years in the city, a member of no group but his own.

Five years later, he was elected to the state Senate, where he served until winning election to the U.S. Senate in 2004. What he had instead of a loyal base was a million-dollar smile, an optimistic message of inclusion, and a willingness to work with anyone willing to put a shoulder to the wheel of his choosing, no matter their ideological stance.

Chicago politics tends toward polarization. Depolarization is Obama's stock in trade.

Just a generation ago, Harold Washington was campaigning to become the first black mayor of Chicago, and he and Democratic presidential candidate Walter F. Mondale attended Sunday Mass at St. Pascal's, a predominantly white Roman Catholic parish in Northwest Chicago. They were spit on, cursed and lucky to leave unharmed.

In the 2004 U.S. Senate campaign, Obama carried every precinct but one in St. Pascal's Portage Park neighborhood. Talk to people who live there now and you could easily get the impression that Obama grew up one block over.


"Barack is wildly less threatening than Harold Washington," said Judson Miner, who hired Obama into his small Chicago civil rights law firm in 1991. "Even the North Shore ladies love him."

Go west to DuPage County, one of the most Republican in the nation, and you'll find a GOP county chairman, state Sen. Kirk W. Dillard, who relishes the opportunity to accompany Obama whenever he comes to town. "My constituency is enamored of him," Dillard said. That Obama registered approval ratings in DuPage above 60% in this fall's campaign season is an obvious reason to get next to him — but Dillard has been on the Obama bandwagon for years.

He, along with many others, was skeptical when Obama arrived in Springfield, the state capital. There was suspicion that Obama, with his fancy degrees and a job teaching constitutional law at the University of Chicago, was an elitist. It turned out he was a more or less regular guy who played pickup basketball and poker.

Obama developed a reputation as a very conservative poker player. He threw in many more hands than he played, said another state Senate colleague, Larry Walsh, a farmer from Will County. "I told him once, 'If you were a little more liberal in your poker-playing and a little more conservative in your politics, we'd get along a lot better.' "

Obama was somebody you could sit and have a beer with, Walsh said — even if Obama, who frequently quit buying but not smoking cigarettes, perpetually bummed them.

As a freshman, a member of a Democratic minority in a General Assembly not much interested in policing itself, Obama carried to passage the state's first significant ethics legislation in a generation. He later worked to overhaul the state's death penalty and healthcare laws. He developed a reputation as someone anybody could work with.

"I brag that before anybody knew who he was, I knew he had the gifts that have made him into the rock star he is — charm, intellect, hard worker, ability to relate," Dillard said. "I saw it all within the first couple of months when he came to the Legislature."

In "The Audacity of Hope," Obama tells of being on the state Senate floor, sitting with a white colleague, when an African American senator, whom Obama refers to as John Doe, gave a lengthy, passionate speech in which he said voting against the program he advocated would be racist. The white colleague, a liberal, turned to Obama and said, "You know what the problem is with John? Whenever I hear him, he makes me feel more white."

Obama sees this as an illustration of the exhaustion of white guilt.

He has nearly the opposite effect on people; he removes race from the equation. Some critics would say he works too hard at this. Yet there is no one in contemporary American politics who has gone to greater lengths to define and embrace his racial identity. He wrote an entire book — his first, a memoir titled "Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance" — about that act of definition.

"My identity might begin with the fact of my race, but it didn't, couldn't end there. At least that's what I would choose to believe," he wrote.

A real head-turner

Obama is one of very few politicians who cause a rustle just entering a room. Heads turn, cameras flash, and whooping and hollering commence often before he reaches the stage. Other politicians might need two warmup speeches and a battle of the bands to generate that much noise and excitement.

It's the same almost everywhere he goes. Crowds are bigger and noisier than for whoever was the last unlucky pol to roll through. It is worth noting, however, that this is relative. Obama is very exciting — for a politician. He drew perhaps 500 people to a Manhattan Barnes & Noble for one of the first events of his fall book tour. That's a lot of people, but the week before, the author of the Lemony Snicket children's books drew twice that many in the same room.

In many ways, Obama is both politician and celebrity. People offer up their children for hugs and scramble after him for autographs. Once the bright light of Obama has beamed down upon them, they are smitten.

Bettylu Saltzman, a Chicago philanthropist, activist and veteran of dozens of political campaigns, recounts meeting Obama for the first time in 1992, well before he was a candidate for anything.

"I was working for the Clinton campaign, putting constituencies together. He was working on a voter registration drive. He came into our campaign office. He was 30 years old," she said. They talked for a while. Nothing exceptional happened. The next day, Saltzman recalls, she told a friend that she had just met the man who was going to be the first black president of the United States.

This is not a unique reaction. Emil Jones Jr., president of the Illinois Senate and one of Obama's mentors, tells the story of attending a downstate political dinner, a fish fry, where he, his driver and Obama were the only black faces in a crowd of 3,000.

"Sitting across the table from me was a little old lady, said she was 86 years old," Jones said. "After Barack spoke, she nudged me on the shoulder and said, 'This young man is going to be president of the United States someday. I just hope I live long enough to vote for him.' "

Obama was unknown outside Illinois until he was chosen to deliver the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. Watching that speech from the convention floor, Jones was astounded to discover tears rolling down his face. He was embarrassed, he said, until he turned and saw another member of the delegation crying too. "It's the most amazing thing I've ever seen in 40 years in politics," Jones said.

People who have known Obama for a while, like Jones, Walsh and Dillard, tend to describe him in ways eerily similar to how he is described by people who know him hardly at all.

"The biggest difference between then and now is he's been well-publicized," said state Sen. Terry Link. "A lot more people know him, but he's the same guy. I've spent a lot of quiet nights with him. This is not an act by any means. When we were in the state Senate together, you would get guys, real right-wingers, they would consider Barack a guy they wanted to work with."

What is most striking about the surge of interest in Obama is the degree to which it is fueled by people's estimation of him as an individual, not as a politician. His appeal is almost entirely personal. Abner Mikva, a former federal judge and Illinois congressman who taught with Obama at the University of Chicago, said Obama was probably the smartest man he had ever met. Yet people seldom see him as being anything other than the next-door neighbor they would love to have: "He's Everyman. People look at him and see what they want to see. Not that he cuts and trims. They fit him into what they want."

This is probably not an accident. Obama's political skills are in some ways reflected in his personal history. Born in Hawaii in 1961, half Kenyan, half Kansan, and raised in such polyglot places as Honolulu and Jakarta, he has spent much of his life as an outsider figuring out a way to fit in.

As a consequence, friends say, there is no place Obama doesn't feel at ease, no room he's uncomfortable entering.

This shows up in subtle ways. Giving speeches, he's more prone to a casual conversational mode — he sometimes greets crowds by saying "Thanks, guys" — than to high-flying rhetoric, although that's there if he needs it. He speaks words one measured syllable at a time, with the emphasis — like a young David Brinkley — on the ends of phrases. He often speaks in the first-person plural: We ask, we see, we wonder. We take challenges seriously. He invites audiences in. He communicates comfort, so much so that he often draws applause even when describing what he sees as the nation's dire circumstances.

Early this month, at the invitation of Rick Warren, Obama spoke to a hall full of conservative Christian evangelical activists gathered at Saddleback Church in Orange County. Warren, author of the bestseller "The Purpose Driven Life," is among the most successful and popular preachers in the world. Saddleback is his city on a hill, a sprawling campus set above the smooth, clean boulevards of the most suburban of places. His is the kind of congregation where Warren's joke about the authoritarian rule of suburban homeowners associations brings a knowing laugh.

It is definitely not the sort of place you would expect a liberal big-city Democrat to feel at home.

Warren has an aphoristic style of preaching. Remarking on opposing political inclinations, he said: "People ask, 'Pastor Rick, are you right-wing or left-wing?' I'm for the whole bird. One-winged birds fly in circles."

To keep the bird flying straight, Warren had also invited one of Obama's Senate colleagues, Republican Sam Brownback of Kansas. Brownback is one of the most conservative members of the Senate, and a favorite of the folks who fill Warren's church.

This day, the right wing of the bird flew first. Brownback has a boyish, plain-country countenance. He knew the crowd and the place and was winning in his talk.

Brownback teased Obama about straying beyond his natural habitat. He recalled that he and Obama had spoken together previously in front of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People. Just the mention of the NAACP drew a nervous chuckle from the crowd. Brownback might as well have said he had parachuted in behind enemy lines. He said he had been given a polite reception, then had yielded the stage to Obama, who received a raucous welcome, as if Elvis had come on stage.

Brownback then turned toward Obama and told him today would be different. "Welcome to my house," he said; the crowd roared.

When Obama followed Brownback to the Saddleback lectern, he thanked him, but added that he had to correct one thing the Kansan had said: Obama said he felt very much at home in Pastor Rick's church.

"Sam," he said, "this is my house too. This is God's house."

That simply and quickly, Obama was again completely at home in a room full of strangers, and they with him.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

"News Roundup"

Nancy Scola provides a condensed holiday political update for the time-challenged political junkie:
As I just finished wrapping my last gift I had the thought that some of us might be unusually busy -- perhaps doing some last minute holiday preparations or otherwise enjoying this Saturday night -- and not so much on the computer this weekend. Thought I might highlight a few of the news bits and such that have caught at least my attention of late:
* JOHN EDWARDS has emailed his list to ask if his supporters are ready to "take this effort to the next level," bringing his message of fighting poverty and standing up for working families to the presidential stage. Thoughts on the topic? Communicate them to John via
* $53 MILLION: the record for the largest single year-end bonus ever awarded to a Wall Street executive, set by the CEO of Goldman Sachs this week.
* THREE GREAT GUYS -- Kombiz Lavasany, Matt Browner-Hamlin, and Matt Ortega -- lift the veil on their new blog project called The Right's Field. They aim to make it a one-stop shop for the latest on 2008 Republican presidential contenders, including McCain, Romney, Guiliani, Brownback, and Hunter.
* DAVE EGGERS' new fictional autobiography of one Lost Boy of Sudan is called "an extraordinary work of witness, and of art" by aptly-named book reviewer and author Francine Prose.
* INCOMING SPEAKER PELOSI has denied CSPAN's request to control its own cameras on the House floor, stating that "the dignity and decorum of the United States House of Representatives are best preserved by maintaining the current system of televised proceedings" in which the cameras are directed by the Speaker. CSPAN had asked for permission to run cameras (pdf) that would allow them to pan the chamber and take action shots of floor activity.
* SIR BONO. (Actually: Bono, Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. Irish-born, he's not eligible for the "sir.")
* BARACK OBAMA is reportedly reviewing mock travel schedules of a presidential candidate.
* FREE PRESS, one of the organizers of the Save the Internet campaign, is gearing up for its annual National Conference on Media Reform in Memphis on January 12-14.
* JIM WEBB is the latest subject for Deborah Solomon, she of the weekly Q&A in the New York Times Magazine in which she asks a famous person probing questions about his or her life. Solomon asks the senator-elect about a reported White House incident in which Webb responded to an inquiry from President Bush about his son by saying that he'd like to see the troops out of Iraq, and Bush snapped back "I didn't ask you that. How's your boy?" Says Webb of reports of the back-and-forth: "This is something that emanated from the White House...I said nothing publicly about it at all." Webb reveals what he'd really like for Christmas -- "the day off."
What else are you hearing and following tonight? I'm getting into the Christmas spirit, despite it being a balmy high of 60 degrees today in New York. This is it for me until next weekend. Have a great night and happy holidays.
Howie, however, will remain on duty through the holiday period.

"Believe Again”

The New York Times political blog, "The Caucus," features Obama in its piece, "Getting Drafty":

“Draft Obama,”which says it exists to “facilitate, promote and encourage” Senator Barack Obama to run for president, started running a fancy 60-second ad television ad in New Hampshire and Washington, D.C., last week called “Believe Again.”

Nick Clooney writes "Now is the time for Obama" in the Cincinnati Post.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Happy Holidaze

Happy Holidaze from Howie in Seattle.

"Would you send your relative to Iraq?"

The Oregonian:
As Rep. David Wu visited wounded soldiers in the National Naval Medical Center this week, he thought about President Bush considering a move to send more troops to Iraq.

Wu fears the White House will quietly roll out the "temporary surge" over the holidays, as if it were a company marketing a new product.

"We need to focus on whether we would choose to send our own son or daughter, our own wife or our own husband off for a temporary surge in Iraq," said Wu, D-Ore. "If we wouldn't do that, then should we permit this administration to roll out a potential product like that?"

Most of the Democrat-dominated Oregon congressional delegation is adamantly opposed to a temporary increase in troops in Iraq. Instead, they want to reduce the U.S. presence in the region and improve diplomacy.

Their opposition to Bush's Iraq policy provides a glimpse of what the White House must contend with next month, when Democrats take control of Congress.
And Bush can no longer count on Oregon Republican Sen. Gordon Smith to support escalating the Iraq war. Smith, who voted to send troops to Iraq and was a firm supporter of the war, said Friday that he opposes a troop surge: "I believe it's too little and too late for that."

All five Democratic Oregon members of Congress voted against using force in Iraq four years ago. Yet Democrats have had little impact on war policy.

Next month, their views will matter more. In a news conference Wednesday, Bush said he will wait to hear from new Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the military and diplomats before deciding whether to send more troops to Iraq.

"We'll listen to ideas from every quarter. We'll change our strategy and tactics to meet the realities on the ground," Bush said.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said Bush should start reducing troop levels.

"You've got to start bringing some of our people home in order to send a message that the Iraqis must make tough choices," Wyden said.

"They're not going to do it as long as we still convey that this is an indefinite, open-ended commitment."

Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., said the factions have been fighting for more than 1,400 years and a temporary surge in troops won't solve that problem.

"Bush seems determined to provide the illusion of a major change in strategy while he's following the same delusional course," DeFazio said.

The United States should begin scaling back by bringing home National Guard and reserves, said Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore.

"I don't know how anybody can talk to our personnel over the last three years and not get a sense of the pain and the frustration," Blumenauer said.

The United States, Blumenauer said, must also begin having discussions with countries such as Iran and Syria.

"You have to talk to some of the people who have influence in the region, even if you don't like them," Blumenauer said.

DeFazio said he hopes Democrats will exert more influence over Iraq policy, but he noted that fewer than 110 House members last year co-sponsored a resolution to withdraw troops from Iraq.

Although Bush is commander-in-chief, Congress may increase pressure by conducting aggressive oversight hearings.

"The Senate just hasn't done the kind of detailed, focused oversight on the issues surrounding this," Wyden said.

The Oregon delegation's two Republicans -- Smith and Rep. Greg Walden -- voted to authorize the use of military force in Iraq.

Smith gained national attention this month for his speech criticizing Bush's handling of Iraq, calling the war "absurd."

When asked about Smith's speech, DeFazio said that it was obvious four years ago that Bush was intent on invading Iraq regardless of whether the country harbored weapons of mass destruction. "It's pretty easy to oppose the war now when those of us who spoke out against the war, went to the same classified briefings as every other member of Congress, saw through the charade and the facade," DeFazio said.

Many Oregon Democrats have echoed similar sentiments about Smith's speech, noting he is up for re-election in 2008. Smith dismisses the criticism as "their job."

"To me, this is not about politics," Smith said. "This is about life and death and war and peace and the future security of our country."

Smith said he will continue exerting pressure through private contacts with the White House.

"Obviously they're very mindful of me right now," Smith said. He declined to say whether he has spoken with President Bush about his speech.

Smith wouldn't comment on specific proposals without first seeing the details. He indicated he would not support an immediate and complete withdrawal from Iraq.

"I'm calling for a repositioning of troops in Iraq," Smith said. "I think we still have a very real interest in taking on the jihadists coming across the borders from Iran, Syria and some from Saudi Arabia."

Walden couldn't be reached this week. In a written statement issued Dec. 6 after the Iraq study group report, he supported a change in strategy to pursue diplomacy.

"It is clear that mistakes have been made since the invasion, not least our assessment of the Iraqis' capacity to establish a stable, democratic society after 30 years of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship," Walden said.
Howie suggestion: How about a story in at least one of the Seattle dailies comparing and contrasting various positions of Washington's Democratic and Rethug Members on the Iraq issue? I am most interested in hearing from the WA-8 Member (Google alert: DAVE REICHERT) these days.