Thursday, January 29, 2004

Trippi-ing the light not so fantastic...

So, the big NH is over, and all my weary newsbiz friends are fried, though the party's just begun.

My favorite part was when, in his victory speech, Kerry said, "I have a message...," and indeed he did. He had Howard Dean's message.

Botox aside, Kerry continues to look good. But if "electability" is the factor that keeps putting him over the top, has anyone considered just how electable he'll actually be once Rove runs oppo over the candidate's eccentric wife?

And Dean! What a lovely speech of longing he gave that night. If only he had been giving that speech before he came in second. (Interestingly, MSNBC's Chris Matthews allowed Dean's speech to run far longer than he did Kerry's.) Quite the softball setup for the "Trippi trips" surprise ending.

Speaking of coverage, what was CNN thinking with that lame "War Room" set they put Carville and Begala in? The contrivance was too cute by far, and omitted the most defining aspect of any war room--lots and lots of people gathered together, plotting the destruction of their enemies. Instead we got an empty room that felt more like a tomb, a tomb that was strewn, so artfully strewn, with posters and papers and care. (Oh, my!)

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Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Don't it make my red state blue?

So, it's P-Day in the Granite State, and yours truly remains without a DSL--or any other type of telephonic electronic--connection to cyberspace. So, amid the slush I made a connection hydroponic (via rubberized boots) to a borrowed line, and have about 30 more seconds to write something witty, which just ain't gahn happen.

I'm just smart enough not to prognosticate about today's contest. As for the big one in November, though, I will predict that unless the Bush team tames its snide, mocking tone, it may turn some of those solid red states purple*, leaving Mr. Rove with a mighty red face. (So, who's a weenie, now, KR?)

Astute readers will discover that both of the links embedded above lead to Dan Froomkin's White House briefing on It seems that Mr. Froomkin may just have the best job in our nation's capital. Well, except, perhaps, for Wonkette.

*For those unfamiliar with the color wheel, note that red + blue = purple. Should my scenario pan out, that Constitutional amendment against gay marriage should just die on the vine. Lavender lives!

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Thursday, January 22, 2004

There but for the grace of God...

How 'bout that Howard Dean on caucus night? Kinda makes ya glad not to have known him during his drinking years, eh?

An officer and a prickly pear

Then there was Wesley Clark's turn on the playground with Bob Dole, care of Larry King. Dole did his characteristic thing, something I call a blark. (A combination of a blurt and a bark.)

"I think [Kerry]'s going to benefit a great deal in New Hampshire. Somebody has to lose," Dole said to Clark on air. "Now, of course, you don't want it to be you but I think it may be you."

Clark began to flail around talking about leadership, when Dole blarked: "I think just politically you just became a colonel instead of a general..."

Ooooo...a nerve was struck.

"Senator, with all due respect, he's a lieutenant and I'm a general," Clark retorted. (I winced.) "You got to get your facts on this. He was a lieutenant in Vietnam. I've done all of the big leadership."

Yeah, but who's got the best banana seat on his Stingray?

If I wasn't getting paid, I wasn't really fired...

Meanwhile, on MSNBC, Chris Matthews tossed around Chris Lehane, Gen. Clark's media adviser, like a cat tormenting a baby squirrel.

Lehane did little to enhance his own image when he turned up on Matthews' show to make hay out of Kerry's apparent reluctance to release his tax returns of the last five years, thus giving Matthews a wide opening. You see, Lehane worked for the Kerry campaign early on, abruptly left, then resurfaced in the general's convoy.

Matthews baited the tax return accusation out of Lehane, and then asked, "Tell me something: were you fired?"

An uncomfortable back-and-forth ensued with Matthews, using his customary bluster, repeatedly asking the question, and Lehane not exactly denying it.

"I just want to know, were you fired?" Matthews went on. "You're sure you weren't fired? You weren't told to leave?"

It played on like this for a while, with Matthews clearly evincing some distrust of the general for coming late to the Democratic Party, which for Matthews seems to be the same body as the Roman Catholic Church.

"Well, the fact that you have wrong is that I was a volunteer for [Kerry]," Lehane replied. "I was not working for him in an employment capacity. So you should at least get your facts straight before you start down that path."

In fairness to Lehane, I must mention his assertion of having "captured" some direct-mail pieces form the Kerry campaign that rag on General Clark's business background.

One hopes that before this gets any worse, the two vets pick up their heads to look at where the sniping got Gehardt and Dean in Iowa.

You'll need to scroll nearly to the end of the Matthews transcript linked above in order to find the Lehane exchange.

Labor's loves lost...

It was hard not to feel sad about Gephardt's poor showing. He wasn't my guy, but he's a pretty good guy. Guess that's how most of those Iowans felt, too.

But combine that with Dean's third-place finish, and you come up with a very bad night for organized labor. Gephardt had vitually all the manufacturing and other blue-collar unions behind him. And Dean boasted the hard-won endorsements of two big service-sector unions.

Which begs the question, will labor be able to turn out the vote in 2004? (See Tom Edsall's analysis.)

On a wink and a smile...

That John Edwards...such a sunny guy! Too bad he supports privatization of the U.S. government. 'Cause he's just so smart and smooth and elegant in an upscale, high-style Southern restaurant kind of a way. (Free-range, batter-dipped corn-fed chicken, dressed with sweet-potato purée and served with mustard greens en terrine.)

The hair has it...

The caucus winner did seem presidential, didn't he? Whatever that means. (I mean, look what we got in the White House now.)

Enough snarkiness, already!

Okay, okay! Truth be told, any one of these guys would make a fine presidential nominee. They all have substance, they're all very smart, and they all could make some hash out of Bush. Let's hope they don't put each other through the meat grinder first.

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Two Cans and a String

Oh, dear reader, are you out there? It's been so long! Alas, a conflagration of mishaps and miscues have led to your intrepid but intermittent blogger being more intermittent than usual. And during the Iowa stunner and the State of the Union snoozer, no less.

I have a new computer, but no DSL to hook it into due to a great deal of confusion among phone companies. I had switched to Sprint to punish Verizon for continuing to bill me for a second line they never managed to install. I got the Sprint on a deal from AOL. Unbeknownst to me, AOL gave Sprint my debit card info, so Sprint started taking money out of my account even as they cashed the check with which I had paid my bill. So I cancelled my debit card and decided to change back to the less brazen but painfully confused Verizon.

Ah, would that it were that easy. See, I deigned to move to another apartment in the same building I lived in when I began my vengeance spree against the telecoms. So now, my new telephone service is piped freshly into an apartment I no longer occupy.

Only the Almighty knows when I will have regular phone, ISP and DSL service again. I'm not sure why I expect you to care, except that this is a blog, ergo, blah, blah, blah, me.

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Thursday, January 15, 2004

To Have and to Hold

"The president loves to do that sort of thing in the inner city with black churches, and he's very good at it." So says a "White House aide" to the New York Times' David Kirkpatrick and Robert Pear. The aide is speaking of the president's plan to visit marriage promotion programs in poor neighborhoods.

Compassionate conservatism lives!

More on Bush's vision thing to come...

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Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Avoiding bin Laden

I generally try to avoid the inside blogsball thing, but apparently not today. For on Josh Marshall's blog is an interesting commentary on this piece by Chris Suellentrop on Slate, which is a pretty bloggy site.

What caught my attention initially was the tarnish Suellentrop's piece may or may not put on Wesley Clark's spit-polish-and-brass image. Josh Marshall unveils the mountain-out-of-molehill assessment that Suellentrop has given some of the general's utterances. But what held me is this one: "We bombed Afghanistan, we missed Osama Bin Laden, partly because the president never intended to put the resources in to get Osama Bin Laden. All along, right after 9/11, they'd made their mind up, I guess, that we were going to go after Saddam Hussein."

I don't really find this Clark quote so outrageous. He is probably right. And while the Iraq war seems to be the result of craven motiviations, the avoidance of bin Laden's capture may be based on some very real geopolitical concerns.

Has anybody really thought about what could happen if the U.S. actually captures Osama bin Laden? If the generally accepted conjecture on bin Laden's whereabouts is true, his capture will require trangressing the borders of Pakistan--to enter a territory in which even Pakistani military rarely dare to venture.

And speaking of the Pakistani military, it would be foolish to assume their loyalties reside with the U.S. Many of Pakistan's top military figures are known to be supporters of the Taliban and sympathetic to al Qaeda. There's good reason to wonder whether General Pervez Musharaf, Pakistan's self-appointed president, would survive bin Laden's capture, and I mean that literally. Musharaf narrowly escaped assassination twice this month.

Who is more valuable to the U.S. at this moment? Osama bin Laden, or Pervez Musharaf? With peace talks likely in the offing between nuclear rivals India and Pakistan, I'd put my money on the general.

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Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Ben Franklin for Everybody!

Just when you think the world might have wearied of religion angst among the pundits who parlez on presidential politics, there comes this piece from Nick Kristof, which examines the topic from a new angle.

While I've been urging Howard Dean to quote Franklin when asked to speak about his own religious beliefs (Franklin declined to spell out his own with any specificity), it seems that none other than Vice President Dick Cheney has been using Frankin to telegraph his personal theology. Cheney's beliefs? The theology of empire, with a dash of predestination thrown in.

Perhaps there's a Franklin quote suitable for politicians at various points on the political spectrum. As the sage of Philadelphia once said, "A place for everything, and everything in its place"--even, perhaps, an undisclosed location.

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Monday, January 05, 2004

Still I Look to Find a Reason to Believe

Give Up the Ghost on God, Howie!

The more I listen to Howard Dean talk about religion, the more uncomfortable I become.

It was less than a week ago--wasn't it?--that I took on his critics for citing Dean's apparent lack of religiosity as the latest qualifier for the "unelectable" label the anti-Deanies seek to pin on the Democratic frontrunner.

But did Dean take my advice? Oh, no! Instead, he listened to the people who want to stop him, putting himself at risk for giving them all the "proof" they'll need of his heathen status. And so we have the "Dances with Job" incident.

To refresh you: I suggested that Dean should decline to discuss his personal beliefs, and invoke Jefferson and Franklin in so doing. However, reminding his audiences that the denomination he adopted descends directly from the Puritans--the original religious dissenters to land in New England--well, that might not be such a bad idea.

At first, the Dean campaign seemed to be dealing with the issue well. The campaign issued a pamphlet touted as being in the tradition of Thomas Paine, the founder who declared that the only church he needed was the church of his own mind. Dean discussed the actions of Jesus of Nazareth, the human being, as inspirational. It seemed appropriate to the kind of personal theology one would expect Dean to have.

Then, in an interview with Newsweek's Howard Fineman, Dean veered off course, comparing himself to Job, the figure from the Hebrew Bible who loses all he owns--and suffers the deaths of all his children--because of a wager between God and the devil. Let's see--Job suffers boils and pestilence and loses everything for no apparent reason; Dean gives up practicing medicine and may become president of the United States. (Sure, I see the comparison.)

Dean is apparently feeling put upon because the long knives are out for him now that he's the frontrunner. While I find most of the attacks on Dean by Democrats pretty nasty and just plain embarrassing, they hardly come as a surprise. (However, one does wish that the Almighty would tap Joe Lieberman on the shoulder and send him back to the promised land of New Canaan, Connecticut.)

To make matters worse, William Safire writes that Dean cited the Book of Job as belonging to the New Testament, or the Christian addition to the Bible. (The Hebrew Bible is known by Christians as the "Old Testament".) And the old gem, of course, had a field day with it--using it as an occasion to show off all that he knew about the Book of Job. (For the purposes of full disclosure, I must admit that I used my blogged advice to Dean, "Getting Religion", to show off what I know about Ralph Waldo Emerson and Jonathan Edwards, which is, in toto, the two sentences devoted to these figures in that piece.)

Thank God that, in his chat with Fineman, Dean nearly redeemed himself when asked if he believed in "Jesus Christ as the son of God" and as "the route to salvation and eternal life".

"I certainly see him as the son of God," Dean replied. "I think whether I'm saved or not is not gonna be up to me."

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Friday, January 02, 2004

The Big Orange

The fighter jets are roaring over Capitol Hill at an unnerving rate. When you live under restricted airspace, you can become inordinately sensitive to the sound of jet engines overhead.

We've all gotten used to the sound. No one ever mentions it, as if to do so would summon some mighty bad juju. But every now and then, say when you're under Code Orange alert and the second British Airways jet in two days has been forbidden to make its daily run to the capital of the Free World, it can kinda get to you.

At Dulles, where the Britjet was set to land, airport screeners learned that the airport's security director, a manager for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), had been arrested for drunk driving before his shift was over. The screeners are forbidden full union rights because full union membership, says management, would pose a threat to national security. At Dulles, at least, it looks as though TSA management poses a threat to national security. Not to mention fellow travelers on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.

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