Thursday, March 29, 2007

Kucinich Renounces "Eyes and Ears"

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = (still) 662 *fingers drumming*

I just checked my inbox, when what to my wondering eyes should appear but this:

A Special Message From Dennis Kucinich Regarding A Recent Campaign Communication

Dear Friends,

Our campaign has arrived at a teachable moment and an opportunity for growth. Yesterday, you received a message from our campaign entitled: "Eyes and Ears: We need your help!" relating to a project which advocated the monitoring of the campaigns of my fellow presidential candidates.

I believe such tactics are spiritually and politically counterproductive, therefore I am asking you to disregard the request. The focus of our campaign has been and must continue to be: What kind of a nation and world do we want to create? The intellectual or emotional focus on any campaign dissipates that creative energy.

The vital organ of this campaign is the heart. This campaign is about transforming politics, not mimicking stale political trends. The other candidates are all fine public servants and long-time friends. I ask that you join me in wishing every one of them well by expressing compassion for all candidates who strive to serve. "Monitoring" projects are inherently pretentious, divisive and mean-spirited and have no place in a campaign which desires to change the world for the better.

When we "track" other candidates, we come from a place of fear which shows that we are off the track of our own objectives. I reserve the right and accept sole responsibility to draw factual comparisons on policy matters. But such comparisons must come from a place of integrity. It is not the job of our campaign to keep other candidates honest. Each candidate must accept responsibility for his or her own integrity.

Let's use this moment to joyously and courageously recommit ourselves to the highest principles which animate our campaign, the imperative of human unity, and saving the planet from global warring and global warming. We have so much work to do. Let us not shift our focus for even one moment from our dedicated efforts to achieve the America and the world we desire.

I am so grateful for your support.


Dennis J Kucinich

I wholeheartedly commend Dennis Kucinich for this statement. But beyond this being a teachable moment for his campaign, it is also an accountability moment. The next question to be asked is, will Dennis Kucinich identify who in his campaign originated the "Eyes and Ears" project, and who approved it, as well, and will he dismiss them from his campaign? Unless Dennis Kucinich follows through and does this, his disavowal will be proven to be nothing more than empty rhetoric and transparent political posturing after getting caught entangling himself in a public embarrassment.


Verified, Unfortunately

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 662

OK, I must confess that I had been a little nervous that the whole Kucinich Spy Ring story I ran yesterday stemmed from some sort of early April Fool's Day spoof. But, no: the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Kucinich's home town paper, picked up the story and has independently verified the email's authenticity.

I have read comments elsewhere making the point that all the Kucinich campaign is after here is just opposition research, performed at a netroots level, and so there's nothing out of the ordinary, and certainly nothing wrong, with trying to recruit people to help out with that. Fair enough, up to a point. But, honestly, has anyone making even the most cursory rounds of the political blogosphere and mainstream media seen evidence of the other candidates, from the rock stars on down, taking any notice of Dennis Kucinich at all? Does the Kucinich campaign really think it's stuck in Nowhereland due to the contrivance of the other candidates? And if Clinton, or Obama, or Edwards, or any of the other candidates in the Democratic field are up to anything unsavory or unflattering, does Dennis Kuchinich not realize the extent to which they, as *ahem* serious contenders for the White House, are already under nanoscrutiny from the GOP and right-wing media? Wouldn't Dennis Kucinich - and the rest of us - be better served if his campaign concentrated on getting its own message out, instead of worrying about what the other candidates are doing?

The whole thing so reeks of desperation and ineptitude that it is just sad. What an embarrassment to Dennis Kucinich...and honestly, does he need any more of those?


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Inside the Mind of Dennis Kucinich

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 663

WHOA! I think we can now say it's official: the Kucinich campaign has completely flipped out. From the inbox this morning:

Eyes and Ears: We need your help!

Hello Volunteer,

Thank you so much for all of your hard work so far!

We are happy to announce that we need your help with an important opportunity called the Eyes and Ears Project. In order for Dennis to continue to be a successful candidate, it is important that we track, monitor, and gather information about the other candidates. In politics, it is absolutely essential to gather information about your opponents. That is why we are happy to invite you to help us monitor the other candidates. If you are interested in this volunteer job, you will be gathering information about other campaigns and exactly what it is they are doing to market themselves.

We want the other campaigns to know we are monitoring them. We want them to know that we have eyes and ears everywhere. Also, this process serves the dual function of keeping other campaigns honest. If they know we are monitoring them, they will be more likely to be transparent and honest. Therefore, we are looking for your help to be our eyes and ears. We are looking for people with good research skills that are very adept at paying attention to detail and gathering vast quantities of information.

Area 1: Monitoring of Advertising

Area 2: Monitoring of News Stories

Area 3: Monitoring of Blogs, Social Network Sites, Forums, etc.

If you are interested in helping with the Eyes and Ears marketing volunteer project, you will be given one area and one candidate. For example, you may be put in charge of monitoring all advertising around Hillary Clinton. Each week, you will submit a report about all of Hillary's advertising you could find. You can observe her tactics, research her strategy and share your observations.

You can choose any area that you feel most comfortable with, and any candidate you may be interested in tracking. If you are interested in one of the Eyes and Ears marketing volunteer project, please email me back at Tell me in what area and what candidate you may be interested. If you need more information about what the job will entail, I will explain more.

Thank you so much for your help,

Evan Moody

National Outreach Coordinator
Kucinich for President 2008

Finally, for the piece de resistance, the sender line on the email is "Kucinich for President 2208." It's the 200 year gap that turns this into art.

So now, in addition to the Department of Peace, it appears we'll be able to look forward to a Department of Truth in the ever-forthcoming Kucinich administration. Perhaps Dennis can ask President Bush if his campaign can borrow the NSA for the duration of the campaign; after all, why reinvent the wheel?

Note to the Kucinich campaign: if you guys are going to be monitoring blogs, and you decide to come after me, can you at least click on some of the ads when you visit? Thanks a bunch!


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Disembodied Voices, Talking Heads

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 664

Yesterday I attended the Good Morning America healthcare forum with Hillary Clinton. The show was broadcast from the Science Center of Iowa, which turned out to be a great venue for the event. The audience numbered about 200 people, about 45 of whom were, like myself, invited guests of the Clinton campaign. As an aside, it wasn’t at all hard to get an invite; I simply asked a Clinton campaign staffer at last week’s off-year caucus to put me on the list of people who wanted to attend, and a few days later I got the call. Lesson: in politics, you don’t get it unless you tell somebody you want it.

The event ran from 5:00 AM to 8:00 AM, which meant starting my day at the insane hour of 3:30 in the morning (groans…muttered imprecations…fumbling for tea). I arrived at SCI a little before 5:00, to join a couple of dozen people already inside. By 5:30, there was a line of people outside, waiting to get in. Incredible! A line of people standing in the pre-dawn darkness waiting to get inside the Science Center in Des Moines, Iowa: if you have ever wondered what is meant when Hillary Clinton is referred to as a “rock star” candidate, there’s your answer.

Once inside, the audience was put into a staging area in the SCI café, where the production staff would periodically arrive to summon groups of people onto the set. Notably, one of these groups consisted of people pre-selected to ask questions. So, yes, the questions that were broadcast during the show appear to have been entirely pre-selected, either by ABC, or the Clinton campaign, or both. That’s show biz.

There’s a distinct difference between a political rally and a televised interview. The former is the realm of the sound bite, the latter that of disembodied voices and talking heads. It is as strange as it sounds; once the audience was seated and the production crew had taken their places and the host had come out and taken her place on the stage, voices started flowing from nowhere and everywhere - Diane Sawyer’s voice from New York speaking to Robin Roberts, and Robin answering back into the ether, the patter introducing the topic of today’s particular show. Not that different from a telephone conference call at work, I guess, only made strange by the fact that you know it’s being seen and heard by millions of people while you experience it from your plastic audience chair in Des Moines.

During commercial breaks, Clinton mingled with the audience. It was quite different from the massive kickoff event I attended back in January; with a crowd of merely a couple hundred, rather than thousands, on a television set, rather than a gymnasium floor, the dynamic between the candidate and the crowd was less rope-line frenzy and more actual one-on-one conversation. It was also during one of the breaks from the main GMA broadcast that Hillary gave the interview about the Vilsack endorsement that I wrote about in my post from yesterday.

From a campaign perspective, this was undoubtedly a good talking head event for Hillary: she was the headliner for the first of a series of similar broadcasts with the major contenders from both parties, and it provided her the opportunity to reinforce her image in the electorate at large as the leading candidate on the healthcare issue. She was her usual poised and articulate self (although opinions differ in her case on whether this is too much of a good thing), engaged well with the host and the audience members, and was, I thought, actually persuasive on a couple of major points (cost containment and coverage for children).

Hillary came away with from the show, I believe, not having necessarily sold anyone on this or that specific proposal, but rather having made her case to the viewers that hers is a voice still worth listening to on health care. No small feat in itself, given her well-known history as the leader of the failed health care reform initiative of 1993 - 94. Although I was surrounded by other invited guests of the campaign, and thus not in the very best position to take the pulse of the swing voter, the show also seemed to play well with the general studio audience.

Since the show was seen by about 5 million people, I won’t bother with the usual blow by blow of who said what, but I have included some content links for those who are interested.

Video: Healthcare Q&A

Video: Healthcare and Veterans

Video: Senate Iraq Resolution

Q&A transcript

Email Q&A


Monday, March 26, 2007

Hillary Confirms Vilsack Endorsement

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 665

I've just come from the Good Morning America event with Hillary Clinton. In a taped interview segment not broadcast live this morning (scheduled to run later on the ABC News Now program), Senator Clinton confirmed the Vilsack endorsement, and added that Tom Vilsack will be a national co-chair of the campaign. Christie Vilsack will also serve as a state co-chair.

Lots more to follow later (probably tomorrow, by the looks of things on my calendar), but I wanted to get this out right away, before the official announcement later today.


Sunday, March 25, 2007


Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 666 (how appropriate!)

A very quick post to say that I'll be attending Good Morning America's health care forum with Hillary Clinton tomorrow. As much as I'd like to be able to say that I've found a way to gate-crash the event in the guise of Mytho-Poetic Blogger Hero, the truth is...I've been invited. Alas, we can't have everything. Still, it's all very exciting, even if I do have to be there at 5 A.M. (ugh!).

Watch/tape/TiVO the show Monday morning, and check back here after the event for a peek behind the scenes.


Thursday, March 22, 2007

A Shift in the Landscape

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 669

The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press has published a fascinating look at American political attitudes spanning the years 1987 - 2007. It shows some dramatic changes over time, and, I'm happy to say, mostly away from the political right.

Some highlights:

  • In 2002, the country was equally divided along partisan lines: 43% identified with the Republican Party or leaned to the GOP, while an identical proportion said they were Democrats. Today, half of the public (50%) either identifies as a Democrat or says they lean to the Democratic Party, compared with 35% who align with the GOP.

  • The study finds a pattern of rising support since the mid-1990s for government action to help disadvantaged Americans. More Americans believe that the government has a responsibility to take care of people who cannot take care of themselves, and that it should help more needy people even if it means going deeper into debt.

  • Americans are less disposed than five years ago to favor a strong military as the best way to ensure peace. In 2002, less than a year after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, more than six-in-ten agreed with the statement, "The best way to ensure peace is through military strength." Today, about half express similar confidence in military power.

  • In 1995, 58% said they favored affirmative action programs designed to help blacks, women, and other minorities get better jobs. That percentage has risen steadily since, and stands at 70% in the current poll. Gains in support for affirmative action have occurred to almost the same extent among Republicans (+8), Democrats (+10), and Independents (+14).

  • Interpersonal racial attitudes continue to moderate. More than eight-in-ten (83%) agree that "it's all right for blacks and whites to date," up six percentage points since 2003 and 13 points from a Pew survey conducted 10 years ago.

  • But it isn't all rainbows. A few points of worry:

  • The Democratic Party's overall standing with the public is no better than it was when President Bush was first inaugurated in 2001. Instead, it is the Republican Party that has rapidly lost public support, particularly among political independents. Faced with an unpopular president who is waging an increasingly unpopular war, the proportion of Americans who hold a favorable view of the Republican Party stands at 41%, down 15 points since January 2001. But during that same period, the proportion expressing a positive view of Democrats has declined by six points, to 54%.

  • The public is losing confidence in itself. A dwindling majority (57%) say they have a good deal of confidence in the wisdom of the American people when it comes to making political decisions. Similarly, the proportion who agrees that Americans "can always find a way to solve our problems" has dropped 16 points in the past five years.

  • Americans feel increasingly estranged from their government. Barely a third (34%) agree with the statement, "most elected officials care what people like me think," nearly matching the 20-year low of 33% recorded in 1994 and a 10-point drop since 2002.

  • And finally, one quite simply infuriating point:

  • Young people continue to hold a more favorable view of government than do other Americans. At the same time, young adults express the least interest in voting and other forms of political participation.

WTF? Are twenty-somethings saying that government works best when they don't participate? I'm hoping folks will fill up the comment bin on this one, because it makes absolutely no sense to me.

The full report can be found here. Definately worth a read, no matter which side of the political fence you're on!


Polk County Democrats Off-Year Caucus

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 669

As promised, I attended the Polk County Democratic Off-year Caucus last night. For the uninitiated, or anyone from outside Iowa, wondering what caucus night is like, it was like…well, a meeting: lectern, card tables and folding chairs, resolutions, tangents. But there were home-baked brownies and cookies by the plateful, so who’s to complain?

These events are organized by the county party central committee to set the platform and deal with any outstanding party business, originating either within the leadership, or the rank-and-file. This meeting differed from the presidential nominating caucuses scheduled for next January in that it encompassed the entire county, whereas the nominating caucuses are held at the precinct level. Last night was really about two bits of business. The first was a platform resolution drafted by Iowans for Sensible Priorities in favor of cancelling $60 billion in annual military spending on obsolete cold war-era weapons systems and putting that money toward urgent domestic priorities. I thought this was an intriguing proposal, provided the $60 billion really is for stuff we don’t need anymore, so I asked what specifically would be cut. A representative of Iowans for Sensible Priorities had a detailed answer (complete with brochure!), so I ended up adding my voice to the “yeas”; the resolution passed unanimously.

The second item of business, and by far the more entertaining, was to hear from representatives of some of the presidential campaigns. These were not the actual candidates, mind you, but it was interesting in its own way to hear from the campaigns, vis-à-vis the candidates themselves. Some campaigns were represented by just one person, others brought their entire county staff, and the campaigns of Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel didn’t send anyone (possibly because there was no one to send?).

First up was Amanda from the Clinton campaign. Amanda said that she had been working for Tom Vilsack until his withdrawal from the race, but found it easy to join the Clinton campaign (message: Hillary’s campaign is still trolling for Vilsack supporters) because of Hillary’s support for ending the war, addressing the health care issue, cutting the deficit (BTW: this is the first mention I’ve heard of that issue from anybody’s campaign), and developing energy independence. Amanda touted Hillary’s experience in dealing with issues, and her status as the first viable woman candidate for president.

Next was Pat Maloney from the Edwards campaign. Pat referred to this campaign being Edwards’ second, and listed the things that had happened between the 2004 and 2008 campaigns: Katrina, the worsening situation in Iraq, the continuing crises in healthcare. He urged the caucus to look at the specific proposals of each candidate when considering whom to support (a smack at Obama, I think). He concluded by saying we’re all on the same side once a nominee is chosen, which was odd in the circumstances, since that’s the sort of thing that’s usually said at the end of a campaign, rather than the beginning.

Third was Ronny Chow from the Obama campaign. Ronny characterized the 2008 campaign as being about the future, and Obama represents a “New America” of change, progress and ideas. He went on to say that money alone won’t elect a Democrat in 2008 (obvious swipe at Hillary), that grassroots activism would also be needed. He then praised the strength of the Democrat field of candidates in contrast to the Republicans, and concluded by introducing the rest of the Obama Polk County team and promoting the March 31 house parties the campaign is organizing statewide.

Fourth came former Congressman Rick Nolen (Minnesota 6th Congressional District), speaking on behalf of the Dodd campaign. Nolen said he knew all the candidates, and like Dodd best, and believed that voters would come to like Dodd best as well the more they got to know about him. He stressed that Iowa has never been more important in the nominating process, since momentum coming out of the caucuses will be crucial in being able to viably campaign in all the other states rushing to move up their own nominating contests to early February. He asserted that “experience really matters” in evaluating a presidential candidate, and listed Dodd’s work in the Peace Corp, fluency in Spanish, National Guard service, terms in the House and Senate and sponsorship of the Family and Medical Leave Act and support for Head Start as things to like about Dodd. Nolen described Dodd’s priorities as Labor, education, the environment, fire fighters, voting rights protection - but oddly, not the restoration of Habeas Corpus, one of Dodd’s signature initiatives and something that I think really sets him apart from the other candidates. He concluded by saying Chris Dodd believes in the positive role that government can play in solving problems in healthcare, climate change, farm policy (what state are we in, again?) and Iraq.

Next was Brad Frevert from the Richardson campaign. Brad humorously recalled Richardson’s initial campaign swing through the state earlier this month and the coinciding ice storm (emphasizing Richardson’s commitment to Iowa and the importance he attaches to his campaign here), and touted Richardson’s experience and resume as Energy Secretary, U.N. Ambassador, Congressman and Governor. Brad said that since 1961, 40 Senators had run for president, and none of them have won, whereas numerous governors had run and been elected president. He talked about Richardson’s record as governor in raising teacher pay and creating more than 84, 000 high-tech job in New Mexico, which, he noted, was a “red state” that reelected Richardson governor with 69% of the vote. He mentioned that the campaign is opening its state headquarters on Monday, and they anticipate a solid fundraising quarter.

Last, but not least, was Valerie Biden-Owens, sister of Joe Biden, speaking on his behalf. This is a big deal, because she is not just a relative of the candidate, or a campaign staffer, but the national chairperson of the Biden campaign, and her presence spoke volumes about the importance Biden places on Iowa. She began by thanking Iowa for its “good stewardship” of its role in the nominating process, and borrowed a line from the Obama campaign about this election being “not about the candidates but about you.” She spoke about Joe Biden’s sponsorship of the Violence Against Women Act and the Biden Crime Bill, and went on to say that his campaign is “not [just] about what he’s done, but about who he is.” She described Biden as someone who is tough, principled, understands what it takes to get things done, understands what it takes to hold on to the promise of youth, and understands what it takes to make children safe and smart. She recounted some of the episodes of personal adversity Biden has faced in the past, and characterized him as having the “heart of a champion,” being a straight shooter, a man of his word, with the ability to bring the country back together. She concluded by describing Biden as a candidate who understands possibilities as well as problems, and who listens as well as speaks.

Nothing earth-shaking in any of this, of course – perfunctory introductory remarks by campaign representatives to an audience of party activists. But it provided an interesting chance to meet and chat with some of the people who are going to be important players in the ground war that must be won in order to carry through to victory here next January. We’ll be hearing more about these folks in the coming months, I’m sure.

As an aside, a revealing thing from several of the evening’s speakers was the tendency to mistakenly say that their candidate was running for congress, or governor, or senator, rather than for president: “candidate X has what it takes to be a great [congressman, governor, etc] because…” Clearly, the magnitude of what they’ve taken on is still sinking in for some of the staffers. Can’t say I would feel any different, if I were in their shoes!

One final note, for anyone planning on attending the Polk County Democrats Spring Dinner on April 20: Bill Richardson, Joe Biden and Chris Dodd have all confirmed they will be there; Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have definitely declined, and John Edwards hasn’t yet decided either way. No word from Dennis Kucinich or Mike Gravel, if that’s swaying anyone’s decision on whether or not to attend!

PS/ apologies to anyone whose name I got wrong or misspelled in this post; if I mangled your name, please send me a note and I’ll publish corrections ASAP.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Quote of the Day

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 670

The dustup over the mashup continues this morning. My favorite take on things comes, oddly enough in the circumstances, from Hillary Clinton herself. From the Washington Post, here's the quote:

"I think anything that drives interest in these campaigns and gets people who otherwise are not at all interested in politics, I think that's pretty good. . . . I thank heaven for small favors and the attention has shifted and now maybe people won't have to tune in and hear me screeching 'The Star Spangled Banner.' "

Exactly the right note to strike. Tremendous style.

If the objective of whoever posted the 1984 spoof was to throw the Clinton campaign off stride and off message, they're bound to be disappointed. After all, Hillary Clinton has been relentlessly hounded for more than a decade by packs of expert character assassins, and she's still standing. Its going to take more than a guy with an iMac and a copy of Final Cut Pro to change that.

Full disclosure statement: I haven't thrown my support to Hillary Clinton or any other candidate this cycle. But I can't help admiring her response to this episode.

Meanwhile, in other news, the Polk County Democratic Off-year Caucus is tonight, and I'll be there. Check back tomorrow for my post on that.


Monday, March 19, 2007

Upcoming John Edwards Event

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 672

John Edwards is holding a "major policy address" event on global warming and alternative energy tomorrow, March 20, at 12:15 PM in Nevada, Iowa at the Biomass Energy Conservation Center (BECON).

More info here.


Sunday, March 18, 2007

War Plus Four

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 673

Entering Year Five of the War in Iraq:
Number of Dictators Deposed = 1
Number of Chemical, Biological and Nuclear Weapons Found = 0
Number of American Military Personnel Wounded = 24,042
Number of American Military Personnel Dead = 3,197...and counting...
Number of Lies Told About Why They Died = beyond counting

Space does not permit my listing the names of all our dead on this page - sadly, there are simply too many. Their names and faces are shown here.

Have a Nice Day, Mr. President.


Thursday, March 15, 2007

Quote of the Day

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 677

Let it not be said that this blog disdains bi-partisanship. The following quote comes from George Will, no less, in today's Washington Post:

"It is, of course, a commandment graven on the heart of humanity by the finger of the Almighty that Iowa's caucuses shall come first and then New Hampshire shall have its say."

Damn skippy.


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Quick Note: Upcoming Chris Dodd Event

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 678

Forgot to include this in my previous post. The U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy will be hosting a foreign policy forum with Chris Dodd in Des Moines on April 11. Details can be found here.

This is the same group who hosted Joe Biden's Iraq town hall this past weekend, and they do a great job. I highly recommend this series for anyone interested in a dialogue with the candidates on foreign policy issues.


Monday, March 12, 2007

Joe Biden’s Iraq Town Hall

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 679

And then a miracle occurred: the schedule held, and Joe Biden actually appeared at campaign events in Iowa! Quite a relief, since I was starting to feel that I was laboring under the political equivalent of the Curse of the Bambino.

There was one small change of plan, come to think of it. Instead of attending the Saturday morning breakfast event, I opted for a Friday night wine and cheese thing at the Des Moines Club: same candidate, same topic, but with better food and windows with a view.

Before I get to what Biden said, I just want to say that this was my kind of campaign event: issues-focused, before a serious-minded group (vis-à-vis throngs of onlookers flocking to see a celebrity sign autographs at a media shutter fest), and on a scale that does not require a rope line between attendees and the candidate. Not that there isn’t, nor should not be, room for huge rallies in political campaigns. It’s just nice that there’s also some space left for participatory events like this.

So on to the event itself. Would anyone be shocked that it started late? Like, an hour late? Me neither. This provided a nice opportunity to talk with some of the people in attendance, including Ann Schodde, executive director of the group U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy, who sponsored the event, and a nice guy named Ted who put up the money to get the group off the ground in the first place.

Finally, Biden arrived, and after brief introductions, began his remarks, which he delivered without notes. He started off by saying domestic issues predominate in most presidential campaigns, leaving foreign policy as a step child. Not so this cycle. This time around, for the first time in a long while, virtually every urgent issue facing the country has an international component to its solution. Biden repeated his stump line that this, and the debacles of the Bush administration, leave the next president virtually no room for error.

Biden next said that campaigns should be about not just character, but about issues as well. He spent most of his time discussing his Plan for Iraq, which he developed with Les Gelb, the Chairman Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations. Biden emphasized that every candidate, both Democrat and Republican, agrees on two points about Iraq:
1) there is no military solution to the current situation
2) there must be a political solution between the factions

Beyond these two, Biden went on, there is a crucial third point, which he claimed he is the only candidate to have addressed, and that is: what then? What comes next? Not addressing this third point, simply pulling out US combat forces and leaving Iraq to its fate, Biden said, would subject the United States to negative consequences lasting a generation.

Biden continued that sectarian warfare throughout history has been settled in one of four ways:
 The first is to let the factions fight it out among themselves until one group achieves dominance over all others. Moral considerations aside, this is not an option in Iraq because the warring factions are not just national, unique to Iraq, but regional, overspreading Iraq’s borders into Turkey, Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Thus, we risk a broader regional conflict, in which the United States would surely be required to intervene, if the Iraq civil war is not settled quickly.
 The second is to undertake imperial rule and foreign military occupation to suppress the violence. We’ve already seen that attempts to do this in Iraq have proven fruitless, not just for the United States, but for the British and other empires throughout history.
 The third is to install a dictator to crush factional violence and restore order through one-man rule. This is a non-starter, obviously, given that “regime change” was meant to get rid of that sort of thing in the first place.
 Finally, the fourth is multilateral diplomatic intervention to allow the warring factions to disengage and securely withdraw into their own regions, where they would control their own day-to-day affairs and have their own laws regarding internal issues such as taxes, marriages, property, law enforcement, etc. The central government in Baghdad would oversee national issues like oil exports, foreign policy and national defense. This arrangement would be backed up by an international force, including significant participation from the world’s most populous Muslim countries (Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Egypt), to maintain security between the regions and help secure Iraq’s borders. Biden characterized this approach as “federalism,” and said it was fully within the letter and intent of Iraq’s constitution.

The answer, according to Biden, is to work with the Iraqi government and factions on an internal settlement while conducting multilateral diplomacy to address issues concerning the entire region.

Biden concluded by stating that the future pillars of American foreign policy will need to be behavior change, rather than regime change, to address foreign governments with whom we have conflicts, and prevention, rather than preemption, to address future threats to American interests and security.

Biden spoke for about an hour, leaving time for but three questions. Biden’s best moment of the night came in response to the question, “How do we begin to convince the world that America has not permanently lost its way is now nothing other than corrupt, unethical and reckless?” Biden’s answer: simply stop being corrupt, unethical and reckless. Big applause for that.

No bumper sticker slogans here, as you see. Biden was professorial, authoritative, sophisticated in his appreciation of the nuances and complexities of the challenges awaiting the next president. If you’ve seen Joe Biden talk at all, either in person or on television, you may have noticed an interesting mannerism of his, that when considering what to say in extemporaneous remarks or in answering a question, he shifts his gaze away from the audience or cameras, to an unpopulated middle distance, where he seemingly checks in with his private self, as if making sure what he’s about to say passes muster with himself, both personally and professionally. Such inner consideration is fascinating to watch, and undoubtedly helps keep Biden honest with himself, as it were; but it has disadvantages as well, perhaps contributing to Biden’s reputation as a rambling and long-winded speaker.

So, did this event do any good for Joe Biden’s campaign for president? It didn’t hurt, but I don’t think he closed any sales at this event. It introduced Joe Biden to an involved, activist audience. There were no gaffes, no statements clearly made simply to pander to the audience of the moment (see John Edwards’ “I am not a politician” quote for a shining example), nothing that didn’t hang together logically or rhetorically. There were even one or two moments when, if you squinted and held your gaze just right, you could view Joe Biden as vaguely presidential.

But, as lucky as the Democratic party is to have such a foreign policy heavyweight in the race, Joe Biden has a long road ahead in grabbing attention away from the rock stars for long enough to get voters to listen to him. He also, unfortunately, carries some baggage from the circumstances that forced him from the race in 1988, as well as his January comments to the NY Observer about Barack Obama. Not insurmountable, probably, but he’ll have to work hard to clear those factors effectively enough to get his message across, and he’s got a tall enough hill to climb as it is.

On the plus side, Joe Biden has actually surpassed Barack Obama in one respect during this campaign: he wins my prize for requiring the shortest commute to a campaign event. Obama, the previous title holder in that category, recently hosted a town hall event at the Polk County Convention Center that required me to make only a quick stroll through the skywalk to attend; Biden’s Friday night event was even better, requiring nothing more than an elevator ride. On the minus side, however, the setting wasn’t really one for popping off photos, so no event pics this time around.


Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Biden Redux

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 685

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Joe Biden will be in Des Moines for a breakfast event at a café not far from our house this coming Saturday, and I’ll be there.

Doesn’t ring a bell? Okay, throw this in to the mix: Senators on both sides of the aisle have hammered out new language for a non-binding resolution opposing the Bush administration’s plans to escalate the role of US combat forces in Iraq, and Majority Leader Harry Reid is working on when to schedule the vote for a third run up the hill.

Any guesses? Like, maybe, the vote will be called for Saturday, leading the conscientious senator from Delaware to put his day job ahead of presidential campaigning and cancel his trip to Iowa?

Yeah, probably.

But, if a miracle occurs and the event does come off, I’ll be interested to hear Biden talk more about Iraq. His policy proposals on ending the war are detailed, well known, and unusually thoughtful and comprehensive. Most intriguing, Biden goes beyond the “when” and “how” of ending US military involvement in Iraq, and asks “what” happens after that (as an aside, I’m thinking there has got to be a better answer than John Edwards’ “I don’t know”).

Full account to follow, assuming the event happens as scheduled. In the meantime, here are some links with background info on Biden’s war proposals:

Boston Globe Op-Ed Piece, February 27, 2007
Plan for Iraq
No More Troops


Saturday, March 3, 2007

The "F" Word

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 688

“I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, but it turns out you have to go into rehab if you use the word ‘faggot,’ so I — [applause and cheering] so kind of an impasse, can’t really talk about Edwards.” ~ Ann Coulter, speaking to the American Conservative Union, March 3, 2007.

Read it again. Then once more. Read it as many times as it takes to bring your jaw up from the floor. These are words spoken today at a Republican presidential forum in Washington by the well-known conservative commentator and author, Ann Coulter. The statement was broadcast live on C-Span, and Coulter has made no attempt to deny the accuracy of the quote; the best she could do was attempt to flippantly pass off her remarks as a joke.

I don’t know which is worse: that anyone speaking before a crowd of Republican elected officials and their politically-connected friends – a crowd which included the Vice President of the United States – would make such remarks, or that any of those in attendance would respond with cheers and applause, or that Coulter would later go on to say that she thought she was being funny.

To their credit, three Republican presidential candidates who spoke at the gathering – John McCain, Rudolph Giuliani and Mitt Romney – have issued statements disavowing Coulter’s remarks. But the question that must be asked is, why isn’t every Republican candidate – heck, every Republican, period – denouncing Coulter’s hateful words?

I am sad to say that the Edwards campaign’s response has been weak, and to a shocking degree, cynical: it has sent out an email titled “Shame on You, Ann Coulter,” that urged supporters to show their outrage by…donating $100,000 in “Coulter Cash” in the coming week. “Shame on you”? Give us money? This is the best they can come up with in response to what is, in many ways, an unprecedented injection of hate-speak into American politics?

On many occasions in the past, my friends have asked me why I’m so interested in politics, why I am involved in the Democratic party, why I don’t just recognize that politics is all just a lousy, worthless game and come up with some other hobby. My answer is simple, and this incident illustrates it perfectly: that while I breathe, I will not acquiesce in the surrender of American life to this outrageous level of hatred, bigotry, and disregard of common decency. I will not just watch this happen – I will fight against it, and I will do everything in my power to prevent its acceptance as normal conduct in American politics, or American life. Not in my country. Not without a fight. Not while I draw breath.

Ann Coulter isn’t the disease. She is merely a symptom of what happens when too many of us leave the field of political discourse to those who would abuse it. It is time to act. It is time to reclaim the country that belongs to all of us. The next election is still many months away, but the battle is already joined, and the worse place to be is on the sidelines. It’s time to go to work.

PS/ I didn’t make it to Bill Richardson’s breakfast event this morning, sad to say. My car was sunk in about an inch of ice after this weekend’s blizzard, and by the time I dug my way clear, the event was over. Sorry Bill – but I will catch you next time.


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