Monday, April 30, 2007

Debate Poll Results

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 630

Following last week’s debate in South Carolina, I put up a poll to explore whether the event succeeded in changing viewer opinions about whom to support for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. The short answer is: No.

By an overwhelming ratio of more than seven to one, poll respondents said the debate didn’t change their minds about which candidate to support. Out of 171 responses to the question, “Did the South Carolina Debate Change Your Mind?,” there were 150 “no’s” and only 21 “yes’s,” or about 87.72% No, 12.28% Yes. Further, respondents who said they were uncommitted coming into the debate were outnumbered by respondents who said they already supported one candidate over the others by 77 to 94 (45% to 55%, a 10 point margin of committed over uncommitted), suggesting that changing minds would be an uphill battle in any case.

The results suggest that the top three candidates held their ground, while the others didn't gain much traction.

This poll, of course, isn’t scientific, and, like everything else at this point in the cycle, the results probably come far too early to be conclusive about the direction things might take in the run-up to next year’s electoral contests. Nonetheless, these results do provide an interesting snapshot of where respondents are at the moment, and how effective debates are likely to be in swaying opinions.

Detailed Results

For the “No” side, the numbers break down as follows:

  • Out of 150 responses –
    • 66 (44%) said they were uncommitted before the debate, and remained so afterwards.
    • 84 (56%) said they were already committed to a particular candidate before the debate, and remained so afterwards.

For the “Yes” side, the numbers break down as follows:

  • Out of 21 responses –
    • 11 (52.38%) were uncommitted, and ended up picking a candidate based on the debate.
    • 8 (38.10%) actually switched their support from one candidate to another based on the debate.
    • 2 (9.52%) were committed to a particular candidate, but ended up uncommitted afterwards.

Full results are available here.


Sunday, April 29, 2007

Internet Radio Update

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 631

Last week, I put up a post on a recent copyright payment ruling that, if let stand, will kill internet radio. Last Thursday, Rep. Jay Inslee (D- WA) and eight co-sponsors introduced a bill that would reverse the ruling in question and establish a much more equitable copyright payment structure for webcasters.

So, here's what to do now:
1. Learn More
2. Contact your Congressional representatives and urge them to support the bill
3. Tell a friend - email this post, or any of the embedded links, to as many interested people as you can think of.

Again, the ruling that kills internet radio goes into effect on May 15, so a rapid response is essential!


Friday, April 27, 2007

Debate Poll

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 634

Rather than give my commentary on last night's debate or, worse still, provide a blow-by-blow of a televised event that everyone who would even consider coming to this site has already seen (twice, probably), here's a poll. And, rather than make it a poll where one person gets to say 300 times that their candidate could do no wrong on the night, I've made this a poll aimed at finding out whether last night's debate actually changed anyone's mind about the candidates.

So, here goes!

Did the South Carolina Debate Change Your Mind?
Did the South Carolina Debate Change Your Mind?
No - I was undecided before, and still am
Yes - I was undecided before, but now support one of the candidates
No - I supported a particular candidate before, and still support that candidate
Yes - I've switched allegience from one candidate to another
Yes - I supported a candidate before the debate, and am now undecided
View Result
Free Web Polls

Thursday, April 26, 2007

H.R. 1591

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 635

Following the House vote on Wednesday, the Senate today passed and sent to the President the final Iraq spending bill. Since the bill contains legally binding provisions for a responsible end to the war, President Bush has vowed he will veto it.

That veto will be a turning point in the political struggle over our country’s Iraq policy. With no dictator left to depose, no weapons of mass destruction ever discovered, no link between Saddam and al Qaeda ever credibly established, and not a shred of legitimacy left to the administration’s original premises for starting the Iraq war, the administration and their Republican supporters in congress have stuck their head in the sand, repeating the word “progress” – none of them speaks about victory anymore – as though the word itself will rescue them from the consequences of their own policy failures. They have simply run out of options, out of ideas, and out of time. It is obvious that President Bush’s supporters now see, with the clarity peculiar to the blind, no other recourse for themselves but to follow their leader off a cliff, and are trying to drag the next president – and the country - over the brink with them. Americans will have none of it.

When President Bush issues his veto, it will mark the crossing of the final threshold of public patience with his administration and his war. Congressional Republicans may succeed in thwarting an override of Bush’s veto, this time. But all that does is put the issue right back in play without having moved the debate once inch in the administration’s direction. And with each passing week of public anger over the war, what support the president has left for his policies from congressional Republicans will steadily ebb away, finally disappearing altogether by Labor Day. When the veto occurs, mark it on your calendars as the day George W. Bush became a lame duck in office.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Radio Silence

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 637

Internet radio is one of the coolest things about the information age. Any day, any time, I can launch iTunes or surf to Live365 or Pandora, and hear an astounding variety of music, news and commentary beamed from all around the world right to my computer. What's on top of playlists in Holland? Got it covered. Singapore? Ditto.

Unfortunately, internet radio is under immanent threat of extinction (and no, this isn't the old hoax about the internet tax, blah, blah, blah). Last month, the Copyright Royalty Board, a three-member commission of the Library of Congress responsible for administration of statutory copyright licenses, issued a ruling that effectively increases royalty payments owed by internet radio operators by 300 to 1200 percent, depending on a station's audience size. The ruling is scheduled to go into effect May 15, 2007, when it will then be applied retroactively back to January 1, 2006.

Make no mistake, this is a measure that will kill internet radio. Moreover, it is designed to do so: satellite radio operators pay only one quarter of the rate imposed on internet radio, and - surprise! - broadcast radio doesn't pay it at all. The International Webcasting Association fought this measure, and lost. They then appealed for a rehearing, and lost. The only recourse left is direct action by listeners to internet radio for legislative intervention by Congress.

So, here's what to do:
1. Learn more
2. Contact your representatives in Congress
3. Tell a friend - email this post, or any of the embedded links, to as many interested people as you can think of.

This stuff only takes a minute, and time is of the essence; again, this measure takes effect on May 15. A few minutes now can save internet radio into the future. Please act to save internet radio while there's still time.


Monday, April 23, 2007

Joe Biden's Speech at the Polk County Democrats Spring Dinner

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 638

Joe Biden was the last candidate to address the crowd, and took the stage to robust applause. Every election cycle, he said, America puts up a job description for president. The job description changes from cycle to cycle, but this time, according to Biden, the job description is: restore America’s place in the world, restore the middle class, and put an end to the politics of polarization. In today’s America, Biden said, there is not a single problem that lends itself to a solution supported by 51% of the people and opposed by the other 49%. In order to prevail in the general election, Biden said, the Democratic nominee will need to not just win the same tier of 20 or so “blue” states won by Al Gore and John Kerry in the last two cycles, but also be competitive in at least 9 or 10 traditionally “red’ states as well.

Establishing his thesis for the night, Biden said, “I’m not running for the exercise.”

Biden characterized the current political climate as the politics of false choices. Iraq, he said, cannot be passed on to the next president, or abandoned by the United States, without any idea about what comes next. The next president, Biden said, “needs to be smarter than his advisors,” when it comes to solving problems, and the key question to answer on Iraq is “then what?” Withdraw the troops: then what? How will the civil war be extinguished? How will we conduct our diplomacy so as to involve Iraq’s neighbors in a constructive way? Biden declared that his Iraq plan was the best answer to these questions, and went on to describe it in detail. While Biden’s explanation of his plan was lengthy and very specific, it seemed to me that he had much of the crowd hanging on his every word, a rapt silence that said the audience was decidedly in the mood to hear the details, not just the principles, of his proposals. It was a surprising moment, and a very impressive one.

Biden then turned to Darfur, and declared that when a nation engages in genocide, it forfeits its right to sovereignty. Biden then stated that U.S. troops should be dispatched to Sudan, where, he maintained, 2,500 American soldiers would quickly put an end to the genocide in Darfur. This was a bold proposal that I hadn’t heard before, and I’m at a loss as to why the mainstream media didn’t pick up on this. Biden then took a slap at John Edwards’ remarks of a few minutes earlier for decrying the genocide in Darfur and the lack of U.S. response to it, but failing to propose a solution.

Biden then turned from foreign affairs to domestic policy, specifically education. Funding seems to be the root of the problems in education for Biden, and he summed up by stating, “Show me you budget, I’ll show you what you value.”

Arriving at his summation, Joe Biden challenged his fellow candidates, and Democrats generally, to stop being tentative, stop beating around the bush. The American people, Biden went on, want leadership and are not afraid of the challenges confronting the country. The American people have never let this country down, Biden exclaimed, and “I am sick of Democrats being cowards.” Biden appealed to the audience for support as a candidate “who you know where they stand” on issues. In the best line delivered by any speaker on the night, Joe Biden concluded by saying, “It ain’t complicated, folks. It just takes courage. Join me to make hope and history rhyme.” The press was all over him as he left the rostrum, and he worked the hall for another 15 minutes after the speech.

This was not the Joe Biden you read about in the mainstream media, the long-winded, academic, bloodless Joe Biden. That characterization may have been true in the past, but tonight I saw a different candidate, different even from when I met him last month, one who, indeed, is not running just for the exercise. Judging from his speech at this gathering, Joe Biden has stopped playing safe in his campaign, stopped parsing his words, and has started speaking from the heart. It was an extraordinary thing to witness, and if continued, may just be the approach that shakes up his prospects and gets him out of single digits.


John Edwards' Speech at the Polk County Democrats Spring Dinner

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 638

Following Bill Richardson's address came John Edwards. WOW - what a reception he received from the crowd when he entered the hall. And again upon ascending the rostrum and telling the audience “Elizabeth sends her love.” There’s no doubt about it: John Edwards is a beloved figure to a lot of Democrats in Iowa, and that’s something the other campaigns cannot take lightly.

Edwards began his remarks by discussing what he thinks will be the most important qualities in the next president at a time of “historic challenges”: honesty, integrity, being “a good, decent human being” who can reestablish trust between the United States and the rest of the world and between the American people and their President, someone with “clear ideas,” who can “take positions,” who can tell people “what will you do as president,” and who understands that for America in the world as it now is, there is no difference between foreign and domestic policy. Edwards said that the next president must spend his/her first few months in office traveling the world to talk about, as he put it, “the idea of America”: equality, diversity, a force for good. Moreover, Edwards continued, the next president must demonstrate through action that the United States is committed not just to our own interests, but also those of all humanity, by, among other things, “solving Darfur” and addressing AIDS in Africa. “We’re better than this,” Edwards declared. “We need to show the world who we are,” by taking the $500 billion in the current Iraq appropriation bill and using it to fund primary education around the world. “We’re not an example for good,” Edwards said, “we’re an example for bad. You gotta have vision, gotta have strength. Are we going to use high rhetoric about ‘hope’ and ‘affordable health care’, or are we gonna do something about it?” Edwards managed to smack both Obama and Clinton in the same sentence, there - nice rhetorical accomplishment.

Edwards also warned against turning inward and disengaging from the rest of the world after we leave Iraq, saying that the world needs America as a stabilizing force. Reciting the litany of challenges confronting the country into the future, Edwards said, “’There’s nothing we can do’ is the Great Lie in America.”

John Edwards concluded with a prose hymn to organized labor and the question to the audience, “What are you going to do for this country?” emphasizing that the solutions to our problems lie not so much with the next president as with the country as a whole.

At times, Edwards’ address seemed more homily than speech, brimming with conviction and a sense of mission. Indeed, for long stretches in Edwards’ remarks, the crowd was silent, as if in church. Where some other candidates make their claims on experience and leadership, Edwards seems to stress personal qualities - honesty, integrity, etc. That strikes me as trickier ground to walk, since it requires supporters to take quite a bit on faith, and the consequences to the campaign can be severe should the candidate’s halo slip. Like Barack Obama, John Edwards may be more vulnerable to character attacks than more experienced, if lesser known, candidates, and needs to guard against that. This is one of the things that, in my view, keeps John Edwards’ actual prospects for becoming president just this side of longshot territory, regardless of how he does in Iowa.


Bill Richardson's Speech at the Polk County Democrats Spring Dinner

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 638

I should mention that in his introduction of Richardson, Polk County Democratic Chairman Tom Henderson noted that the candidate has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize four times, no less. I didn't know that.

Richardson started by praising the other candidates, concluding that "any of them would do a great job in the White my vice president!" He then went on to sketch out his plans for what he would do, day by day, in his first week as president.

1st Day: get all troops out of Iraq (and he emphasized all, in counterpoint to Hillary Clinton's position that some troops may have to remain in Iraq after most US forces are redeployed). Convene diplomacy between Iraqi factions and also between Iraq and its neighboring countries.
2nd Day: announce plans for energy independence, a 10-year "Apollo program" to shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy. One feature of the plan would be a 40 mpg target for automobiles, which Richardson said would in itself completely eliminate the need to import oil from abroad.
3rd Day: address global warming and carbon dioxide emissions, with a target of making 20% of all domestic energy originate from renewable sources.
4th day: tackle education. Better teacher pay, universal preschool, smaller class sizes, college education for all who want it.
5th day: universal health care. Not many details here, other than to find new ways to get care to people.

Richardson's main point to the crowd was "Let's make this election on who's the most qualified" to be president. He touted his foreign policy experience, his ability to bring the country together (as evidenced by his landslide electoral record in traditionally Republican-leaning New Mexico), and what he characterized as not just competence and plans, but leadership for the future. He concluded by pledging, "I'm gonna outwork everybody [to win]. Keep your powder dry." Richardson then left for the Iowa Cubs - Albuquerque Isotopes AAA baseball game at Principal Park; unfortunately for the Governor, his homeboys went down 6-5 on a grand slam by the Cubs' Scott Moore. Holy Cow!

If résumés were everything in presidential politics, Bill Richardson would have it made. But we all know there's more to it than that, and I think Richardson himself understands he's got a tall hill to climb to break out of the pack. We'll see how he does over time.


Polk County Democrats Spring Dinner Wrap Up

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 638

As promised, I was at the Polk County Democrats Spring Dinner Friday night. In a lot of ways, this was the quintessential Iowa caucus campaign event: held at the state fair grounds, in that building past the 4H Hall and right next to the horse corral; where you park your car in the dirt parking lot and trade waves with the guy in the truck who just pullled out to make room for you; where you sit down with about a thousand other people at long tables to eat 2 inch-thick pork chops, boiled vegatables and defrosted Sarah Lee desserts; where the candidates walk in, stroll among the tables like troubadors, and shoot off a couple of jokes with each other while standing off to the side of the stage awaiting their turn at the rostrum. Nothing else quite like it anywhere.

The event actually starts even before you walk into the hall. Lining the sidewalk leading up to the door is a gauntlet of volunteers for the various candidates, all waving signs and chanting slogans in turn for their chosen one, all in the best of humors, and all, seemingly, having the time of their lives.

Once inside, it's grab a paper plate, pile on the food and find a seat as close to the stage as possible (not easy, as the all the closest tables had been reserved by a single person or group for their own people), and start working the room, finishing dinner in between hand shakes and back slaps. I got a chance to talk with Leonard Boswell, member of Congress for my district, about whether he has taken a position on the Common Sense Budget Act of 2007 (H.R. 1702) , which would take some $60 billion allocated to obsolete cold war-era weapons systems and readirect that amount toward education, children's healthcare, etc.; Boswell expressed qualified support, but said he wanted to see some changes, like taking some of the money to replace equipment lost in Iraq.

I also got a chance to chat with Bill Richardson about his recent successful trip to North Korea, which he summarized by saying, "Yeah, that was a good trip. We got things done."

There was also a brief handshake with Joe Biden, but he was so intent on covering the entire crowd that I didn't get a chance to chat with him. Maybe next time.

Then came speech time. Congressman Boswell ascended the rostrum to address the gathering on how exciting the first three months of being in the majority have been, noting, among other things that, "we found out that on our voting consols there were some green buttons [for voting 'Yea']." Chris Dodd, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were represented by surrogates, none of whom, I have to say, did their principals much credit; surrogates can only say, "Here's why I support my candidate," whereas the candidates can speak firsthand about why they should be president and what it is they would do in office. There's really no comparison, and candidates who pass up these types of events (especially Clinton and Obama, who were coming to the state the next day, anyway) really do themselves a disservice.

The candidate speeches were supposed to be limited to 10 minutes, but averaged closer to 17 minutes. In order to keep from turning this post into a Tolstoy-scale epic, I'll present each speech in separate posts:
Bill Richardson
John Edwards
Joe Biden

Finally, here are links to some of the mainstream media's coverage of the event:
Des Moines Register


Friday, April 20, 2007

Cattle Call at the Pork Dinner

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 640

I'm gearing up to eat massive amounts of Iowa pork and watch a parade of candidates speak at the annual Polk County Democrats Spring Dinner tonight.

    Confirmed candidates:
  • John Edwards: it will be interesting to see the contrast between his performance delivering a rostrum speech versus the town hall event I attended a couple of weeks ago.
  • Bill Richardson: haven't met him yet, so I'm looking forward to checking off this last box on the candidate roll call.
  • Joe Biden: hasn't gotten much traction since I attended his foreign policy town hall last month. His Iraq plan is the best one out there, but he's stuck in neutral. We'll see if he can shake things up tonight.

    The surrogates:
  • Dodd campaign: former Congressman Rick Nolen (Minnesota 6th Congressional District). Disappointed that Dodd won't be there himself, as he's on a policy speech jag at the moment (last week foreign policy, this week energy), and it would have been interesting to hear him in person about whatever's next on the agenda. But, having met him just last week, I can let this one slide, I suppose (me: spoiled. rotten.).
  • Clinton campaign: Christie Vilsack. Hillary will be doing a GOTCB (Get Out The Checkbook) event for Congressman Leonard Boswell (IA-03) tomorrow, so has appearantly decided to pick her spots and give tonight's event a miss. As an aside, I got a robocall from Hillary last night asking if I would be attending the Boswell fundraiser ("press 1 for yes, press 2 if you'll be unable to attend."). Upon pressing 2 to decline, the next question was, "Will you be caucusing for me next January? Press 1 for yes, press 2 if you'd like more information." That one cracked me up; "No" wasn't even an option. (NOTE: I'm not saying I would've selected "no" if it had been available. It's still only April, and I'm still undecided. Funny, though!)
  • Obama Campaign: five-term Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, from the 9th CD in Barack's home state of Illinois (pronunced "Ella-NOIZ" some places hereabouts). Schakowsky is on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and says her top priority is healthcare, so I'll say it's a safe bet she won't be gunning for Dodd or Biden tonight. And am I reading too much into the Obama campaign sending a woman to match up against Christie Vilsack's speaking for Hillary? Maybe. Maybe not.

    1. Anyhow, should be a hot time at the fairgrounds tonight. I'll post a full account over the weekend.


    Wednesday, April 18, 2007

    Before Leaping to the Easy Answer...

    Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 643

    In the face of this week's tragedy at Virginia Tech, the first question most people are asking is "why?" Don't be fooled into choosing the easy answer.

    Read this post from my friend j.u.l.i.a.i.p.s.a. If it turns out to be about you, please rethink your answer.


    Tuesday, April 17, 2007


    Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 644

    Here's a news flash: according poll results published in today's Washington Post, Americans trust Democrats more than Republicans to deal with the ongoing debacle that is Iraq.

    "A Washington Post-ABC News poll of 1,141 adults, conducted April 12-15, found that 58 percent trusted the Democrats in Congress to do a better job handling the situation in Iraq, compared with 33 percent who trusted Bush.

    Bush continued yesterday to say that victory in Iraq is pivotal to the larger fight against terrorism, but Americans are increasingly agreeing with the Democratic view that the issues are separate. About 57 percent now say the United States can succeed in the terrorism fight without winning the Iraq war, an increase of 10 percentage points since January, when Americans were almost evenly divided on the question."

    Geez, why would that be?


    Sunday, April 15, 2007

    Not All Bad...

    Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 645

    Just because he isn't presidential timber, it doesn't mean he doesn't have his good points. Props to Dennis and Elizabeth Kucinich for this:

    Taking a moment of silence now in memory of the victims of the Holocaust wouldn't be a bad idea, either. Shalom.


    Friday, April 13, 2007

    The Obama-Clinton Iowa Tractor Pull

    Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 647

    From the inbox today, a pretty amusing episode of dueling emails between the Obama and Clinton campaigns on who owns Iowa at this point in the cycle.

    First up was the Obama campaign's email on what they've been up to in Iowa, complete with stats:

    "Obama in Iowa - By the Numbers

    Since announcing his candidacy two months ago, Senator Obama has visited Iowa on five different occasions, making stops in 20 different counties, including many smaller communities like Ida Grove and Colo.

    Demonstrating his commitment to the hallowed Iowa tradition of retail politics, Senator Obama has hosted 25 smaller gatherings where he was able to hear directly from Iowans about the issues affecting their lives. From riding on buses with teachers to hearing from veterans in Marshalltown and Mason City, Senator Obama has shown a willingness to listen.

    Including the 17 other events Senator Obama has hosted in Iowa, he has now answered more than 200 questions from average Americans who attended an Obama campaign event in Iowa.

    The combined attendance at campaign events hosted by Senator Obama, according to media reports and our in-house counts, is more than 30,900. And we keep hearing from people that the crowds he’s attracting are young, diverse, and bipartisan. In fact, of those who signed in at events, an astonishing 23 percent are registered Independents and 10 percent are registered Republicans.

    During his Iowa visits, Senator Obama has worked hard to give access to Iowa journalists covering our campaign by granting 39 interviews or media availabilities with Iowa-based reporters.

    Finally, to capitalize on the enormous interest in our campaign, we have already opened 12 campaign offices across Iowa.

    With 276 days until the Iowa Caucuses, we know we have much more work to do, but these early measurements show our commitment to running an inclusive campaign that shows proper respect to Iowans and the caucus process. In addition, these numbers are an indication of the enormous interest in Senator Obama and his vision for the future of our country. It’s our job to build an organization that will turn that interest and energy into votes on caucus night.

    Most importantly, this milestone gives us yet another chance to say thanks to the thousands of Iowans who have volunteered, attended an event, or voiced an opinion.

    In the weeks and months ahead, we’ll send regular email updates to keep you apprised of our progress here in Iowa. Senator Obama takes very seriously the important role that Iowans will play in choosing the next president of the United States, and we’re working hard to build the kind of foundation we need to earn your support."

    Not to be outdone, the Clinton campaign responded - and I think that's the very word: responded - with their own Hawkeye State Travelogue about 2 hours later:
    "A giant sign hung on a fertilizer spreader on the side of a long gravel road. A field of cars lined up across the horizon. From the very beginning of Hillary's Four Corners of Iowa tour, it was clear that Iowans want a strong, smart, and experienced leader.

    It was a picture-perfect day in Fort Madison where Hillary's tour began in the southeastern part of the state last week. State Senator Eugene Fraise, his wife Faye, and their family opened up their farm -- and kitchen -- to Hillary and hundreds of guests.

    You could see the enthusiasm in their faces. It could not have been more clear -- Iowans are ready to support a candidate with the experience take command now and the vision to change the direction of our country.

    From Fort Madison to Waterloo, audiences were deeply impressed and motivated to help Hillary win next January. In Burlington, hundreds of Iowans joined Hillary for a conversation on the challenges America faces today.

    The next morning, Governor Tom Vilsack and his wife Christie hosted Hillary and area supporters at their home in Mount Pleasant for coffee and cinnamon rolls.

    Hillary then toured the Riksch Biofuels Plant in Crawfordsville, discussing her plan to bring new jobs to rural America. She rounded out her trip by joining hundreds of supporters in Iowa City and Waterloo.

    Iowans from all over the state have had a chance to discuss with Hillary the solutions to the challenges America faces today. In many cases it has been you who have already taken action to help solve these problems.

    We saw it at the biofuels plant Hillary toured last week. Neil and Darin Rich and Don Miksch are the three founders of Riksch Biofuels, a company that not only reduces our dependence on foreign oil and protects the environment, but creates well paying jobs in rural Iowa.

    Neil and Darin started the company in 2004 in an effort to help subsidize their fuel usage on their family farm. The two then worked with Don to create a full-fledged business plan that has truly become a family effort -- relatives old and young stopped by the plant the day of Hillary's visit. At 27, 25, and 21, they are three of the youngest biodiesel executives in the country.

    The Rich and Miksch families share the same drive, determination, and innovation that many that Iowans have -- it is why today Iowa is a leader in renewable energy.

    As President, Hillary will restore America's reputation and leadership in innovation around the world. Hillary is a battle-tested candidate with the strongest track record and the most experience.

    Over the coming weeks, Hillary will continue her Four Corners of Iowa tour, talking and listening to Iowans about her vision for the country. We will let you know when Hillary comes to your area.

    We'll see you on the campaign trail."

    I can hardly wait for the next round of emails, featuring photos of the candidates hugging tornados and kissing cornstalks!


    Thursday, April 12, 2007


    Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 648

    I just got back from lunch with Dennis Kucinich. That is to say, Dennis Kucinch, his wife Elizabeth, Iowa staffer Marcos Rubenstein and campaign spokesperson Sharon Jimenez joined me and four other people for Vietnamese food (Dennis had the veggie egg rolls) at the A Dong restaurant in Des Moines today. And lunch means, y'know, lunch, just us and the wait staff.

    Frequent visitors to this blog - both of you - will recall that I covered a little campaign faux pas from the Kucinich camp a couple of weeks ago called "Eyes and Ears" (see posts here, here and here). Congressman Kucinich issued a statement renouncing his campaign's Eyes and Ears project, but to date had not indicated what action he took beyond sending out an email mea culpa. Until now. Keep reading.

    After shaking hands and sitting down, Kucinich looked around at the five of us...and waited. We waited back. I think most of us were expecting a few brief remarks about the campaign, the issues, why it is Kucinich thinks he should be President of the United States, something. Nope. Didn't happen. Nada. So, people began to talk tentatively between themselves. Dennis sized up the menu. His spokesperson took some phone calls.

    Finally, the congressman asked us what we wanted to talk about. Didn't need to ask me twice.

    "Congressman," I began, "I'd like to ask you about a campaign matter. On March 28, your campaign sent out an email soliciting volunteers for something called the 'Eyes and Ears Proje - "
    "And I sent out an email the next day cancelling it," Kucinich interrupted.
    "Yes," I replied, "and I commend you for it. But beyond issuing an email statement, did you take any action within your campaign with regard to those who conceived of and approved this project?"
    "That," the congressman shot back, "is an internal campaign matter. I dealt with it. That's it."
    Kucinich's spokesperson attempted to intervene at this point. "I'd like to address this question, if I may."
    "No," I replied, "I would like to hear what the congressman himself has to say about this."
    Now a little agitated, Kucinich asked, "What are you really asking?"
    "I'm asking if you took any action beyond issuing an email statement. Did you take any action against those who came up with and approved this idea?"
    "I'll tell you exactly the action I took. I talked to the entire campaign staff, first at the higher level, then lower down, that they weren't going be sending any more campaign emails without clearing them. So, yeah, they have less freedom than they did before."
    "So you didn't dismiss or reassign anyone in connection with this?"
    At this point, one of my tablemates abruptly interjected that the congressman hadn't yet finished his lunch, and I should leave him alone and let him eat. Nice try.
    "Did you know about the email before it went out?"
    "So," I said, trying to wrap this up, "you're saying that..."
    "I already gave you my answer," a clearly fed-up Kucinch replied. "What I want to know is what's in your mind about this? Why are you pressing about it?"
    "Because," I said, "your email statement on March 29 renouncing the Eyes and Ears project characterized it as a teachable moment for your campaign. I think it was also an accountability moment. Accountability in politics is a big thing to a lot of people. You maintain that yours is a different kind of campaign. So was anyone held accountable for this?"
    "What would you have done?" Kucinch asked me.
    "I would have fired them."
    "You would have fired them. Have you ever fired anybody?"
    "Yes, I have."
    "Have you ever been fired?" Kucinich asked me.
    "Yes," I replied, "I have. Is that relevant?"
    "Sure!" Kucinich said.
    "Tell me how?"
    "Because I chose to deal with this from a position of forgiveness. Firing people for making a mistake comes from a position of power, and that's not how I do things. I dealt with this from a position of love."

    So, there's your answer. True, there is nothing at all unusual about the lack of accountability in American politics; there are plenty of Mike Browns and Paul Bremers who collect rewards for doing "a heck of a job," no matter how great their ineptitude or its consequences. But it is, to say the least, a mixed message from a candidate who boasts of running his campaign on a higher level than his opponents.

    Leading the world's only superpower isn't a game. As tempting as it sometimes is to think so, it is not American Idol gone political. It is serious, demanding, unforgiving work, where the actions of the president and those who work for him directly impact the lives of millions, at home and around the world. Presidential campaigns are about, in part, a candidate putting him or herself on full view before the American public in order to let them decide who is most fit to lead them. Running for president is a brutal and unrelenting marathon. But as hard as running for president is, it is nothing compared to how hard being president is. Being president demands absolute integrity and absolute accountability to the people you lead. No exceptions. No exemptions. No excuses.

    I saw nothing in my meeting with Dennis Kucinich today to indicate that he in any way understands this. He is utterly unfit for the office of President of the United States.


    Dodd on Foreign Policy

    Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 648

    I attended Chris Dodd's foreign policy speech at the Des Moines Club last night. As with last month's foreign policy town hall with Joe Biden, this was sponsored by the US Center for Citizen Diplomacy, and was once again an excellent event. Small but engaged crowd, wine and cheese, views from the 34th floor, a speaker who is running for President - what's not to like? So any poligeeks out there looking for the ideal first date with that cute analyst from legislative affairs you've had your eye on, these events are your dream come true. But you knew that.

    I must say that this event had quite a bit more amperage than the one with Biden last month - probably 10 news outlets were there last night, in addition to Congressman Leonard Boswell (D - IA03), State Senator Matt McCoy (D - 31st District) and Robert Pratt (U.S. District Judge, Southern District of Iowa). And - wonder of wonders - it started pretty much on time.

    Dodd took to the podium and spoke a bit about what he characterized as Iowa's long-standing tradition of involvement in foreign affairs, citing, among other things, Henry Wallace's car trip to Mexico as FDR's emissary just before Wallace was sworn in as Vice-President (which story Dodd attributed to "American Dreamer: The Life and Times of Henry A. Wallace," by John C. Culver and John Hyde), as well as the 2,000 retired Peace Corps volunteers now living in Iowa. Dodd himself served in the Peace Corp for two years in the 1960's, working in the Dominican Republic, because, he said, "an American President asked me to," and cited this as an example of the willingness of the American people to respond to leadership that encourages, rather than dismisses,engagement with the rest of the world.

    Speaking of the Peace Corps and other civilian programs to engage Americans with the rest of the world, Dodd delivered some of his best lines of the night, saying that he believed that "You can't hate America if you know America," and "American power comes not from the example of our force, but from the force of our example." Home runs, both.

    Addressing the Big Question for all presidential candidates, Dodd said he is running because he wants an America that is more secure and more prosperous than it is today. He said that 2008 is an historically important election, one in which the country is less secure and less prosperous than it should be, and confronted with challenges on Iran, Iraq, the global AIDS crises that, he said "is devastating entire continents," economic disparity and ecological dangers.

    Turning to Iraq, Dodd launched into a criticism of John McCain and his support of military escalation. Dodd noted that the Baghdad market McCain toured on his recent visit to Iraq (a tour, Dodd noted, made possible only by a contingent of 100 Army soldiers, 2 Blackhawk helicopters and 3 Apache gunships) was on the very next day the scene of a sectarian kidnap/ambush that resulted in the deaths of 21 Shia civilians. Dodd said that this incident illustrated that there is no military solution to the violence in Iraq and that it also "makes clear the point many of us have made for some time. We don't need a surge of troops in Iraq - we need a surge of diplomacy." Dodd followed this up with by calling on all the candidates in the race to support the Feingold-Reid bill, which sets a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. combat forces from Iraq by March 31 of next year.

    Then, in a clear shot at Barack Obama, Dodd said, "Let me be clear - hope alone will not wipe away the damage to America's moral authority these last six years. Hope alone will not restore America's leadership. Like never before, we need a president who is ready to lead from day one. There will not be a single day, a single moment for on the job training - not one."

    As an aside: like John Edwards last week, this broadside from Dodd is another clue that the Democratic field, from top to bottom, perceives Obama as vulnerable on experience and specifics, and is going after him on those points. From what I've seen so far, Obama has been slow to respond to this trend, and this could hurt him unless he addresses it soon.

    Dodd went on to say that he would immediately redeploy American forces out of urban areas in Iraq, shifting them to the boarders, or to bases in Kuwait or Qatar, and to assignments in an increasingly unstable Afghanistan. The new mission in Iraq would be to train Iraqi forces, go after terrorist bases, and police Iraqi boarders to intercept arms and insurgents.

    Dodd then added that America has challenges not only with its enemies, but also with some of its friends, notably Saudi Arabia and Russia, who, according to Dodd, "continue to suppress freedom and democracy and permit conditions that allow our enemies to thrive." He criticised Saudi Arabia for simply shipping dissenters to other countries, thereby passively exporting terror to the rest of the world, rather than confronting it at its source within the Kingdom itself. Speaking of Russia, Dodd said, "What America needs is a president who will look into Vladimir Putin's eyes not to get a sense of his soul, but to tell him America wants to work together with Russia, not against her, but cannot in the face of his blatant disregard for a free press and suppression of political dissent."

    Dodd connected problematic allies with dependence on foreign oil, saying "it is time we help countries end their alliances of necessity with dictators simply because they are desperate for oil and aid." Dodd added that he would undertake technology initiatives to create renewable energy, and would then share that technology with our friends. This, Dodd, concluded, would make "the oil bribes offered by Iran's Ahmadinejad and Venezuela's Chavez irrelevant," and would "open new doors in [America's] relationship with nations from Latin America to Africa to Asia."

    I talked with Senator Dodd for a few minutes following the post-speech press availability. During the conversation, I noted that pretty much all the candidates agree that there's no military solution Iraq, and everyone agrees that the entire war has been spectacularly mismanaged; addressing all of these things will be high on the next president's agenda. But beyond agreement on what's gone wrong in the past, I said, there's the reality that Iraq is not the last military action America will be required to suit up for. I asked the Senator what would be the "Dodd Doctrine" on when and how to deploy American military force if he were to become president. Dodd responded that he would seek much closer engagement with our allies and would not entire a sustained military engagement without a congressional resolution of support. I asked if that meant a declaration of war; Dodd, said no, not a declaration of war, but a congressional resolution of support. A disappointingly generic answer, I thought.

    In his speech and the ensuing audience Q&A, Chris Dodd said some important things last night. But equally important, I think, are the things he did not say: nothing about increasing foreign aid, only passing mention of increasing America's role in addressing global climate change, nothing about North Korea, and little about the rise of China as a military and economic power in the 21st Century.

    Notwithstanding, my overall impression on the night was positive. Chris Dodd looked presidential, spoke with passion and conviction about American leadership, and demonstrated a deep understanding of the complexities and interconnectedness of the challenges awaiting the next president. No sales closed last night, but I think his stock went up a few points.

    Here are links to some of the mainstream media coverage of last night's speech:
    Des Moines Register
    New York Newsday
    Hartford Courant

    NOTE: According to an announcement following Dodd's address, Iowa Public Radio taped last night's speech, and will broadcast it Sunday, April 22 at 8:00 P.M.


    Wednesday, April 11, 2007

    On My Way to See Chris Dodd

    Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 649

    Just on my way upstairs to hear Chris Dodd give what his campaign is billing as "a major foreign policy address" to the U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy. The topic is either "Beyond Iraq and Into An Era of Bold Engagement" (according to the Dodd website), or “The Future Role of the U.S. in World Affairs” (according to the U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy website).

    Full account to follow, either way.


    Hillary Takes a Swing at Imus

    Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 649

    From the in box:

    "This year the Rutgers women's basketball team defied the odds and lived up to their dreams, providing inspiration to every little boy and girl beginning to pick up a ball or open a book. These remarkable young women reached the pinnacle of success and won the hearts of basketball fans everywhere with their grace, skill, and poise. They are role models deserving our praise -- and our support.

    Don Imus's comments about them were nothing more than small-minded bigotry and coarse sexism. They showed a disregard for basic decency and were disrespectful and degrading to African Americans and women everywhere.

    Please join me in sending the young women of Rutgers a message of respect and support. Show them that we are proud to stand with them and for them.

    Hillary Rodham Clinton"

    I think Don Imus deserves every bit of thrashing he gets in response to his remarks. But beyond that, this is clearly a move by the Clinton campaign to beat Barack Obama to the punch in responding to a slur against a) African Americans and b) women. Throw in c) sports, and you've got everybody on board.


    Tuesday, April 10, 2007

    Kucinich Coming to Des Moines

    Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 650

    Dennis Kucinich has booked a trip to Des Moines for this Thursday, April 12. His plans include a noontime visit to a well-known eatery downtown.

    In the interest of covering the field, I'll be there. You owe me.


    Monday, April 9, 2007

    Survey Says...

    Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 652

    From the inbox today, a note from my friends at Gallup:

    "Thank you for recently taking part in a Gallup Panel survey. The information you provided will be used to improve commerce and government in this country.

    Because you were willing to share your thoughts and opinions with us, we thought you might enjoy reading about some recent findings from Gallup Panel surveys.

    --As candidates for the 2008 presidential election continue to emerge, Gallup asked panelists an open-ended question about what quality they deem most important in the next president. One-third of panelists say that honesty or the ability to be straightforward is the most important quality for the next president to possess (emphasis added). This response far outpaced the percentages for any other responses given."

    As Letterman would say, I don't really have a joke here. I'm just putting this out there for those not currently in the position to directly shape public opinion. ;->


    Sunday, April 8, 2007

    Why They Come to Iowa

    Days Unit Bush Leaves Office = 653

    Iowa is tiny, in terms of both geography and population, it is less diverse than the country as a whole, it is far less urban than the country as a whole, and generally is so dull and unimportant that one of the top priorities of the governor and legislature this term is to figure out how to keep native Iowan sons and daughters from fleeing the state before the ink is even dry on their diplomas.

    Which leads to the entirely fair and reasonable question asked around the country about why it is that such a tiny place, along with equally small and nationally non-representative New Hampshire, should hold such outsized clout in the presidential nominating process. Why would candidates and the national press even brother with places like these when culturally, financially, demographically and in almost every other respect, the coasts dominate the terms of discussion in this country?

    From today's New York Times, recounting an encounter at an Obama event earlier this week at the V.F.W. Hall in Dakota City, here's your answer:

    "Mr. Obama was approached by a woman, her eyes wet. She spoke into his ear and began to weep, collapsing into his embrace. They stood like that for a full minute, Mr. Obama looking ashen, before she pulled away. She began crying again, Mr. Obama pulled her in for another embrace.

    The woman left declining to give her name or recount their conversation. Mr. Obama said she told him what had happened to her 20-year-old son, who was serving in Iraq.

    “Her son died,” he said. He paused. “What can you say? This happens to me every single place I go.”

    The next day, at the rally here, Mr. Obama described the encounter for the crowd. The woman, he said, had asked if her son’s death was the result of a mistake by the government. “And I told her the service of our young men and women — the duty they show this country — that’s never a mistake,” he said.

    He paused carefully as he reflected on that encounter. “It reminds you why you get into politics,” he said. “It reminds you that this isn’t a game.”"

    That's why.


    Friday, April 6, 2007

    Biden's Iraq Policy SmackDown Site

    Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 655

    From the inbox this week, an email from the Biden campaign that reads in part:

    "As many of you know, this week we also launched our new web domain, Using publicly available video from You Tube, we created a web site to compare the candidate's views on Iraq.

    Of course, one video cannot capture the depth of the experience or knowledge any candidate brings to the table. But, it is our hope that Head to Head '08 will help begin a dialogue on the issues among the candidates, particularly the most important issue of our time, ending the war in Iraq. "
    This is a clever and gutsy move by Biden's campaign: to go beyond putting out their own plan to launching a site that directly constrasts his proposals with that of the other candidates. Of course, the video on the site, while sourced from YouTube, is nonetheless handpicked by Biden's campaign, so this isn't anything like an unbiased exercise in policy comparison. The intent, clearly, is to show Biden and his proposals in the best possible light while showing the other candidates in the worst. Still, the video is genuine and the statements by the candidates are their actual words, so the potential for outright misrepresentation is limited.

    But this is a good example of how campaigns (vis-a-vis all of those sneaky bloggers out there) are beginning to get a handle on using the internet not just to drive the money race, but to change the terms and format of the policy debate this cycle. Look for the other campaigns to serve up their variations on this move. And if you know of similar sites run by other campaigns, post a comment with the URLs so we can all have a look.


    Thursday, April 5, 2007

    John Edwards' Des Moines Town Hall

    Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 656

    When a top-tier presidential candidate holds an event in the gym at the high school four blocks from your house, you are all but required to attend: I'm pretty sure that's Iowa state law. So it was that I stopped by John Edwards' town hall last night in Des Moines.

    This was the Iowa campaign event from central casting: high school gym, about 1,000 people in attendance after work on a week night, "vote for me" signs hanging amidst the giant American flag and the "State Champions" banners from yesteryear, even an announcement over the school public address system summoning someone to the vice principal's office (during the warm-up speaker's introductory remarks, no less!).

    Following the introductions, the Edwards family arrived: John and Elizabeth, with their two youngest children, Jack, age 6, and Emma Claire, age 8. They received a truly affectionate welcome from the crowd, far different from the frenzy I've seen greet Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton; the crowd seemed to genuinely like the Edwards', and, after the recent announcements about Elizabeth Edwards' health, exuded something like tenderness toward them. It was touching and moving to witness.

    After quieting the applause, John stood with the children while Elizabeth introduced him. She spoke passionately about why she felt John Edwards should be president, and kicked things off to a great start. No candidate could have asked for a more effective introduction.

    John Edwards then spoke for about 30 minutes, covering his signature themes: the "two Americas," health care, opposition to the war, energy, poverty, education, the economy, the environment. He sang his usual aria of praise for labor unions. And repeatedly throughout this remarks, John Edwards uttered the word "plans" like a mantra, emphasizing that he has plans, discussing the details of his plans, extolling the virtues of his plans. The target of all this was clearly Barack Obama, with the imputation that, political celebrity though he is, Obama is still something of a policy lightweight. I take this to be a hint at Edwards' campaign strategy, which is that he dearly wants to run against Hillary Clinton for the nomination, and not Obama. We'll see how that one plays out over time.

    After the prepared remarks, Edwards fielded ten or so questions from the crowd, on topics ranging from health care to stem cell research to supreme court nominations. Here, as in his prepared remarks, Edwards was nearly flawless: smooth, poised, personable.

    Ordinarily, I would not characterize John Edwards as rhetorically gifted - I have not once listened to a formal speech of his and come away impressed. But in town hall settings is where John Edwards finds his gift for communication. He does extremely well in this type of event, and the number of town halls he has held in Iowa over the past few months goes a long way in explaining his presence at the front of the field here.

    My expectations for this event were, admittedly, pretty low: going back to the 2004 campaign, I've never been a particular fan of John Edwards. So it's not all that surprizing that he exceeded my expectations in this event. His remarks and answers were detailed, he seemed to know his stuff, he related easily and comfortably with the crowd. What he lacked, however, was passion. Not that John Edwards seemed flat or apathetic at any time; to the contrary, he seemed enthusiastic throughout the event. But his enthusiasm, it appeared to me, derived from the opportunity to meet with and address a crowd of supporters and potential supporters; it was the enthusiasm of a skilled and avid campaigner for office. What John Edwards did not show was passion for the ideas, values and policies he espoused to the crowd; passion you couldn't hide, even if you wanted to; passion on the order of "As President, I will go door to door if I have to, but I will get [policy, proposal, law, whatever] done. And I will do that, even if it means I won't be popular. I will do it even if it means I don't get reelected." Not just enthusiasm for a package of neat ideas, but passion. I've seen it in every other candidate I've met this cycle: Biden, Clinton, Obama. Heck, at this event I even saw it in Elizabeth Edwards. But not John Edwards. Why is that?

    Granted, the whole "fire in the belly" thing is a tired cliche and endlessly overblown, but why does John Edwards seem to lack heart and soul passion about the themes of his campaign, where other candidates not only have it, but have it so strongly they are able to impart it to a stadium full of people? It isn't for want of charisma, or campaign experience, that's certain. So why is it? The answer to that question over the next time or two I see John Edwards is going to be a big factor in whether I end up giving him serious consideration for my support. But, I suppose, even with that question hanging out there, the bottom line is this: John Edwards did well enough to merit a second look to try to answer the question. In politics, maybe that's half the battle.


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