The Beltway Bandit

An online journal of politics, culture, and sports

Friday, January 23, 2004

NATIONAL POLL HAS KERRY ON TOP -- A new Rasmussen poll of national Democrats has Senator John Kerry in first place with 29% support and Senator John Edwards in second with 17% support. Dr Howard Dean, recently the leader in these polls, has now fallen to third place, with 14% of the vote. Wesley Clark is in fourth place with 11 percent.

A new Zogby poll shows a much tighter race, with Kerry ahead of Dean by only three points, 31% to 28 percent. To my knowledge, Zogby is the only pollster showing such a close race.

TERESA HEINZ KERRY -- One thing I've noticed from the schedule of events in New Hampshire is that Senator Kerry is make good and liberal use of his wife on the campaign trail. Teresa Heinz Kerry will make three schedule campaign stops today and three more tomorrow. And those are just the scheduled stops. No other candidate is utilizing his wife in this manner. It's quite remarkable and if it pays off, look forward to seeing a lot more of Mrs Kerry in the future.

ANOTHER ENDORSEMENT ROLLS IN -- This time courtesy of the Nashua Telegraph of New Hampshire.
His experience in the U.S. Navy during Vietnam, his articulate opposition to that conflict upon his return to civilian life, but perhaps even more importantly, his tenacity and intelligence in looking into multi-faceted and difficult matters, all qualify him to be the Democratic candidate for president.

His investigations into complex affairs, such as the BCCI bank-fraud scandal and the Iran-Contra weapons deal, have put him in good stead as he researched global issues and developed solutions he would like to implement if elected president.

And he knows how to work in a bipartisan way to make things happen, increasing the chances that his ideas would be put into play.

Kerry’s experience and his temperament were important considerations in The Telegraph’s endorsement of him as the best Democratic candidate. He has strong convictions and works hard on behalf of his beliefs.

His years in the Senate and his exposure to international matters as a member of key committees in that body give him a handle on foreign affairs. As president, he wouldn’t be a novice or overly dependent on advisers about such issues as he takes the reins in the Oval Office.
Couldn't have said it beter myself.

ONE WEIRD-ASS STORY -- Read it and I think you'll agree.

STILL MORE GOOD POLL NEWS -- A new Boston Globe poll has John Kerry leading the closest candidate, Howard Dean, by fifteen percentage points. Kerry is now at 34% [+3], Dean is at 19% [-2], and Clark has fallen badly to 14% [-2%]. General Clark's steady fall from 25% last Saturday is particularly striking. He actually started to decline before Kerry won Iowa and the trend has continued. Both Dean and Clark have lost 11 points since last Saturday, while Kerry has picked up an incredible 21 points in the same time.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

NEW N.H. POLL WITH DEAN IN 3rd -- The new American Research Group poll has Howard Dean falling into third place behind Senator John Kerry and Wesley Clark. Kerry gains four points to 31%, Clark is up one point to 20% and Dean continues to fall, four points this time, to 18 percent. Senator John Edwards is up to 11%, putting some distance between himself and Senator Joe Lieberman, who is languishing in fifth place.

GRADING THE DEBATE -- Here are my grades and comments for all the participants in tonight's Democratic debate in New Hampshire.

JOHN KERRY: A -- Answered questions well and kept his cool. Mentioned people he met on the campaign trail, which is very good. Nailed Bush several times and didn't get into it with the other Dems. Frontrunners are supposed to get whacked and he didn't. He's got to be pleased.

JOHN EDWARDS: A -- Screwed up the DoMA question, but did very nicely everywhere else. Looks great on television and is obviously very comfortable in a debate format. Looks every inch a senator, though a youngish one. I think he's wafer-thin policy-wise, but he's got the look and the sound down. Very impressive.

HOWARD DEAN: B+ -- This is more like the Howard Dean I like. He looked knowledgable and measured. He gets marked down for agreeing with Hume that some people are alarmed by him. He should have turned it back on Hume and said only Republicans are alarmed by him. Might not be true, but it is the proper answer. The passion was gone tonight, but he looked like a reasonable presidential candidate. Best debate performance ever for Dean.

JOE LIEBERMAN: B+ -- Very good performance. Whether or not I agree with his positions is not relevant. Lieberman understands the issues and defends his positions doggedly and relatively eloquently. His voice is a drawback and he does not look like a president to me, but he's clearly smart and not afraid of getting into a fight with anyone.

WESLEY CLARK: C -- Looked pretty good some of the time, but got completely kneecapped on a couple of questions. Seemed to be the media's "get" of the night and they did get him once or twice. He still seems very smart and I thought he answered questions about the war and the Patriot Act very well. I like him, but he didn't have his best night. Clark learns from his mistakes so he won't get knocked around like this again. Might not matter later on, though.

DENNIS KUCINICH: D+ -- Looks freaking ridiculous on television and even most anti-war Dems find his "withdraw from Iraq immediately" impractical and untenable. Appears to be hanging on for the ride. It's time he went off and found something else to do.

AL SHARPTON: F -- Got embarrassed by the question about the Treasury. He'd probably be a good political talk show host, but he's totally out of his depth here and for any serious person his act got old a long time ago.

HOLLINGS FOR KERRY -- Senator Fritz Hollings [D-SC] has endorsed John Kerry for President of the United States.
"Obviously, the prestige of having the senior Democrat endorse your candidate helps," said state Rep. Jerry Govan, D-Orangeburg, who has supported Kerry since he started campaigning in South Carolina over a year ago.

Govan, chairman of the South Carolina Black Legislative Caucus, said the timing of Hollings' endorsement was perfect because many people are just starting to pay attention to the presidential race.
Senator Kerry is busy campaigning in New Hampshire, but he needs more money so he can continue his fight on February 3 and all dates beyond. I've made another contribution to his campaign. I urge all like-minded Democrats [and just fellow patriots] to do the same. Senator Hollings' endorsement will help John Kerry, but we saw with the Dean campaign that endorsements do not necessarily translate into votes. Dig deep, everyone. The opportunity to knock the other candidates out with a killing blow in New Hampshire and on February 3 is within our grasp. Let's not let it slip away again.

SMOKE AND FIRE -- The Washington Post has justifiably been taking a lot of flak recently from it readership about the way the paper has supported the Iraq War and, arguably, buried or killed stories unfavorable to the Bush White House. Adding numerous examples up, The Post's own Ombudsman, Michael Getler, says "there is a lot of smoke out there, and probably a fire."

Nice of Mr Getler to own up to this. The Post's editorial page under Frank Hiatt has carried as much water for the Bush regime as it felt it could, taking into account a backlash from the readership and its possible effect on the paper's bottom line. Careful readers of The Post have also noticed how stories that contradict the White House or show it in a bad light--especially, but not solely on the subject of Iraq--are not mentioned at all or are buried deep within the paper. Apparently, well-founded complaints from the readership have forced Mr Getler to notice and publicly acknowledge this fact. Let's see if it has any effect on the paper itself.

GLOBE FOR KERRY -- The Boston Globe has endorsed Senator John Kerry [D-MA] for the Democratic nomination to be President. I think the endorsement eloquent enough to include here in full.
AN ENDORSEMENT from this newspaper for John Kerry, the junior senator from Massachusetts for almost 20 years, may not seem like news. But we think our close familiarity with the candidate gives our assessment of him more credibility, not less. Kerry has inspired, impressed, and sometimes infuriated us since he first became the top assistant in the Middlesex district attorney's office in 1977. It is precisely because we know him so well that The Boston Globe can be confident in endorsing John Forbes Kerry for the Democratic presidential nomination in the New Hampshire primary on Jan. 27. Kerry's appreciation for public life was honed early. Educated at St. Paul's school and Yale, he joined the US Navy as an officer in the Vietnam War and received a Silver Star and a Bronze Star for valor under fire. He then famously became a leader of Vietnam veterans against the war. But his conscience propelled him further: In the 25 years since the war ended, Kerry has done more than most to heal its wounds. With fellow veteran Senator John McCain, a Republican, he worked to settle the question of prisoners of war and MIAs, the crucial last steps before relations could be normalized with Vietnam.

In the Senate, Kerry used his prosecutorial skills to good effect, bucking the establishment and conducting often gutsy investigations into Washington's associations with unsavory players such as Panama's strongman Manuel Noriega and the Nicaraguan contras.

Today, as his campaign has made clear, Kerry's understanding of complex issues is superior to the other Democrats in the field. His so-called "nuanced" thinking is a necessary tool in a world that is no longer black and white. For some, this habit of mind may raise questions as to Kerry's decisiveness. But it has not prevented him from making clear decisions when -- unlike some other candidates not burdened by legislative records -- he has been called upon to vote.

The Globe editorial board held lengthy interviews with eight Democratic candidates for president, and several of them impressed us. We did not enter this exercise assuming the endorsement would go to Kerry; far from it. But upon careful consideration we feel Kerry is the most presidential of the candidates. By this we mean he is the most prepared to be president: the most knowledgeable, experienced, and steadfast; the man we trust most to represent American interests across the table from a foreign leader or any powerful interest.

There are miles to go until the November election. But for now, some of the other candidates leave us doubting. Though perhaps exciting campaigners, they lack either the record, the experience, or the temperament to assure us they can be successful as president. Sometimes insurgent candidacies are just what the country needs. Too much is at stake in this election to take that kind of leap of faith.

We believe that Kerry's deliberative, pragmatic approach will help him navigate today's multifaceted issues: how to fight terrorism hard and smart, without trampling on civil liberties or crucial relations with the rest of the world. How to plot a path to energy independence without harming the environment. How to end the shame of 43 million Americans unable to afford health care without ceding medical decisions to the insurance or pharmaceutical industries.

Kerry has been buffeted by criticism over seeming inconsistencies on Iraq. But his position today is the same as the one he took early on. In a meeting with the Globe's editorial board 15 months ago, he explained his vote authorizing the use of force in Iraq, saying he felt the president deserved the backing of Congress to take with him into negotiations at the United Nations Security Council.

It isn't convenient, perhaps, but the realities of disarming Saddam Hussein and rebuilding Iraq are immensely complex. As Kerry put it more recently: " `No' is not a policy."

We think Kerry is best suited to help Iraq prepare for its future. His prescription to bring security and freedom to Iraq is undergirded with a broad, interdependent view of the world. Whether the focus is foreign relations, trade policy, or the eradication of AIDS, Kerry evinces a deeply felt desire for America "to rejoin the community of nations."

The war dominates the headlines, but Americans have a host of other concerns. On domestic issues, Kerry shines because of his years of experience making policy positions into practical achievements. All the Democratic candidates have good plans for health care, creating jobs, revamping the disappointing "No Child Left Behind" education law, bringing equity to the tax structure, and upholding opportunities for women and minorities. Kerry has a long voting record and several successes that demonstrate a sustained commitment on those issues. His health care proposal, providing incentives that would restore the tradition of health coverage for most working Americans, is ambitious but also more attainable than other plans.

Our long American presidential campaigns are designed to be crucibles, tempering and strengthening the candidates -- if they don't crack from the pressure. Kerry's campaign has not always been as inspiring as others. He can drone on about policy minutiae. But he has not cracked. He is a man of even temperament and abiding Democratic values. He knows what he thinks about the world and can place a clear alternative vision before the voters in November.

Watching Kerry closely over the years has given us an opportunity to see things that have occurred far beyond the klieg lights. He has a reputation for being aloof and ambitious, but we have seen him show up for an 85-mile charity bike ride in a cold, driving rain and finish it, long after the celebrity riders had dropped out. We have seen him take a little-known program for low-income youth that he believes in and make it his personal mission to get it funded consistently, passionately, and successfully, for no political reward.

We share John Kerry's values and vision for America as a confident, tolerant, enlightened nation. By his consistency, his resolve, and his experience, he has continued to demonstrate that he is best prepared to help the nation realize those ideals.
The conservative Boston Herald also endorsed Senator Kerry this morning. Read it in full.

DEAN BEGS FOR MERCY -- Following the wisdom that if you cannot lie your way out of trouble you better try to joke your way out of it, Dr Dean, on the stump in New Hampshire, is trying to allay people's fear about his electability and stablity by joking about them.
A humbled Howard Dean said Thursday, "I have my warts. I sometimes say things that get me in trouble," but argued that voters will see through the flaws and rally to his troubled presidential candidacy.

"In other words, I lead with my heart and not my head. That's the only chance we have against George Bush," Dean said as he sought to recover from his third-place Iowa finish and the fallout over his scream-filled speech on caucus night that raised questions about his temperament.

Dean, who once led by 25 percentage points, fell 5 to 10 percentage points behind surging John Kerry in the most recent polls for the New Hampshire primary, set for Tuesday.

Strolling the stage of a renovated opera house, Dean made light several times of his political blunder Monday, telling supporters with a raspy voice, "I still have not recovered my voice from my screeching in Iowa."

Dean's guttural yells that night punctuated his poor finish and fueled doubts about his judgment. Even his own advisers believe the performance damaged his political hopes, perhaps irreparably.

Dean sought to put the best face on the fallout, telling a crowd of several hundred that voters will see through his faults.

"Look, I'm not a perfect person. I have my warts. I sometimes say things that get me in trouble. I wear suits that are cheap. But I say what I think and I believe what I say, and I'm willing to say things that are not popular but ordinary people know are right," he said.
I don't know about this. I know what he is trying to do. Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton were both masters at setting people at ease by making clever self-deprecating jokes about their foibles and Dean is trying to do the same. I'm not so sure it will work, though. The media smells blood in the water and that clip of him melting down on national television is being played all over the place. Joking about your own detachment or womanizing is one thing, but joking about your stability is something else. If Dr Dean makes it work he deserves a hell of a round of applause, but I have my doubts about this.

And there's more:
The former Vermont governor said he's "not blow-dried ... not coached," and added, "I don't look at polls and even if I did, they didn't do me any good in Iowa."
Not blow-dried? Not coached? That looks like a direct shot at John Edwards.

MORE GOOD POLL NEWS FOR KERRY -- The new American Research Group poll has John Kerry in first place in New Hampshire, with 27% of the vote. Howard Dean is in second place with 22% and Wesley Clark is third with 19 percent. Kerry has gained eight points in five days and Dean has lost five points in the same amount of time. John Edwards is a distant fourth.

CIVIL WAR IN IRAQ? -- Is Iraq on the road to a bloody civil war that would make a mockery of the Bush administration's plans to turn the country into a stable, reliable, and servile ally in the Middle East? Well, the CIA sure seems to think so and they are now going public with it. A report on the subject will be ready shortly, but apparently this opinion is shared by many in the U.S. government outside of the CIA, including the National Security Council and the State Department.
CIA officers in Iraq are warning that the country may be on a path to civil war, current and former U.S. officials said yesterday, starkly contradicting the upbeat assessment President Bush gave in his State of the Union address.

The CIA officers' bleak assessment was delivered orally to Washington this week, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the classified information involved.

The warning echoed growing fears that Iraq's Shiite majority, which until now has accepted the U.S. occupation grudgingly, could turn to violence if its demands for direct elections are spurned.

Meanwhile, Iraq's Kurdish minority is pressing for autonomy and shares of oil revenue.

"Both the Shiites and the Kurds think that now's their time," one intelligence officer said. "They think that if they don't get what they want now, they'll probably never get it. Both of them feel they've been betrayed by the United States before."

These dire scenarios were discussed at meetings this week by Bush, his top national-security aides and the chief U.S. administrator in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, said a senior administration official who requested anonymity.

Another senior official said the concerns over a possible civil war are "broadly held within the government," including by regional experts at the State Department and National Security Council.
That's funny. I don't recall Mr Bush mentioning any of these inconvenient facts in his State of the Union address. Hmmm.

MORE GOP DIRTY TRICKS -- Republican staffers on the Senate Judiciary Committee have been stealing confidential Democratic memos and using them to form Republican strategy and publicize Democratic maneuvers in right-wing newspapers such as The Wall Street Journal. Read more, but be prepared to be depressed. The GOP dirty tricks are not surprising and are nothing new. The bad news is that Senate Democrats are just as hapless and ineffectual as you might have guessed. It's the Mayberry Machiavellis against the Keystone Kops and I think you know who is winning.

BUSH BUDGET DEFICITS THREATEN ECONOMY -- Mr Bush's gigantic budget deficits
are a threat to the U.S. economy and there is no evidence the administration has any plans to do something about it, say Wall Street analysts.
The $500 billion budget deficits created by President Bush and the Republican-led Congress will be the top economic problem facing the president should he win a second term, Wall Street analysts say.

The twin deficits -- the budget deficit and America's equally large trade gap -- already are being blamed for the precipitous fall of the dollar, which has lost between 20 percent and 40 percent of its value against other major currencies in the past two years. And the deficits are starting to put pressure on mortgages and other long-term interest rates.

Mr. Bush's State of the Union address on Tuesday night offered new spending and tax proposals, but no concrete plans to cut the deficit in half as he has promised to do, continuing the pattern that in recent years has led to exploding deficits.

"The spending spree in Washington continues," said Sung Won Sohn, chief economist with Wells Fargo & Co., the largest mortgage lender in the United States. "For now, there is no will in Washington to rein in the deficits."

The current account deficit has jumped in tandem with the budget deficit and reflects "America's insatiable appetite, including the federal government, for spending," Mr. Sohn said.

"We are borrowing $1.5 billion from foreigners every single day" to finance the deficits, he said, and that could grow to as much as $2.5 billion in 2005.

"The worry is that a growing portion of the money is coming from unstable sources, including the People's Bank of China, the second-largest holder of Treasury securities outside the U.S.," he said. "Unless Washington changes its course, more economic pain will undoubtedly ensue."
Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan has cautioned Congress about the economic consequences of deficit spending.

Mr. Sohn said interest rates on mortgages and other bonds could rise sharply once the realities are understood fully.
For all our sakes, we need a Democrat in the White House quickly. And a Democratic Congress, too, if possible. This big government conservatism is a nightmare. Spending goes up and up while revenues do not because of the gigantic tax cuts given to the wealthy special interests who have bankrolled Mr Bush's political career.

DEAN FAVORS MORE CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM -- Although he has rejected spending limits during the primary season, Dr Howard Dean favors campaign contribution limits and using more public money to fund election campaigns. I think he's exactly correct and his rejection of spending limits for his own campaign does not bother me. He's taking every legal advantage he can and will not disarm himself before battle with his opponents. His policy position is sound and so is his reasoning. Politicians are beholden to wealthy special interests who purchase access to elected officials, usually at the expense of the average American.

We need more of this, not just from Dr Dean, but all the Democrats.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

FEAR AND LOATHING -- General Wesley Clark is a brave man who has faced danger unflinchingly on more than one occasion in the past. So what could possiby scare him on the campaign trail? Well, according to Washington Whispers, it's Senator John Edwards who has General Clark on edge.
"The surprising results of the Iowa caucuses coupled with Dick Gephardt's withdrawal from the Democratic presidential race has sent Wes Clark's campaign into a frenzy to become a player in the February 3 Missouri and Oklahoma primaries where Geppy was expected to be a major factor. Campaign insiders say that Clark, who didn't run in Iowa so he could focus on next week's New Hampshire primary, worries that the Iowa runner-up, John Edwards, is picking up enough steam to replace Gephardt as the force in the Missouri and even Oklahoma races."
Interesting theory, though Edwards will need to get moving in New Hampshire if that is going to happen. Right now I see very little movement toward Edwards in New Hampshire and I'm not sure how many supporters Gephardt had anywhere outside of Missouri. In other words, there just might not be enough ex-Gephardt supporters to be of much help to John Edwards.

STATE OF THE UNION...ONION-STYLE -- Pretty much on target.

NEW POLL HAS KERRY WITH 10-POINT LEAD -- A new Boston Herald poll has Senator John Kerry--the Bandit's fave for the prez race--with a 10-point lead in New Hampshire, less than a week before the nation's first primary.
The Massachusetts senator leads Dean 31 percent to 21 percent, with a slipping Wesley K. Clark at 16 percent after skipping the Iowa caucuses.

Sen. John Edwards is in fourth place with 11 percent, followed by Sen. Joseph Lieberman with 4 percent. Rev. Al Sharpton and Rep. Dennis Kucinich continue to barely register.

Herald pollster R. Kelly Myers called it a ``dramatic turn-around for John Kerry.''

``His once fledgling campaign has found new legs and he now finds himself the clear front-runner in this race,'' Myers said.
It shows a startling turn-around from the Herald's pre-Iowa poll of New Hampshire voters published last week.

In that poll, Dean led with 29 percent and Clark surging into second place with 20 percent. Kerry was lagging in third five points behind Clark.

For Kerry, it marks a sea-change in fortune in his neighboring state - which has suddenly gone from potential embarrassed to the spot where he could begin to steamroll candidates out of the race.

Kerry's charge is bolstered by soaring popularity, with 77 percent of voters viewing him favorably and just 18 percent seeing him unfavorably. That rating jumped significantly from the 54 percent favorable and 27 percent unfavorable ratings Kerry had in the Herald's pre-Iowa poll.

Voters think Kerry has the best shot at beating President Bush, has the best foreign policy resume and will best handle domestic issues like health care and education, the poll found.

At the same time, the poll shows New Hamphire's love affair with Dean slipping after his 20-point Iowa loss to Kerry.

Dean's favorable rating dropped from 66 percent in the pre-Iowa poll to 56 percent today while his unfavorable rating climbed from 21 percent to 34 percent.
Most satisfactory. It wasn't easy being a John Kerry supporter for a couple of months there, but things seem to have changed. I'm not sure anyone knows what catapulted John Kerry to first place in the Iowa caucuses, but it appears to have followed him east to New Hampshire. Senator Kerry did not wear the mantle of frontrunner well the last time he had it. He's a smart man, though. Let's hope he has learned from his past mistakes and will run a scrappier, feistier campaign this time. A positive, energetic and self-confident John Kerry is the man [and candidate] that voters want and expect.

I'M BACK -- A hectic work schedule and a number of pressing, though pleasant, personal engagements kept me very busy over the holidays and beyond. I appreciate all the e-mails I got wondering where I had gone and when I would be back. I tried to answer most, if not all, of it. Thanks, folks. The Bandit is back.