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Retirement of the Blog
I tried blogging for a while. Couldn't keep it up.
So I just went back to musing.

Thursday, February 10, 2005
Bush! Stop Fixin' Stuff.
Before You Break Everything We Have!

After 9-11, and the burst of the dot-com bubble, Bush tried to fix the economy. We still haven't seen a recovery in employment and personal earnings, and the National Debt has risen 28%, to more than $7.6 trillion (comparing February, 2005 to January, 2002).

He tried to fix Medicare's prescription drug problems, and his fix is now projected to cost us $724 billion over ten years; it remains to be seen if retired people will actually have better access to drugs than they had before the fix.

He invaded Iraq ; we now know there was no credible threat. It will cost us years of time, thousands of lives and billions of dollars to try to fix what he broke there, and we probably never can. Of course, I'm not talking about Saddam Hussein, who needed to be broken; I'm talking about the Iraqi infrastructure, culture, history, lives, etc., etc. that can't be repaired.

He's proposed a fix to Social Security that will cost us over $2 trillion, and will not improve the fiscal soundness of the program.

Now he wants to fix the rest of the Medicare program.

He's like a four-year-old who purloined his daddy's screwdriver and hammer, and set out to fix the house. There may not be a house when he's finished.

Somebody take his tools away—while we still can! Top

Monday, March 29, 2004
Our Rights & Principles since 9/11/2001

"It is a long-standing principle that sitting national security advisers do not testify before the Congress."

Condoleezza Rice
on CBS' 60 Minutes
March 28, 2004

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

James Madison, et al
in the Fourth Amendment
to the United States Constitution

Long-standing principle? Which of the ideals cited above is more long-standing, and more principled?

In order to board an airplane in the United States today, I have to submit myself to a search that sometimes involves removing articles of my clothing. This search is done without warrant, and without a demonstration of probable cause specific to any action of mine, past or present. Personal possessions may be seized, in the name of the Government of The United States, but not by a U. S. Marshal acting on a Federal warrant, rather by a hired security guard. This search and seizure is a violation of the spirit and the letter of the Constitution.

Because of the crimes of 9-11, and in order to secure our personal safety, we seem to have deemed it appropriate to suspend the Bill of Rights. If we can do that, it seems reasonable that we suspend the dubious principle of unconditional secrecy regarding the actions and negotiations of politically appointed officials who ostensibly work in service to the people of The United States.

It may seem that I'm arguing that Condoleezza Rice should be compelled to testify before Congress. Actually, I'm not. Oh, I believe on principle that she should testify. But I'm willing to cut a deal. I'll let her stay in the privacy of her opulent, taxpayer provided office, except when she can secure an invitation to enter a television studio to spin out her story at will. In exchange for that, I'll take back my right to travel unimpeded and unsearched between the states of The United States, and my right to read whatever I please without my reading habits being subject to unwarranted search by Federal agents. I'll take back my right to enter a courthouse (the only place where I can seek redress for governmental abuses), without having my person, papers and effects searched. And I'll extend this little list to include the return of all of the Constitutionally guaranteed rights that have been denied to me, not just in the past three years, but in the past three decades, under the guise of assuring my personal safety.

Am I afraid to do that—afraid that my safety will be threatened by terrorists, or political activists—or readers? Haven't times changed? Could James Madison and the other authors of the Bill of Rights possibly have imagined the dangers we face?

I ask this: Which would have been more dangerous, traveling for three hours, by air on September 10, 2001, from my home to Washington DC—or traveling for a week or more, by stagecoach in 1789, from Georgia to New York, for the Congressional session where the Bill of Rights was drafted?

Times certainly have changed. Top

Sunday, February 22, 2004
Nader: Almost Right—Terribly Wrong
A Primer on Third Party Politics

In a conversation this morning with Tim Russert on NBC News' Meet The Press, Ralph Nader announced his independent candidacy for the Presidency of the U. S. He said some good things, but he makes one catastrophic mistake.

The good things? (Quotes are from an NBC transcript of the show .)
…this country has more problems and injustices than it deserves…there's a democracy gap…There's just too much power and wealth in too few hands…Washington is now a corporate-occupied territory…For 25 years they've let [The Democratic] party become a captive of corporate interests.

These are eloquent statements of principles with which many Americans would agree.

Still eloquently—and correctly, I think—he opined, …the civil liberties crisis affecting third parties and Independent candidates…is very serious. Historically, that's where our reform has come from, in the 19th century, against slavery, women's right to vote, trade union, farmer, populist, progressive…Seeds have to be given a chance to sprout in nature. We call it springtime.

Then he summed up his reason for running: Somehow it's OK to have a two-party duopoly that is converging more and more, where the towering similarities dwarf the dwindling real differences…This is a fight for all third parties: Libertarian, Green…other. Independent candidates.

And there's the problem. The raison d'être of Nader's candidacy sounds true enough, as far is it goes, but it leads to the never-quite-stated fatal flaw in his logic—a flaw he's shared with a plethora of splinter politicians—from Henry Wallace and Strom Thurmond to George Wallace, John Anderson, and Ross Perot. Nader is allowing himself to believe that viable independent or third party movements can start at the top—with a Presidential candidate.

Historical reflection can correct this fallacious thinking. The last successful third party in American politics elected its first President in 1860. The party of course was the Republicans and the President was Lincoln. But the Republican Party didn't begin with Lincoln, and it didn't begin in 1860. Fourty-four Republicans were elected to the House of Representatives in 1854, and the Republican Party won control of the House in 1858. By the time Lincoln began his first term as President, the party was in place and in power. Of course there were many factors contributing to the fast rise of the party, most notably division in the Democratic party and the virtual collapse of the Whig party over slavery and other issues. But the critical message for our times is that the party secured political power via congressional and other offices well before it experienced Presidential power.

The Libertarian Party and the Green Party have been pursuing the course of electing candidates below the Presidential level for years, with little success, but they've failed to turn their designs into viable strategy. What's missing is a concerted effort to deny winnable congressional seats to either party.

Here's how it would work. Right now the Republican Party is in charge in both houses of Congress, so they're the party that would have to be attacked. They currently have a plurality of twenty-three seats in the House, and only three seats in the Senate. At the moment, the Senate is more ripe for change, so let's look at it first. If a third party could win just two Republican Senate seats, assuming that all the other seats stayed as they now are, that third party could deny the majority to both parties. That would mean that no legislation, and no organizational or rule-making action could pass in the Senate without the participation of that third party. The third party wouldn't control the Senate, but neither would the Republicans or the Democrats. The third party would have stopping power.

What seems more doable for a third party; winning the Presidency, or winning two Senate seats? Neither would be easy, but I think winning two Senate seats is more plausible, particularly if a national effort were to be focused on just two to four of the most winnable Republican seats. And which would be more effective, holding the Presidency, without controlling either house of Congress, and with no political power in either house—or controlling the balance of power in one house. Obviously, a President with no legislative power is powerless, but control of either house of congress, even if it's only the power to say no, is power indeed.

Now let's look at the House of Representatives. Here the balance of power is more firmly in Republican hands, but perhaps not beyond reach for a third party. The GOP currently holds 228 seats in the House. 218 make a majority. That means that a third party would have to win 11 Republican seats, assuming that all else remains the same, in order to hold the balance of power. Just 11 seats. I still think that's more realistic than winning the Presidency.

It's easy to suggest that Nader is running only to charge up his own ego. Possible, but I doubt it. I think he really is a patriot. He's also a bright man, and I'm sure he can do the math I've just outlined. If Ralph Nader really wants to dethrone GW, maybe he should step out of the limelight himself, and work with other like-minded people and organizations to help a Democrat defeat the President. And at the same time he might begin working in a realistic way to create a third party that could eventually deny control of both the House and the Senate to both the Democrats and the Republicans.

I don't think for a minute that control of either house can be won by a third party in 2004, and probably not in 2006. But if a carefully orchestrated effort were to be started now, maybe it could be successful by 2008 or 2010. In the meanwhile, if the Presidency were in Democratic control, and one or both houses of Congress in Republican hands, at least there would again be a check of power between the branches of government.

So, run Nader's checklist again: problems and injustices, democracy gap, power and wealth in too few hands, Washington a corporate-occupied territory, a civil liberties crisis, a two-party duopoly, dwindling party differences. What will be more effective in combating these threats, Ralph Nader as an impotent candidate (or even as President), or changing the party in control of the White House in 2004, and creating a viable third party minority in one or both houses of Congress by 2008? Seems pretty clear to me. Top

Wednesday, February 18, 2004
Thanks for the Memories, Howard

Today, Howard Dean rode off into the sunset, his parting shot being some silliness about his followers becoming a movement that would change American politics. Is anyone reminded of Ross Perot in 1992?

Dean may have been the last person in America to understand that his campaign was over-and if he believes what he said today about his movement surviving and reshaping politics, he may be the only person in America who believes that.

But actually, Dean did reshape the political spectrum for this year. Nine months ago, few people were giving the Democrats much of a chance against GW. What with Nine-Eleven, Afghanistan, swift victory in Iraq, a rebounding economy, full control of Congress assuring that Bush could pass his pet legislation, and most of the money in the western world in Republican coffers, who could beat him?

It all looks a bit different now. Either John Kerry or John Edwards is quite capable of mounting a credible assault on the Bush presidency, and I'm not the only person suggesting that GW is in jeopardy. So how did the collection of nine Democrats who ultimately sought the nomination avoid becoming a sequel to the Seven Dwarfs who cluttered up the Democratic primary season in 1988?

The answer is: Howard Dean. He came out swinging against Bush and demonstrated that a frontal assault against the President was not only survivable, but was actually the best strategy. He began by opposing Bush's war policy, then broadened his attack to virtually every front imaginable. By himself, he probably had little effect on Bush, but he emboldened all the other Democrats.

Dean's message resonated with Democrats—and with a significant segment of young potential voters who were too tangentially involved with politics to even be called Democrats. The message helped Democrats find something within their body politic that they hadn't known to exist. The message breathed spirit into them. It gave them life. Where there hadn't even been a pulse, there was now a throbbing, vibrant surging of power.

So, with all that power throbbing around everywhere, why isn't Dean going to be the nominee?

Right message, wrong man. The energies of his message were what Democrats wanted, but the energies of the person were not. Dean doesn't seem to have the native good sense to say the right thing at the right time. He doesn't seem to have a sense of proportion and balance. He's good at finding the message, but not so good at delivering it—at selling it.

Yet he fired up the process. He energized not only the face-to-face candidate debates, but the spirit of debate among the American electorate. He created an environment that led to the most intense media coverage ever of the early primary season. In that environment, all nine of those Democratic contenders were actually heard. And the unity of their message took on an unanticipated power.

Dean alone didn't weaken Bush's candidacy, but the combined effective messages of all the Democratic wannabe's had a significant impact. That, combined with GW's missteps—on the deficit, immigration policy, defense of marriage, and weapons of mass destruction—have created a political universe unimaginable a few months ago.

We have a real contest going here. And it promises to get only better. Kerry is likely to win the nomination, but that's no sure bet. Edwards is going to make a fight of it in the next two weeks, and in that process the debate will be carried to an even larger audience—to a portion of the electorate a bit less interested and involved than those who've been paying attention so far. By mid-March, when the nomination will probably have been decided, either Edwards or Kerry is going to have the attention of the American people, and is going to have a substantial foundation for a strong campaign against GW.

And Howard Dean made that possible. So he did reshape the 2004 electoral process. Just not exactly in the way he intended.Top

Sunday, February 1, 2004
Intelligent Use of Intelligence

"It turns out that we were all wrong…and that is most disturbing"

David Kay
Former U.S. weapons inspector

In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, January 28, 2004, regarding U. S. intelligence that Iraq possessed chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

A failure of intelligence. The most remarkable thing about it is that we seem to think it's remarkable. Enemies of all ilks, since before the dawn of history, have been making grave strategic and tactical errors by overestimating and underestimating one another. Just in the relatively recent past, one quickly recalls Pearl Harbor, the Tet Offensive, the fall of the Soviet Union, and other intelligence blunders.

Of course, there have been great intelligence successes as well. The world as we know it may have been saved by the intelligence that led to the 1962 missile crisis. Even there, though, we misappraised the readiness of the Soviet sites on Cuba. Even intelligence successes are to be found in the midst of failure.

The entire context of our current middle-east struggle traces back to a critical epoch in the thirty years before and immediately after World War I, when British intelligence arrogantly and simplistically believed that it understood the culture and politics of the Ottoman Empire . Their failures led to the creation of the tortured political map, from Turkey to Bangladesh, with which we deal today.

I won't pretend any expertise regarding the practice of intelligence. I truly am only an interested observer. However my observations are disturbing, to use David Kay's characterization. The point of departure is this: we get it wrong far more often than we get it right, and we always have. The failures of U.S. intelligence, most notably of the CIA, are probably no more frequent or disastrous than those of other intelligence organizations around the world, but they are ours. They are the failures we must live with, and for which we are responsible.

So—should we conduct numerous and extensive investigations of this particular intelligence failure, of the patterns of such failures over time, and of the cultures of the agencies which produced the failures? Of course, we should.

But that's not the point of this discussion. We certainly must do all we can to assure that we have the best international and domestic intelligence that it is possible for a free society to have. But then we must remember never to trust it. Weather forecasters have a remarkable success rate, but many people don't trust their predictions, and most of us probably judge whether or not to wear a coat by sticking our heads out the door to appraise the situation ourselves. Surely our government should be at least as skeptical of intelligence results, and we should be that skeptical of our government's public use of intelligence.

The task of intelligence is to establish some objective truth regarding the intentions and activities of others. But think realistically about how difficult that is. If two of your neighbors are having an argument about the location of a fence, and you listen to both of their viewpoints, you're likely to be confused, and to recognize that you can't really know the truth of the matter. John Kennedy was assassinated in the full view of hundreds of people, including many highly trained observers, such as reporters, police officers and Secret Service agents. The incident was photographed, and even filmed. Yet we have no consensus today on the objective truth about the most critical elements of his murder.

If objective truth is so elusive in these readily observable situations, how can it be otherwise in the murky worlds of war and terrorism? It can't be. In these worlds we are routinely misled by the intentions of others and by our own misunderstandings. We are confounded by problems of culture, custom, language, timeliness and logistics. On top of all that, we simply make mistakes. Error is not only probable, it is inevitable.

The only rational policy then is to gather the best intelligence we can, but to use it with the most diligent of skepticism. We must always assume the likelihood that what we think we know and believe is wrong.

Should the Bush administration have been more skeptical of its intelligence on Iraq . I think so. But all of the rest of us should have been more skeptical, too. We should all have been asking, "What if we're wrong?"

Today, the administration is working mightily to convince us that we would have been right to go to war anyway. I don't agree with that position, but even if they're right—even if we should have invaded Iraq—we should have made that decision deliberately, with the full understanding that we might or might not be able to use the question of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons to justify our actions. The administration ought to have made its case, built its alliances, and conducted its operations with the clear understanding that its intelligence might be wrong.

In the future, we should expect this and all administrations to make the case for foreign policy based squarely on principles, not on the vagaries of unknowable situations. Of course we have to trust our leadership; they can't lead if we can't trust. But we must question. We must challenge. And we must demand that our political and military leaders do the same. This administration failed to question and to challenge its own suppositions.Top

Thursday, January 29, 2004
A Negative Process
We've evolved a bizarre, inefficient, cumbersome, sometimes ugly, sometimes embarassing process of selecting presidential candidates. This year has been much better than most years, perhaps because we started the Democratic side of the process with a field crammed with talent, statesmanship, patriotism and citizenship. Oh sure, there have been moments that were anything but that. But on the whole, we've seen a bunch of men, and for a while one woman, who have brought the best of our political process to center stage.

In my experience observing this process, for now nearly a half century, this is an unusual year. This informal, inconsistent, unpredictable mix of primaries, caucuses and back-room politics has seldom brought the brightest and the best to the fore. The result is that most election years I've stepped into my voting booth in November to vote not for a candidate, but against one. I was too young to vote in the 1960 election, but that's the last time I felt that one of the final candidates was a person I truly wanted to have in the office of President. (In retrospect there have been a couple of very good presidents since then, whom I did not support or vote for with any enthusiasm.)

So I'm not a champion of our candidate selection process.

But it does one thing extremely well. It weeds people out. I became aware of that decades ago when Gary Hart dropped out of the race for the Democratic nomination. For not the first or the last time in American politics, we'd made a mountain out of a bump in the road. I didn't really care who Hart had slept with. I was angry with the press for ignoring his eleven-year senate record and snooping into his sexual behavior, albeit in response to his arrogant invitation. The culmination of it all was a media event, leaked during the early part of that day as Hart's withdrawal from the race. He stepped before the cameras, fired-up, strong, defiant. He gave a great speech. I thought, "He's not going to quit—he's going to tell the press to stick it and go on with the campaign." I was ready to really back him, to work for him, to contribute to him. Here was a guy who had what I wanted in a President. Then he came to the end of his talk, and quit.

Sometime in the ensuing days, I got it. For all the wrong reasons, the press and this strange process had done the right thing. I wanted the guy who could face down the press and carry his campaign on the issues, in spite of the pressures. But that wasn't Hart. Hart was the guy who quit. I didn't want him to be President.

So I look at the people who are gone from this year's race. Carol Moseley Braun is a very bright woman with a great spirit—a capable leader, but probably lacks the passion and focus required of a good President. Dick Gephardt is a decent, principled man who has served his nation with courage and dignity, and who —in spite of the obituaries we heard when he stepped down—is probably not through serving us. But he has twice demonstrated that he can't inspire the confidence of party insiders enough to build the necessary coalitions for leadership at the top levels.

Then there are the people who are out of the race, but haven't yet admitted it. Dennis Kucinich, who is unafraid to champion the most progressive of ideas, but who is without the pragmatism necessary for leadership. Al Sharpton, who is a tireless fighter for justice, but too narrow in his scope and understanding for the top job. Wesley Clark, also bright and competent, but too narrow in experience, and a bit impulsive. And finally Howard Dean, who brought powerful energy into this year's process, but who has a lack of proportion about him that leads him to error and miscalculation.

This flawed selection process does winnow out weaknesses. Unfortunately, it doesn't catch all the weakness, and it has a tendency to elevate mediocrity into the spotlight. Maybe it keeps too many good people from the opportunity to be great. Would Gary Hart, Carol Moseley Braun, or Dick Gephardt have made better presidents than Richard Nixon, or Ronald Reagan? Yeah, I think so. But I'm not too upset about waving goodbye to Dean, Sharpton and Kucinich, in spite of their good, even great qualities.

And looking at the survivors, I'm encouraged. I've kept Edwards on my list of survivors for the moment, because I think he has the personal dynamics to carry his campaign forward—if he does powerfully well in some of the February 3 contests, several of which should give him good opportunities. I think Kerry, Edwards and even Lieberman have the potential to be strong candidates, and to be capable, competent, creative leaders.

I don't like this selection process much. But I think this year it may actually give me a candidate I can vote for. Top

Saturday, January 24, 2004:
Truth On Your Computer Screen

This Internet is a helluva thing, ain't it? Any fool (like me) can get on here and spout any kind of nonsense, with no bothersome editors, or even proofreaders to keep him accurate, honest, or intelligible. Unless you've kept your e-mail address in a safe-deposit box, and never communicated with anyone, I'm sure all kinds of nonsense pops up in your inbox every day—warnings about new viruses, sinister government plots, new diseases or some other thing they aren't telling us about.

Yesterday, I got a fascinating communication, forwarded via a friend-of-a-friend, apparently originally from filmmaker Michael Moore (read the text here) who is getting quite a bit of notoriety regarding his vitriolic opposition to GW, and his support of Wesley Clark. Moore is charging Bush with being a deserter during his National Guard days, a few wars ago. Serious stuff. If true in both fact and spirit, it's a little more significant, in my view, than not inhaling marijuana, or having sex with a bimbo.

So, here's the point. Not only does this nifty Internet thing give us an unending flood of inane foolishness, it gives us some very easy ways to check things out. Here are three that I use all the time:

When I read something on my computer screen that seems too good to be true, or too bad, too scary, too bizarre, too weird, or too stupid to be true, I first hit these links. It's amazing how often the e-mail I just got is right there on top, with a full explanation. The Michael Moore—Wesley Clark—GW Bush thing for example is fully covered on the Annenberg Factcheck site.

In recent weeks, in addition to getting perspective on this Michael Moore story, I've learned that there really isn't a passage in the Koran that predicts and calls for the current conflict in Iraq, and that a supposed virus that supposedly inserts a file in my computer is really a hoax that tries to get me to remove a necessary Windows file from my hard drive. By checking out sources, and sending what we learn back up the supply line to the people who sent us the information, we can really help truth win over silliness.

Now, should we trust these fact checking sources? Of course not. On really important issues it's essential, as always, to dig further. Fortunately, that's also easy. A Google search on key words or phrases from a story will almost always find some discussion of anything that is flitting around the Net. A huge caution here. Just because you read the same thing twenty times on the Web doesn't make it true. That usually just means that the same misinformation has been re-posted twenty times by twenty different people. Look for the validity of sources, for confirmations, and for clear and rational explanations. Sometimes an advanced Google search of only .edu domains will ferret out serious, discussions from academic websites.

When you think you've gotten to the bottom of something, then put the info on your blog, or
e-mail it to your 200 closest friends. Be a part of the solution. Top

Thursday, January 22, 2004:
Mars Missions
Shortly before the State of the Union Address, Pres. Bush announced that he plans to send manned space missions back to the Moon, then on to Mars. I don't believe for a minute that he really intends to do it, and I don't think he's going to be in office long enough to begin. Do you recall in his 2003 SOTU speech that he said he was initiating a project to bring about a hydrogen-powered car? How much have you heard about that in the past fifty-one weeks? That's about what you'll hear and see of his space exploration initiative.

The plan also involves the cessation of maintenance of the Hubble telescope, and abandonment of the space station project. Now, those parts of the plan we probably will see enacted.

Today, our Mars Rover sits silent on the moon. It hasn't phoned home in two days. There's still a decent possibility that it will return to life, but if it doesn't, that makes four out of the last four Mars missions that have failed entirely. Robotic exploration doesn't seem to be working too well, does it?

It's been fashionable in recent years to criticize expensive space exploration. After all, we still have a few problems here on Terra Firma—shouldn't we solve those first? That was Al Sharpton's opinion, expressed in tonight's New Hampshire debate.

I disagree. We need space exploration. It isn't about what we can measure and predict as the foreseeable results. It's about the human spirit, about victory, and accomplishment, and even about the risk and the danger. It's about the things we'll learn that we have no idea we'll learn. It's about the things we'll invent that we don't even know we can't get along without.

It's about education. The Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first human-made satellite, in 1957. Within weeks, the U. S. Space program was operating at a level that had previously been unimaginable. By 1958, the impact was felt in every grade-school classroom in America. For fifteen years we emphasized science and math as we never had before. We produced some of the best scientific and technological minds of our history. Then we actually got to the Moon—and then we quit going. Now our math and science education is in a despicable state.

Let's go to the Moon again, and on to Mars, and maybe beyond. Let's inspire second-grade girls, and middle-school boys with the vision, the excitement, the gut-spinning thrill of the idea that one day they might stand on Mars and look back at their little blue home, or glide past Jupiter, so close that they can see its swirling gaseous clouds as clearly as a thunderhead from an Iowa hillside.

Nothing bad has ever come from space exploration. In the sixties, three American astronauts died as part of the Apollo moon program. In those years we were killing more than 50,000 people per year on our highways. That doesn't diminish the value of the three lost astronauts, but maybe it gives us some perspective.

Would the personal computer, or the Internet connection you're using to read this even exist if we hadn't gone to the Moon? Eventually, but maybe decades later. Would we have MRI technology, or cell phones? Probably not as early as we got them. What will we learn on the way to Mars that might help us eliminate AIDS or cancer? What will the spirit of multinational exploration contribute to the future of human relations on Earth? I don't know, but I want to find out.

I'll probably never kick the dust of Mars, but I'd like for my granddaughters to at least have the chance. Top

Wednesday, January 21, 2004:
The State of the Lie
I didn't watch. It's probably the first time in my adulthood that I didn't watch the State of the Union Message, either live or on Memorex. I just don't believe anything GW says anymore. I never believed Nixon, either, and Clinton proved his word wasn't worth much, but I still watched their SOTU talks. I always did believe that—agree or disagree—their messages gave us the basis for the President's agenda. But not so with Bush. He will say anything for any reason, then do anything else for any other reason, with no necessary correlation. And his arrogance is unbearable.

But I Get the Idea
Of course I saw parts of the speech, and a good bit of the commentary. And the text of the speech is readily available for scrutiny. I got mine from the White House site.

In discussing Iraq, Bush said, "Already, the Kay Report identified dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related program activities…" Look at that string of modifiers, "related program activities." That's a long way from just saying, "weapons of mass destruction." Would Congress have approved the incursion into Iraq if last year's SOTU message had told us that Bush suspected Hussein of having "weapons of mass destruction-related program activities?" Nah!

Tonight on The NewsHour, conservative New York Times Columnist David Brooks said he liked the speech less well as he thought more about it. He faulted Bush for continuing to justify and defend the Iraq invasion, when the Democratic candidates have moved on to talking of the future of the nation. David Brooks may not be as hard-core conservative as some, but if Bush loses the likes of Brooks, he will lose a big piece of the middle—the middle that almost won him the popular vote in 2000. Top

A prediction: Bush Loses, with 47%
I'm Out on the Limb
( This assumes that there is no significant muddying of the waters by third party candidates.)

We start here: Bush won less than 48.4% of the vote in 2000. He was 3.4 million votes short of the combined Gore/Nader total. That's 1.7 million votes shy of a popular majority. How many former Gore or Nader supporters have you met lately who now think Bush is their guy? None in my neighborhood.

Then: Any of the now-leading Democratic hopefuls is likely to be a more effective campaigner than Gore was in 2000. Which of these guys do you think is not capable of winning his own state in November? I don't see it. If Wesley Clark or John Edwards faces Bush in the Fall debates, it's going to be a wholly other thing from the 2000 debates. That would also be true for any of the other Dems.

On election day, Bush will win the core-conservative vote—of course. He'll never win the Democratic core—there won't be many Bush-Democrats. Bush will win a significant part of the middle—but how much of it? Not enough, I think. His support in that middle area is soft, and will dissipate when one of these Democratic contenders emerges with the nomination and a clear message. GW will win a full percent less of the popular vote than he did in 2000, and that will be enough to tip one—or a few—states' electoral votes into the Democratic column.

Which has the best ring to it? President Edwards? President Clark? President Lieberman? President Dean? President Kerry?

You heard it here first. Top

Tuesday, January 20, 2004:
Is Howard Dean Stable?
After finishing a disappointing third in the Iowa Caucuses, Howard Dean burst onto the stage to greet and thank his supporters and campaign team. He was over-the-top, unrestrained, inappropriate—manic. Later, arriving in New Hampshire to kick off the next leg of his campaign, he did the same thing.

On into the day, he began a talk by saying that he was going to give a different kind of speech—the kind of speech he'd once given as Governor. I only saw a snippet of that oration, but he seemed over-restrained, too-subdued, like he was suffering a hangover from his earlier explosion. —Depressive?

I hate to say this, but it's true: I checked the AP wire frequently today, not expecting—but sort of prepared—to read that Dean had been hospitalized, or had dropped out of the race.

Understand, I'm not asserting that he is unstable—I don't really think that's the case, but the thought passed through my mind. He hurt himself with his inappropriate display. It certainly got plenty of press mention. I suspect I won't be the only person watching him with a different eye over the next weeks.

A Fine-Tuned Democratic Field
Al Sharpton and Dennis Kucinich probably won't drop out of the race at this point, never mind that they can't even see the front of the pack from where they are limping along. Sharpton expects to do well in South Carolina on Feb. 3, and he may. It will be the first contest of this primary series where any significant number of Black People will have the opportunity to vote.

But it won't matter. Iowa caucus-goers apparently didn't notice that Sharpton was in the race, and they barely exhibited any awareness of Kucinich. A poor finish in Iowa is probably the death-knell for a campaign, but no finish certainly is. Sharpton and Kucinich are gone.

Dick Gephardt recognized that he can't be elected. He may also have realized that, in spite of the universal, unrestrained affection and respect he has earned among party insiders, even there he has missed the mark. It is unlikely that he was going to get enough support from the "super-delegates," the party-powerful who get delegate's tickets without going through state conventions and caucuses, to win the nomination.

So, look now at this Democratic field: Kerry, Edwards, Clark, Dean and Lieberman. They are a bright, competent, committed bunch. Any of them can face GW without blinking, and carry the contest to him. Any of them has wide appeal to dedicated Democrats, and has the potential to win support from significant numbers of whatever middle is left in American politics. Let the fun begin.Top


copyright © 2008, J. C. Adamson