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Feb 22, 2004 | 8:59 PM ET


I've written here repeatedly that things are going better in Iraq than anti-war critics have been claiming, and that the whole WMD issue is overblown.  This, strangely, has caused some people to call me a Republican shill, along with other, meaner names.  That's okay.  I'm a lawyer and we have thick skin.

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But don't listen to me, listen to top Senate Democrat Tom Daschle (D-SD):

Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., on Thursday praised the Bush administration's war and nation-building work in Iraq and said he has no serious concerns about the lack of weapons of mass destruction.
Daschle told state chamber of commerce representatives meeting in the South Dakota capital that he is satisfied with the way things are going in Iraq.
"I give the effort overall real credit," Daschle said. "It is a good thing Saddam Hussein is no longer in power. It is a good thing we are democratizing the country."
He said he is not upset about the debate over pre-war intelligence on weapons of mass destruction, an issue that has dogged President Bush as Democratic presidential contenders have slogged through the primary season.

Neither am I!  And how (er, besides the above) do I know that things are going well in Iraq?  Because if they weren't, Presidential candidate John Kerry wouldn't be so anxious to talk about Vietnam instead.

Back in 1992, George H.W. Bush's record of heroic military service didn't stop Democratic opponents from calling him a "wimp" for his waffling on policy issues.  John Kerry is fooling himself if he thinks that talking about Vietnam will buy him a pass on important issues today.  Kerry's going to have to find something solid to say about this war.  Will he position himself to the left of Tom Daschle?

Feb 18, 2004 | 11:43 PM ET


Yeah, everybody's using that pun.  But I can't help myself any more than they can.  Howard Dean's campaign is over, and there's a fair amount of talk about What It All Means.

I think it means that the Internet is a powerful tool, but no tool is better than the hand that holds it.  Dean was always an unlikely candidate:  a short, obscure governor of a small state, with no national experience of note.  So one way of looking at it is that the Internet is a tool that can enable an unlikely candidate to raise $40 million and become, for a while, the front-runner.  That's no small thing when you consider that Dick Gephardt, a longtime national figure with lots of labor support and a well-oiled midwestern machine, did a lot worse.

The other way of looking at things, of course, is that the Internet hurt Dean:  the campaign got so busy playing to its Internet supporters (which was easy, fun, and lucrative) that it forgot to talk to actual voters.  I don't think this is really true -- Dean spent a lot of money on TV ads -- but it's certainly a danger.

People other than Howard Dean are certainly still finding the Internet useful for fundraising.  But then they use the money to buy TV ads, just like Dean did.  For the foreseeable future (which means, er, this election cycle) I think the Internet will be more important for primaries than for the general election.  The Internet is a good tool for organizing and energizing interested and like-minded people -- which is very important in primaries -- but it's not so good at wholesale targeting of  the not-very-interested people (otherwise known as "undecideds" or "swing voters") who tend to decide national elections these days. 

For candidates, the Internet will be about keeping their base energized, and, yes, raising money.  For independent bloggers, it'll be about fact-checking the candidates and Big Media.

The Internet has surely played a big role in keeping things interesting, in no small part because of its boosting of the Howard Dean candidacy.  The good news for political junkies is that this will continue to be the most interesting election in many years.

Feb 17, 2004 | 4:05 PM ET


People are always talking about media bias, and usually it's dismissed as a mere issue of perception.  So it was interesting to see the folks at ABC News' political blog, The Note, fess up to what everyone knows:

Like every other institution, the Washington and political press corps operate with a good number of biases and predilections.
They include, but are not limited to, a near-universal shared sense that liberal political positions on social issues like gun control, homosexuality, abortion, and religion are the default, while more conservative positions are "conservative positions."
They include a belief that government is a mechanism to solve the nation's problems; that more taxes on corporations and the wealthy are good ways to cut the deficit and raise money for social spending and don't have a negative affect on economic growth; and that emotional examples of suffering (provided by unions or consumer groups) are good ways to illustrate economic statistic stories. . . .
The press, by and large, does not accept President Bush's justifications for the Iraq war -- in any of its WMD, imminent threat, or evil-doer formulations. It does not understand how educated, sensible people could possibly be wary of multilateral institutions or friendly, sophisticated European allies. . . .
The worldview of the dominant media can be seen in every frame of video and every print word choice that is currently being produced about the presidential race.

Truer words were seldom spoken.  Of course, sometimes it goes farther than that.  Though the Bush "AWOL" story has now collapsed, with witnesses coming forward to say they remember him, and with Bush's military records being released, some journalists seem to hope it can be kept alive with stories like this "cheap shot" (in the words of the Columbia Journalism Review) -- a story that frames the issue politically without looking at the evidence.  There seems little doubt that the press will slant more and more anti-Bush as the election nears, and not just in the institutional way that ABC describes.  Just keep that in mind as you read, and watch, the news.

If you want a different perspective on these issues, you might look at some of the military bloggers, who often offer things that you won't get on the nightly news.  Check out The Mudville Gazette for commentary and links to other military bloggers.  You might also be interested in the comments of Air Force reservist Baldilocks (why that name?  look at her picture!), and of former paratrooper Blackfive.  LT Smash is back from the war zone, but he continues to post, too.  And my favorite military group blog, is still up and running.  Finally, Iraq Now offers both battlefield reports, small-unit leadership training, and financial advice, all from a reservist in Iraq who writes awfully well.

And there's some interesting blog-based first-hand reporting, too.  Although he's not in the military, former MTV Veejay Adam Curry is now blogging from Iraq, and has a lot of interesting observations, along with some photos.  And so does embedded blogger Rich Galen, who's been in Baghdad and elsewhere throughout Iraq for several months now.  Check them out. 

Feb 16, 2004 | 1:49 PM ET


Last week, I noted that "to me, how Kerry would do on the war is a lot more important than what (er, or who) he's doing in the sack."

So what would Kerry do?  That's a question that's puzzling a lot of people.  As the Washington Post editorialized this weekend, Kerry has a problem with fuzziness on the issues in general, and he's been more fuzzy than usual where Iraq is concerned:

The most important confusion surrounds Mr. Kerry's position on Iraq. In 1991 he voted against the first Persian Gulf War, saying more support was needed from Americans for a war that he believed would prove costly. In 1998, when President Clinton was considering military steps against Iraq, he strenuously argued for action, with or without allies. Four years later he voted for a resolution authorizing invasion but criticized Mr. Bush for not recruiting allies. Last fall he voted against funding for Iraqi reconstruction, but argued that the United States must support the establishment of a democratic government.
Mr. Kerry's attempts to weave a thread connecting and justifying all these positions are unconvincing.

Yes, they are.  As Mickey Kaus notes:  "The Post is too civil to point out the obvious (that all Kerry's votes are easily explained by crude political self-interest.)"

It was short-term self-interest (better known as "opportunism") though -- Kerry did what seemed expedient at the time, and now it's catching up with him.

There's one piece of good news about Kerry and the war, however, as a passage from this Boston Globe article on Vice-Presidential picks illustrates:

Kerry is also said to be unconvinced that Edwards is experienced enough to step in as a wartime president should something happen to him. National security credentials are the most important assets that the Democratic presidential front-runner would use to choose a running mate, these aides said.

Kerry at least seems to understand that we're at war, and will be for a while, which puts him ahead of Al Gore, who seems to be in denial on this subject, among others.  But the real question is, will Kerry continue to temporize, or will he take a stand and lay out a strategy?  Senators can waffle.  Presidents can't.

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