updated 1/20/2005 1:15:39 PM ET 2005-01-20T18:15:39

Jan. 20
The inauguration's worth

The inauguration is similar to the court of Louis XVI. It is so Les Mis! It shows the regard this president has for working people. He claims this lavish display is to celebrate democracy. Isn't true democracy a celebration in itself? Isn't the Fourth of July a celebration we already have? Why can't the corporations that supported him pay 40 million. Why can't the richest 1% of the taxpayers who get a $5000 refund check pay the tab?  —Gloria Picchetti, Chicago, Ill.

Inauguration is a real waste.  Why do we really need it? It's not like the office is changing hands.  I think this is a missed opportunity for all involved to take the money and put it to where it's needed.  Private donations should be going to homeless shelters or to tsunami relief.  To throw a celebration of this magnitude in times like these is just wrong.  —Edd Leis, Duluth, Minn.

DC should charge a permit fee for each of these events commensurate with the cost of the security required.  This should also compensate the city for the overhead in dealing with the mess afterwards, traffic, trash and who knows what else.  —Joe Castro

In the interest of fairness, shouldn't you mention that D.C received about $254 million out of Homeland Defense for just such occasions as these?  —Dennis Goodwin

I think D.C. should just refuse to foot the bill — no bleachers, no cops on the parade routes, etc.  If the people who are so gung ho to spend this ridiculous amount on the festivities want to protect all of the Bush supporters, let them do all the security legwork.  Most D.C. businesses won't be open that day anyway, and the ones that are will be reaping a huge windfall, so I am sure they will proceed in spite of any increased risk.  Let the FBI and the Capitol police handle security on the federal dime!  And yes, I know that DC is being told to pay for additional security from Homeland Security funds, but once those are spent, where will D.C. get the money to pay for Homeland Security — the taxpayers?  —Patty Slagel, Chesterfield Va.

Jan. 3
Reps and teflon torches

If there's some inherent scandal in being a cowboy or having a loose reign on your staff then the President might "step in it" as they say on the ranch.  But I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for a lapse in Gab's personal integrity — it's what many of us voted for and it's the one thing he's consistently delivered. 

Love your show, BTW.  Keep tossing that Hardball, Chris!  —Frank Hop

Thanks for mentioning how great both Reps. Robert Matsui and Shirley
Chisholm were. I admired them both and voted for Rep. Chisholm in my first primary election at age 19.

I do have one observation. She was not "African" because her father was from Guyana and her mother was from Barbados. As a former copy editor, I think it's absurd that black people are always referred to as "African-American" as a synonym for black. Teresa Heinz Kerry is truly an "African-American" because she's a naturalized citizen originally from Africa. Just because someone has more pigment in their skin doesn't automatically mean their ancestry is African.

Thanks again for acknowledging their contributions.  —Paula F. Casey, Memphis, Tenn.

If the torch symbolizes anything, it’s the press' reliable practice of dropping damaging stories and caving into political spin. Will there ever be another pentagon papers, deep throat moment from the press (Clinton's testimony does not count as such a moment)? Not so long as this Teflon torch is passed on by news organizations to the recipient deemed too popular to mess with. For too long, mainstream media has allowed popular political figures off the hook.  And for what? Ratings?

Until the press grows its back-bone back, lets have less talk of this "Teflon torch" and more effort to uncover the truth. If people are getting away with stuff then it's the mainstream media, not the public, that are letting them.  —James Gilbert

The main reason why George W. Bush is a Teflon president is because the national press corps has done nothing but suck up to him or run scared for his entire administration. If it had been Bill Clinton who lied and took this country into war, resulting in the deaths of 1,300 U.S. military personnel and perhaps 100,000 Iraqis and squandering perhaps $200 billion, the Republicans and conservative Democrats not only would have impeached him, but (justifiably) would have removed him from office.

Instead, the national press corps turned itself into a group of cheerleaders.  I don't blame Bush, I blame the national press corps which effectively turned itself into the White House press office.  —Donald Cooper

Dec. 17
Medals of Shame?

"Weren’t the gentlemen in question working with the goal of freeing the people from Iraq and  preserving freedom in the United States? Isn't that the purpose of the award?
The cynical and mean spirited commentary of your column is yet another example of the on-going effort of the press to divide this country.  You're sorry for the military personnel who were wounded; you feel their pain. But you don't mind taking shots at the reason they are fighting and dying.

As to the medals, I agree that metals are handed out with less care than they deserve. In certain branches of the service, medals that were once awarded for acts of heroism, are now awarded for "a job well done". The Medal of Freedom, however, is awarded for service in the promotion of freedom, and I'm pretty sure these guys fit the description." —M. Chewning, Simpsonville Md.

"When I read your column, and saw the presentation of the medals on TV, all I could think of was a young man who was in my basic composition class. He didn't know where the commas went so he just sprinkled them anywhere, and hoped it was right. I truly was stunned. Even we people who are over the hill can tell a snafu when we see one." —Peggy Belding, Mich.

"As Chris said this week, “ I was aghast” and as you so stated, “I’ve been sick to me stomach ever since.” This administration is a private club for the society elite. No one else allowed. I thought the Medal of Freedom was only given for a proven body of work.  History hasn’t proven these fellows right yet."  —Sheila Stone

"I was also sickened by Bush's choice of awardees.  It is the soldiers who have lost arms and legs to whom these medals should be given.  These soldiers should also be awarded substantial lifetime monetary compensation from the oil revenues they are helping the Bushies to eventually obtain from Iraq."  —Diane Bourke

"You are right on about the Medal of Freedom being awarded to Paul Bremer, George Tenet and General Tommy Franks without merit.  Didn’t all three of these men leave their jobs under the Bush administration because of their abysmal performance?  Apparently President Bush is accustomed to shoddy work being overly rewarded, how else could he explain his qualifications for public office?  So when in Rome do as the Romans and when in Bush World do as the Bushies, I suppose."  —Georgette

"You are absolutely correct.  Debased indeed!  The faulty intelligence of Director Tenet, and the poor oversight of Paul Bremer ought to cause them to be relegated to some darkened backwater of the American scene.  The media seldom brings focus on the thousands of wounded, for many of whom life has been forever altered — if not ruined.  Add to that the countless thousands of dead Iraqi men, women and children.  None of them ever stood in the limelight and smugly declared, "Bring 'em on".  Perhaps it is time that we instituted a medal of shame."  —David Slocum

"The honor of receiving a Medal of Freedom was debased long ago - being a hero and being heroic are now two different animals.  Honor, heroism, patriotism, and yes, even freedom are now solely defined by theological and political dogma.  I suppose the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth were all invited to the ceremony?  They, after all, obviously know who merits medals and who doesn't."  —BW McCartt, Winter Park, Fla.

Dec. 9
Votes for the King

“Please express my gratitude to the Hardball staff for giving the American people the opportunity to see this marvelous Jordanian leader on a personal level.  I've been following his career for several years,  and have been troubled by our media's choice to exclude examples of brave and honorable Middle East leaders such as Abdulluh.

It is a credit to your professionalism that at this time in our nation's history, you and your staff have resisted the urge to fall into line by characterizing all such leaders as "rag-heads," "killers," and "dead-enders" just to simplify the debate for the red-staters. 

Hopefully, the stereotypes will be blurred, the possibilities enlarged, the over-simplified rage   dissipated.  My compliments.”  —Mary Fry, Spring, TX 

“I watched Chris Matthews interview with the King.  It was wonderful.  King Abdullah II, is an engaging man.  He articulates his answers, which are easy to understand.  I agree he will be an important voice in the Middle East in the coming months and years. 

His strengths in leadership and engaging personality is something Mr. Bush does not possess.  I see where Bush would want this guy on his side and speaking for the administration.  At least King Abdullah II doesn't consistently ramble on about how much "hard work" there is to being the head of government.”  —Anonymous

“Jordanian King Abdullah II would appear to be a perfect choice to unify all of the Muslim nations in the Middle East under a common democratic charter in a new stable political union to replace the fragmented picture of today.  Tito was a similar personality upon which warring factions were willing to cast their hopes and dreams for the success of peace. I would vote for King Abdullah.”  —George Abney

“I always waited for some brave TV interviewer to ask the King – or his American wife, or his son: Why didn’t Jordan create a homeland for the Palestinians on the West Bank during the 19 years it was under Jordanian control (1948-1967)?

And while that TV interviewer is brave enough to ask difficult questions, I keep hoping that he’ll ask any responsible Palestinian spokesman why there was no intifada against Jordanian occupation.”  —Arthur D. Shmarak, Folsom, Calif.

On Whistle-blowers
“Mr. Bush had more excuses, and still has, for all his lack of good judgment. He has the uncanny ability to wiggle out of anything that doesn't suit him.” —Anonymous

“Does anyone remember the story of the wolf in sheep’s clothing? Seems that Mr. Hintz and President Bush really do have something in common.—Anonymous

“It's fascinating to me that so many of these "holy rollers" hide their perversions behind their self-righteous declarations of godly values.  It seems that when you repress urges too much they tend to manifest themselves in deeply evil ways.”  —Lisa

Nov. 22
Reaction to Sarah Muller's post on embedded journalists

“The embedded reporters should be supportive of the troops mission as they were going in.  Reporters should never show tape that would bring disrepute on the soldiers and the United States.  If Mr. Sikes didn’t have the patriotism to push the ‘erase’ button on his Video camera, some U.S. censor should have done it for him.  Yes, censor.  I know you all hate censorship, but in the middle of a war zone, censorship is surely proper to be sure that the mission of the USA succeeds.” —Lee Prince, Hansville, Wash.

“We don't need journalists spying on the troops...We have enough trouble in Iraqnam just trying to stay alive.” --Chuck
“Americans need to know what is going on. Just because front-line reporting can't be done ideally, doesn't mean that the endeavor should cease altogether.  Then we are really wide open for misinformation. It is critical that we have reporters letting people in the U.S. know what is going on behind the scenes during war.  Otherwise the operation becomes sanitized; death, destruction, loss of limbs on people from both sides suffer becomes a distant unreality, something we just don't think about.  This information can be used as propaganda by both sides in a conflict, but that risk shouldn't outweigh the heavy burden of needing to know what it is that your government is doing and why.”  —Heidi Eversley

“Embedded reporters let America know war isn't at all like the John Wayne movie's of the 60s.  Sorry if the truth hurts. But American needs to see the truth; they need to see what Bush got us knee deep into.  Those Marines and soldiers are doing one hell of a job in a shamefully, awkwardly defined mission, in a war environment where they are expected to play by the rules and are held to a high standard of conduct, while the enemy has no uniforms, no rules, no standards, no morals, and no repercussions for beheadings or a shot to an innocent female missionary's head.  They even hide their faces, the compete cowards that they are.

Until the Bush administration and Pentagon leadership understands it is an honor for them to die for their religion, not their country, and the martyrs believe they receive additional religious honors by taking as many of the infidels as possible with them, we are not going to win this war.

The Marine that shot the "injured, unarmed Iraqi" is under the stress of combat, was wounded in the face the day before, and knows his fellow Marines have been killed or wounded by booby- trapped injured or enemy combatants.  I'm sure the journalist may have been stunned, but would have done the same thing if he were in the Marines shoes.  War is scary.  Split second decisions, that very well mean the difference between life and death are made in a fraction of a second.

As a retired Marine, under these same combat conditions, I say I would have taken the same shot.  If your viewers don't want to see the horrors and reality of war, tell them they should have voted Bush out of office, or just turn the channel to some stupid network race of a "reality" show. 

Even the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen Hagee, agrees the embedded journalists are a positive, not a negative."  —Lynn, Vista, Calif.

"Thanks for a nice piece.  Here's my take: while having embedded reporters gives us access to close up situations that we otherwise would not have, in practice it has given a decidedly non-objective portrait of the war for American viewers.  The revelation of the marine shooting the probably unarmed Iraqi seems to be out of the norm.  I personally am frustrated and even angry at the mainstream media's approach to this war.  ALL we seem to see on the "news clips" of "action" in the field are American soldiers kicking down doors and gates, followed by views od the soldiers pointing their guns.  While I care about and pray for our soldiers (who shouldn't be fighting this war in the first place), these images present a one-sided view that "protects" the viewing public from seeing the reality of the war: killed, maimed, and terrified civilians and soldiers.  Rumsfeld and company is attacking Al Jazeera because they prefer to show the harsh reality of the war from the perspective of people who live in the Middle East.  The so-called "liberal" American media asked no hard questions and offered no hard challenges as Bush sped us into this war, and now, with the election passed, they have returned to their old, sorry ways.  Embedded reporters don't help present the reality of the war; they just promote the view the military and the administration want."  —Steve in Milwaukee

"What's missing the most is the whole picture. Snippets are great but context is better. Could there be any truth to the doctors' estimate of over 100,000 Iraqis killed? We could use less hearsay and more frank reportage and images.

What are the choices for war reporting? Embeds or nothing? Embed or getting shot up by the Americans in your hotel room? Embeds or no access for you? Embed or have your work called one version of the truth.  I guess embeds win."  —Stacey Youdin, Paxton Springs, N.M.

"Embed reporters are not a good idea.  Most of the time the pentagon has been thrilled with the pictures the Americans have been getting. (Marines and soldiers fighting for the liberty of Iraqis).  What about pictures from the other side? For example, children getting maimed and killed.  War is hell, and Americans should know all that is going on.  Toby Keith songs, the American flag, patriotism...this is not what war is about. Wasn't is the TET offensive, and reporting of horror, that changed our minds about Viet Nam?  Reporters should do their jobs and not be tools of the administration. The killing of an unarmed Iraqi prisoner is just one small slice of the needless suffering."  —Anonymous

"Last week I witnessed on television one of our soldiers shooting an enemy combatant who was already injured.  Was it shocking? Yes.  Was it wrong? Who knows? The soldier in question was obviously full of fear and did what he was trained to do. It seemed he merely reacted to what he perceived as a danger to himself and the other soldiers in the room. One would hope for a more rational frame of mind, but isn't that asking for a lot under the circumstances?

In other wars, a superior officer might’ve reprimanded an act like this privately.  But in this war, the picture taken by an embedded reporter was broadcast for the entire world to see and it was used by the Muslim world as a reason to continue killing and hating American soldiers.  Again, in previous wars we had “Axis Sally” and “Tokyo Rose” to broadcast on the radio and try to destroy the morale of the troops fighting in a foreign land.  In this war, we have our own embedded reporters doing the job of propaganda that was left to the enemy in years past!

As an American I, too, value the rights of free speech. I love every one of my constitutional rights.  But we do not have the right to aid and abet the enemy in a time of war.  Maybe it's just me, but it almost seems like an act of treason when that sort of thing is allowed to happen.

So, do I think embedded reporters are a good thing? No — unless he's of the caliber of an Ernie Pyle, the WWII reporter who kept Americans informed without jeopardizing the war effort."
Phyllis Theriault

"I just wish the television networks in the United States weren't subservient to their advertisers.  The advertisers will ultimately dictate what will be seen.  That principal alone make the networks a puppet arm of the United States Ministry of Propaganda--exactly like in the Hitler era in Germany.

On the other hand, I believe the American people really don't want to see truly objective reporting.  It would, at times, invalidate some the myths of the American way."  —Anonymous

Nov. 18
On Dana Falvo's blog on the Monday Night Football skit controversy

Hey Dana, I think it's unfortunate that we have to be subjected to the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders T & A as well. However, the pin-up quality of the cheerleaders is not quite the same thing as showing a scene of sexual enticement, complete with an amoral acquiescence to a "quickie" between strangers. It is shameful that this would come on at the beginning of Monday Night Football when many junior high and younger males are tuned in to watch the game. When looked at in an abstract way, your points seem valid— overtly sexual content is on the airwaves all the time. But parents like me do make choices to keep the TV tuned to good stuff, including sports programming, and away from things we think will be harmful for our kids. When we're blindsided, it hurts.

We are over-sexed as a culture— to accuse individuals who object when it becomes even more outrageous than usual of hypocrisy is completely beside the point. Many of us have been disheartened by the cheapening of something very beautiful and valuable for years. If no voices are raised in protest— both for the sake of our culture in general, and for the young men who need examples of self-control rather than self-indulgence—then there is no hope for a better cultural climate.

It's easy to assume a smug and condescending attitude toward those who lift their voices against the continuing deterioration of cultural norms. It's harder to envision a better world, and then to work to make it happen.

And Dana— if your daughter were a football fan, would you want her being influenced by the example of whoever was playing the all-too-willing blond whore, hot to get it on with the jock?

It's rotten at all kinds of levels. The worst aspect is that ABC probably knew this uproar would happen and is chuckling as they ride the crest of free publicity for their unworthy, yet hit, show. Desperate for dollars, the god of the age.

P.S. Do you have kids? I have found that trying to raise them to be healthy people changes your attitude about a lot of things in life. —Steve

I think it is absurd that these days,  EVERYTHING is subject to the scrutiny of those who are afraid of anything sexual.  Like  you said, let them change the channel.  I am exposed every day to things I personally find offensive or uncomfortable:  religion, ads for drugs, ads for cancer treatments, politicians that I disagree with.  But I just change the channel.  Do these people believe that sex doesn't exist?  Or that one can be tainted by JUST LOOKING AT SOMETHING?  It is unbelievable that now, after all the progress toward sexual freedom achieved in the 60's and 70's, we have regressed to this.  Not to sound like a broken record, but it makes me for the first time actually consider living in another country.  How about France, the country all the neo-Cons despise? —Steve Haarala, Mandeville, LA

I have had it with trying to watch sports with my daughters who are 9 and 11.  I let them watch the World Series so they could cheer for their beloved Red Sox,  only to have to stand guard with the remote as raunchy commercials and violent trailers for movies and crime shows kept invading my living room.  What is truly scary is reporters just don't see how terrible this stuff is for our young people-- you have seen it so much that you have become numb to it! —Brian

Reactions to Jesamyn Go's blog on 'Private Ryan' and the Fallujah mosque shooting footage

I believe that Americans at home are too protected from the atrocities of war.  War may not be pretty, but that is no reason for us to bury our heads in the sand and pretend it's not happening. I eagerly await more news about the Fallujah shooting, but I do have to say that the reaction to news channels reporting about it is sort of disturbing.  If our reporters had not covered this story, someone else eventually would have.  Then the headlines around the world would read "Americans Ignoring War Crimes", whether it's true or not. Besides, it is news. To not cover the story would make the reporters guilty of what everyone is accusing them of: playing favorites.  Renee Knowles, Elmhurst, IL

My ABC affiliate in Dayton is WKEF, a Sinclair owned television station and they refused to run "Saving Private Ryan."  Instead they ran "Born on the 4th of July." I'd be interested in knowing if all Sinclair ABC affiliated stations refused to run "...Ryan".  I believe it  is more of a political statement than anything else.  Part of a larger scheme by religious conservatives to "take back the airwaves." Any time the "F" word is used they are going to make a stink of it to the FCC. Just as anytime a white woman undresses in front of a black man you can be sure the FCC is going to hear about it.  What's next? —James Braun 

Not having seen the MNF skit live, only seeing still photos and short clips, but having seen many photos and film out of Iraq recently, I am stunned at the disproportionate level of interest that the MNF story has received. I strongly feel that today’s media coverage is weak and too easily diverted from the real story in the war zone... For people to object to the MNF skit, even though the concept that was implied was of an adult nature and to also to object to a faithful rendering of war but to sit by with no outrage that American and Iraqi lives are lost at an ever-growing rate to me is what is immoral. Donald R Custer, Bethel Park PA

In reading a number of blogs, I am struck by the extreme reaction the Fallujah footage has provoked, especially the anger expressed about embedded reporters.  It seems some citizens have a short memory regarding the policy of embedding reporters, how it came about, what some of the initial concerns were, and how well it worked during the initial ground campaign... journalists are between a rock and a hard place; the DoD won't let them travel freely and when they do report as embeds they are castigated as either apologists for the Administration or as propagandists for the insurgents.

I served 12 years in the Marine Corps as an infantry officer. I went to Grenada, Beirut and Desert Storm.  I view it through a recognition that the insurgents, if they were actually signatories to any of the Geneva Conventions, would be in grotesque and flagrant violation of the Law of Land Warfare. I see the footage and see a Marine making a split second shoot/no-shoot decision. I don't see a cold-blooded execution.  When the investigation is complete we'll know a lot more and maybe the Marine will be in trouble and maybe he won't.

This [footage] is played out in an environment that explicitly recognizes the 'CNN effect' —images of Marines' conduct in the 'three-block war' will be shown around the globe in near real-time.  A commander can no more ignore media presence than he/she can discount the effect of terrain. Media with a different world view, such as Al Jazeera make the commander's job that much harder. 

In our country, citizens are aware of the terrible toll insurgents have on Iraqi civilians, and they are disgusted by video tapes of hostage executions. I'm not sure if the citizens who get their news from Al Jazeera are aware that Margaret Hassan was executed by her captors; they certainly know that a Marine shot a wounded man in a mosque in Fallujah. That's the knife edge where the duty of journalist to witness and report gets cross-threaded with the mission of the military. Your profession is in a tough spot, and the way ahead looks challenging. — Matthew M. Aylward Virginia Beach

Nov. 16
Life is short, make it count

Here in my home state of Washington, about 200 demonstrators sat down in the streets of downtown Seattle on November 4 to protest the fact that George Bush was re-elected.  I never cease to be amazed at how old some children can be.  Whether your a disgruntled college student disrupting traffic, or an "anyone but Bush" Democrat, wasting time and money chasing imaginary Kerry ballots in Ohio, life can just be so unfair sometimes.  My advice for them is, get over it, get in touch with reality and get a life doing something positive for a change.

Life is short, make it count.  —Bob Warren

Thanks for the explanation - but I take issue with your concluding remarks.  The issue won't be "settled once and for all" unless and until there is a thorough investigation of the Diebold machine on how it counted and reported votes to its central computer. Word is the tallies were tampered with.  We can deal with the truth, but deceit of this magnitude, left pushed under the rug, could destroy us as a democracy.  —Anonymous

All Americans want is a fair count and evidence that optical scanners are accurate. We can't fix whatever voter suppression may have occurred this time, but we can count! This is so important. This goes to the core of who we are as a country. I hope this will be done with professionalism, fairness and accuracy. If not, once again, half the country will not accept Bush as a legitimately elected leader.  —Ron Melsha

It may not make a difference if the total count changes or not with the recount in Ohio.  It may not make a difference if President Bush retains the White House.  What does make a difference is that the integrity of the systems that have been used in Ohio be tested and that, if they are found to have been tampered with or to have just been flawed, the matter must be corrected. 

For the sake of argument, what if the equipment was flawed?  What if it was used in other states?  What if it affected other races, such as in the House or Senate?  If any of the equipment is found to have been sub-standard it needs to be addressed.  We're not talking about the President of the Senior Class here --we're talking about one of the most powerful positions on this earth and his actions will have an impact on the future of this world. 

I'd say that's worth a few days of investigation and double-checking.  Don't you think so?
Nancy Skura

I think your comments are a little too flip, and premature.  If with the number of provisional, absentee and other miscounted votes gets closer, how can you say for sure that thirty percent of votes, which were very likely also corrupted, might not be enough to make a difference?  They better look very closely at the exit polls from the machines that offer no sort of verification.  Then it should not be over once and for all, as thirty percent is a pretty big chunk if it gets close!  —Jacayln Engler

Have you noticed that all of sudden, with the advent of recounts in Ohio and voting machine reviews NH, that there's a lot of noise about the usefulness of Provisional Ballots.  Moreover, on the radio today, how the news bureaus are not finding Exit Polls reliable. Why are these news items a week or more after Nov. 2?

Answer: In that we're still being political about these issues. This is proof that the Election of 2004 is not over!  —A. Gross, Clackamas, Ore.

Nov. 15
E-Mails on evidence, voting, and Dean

This morning I read your blog "The Ground War" and am blown away by one of your comments, specifically your brief mention of the possibility of fraud in this recent presidential election.  You state, "the evidence does not support that."

How can you make this statement?  We don’t know the evidence yet because not many people who control such things (politicians, the media) have not been doing any investigation or asking the tough questions.  Evidence doesn't just magically appear and become known to the world, it needs to be discovered, and it won't as long as people dismiss these accusations.

While I agree there has yet to be clear evidence of fraud, there are clearly some very suspicious numbers out there that warrant investigation. So that evidence of fraud or evidence of no-fraud can be determined. 

The American People need your help.  Whether the media wants to acknowledge it or not, there are many Americans who have serious doubts about this last election.  I would be pleased if the "evidence doesn't support this", but I have yet to see any evidence, or any effort by those in power to look for any.  —Nick Sasson

I was part of the Dean network:  I coordinated the greater Houston area for an entire year.  On the net and on paper, we had 2,800 identified supporters and about 400 volunteers.  In reality, we had 80% bloggers and maybe 20% cloggers (as we started calling real grassroots organizers) for a 12-county region.  In the end, the Internet campaign was all talk and no walk; it did not succeed, as we saw in Iowa.  We worked really hard to organize these people into precinct organizing, with block walking and phoning.  I sadly concluded that most Deaniacs loved to complain and but not work and do something about it.

Most people's ideas of "organizing” was to announce a time and place — a busy street-corner —- where people would wave signs and hoot and holler for Dean.  Those of us experienced organizers fought the tendency tooth and nail, but Dean encouraged these "visibility" events.  As a 30-year Democratic organizer, I can tell you that the Dean failed campaign was merely re-affirmation of the futility of such "organizing" activities.  —Dale Napier

I’ve had nearly Republicans tell me that Howard Dean would have been a better candidate than John Kerry and some of them tell me that they would have voted for him.  All the Democrats I know share the same sentiment.  It’s unfortunately the media has painted him so “unelectable” solely for a post-caucus speech in Iowa.

The Democratic Party has no identity any more.  This is no longer a time to be a Clinton-centrist.  Clinton did well because of the poor economy in 1992 and his charisma.  Now with foreign policy and terrorism (Iraq War as a part of that), strong solid ideas will now win elections.  I don’t buy it for a minute that evangelicals helped win this election.  It was Kerry’s weak will and dependence on polls that lost him the election.

The Democratic Party needed to do a better job of having clear positions and sticking with them.  They need to discuss real moral and ethical issues such as caring for the poor, the environment, and telling the truth. 

Maybe it will take four more years for the country to get so deep in trouble with the national debt, war casualties, and loss of jobs and health care that those in red states will start to realize total control of the U.S. Government by Republicans are not working for them.  Especially since it’s the red states that receive the bulk of social assistance from the government the blue states seem to provide for.  —Rob Kyle, Des Moines, Wash.

I think that you have overlooked an important factor in the 2004 presidential election campaign.  Bush (and the Swift Boat ads) spent millions in attacking John Kerry's personal integrity, his military and Senate record.  The Republicans' war-chest was a greater factor in the campaign process than you realize.  The ability of the Bush strategists to spend their money on negative attacks on John Kerry diverted the electorate's attention from the president's own "failures."  This evened the playing field, and voters will normally support the incumbent president during war.  I think you overstate the impact of the ground campaigns, which were probably effective for both parties, considering the turnout.  —Rod Olsen

In your Hardblogger piece, "The Ground war," you wrote, "The exit polling indicates that President Bush closed the gender gap in this election, meaning that he ran almost even with Kerry among women voters." David, with the exit polls supposedly so flawed as to actually indicate a Kerry win when actual vote counts showed a significant win for Bush, why would you include them as credible evidence of anything else (such as Bush closing the gender gap) in your piece?  Either the exit polls were worthless or they were not...you can't have it both ways.  Pam Sagely

I don't always agree with your views but this was a very good article and very well written.  I think you hit the nail on the head.  There are a lot of good Democrats out there if the Democratic Party would just harvest them.  —Dee Nelson, Lakehills, TX

Regarding Nader + Gore + 1 million last week, the election result may come down to the simple fact that the Gore campaign returned to door-knock GOTV in 2000, giving them the popular vote.  Remember Gore got the largest vote total of any Democrat.  And Reagan in 1984 was the only candidate who got more votes.  And when similar GOTV efforts were employed by the Republicans they simply surpassed the best efforts the Democrats could make.  —DCR

My biggest concern about the emphasis on internet activity is how many people actually get away from their computer and vote as opposed to how many "talk the talk but don't walk the walk". Unfortunately, passion on the internet did not result in passionate voters on Election Day.  —Lew Huddleston, Fayetteville, Ariz.

Nov. 8
Not at a loss for words

I always appreciate your blogs here on MSNBC.  However, your blog on gay marriage is somewhat off base.  I agree with almost everything you say regarding the bible, and the use of it by many evangelicals as a weapon against those they disagree with morally.  However, two things in your blog strike me as disturbing. 

First, people have got to stop focusing on the choice element of homosexuality.  It may not be a choice, but that's really not the point.  If the focus in the gay rights movement is "choice," then homosexuality is viewed as a birth defect, a disease.  Stop putting homosexuality in a negative light.  People do enough of that already.  Simply put, homosexuality is the ability to love someone of the same sex.  Broadening the reach of love should not be a bad thing.

Another thing I find quite disturbing is your hypothetical, "So why not coax these human beings into traditional values?"  Coax?  Traditional Values?  Blah!  Homosexuals do not wish to be "coaxed" nor are they fighting to take on traditional values, per se.  They are merely asking to be treated with the same respect as heterosexuals.

Any way, thanks for your thoughts.  I enjoy the discourse that our modern media provides.  You help contribute to that.  —Scott Paris, Cleveland, Oh.

States should allow civil unions, I just don't think these unions should be called "marriages."  The closest correlation I can think of is the women's rights issue.  When the Equal Rights Amendment was debated in the ‘70s women supporting it were asking for equal rights for women.  They did not ask that women be called "men" because they weren't men.  They were women. 

In the same vein, I believe American culture has always considered a marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and I can't think of any reason why a union between gays needs to be called a "marriage."  —Anonymous

I commend you for your acknowledgement of the real division of religious-sanctioned marriage from civil-sanctioned marriage.  Recognition of this division, which many do not want to admit, will be the only way we can reasonably move forward in this debate.  It’s amazing the amount of hatred and fear that is currently being spread by politicians and their supporters alike in trying to sway the population one way or another.  This reveals the increasing amount of involvement that religious organizations are beginning to pursue in civil affairs. 

This country was partially founded on the principle of the separation of church and state--not because the Founding Fathers disliked religion or the Church of England, but because for hundreds of years Europe and was torn by strife from religious backed factions. During those times, religious zealots often used fear to hide corruption and ignorance in their own ranks to set populations against each other. 

Yet today, it seems that the memory has faded.  Over the last few elections, the impact religious leaders are making is increasingly worrisome. We are heading back to those times where many grand pronouncements of policy and stands are made with little consultation of facts, reason or differing opinions.  —Scott Kuenzli

Nov. 5
Three days later and still talking...

I am not sure I understand why so so many people are opposed to the war in Iraq. Why is there so much crtitism about how our troops are performing? Why is there so much anger and hate against President Bush? I mean really, all the U.S. soldiers that have died in battle for freedom since the revolutionary war is  around 1.3 million, most of which volunteered to lay thier lives down in name of freedom. None wanted to die but all were willing to make that sacrifice to protect and enhance the lives of others. I am proud of them. I am proud and honored that I was born in a nation that gathers together and surrounds the opressed and vulnerable. When they died it was for a noble and honorable reason. —Maggie Taylor, Toledo Oregon

I watched in disbelief as Joe Scarborough illustrated the blue and red state map in relation to Bush popularity. Worst of all, you even used e a map showing how people voted by county! As an ex-congressman, you are smart enough to know that Bush got his votes more from thinly populated rural areas rather than urban area like L.A. and New York. It was a geographic map. We don't count the mountain bears and wolves, do we? —Anonymous

What depresses me most is not that Kerry lost, but that the media is failing to fully investigate the highly suspicious disparity between exit polls and e-voting results, primarily in battleground states like FL and OH...NOT in IL, NY, and CA. Isn't there any investigative journalist out there, considered "credible" by mainstream media, who will use their resources to find out the truth about this? Even by the questionable results, 48% of American voters are not only disappointed, but highly concerned about what Bush's re-relection will mean to the US and the world. Isn't that worth a full and fair investigation? —Debbi Felker, Florence, KY

After reading all the depressing Anti-Bush Reviews, I wonder just who they think John Kerry is? It is like they think he could wave a magic wand and make all hopes and dreams come true!  Wake up!

America has survived bad presidents and good presidents and it will survive
Bush! As for that student that says she will be working and living her professional life outside of the USA because of the Kerry defeat, all I got to say is good! Democracy is a living, breathing, evolving system because it involves people. If she is not willing to survive the defeats and involve herself in the victories then this country does not need her.  —Anonymous

From the Deeeeep Blue state of Massachusetts I have to tell you that John Kerry was a clinker of candidate.  People just don't like him and, unfortunately, if you can't connect you can't be the president.  Mr. Bush's connection to the American people outweighed those of Mr. Kerry. 

So while we Democrats are busy whining and pouting, let's not loose sight of 2008.  Remember, someone like Rudy Giuliani, someone with a brain, will be even harder to beat and we need to get to work NOW!  —Terri, Hanson, Ma.

My 7-year-old son asked me why a good guy couldn’t try to be president?  This is the reality of what the negative campaigning is doing to corrupt the morals of our youth.  Some children believe that all candidates are bad and, therefore, we are a country run by crooks. To them, it must seem like being a crook is acceptable.  —Shelly Tahtinen, Anderson, In

I can't believe this election was supposedly determined by a single religious issue: "Gay Marriage" and the fact that President Bush showed that he was more religious and possessed more moral values than Senator Kerry. 

Who were we electing the Pope?  We were electing someone to run our country in our best interests.  Please tell me that the heartland chose the president because of his ability to fight terror, or that our economy is not causing middle class citizens problems or that our deficit is not out of control. But please don't tell me because he is speaks about his religious convictions to millions of Americans and John Kerry chose to say he is religious and was a catholic alter boy and does attend services.  That was not enough for Middle America. 

This is frightening to me.  Religion is such a personal thing and those that feel the need to condemn should read their bible and practice tolerance that is described over and over in the bible.  We should not judge anyone--that is God's job.  And the Catholic Church (and by the way I am Catholic) needs to sweep their own porches before condemning anyone. 

Please tell me that middle America voted for George Bush because they felt he was the better man to run the state of affairs in our country not that middle America was making a religious statement.  What about separation of church and state?  All we need is a religious war in this country and we will be a "Middle East".  Judgmental people running our country in the name of religion sicken me. —Bonnie, N.Y.

I do find it amazing how much energy is spent on analyzing what took place during the (past and done) election, and all predictions and assumptions made for the years to come. I’m not sure what value it holds. Direct your recommendations to the appropriate parties for the next election. How much volunteer time did you give your campaign party during this election?

Sure there are hard feelings towards the re-elect President, but regardless the time now going forward is to see that the parties work together. United we stand, divided we fall.

It does not matter if you don't believe that slogan to be true, the nation will crumble if the parties keep fighting among themselves at the expense of their citizens.  —Anonymous

Nov. 4

It is ever so clear that the American voter, Republican or Democrat, hear only what they want to hear. They live on sound bites and talking points and leave the meat of the issues for the media to digest and throw it back to us.  This country has some serious issues and unless Republicans, Independents and Democrats realize that we are all Americans first and party members second these issues will still be debated again in four years.  A decision has been made and as Americans we need to stand shoulder to shoulder and prove to the rest of the world that this is what a democracy is and it is the best in the world.  —Lonnie Bassett

I have seen on other news organizations Republicans and Analysts talking about how the young vote never came out and that it was a mistake by the Democrats to court that vote. This is not true.

It's correct that only 17% of voters were young people, same as in 2000. However we had more voters than ever this year. Just because the percentage is the same doesn't mean the raw numbers did not improve. Almost 2 million more young people voted in this election as did last time, that's a great improvement. I'd hate to see all of the young people in this country feel as if their efforts didn't matter this time. It almost seems as if some of these people have a vested interest in discouraging these young voters, and that is shameful.  —Sean Hunsicker, Lancaster, Pa.

The more I think about the election the more upset I become. I feel like a union soldier in the 1860s. Do you realize that not since JFK was elected in 1960 have we had a president who came from somewhere other then California or the south? As a lifetime Michigan resident, I am very discouraged that as a country we only seem to elect Southern Democrats or Southern Republicans with the occasional California Republican thrown in. How is it that we in the Midwest, Northeast or mountain states are not able to get a Democrat or Republican in the White house? We have many bright people who have served in office from these northern areas. The Northeast, West and Midwest provide the economies that feed and run this country, yet we are dominated by the South when it comes to electing a president. I hope President Bush can unite us because if he can't, we may split in two like in the 1860's. —Robert Chapman

I enjoyed Chris Matthews' discussion last night regarding the cultural divide between the "blue" and "red" states.  One fact that gets never gets mentioned in the national media is that California, despite being the famous bastion of liberals, is also dramatically split into red and blue.  The San Francisco Bay Area and LA went for Kerry while the rest of the state actually went for Bush. California is really a microcosm of what has happened in the rest of the country between the urban/highly-educated/secular/"Starbucks" classes and the rural/blue collar/religious/"Dunkin Donuts" classes.  At the moment, this divide seems unbridgeable. 
Sarah, Palo Alto, Calif.

I am a twenty-three-year old young American and have thus far into my life voted twice for the President of the United States of America.  Both times, my candidate did not make it into the White House and I am losing my optimism.  This country is holy consumed in dividing our nation into the moral superiority of the religious right and the unworthy liberal left. There is a sense of not belonging. We are not a united country, but a country pitted against radical ideologies of one party.  As a gay American, where do I go when I want a voice in this country? The conservative voice has spoken: I am not wanted, there is no place for me.  Will I vote again in four years? I am not sure.  —Ryan Clark, Tacoma, Wash.

It upsets me to hear people disappointed in the voter turnout of 18 to 24-year-olds. The youth of America did turn out and vote, their votes just aren't being counted. Instead of looking at the percentage of votes from this age bracket compared to the 2000 election, compare at the number of overall registered youth voters because that number will be different. As a college student in Boston, but registered in my home state Texas, 90% of all students I’ve talked to, from seniors in high school to seniors in college, voted in this election. However, a vast majority of all of these students requested absentee ballots. Unfortunately absentee ballots are not being counted like they should, some students, after countless phone calls trying to get their hands on one, did noteven receive their absentee ballots. By not including all absentee ballots, you are lying to the youth of America by saying all votes count because clearly they aren't.  —Rachel Wasserman, Boston, Mass.

While watching election returns on TV, I heard some news commentators mention that moral values and concern about terrorism played a part in the outcome of this election.  They were the two major determining factors in the way I voted. 

America is a unique country founded by unique individuals with a wonderful vision for a federal republic peopled by men and women endowed by their Creator with certain rights.  We were, and continue to be, a nation of strong moral values.  As I saw those values being eroded, I decided it was time to take a stand for strong moral leadership.  No matter how vocal a group is, or how much money they spend to convince people to vote their way, in the end they must win hearts to win votes.  Voters clearly showed that their hearts are not in partial-birth abortion or gay marriage.  I will stand with leadership that stands against moral erosion.  I think that President Bush was created and purposed for such a time as this. —Kay Cameron, Carlinville, Ill.

We are not voting against Kerry because we are Bible thumpers we thought he was a jerk.His record in the senate is not outstanding.Peole are smart in Ok. Give us a chance! —Linda, Stephena, Ponca City , Okla.

The latest spin on events makes me chuckle. Bush is triumphant in the fact that he has received the most votes in history as his mandate. He also received the most votes against a winning president in history, yet this will never be mentioned. The spinning continues. —Roger Foulds, Rio Rancho

A reply to a reply.

Since the "red" states are the ones to re-elect Bush, I say, let them be the first to march off, and fight his war."John, Philadelphia, PA

John look at the map... The Red states are the ones marching off to fight this war. The Blue states - bordering Canada, The West Coast and the New England states are bastions of non-supporting liberal whiners and malcontents. We don't need you or want you. As to Red States, the whole middle of the country, — we say "Bring it on!" —Robert

The U.S. election map tells the story.  It is the media capitols that stir the controversy over moral values.  They embrace and promote values that our great heritage would find degenerate.  Shame on New York for their lack of support to George Bush, the president who supported them in their hour of need. Their values, or lack of them, is showing. —Kay Irwin, Thornton

It is time for John Kerry to take on the role of Statesman.  He needs to be a more active advocate for the 48% of voters who chose him in the 2004 election.  The Democrats, the moderates and the unconvinced in this country need a loyal opposition to the Bush-Cheney doctrine.  Compromise is needed on many issues but partizan debate is one of the hallmarks of any democracy.  In my mind he is the prime candidate to be the new Minority Whip in the Senate.   —Lucian Junto

I watched last night and listened to all the reasons for the Bush win.  If what you were saying is correct, that moral issues is what won the election for Bush; then I don't really get it.  This man misled the American people into a war.  Dick Chaney out and out lied to the people.  People have died because of this.  How moral is that?  Just because he goes to church on Sunday he is moral?  This doesn't make sense to me.  I don't think moral when I look at George Bush.  Are the American people that blind?  How many more people have to die and do we have to wait until the country is completely bankrupt for the people to see the light. —Dawn, Bristol

Something that was frequently mentioned prior to election day, but not mentioned since, is that there were no incidents of violance by terrorists against either polling places or voters in the style of what was accomplished in the election in Spain. I believe this is significant. Neither the voting process nor voters seemed to be affected by threats or by actual terrorist incidents. —Anomyous

Nov. 3
The day after

Much reflection (and depression)

Hello Hillary,  Are you out there?  Hmmm. —Sharon Crawford, Oklahoma City

About half way through the election result coverage last night it hit me who all the extra voters were this year.  They were part of the moral majority in this country who for the last several years have sat back and silently let liberal politicians eat away at the moral character of our country. Americans sent a loud and clear message last night that moral issues do matter when choosing their leaders.  To coin a phrase from a popular song, "I'm proud to be an American" today, and very hopeful that this is a first step towards gaining back some morality in our country.  —Bill, Cincinnati,OH

The civility and decorum with which both President Bush and Senator Kerry conducted themselves today made me proud to be an America! Both of these men — both strong leaders - have asked us to unite as a nation and work for the common good.  Just as every vote was important - now it is important that each of us defend our beliefs in our constituency by actively participating in the process of law making and decision making. Email, write, or call your representatives in congress - if the constituency views are middle of the road - ensure the elected officials vote that way!  Don't drop the ball now! As the character McGyver once said on the TV show - "that's how we make a difference, one person at a time."  God Bless America!!!!! —Nan, Greenville, NC

I can't disagree more with the thought being expressed today that Bush had a "clear mandate and majority" in this election. 51% is hardly a HUGE majority or mandate in my opinion. This means that just slightly half of this country did not want Mr Bush as their President (as most of the world did not want him re-elected either). Bush can "reach out to me" all he wants but unless he believes as me, thinks as me, feels as me about the issues that matter to me, he will never reach me... and if he had, I would have voted for him. He's not MY President. —Martha K, Hollywood, Fla.

Now that the campaigning is over let's get down to fixing all the problems both sides said they would fix during their camapigning- Bush through the Oval Office and Kerry through the congress - it's time to quit the party line politics and focus on the good of the american people —Dave Shields, Millbury OH

All I have heard all day is that Bush must "reach out" to dems and unify country. It takes two to tango! Where are calls /committments of dems or liberals to reach out and work with Bush. After all, the election doesn't mean much if the guy with 51% unilaterally capitulates to party with 48%.  Compromise, even on major issues leads to unity only if both parties do it. —Bob, ABQ

I just can't bring myself to discuss the election in a civil or conciliatory manner when I feel that the re-election of George W. Bush so threatens the safety and well-being of my family and my country... and that we will pay dearly for it with American blood and money over the next four years. I'm a white, middle-class,Catholic, 47 yr. old wife and PTA-style mom living in "the heartland", but I don't feel there's a place for me in the Bush kingdom of evangelical politics —what must it be like for groups like gays and blacks who are REALLY marginalized in this kingdom?  In my set of cherished moral values, I believe that there are many paths to heaven other than through Christ, and that tolerance of others' differences is one of the greatest of virtues.  I believe that there should be a mile-high wall separating church and state.  Somehow, these values don't seem to play well in the kingdom.

I feel too, that it's hypocritical to claim to value life - including 3000 lost on 9/11 - and then lay waste to perhaps 100,000 Iraqi civilians, keeping no body count, while fighting a war we can't justify in THEIR country, so we don't have to have that mess at home...even though the Iraqi people had nothing to do with 9/11.  I could never condone terrorism, but I can sure see a reason or two terrorists might want to strike out at the bully our country is becoming.
It's a bad day for a blue voter in a red state...hope OBL won't hold it against me and mine. 
Thanks for "listening." —Carol, Arnold, Mo.

Nov. 1

You guys are incredible, all of you.  I appreciate now, more than ever, the idea of difference of opinion, that difference is not a problem to be overcome but the greatest asset we have as a nation in ensuring that we always do what is best for us as a nation.  I share the sentiments of the panel when I say that I hope voter turnout is as high as possible, as it well validate the victory of who ever wins.  Thank you for being our guide through this incredible time in American History.  Sincerely, Jason and Michele —Michele, Scarsdale, N.Y.

Great son you have, enjoyed his singing and your show always. —Betty, Athens, Ala.

Chris-- here's a quick commentary on E.B. White if you really didn't know the reference.
C.J., Calhan, Colo.

I am watching 'Hardball' and Joe Scarborough said young people aren't going to vote well the girl who is 20 that sits next to me in college said she is driving home tonite in  North Carolina to vote for Kerry and we are in school in MD. I am 55yrs old and my professor said she is her hero. I do think the young kids are going to vote. —Deborah DeFelice, Great Mills

I'm watching Hardball and all the discussion about Karl Rove and his evangelical voters. Well, I'm a conservative, evangelical, born-again voter and I DID NOT vote for Bush!(neither did my minister husband) I think many evangelicals have been brain-washed and hijacked by right-wing leaders. The teachings of Christ do not support many of the Bush administration policies. —Gail Soderquist, Chandler, Ariz.

Please do not forget to vote tomorrow.  Set aside some time and make the effort to have your voice heard.  It is a crucial election.  If you need assistance or transportation for some reason or another, call me or email me and I will assist you in any way that I can.  Please don't forget!  Make the time! —Teresa Quarles

I have to tell you - seeing Tom Brokaw tonight with each presidential canidate - clearly shows that president Bush is the right man for the job.  I loved it when Tom asked Senator Kerry about Saddam still being in power if he were the president instead of Bush.  Very funny.—FoyBlackmon, Las Vegas, Nev.

I watched the Declare Yourself, poetry reading on MSNBC tonight and was moved more than i have been since the beginning of this campaign.  i am a 51 year old w/f and was so proud of those young americans declaring themeselves. —Rae, Newbern, Tenn.

The article, “Our Democracy at Risk?” by David Shuster captures exactly why I feel is a great deal of despair in the coming election. The fact that 47 percent of the Bush voters believe Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction, even though the Bush administration’s own chief weapon inspector concludes that Iraq had neither WMD, nor even WMD programs, before the Iraq war, is mind numbing. From where do the American people draw their information? We might all reach a different conclusion as to the implications of blundering into a war where the stated reasons turn out to be totally false, but lets at least agree on the facts. —Paul Sanders, Seattle, Wash.

Sarah Muller's blog on the harassment of voters from opposing political parties does note that it is coming from both Republicans and Democrats. However, in her anecdotal examples she only uses cases of Republicans perpetrating the harassment. Why is that?

On a radio talk show in L.A. CA, where the host does not screen calls, he asked callers to relay stories of hostility toward them due to their political affiliation. I could not listen to the whole show but, in the time I was listening, ALL of the unscreened calls came from Republicans who had their cars keyed or doors kicked in for having Bush bumper stickers or rude insults hurled at them at parties. So, in the unfiltered world of no-screener talkshows, it was the Republicans who were most often the victims of Democrat rage. (Though, of course, this was not a scientific study.) —Anonymous

I couldn't agree more with what you have said.  In my area, normally during a presidential election, there would be political signs in many yards.  To date, I have seen four.  I wondered why, and the only reason I could come up with was many were afraid to put signs up
in their yards, for fear of repurcussions from friends, neighbors, etc.

I can't recall ever hearing such downright nasty exchanges among friends, neighbors and relatives over an upcoming presidential election. This is ridiculous, and has led to very hard feelings... they are worse than the politicians.

I'm sure you have visited some of the election message boards on the net.  I have been reading one board from a major network in recent days, and I would never sign up to post.  The name-calling, cursing, lies, and taunting of those who support a candidate they do not,
is appalling.  It is really sad that adults cannot discuss the election in a civil manner. The terrible names they call both candidates blew me away.

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