November 18, 2004| 3:09 p.m. ET

Lutefisk and the Dems (Joe Trippi)

Five or six months ago, not even thinking that November 5th would be just a few days after our elections, I agreed to a couple of meetings and talks in Europe about how to get more people engaged in the political process— both in terms of campaigns but also in terms of governance.

When I landed in Oslo, Norway I promised myself that I would not try the Lutefisk, a Norwegian delicacy that consists of dried fish, remoistened by soaking it in lye, and then extracting the lye so you are not poisoned when you eat the fish.  I let my guard down and tried the Lutefisk and imagine I had the same look on my face as the average Norwegian had when I was asked, “What happened in your elections?  How did Bush win?”

The questions were the same everywhere I went.

But now I am back and I haven’t eaten any Lutefisk in over a week, but the news these days is like Lutefisk only the lye hasn’t been leached out of it.

It turns out John Kerry has $15 million dollars left in his campaing coffers .  No way that money would have made a difference in Ohio!  What were they thinking?  Were they saving the money to buy new drapes for the Oval Office?

Then there are the Republicans in Congress who have wasted no time in changing the rules so that a member charged with a felony can still serve in the House Leadership.

Many of you will remember that it was the Republicans in 1994 who (in an effort to clean up the House) instituted the rule that required anyone in the House Leadership to step down when charged with a felony.  Now that it appears that one of their leaders (Tom DeLay) may be on his way to a felony indictment the Republicans have changed that rule. How does the saying go?  Oh yeah…. "Power corrupts."

The interesting thing is how the Republicans defend their change of heart saying, “Any District Attorney can for political reasons indict a leader in the House and he would have to step down”.  While this is true— it is also true that for 10 years since the rule was passed no such District Attorney has done any such thing.  Tom DeLay on the other hand may now be charged with a felony and still serve in the House Leadership— so much for Republican promises to clean up the House.

Finally the Democratic Party seems to be in complete denial that it needs to reform itself from the bottom-up.  Forget about putting anyone in the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee who is carrying water for any of the potential 2008 nominees. Forget about putting anyone in as Chair of the Party who is a figurehead, a symbol, or a placeholder.  What the Party needs is someone who is committed to building a vibrant, energized party from the grassroots up to make gains in the House and Senate in 2006, and who will continue to build a party of ideas so that whoever wins the 2008 nomination is leading a modernized Party that can win the Presidency.

In other words— stop the gamesmanship, and the politics as usual— and put some outside the box thinking in place to build a new party from within.

Why do the Norwegians take a perfectly good and moist fish, dry it, and then soak it in lye to moisten it again— then leach the lye out so you can eat something that even the Norwegians admit you have to acquire a taste for?

And why has the Democratic Party taken on the definition of insanity— doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result?  

Both remain a mystery to me.  

What I know is that now is the time to embrace real reform within the Democratic Party, and now is the time for grassroots Democrats to demand that reform.

Hey, let me know what you think.  E-mail me at

November 18, 2004| 3:09 p.m. ET

Pssst… If you haven't heard we're a society full of S-E-X (Dana Falvo, Creative Story Unit)

A drop of the towel and all hell breaks loose. Today the media found itself converging on the same theme that sprouted from the presidential election... the values question.

After what some say was an inappropriate scene between "Edie" from "Desperate Housewives" and Philadelphia Eagle Terrell Owens before Monday Night Football, ABC has found itself in a little situation called "covering its a--."

Here is my question: What ever happened to the idea that if you don't like what you're watching, change the channel? Isn't that why we have satellites that bring us 1,000 different channels?

Sure, I can understand the introduction to Monday night's game certainly alluded to some sexual activity that some would find offensive. And I get the part that parents don't want their children to watch sex scenes. But I also remember being told to get out of the room when a steamy scene came on television.

I know right now some of you are screaming that you didn't think you would have to worry about screening the kiddies from a football game, but did "Edie" show more skin than the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders do every game?

I think we have to understand the context in which skits like these are being shown. Let's not forget, "Desperate Housewives" is a HIT for ABC. The network was doing nothing more than promoting its' product. Considering what actually occurs on the show's Wisteria Lane, the drop of the towel wasn't much. And considering the ratings for the actual show are through the roof, people don't seem to mind the steamy scenes.

You don't need me to remind you that as a society, we are constantly surrounded by sex. It's a sign of the times. We need to make a decision on what is acceptable and what is not, so we can stop having the same debate over and over.

Take for example the commercial that features a couple window-shopping that picture the man with blue devil horns and the nickname of "wild thing." We know this product is aimed at older men, but we also know what this commercial is alluding to. It is no different than what "Edie" was suggesting with the drop of her towel.  (Pfizer was asked to pull that particular ad , by the way, but for very different reasons).  The difference is that the Viagra commercial aired ALL day. It aired in all sorts of programming— not just the shows men watch at night. Take notice next time you are watching television — I assure you will see a similar Viagra commercial again before you see "Edie" and Terrell.

Another part of the story: Colts coach brings race into the argument.

Does anyone find this offensive?

Other stories catching my eye:

Want talk about this?  E-mail me at

Click here to read some of your e-mails to Dana .

November 18, 2004| 12:03 p.m. ET

MSNBC's coverage of the Clinton Presidential Library opening has started, and Chris Matthews invites you to join us.

Clinton Library opens (Chris Matthews)

This morning, we have special coverage of the dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library. Former President Bill Clinton's two terms in office roughly reflected the man himself. His administration turned into a political lightning rod, attracting both true believers and smart critics. 

Today, the former president will be surrounded by his loyalists and his loyal opposition. 

President Bush will be here along with his father, and former President Carter. All will speak, along with Sen. Hillary Clinton who will introduce her husband.

Guests are gathering for an hour of musical entertainment leading up to the official ceremony.

More, of course, on 'Hardball' at 7 p.m. ET tonight.

November 17, 2004| 10:24 p.m. ET

A thousand words (Jesamyn Go, Hardball web producer)

On my last blog, I wrote about several ABC affiliates’ refusal to air “Saving Private Ryan” on Veterans Day.

I wondered whether it was a business decision (i.e., affiliates not wanting to pay possible FCC fines for any complaints over foul language in the movie), or a political statement. After all, the graphic images of war in the film may be "too real" when our soldiers are fighting in Fallujah.

We received many e-mails that expressed strong opinions on this, some from veterans and their families. Here are a few:

"Speaking strictly as the daughter of a WWII veteran, one who sacrificed a 'normal' life for his country at the tender age of 18, fresh from an Iowa farm: Oh, sure, it is ok for the government to throw innocent young men and women into a war, exposing them to hell, but, it is not ok to allow others to see the horrid atrocities that these men and women lived through, or live through? What better way for today's society to see and experience but through films and the like?" —Karen Wallace, Springfield, MO

"The American people voted for [the war], they should be reminded of what it is like. They give the numbers of the dead on the news, but the numbers are cold, they don't have a face.—  -Gary I. Robertson, Apopka, Florida

Many correlated the non-airing of this movie to be similar to the reason we don’t see photographs of coffins coming home. “War is war,” many of you said. “The least we can do is to watch a fictional portrayal of something that is actually going on.”

Some readers were so incensed, like a reader named “erd,” who called his local ABC affiliate to complain. While I applaud his initiative (and I think people should act and make their voices heard), I do question his style. He said, in his e-mail to me— “I left a message that included most of the words that kept Private Ryan off the air. I guess they won't be using that piece of tape either.” 


In any case, the movie was watched by an average of 7.7 million viewers… and I have not heard of complaints about it so far. (Have you?)

The war has been in the news for the past year or so, but nothing touches a nerve like graphic pictures.

Recently, there has been the controversial footage from Fallujah where in video by correspondent Kevin Sites, a Marine raises his rifle toward an Iraqi lying on the floor of a mosque and shoots the man. Prior to the shooting, the Marine could be heard shouting obscenities in the background, yelling that one of the men was only pretending to be dead.

The U.S. military is investigating this incident. They are looking into the circumstances the marine found himself in, and whether other wounded Iraqis in the mosque were similarly killed.

We’ve received a few e-mails on this, below is a sampling:

"I am seething with anger about the heavy media coverage on the alleged wrongful shooting of a Fallujah terrorist by one of our brave soldiers in self-defense… The liberal hypocrites in this country say they support the troops but now they are doing everything they can to bring down the military by accusing our brave soldiers of war crimes. This incident should not even warrant any major news media coverage except maybe a one-paragraph write-up on page 12 of a newspaper.  The fact is not in and the incident is already being investigated by the military." —Fran Wong, Corvallis, OR

"Re: Jackie Spinner interview (11/16/2004)  It seems that being an embedded reporter in street combat results in the "Stockholm syndrome".  She has become an apologist (perhaps understandably in her stressful circumstances) for indefensible behavior; she is no longer a reporter.  Without the film, this horror would have gone unnoticed.  (Flip the circumstances and we would be appalled.)  More and more of us are beginning to sound like 1940's Germans. There is no excuse for acceptance of this behavior, we used to be better than this." —Leslee Hippert, Tucson

I think these e-mails about "Saving Private Ryan" (a movie) and the graphic footage from Fallujah (real life) are resonating for the same reason— powerful images.

We read the headlines in our newspapers and every day— we all know soldiers' lives have been lost and are at risk. We know that a lot of Iraqis have died. But only when there are powerful images does it strike a chord.

People will always debate about what the media should or should not show.

There will always be people who think that casting our soldiers in a questionable light is unpatriotic; while there will be others who will want to be aware of what we are asking of our soldiers— to endure the stress and the risk of being in the heat and chaos of battle.

War is war. No matter what we believe politically about the war in Iraq— I think we are all uncomfortable. And we should be.

Thoughts? E-mail me at

Read some of your e-mails to Jesamyn.

To see a slideshow of powerful images of the fight for Fallujah and unrest in Iraq, click here.

By the way, the FCC is in the news again this week after Michael Powell, the chairman of the commission, expressed disappointment over the steamy locker room opening to ABC's "Monday Night Football" broadcast.

Check out Mike Celzic’s commentary on this and how hypocritical he thought ABC and the NFL was for apologizing for a premeditated piece of video— but that is another blog.

The question I ask in the mean time: Is the fuss about the MNF intro making too much of nothing ?

We read your e-mails, so write us.

November 17, 2004| 4:37 p.m. ET

Tonight's show and some must-reads (Dominic Bellone, Hardball producer and newsletter editor)

We've got an action packed hour for you tonight folks as we lead the show with none other than Stormin' Norman Schwarzkopf on the continued fighting in Iraq , the controversy of the Marine who killed the guy in the mosque , and the ex-soldiers who are refusing orders to re-enlist.

Speaking of folks refusing to re-enlist, we'll talk to former Army captain Jay Ferriola and his lawyer Barry Slotnick. Ferriola won a legal battle with the military over his call-up to the Individual Ready Reserve. We'll ask him why he refused and how he won his case .

And here's the fun part of the show...We've sent Shuster and Ron Reagan down to Little Rock to cover Bubba's big party at his new library . Tomorrow's the official ceremony but the celebs are already assembling en masse. Shuster's been hanging around the Peabody Hotel looking for scoops and interviews with FOBs (Friends of Bill). We'll bring you all the action tonight...

NewsFlash: Chris will anchor coverage on Thursday of the Clinton Library Opening in Little Rock from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. ET.

Do whatever it takes to see this...Tivo it if you must or demand a TV on your desk. It promises to be hot. (Or check out for the latest video). We've shipped David Shuster and Ron Reagan to Little Rock (he used to live there) to cover all the pre-opening shindigs. Shuster is blogging from Little Rock as I write.

Here's my favorite line from the AP coverage of the library : "The scandal exhibit, called 'The Fight for Power,' mentions Lewinsky by name and includes sections called 'Politics of Persecution' and 'A New Culture of Confrontation.'"

Folks, those of you who've been down from day one know Chris was all over Clinton's impeachment before being all over Clinton's impeachment was cool. It's one of the big stories that cemented me as a fan of Chris... It's Chris in his element... Don't miss it!

  • Bubba-fest rocks on at the river...The construction crew refers to it as "The Mobile Home." Others say it looks like a Star Wars diner. A shuttle pod on stilts. ( The Washington Times)
  • A car bomber rammed a U.S. convoy Wednesday north of Baghdad during clashes with militants that killed 10 people, witnesses said. U.S. aircraft launched strikes against insurgents holding out in the southern parts of Fallujah, and an Iraqi police spokesman said 13 police officers have been kidnapped. (AP)  
  • U.S. artillery pummeled Fallujah on Wednesday and troops hunted guerrillas who were still fighting days after Washington said its offensive had destroyed rebel control of the Sunni Muslim city west of Baghdad.
  • U.S. deaths in Iraq this month are approaching 100, making it the second-deadliest month since American forces invaded the country in March 2003, Pentagon records show. ( AP)
  • 31 Iraqi police officers reported kidnapped ... Officers abducted as they returned from training in Jordan
  • Widespread condemnation of aid worker's death ... First foreign-born woman killed in wave of Iraq kidnappings
  • U.S. ambassador expresses regret for mosque killing ... Comment comes as investigation widens
  • Chirac: Iraq war made world more dangerous ...French president questions what Blair gained for backing U.S.
  • No Child Left Unrecruited?... A provision of the No Child Left Behind Act requires high schools to give military recruiters previously confidential student information. (Connection Newspapers)
  • Supporters of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay proposed a Republican rules change Tuesday that would protect the Texan's leadership position if he were to be indicted by a Texas grand jury that already charged three of his associates
  • Kerry not ruling out running again in 2008 ... Massachusetts Senator has $45 million left from campaign
  • Putin: Russia developing new nuclear missile President says weapon will be unlike those held by other countries
  • Stephen J. Hadley, who will be elevated to national security adviser after Condoleezza Rice wins Senate confirmation as secretary of state, is a quintessential staff aide who views himself as a "facilitator"— someone who makes the policy trains run on time. ( The Washington Post)
  • Right-Wing Wins Take Wind Out of Talk-Show Hosts ( The Washington Post)
  • Clothier settles lawsuit over bias: Abercrombie & Fitch Co. has agreed to pay $40 million to minority employees and job applicants to settle a class-action federal discrimination lawsuit that accused the clothing retailer of promoting whites at the expense of minorities, lawyers said yesterday. ( AP)
  • ABC apologized Tuesday for a steamy intro to "Monday Night Football" after receiving complaints from viewers and the National Football League. ( AP)  
  • Katrina vanden Heuvel: Defining Failure Down...Being Condi means never having to say you're sorry.
  • Terry Jeffrey: Connect These Dots, Now...Our southern border must be secured.

November 16, 2004| 4:10 p.m. ET

Unveiling Mr. Anonymous, and Mrs. Matthews (Dominic Bellone, Hardball producer and newsletter editor)

Tonight, on the show, we'll follow up on the Kevin Sites video we played last night with the Marine killing the insurgent in the Mosque. The military is investigating the incident. Chris will talk to a guy from the LA Times, Tony Perry, who was embedded with the Marine Corps 3 times between Afghanistan and Iraq— He'll give us his take on the story and what life is like on the battefront.

Nightly News
Mr. Anonymous will be revealed
And remember the Anonymous guy? Mr. "Imperial Hubris" book? He quit the Agency and outted himself as Michael Scheuer. He's been blasting the CIA and the Bush Administration over their conduct in the War on Terror. We'll ask him what the dealio is...

And a special treat...Chris' "Queen" Kathleen Matthews will be here to discuss her sabbatical at Harvard University. She's a Fellow at the Kennedy School teaching a course called "Tower of Babel: Making Sense of News in the New Millennium"

Must-reads for today:

November 15, 2004| 3:59 p.m. ET

Counting Ohio provisional ballots (David Shuster)

Election boards all across Ohio have started counting "provisional ballots" in the presidential election. These are the ballots that were given to voters who believed they were registered but whose names didn't appear on the precinct list on election day. The verification process may take up to two weeks.  In most states, approximately 85 percent of all provisional ballots are eventually verified and counted in the final vote tally.  And the early reports out of Ohio suggest the "count" list in some counties will be as high as 90 percent.

As it stands, there are approximately 155,000 provisional ballots.  So, one can expect at least 130,000 ballots to be verified and "added to the final count."

There is another number that will eventually come into play in the Buckeye state... and that's the number of "spoiled ballots."  The Green/Libertarian coalition, through, has already raised enough money to pay for a statewide recount. And the group is now raising even more cash so they can hire recount monitors.  A statewide recount will include a visual examination of all 93,000 "spoiled ballots" that indicated "no" vote for President. (The "no vote" is usually a machine-tabulation problem because of chads, hanging chads, and etc.)   A brilliant e-mailer named Matthew Fox has analyzed which counties reported "spoiled ballots."  And it does appear that approximately 60 pecent of all the spoiled ballots come from heavily Democratic urban areas.

Can the "provisional ballots" and "spoiled ballots" change the Ohio outcome?  As it stands, the difference between President Bush and John Kerry is 136,483 votes. When John Kerry decided to concede, here is some of the math his campaign looked at:

If you assume, for the sake of argument, that Kerry receives 80 percent of the 130,000 provisional ballots most observers expect will be validated... Kerry would receive 104,000 votes and President Bush would get 26,000.  That's a net gain for John Kerry of 78,000.  At that point, the margin between President Bush and Senator Kerry would drop to 58,000 votes. 

Now, let's assume a preference can be determined on all 93,000 spoiled ballots.  And let's also assume John Kerry receives 80% and President Bush receives 20%.  John Kerry would receive 74,400 votes and President Bush would receive 18,600 votes.  That's another net gain for John Kerry of 55,800.  However, that still  leaves John Kerry 3,000 votes short.  And remember, the theory that Kerry is going to receive 80% of all provisional and "spoiled" ballots is not realistic.  As the Kerry campaign noted on November 3, "the votes are just not going to be there."

However, there is one other number that has been the talk of the Net... and that's the number of "tallies" that might have been hacked or changed by somebody who left some nefarious "code" on the Windows systems tabulating the county by county vote.  If that actually happened, it's not clear that a statewide recount would detect such a break-in as it affects "electronic voting" machines. But, given that 70% of Ohio used punch cards... most of the state does have a "paper trail."  And the recount, when it happens, should settle these allegations once and for all.


November 15, 2004| 3:30 p.m. ET

On 'Hardball' tonight (Dominic Bellone, Hardball producer and newsletter editor)

Big news inside the beltway as Colin Powell resigns from the cabinet . We all knew it was coming but not necessarily this soon. So, who will succeed him?  A Neocon hawk or a moderate?  His pick may be a tell-tale sign of where the war in Iraq & war on terror will go. Will the religious right call in their mark as the feminists did with Madeleine Albright? ( Click here to read Chris' take on all this , from his interview with Randy Meier earlier this morning on MSNBC.)

We'll get the story behind the story with Andrea and then talk to one of the Neocon's top intellectual leaders, Richard Perle...

We'll also get a report from Time Mag's Michael Ware, reporting from the frontlines of Fallujah.

Then in the back half we'll get into our highly toutly and much promo-ed "The Passion Of The Right" special with Newsweek's Jon Meacham, Pat Buchanan, Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention and Jim Wallis of "Call to Renewal", an umbrella group of Christian groups dedicated to fighting poverty. We'll look at the role of religion and faith in politics and the Bush administration... Please join us.

  • National security adviser Condoleezza Rice emerged as the likely candidate on Monday to replace resigning Secretary of State Colin Powell, Republican sources said. ( Reuters)
  • Mike Moran provides instant slice and dice of Powell departure: Powell leaves an unfinished legacy. Iraq may yet prove 'the Powell doctrine' correct
  • Shocker: A man has apparently tried to set himself on fire on the north side of the northwest gate of the White House around 2 p.m. Monday. ( WTOP Radio)
  • Energy, education, agriculture secretaries resigning : Names have already surfaced to replace Abraham, Paige and Veneman

P.S. Did you see Carville bust an egg on his face yesterday? Here's the video .

Meet The Press

November 14, 2004| 4:11 p.m. ET

The ground war (David Shuster)

I've been running some of the vote totals from this election compared to the presidential election four years ago.  And they underscore why the Democratic party, as far as the political "ground war" is concerned, is in even worse shape than you might think.

Compared to four years ago, President Bush picked up 9.5 million votes. John Kerry, compared to Al Gore, picked up just under 5 million.

But here are some other important numbers:

Ralph Nader in 2000:  2.89 million votes
Ralph Nader in 2004:  400,706 votes.
Youth vote 18-29 for Gore:  9 million
Youth vote 18-29 for Kerry:  11 million

The polling indicated that most of Nader's erosion was John Kerry's gain.  And as you can see above, Kerry picked up 2 million votes in the 18-29 category.  So, that's 4 million of the 5 million vote pick-up for Kerry.  

In other words, if you rule out the Nader voters and younger voters,  everybody else gave John Kerry a net gain of just 1 million votes (compared to Al Gore in 2000.)  President Bush received about the same raw vote total among 18-29 year olds as he did four years ago.  So, excluding that group, the president picked up 9.5 million new votes.  Again, when you are talking about voters 30 and over... it's 9.5 million new votes for Bush... 1 million non-Nader voters for Kerry.

That is astounding.  Remember, Kerry was running against an incumbent president with an approval rating below 50%. 

Kerry's anemic raw vote number is even more astounding when you look at the powerful "anybody but Bush" sentiment in the Democratic party this year... and when you consider the massive amount of money those new Democratic organizations spent on get out the vote efforts.  "America Coming Together" and the "Media Fund" spent nearly $200 million.  That was twice as much as the Democratic National Committee spent on getting out the vote. 

It means at least one of the following:

  1. The $200 million "get out of the vote" money pumped in to this election by ACT and the Media Fund was totally ineffective or wasteful.
  2. The dark Internet conspiracy theorists are correct and something massively fraudulent happened on election day.  (The evidence does not support that.)
  3. John Kerry was a worse candidate than Al Gore... but it was masked by (1)  ACT and Media Fund efforts that made the most of a bad hand;
  4. President Bush made significant in-roads among moderates and "security moms."
  5. The Republican "get out the vote effort" was far more effective and efficient than the democrats.

I do not agree with 1 and 2.  I'm unsure about 3.  But I'm definitely inclined to go with 4, and 5.  

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.  But putting that aside, you can see a fundamental difference in the way the Republican party organized it's "get out the vote efforts" and the way it was done by the Democrats.  The Republican organization was "bottom up."  It relied heavily on local churches, religious organizations, civic groups, and tens of thousands of  "precinct captains"  to come up with lists and contacts for possible new Bush voters.  The Democratic efforts were more "top down." A huge amount of money was spent on sending paid canvassers into communities some had never been to before.

The irony is that about a year and a half ago, Democrats had the making of a cutting edge and impressive "bottom-up" organization. It was known as the Internet-savvy "Dean campaign."  The candidate, of course, proved unworthy of what his energetic Internet supporters had built.  But remember, the organization included "meet-ups" in cities and towns all across the country, local e-mail lists, and passionate local leaders who knew their neighbors.

I don't know anybody who seriously believes Howard Dean would have been a better match against President Bush than John Kerry.  But the Democratic party needs a Dean type of grass roots/Internet organization if the party is serious about winning the next "ground war." This election clearly established that money from the top down can't compete with organization from the "bottom up." The political circumstances were aligned for John Kerry and the Democrats to make huge inroads over the raw vote numbers Al Gore racked up four years ago.  The Democrats failed.  And at the moment, only the Republican party, with its religious organizations and tens of thousands of "precinct captains" seems to realize that "all politics is local."  And in this election, among voters 30 and older, John Kerry and the Democratic party gained only enough ground to bury themselves.

Write me at

November 12, 2004| 12:54 p.m. ET

Fallujah's empty promise (Michael Moran, columnist)

A week ago, it all sounded too good to be true: the murderous insurgents of Iraq, fearful of losing their base at Fallujah, were digging in by the thousands for a great confrontation with American troops and their Iraqi allies. But as American forces move in, it quickly became clear that most of the insurgents U.S. commanders were hunting had fled.

This has kept the intensity of the fighting -- and the casualties it generates -- down a bit, it is deeply disappointing to the United States. Rather than fight and die for Fallujah, the insurgency and its leadership have done what smart guerrillas have done throughout history when confronted by a more powerful adversary: they faded away and will fight and kill and maim another day.

I spoke with David Phillips, who spent the past four years as a senior advisor to the Bush administration on Iraq, about this for my Brave New World column this week. He says military officers never really bought the idea that the insurgents would stand and fight. "Why would they?" he asks.

Fallujah, he says, never was going to be the milestone the administration has built it up to be. "The insurgency is not in Fallujah, it is all over Iraq."

Now, the real test is elections - and most importantly, trying to keep them from becoming an exercise in disenfranchising the already angry Sunnis.

After all, when you've got nothing, you've got nothing to lose.

Comments?  Email:

November 11, 2004| 6:15 p.m. ET

Ohio— The recount of 2004 (David Shuster)

This afternoon, I spoke with Blair Bobier, the attorney/spokesman for David Cobb, the Green Party's 2004 candidate for President.  Bobier confirms that the press release floating on the net is legitimate. The Green Party is combining forces with the Libertarian Party to seek a statewide election recount in Ohio. 

Unlike Florida in 2000, Ohio's recount rules are straightforward and specific. Once the Ohio vote is certified, which I'm told could happen as early as next week, the Green/Libertarian group will have five days to file a formal application for statewide recount. In addition, the group must then deposit $10 for every precinct to be recounted. 

Based on the number of precincts in Ohio, a statewide recount will cost the Green/Libertarian group about $110,000. However, the group expects to raise that money "rather easily" within the next few days. 

Once the recount application has been filed, the recount itself must begin within 10 days. So, expect to see the formal recount kick-off in early December.

Again, the procedures in Ohio are quite clear: The recount must be conducted by teams having equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans; records must be available for visual inspection by witnesses; ballots must be handled only by members of the board; witnesses may observe the inspection the ballots; punch card ballots must be inspected for hanging chads ("if a chad is attached by three or four corners, a vote shall not be counted for that particular candidate.") and etc.  The lengthy list of rules and procedures are available on the Ohio Secretary of State's Web site.

Whether you agree with a recount or not... the rules are the rules.  And even a candidate like David Cobb, who received a total of 24 votes in Ohio, is entitled to a recount. So, let us all hope the process in the Buckeye state will be orderly, calm, and litigation free.   

Pre-recount, here is where the Ohio vote total stands:

President Bush  (Republican Party)      2,796,147
John Kerry        (Democratic Party)     2,659,664
Badnarik           (Libertarian)                  14,331
Peroutka           (Constitutional)             11,614

My friend and colleague Keith Olbermann has been all over this story

On Friday night, "Hardball with Chris Matthews" (7 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET) will be jumping into the fray.  You won't want to miss that.  Plus, this weekend here on Hardblogger, I'll be posting some amazing national election numbers and demographic trends that may shock you. I've run some of the numbers past a few MSNBC political analysts, and everybody is calling it "a big deal."


November 11, 2004| 6:03 p.m. ET

Saving 'Saving Private Ryan'  (Jesamyn Go, Hardball web producer)

Several ABC affiliates have announced that they won't take part in the network's Veterans Day airing of "Saving Private Ryan," saying the acclaimed film's violence and language could draw sanctions from the Federal Communications Commission.

We knew Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction had a lasting effect… but is sensitivity over what’s shown on TV now affecting the showing of a Spielberg movie?

The movie, by the way, was aired uncut by ABC in 2001 and 2002. If reports are right, there has only been one complaint about it (which has been denied by the FCC).

What do you think? Is the violence and profanity in the film that these ABC affiliates are worried about— or is it something else?

With troops in Iraq this Veterans Day, does the imagery of a violent war possibly strike too close to home? And if so, is that something Americans should be sheltered from?

Let me know what you think.

Other politics stories that headlined my guilty pleasures:

  • ' Law & Order ’ takes on a political scandal, episode was inspired by gay N.J. governor
  • Tom Curry: Is Democrats’ solution on the menu at Applebee’s ?

November 10, 2004| 9:34 p.m. ET

Election irregularities (David Shuster)

As promised, our examination of the vote in Ohio and Florida continues.  At this point, I've seen enough to conclude that the congressman demanding a GAO (Government Accountability Office) investigation is not nuts... at least not on this issue.

Here's what we've established so far:

  • In Franklin County, Ohio, an electronic voting machine reported an extra 3,893 votes for President Bush. Local officials caught the error. But as my colleage David Corn of "The Nation" has reported, Peggy Howell, one of the key officials, "doesn't know" why the mistake occurred. That, by itself, is a strong argument for the GAO to step in. 
  • We still "don't know" why the officials in charge of voting at Kenyon college in Ohio equipped the site with only two voting machines.  No explanation has been offered.  Students who waited in line for nine hours believe it was an effort to disenfranchise easily identifiable democrats.
  • Cuyahoga County, Ohio has changed its explanation as to how some precincts could have reported more votes cast than the total number of registered voters.  The county says it added absentee ballots to the "reporting" not the "counting."  Hmmm.  Hello, GAO?

The question is, are these anomalies or part of a pattern to steal the election?  Democratic strategist Donna Brazile says, "there is no overwhelming reason to cast doubt on the outcome of this election."  Why?  Consider Florida.

Regarding the Florida counties that went strongly for Bush, despite more registered Democrats than registered Republicans: In addition to the numbers listed on an earlier blog, I checked previous presidential elections... and those Dixiecrat counties have been trending Republican for 12 year. Lafayette County, which has 3,570 registered Democrats and 570 registered Republicans went strongly for President Bush this year as well as four years ago.  It also went for Bob Dole over Clinton in '96, and for George H.W. Bush over Clinton in '92.  Other Dixiecrat counties follow the same trend.  The story is the same across the state. 

We will continue to probe and keep an open mind... and we are not finished crunching numbers.  But here are two nuggets we learned today about those infamous exit polls that gave Kerry an edge over the President in Ohio and in Florida...

  1. The exit pollsters asked voters to answer a questionnaire that had not one or two questions... but 30.  So most people in a hurry were not going to stick around.   (And you can imagine the challenge for somebody with "energetic" toddlers or little children.)  This could overstate the turnout of "single" voters (a group that broke towards Kerry) and understate "married with children voters" (a group that broke towards President Bush.)
  2. The exit pollsters were clearly identifiable, through logos plastered on their clipboards and logos on the questionnaire, as representing  a consortium of the major broadcast news organizations:  (NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox, and CNN.)  The logos of the big three, NBC, CBS, and ABC are far more well known than the logo for Fox.   My point is that voters who are suspicious of the major broadcast networks (whether those suspicions are justified or not) usually aren't interested in helping us do anything.  Who are these voters?  They tend to be Evangelical Christians and other conservatives.  And if these voters are shying away from the network pollsters, the exit numbers are going to underestimate the president's support. 

In any case, we still have a lot of unanswered questions... and I know many of you do as well.  Can we agree that the non-partisan GAO is wise to get involved?

November 10, 2004| 4:53 p.m. ET

The attorney general's tough job

Just about an hour ago, President Bush named White House counsel Alberto Gonzales as attorney general , picking the administration’s most prominent Hispanic for a highly visible post in the war on terror.

He would succeed John Ashcroft, who announced his resignation on Tuesday, along with Commerce Secretary Don Evans. On last night's "Hardball," Chris Matthews described the two men as personalities who couldn’t be any more different. “One is very tightly-wound guy,” says Chris of the former, and the latter “one of the most casual, nice fellows I’ve ever come across.”

File photo of US Attorney General John Ashcroft
Lucy Nicholson  /  Reuters file
U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft
For NBC White House correspondent David Gregory, Ashcroft's resignation wasn't a big surprise. “I think there was a level of expectation that the attorney general would in fact step down.  He even dated his resignation letter on Election Day, making it clear that, after the first four years, it was up. He was indeed very controversial.”

Stuart Taylor of “The National Journal,” last night’s Hardball guest, described Ashcroft as a very polarizing attorney general.

“He was confirmed by a narrow vote.  He was very confrontational throughout his tenure to adversaries.  He almost virtually accused the critics of the Patriot Act of treason. For that reason, he wore out his welcome certainly rather quickly.  He never had a welcome among civil libertarians. The White House came to think of him as something of a grandstander, and there were tough relations there.  I think Attorney General John Ashcroft would like to think of himself as kind of the field marshal in the domestic war on terrorism and the man who made the prosecutions work, the man who rammed the Patriot Act through, the man who defended it.  History will decide.” 

The job of AG has been changed by 9/11. "It is no longer the casual, easygoing job from the days of William French Smith, you really have to be an operations boss,” said Chris. Joe DiGenova, a former Federal Prosecutor gives Ashcroft credit for handling this tough role:

“He did do a very good job after September the 11th of uniting the department to do its job, which was to bring cases to investigate, to prevent acts of terrorism, and to transform the Justice Department and especially the FBI into a preventive organization, rather than the after the fact, ‘Let‘s lock them up.’

I think, for that, he will get historical credit. Whatever his personal shortcomings were or with the White House... I think, in the long run his role as A.G. in transforming the FBI, along with Director Mueller, will be remembered as his major contribution.”

After much speculation overnight and this morning, President Bush nominated his White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, a former Bush-appointed Texas Supreme Court Justice.  A job Gonzales can also credit to a Bush appointment... 

What will be in store for Gonzales, if he is confirmed by the Senate? 

Pete Williams, NBC’s Justice Correspondent imagines a workday that  "starts with a briefing of all the god-awful things that could happen to us every day and what the intelligence is.  It's just a constant drumbeat of that.”

Apart from the Patriot Act and terrorism threats in an America post-9/11, there are other controversial issues he will have to handle, including the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, and the stain of Abu Graib.

“So there's a lot of repositioning that the president may want to look at,”  said Gregory on last night’s show. “That goes to the larger issue of his national security team, which is in some potential flux as well.”

—Jesamyn Go, Hardball web producer,

November 10, 2004| 3:33 p.m. ET

Kevin Sites reports on the fighting in Fallujah :

In Fallujah, the Marines are operating with liberal rules of engagement.  At first light, tanks and heavily armored Bradley Fighting Vehicles blasted cars and buses parked down side streets, in case they might be booby-trapped and packed with explosives. “Everything to the west is weapons-free,” radioed Staff Sgt. Sam Mortimer of Seattle, Wash., which means the Marines can shoot whatever they see — it’s all considered hostile.

Click here to read Kevin's own blog.

November 10, 2004| 12:54 p.m. ET

Don't forget 'parental notification' (David Shuster)

In this space Tuesday afternoon, I mentioned that Evangelicals had an issue that brought them to the polls in Florida on Election Day. They did... but it wasn't gay marriage. Amendment 1 involved "parental notification" of a minor's termination of a pregnancy. Thanks to all of you in the Sunshine State who caught my mistake.  

I stand corrected... however, my point about Evangelical Christian turnout in Florida remains the same.

More on election voting irregularities later tonight here on Hardblogger.

November 9, 2004| 5:34 p.m. ET

Election machines rigged... or not? (David Shuster)

I've been inspired today by the courageous reporting of my MSNBC colleague Keith Olbermann . So, I've decided to jump into the controversy swirling around the election results in Florida and Ohio.  For the last several hours, your favorite Hardball correspondent has been pouring through vote tabulations county by county. 

As I've stated before on this blog, I'm going to let the chips fall where they may. And here's how they are falling right now:

Florida:  Out of the sunshine state's 67 counties, 52 tallied their vote using paper ballots that were optically scanned by machines produced by the Diebold Corporation, the Sequoia Company, or Election Systems and Software. 

In 5 counties where Democrats comprise at least 70% of the registered voters (Baker,Holmes, Dixie, Lafayette, and Liberty) President Bush won the county's raw vote total by a landslide.  At first glance, the numbers seem awfully strange. But take a look at the 2004 numbers compared to 2000. 

Baker County '00:     Bush 5,610  Gore 2,392 
Baker County '04:     Bush 7,738  Kerry 2,180

Holmes County  '00:  Bush 5,011  Gore 2,177
Holmes County '04:   Bush 6, 410  Kerry 1,810

Dixie County  '00:      Bush 2,697  Gore 1,826
Dixie County '04:       Bush 4,433  Kerry 1,959

Lafayette County '00: Bush 1,670 Gore 789
Lafayette County '04: Bush 2,460 Kerry 845

Liberty County '00:    Bush 1,317  Gore 1,017
Liberty County '04:    Bush 1,927  Kerry 1,070

Each of these counties is in northern Florida where there are large numbers of "Dixiecrats." In other words, the voters have a lengthy tradition of being registered as Democrats but voting for Republicans in national elections.

What about other Florida counties?  Across the state, the election results from '04 are not that different from '00. And political strategists on both sides say the Bush-Cheney campaign had an unprecedented Get Out The Vote effort this time around.  That ground operation focused heavily on evangelical Christians concerned about "gay marriage."  Yes, gay marriage was on the ballot in Florida...  and it attracted a huge number of Evangelicals to the polls who stayed home four years ago.  In my view, it's not unreasonable to think the Bush-Cheney campaign would have increased their Florida vote total by the number's I've examined.  However, I acknowledge that some of you may be saying, "well, the optical scanning machines in these counties must have been rigged 4 years ago." 

Later this week, I'll examine the numbers from four years ago and try to compare them to  previous elections.

Regarding Ohio: 70% of the state used a punch card ballot system similar to the chad producing method used by much of Florida in 2000.  Ohio's Secretary of State reports that more than 92,000 votes did not count. Some ballots were cast improperly (over votes or under votes) and other ballots were counted incorrectly. Furthermore, in Cuyahoga County (greater Cleveland) there were more votes cast than registered voters.  The margin was not small... 93,000 more ballots cast than registered voters. As Keith Olbermann reported last night, in Fairview Park (west of Cleveland) there were 13,342 voters registered... but 18,472 votes were cast.  And last week, Ohio officials acknowledged that in the town of Gahanna (just outside of Columbus) in one district with only 800 voters, a voting machine added 3,893 votes for President Bush.

What does it all mean? In Ohio, there are definitely more questions than answers tonight.  In Florida, I'm not so sure. But, our review continues...


November 9, 2004| 5:00 p.m. ET

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