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Altercation archive: January 26-31

We are all Southerners now

Pierce ordinarily would have Altercated today, but he had to go to Houston instead so he could attend

. Nice job you got, Pierce.  So it's

with you again while regular Eric perches atop Crested Butte without Internet access.

If you're thinking I should open by waxing smart-alecky about Tom Brokaw and "the Nation of Islam," I was going to: but Pierce graciously corresponded on the subject so I'll cede that field to the smarter-alec; see below.

The not-so-special South

Folks in the press are rattling on about South Carolina being "

," which is supposed to mean the white candidates have to get their good ol' boy on to win.  So Dean flashes his NRA card, and Kerry -- well, Kerry says he's "mainstream," if you know what he means.

But did you notice what the actual Carolinian did?  Edwards talked about jobs.  In fact, when Edwards talks about growing up Southern he's talking about growing up with working people.  I believe he knows something that the Yankees don't: it's no good putting on your safety-orange Remington cap and saying we're all the same.  If Southern-ness means culture, Democrats lose this fight.  But not if it means jobs.

Tim Noah's ; Southern cultural identity has a dodgy history.  In the modern era the South was solid for Democrats till the Democrats began edging toward Civil Rights.  No sooner did Harry S. Truman's administration even think about what it'd take "" than a racist movement split the party and the Democrats the presidency.  The same thing

when the Democrats ran a Catholic who might look kindly on implementing neglected bits of the Constitution.  (Oddly, this is almost never mentioned when wonks talk about how close the 1948 and 1960 Presidential elections were, but it's a major factor.)

There's one other wrinkle to this story, though: the South might have gone Republican earlier -- it was going Republican for racial/ethnic reasons

-- but the New Deal elevated economic over cultural concerns and brought the South back.  Edwards sounds like he's trying to do the same thing.

Let South Carolina be about the peculiar cultural history of the region -- about, say, the Confederate flag and all that goes with it -- and George "

" Bush runs the table.  But let South Carolina be about jobs and it's not the first primary that represents the South, it's the first one that represents America.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics

data, unemployment rates in South Carolina run much closer to the national trend than those of New Hampshire or Iowa.  (SC's on average within half a percentage point of the national rate; IA and NH are more than a point off whether over the last ten or twenty-five years, and they generally run much lower than the national rate.)  And in this jobless recovery, the supposedly peculiar Palmetto state has had an exemplary rough time of it in the last few years.

So if this election is going to be, even in part, about the substandard health of the national economy, South Carolina is the first big test of how the Democrats deal with it.  Are South Carolinians doing better than they were four years ago?  Are they doing better than they have in recent memory?  Are

?  That's the real Southern question.

Oh, and as long as we're talking numbers: the budget deficit will be

predicted. But you could have guessed that.

I pick the Pats. On to Pierce:

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA; currently swanning about Houston, TX
Other Eric:
Now, I'm old enough to remember when Gerry Ford freed Eastern Europe, and when George Romney confessed to having been brainwashed.  I've seen my share of gaffes -- hell, I even yelled along with Howard Dean, but I have never seen anything as persistently, publicly, and proudly bag-o-rocks stupid as Tom Brokaw in last night's candidate foofaraw.


Not once, but three times, including twice after a commercial break in which we can only assume that some underpaid teenage PA was assigned to tell old Greatest Generation that he was making a complete horse's patoot out of himself. Alas, it was left to the Reverend Al to do that.

It really is time to send Tom to the dogtrack with his name pinned to his sweater.

Nobody watched here, though, in the land of the Big Silly Football Game. (They cleared the press center on Wednesday evening so Poppy Bush could come blather around on the NFL Network, a new cable blight that's pretty much what Leni Riefenstahl would've produced if you gave her shoulder pads and a helmet.) 

I thought Brokaw was hopeless, Kerry solid and unspectacular -- even though he got caught in a weird place between cliches with that "knocking down the barn door and rebuilding it with sticks" business.  Feed your head, John.

Edwards bizarrely bland, Dean pretty clearly playing out the string, and Clark virtually invisible. No change, I don't believe.

The pick is the Pats, BTW.  Probably somewhere around 21-15, although I fear it might be a 12-0 groaner like their earlier win over Dallas.

Crested Butte Back-up
So, Eric is stuck in with a busted computer. The emergency siren went off at Altercation headquarters and the moving finger pointed to the West Coast branch office.  Good morning from Pacific Time, this is providing you with what, we here like to remind you, says is your must-have "daily hit."

What Kay says
Now the WMDPRA reports are in on both sides of the Atlantic and Tony Blair is in the clear, sort of.  The Hutton report says HM government

when it described what its sources said about Iraq.  But Hutton also "did not rule out the possibility that Mr Blair's desire for a dossier that warned strongly of the threat posed by Iraq's WMD 'may have subconsciously influenced' the senior intelligence officers responsible for its final draft."

A couple of things: first of all, the BBC's chairman Gavyn Davies and director general Greg Dyke immediately

because Hutton determined their organization had made grave errors in judgment on his watch.  Which is a form of behavior that is assumed in accountable political cultures. But it almost never happens here.


Second, the Hutton report doesn't much alter what Blair's more astute critics have been saying all along, as Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy now,

"We are still no closer to determining whether this country went to war on a false prospectus."  It's not that there weren't rumors of WMD: it's that the rumors were, so far as we can tell, not even nearly true, and yet they floated to the surface; possibly because the intelligence guys knew what the boss wanted to hear.  And then, most troubling, we undertook an unprecedentedly pre-emptive war to get rid of rumor-related program activities.

Meanwhile, over here David Kay says almost bluntly, "It turns out we were all wrong, probably, in my judgment.... and that is ."  Kay thinks that because we were wrong, and went to war on the basis of being wrong, we ought to look into how that happened.

The administration says maybe -or maybe not.  Notice the White House has decided they don't, after all, want to know .  See what about that.

Can Kerry or Clark, or Edwards or Dean get some coverage when they say -- as they soon must -- that it is unacceptable to end the inquiry into this most appalling attack on America without its reaching a conclusion?

What Dean means
Howard Dean bade farewell to his campaign boss, Joe Trippi, and hired old Roy Neel.  The chatterers say this means Dean anymore -- if he ever was -- which Eric (among others) thinks he wasn't (see squabble from this week).

For the record, while Eric's not looking let me say I think he doesn't know Dean.  Here's what I mean:

Eric to Dean supporters: Elections aren't therapy; Dean has never been a liberal; he's done a service to the party by liberating their inner Bush-critic and now he should go home.

Dean supporters reply: ... well, they reply with things I can't type, there are children present.

What we have here is a failure to communicate.  See, I believe Dean makes a significant minority of Democrats feel the spirit (in fact, as long as we're borrowing from Strother Martin, let's write that "sperrit").  And if a man comes to a people, to a people who have been in the wilderness for too long, and that man can make people see what they've been wanting to see, then it doesn't matter what kind of man that man used to be, or even is.  He's not an end in himself, he's a means of showing people that what they already know is, in fact, the Truth. You can't reason people out of that; you can't mock people out of that.

And if Dean is not a liberal, but can make people feel good about being Democrats, he belongs to a long tradition. Woodrow Wilson was not a liberal, but he made people want to join a crusade called Progressivism. John and Robert Kennedy were not liberals, but they made people believe in the New Frontier. Franklin Delano Roosevelt wasn't a liberal either -- yet he became not only an agent but the patron saint of liberalism.

Dean's campaign style belongs to that tradition too.  He talks like a Democrat circa the middle years of the New Deal, trying to out-gospel Huey Long and Upton Sinclair by railing against Coolidge and Hoover without really offering a leftist alternative.  Take FDR out of that era -- with his habit of throwing his big head around (probably so people wouldn't look at his legs), sweating from the heat of crowds in pre-air-conditioned halls, claiming that inheriting a fortune is unAmerican -- and put him on television today -the talking heads would call him a hypocrite demagogue too.

I figure on drawing two lessons from this, and of course, each entails a further question.

1. Pace Eric, Howdy's mission to the Democratic Party is not complete.

It's not enough to criticize the President; Republicans do that too.  The Democrats need to make people feel the sperrit -- that feeling that says if voting Democrat is wrong I don't want to be right. Can Kerry et al. do that?

2. If Kerry wins this thing, Dean can't even be on the ticket (for sectional balance, if for no other reason). 

He'll have to fulfill his pledge to go all the way to the White House without looking like the light that failed. Can Dean do that?

What does Joe know?
Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) Kerry, .  Clyburn's previous favorite, Dick Gephardt, gracefully exited the Presidential race after losing in a state that neighbored his own.  Which may make you wonder, what does Joe Lieberman know that Gephardt didn't?  That coming in fifth in a state in your backyard augurs well for the road game in South Carolina? That coming in in the ARG poll is a good sign?

Only Joe knows.

Alter-music review, G-rated edition
The three-year-old and I mightily enjoyed earlier .  What's ?

Jan. 28, 2004 | 12

Relax.  It’s just New Hampshire, next door to Massachusetts, and all that’s happened is that Kerry has won where he should have, however impressive and somewhat amazing needed to be to achieve that.  The Dean phenomenon cleared a path for him in Iowa, as people took a long time to take a second look at Dean, and Gephardt bottomed out quickly, leaving Kerry the last man standing. 

Edwards did not have the organization to take first, and really, could not have been expected to win in New Hampshire.  Unless Clark improves remarkably overnight, it’s a Kerry/Edwards race and that handsome young feller gets better the more you see him.  He will be competing closer to neutral ground, but lacking the money and organization that Kerry enjoys.  Kerry is still worried about Edwards and he should be.  His pollster Mark Mehlman, on Charlie Rose, was making a big deal about Edwards’ “fourth place performance” when he was essentially in a tie for third with Clark. 

Anyway, it’s not over.  Edwards is still in the race.  Dean won’t win but he (and his people) can cause a lot of trouble if they decide they want to.  No doubt most share the deeply held view of ABB (Anybody But Bush).  But not all do.  Some, as clearly evidenced by the Altercation mailbag, are operating on the basis of a real Naderite/Kamikaze streak.  Let’s hope their numbers turn out to be insignificant.  But this is impressive—or ought to be to the Dean troops:  Even among those who counted themselves , Kerry ran ahead of former Vermont governor Howard Dean. 

Of course Dean himself will be important to this phenomenon, as will the money he raised, once it’s time for someone to face Bush.  The smart money is still on a Kerry/Edwards ticket, but the smart money has been wrong many times.  And as I keep saying, I think that’s a good thing. This race really is turning out to be a trial by fire and the flyboy ought to be bery, bery afraid.

One good reason for progressives to work for President Kerry: “Senator Barney Frank.”  (That’s the word in the Massachusetts delegation).

Siva takes up the .

The Wall Street Journal thinks David Kay’s report is .   They don’t read very well. What David Kay is really saying is ... drumroll please, Saddam Hussein was disarmed ... by ... Bill Clinton! We just didn't know it.  And we apparently didn’t need to keep bombing him all that time, particularly in 1998.  But we sure as hell didn’t need that war.  Anyway, it is.

Meanwhile, has a round up of more sensible editorial pages such as:

  • The Atlanta Journal-Constitution also stated that while intelligence was faulty, "the evidence also seems overwhelming that the Bush administration pushed existing evidence well beyond its breaking point, exaggerating threats and claiming specific knowledge of Iraqi WMD where in reality no such knowledge existed." The paper also came down hard on the administration for linking Saddam Hussein directly to al Qaeda -- which was in opposition to intelligence reports.
  • The Los Angeles Times refused to place the blame mainly on the intelligence agencies, observing that "the administration was not a passive consumer of intelligence. The CIA's own Iraq analysts contended last June that the administration pressured them to create worst-case scenarios." While backing a full CIA probe, the L.A. Times added, "Any investigation ... will also have to take in to account the administration's agenda." Indeed, Vice President Dick Cheney continued to make "bogus claims" about WMDs in Iraq over the weekend despite Kay's findings, the editorial noted.
  • The Detroit Free Press asked, "Was the administration misled, or did it twist what it was told to justify taking down Hussein? A full accounting is due."

And Joe Conason wonders, in so many words, is the president a complete idiot? .  Um, dude the inspectors were in there. You kicked them out.

The Washington Post editorial board is not so sure it thinks Americans ought to .  No really. Read this:

"But the bigger question is whether jobless recoveries are a bad thing….
If a U.S. firm shifts employment abroad, the savings flow back to the United States in the form of lower prices for consumers and higher dividends for shareholders; the consumers and shareholders will direct their new spending power at things that create employment. Meanwhile, the fall in prices will allow the Federal Reserve to keep interest rates lower, boosting the job-creation engine."

I’m not so sure Washington Post editors ought to have jobs. Hey Tomasky, still think they’re ?

And speaking of the Post: The Kurtz Scandal deepens—or does it?  You be the judge .

There were no by the way.

Not a Parody Department:  From :  "EMAIL OF THE DAY: 'I go to when I want to feel like I belong. I go to Andrew Sullivan when I want the painful truth. Thank you. Never stop.'" 

Somebody give that boy a hug.

Alter-reviews:  I read somewhere yesterday that Nora Jones accounted for nearly a quarter of all jazz sales last year.  I read somewhere else, a few years ago, that a significant percentage of jazz sales also go to “Kind of Blue” everywhere.  Man, jazz is in really bad shape, sales wise.  Two really innovative albums that came out last year—and about which I only learned from other people’s top ten lists, but turn out to be particularly excellent and deserving more attention- were The Bad Plus, “”  (Thanks Fred Kaplan) and (thanks to Sal and ).  I am also really liking the new record called, “May the Music Never End.”  If you’re unfamiliar with her work, that’s a major omission.

Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: Manuel Cortinas
Hometown: Austin, TX

I don't know how I missed this. It just hit me, the Hertzberg piece. I'm sure it's been mentioned, but just in case it hasn't........Thom Yorke is not a genius, but a sage:


… Maybe you'll
Be president
But know right from wrong
Or in the flood
You'll build an Ark

And sail us to the moon
Sail us to the moon
Sail us to the moon
Sail us to the moon

Jan. 27, 2004 | 12

Howard’s End?
I know the story today is supposed to be “,” but I have never played well with others.  If Dean does do extremely well today, well, I still don’t think it will matter much .  The primary voters of New Hampshire are not all-knowing.  .  Ask President Bradley.  Ask President Tsongas.  You can even ask President Buchanan.

Dean’s candidacy made perfect sense as a protest against Bush extremism and the infuriating wimpiness of the Democratic response.  And in that regard, it proved an almost total success, forcing the rest of the candidates to heed his message and transform their own.  He also brought some excitement and energy to the field, and interested lots of young people in politics again.  But with the rest of the candidates parroting Dean’s position on Bush and the war—for all practical purposes—the campaign loses its r’aison d’etre.  If you take the threat of four more years of Bush as serious as the Dean people profess to, then the last thing in the world you should want is a protest candidacy as the party’s nominee.  Americans don’t elect protest candidates.  That’s not their role.  Dean has fulfilled his role.  He should be thanked and given a new job.  I think he’d make a fine DNC chair, for instance, or perhaps an HHS secretary.

But here’s where it gets weird. The national press, which by and large hates Dean, sought to bury him last week because he gave a rally-like speech after getting creamed in Iowa.  In fact, while I’ve enjoyed the dance mix as much as anyone, there was nothing particularly odd about Dean’s yelling to be heard that night and enjoying the energy of the crowd.  The has that story down.  With the media treating Dean like an escaped lunatic and Kerry pulling way ahead in New Hampshire, that should have buried Dean.  His non-fanatical supporters should have moved to a more electable candidate than a Vermont Governor/country doctor who signed a civil marriage bill, etc, etc, but now they’re back.  To be honest, I don’t begin to understand it.  And I don’t think it will last through the South, despite Dean’s advantage in money and organization.  But things change, that’s what makes this process interesting—and why Dean continues to remain dangerous to Democratic hopes of beating Bush in November.  This is not a good thing.

A few people complain about this Vermont Governor/country doctor stuff, insisting that Bill Clinton was no better prepared in 1992.  That’s silly.  Clinton was the policy wonk to end all policy wonks.  He conducted decades of self-education on every issue imaginable, including foreign and defense policy.  The guy knew everyone in the Democratic Party and he understood how the levers of national policy operated.  And by the way, he still screwed up royally in his first two years in ways that could easily have been avoided.  I can’t imagine Dean will get far enough to do that, but the idea that inexperience is somehow a job qualification is another not-so-clever populist notion that collapses upon a moment’s scrutiny.  The idea for a president is to deliver.  That requires understanding how the system works and making it work for better purposes.  Americans do not vote for revolutions.

And finally, if Dean is so wonderfully different than "other politicians," why was he running around getting the endorsements of those awful hacks, Al Gore, Bill Bradley, and Tom Harkin? Why is the insurgent so wrapped up in seeking the blessing of the ?  And why did he and his wife sit still for those stupid Diane Sawyer questions?  Why didn’t he say, “Hey Diane, our marriage is none of your goddam business.  Let’s talk about the war,” or something? (See )  And why, moreover, did nobody know that he was an insurgent for the entire rest of his career?  Why does everyone in Vermont think he’s a pro-gun moderate who is always fighting with progressives and has a far less liberal record on the issues than say, Kerry?

Like I said, this whole Dean phenomenon makes no sense.  It will produce a great doctoral dissertation but disastrous Democratic nominee. Bank on it.

Howard’s Friends?
You know, I wouldn’t write the stuff I do if I didn’t have faith in the intelligence and discrimination of my audience, but I have to say, addressing oneself in a nuanced fashion can be an awfully depressing experience, even here.

The hysterical and vituperative Deaniac mail has, if anything increased.  Virtually none of it bothered to respond to what I actually wrote yesterday.  It was all driven by the fact that I didn’t like their Howie and they were gonna get me for it.  I wouldn’t care except that it represents a tendency through which the left continues to eat its own, over and over, while the monied interests sit back and laugh.

Roll back the tape.  I wrote of my problem with “the Deaniacs -or a few of them.”  I called the problematic ones “undoubtedly … a tiny minority.”  I said Dean had “many idealistic supporters. And for all I know, he might make a terrific president.”  Later in the piece I mused about the tendency of hero worship of some people on the left, I wrote, “Moreover, it’s kind of pathetic that so many people on the left become so tied into hero worship—Nader, Dean, Chomsky, (and dare I say it, Stalin)—that they feel a need to abuse anyone who does not share their wide-eyed admiration.” 

Did I smear all or even a majority of Dean supporters?  Did I compare Dean to Stalin?  You get an “F” in reading comprehension for even asking either question.  I spoke about a small number of people.  I demonstrated how powerful this historical tendency toward hero worship can warp a person’s thinking.  Does anyone deny that some Leftists worshipped Stalin?  Do they deny that this worship brooked no criticism?  Can all of us, save Alexander Cockburn, admit that such admiration was misguided?  Has this tendency disappeared entirely?  I think not. Really, it’s not that controversial a statement.

Think I exaggerate? Jump down and read the letters below.

Howard’s End II?
Hey Looky Here: “WaPo Editors Discover Sky Is Blue.”  Our friends at report:

Conflict-of-Interest Charges to Get Kurtz Fired?
Charges of Personal Influence Peddling at Wash Post

MWO has learned from highly informed Washington sources that Howard 'Mistah' Kurtz faces numerous dangerous charges of conflict-of-interest and influence peddling in his media column at the Washington Post...The charges stem from documented instances of Kurtz's involvement in what appears to be insider trading of information aimed at enriching his wife, GOP right-wing media consultant Sheri Annis..."No one has used the word 'fired' yet," one source close to the investigation told MWO, "but Kurtz better be watching his back."...

Is it true?  And if so, what have they been waiting for?  Anyway, if Post investigators want to contact me at the address below, I’d be happy to pass along some information they might find interesting….

Alter-Academy Awards Aside:  I say “” in a walk, which means, of course, it has no chance.  The other best movie of the year was “The Triplets of Belleville.”  (The other, other best movie was "Barbarian Invasions.")

Correspondents’ Corner: Howard’s Howitzers

Name: J Kelly
Hometown: Nashville

I'm sitting in my home, reading a fellow liberal, as I like to do, and get told that liking Dean is like liking Stalin.  Who needs conservatives, when they have useful idiots to do their dirty work for them?

Name: Joe
Hometown: Mars
Jesus, I can't imagine why Dean supporters think you're an idiot after putting him in the same sentence as Stalin and saying for the 10th time he can't win.  F**k you Eric.  Again.

Name: Bob Brandon
Hometown: Ava, Missouri
Mr. Alterman:
Exhibit A as to why you get vigorous complaints from Dean supporters; from your Jan. 26 Altercation:

“I suspect that some of these people did Dean more harm than good in Iowa.  Moreover, it’s kind of pathetic that so many people on the left become so tied into hero worship—Nader, Dean, Chomsky,  (and dare I say it, Stalin)…”

Stalin? So not only are Dean supporters “pathetic,” they’re likened to Stalinists?

This is exactly the kind of ridiculous nonsense that Democratic voters are already fed up with from the Republicans; where do you find the conclusion that you think it’s apt when it comes from you?

It’s the same kind of garbage that the Bush campaign is going to pick on in the summer and fall, except it’ll be (fill in the nominee’s name)’s supporters who are “pathetic,” “Stalinist,” “not freedom loving.”

If this is how you’re going to react to folks who read your column but don’t share your conclusions, mark me down as one who starts looking at your musings with the same jaundiced eye I already use on the likes of Safire.

Name: Rick
Hometown: Milwaukee

You may dislike Howard Dean because of the "Deaniacs," I believe you fail to sufficiently understand how tired those of us you call "Deaniacs" are of politicians, like Sen. Kerry and Sen. Edwards who couldn't seem avoid being used by the Administration.

Over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over.  On issue after issue after issue after issue after issue after issue.

The war was the last straw.

For example, and leaving this Presidential race aside: Yesterday on NPR I, once again, heard Russ Feingold praised for, alone, voting against the Patriot Act.  I think those who praise his "lonely" stand (and I am from Wisconsin) fail to understand how tired the rest of us are of well-meaning people, like Russ Feingold, who is personally responsible FOR the Patriot Act because he, his lonely self, could have stopped John Ashcroft's confirmation.

We're tired.

Having failed to understand that you simply cannot trust a word out of this Administration's mouth, that relying in any way, shape or form on the representations is a recipe for disaster, candidates like Edwards and Kerry, Kerry and Edwards, cannot be trusted to exercise even nominally good judgement.

Long before we got to a vote on authorization of force we knew what this administation was about.

Not only did Dubya's regime play them, yet again, people are dead, people are maimed and vast amounts of respect are squandered.

This was possible to see through.

Oh, we understand the responsible pundits, yourself included, were "torn" by all this at the time.

We're waiting, we've been waiting, for someone smart enough to have been OUTRAGED that Edwards and Kerry, and Alterman (sadly) and many, many on the "responsible" left continued to leave themselves open to being played this way.

We think you're all scared to death of being called too liberal that you can't take a stand.

So, dislike the Deaniacs.

We're, many of us, not too damned happy with the GOP appeasers in our midst who think they're standing up to Dubya but get played in spectacular fashion.


Name: George Kucera
Hometown: Sparks, Nevada

It is a shame that your mother was not spayed and your father neutered at the time of their marriage.  Any good vet could have done the job fairly quickly.  People like you should not even exist.

Ok, enough of that.  Here are some of the more intelligent Deaniac responses:

Name: Nancy Richardson
Hometown: Los Angeles
As one of those people who went to Iowa, and wasn't a total as**ole, let me just say that a lot of the kids, by e-mailing you, think they are doing what you told them to do in WLM? 

I guess even a liberal in the media has a thin skin.  However, as someone who actually listens to Dean, as well as gives him money and follows the campaign around looking for an opportunity to make change possible, I think, if your cred weren't on the line, you might be out here with us.

Sure it is a risk, but in the end it is absolutely worth it.  Plus, I can afford to go live in Paris after Kerry gets Dukakised. 

I have shopped around in the last week...and I just can't find anyone who has the sizzle of Dean.  And also, I can get as sick of him as you, Kerry's problems are far worse than Dean's.....if you thought Gore was inaccessible to the majority of Americans, Kerry is twice the stiff Gore is.  Also, there is the matter that he is engaging in the kind of dirty tricks we Democrats tend to frown on.

Edwards...well, you like mystery meat, be my guest.

Name: James Thomas
Eric you ignorant...  just kidding!  I do take issue with you not liking a Democratic candidate because his supporters are too ardent.  Wow what a scary thought: a Dem who actually reaches people in such a way that they want to write journalists and defend their guy.  Plenty of hack news organizations (CNN really makes your point  about the lack of liberal media) have taken cheap shots but I'm pleased to report that your pals MSNBC are actually doing a good job of staying neutral at least on Dean.  I wrote them an e-mail commending them for that so you know you could get nice e-mails from us too. 

That little love-fest aside:  Hey don't knock me and don't knock Dean unless you actually have a point!  If our self-righteous emails offend you well, we're even because your self-rightous blog is plenty offensive to us when you back folks we deem sell-outs and who have copied our mems.  We are on the same side here and alienating Dean's people, win or lose, is bad politics for liberals in general.  Your condescending "thanks Howard" bit is not going over well with us FYI.

Name: Paul Witt
I saw your comments on Howard Dean and the e-mails you get from other Deaniacs (I hate that term).  It's a shame you have to read hateful e-mails simply because of your opinions.  Please indulge me for just a second while I try to tell you how wrong you are without insulting you.

You're missing a couple of major advantages that Dean has that are underestimated by almost everyone.

1) Money.  It's sad but true that money is going to be a major player in this election.  Kerry has opted out of federal matching funds but has had to mortgage his house to pay for his campaign.  Only Dean has shown an ability to raise money and has done so in a way that shows popular support and not corporate support.

2) Image.  I know what you're thinking but please allow me to explain.  Dean is portrayed as "angry" and the scream in Iowa certainly didn't help, but I defy anyone to watch that entire speech, attend any rally, or watch him talk in any capacity and then come away thinking he wouldn't make a good President.  Sure it can be spun to look bad right now, but his exposure will only increase as the year goes on and the right-wing media and the GOP will have fewer opportunities to perpetuate this lie.

You wrote the book, you know what the Republicans are going to say about whoever gets the nomination.  They don't need the truth on their side.  They lie.  At least with Dean the lie doesn't fit the man.

Plus he'll have the money to compete.

Oh and one more thing.  Dean's supporters might annoy you but they're nothing compared to the filth polluting the right-wing side of the Web.  Do you think supporters of Coulter, Savage, Limbaugh, WorldNetDaily, or Free Republic are less revolting?  Of course not.  Some Deaniacs might turn you off but they'll be marginalized just like Freepers are.

New Hampshire: Pundits always say this kind of thing, though when you think about it, it’s incredibly silly. But I’ll say it because I’m thinking it and that’s what blogs are for:  John Kerry is undoubtedly the best qualified candidate running for president to actually be president and that includes the current president.

John Edwards, however, is the best candidate running, and that shouldn’t matter so much but it does. He has the most impressive political skills I’ve ever seen since the first time I saw Bill Clinton speak in a church in San Francisco in 1992 (and he tried to hug me, but that’s another story). But of course he’s got none of Clinton’s baggage, which makes him even more exciting.

Wesley Clark has the perfect resume for a Democratic candidate, despite Kerry’s having more varied experience, since Bush seems to want to run only on national security and paint the Democrats as traitors (see where Rick Hertzberg dissects Bush’s State of the Union) and Howard Dean was the only one to take a strong enough position on the war to unify the party’s furious base with its increasingly impotent establishment. What’s a voter to do?

Well, the ideal solution is to meld Kerry’s qualifications with Edwards’ political skills, Clark’s resume and Dean’s antiwar energy. But um, that’s impossible, which is why this exercise is silly.

Or is it?

I’ve said this already but it bears repeating: A Kerry/Edwards ticket could immediately appoint Clark as Shadow Secretary of State and Anthony Zinni as Shadow Secretary of Defense. This would shut up the Flyboy’s national security claims and embrace—for all practical purposes—Dean’s antiwar position. In that case I really would say “Bring ‘em on.”  The biggest problem with this ticket is that lots of people in the South will simply not even consider Kerry no matter what because he’s a “Massachusetts (read “Teddy Kennedy”) liberal.”  And if you don’t think that’s how the Republicans are going to play this, then read today.

Personally, this is a risk I’d be willing to take. Kerry/Edwards can win the election and write-off, without saying so, virtually the entire deep South. Hell, Al Gore did.  And while the pundits and the SCLM are married to this DLC-friendly notion that Gore’s populism, beginning with his convention speech, lost him the election. In fact the opposite is true. The speech, compared by that great man of the people George Will to “sauerkraut ice cream,” gave Gore a thirteen-point bounce and landed him briefly ahead of Bush. It was only when he began to play for the middle again that his lead dissipated by enough to allow the Supreme Court to hand Bush the election despite his having lost both Florida and the national count.

Of course, I’m not married to a Kerry/Edwards ticket. I’d take an Edwards/Kerry ticket. I’d take a Kerry/Clark ticket. I’d take a Clark/Kerry ticket.  (I am not so crazy anymore about a Clark/Dean or an Edwards/Dean ticket, and a Kerry/Dean ticket is impossible.  And a Dean/Anything ticket is a ticket to disaster, and not because of the scream, but let’s hope I don’t have to write more about that.) But a Kerry/Edwards ticket, with the caveats above, is an extremely strong one and so long as the party’s base stays fired up—and it will, thanks to the flyboy—and should be able to beat Bush/Cheney in a fair fight.

Will we have a fair fight? Of course not, Bush is raising $200 million dollars, the Democrats can no longer raise soft money and that differential is exactly what made the difference in the 2002 elections—though nobody thought to report it. So can they win a fixed fight? Well, Gore/Lieberman just about did. And these guys are better, as candidates anyway, and better connected to the base. And no matter what Nader does this time, nobody’s gonna take him seriously. (Not even Michael Moore is taking the bait this time, much to Peter Jennings’ chagrin.) The media will be just as problematic, I fear, but at least Bush won’t be able to masquerade as a moderate.  .

Bring ‘Em On: I find I’m beginning to dislike Howard Dean a great deal.  It’s my fault rather than his.  I didn’t even have a problem with the scream.  Presidents can scream every once in a while.  It is—or ought to be—a hell of a lot more “presidential” than lying the country into an unnecessary, counterproductive war. 

Rather, it’s the Deaniacs -or a few of them.  I suspect this is true for many other liberal journalists, and perhaps for a not insignificant number of primary and caucus voters.  Undoubtedly it’s a tiny minority, but that’s all it takes.  Every time I write something about Dean that is not from the Dean playbook, I receive a slew of nasty, self-righteous e-mail accusing me of “selling out,” “drinking the kool-aid,” or “taking my orders from Karl Rove,” as well lot of other unmentionable insults. 

I’m sure Dean has many idealistic supporters. And for all I know, he might make a terrific president.  But my honest opinion is that he’d be a much weaker candidate against Bush than Kerry, Clark or Edwards, and since that’s the only issue that moves me, I think it would be a big mistake to give him the nomination.  I’ve enumerated reasons for this in the past and I think they become more apparent every day.  (And be honest, while he was brave and outspoken on the war when others were quiet and cautious, do you really think he would handle the current quagmire better than any other of his major rivals?  Just what in his career as a country doctor and governor of Vermont leads you to that?) 

I suspect that some of these people did Dean more harm than good in Iowa.  Moreover, it’s kind of pathetic that so many people on the left become so tied into hero worship—Nader, Dean, Chomsky,  (and dare I say it, Stalin)—that they feel a need to abuse anyone who does not share their wide-eyed admiration.  I expect this kind of vituperation for any kind of deviationism is what turns many leftists and liberals into conservatives.  (It’s not working with me yet, but hey, I’m only 44 and Scaife hasn’t come up with an attractive enough offer.) 

And just to rub it in, here’s a , no irony intended.

But seriously, I do think we all ought to be grateful to Dean for the service he provided the country and the party—in fact, we should be as grateful to him as we remain pissed at Nader. But this is predicated on him not doing any damage to the eventual nominee down the road the way, say, Joe Lieberman is already doing.

P.S. As a peace offering to the vast majority of Deaniacs who are not acting like jerks because their man is losing check out.  .

TNR Deja Vudoo:  Looks like the magazine will play its usual election role: do everything it can to of the Democratic candidate, only to endorse him in the end.  Yes, amazingly enough, it even did this with Al Gore, by allowing to rant and rave on behalf of the man who wants to amend the Constitution to prevent him from marrying his boyfriend.  And while you’re there, don’t send him any money, even if you think he deserves it. Give the money to those working to stop the horrific spread of instead. (Don’t you agree, Andy?)

Note already picking up on the TNR argument.

One reason to like .

Last week Howard “Conflict of Interest” Kurtz wrote a silly piece about journalists and their wives, who but failed to mention that his own wife is a former (?) operative for the Republican governor of California.  Then Jack Shafer wrote in Slate slapping Kurtz for failing to point out that most of the people donated to were Democrats.  What Shafer failed to point out is that Kurtz’s sampling was meaningless, since he merely cherry-picked the examples he felt would give his article the most sizzle. For all we know, he chose only the Democratic donors, and gave Republicans a free pass. I wouldn’t put it past him.

Anyway, today has another list. This one is about journalistic owners. Personally, I think what they think is a great deal more important than what a few lowly reporters think.  And guess what?  They love Bush.  Of course, this sampling is no more meaningful than any of the others.  But guess what?  You’re going to be reading a lot about Kurtz’s sampling, because the guys with the money to push their SCLMized view of the world will pay for it.  But you’re not going to be hearing much about this one.  That’s the value of having a right-wing cowed media. (RWCM? I dunno.)

Newsflash: This just in: Generalissimo Francisco Franco of Spain is still dead and there are still , though in Spain, I’ve heard reports of Franco-related program activity.

And, in honor of Barbara Walters’ retirement, take a  listen to this tough-minded BBC interview with to see what our politics would be like if our leaders were forced to sit down with real journalists.

Boehlert on the 9/11 commission.  Just what are they so afraid we might find out?

and Salon’s got ‘em.  Way to go, everybody.


Music: I saw Gerald Cannon play bass in the Elvin Jones’ Jazz Machine a couple of months ago and I see now he’s got his own CD out.  It’s lovely in an old-fashion McCoy Tyner sort of way; melodic, tasteful, quietly intelligent and deeply rewarding the more you listen.  It’s on something called Woodneck records and just called “Gerald Cannon.”  You can ask where to get yourself a copy if you trust my taste on this kind of thing.

Literature:  I’ve been doing some religious reading lately.  I’m very pleased with the new that Oxford has just published.  The problem with the Bible, like the Koran, is that people take it literally.  I think that’s just silly and frequently dangerous, particularly to those of us who like to be able to say, gather sticks on the Sabbath without being stoned to death.  Anyway, this version provides introductions, annotations, and background and interpretative essays, and historical contexts that make it unavoidably an experience in intellectual investigation, rather than authoritarian instruction. 

I am also spending some time, with friends, reading in volume one of  this incredibly rich collection of essays and primary documents (quite loosely) interpreted to be the canon of the edited by my friend Michael Walzer, together with Menachem Lorberbaum and Yair Lorberaum.  Volume One is centered around the notion of “authority,” Volume II on .  Again, it is almost impossible to understand this stuff on your own, and thanks to this incredibly ambitious and useful collective effort, you don’t have to.

Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: This correspondent has also asked that name and identifying characteristics be redacted and I have complied.

Dr. E.,
The letter from the Guard Soldier struck a chord with me.  I am A Reservist who was mobilized to support Operation Enduring Freedom.  I was put on medical hold status after returning back to the States after my full tour of duty overseas.  I have well over 20 years of service to this country.

The Army motto is "Army of One."  Well, it's not. This has been the worst experience of my whole military career, being in medical hold.  The quarters and food we have recieved have been good at the post where I am at.  The treatment and some attitudes have not been good. When I first got here, things were bad as far as getting medical appointments and assitance. Guardsmen and Reservists are still treated like second class soldiers in my opinion.  I feel like I have "No deposit No return" stamped on me somewhere. 

Like the soldier you featured on Friday, I have been a Democrat who has voted for Republicans.  Mr. Bush, you will not be getting my vote this time.  Unless some administration policies are changed with regard to the Reserves and National Guard, you will see the strength and experience decline.  In my unit, several senior NCOs have retired with over 120 years of combined good military experience after their tour.  It may get worse, I hope it doesn’t.

I love this country and what it stands for or I wouldn’t have served this country for so long.  If they called me up after I retire and told me that they needed me, I would still serve.

Mr. Rumsfeld and crew need to take their heads out of a certain part of their anatomy and revise their opinion on increasing the end strength of active duty forces.  Some changes need to be made to the current mobilization policies and practices for the Guard and Reserve, with some changes made to benefits also if they plan to use them like this.

I would also recommend to any soldier or citizen that they visit a site called and tell their stories about their experiences good or bad.

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

Eric --
Because every day, even days on which I go off to the Super Bowl for the week, hurling myself into the greatest festival for crony capitalism since the last time Kenny Boy Lay and C-Plus Augustus broke out the olive oil and got down to it, is Slacker Friday, Part XXVI
(Enron-related program activity in above paragraph in tribute to Houston, home to The Big Silly Football Game and to several thousand impoverished pensioners.):

Spent the weekend trolling for candidates in New Hampshire and came to one, big, noisy conclusion: there are a lot of people in that state who want to give the country an Incumbentectomy next November.  Every rally was jammed and overflowing; John Edwards had one in a bowling alley at which a Filipino election nearly broke out.  Ran into Josh Marshall at a Clark rally, and he didn't seem to be having much fun.  Of course, he was hanging out with Michael Barone, which may explain it.

Also, the Holiday Inn in Manchester seems to be the Lobby Of Horrors this time around.  I mean, really, Russert, Matthews, Mark Shields, Frank Luntz AND Susan Estrich, all at the same time?  There's never a damn cream pie around when you need it.

Anyway, at a Kerry rally in Hampton at the end of the evening, while we were all waiting for the Junior Senator to arrive, they set up some TVs for the CSPAN feed and there were you and Al Franken, dueling with Tucker and The Gardenhose Lady while some poor lady from the Times played Arthur Mercante.  Of course, the sound was down, but I thought it was nice of Tucker to make all his points in semaphore.

You gotta get out more, dude.