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September 30, 2004

Debate One: President Kerry

George Bush apparently brought his bag of White House pretzels with him to the podium tonight and proceeded to choke his way through ninety minutes in the shadow of a true statesman. John Kerry knocked it out of the park tonight while George Bush was left stammering, frequently grimacing and sounding weaker every time he tried to invoke his "flip-flopper" mantra.

The spinners are flying off their spindles at the moment in the GOP camp and many of the conservative blogs let out a collective wail within the first hour of tonight's debate. The network instant polls are showing a decisive Kerry victory in the numbers - even the Gallup poll that is so under fire in Democratic camps for its rightward tilt put Kerry on top by double digits.

Much will be said about this debate in the coming hours and days, but the country finally had an unfiltered opportunity tonight to see what those of us supporting John Kerry have known all along. He is a strong leader who is decisive, intelligent, articulate and capable of taking this country in the right direction.

There is so much more to say about this debate, but the hour is late and my brain is as tired as my fingers. Next week brings the VP debate between Edwards and Cheney. Between now and then, though, be prepared for the frantic GOP spinning onslaught as the overwhelming failures of the Bush administration sink deeper into the consciousness of the American people.

Posted by amahler at 11:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Kerry was great

For those who doubted that Kerry had the expertise or other ability to debate George Bush or become President, Kerry certainly proved them wrong. Kerry looked great while Bush slouched and smirked; Kerry gave a broad range of answers; Bush kept repeating himself. Kerry knows these leaders and can bring the world together. The greatest lines, in my opinion, were when Kerry said, "Saddam didn't attack us; Bin Laden did" and Bush said, "I know that."

Posted by marlana at 10:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

C-SPAN Update: Debate Broadcast Format

There has been some discussion over the last couple of days about how the debates will be covered. Fox is handling the feed for this debate, which means it is their team running the cameras and providing the video for all the other networks.

The debate over the debate has also concerned who is seen on screen and when. Do you show the reactions of one candidate to the other? Some of this stems from the hooplah over Gore's apparent reactions to Bush in 2000 and the press heyday that ensued. Needless to say, many in the Democratic camp are worried how Fox will manage the camera angles and cuts in relation to Kerry or to protect Bush if he's stumbling.

From what I just heard on C-SPAN in their pre-debate discussion, they will render this concern moot. C-SPAN 1 will be splitting the screen and showing both candidates at all times. C-SPAN 2 will be broadcasting using the normal format. This is classic, balanced C-SPAN and yet another reason to watch their broadcasts. In a few moments they will also begin showing the pre-debate briefing given to the audience in the debate hall. Hopefully, the networks will follow suit on this format.

Posted by amahler at 08:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Debate Time: Let the Games Begin

The news today has been, for the most part, all about the debates with the networks billing it like a title fight. Granted, the format is making something of a mockery of the concept of a true debate... but we've all heard about this ad nauseum.

So, with that said, my one recommendation for the debate watching is to watch it on C-SPAN if you've got cable or satellite TV. It's a nice, pundit-free source where you can play the role of citizen and listen without everyone telling you what was really said and how to formulate your thoughts in the moments before the ads start. 9 PM. Be there.

Among the countless articles I've absorbed on the topic today, this one stood out a bit from the rest. It goes into detail, with qualifications, on the misleading statements from Bush to watch for tonight and has some relevant background on the tactics applied in the 2000 debates against Gore.

As I'm finishing this post (three hours prior to the debate), CNN is breaking a headline on a full blown military offensive in Iraq to "recapture" Samarra. Upon reloading to see if there is an update, it vanished. Who knows.

Posted by amahler at 05:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 29, 2004

Do Bush Supporters Really Know Him?

One thing I frequently encounter when debating with Bush supporters is their lack of actual knowledge about his policies. It's no big shock, really. I've written many times on here about the lack of substance in his speeches, not to mention the misleading terms he uses to disguise bad ideas like the "ownership society" policies that boil down to screwing the little guy. It sure sounds empowering on the surface, though. The "Clear Skies Initiative" sounded good, too, until it was revealed that it would lead to even worse air quality and gave polluters a free pass.

The obvious rule of thumb in this admin is to give bad policies good, positive sounding names. Apparently, some people only read the policy names and then go stick a BC04 yard sign out by their driveway. Upon returning to their living rooms, they wrap themselves in the flag and think happy thoughts for the newly freed people of Iraq. These same folks find the term "flip-flopper" catchy and assume that it must be true... facts be damned.

He is running entirely on a platform based on sounding like a tough guy, instilling fear in the populace, wrapping himself in 9/11 (minus the "My Pet Goat" part) and, more than anything, trying to tear down John Kerry for fear that the campaign might slide into a comparison of track records, discussing real issues and having to admit that his own plan for the future will likely horrify most Americans.

So when this post on Daily KOS came up, it read about like I might expect:

As the nation prepares to watch the presidential candidates debate foreign policy issues, a new PIPA-Knowledge Networks poll finds that Americans who plan to vote for President Bush have many incorrect assumptions about his foreign policy positions. Kerry supporters, on the other hand, are largely accurate in their assessments. The uncommitted also tend to misperceive Bush's positions, though to a smaller extent than Bush supporters, and to perceive Kerry's positions correctly. Steven Kull, director of PIPA, comments: "What is striking is that even after nearly four years President Bush's foreign policy positions are so widely misread, while Senator Kerry, who is relatively new to the public and reputed to be unclear about his positions, is read correctly."

The study goes on to cite percentages on various issues ranging from labor and the environment to missile defense systems and the UN.

I'd love to see a similar study on Bush supporters and their knowledge of his domestic agenda...

Posted by amahler at 06:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Words from a Currently Deployed Soldier in Iraq

The blogosphere is fairly hot right now with this letter from a soldier currently deployed in Iraq.

It is entitled "Why We Cannot Win".

Here is just one of his five detailed points to support his thesis:

Second, our assessment of what motivates the average Iraqi was skewed, again by politically motivated "experts." We came here with some fantasy idea that the natives were all ignorant, mud-hut dwelling camel riders who would line the streets and pelt us with rose petals, lay palm fronds in the street and be eternally grateful. While at one time there may have actually been support and respect from the locals, months of occupation by our regular military forces have turned the formerly friendly into the recently hostile.

Attempts to correct the thinking in this regard are in vain; it is not politically correct to point out the fact that the locals are not only disliking us more and more, they are growing increasingly upset and often overtly hostile. Instead of addressing the reasons why the locals are becoming angry and discontented, we allow politicians in Washington DC to give us pat and convenient reasons that are devoid of any semblance of reality.

We are told that the locals are not upset because we have a hostile, aggressive and angry Army occupying their nation. We are told that they are not upset at the police state we have created, or at the manner of picking their representatives for them. Rather we are told, they are upset because of a handful of terrorists, criminals and dead enders in their midst have made them upset, that and of course the ever convenient straw man of "left wing media bias."

As a result of his letter, the Pentagon is threatening him with court martial on several points, the most absurd of which is:

The military chain of command is also considering charging Al with violation of 1344.10, the conduct of partisan political activity, and violation of Standards of Conduct for unauthorized use of Government assets to create and email stories.

This is especially hypocritical since 3% of the delegation to the RNC a few weeks back were active duty military. I've not heard any reports of any of them being reprimanded. Apparently this rule only applies when your war is being criticized rather than supported by the guys risking their lives for your political gain.

Posted by amahler at 06:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dick Cheney: Putting the Flip in one Flop of an Administration

Apparently, in 1992 when Dick Cheney held Rumsfeld's current job in a former Bush admin, his stated position on Iraq was far more sensible (from the Seattle Post Intelligencer):

WASHINGTON -- In an assessment that differs sharply with his view today, Dick Cheney more than a decade ago defended the decision to leave Saddam Hussein in power after the first Gulf War, telling a Seattle audience that capturing Saddam wouldn't be worth additional U.S. casualties or the risk of getting "bogged down in the problems of trying to take over and govern Iraq".

He goes on to offer some insight into his reasoning:

"And the question in my mind is how many additional American casualties is Saddam worth?" Cheney said then in response to a question.

"And the answer is not very damned many. So I think we got it right, both when we decided to expel him from Kuwait, but also when the president made the decision that we'd achieved our objectives and we were not going to go get bogged down in the problems of trying to take over and govern Iraq."

146 Americans died in the first Gulf War. We're well over 1,000 now in these days of "Mission Accomplished" with no end in sight.

Here's another problem he felt they had avoided:

"Once we had rounded him up and gotten rid of his government, then the question is what do you put in its place? You know, you then have accepted the responsibility for governing Iraq."

So, Dick... what happened? And don't say it was 9/11 and Al Queda... that claim has been disproven many times over... not that it will stop you from misleading people in your quest for four more years as the power behind the throne.

I've got one bit of nostalgia about the former Bush administration: it only lasted a single term. I'm looking forward to reliving that delicious aspect again come November.

Posted by amahler at 06:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 28, 2004

The Poster Child for Flip-Flops

Frankly, calling Kerry a flip-flopper is a load of crap... but it's the kind of catchy sounding phrase the GOP likes to instill in its followers to keep them occupied and self-amused. It lacks depth and gives people a verbal talisman (with visual aids to hold up in crowds) as well as a free pass on having to think, debate, discuss or otherwise acknowledge the truth. Besides, lying in full sentences is very taxing and people tend to mess up the talking points.

So, when I was on the treadmill this morning listening to an audiobook on my iPod (bonus: I just handed some narrow-minded GOoPer a visual stereotype of me that they can now go parody on their blog), I heard Molly Ivins tackle the issue pretty nicely in her latest book - "Who Let the Dogs In?":

"Flip-flops? Compared to the man who opposed the 9/11 Commission, the Intelligence Review Board, the Department of Homeland Security, nation building, McCain-Feingold, the Middle East Peace Process, summits, free trade, the Corporate Reform Law, consulting the U.N. about Iraq, consulting Congress about Iraq, letting Condi Rice testify, etc., etc."

The "etc., etc" part of her commentary definitely cuts a very long list rather short, but the point is well made. Hypocrisy is what the Bush presidency is all about.

Feel free to share your own examples with the Comment button below...

- Aaron

Posted by amahler at 04:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Serious Questions Regarding Gallup Polls

There has been a lot of discussion about the Gallup Polls in Democratic circles for several weeks (mostly in the form of wilting and handwringing as numbers are mistakenly taken at face value and fed to us by a media providing NO backstory). People are quite accustomed to seeing Gallup Polls, not the least of which is due to CNN and USA Today being two of their big purveyors.

So when they gave Bush a double-digit lead in their September 13-15 samples (the biggest spread of any of the national polls at that time), it became a big story. What didn't get as much attention was the analysis and discussion (much of it in the blogosphere and not the "mainstream" media) about the GOP having a 7% bias toward likely GOP voters in their process.

Well, their new poll is now out and it also shows a gap that doesn't fit with other national polls. And, to add insult to injury, their bias toward likely GOP voters is now 12% in this poll... which is NOT by any means a valid reflection of the populace.

Here is the amusing catch... the odd gap is closing and looking better for Kerry - even in their newly biased numbers.

This is all another bit of information to consider as you decide whether you wish to put stock in poll numbers. Keep in mind that these rules apply when the numbers favor us, too.

Look at the trends and the poll scene overall. Once you're done thinking about it you've had some moments to superficially feel horrible or wonderful... quit wasting your time and get back to work focusing on what really matters: getting out the vote, registering voters in the final days before the cutoff date, clearing up Bush lies among the misled and the confused, and generally doing the good things Virginia (and national) Democrats are already doing to assure a Kerry/Edwards victory in November.

Some analysis of this issue is discussed here and here. Now get back to work. ;)

Posted by amahler at 03:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 27, 2004

Great Expectations

And so the debate watch is on. And so is the heat as the Bush team tries to lower expectations about the President's performance Thursday in the first of three debates with John Kerry.

From Crawford, Texas, White House communications director Dan Bartlett low-balled expectations. Or, as ABC's The Note put it:

"To make a point to the Crawford press corps, Dan Bartlett raises his hand high and throws President Bush's debate expectations to the ground, repeatedly stomping on them while mumbling 'horrible. My boss will absolutely suck Thursday night. And, off the record, he recently had a partial lobotomy.' "

Posted by laura at 03:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 24, 2004

The RNC: Scary Gay People Will Ban Your Bible!

I've been hearing about this all week starting back when there was still some speculation regarding whether this was an offical RNC mailing. The RNC, though, has now confirmed that they are proudly mailing this piece of right-wing, gay-bashing trash to people in both West Virginia and Arkanas (click to enlarge):

Apparently when your incumbent candidate has nothing to lay claim to but a staggering deficit, less jobs at the end of his term than when he entered, and a war based on lies that is killing soldiers, contractors and innocent civilians in increasing numbers... well, don't despair... just bash some people in the name of God and mail it deep into the heart of your rural, religious base.

You've been lying to them for four years... why stop now?

At the moment I'm feeling quite sorry for the true Republicans out there - the so-called Goldwater Republicans - who are having their party pulled ever deeper into the pit of right-wing, religious radicalism. I know I wouldn't want this kind of stuff being sent out under my party's banner.

Unlike George Bush, our candidates do not believe in dividing the nation through distorions and appealing to the worst in people. According to the New York Times:

In a statement, Senator John Edwards, the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, said President Bush "should condemn the practice immediately and tell everyone associated with the campaign to never use tactics like this again."

Unlikely. George Bush has a history of taking the apparent (and hypocritical) high road by calling for tolerance while letting his operatives pander to the lowest of the low. I doubt this situation will be any different.

Posted by amahler at 02:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 23, 2004

Saying it over and over does NOT make it true...

If George Bush had hit his head on the podium and landed on the floor unconcious, he'd have done a better job in his press conference today with Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi.

To my ear, there is a clear sense when he takes questions that he has no real answers and is just doing his best to string together a series of (what he hopes) are decisive and sharp sounding phrases. You know, "War President" stuff.

A few examples:

Q: Why haven't U.S. forces been able to capture or kill al-Zarqawi, who's blamed for much of the violence? And what's your answer to General John Abizaid's statement that, "I think we will need more troops than we currently have."

PRESIDENT BUSH: The first part of the question was how come we haven't found Zarqawi? We're looking for him. He hides. He is -- he is -- he's got an effective weapon and that is terror. I said yesterday that our military cannot be defeated by these thugs; that -- but what they do is behead Americans so they can get on the TV screens. And they're trying to shake our will and they're trying to shake the Iraqis' will. That's what they're trying to do. And, like all Americans, I'm disgusted by that kind of behavior. But I'm not going to yield, we're not going to abandon the Iraqi people. It's in our interests that we win this battle in the war on terror.

See, I think that the Iraq theater is a part of the war on terror. That's what the prime minister said as well; he believes the same thing. He understands what's going on there, after all, he lives there.

And I believe that if we wilt or leave, America's security will be much worse off. I believe that if Iraq -- if we fail in Iraq, it's the beginning of a long struggle. We will not have done our duty to our children and our grandchildren. And so that's why I'm consistently telling the Iraqi citizens that we will not be intimidated. That's why my message to Mr. Zarqawi is you cannot drive us out of Iraq by your -- by your brutality.

Frankly, if you had done your duty to our children and grandchildren, we wouldn't be in this quagmire right now. We are already far less secure now than we were before being mislead by your false statements about WMD and al Queda ties.

Q Mr. President, John Kerry -- (off mike) -- level with the American people about how tough it is there. How do you respond to him?

PRESIDENT BUSH: It's hard work in Iraq. Everybody knows that. We see it on our TV.

My message is that -- is that we will stay the course and stand with these people, so that they become free. It's in our national interest we do so. I believe this is a central part in the war on terror. I believe that when we succeed in Iraq, that America will be more secure. I also know that a free Iraq will send a clear message to the part of the world that is desperate for freedom.

It's hard work. The American people know that. But I believe it's necessary work. And I believe a leader must be consistent and clear, and not change positions when times get tough. And the times have been hard. These are hard times. But I understand that -- what mixed messages do. [...] That's why I will continue to lead with clarity in -- in -- in a resolute way, because I understand the stakes. These are high stakes. And we'll succeed.

Here's a mixed message for you: "Has WMDs!" becomes "Had programs to make WMDs!" becomes "Wanted to have programs to make WMDs!" becomes, basically "Oops. Guess we were wrong. Oh well."

No evidence of al Queda ties, either. At least not before you turned the place into a haven for terrorists.

Here are a few other choice remarks:

"I saw a poll that said the right track/wrong track in Iraq was better than here in America. It was pretty darn strong. I mean, the people see a better future."

I suspect Karl Rove had cardiac arrest after that one.

"Talk to the leader. I agree, I'm not the expert on how the Iraqi people think, because I live in America, which is nice, safe and secure."

At this point, Karl Rove likely opened his office door, place his head against the frame and slammed it repeatedly.

"The Afghan national army is a part of the army."

"By the way, it's the Afghan national army that went into Najaf and did the work there."

Excuse me, sir. We're talking about Iraq. You're getting your unfinished wars mixed up.

"I've seen firsthand the tactics of these killers."

Interesting... care to elaborate on that? I'm certain, however, you never saw the tactics of the killers in Vietnam firsthand. All indications are that you didn't see a lot of your stateside Vietnam duty firsthand, either.

I have left out a lot, including at least one reporter using this remarkable phrase that should have been used continuously since the 2000 campaign:

"I don't think you're really answering the question."

Followed by, of course, the standard Bush response:


Keep chuckling, Mr. Bush. It goes over really well with the families losing their loved ones in Iraq. You couldn't present a sharper contrast with John Kerry, a man who is serious about setting this country on the right course again.

The entire transcript can be found here.

Posted by amahler at 04:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

How Do You Spell That?

By all accounts, Bush just had a disasterous gaggle at a press conference this afternoon. I was marveling over parts of the transcript when Chip Woodrum sent this humorous piece along:


The Bush Administration again denied that the invasion of Iraq was the result of a spelling error and that the actual target was to have been Iran, which has been identified as the country that had actually assisted al Quiada terrorists.

The 9/11 Commission Report noted that Iran had actually assisted terrorists involved in the bombing by permitting them to cross its borders and concealed the fact in order to dispel suspicion.

But the President and administration sources bristled at suggestions that Iran had been originally selected as the target for attack but Iraq was substituted at the last minute due to a spelling snafu. President Bush himself responded to questions, saying: "I always get my facq's straight."

"The President was and is aware of his P's and Q's and his N's as well," Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld stated. "The President was very well educated at Yale which--although it's certainly no Princeton--is well known for its spelling expertise," he added.

Rumsfeld pointed out that Vice President Cheney had made a special emergence from his undisclosed location to assist in selecting which country to invade. "Dick Cheney is there to prevent just such an occurrence. In fact he and then CIA Director George Tenet were our fail-safe mechanism so you know nothing could have gone wrong in the spelling or intelligence department."

The President also stated "We intended to invade ...Iraq and knew what we were doing all along. Iraq is close to Iran which we may invade at a later date because it's close to...uh...several other countries too...."

Other highly placed Administration sources vehemently denied persistent rumors that former Vice President Dan Quayle had been involved in planning and targeting the initial stages of the invasion.

Posted by laura at 03:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

President Flip Flop

Folks are atwitter about an analysis piece in this morning's Washington Post by reporter John F. Harris. In the piece, Harris punctures the Bush flip-flop name calling by doing what good journalists do best: Contrasting the hype with the record.

New Democrats Online has an excellent commentary that underscores the Harris piece, including samples of Bush's most egregious flip flops.

Posted by laura at 02:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

"Politics Is Not For Those Weak In The Knees"

John Kerry and John Edwards Are Right For Virginia
By Mark R. Warner, Governor of Virginia

Politics is not for those with weak knees.

Last week, Virginia Democrats absorbed the news that even with the best shot in decades to carry the Commonwealth in a presidential election, the Kerry-Edwards campaign was holding off on placing more television ads here.

But the energy among our volunteers and staff is strong, so folks just went back to work. The message is still an easy one to sell: John Kerry will do a better job on issues that Virginians care most about ... creating good jobs, spending our tax dollars wisely, making the best decisions for our troops, and restoring America as a beacon of liberty in the world.

Today, Virginia Democrats can sell that message. We are the party of balanced budgets, a fairer tax code, and a stronger economic future. And we know how to reach across party lines and out to independents to
get things done. That will be John Kerry's approach as President.

Now, we see a new Zogby poll that shows Kerry-Edwards in a statistical dead heat with the Bush-Cheney ticket in Virginia. Not bad.

You'll see other polls, and they will go up and down between now and Election Day. But I knew John Kerry was likely to be my candidate when things were looking bleakest for him in the snowy fields of Iowa earlier this year. He's a fighter in a tough fight. Let's keep watching his back in Virginia.

Posted by laura at 10:53 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Pentagon Lifts Restrictions on Overseas Voter Reg Site

Yesterday, I wrote about the Pentagon's extreme firewalling of a website set up to help overseas Americans get registered to vote (here).

The word this morning is, under pressure due to such reports, the Pentagon has now turned off the restrictions that kept over 25 of major overseas Internet Service Providers from being able to reach the site. The stated reason? That it was a several year old set of restrictions that had been accidentally left in place.

Brett Rierson of the non-partisan overseasvote.com stated his disbelief on that explanation and pointed out that voters around the world had been logging into the site without problem for much of the year until very recently.

Whatever the case, over 47,000 people have obtained forms from Rierson's organization and tens of thousands more have obtained them from other sources. Now that the Pentagon site is once again accessible to many people, let's hope those numbers keep climbing. And since Zogby International's study indicates that passport holding Americans prefer Kerry to Bush, 55% to 33%, it's a good chance the majority of these registrations come from people fed up with the current administration.

Posted by amahler at 09:10 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 22, 2004

Get a Mortgage Interest Tax Deduction? Kiss it Goodbye.

Something I just picked up on KOS that is creeping into the mainstream news...

John Edwards made this comment in Ohio:

"Bush will eliminate entirely the tax deduction for home mortgage interest."

Further research yields this press release which states:

The Bush administration's new "tax reform" plan, as revealed in a memo released by his former Treasury Secretary, is a reckless continuation of the President's history of serving special interests on the backs of working Americans.

The President's plan will raise taxes on typical families and take away deductions for home mortgages, charity and health care, hurting middle class families even more than before and rewarding special interests.

Questioning the press release, further digging brought out this Business Week article:

...allowing investment income to go tax-free would have to be coupled with ending the tax deduction for interest paid by corporations and by homeowners on their mortgages -- a huge and far less popular change.

As a homeowner who has relied on the tax break I get on my mortgage interest, this concerns me a great deal. I can't say, though, that is strikes me as big shock since Bush routinely talks out of both sides of his mouth... pandering to the wealthy while campaigning in a substanceless way as the champion of the common man (never offering details... just codewords like "ownership society" that are supposed to sound positive). You don't have to dig far under the surface to realize the middle class is being sold out.

Oh, and don't worry that low income renters will be left out of getting the shaft as well. Here is an excerpt from a Salon entry (referencing a Times article) concerning a Bush admin HUD proposal that will end up costing many low incoming families hundreds more in rent:

"The Bush administration has proposed reducing the value of subsidized-housing vouchers given to poor residents in New York City next year, with even bigger cuts planned for some urban areas in New England. The proposal is based on a disputed new formula that averages higher rents in big cities with those of suburban areas, which tend to have lower costs."

"The proposals could have a 'significantly detrimental impact' in some areas by forcing poor families to pay hundreds of extra dollars per month in rent, according to United States Representative Christopher Shays, a Connecticut Republican. That extra burden could be too much for thousands of tenants, 'potentially leaving them homeless,' Mr. Shays wrote in a recent letter to the Department of Housing and Urban Development."

Compassionate Conservatism at its wealth-favoring best...

Posted by amahler at 12:25 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Juan Cole: If America were Iraq, What would it be Like?

Juan Cole has written a very thought provoking piece that might help people gain some perspective on the violence in Iraq:

President Bush said Tuesday that the Iraqis are refuting the pessimists and implied that things are improving in that country.

What would America look like if it were in Iraq's current situation? The population of the US is over 11 times that of Iraq, so a lot of statistics would have to be multiplied by that number.

Thus, violence killed 300 Iraqis last week, the equivalent proportionately of 3,300 Americans. What if 3,300 Americans had died in car bombings, grenade and rocket attacks, machine gun spray, and aerial bombardment in the last week? That is a number greater than the deaths on September 11, and if America were Iraq, it would be an ongoing, weekly or monthly toll.

He goes on to lay out a vivid set of geographical analogies that tend to drive the point home. It's well worth reading and it can be found here.

Posted by amahler at 12:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Pentagon Making Overseas Online Voter Reg Difficult

Various reports are cropping up in the blogosphere and on mainstream media sites discussing the fact that a Department of Defense website set up for non-partisan assistance in voter registration for overseas Americans is being heavily blocked by the Pentagon.

The Pentagon claims that the Federal Voting Assistance Program's website has been locked down to deny access to over 25 large international Internet Service Providers (such as the enormous Wanadoo in France, BT Yahoo in Great Britain, and Telefonica in Spain) to limit hacking attempts. Other Pentagon operated sites, though, for things such as benefits and payroll management are not exhibiting similar "protection".

Needless to say, there are a lot of conspiracy theories swirling around over this issue. A recent Zogby survey indicates that American holders of passports favored Kerry by 55% to a Bush at 33%.

An immediate question that springs to mind would be the impact on the military. All indications (subject to some arugment of late) are that enlisted Americans overseas lean heavily Republican. Fueling the conspiracy theories is the fact that the military has voting assistance officers that have been instructed to meet personally with all of the soldiers in their units. Meanwhile, many civilians overseas are running headlong into a firewall when trying to reach the FVA website.

From a Salon.com article on the topic today:

The official -- a self-described Democrat who adheres to requirements of non-partisanship as a voting officer -- could see no explanation other than pure political trickery in the Pentagon's decision to block the FVAP Web site. "There is no way in hell that this is not a deliberate partisan attempt to systematically disenfranchise a large Democratic voting bloc," the official said.

It's easy to see why the Bush administration might be worried about the prospect of huge numbers of American civilians living abroad exercising their right to vote. In efforts to register Americans living overseas, the official has come across a host of people who say they're signing up specifically to hasten Bush's defeat. "I've had so many old people coming to register say, 'I haven't voted in such a long time,' or 'The last time I voted in an election was when Kennedy ran, but we've got to get rid of this man. This man makes me ashamed to be an American.'"

Fortunately, Voter Verified Foundation has established a proxy to help those overseas avoid the problem.

Posted by amahler at 10:04 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bush at the UN

The reports I'm reading about Bush's speech at the UN today lead me to believe that any quiet moments were met with the sound of chirping crickets and uncomfortable coughs.

World leaders (the ones who came and didn't send foreign ministers instead) hastened to offer these kinds of glowing responses (from an AP article):

Many world leaders hesitated to comment on Bush's speech. South African President Thabo Mbeki said, "I'm still reading it." Many European leaders skipped the meeting entirely, sending their foreign ministers instead.

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero - who came to power by criticizing his predecessor's unpopular support for the Iraq war - said he agreed with Bush on defending liberty and democracy, but disagreed on other matters.

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said, "I think it's very important what Kofi Annan said about the rule of law in the 21st century, so I don't want to go more into the details because this would be very unpolite."

Fischer is referring to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan suggesting last week that the Iraq war was illegal and expressing his concern that the "rule of law" is at risk around the world.

Bush went on in his speech to mention the al-Queda-linked terrorism taking place now in Iraq. Keep in mind that this is the newly erupting terrorism that did not exist in Iraq prior to starting a war that was predicated partly on a false claim by the Bush administration of connections between al-Queda and Saddam. al-Queda now has a foothold where they didn't have one before. How does Bush reconcile this with his dominant campaign theme that he is eradicating terrorism and making the world a safer place?

A real plan for repairing our world relations and setting both Iraq and the US back on the right track comes with helping John Kerry and John Edwards take back the White House this November. We will once again have a true statesman addressing the UN audience of world leaders... leaders with a renewed respect for the United States and its role as a true partner in the world.

UPDATE: (9:05 AM)

From a NYT editorial this morning:

We did not expect President Bush to come before the United Nations in the middle of his re-election campaign and acknowledge the serious mistakes his administration has made on Iraq. But that still left plenty of room for him to take advantage of this one last chance to appeal to an increasingly antagonistic world to help the Iraqis secure and rebuild their shattered nation and prepare for elections in just four months. Instead, Mr. Bush delivered an inexplicably defiant campaign speech in which he glossed over the current dire situation in Iraq for an audience acutely aware of the true state of affairs, and scolded them for refusing to endorse the American invasion in the first place.

Posted by amahler at 12:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 21, 2004

The CIA is "just guessing" about Iraq coming unglued

According to this Reuters article, Bush says the CIA is "just guessing" on their gloomy predictions that Iraq is spiraling out of control.

NEW YORK (Reuters) - President Bush, determined to put an optimistic face on deadly conditions in Iraq, said on Tuesday that the CIA was just guessing when it said the war-racked country was in danger of slipping into civil war.

"The CIA laid out several scenarios. It said that life could be lousy, life could be OK, life could be better. And they were just guessing as to what the conditions might be like," Bush told reporters during a picture-taking session with Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.

I'm "just guessing" when I say that the second captured American beheaded (on video, nonetheless) in as many days supports the CIA's predictions. I am not, however, guessing when I say that this administration has got to go.

- Aaron

Posted by amahler at 07:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

GWB: Feelin' the GOP Love

In the last few days:

Republican Sen. John McCain on the war in Iraq:

"We made serious mistakes..."

Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel on Iraq:

"The fact is, we're in deep trouble in Iraq ... and I think we're going to have to look at some recalibration of policy."

Republican Sen. Richard Lugar on funds for Iraq:

"This is the incompetence in the administration..."

Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee claiming he probably won't vote for Bush:

"There is no secret that on some very important issues I have difference with the current administration."

Pair this with declining support for Bush among soldiers in Iraq. Looks like somebody's gettin' thrown under the bus...

Posted by amahler at 04:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Debate Parameters and Dates Finalized

The dates and locations of the forthcoming debates have been finalized, along with all the nitty gritty details such as whether the candidates sit or stand, whether they can take notes (they can, and even on the paper color of their choice as long as it's placed on the podium by debate organizing staff beforehand), and a host of other things meant to create a level playing field. We shall see.

Bush is considered a fairly accomplished debater, not so much by knowing anything or answering the questions with any depth, but through his apparent "regular joe" charm (which is utterly lost on me, I might add). Last time I checked (within at least the last twelve seconds), a "regular joe" who smirks a lot is the kind of guy who gets us into misguided wars and claims to be protecting the nation while simultaneously putting us in greater danger (Osama bin who?), not to mention overseeing the staggering mutation of a budgetary surplus into a smoking economic crater. Supposedly he'd be the guy many folks would prefer to "have a beer with". I don't like beer. I do, however, get a real kick out of healthcare and mercury-free fish. It's the little things.

Whatever the case, Bush can stack his supposed charm against Kerry's knowledge and experience at the following times and places:

  • Sept. 30 at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla.
  • Oct. 8 at Washington University in St. Louis.
  • Oct. 13 at Arizona State University in Tempe

In addition to this, John Edwards will be debating the ever-huggable Dick Cheney on October 5th at Case Western University in Cleveland.

Since I like to think for myself and appreciate a full-frame picture not surrounded by rolling "news" tickers, I'll be watching them on C-SPAN. I highly recommend it over the cable and network news pundit-fest.

Oh, regarding the issue of whether they debate while sitting or standing... last night, Dave Letterman suggested a novel compromise: squat. As entertaining as this might be, I've aleady spent four years of the Bush Administration with the word "squat" running through my head. This seemed to be a real sticking point between the campaigns with Edwards wanting to stand and Cheney wanting to sit. According to Kerry: "Well, now what's gonna happen is, well, we compromised and now George Bush is gonna sit on Dick Cheney's lap."

Reminds me of that button I bought at the State Convetion last June.

Posted by amahler at 03:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dissension in the Ranks: 'We shouldn't be here'

I've heard murmurs about this in various places on the net and elsewhere recently, but an article today in the Christian Science Monitor puts the issue on the table: is support for Bush among soldiers in Iraq crumbling?

While we sit on the other side of the world and argue over the course and future of the wrong war in the wrong place, American soldiers, over 1,000 of which have been killed and counting, are facing the grim realities of Iraq firsthand. An increasing number of them are also breaking traditional ranks and making their anger heard both now and, come November 2nd, in the ballot box.

From the CSM:

"Nobody I know wants Bush," says an enlisted soldier in Najaf, adding, "This whole war was based on lies." Like several others interviewed, his animosity centered on a belief that the war lacked a clear purpose even as it took a tremendous toll on US troops, many of whom are in Iraq involuntarily under "stop loss" orders that keep them in the service for months beyond their scheduled exit in order to keep units together during deployments.

While Bush tries to spin his misguided war to his benefit for re-election, at the cost of both American and Iraqi lives, John Kerry is presenting a clear plan to get things back on track and make sure that, in the future, war is used only as a last resort. That message is apparently understood by a growing number of soldiers currently on the front lines:

"There's no clear definition of why we came here," says Army Spc. Nathan Swink, of Quincy, Ill. "First they said they have WMD and nuclear weapons, then it was to get Saddam Hussein out of office, and then to rebuild Iraq. I want to fight for my nation and for my family, to protect the United States against enemies foreign and domestic, not to protect Iraqi civilians or deal with Sadr's militia," he said.

Specialist Swink, who comes from a family of both Democrats and Republicans, plans to vote for Kerry. "Kerry protested the war in Vietnam. He is the one to end this stuff, to lead to our exit of Iraq," he said.

Furthermore, as GOP surrogates continue to mislead and distract many Americans with their distortions about Kerry's outspoken opposition to Vietnam (AFTER serving bravely in combat, unlike Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz), some soldiers actively fighting in Iraq express the kind of support for that opposition that the GOP would like to paint as treachery:

Whether representing pockets of opposition to Bush or something bigger, soldiers and marines on Iraq's front lines can be impassioned in their criticism. One Marine officer in Ramadi who had lost several men said he was thinking about throwing his medals over the White House wall.

The entire article can be found here.

Posted by amahler at 01:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 20, 2004

Waynesboro: An Evening to Meet the Candidates

Select photos by your connection speed:

Waynesboro: An Evening to Meet the Candidates - Sept 18, 2004 (slower)

Waynesboro: An Evening to Meet the Candidates - Sept 18, 2004 (faster)

I attended a very enjoyable dinner event at the Purple Foot in Waynesboro last Saturday night where I had a chance to see old friends, meet new ones and hear some great words from Lowell Fulk, Pat Ladlee, Va Victory'04 Field Coordinator Dorothy Blackwell, Lt. Governor Candidate Leslie Byrne, Attorney General Candidate Creigh Deeds, and the always powerful Rick O'Dell, Virginia's head of Veterans for Kerry.

Many thanks to my dear friend and Chair of the Waynesboro Democratic Committee, Marlana Lewis, for the invitation and for coordinating a fantastic and very well attended event. Judging from the enthusiastic crowd and the Kerry/Edwards and Al Weed yard signs on my drive from Sweet Briar, the valley is doing its part in turning Virginia blue in 2004!

Posted by amahler at 07:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Amherst County Touchscreen Voting Demonstration

Select photos by your connection speed:

Amherst Democratic Committee Meeting - E-Voting Demonstration (slower)

Amherst Democratic Committee Meeting - E-Voting Demonstration (faster)

At our meeting in Amherst last Tuesday, County Registrar Gary Beasley, came to demonstrate Amherst County's new touchscreen, electronic voting system.

The system is the Patriot made by a company called Unilect. Personally speaking, not being a Diebold system pleased me a great deal. The geek in me finds electronic voting to be a marvelous concept (having written a web-based system for Sweet Briar which is used by our Student Government to conduct their elections).

First came the Florida elections which screwed it up pretty well with the art of punching holes in paper (about as analog as it gets). The outcry afterward brought e-voting to the forefront where Diebold swooped in and scared the crap out of both the geek and luddite world with their hamfisted handling of closed-source software and a CEO quoted as saying (in a fundraiser letter, no less) he is "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year."

I'm not going to get into the details of either story as they are both discussed in far greater detail all over the web and, to some degree, the mainstream press. Google is your friend.

Amherst chose the far less diabolical Unilect Patriot and, from what I have seen, chose very well. The system is very easy to use with its large, colorful display and various safety features. The votes are stored in non-volative memory in seven locations internally. It is operated entirely by county staff and does NOT operate over a network to a central location except an ability to dial-in and almost instantly upload the final totals after the polls close. Prior to doing this, though, the system will print an audit which has to be certified by the poll workers at each location. All the key pieces of the system are marked with numbered seals that will be broken if any tampering is attempted.

No, the system does NOT generate a receipt for each voter... the "paper trail" that has been discussed of late. I was initially perturbed by this, but the valid argument against doing so was one I had not considered: vote buying. In other words, persuadable people can't walk out of the polls and hand a receipt to someone in exchange for cash or cigarettes or some other incentive.

In a nutshell, I didn't have any alarm bells going off in my head when comparing it to the somewhat error-prone lever machines we've been yanking on in rural Virginia for the last few decades. On the other hand, the tallies should be much faster after the close of the polls and, in my opinion, the voting process now provides an opportunity to review your selections in a more vivid and sytematic way with the colorful touchscreens.

Even more intriguing was the portability of one machine in each location. Elderly or disabled voters need not even leave their cars. The unit can be carried out for a curbside vote. The moment the official returns it to the booth and reconnects the wire, the vote is cast and confirmed. An official also must reset each terminal at the main control unit after each ballot is cast to prevent someone from standing in the booth and ringing up numerous votes (akin to the curtain opening when you pull the big lever in years past).

Everyone is required to use the machines... there are no alternate methods aside from absentee ballots. Write-in candidates can be spelled out with an on-screen keyboard. There is also an option for a braile machine for the visually impaired.

All in all, I found the system rather impressive and I look forward to casting my vote in November. Wild guess who I pick... ;)

Posted by amahler at 04:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What You Can Do: Dan Redwood Puts It Into Context

Dan Redwood, one of the Democratic Party of Virginia's most active volunteers in the Hampton Roads region, sent the following email to his volunteers about the need for folks to avoid the emotional ups and downs of poll-watching. This is an excellent message, one which I hope everyone will take to heart:

This (past) week's polling data provides what may be the definitive case study on why we should maintain a healthy skepticism toward national polls for the presidential race. Many polls show a statistical tie. But the Gallup poll shows Bush ahead by 13 points among likely voters (although several points less among registered voters) for approximately the same time period. Obviously both can't be true.

What are we to make of this? First, as I said in my email earlier this week, these polls sample no more than 500-1,500 voters out of perhaps 100 million who will actually vote on November 2. This means that a relatively small statistical shift in the demographic nature of the particular sample (i.e., a sample with 55 percent Republicans vs. one with 45 percent Republicans will yield very different results). In a typical polling sample of 600 people, such a 10 percent shift would reflect a grand total of 60 people in the entire nation. Let me say this again: these 60 people (slightly more than one person per state), out of 100 million are the reason the headline you're reading says that Bush is ahead rather than saying Kerry is ahead. Please remember this, whether we're ahead or behind.

Some pollsters compensate for these sampling anomalies by massaging their results to reflect what they believe to be an accurate mix of Republicans and Democrats. In general, over the past year, most polls have shown there to be more Democrats than Republicans by a nationwide margin of a few points. Whether or not a particular poll factors this into its final result is crucial. Some do, some don't, and the headlines you read almost never mention which is which.

Another factor that is rarely explained is the matter of Likely Voters (LV) versus Registered Voters (RV). In general, LVs show more pro-Bush results than RVs, often by several points. Several points, in almost most polls, is the difference between a victory for Kerry and one for Bush. The factors that go into a particular pollster's determination of who is a "likely voter" are rarely discussed in news articles on the state of the "horserace," and virtually never in the headlines. All you see in the headlines is the result that shows the most dramatic lead by a candidate, whatever the methodology used to arrive at that result. Please be aware that this factor is very significant. In general, the LV statistics understate the vote of the minority and working class portion of the electorate, where Democrats are stronger than Republicans. I believe that our turnout is going to be massive this year. LV models currently in use do not account for turnout.

For those of us who have not yet developed emotional immunity to the ups and downs in the polls (I am one of this group), I highly recommend regularly reading Ruy Teixeira's website. Teixeira is a Democrat, a writer and researcher, and the best commentator I've seen on these issues. His commentary on this week's Gallup results is here:

Teixeira will give you the context that CNN, NBC, Fox, the Virginian-Pilot, and the rest of them don't provide. Another highly informative (and lengthier) article on poll interpretation, by Chris Bowers, can be found at the MyDD weblog.

A few more thoughts. I would like to propose a rebel hypothesis about the recent polls that have put so many of us on an emotional roller coaster. I believe it is entirely possible that both the big Bush "bounce" after the Republican convention and the subsequent Kerry surge in which the Bush bounce was erased, never really existed among the voting population at large, the 100 million who will actually vote. These risings and fallings may have been no more than an illusion based on sampling anomalies. I can't prove it (and they can't disprove it), but it sure wouldn't surprise me.

Please do not become depressed or overconfident based on the polls. I have said this before and I will probably feel the need to say it again more than once. The greatest threat to a Kerry-Edwards victory is weariness and depression on the part of Kerry-Edwards supporters.

Please help the campaign by talking to the people you know about why you support Kerry, Edwards, and your Democratic congressional candidate. Please help with our phone banking as we reach out to ID Democratic voters.

Posted by laura at 02:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Kerry at NYU: "George Bush has no strategy for Iraq. I do."

John Kerry has just given a powerful speech at NYU where he presents his plan for Iraq and lays bare the truth that this administration has been hiding since the beginning.

In fact, the President has made a series of catastrophic decisions ... from the beginning ... in Iraq. At every fork in the road, he has taken the wrong turn and led us in the wrong direction.

The first and most fundamental mistake was the President's failure to tell the truth to the American people.

He failed to tell the truth about the rationale for going to war. And he failed to tell the truth about the burden this war would impose on our soldiers and our citizens.

By one count, the President offered 23 different rationales for this war. If his purpose was to confuse and mislead the American people, he succeeded.

His two main rationales - weapons of mass destruction and the Al Qaeda/September 11 connection - have been proved false... by the President's own weapons inspectors... and by the 9/11 Commission. Just last week, Secretary of State Powell acknowledged the facts. Only Vice President Cheney still insists that the earth is flat.

The President also failed to level with the American people about what it would take to prevail in Iraq.

He didn't tell us that well over 100,000 troops would be needed, for years, not months. He didn't tell us that he wouldn't take the time to assemble a broad and strong coalition of allies. He didn't tell us that the cost would exceed $200 billion. He didn't tell us that even after paying such a heavy price, success was far from assured.

More below the fold...

Regarding the vote to give President Bush authority to use force against Hussein, Kerry clearly states the truth of the matter:

Two years ago, Congress was right to give the President the authority to use force to hold Saddam Hussein accountable. This President... any President... would have needed the threat of force to act effectively. This President misused that authority. (emphasis added)

He also offers this warning regarding four more years of George W. Bush, a man who is currently running on the false claim that he has made our country safer:

If George W. Bush is re-elected, he will cling to the same failed policies in Iraq -- and he will repeat, somewhere else, the same reckless mistakes that have made America less secure than we can or should be.

Kerry goes on to offer a series of very specific actions to begin correcting the disaster in Iraq. Among them are:

  • restoring our international relations damaged by the arrogance of this administration
  • give other nations a stake in Iraq's restoration
  • collect on the pledges of monetary support from the world community
  • get serious about training Iraq's security forces (and stop inflating false numbers)
  • give Iraqis tangible roles in their reconstruction rather than lining the pockets of huge corporate interests such as Halliburton. This last point is partially illustrated by the $18 billion granted this admininistration to help the Iraq people while less than $1 billion has been spent to date.

Finally, Kerry insists that President Bush must take immediate action to guarantee that Iraq can conduct safe and valid elections in January.

George Bush has no strategy for Iraq. I do.

George Bush has not told the truth to the American people about why we went to war and how the war is going. I have and I will continue to do so.

I believe the invasion of Iraq has made us less secure and weaker in the war against terrorism. I have a plan to fight a smarter, more effective war on terror - and make us safer.

Today, because of George Bush's policy in Iraq, the world is a more dangerous place for America and Americans.

George Bush has not been honest with the American people. John Kerry can set this country on the proper course regarding its role in Iraq. November 2nd is your chance to vote for this change of course so that we can have a stronger America that is, once again, respected in the world.

Posted by amahler at 12:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Offensive? To some, maybe. Worth Reading? Oh my, yes...

So I'm going to bring a previously spotty, sleepy week on DocDem to a screeching halt this Monday morning and share a link to the top DailyKOS diary.

If the f-word makes you deaf to a message or you're easily offended, go ahead and steer clear of this link. (though my advice is to get beyond that and read this anyway)

If, however, you're more than a bit tired of the spastic polls, the media horse race and talking some of your fellow Dems off the ledge, here's a nice kick in the pants to ponder for a bit. The comments that are mushrooming on this article are equally thought provoking.

Jeff Lieber's DailyKOS Diary... regarding closing the hole... and some stuff about pie.

I, for one, am not especially offended by some profanity and I've got a long list of people I intend to share this with.

43 days to go, folks. Our message is right, our candidate is fantastic and we've got work to do. If you're not engaged, hop to it. If you are engaged (and you'd likely not be reading this if you weren't), keep up the good work.

- Aaron

P.S. For those who read this article and think it's saying that we can't have differing points of view or this approach is too much like Limbaugh, I respectfully wish to say that you're missing the point entirely. If you want to see what a lack of free speech, debate and discourse looks like, then sit on your hands for the next six weeks. My two cents.

UPDATE: I wanted to toss in this little comment tree from within the enormous DailyKOS thread. I think it's helpful to read.

Posted by amahler at 10:48 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Barnie Day: The System Was Blinking Red

Clandestine, foreign government, and media reports indicate bin Laden since 1997 has wanted to conduct terrorist attacks in the U.S. Bin Laden implied in U. S. television interviews in 1997 and 1998 that his followers would follow the example of World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef and "bring the fighting to America."

Presidential daily briefing, Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S., dated August 6, 2001.

SEPTEMBER 11, 2004--If the Bush Administration was held to the same level of accountability that the average toll-booth operator is held to, every one of its members would be tarred, feathered, and run out of the country on a rail. Their failure on this matter of terrorism has been catastrophic, total, and complete.

Here we are, three years after the attack, three years after hauling what was left of some 2,500 Americans to a landfill on Staten Island--that's right--to a landfill. Most of the victims were pulverized beyond recovery and were simply buried in the Fresh Kills landfill.

Here we are, three years later, and where are we?

Bin Laden is still on the loose. We've burned a couple hundred billion dollars in borrowed money. We've sacrificed the lives of more than a thousand brave American soldiers on the field of battle. And we've added tens of thousands to the rolls of the permanently maimed and injured. And we've done this all in the wrong war.

And there has been no accountability for any of it. None whatsoever. The same people we hired, during the last election, to protect us are the same ones who failed us. The people who failed us are the same ones who are still there!

What are they asking us to do now? Give them four more years? I don't think so.

If you don't read but one chapter of the Final Report, National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, more commonly known as the 9/11 Commission Report, let that be Chapter 8, 'The System Was Blinking Red.'

No wonder this administration opposed creation of this commission.

The attack on the World Trade Center three years ago could have been prevented. It should have been prevented. There is blame to place. There is responsibility. We had warnings. The system was screaming them to us. Indeed, the system was blinking red.

The key findings of the report?

* The 9/11 attack was driven by Osama Bin Laden who built over the course of a decade a dynamic and lethal organization in al-Qaeda
* What we can say with confidence is that none of the measures adopted by the U.S. government from 1998 to 2001 disturbed or even delayed the progress of the al-Qaeda plot.
* The most important failure was one of imagination. We do not believe leaders understood the gravity of the threat.
* At no point before 9/11 was the Department of Defense fully engaged in the mission of countering al-Qaeda, even thought it was perhaps the most dangerous foreign enemy threatening the United States.
* The FBI did not have the capability to link the collective knowledge of agents in the field to national priorities.
* The terrorist danger form Bin Laden and al-Qaeda was not a major topic for policy debate among the public, the media or in the Congress. Indeed, it barely came up during the 2000 presidential campaign.
* No single individual was to blame, but both individuals and institutions had to take responsibility for failing to stop the attacks.
* There was no operational link between al-Qaeda and ousted President Saddam Hussein.

The full story of this tragedy, the events that led up to it, the missed opportunities, the failures, will be a long time in seeing daylight--if ever. But this commission report is a good starting place. I would recommend it to you. But know this: It is going to raise up some rage in you.

Posted by laura at 09:39 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 18, 2004

Off the ledge and back to work!!

You gotta love the headline today on CNN.com. "Polls vary widely." Well of course they do! The "Bush bounce" is gone, and we're right back to where we were: a close, highly competitive (even nasty) race for the White House. Now that no Democrat has any excuse for not coming down off the ledge, let's examine what we must focus upon to do what sober analysts have always believed is likely for John Kerry, winning the election. (By Rick Howell)

Actually, there was another headline even more compelling. It was about a video on the popular Arab network that once again shows hostages taken by insurgents in Iraq. This time it's two Americans and a Brit. We know how this works by now. Sadly, their lives are being threatened.

Yet another scenario of this kind is playing out even as George W. Bush and Dick Cheney hopscotch the country sugar-coating (in Kerry's accurate words) this awful mess in Iraq. Surely the American people will hold this president accountable for this disaster. The latest development with new hostages comes just days after the intelligence estimate given to the president saw the real possibility of civil war there in the coming months.

We must help Kerry and Edwards make the case that this pre-emptive war had and has absolutely nothing to do with the legitimate struggle against terror. The neo-cons in this White House got the war they wanted, and they'd wanted it ever since the first Bush decided that overthrowing the Iraqi regime was not the international mandate he received. With the ascension of Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Cheney, Rice and others in the second Bush regime, they were finally in place to get their war going. Sept. 11 gave them the perfect excuse.

Car bombs, hostages, attacks on our soldiers, and a continuing cycle of U.S. deaths and injuries - this is the stuff of Bush's war. It's not about democracy and freedom. Hopefully, one day it will be. But it's going to take new leadership to get that done. This president has shown his utter incompetence in the way he has "handled" this war.

At home, the tens of millions without health insurance, the hundreds of thousands working at lesser-paying jobs with few or no benefits, and the high cost of gasoline, prescription drugs and other necessities - this is the stuff of Bush's economic policies. After all, it's been said before that there are only two reasons to vote for Kerry and against Bush: foreign policy and domestic policy. That sums it up.

The American people will not be fooled...not all of them, anyway. Yet that's exactly what this administration is trying to do, pull off one of the biggest con jobs in American electoral history. The aim is to convince people that somehow, despite his lousy domestic record and the mess in Iraq, Bush deserves another term.

America can do better, and it will do better. It's nice to have us off the ledge and back in the fight where we belong. Now, let's don't waste a moment helping the Kerry-Edwards ticket carry the fight to the people. We're going to win. Our victory will be America's victory.

Rick Howell is chairman of the Amherst County Democratic Committee. He is Host of the Kerry Meet-Ups in Lynchburg. He can be reached via e-mail at NewCenHowell@aol.com

Posted by rickhowell at 06:00 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 16, 2004

John Kerry: Staying In The Hunt

Folks who know me know I loathe poll watching. The punditry ... the endless speculating ... the view from 30,000 feet ... in the end, these do nothing to move the ball down the court for John Kerry and John Edwards.

That said, the Associated Press is now reporting that the latest Pew Research Center poll is showing the race between John Kerry and George Bush is a virtual tie. Laura

According to AP, "By the second poll, done Sept. 11-14, the Bush lead had evaporated. In that poll, Bush and Kerry were knotted at 46 percent among registered voters. Among likely voters, Bush was at 47 percent and Kerry at 46 percent.

"There is a great deal of instability and uncertainty in the
electorate," said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. "This poll finds a lot of the positive impact Bush had in the convention remains. But Bush's vulnerabilities on Iraq and the economy continue, and these have anchored the race."

After the Republican convention and its well-orchestrated criticism of Kerry, Bush grabbed a lead ranging from 5 points to 11 points in
various national polls. That lead appeared to be shrinking in some polls by late last week, and a Harris poll out Thursday showed the race even.

"This gives Kerry an opportunity to stay in the hunt," said Kohut. "Some of the negatives that Kerry accumulated during the Republican convention have worn away." Kerry's unfavorable ratings increased after the GOP convention but dropped slightly between the two waves of the poll. Fewer voters in the second poll had an unfavorable view of the Democrat, said Kerry is too quick to change his mind, and believed the risk of terrorism would be higher if he were elected.

Bush continues to hold a commanding lead on who would do the best job of defending the country from terrorists by 58 percent to 31 percent. And he's seen by more as a strong leader.

But people are more likely to disapprove of Bush's handling of the
economy and are evenly split on his handling of Iraq. Almost six in 10
said it's not clear what Bush will do about Iraq if he is re-elected.

Two-thirds thought Vice President Dick Cheney went too far when he
suggested that if voters "make the wrong choice" on Election Day there
is a danger "we'll get hit again" by terrorists."

* * *

I still argue folks should take polls for what they are--snapshots of a moment in time. But it is clear that this election is very close ... and all of us are in the best position help Kerry win on Election Day. More than 5,000 people turned out this past weekend for a series of volunteer "organizing conventions," and the Hampton Roads regional campaign headquarters is set to open this Sunday. Many, many good things are happening here in Virginia!

Jonathan Beeton, the Virginia spokesman for the Kerry-Edwards campaign, shared this insight into activities going on at the Va. Victory '04 coordinated campaign offices:

"For two nights in a row we've had so many phone bankers that we've
had to put them in offices to share staff's phones (like mine)... and
today--during the day--we had about 25 volunteers in the office
assembling signs, doing calls ... at some points I couldn't get down the hallway. People are pumped. Similar phone banking results are
happening in Roanoke and in N.Va and we are opening another office this weekend in Norfolk that will have major phone banking going on.

We also have someone on the radio every morning now... someone,
somewhere is on the air each morning pumping out our message."

If you want to make an impact here in Virginia for John Kerry, please call the coordinated campaign office at 804.355.0404 and offer to volunteer to do phone banking.

Posted by laura at 05:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 15, 2004

The Excuse Presidency

[No, we've not fallen off the earth here at DocDem... just spread rather thin over the last few days with travel, meetings, etc. Things are starting to return to normal, though, so look for posts to pick back up and life to return to normal.]

I thought I'd take a moment to share some words from John Kerry in a speech he gave earlier today:

Of course, the President would have us believe that his record is the result of bad luck, not bad decisions. That he's faced the wrong circumstances, not made the wrong choices. In fact, this President has created more excuses than jobs. His is the Excuse Presidency: Never wrong, Never Responsible, Never to Blame. President Bush's desk isn't where the buck stops - it's where the blame begins. He's blamed just about everyone but himself and his administration for America's economic problems. And if he's missed you, don't worry - he's still got 48 days left until the election.

And, speaking on the subject of Bush's myriad failures as a Commander in Chief:

We know the truth. George Bush's failed record is the result of George Bush's failed policies. And he chose time and again to do nothing to improve our economy or ease the burden on middle class families. In fact, nearly every choice has made it worse. You can even say that George Bush is proud of the fact that not even failure can cause him to change his mind. This is the man who promised his tax cuts would create 6 million new jobs. Today, three tax cuts later, we've lost a million -- seven million jobs short of his prediction. To George Bush, stubborn leadership is steady leadership. But as far as I'm concerned, George Bush's failures are the result of misplaced values and wrong choices that always give more and more to those with the most and tells the middle-class "you are not the priority."

Only 48 more days to go, folks... 48 more days to casting your official vote for a positive vision of America's future and steering us away from the failed course set, and stubbornly maintained, by George W. Bush.

Posted by amahler at 12:23 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 09, 2004

Truth Through Parody

I've been an avid reader of The Onion for years since I have a fondness for good parody. That also explains my love of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (click that for one of their best episodes ever).

Sadly, in this era of George W. Bush, media parodies are often the most honest and accurate commentaries out there. Anybody who watches The Daily Show will know what I'm talking about.

So, on that note, I'd like to pass along a link that is making the rounds in the blogsphere of late. The Onion, the gold standard in print journalism parodies, had an article in 2001 called "Bush: 'Our Long National Nightmare of Peace and Prosperity is Finally Over'". I know I was in a pretty foul mood during that time of Florida election debacles and GWB's inauguration, so I clearly remember appreciating the dark humor as they predicted the coming years under W.

Never would I have dreamed that somebody could annotate that humorous article nearly four years later and suck much of the parody right out of it without changing a single word. Who is laughing now?

Check it out (Warning: it might be slow... many, many hits):


Posted by amahler at 03:40 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Jefferson Forest Young Democrats

I certainly love reading and posting this. Not only am I JFHS '92, but this submission comes from one of my own former teachers, a dear friend and a diehard Democrat. Awesome work, Ms. Hi... uh, Martha! :) -Aaron

Yes, Virginia, there ARE Democrats in Forest, VA. Long recognized as a Republican stronghold Forest has been harboring many teens riled up and ready to work for the Democratic Party this year.

At the first meeting yesterday 35 high school students showed up and signed up. Many of these kids have already volunteered at the Lynchburg headquarters and are ready to do more for John Kerry.

One goal of the club is the establish a charter and become one of the few high schools in Virginia to have a chartered YD group. We presently have our constitution and are feeling our way through the process.

Our meetings will be held every Wednesday during 'flex time' (1:57-2:13 PM) until the election and at the next meeting we will elect officers. Fund raising ideas will also be discussed as well as holding a 'first debate' party the 30th of September!

Sponsors of the club include JF teachers Erica Aube, Kathe Feinman, Debra Woodson and myself. We will keep you posted!

Martha Hicks

While we're on the topic of Democrats and schools, check out this comment last night from Blair Reeves of the University Democrats at UVA.

Posted by amahler at 08:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 08, 2004

If The Shoe Fits

The headline in Thursday's edition of the Washington Post says it all: Kilgore Letter Concedes Vital Fight For Bush In Va.

Kilgore is the presumed Republican nominee for Governor in 2005, the former secretary of public safety under George Allen, the current attorney general and the chairman of the Bush-Cheney campaign in Virginia. For weeks, Kilgore has been publicly dismissing Virginia's shift to battleground status. In fact, that was a central part of his message to Virginia's GOP delegation to New York City. It has always been clear that Republicans hope Democrats and common-sense independents would buy the bravado and give up before the fight even started.

Not this year. Not in Virginia.

Imagine how surprising it is to now read Kilgore's screed to Virginia Republicans, a letter filled with invective but that nevertheless states what Democrats in Virginia have been saying all along: "Polls show John Kerry is within striking distance in Virginia."

All joking about flip flops aside, Kilgore's letter raises a serious question: Which Kilgore should Virginians believe? The one who made public statements denying Virginia's battleground position--or the one who made statements to his own party faithful that show just how worried the GOP has become about their chances in Virginia? Jerry Kilgore is the face of George Bush and Dick Cheney in Virginia. Is it any surprise that we now ask ourselves: What should we believe? That when it comes to Kilgore, what can we believe?

Posted by laura at 11:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wednesday Noontime Blogosphere

There is a LOT going on all over the blogs these last few days, some of which we'll touch on later. I wanted to take a brief moment, though, to reference an entry at the DNC blog with pieces of Kerry's speech in Ohio today:

$200 billion for Iraq, but they tell us we can't afford after-school programs for our children. $200 billion for Iraq, but they tell us we can't afford health care for our veterans. $200 billion for Iraq, but they tell us we can't afford to keep the 100,000 new police we put on the streets during the 1990s.

When it comes to Iraq, it's not that I would have done one thing differently from the President, I would've done almost everything differently. I would have given the inspectors the time they needed before rushing to war. I would have built a genuine coalition of our allies around the world. I would've made sure that every soldier put in harm's way had the equipment and body armor they needed. I would've listened to the senior military leaders of this country and the bipartisan advice of Congress. And, if there's one thing I learned from my own experience in a war, I would never have gone to war without a plan to win the peace.

He also addresses taxes, social security and healthcare with equal clarity. It's well worth the read and you can find it here.

- Aaron

Posted by amahler at 12:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 07, 2004

Signs And Wonders: The View From Buena Vista

Labor Day, 1989. The last time I traveled to Buena Vista for the annual start of the political season in Virginia was the year Democrat Doug Wilder ran for Governor.

My friend Jane Kidwell, a reporter for the Tampa Tribune at the time and a former colleague, and I drove from Danville to Buena Vista in a rented Ford Mustang to watch the parade and take in the festivities. Something was in the air that year in Virginia, a sense that something profound was about to happen. The feeling of change touched everything; that feeling seeped into every corner of our commonwealth. I was a reporter then, but, in retrospect, I have to say that covering Wilder's campaign for governor was one of the most exciting experiences of my life as a journalist. His victory was a defining moment for all Virginians--me included--and I was proud to be there the day he was sworn in as Governor and to have covered his four years in office.

I thought about all of this in the very wee hours of Monday morning, as I drove alone this time to Buena Vista, listening to the Blackeyed Peas and talking myself through the dense fog and heavy rains over Afton Mountain. Anne, Ruth Anne and I were meeting Wally Blair from the Lynchburg Committee and staff members from the Va Victory '04 coordinated campaign (thank you to Chris Bast and the Young Democrats at James Madison University, including Brian Durr, Erin and Ali, among others!) to put up Kerry-Edwards signs prior to the Buena Vista parade.

Sign wars are an integral part of the political campaign (nice to know good old Virginians helped put up Kerry-Edwards signs, while the Bush campaign imported someone from Iowa ... go figure) and everyone worked hard. Even the news media covering the parade picked up on the enthusiasm of Kerry supporters in the parade:

"There was an abundance of Kerry signs along the parade route Monday, and Democratic partisans loudly cheered the speeches in the park pavilion," wrote Mike Sluss in today's Roanoke Times. Quoting Governor Warner, he added, " 'I was very pleased with the response,' said Warner, Kerry's most prominent Virginia supporter."

Yes, it rained. And rained. Bush people showed how fearful they are about Kerry in Virginia by tearing down our signs. That kind of immature behavior doesn't change anything; we'll continue to work hard for John Kerry and John Edwards here in Virginia. Our supporters were out in full force. They know--we all know--change is coming.

This year is not unlike the election year 15 years ago. We all stand at a crossroads, at a moment in time when everything we have ever come to understand about ourselves as a country and as Virginians is at stake on Nov. 2. Monday was just the beginning ... 59 days to go and counting ...

Posted by laura at 02:41 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 05, 2004

Bush bounce? Fine; we need to calm down and work harder

George W. Bush is having a little moment in the sun right now. Polls show some movement in his direction, with two national polls even showing an 11-point lead. Surely he had to get some good news at some point; he's had very little of it all year. In the battleground states, though, not much has changed. These numbers for Bush aren't likely to last, and we who support Kerry-Edwards must not panic or give ourselves over to fear and loathing. That's exactly what the other side wants. (By Rick Howell)

Bush is, after all, the incumbent. We are attempting to do what would probably be almost impossible in any other year, defeat a sitting president in a time of war. Ostensibly, he should have the advantages of any other incumbent. But this is George W. Bush. He's no Roosevelt or Eisenhower. He's even a poor imitation of Richard Nixon, who, despite the Watergate scandal, had legitimate foreign policy victories all his own.

No, this is Bush, and we know how lousy his record is, and so do a great many Americans. This will be the first American president since Hoover to preside over an administration that, over four years, has lost more than a million jobs. The way he and his neo-conservative hawks have botched the war in Iraq is one reason he's in such a tight

Polls - even the latest ones - still show most Americans siding with John Kerry on issues of the economy and health care. Kerry has made it clear he will fight on these issues and help America understand that the current administration has to be replaced before we see better jobs with better wages or more access to affordable health care for the 44 million who don't have it.

John Kerry has been in tough campaigns before. People who underestimated him then were proven wrong. It would be a mistake to underestimate him now. Some people act as though Bush is so horrible that we should be leading by 20 points, but that's just not realistic. It is a divided electorate, and the other side is just as motivated as we are.

What we have to do is continue to work, and work hard. This was never going to be a cakewalk. We know we have the medicine that's best for America. In time, enough voters will realize it to give us the victory in November. When an incumbent seeks another term, it's generally a referendum on him. Kerry and Edwards are going to make the case that, no, Bush has not earned another term, and they will have the facts on their side.

As for the recent polls, this too shall pass. Everybody needs to calm down, take a deep breath, let it out, and go back to work for this ticket. We're going to win.

(Rick Howell is chairman of the Amherst County Democratic Committee, and host of the Kerry Meet-Ups in Lynchburg. He can be reached via e-mail at NewCenHowell@ aol.com)

Posted by rickhowell at 12:19 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 03, 2004

Ra Rising

By Barnie K. Day

I kept expecting somebody to roll a golden calf out onto the stage. When did Americans ever resort to such deification? And then The Dubya strolled out. I don't know about you, but I was disappointed. After the intro, I was pretty sure that Ra, the Eqyptian sun god, must be up next.

Dubya gave a pretty good speech--considering what he has to work with. And for once in his life, he showed some modesty. Gee, he has so much to be modest about. Now all we've got to do is hope Dorothy and Toto and that chick witch with the wand show up. Otherwise, down the road, it's going to be "Houston, we've got a problem."

We're going to privatize Social Security. (Read this one: 'Bend over, get a good grip on something, and brace yourself.')

We're going to spend a few trillion dollars in new programs. And pay for them by cutting taxes. Hey, why not? That's what we're doing now.

(I was sitting there last night, counting the times the deficit was mentioned. Let me check my notes. It was exactly...none.)

We're going to 'reform' the tax code, and give tax breaks to the folks who pay them. (To those who are linguistically challenged, let me interpret this one for you: The rich are fixing to get richer; the poor are fixing to get poorer.)

We have rounded up the perpetrators of 9-11. Really? That's a news flash. What's that tall, funny-looking guy's name? 'Osama' something. Yeah, that one. Must be news to him.

Henceforth, our new foreign policy will be: "Preemptive First Strike." You don't like that? You think that flies in the face of 200 years of what it means to be America? Give us a couple of minutes to dial your coordinates into our satellites. We'll learn you a trick or two. We've got bombs now that are smarter than the people who use them.

We're going to train every American in this free trade, global economy stuff. (Hint here: this is code-speak for outsourcing--the Bush program of rewarding companies who ship jobs overseas. You think it's bad now, you ain't seen nothing yet.)

We're going to litmus-test our judges. (You know, I was kinda thinking...somewhere in the back of my mind, I thought we already had a little document in place to cover stuff like this. What is the name of that thing? It's just on the tip of my tongue. Seems like it begins with a 'C.' Oh, I know. It is the Constitution.)

Maybe that's what we need--a dependent judiciary. This independent one is getting old. Might be time to retire it. Get us a good, dependent one--one where these robe folks know which side the bread is buttered on.

And we're going to cut our dependency on foreign energy. Notice he didn't say 'oil,' but energy. I don't know what's with that. The other thing that bothered me was that he didn't say we were going to lessen our dependency through advances and investments in technology. What's that leave? You got it. More drilling. Hey, you and I are going to get drilled first. The forests and parklands get it second.

And poor Zell. Nobody would touch him yesterday. Zell, baby, I hate to break this news to you: you got used, pal. You got used to death.

Dubya 'preciates it, though. He can't tell you, can't be seen with you. But you know how that is. Don't worry, Z-Man. Mission accomplished. You'll get the Christmas card.

Good luck with that leprosy. And, Zell, don't take any more wooden nickels.

Posted by laura at 09:16 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 02, 2004

Watching the RNC: ZZZZzzz! Huh? Oh! Is he done?

Let's review: On Tuesday night, I had to exercise restraint to not drive my head through my TV in frustration. Last night I cowered behind my furniture while Zell Miller achieved the rhetorical equivalent of eating a puppy on live television (to the great glee of the delegates, I might add).

Tonight? Well, I noticed the center channel speaker in my sound system was slightly off center. There's also some dust on the screen I need to clean off. I still find the red power light just below the screen to be a little too bright and distracting. Hey, look! The cat just walked by. (drum fingers on arm of chair)

Man... that guy is still talking.

I was truly disappointed that he didn't waddle onto the stage in a flight suit. That round stage in the middle of the floor was just asking for him to be lowered from the rafters or shot from a cannon so he could land in the middle with a big goofy grin. Oh well.

About twenty minutes into his speech, when I started to realize I hadn't actually heard a single thing of substance, I started reading the online copy of his speech to prevent myself from slipping into a coma.

I read for a bit... and a bit more... and a bit more... but I still couldn't find anything concrete. It sounded awfully blue sky and positive, but the last four years of broken promises from George Bush put that in perspective. I'm used to a lack of substance from this administration, but all of this out of character, bright future talk just doesn't fit the man who has been trying to scare the daylights out of me for three years.

Bush kept droning on in the background while I started using my browser's "find" feature to look ahead in the copy of his speech posted (hours ahead of time) on DailyKOS.

One of the first ones I tried was: Osama.

No matches. Figures.

Then I tried another one: Vietnam.

No matches, either. Makes sense, I guess. Why would he want to remind folks that John Kerry went and he (and Dick... and Rummy... and Wolfowitz) didn't? Besides, he has a whole team of attack dogs to smear Kerry on the topic so he can pretend he's above it all. Smooth, Rove. Very smooth.

Hhhmmm. Another keyword search: September 11

Wow. Look there - four matches... and that's just the literal phrase, not all the allusions and oblique references. Oh, and look here... he put off exploiting 9/11 until the second sentence. Talk about restraint...

Ok - one more search: Saddam.

Five hits. Sounds about right.

So, let me sum it all up:

9/11, 9/11, 9/11. 9/11, Saddam, Saddam, Saddam, Saddam, Saddam. A bunch of other non-specific stuff that I suppose I should feel warm about.

Oh. And some Reagan references.

What else was missing?

Zell Miller. Word has it he was uninvited from sitting in the place of honor with Bush the Elder and other dignitaries. After running around screaming "We've got a Democrat, We've got a Democrat! Nyah Nyah!" in the leadup to the RNC, the GOP line now goes something like "Uh... yeah... well, he was speaking for himself."

I'm as exhausted from watching and writing about the RNC as I was actually participating in the DNC in July. I'm too worn out right now to write about all of tonight's misleading remarks and half truths. Things like trying to claim credit for increased home ownership when the bulk of that growth happened in Clinton's years (3.8% vs 1.7% growth under Bush). Smears like trying to pin a flip-flop on Kerry concerning No Child Left Behind after Bush bailed on his promises of funding. The usual crap... just delivered without flying spittle like last night's performances.

Before I stagger off to sleep, though, I'm going to go enjoy watching John Kerry and John Edwards put forth a positive vision for America at a midnight rally in Ohio. Unlike George Bush, though, this comes naturally for Kerry and Edwards. It's yet another reason why they have my vote this November.

Tomorrow, the campaign starts to really kick into gear and I imagine the RNC is going to feel like ancient history by the end of the weekend, if not by tomorrow night. Who knows. Whatever the case, thanks for reading my rants this week and feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Night, folks!
- Aaron

Posted by amahler at 11:25 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Pell Mell Zell

Zell Miller's speech to the Republican National Convention Wednesday night has become a debacle for Bush and the GOP. Usual supporters on the right are wringing their hands over the damage inflicted by Miller's prime-time screed. Andrew Sullivan wrote today, "The man's speech was not merely crude; it added whole universes to the word crude."

Here is Chip Woodrum's take on Miller's speech:

I watched and listened to Zell Miller rant on Wednesday night. Poor old Zell--he needs a distemper shot.

Many of us remember that Zell got his start as assistant to former Governor Lester Mattox of Georgia. You remember Lester--he was the Atlanta restaurant owner who gave his customers axe handles to beat any African Americans who dared to seek service at his restaurant after the passage of the Public Accommodations Act in the mid 60's.

Old Zell ain't changed his spots--he's just latched on to someone elses.

Woodrum is a former member of the Virginia House of Delegates from Roanoke.

Posted by laura at 04:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Georgia Cracker Fires Em Up

The Bush campaign of terror is working, the Bush war on terror is not.

By Barnie K. Day

It's a good thing Zell Miller didn't have to pee in a bottle following that speech last night. Not only would he have been disqualified. He would have probably been locked up.

Hey, I like a good, red-meat speech, and the Jawja Senator was entitled to every word he screamed. I even like the part where he challenged MSNBC's Chris Mathews to a duel. I'd loan them both pistols. But there are one or two things he didn't mention.

If all this chest-thumping, this bristling, this jingoism one minute, and nation-building the next is working, somebody forgot to tell the terrorists. Incidents of terrorism are up around the world during the Bush Presidency. Incidents of terrorism are up since 9-11.

(And, by the way--not to confuse the issue--but so is the deficit, so is poverty, so is unemployment, so is the number of uninsured, so is outsourcing, so is ... but, I digress.)

If what we're doing against terrorism is working, why is it up? Why is that? Can I offer you a little clue here?


The Bush campaign of terror is working; the Bush war on terror is not.

Ask yourself this question: After nearly a thousand dead brave Americans, after tens of thousands of wounded, after we have spent untold billions and billions of dollars of borrowed money, is terrorism up or down?

Democrats condemned ol' Zellout roundly, but they shouldn't have. Democrats are in his debt--all of America is in his debt--for better than anyone, Miller became the face of what is at stake and laid out the choice last night.

Bush is a one-trick pony and war has become his one trick. There is nothing else in his bag. No domestic policy. No economic policy. No health care policy. No education policy.

If America wants war, if we are to have war in perpetuity, war ad infinitum, war forever--not victory, not peace--but never-ending war, then we will re-elect this President.

Republicans have defined this President as the War President. And that's what we will have with him.

The speech put me so much in mind of the Goldwater 'extremism' speech of another era. And it was not so much the words. It was the demeanor, the look, the delivery, the hard, grim, pinch-faced, spittle-flecked tremble of righteousness with which it was delivered.

Miller last night could have stepped whole and unchecked from the pages of Harper Lee's fabulous novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, and he had exactly that look of a disposed 1930s sharecropper you see in some of the magnificent WPA photo-documentaries by the likes of Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange.

And he had that rage, that hatred, that bitterness, that myopic suspicion that fueled the passions of so many of the South's segregationist politicians in the 1950s. If he last night put you in the mind of Lester Maddox and George Wallace, then you are forgiven.

Is this an attack on the Senator from Georgia? No it is not. It is an emulation of him. I'm trying to call them like I see them.

If you've wondered what's really behind the Republican curtain, what's really behind the 'kinder, gentler' stuff, what's behind the 'compassionate conservatism,' the 'shining city on a hill,' the 'thousand points of light,' then thank Zell Miller. He pulled back the curtain and showed it to us last night.

Posted by laura at 09:46 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'Angry Old Men'

"Tonight the Republican Party flashed back to the anger and divisiveness of their 1992 convention. Zell Miller played the role of Pat Buchanan, nearly frightening television viewers with his growling, slashing attack speech. Then Dick Cheney did his part, rounding out a night of angry old men who have no record to run on and can hope for success only by lashing out at their opponents."

Terry McAuliffe, chairman, Democratic National Committee

"There was a lot of hate coming from that podium tonight. What John Kerry and I offer to the American people is hope. Hope for more good paying jobs. Hope for better health care. And hope for our men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. What the Bush administration just doesn't get is that a stronger America begins at home. And John Kerry and I have the right plan to lead America in a new direction because we know that we can do better."

U.S. Sen. John Edwards

Posted by laura at 08:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 01, 2004

Watching the RNC: A One-Way Trip to Zell

On Tuesday night I had to exercise restraint so I didn't run screaming across the room and put my head through my television set in frustration. Tonight, though, the tables were turned. My single biggest concern was that Zell Miller would come raging out of my television and beat me to death with the nearest blunt object. I had to listen to the speeches rather than watch them since I was cowering behind my living room furniture.

The charade was in high gear for the first part of the night as one minority spokesperson after another talked glowingly about the diversity within the party and their lives as small business owners. I saw a remarkably diverse crowd on camera, which I found somewhat out of synch when you consider these statistics (source: CBS News):

85 percent of the GOP Delegates are white, 6 percent are African-American and 2 percent are Asian.

In the real world outside of Madison Square Garden, though, 92 percent of those who identify with the party are white, a whopping 1 percent are African-American and even less are Asian. 6 percent are Hispanic.

The prescribed storyline for the night was centered around the concept of "opportunity" and was clearly trying to reach out for the female vote... especially minority women who are small business owners. With mounting evidence that the GOP is in very bad shape when it comes to appealing to women voters, they put on their happiest, most inclusive mask and continued the television charade of the two previous nights.

Somewhere along the way, though, it went horribly wrong and we all got more than just a peek behind the curtain. Somebody yanked the curtain off its rod and ran it through a shredder.

Supposed Democrat, Zell Miller, stood in Madison Square Garden ten years ago and told the country watching the DNC that George H.W. Bush and his party were out of touch with America, spoke only for the wealthy, and had "robbed us of our hope" after twelves years of GOP dominance. Having an angry Democrat there to speak in favor of George Bush, II was supposed to be a coup.

Tonight, Zell Miller, somehow still sporting a (D) in his title, came out on the RNC stage and whipped their delegates into a cheering frenzy by going, in my opinion, completely off his rocker. He elegantly referred to Senator Kerry as a "'yes-no-maybe' bowl of mush", accused the Democrats of having a "manic obsession to bring down our Commander-In-Chief", and even managed to work in the word "spitballs". He also scored points with his "Freedom Fries" audience by managing to bash Kerry and the French in a single sentence.

I've lost track of the sheer number of substanceless zingers he hurled at the Democrats and Senator Kerry. To be perfectly honest, I'm not all that interested in going through the transcript at this time of night since I heard no specifics, no details, and little or no facts. I did, however, hear a LOT of creepy rhetoric.

The overall effect of his speech, though, was those at home who had been watching a carefully orchestrated festival in the GOP's rented "big tent" suddenly saw it morph into a runaway train, jump its tracks and somehow manage to run over Pat Buchanan on its way into a ditch.

I'd like to say that the audience climbed out of that ditch, brushed themselves off and waited quietly for Dick Cheney to arrive. Instead, he just jumped down into the ditch with them to finish off the night with another round of misleading Kerry bashing.

I started getting irritated fairly early in his speech when, referring to health care, Cheney stated that "President Bush is making it more affordable and accessible to all Americans". (cough) It didn't get any more accurate afterward.

Cheney's tone was, as always, very deliberate and carefully paced for maximum effect. While his delivery couldn't have presented a more stark contrast to Zell Miller's angry rant only minutes before, his themes were equally disconcerting. The camera shot of the man waving a pair of flip flops in the air didn't do a lot for the crowd's overall integrity, either.

So, in a nutshell, what I witnessed tonight was a saccharine performance of mock inclusiveness which suddently turned into a bizarre pep rally for hate and fear. That was brought to a close by Cheney's misleading speech delivered in his usual ominous and chilly tone. It was, to put it lightly, a pretty wild ride.

What I didn't get to see but am beginning to read about all over the web was Zell Miller's followup performance on the cable news circuit. He grew so agitated by Chris Matthews' of MSNBC's Hardball that he told him to "shut up" and even expressed regret that he could not "get up in your face" or, later in the questioning, challenge him "to a duel".

I'm sorry I can't offer more details on the differences between the GOP's vision of the future and the Kerry-Edwards plan. Unfortunately, I didn't hear enough substance tonight to offer you much in that regard. The bizarre negative spiral that dominated the entire prime-time portion, though, was more than a bit jarring and is likely to be the most lasting (and, I'd say, accurate) impression most viewers will take away from night three at the RNC. That's quite a contrast with the positive and clear vision of a stronger America that I witnessed firsthand from John Kerry and John Edwards in Boston a month ago.

But hey, that's why I'm voting Kerry/Edwards in November. After tonight, I'm sure there will be quite a few more joining me.


- Aaron

Posted by amahler at 11:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Voters shouldn't be fooled by GOP masquerade party

It's the same show we get every four years. At their national convention, Republicans put on a masquerade show of moderation. They feature blacks, women, and give prominent convention time to the handful of moderates still left in their party. Then, once it's over, it's back to the same right-wing white guys that truly run things.

This year is no different. Except that this year, there should be a record number of people who have now figured this out. This began after 1992, when Pat Buchanan's scary rhetoric about "culture wars" made the party look extremist. Even though this was an accurate picture, party leadership decided that its loss that year was at least partially the fault of the picture of extremism that had been shown at the convention.

So, no more Pat Buchanan, and no more ranting about social wars. This is one reason George W. Bush masqueraded as a "compassionate conservative" in 2000. He wasn't, of course, and he's proved since that he wasn't and isn't. But he, too, played the moderate game the last time around. But any scholar would be challenged to find an administration more organized around strict conservative ideology than Bush's.

Personally, I think he's even outdone Reagan when it comes to wearing, and governing with, an ideological straitjacket. Unlike the Democratic national convention, which took it relatively easy on Bush, there have been plenty of attacks on John Kerry, with Dick Cheney leading the charge Wednesday.

Considering that the president is saddled with the unpopular war in Iraq, hasn't done anything for the economy unless you're a millionaire, and hasn't prevented the loss of health insurance for four million more people since 2001, well, he just doesn't have much going for him. His only real option is to attack and sow doubt about his opponent. This is something that comes natural to the Bush political family, anyway. They've done it for a long time.

Soon, this party will leave New York. Then, the American people will see in the upcoming debates between George Bush and John Kerry that the GOP tried to fool them again at their convention. Bush's real extremism will be shown for what it is, and John Kerry and John Edward will lead us to victory in November. The masquerade ball won't fool the American people, who have already been fooled enough by this historically bad president.

Rick Howell is chairman of the Amherst County Democratic Committee. He can be reached via e-mail at NewCenHowell@aol.com

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The Night The Lights Go Out On Madison Square...

As the Executive Director, I feel there are times when I hear something I just have to pass on, and today such a thing happened.

I logged on to my monthly conference call with Democratic State Chairs and Executive Directors today at 4pm. Our first item of business was a quick message from our Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe. We were all chitchatting the way you do when you are waiting for someone important to get on the line when out of nowhere we heard a lot of talking, a lot of static and we all became very quiet.

The next thing we heard was the voice of our fearless Chairman -"Coming to you Live from Madison Square Gardens - I'm on the call." he said. That certainly explained all of the noise. Our Party Chairman has gone where none of us have gone before -to the Republican National Convention.

He says he is having a ball. The crowd parts when he walks down the corridor - people point, people take pictures, and I am reasonably sure people say things that my mother should never know I heard. But, the point being that this is a renewed energy for us Democrats - a time for change, and enthusiasm that I have never witnessed.

I am excited about our chances in November - I am optimistic and hopeful. And it's not just from my vantage point up here on Main Street. It's the new people that show up in my office daily wanting to get involved; it's the people who I have read about on the DNC America Can Do Better Tours that I have come to admire; it's the lady at the picture maker at Target who looked at my Kerry/Edwards button and said to me "Where can I find one of those?" I handed her mine; It's the man who inspected my car that said "he's my guy too." For weeks we've gotten together and talked about the increasing number of bumper stickers we have seen - numbers that we had never imagined here in the Commonwealth. And that brings us to the next 63 days.

Our chances are good - Together we can do this in Virginia.

So when the lights go out tomorrow night on the Republican National Convention, let's remember that this is a race to November. That this relay team is ready and has been training for decades in Virginia to do what hasn't been done in 40 years. To turn Virginia Blue!

Everytime you knock on a door, make a call, slap on a lapel sticker that person you recruited runs the next leg in this race and it's up to all of us to get John Kerry & John Edwards across that finish line on November 2.

Remember, when they turn the lights out tomorrow night at Madison Square Gardens, it's just a rehearsal for that cold day in January when W filps the switch Off in the Oval Office.

Posted by lindsey at 05:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Buzz: Why Virginia Is Tilting Kerry

Check out Benjamin Wallace-Wells' excellent new piece about battleground Virginia in Washington Monthly. Rather than speculate about Virginia's battleground status and conduct phoners from his desk with the pundits, Wallace-Wells actually got in his car and drove around Virginia to talk to real human beings about what they think about the 2004 election.

"Six months ago, Larry Sabato, the esteemed University of Virginia political scientist, told reporters that Kerry was a dead duck in the state. Now, he tells me, Virginia is still Bush's to lose--but Bush may very well lose it," Wallace-Wells writes in his lush description of Virginia and its current dead heat climate.

Speaking of Virginia ...

The August 28 edition of the National Journal has this buzz in the Democratic Insiders Verbatim/Inside Washington column:

"Virginia will be close."

"The big surprise is that there will be no surprise 'blues' turning 'red.' This is John Kerry's election to lose, in spite of all the pre-election punditry otherwise."

Posted by laura at 05:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wednesday Afternoon Blogosphere

The blogs are whirling with stories and opinions today (just take a spin down our sidebars for clues). I couldn't resist sharing part of this DailyKOS entry.

I think I was starting to develop a nervous twitch last night about the time we got to Schwarzenegger's speech, especially when he referred to Nixon as his initial attraction to the Republican party (citing it in an anecdote that suggested a Nixon-Humphrey debate that never took place... go figure).

"When the strongest nation in the world can be tied down for four years in a war in Vietnam with no end in sight, when the richest nation in the world cannot manage its economy, when the nation with the greatest tradition of the rule of war is plagued by unprecedented racial violence, when the President of the United States cannot travel abroad, or to any major city at home, then its time for new leadership for the United States."

- President Nixon, 1968 RNC Acceptance Speech

I think it's a safe bet that they won't be throwing that quote up on the big screen at the RNC this week.

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Morton Blackwell Making His Momma So Proud

The buzz from New York and the Republican National Convention is all about Morton Blackwell. This political operative from Virginia is behind the hot prize on the floor of the convention--purple heart covered bandages intended to ridicule John Kerry's service in Vietnam.

Blackwell's ingeniousness is featured in this story on CNN, which laughably describes Blackwell's conservative training "institute" as "non-partisan."

Virginia Republicans have long been familiar with Blackwell's Donald Segretti-like tactics. (He was the architect of Newt Gingrich's 'Contract On America.') The fact that Blackwell himself has never served his country seems to have escaped the attention of the media and the delegates in New York who are so crassly displaying the bandages. One has to wonder whether the chairman of the Bush-Cheney campaign in Virginia, Jerry Kilgore, approves of the open mocking of the servicemen and women of this country.

This statement from Bill Pittman, Commander, Arlington Memorial Chapter Military Order of the Purple Heart, says it all:

"As a combat disabled Vietnam veteran who received the Purple Heart medal after serving with Marine Infantry units in Vietnam--and saw brave men die--I am outraged and deeply offended that the President of the United States would permit his Republican National Convention surrogates to dishonor the Purple Heart medal award. The tens of thousands of men and women killed in combat in Vietnam and all those who died in combat in Iraq who have earned Purple Hearts should not have the status of this award diminished."


From the DNC daily convention dispatches:

New York City - Two days ago, the DNC Convention Response Team caught Bush-Cheney delegates mocking our troops by wearing purple heart band-aids on the floor of the Republican convention. The band-aids were worn by delegates all over the floor and were distributed by Karl Rove's close friend, Morton Blackwell.

The mocking of this sacred symbol--granted only to those soldiers who are wounded in action in defense of our country--was decried by everyone from the Military Order of the Purple Heart to...Fox News. Yes...Fox News.

"[The purple heart band-aids, that]...absolutely was disgraceful. Whatever you think about the controversy regarding the swift boats, that's uncalled for." [Fox & Friends, 9/1/04]

Posted by laura at 10:43 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Barnie Day: Day Two--Girlymaan!

Hey, guys, when are ya'll going to take the wraps off of those crazy, glassy-eyed right-wingers who define the Republican Party and let them have some face time, as in Tee-Vee time? We're through Day Two of the Republican Convention, and so far not a real Republican in sight.

Aw-nold? Girlymann? The butt pincher? Please.

Aw-nold doesn't even think like a real Republican. He's on the wrong side of all the template issues. Abortion? Aw-nold is pro-choice. Fiscal conservatism? Can you keep a secret? They're borrowing their way out of the jam in California. That's right, putting it on a credit card that their children will be paying for a hundred years. Kinda like Gilmore's borrow and spend gang here in Virginia.

Jerry Falwell is wandering around New York with a prayer in his pocket, waiting for someone to invite him to give it. And Pat Roberston is sitting at home for the first time in decades. You didn't invite your main man? What's with that? You know you can't hide Jerry and Pat under a bushel.

Let's see. Let me check the schedule here. Surely, on Day Three, you'll put a real Republican front and center during prime time.

Hmmm. Nope. I'm mistaken. Next in the line-up is Zell Miller--the same guy who key-noted Bill Clinton.

Okay, I think I'm starting to get it now. I see. Your plan is to get through the Republican Convention without having to show a real Republican. Smart. Damn smart.

Maybe that way folks won't bring up the world-record deficit you've run up, the increase in poverty--not in some third-world country--but here in the U. S. under your administration. Maybe that way folks will forget the empty factories, the millions of lost jobs, the infrastructure you've dismantled and shipped overseas. Maybe that way folks won't be reminded that it's easier to get U. S. government sponsored health insurance in Iraq than it is here. Maybe that way folks won't remember that the incidents of terrorism, of attacks, of murders, of senseless maimings are up--and up dramatically--all around the world since 9-11. Up, not down. Have increased, not decreased. Maybe that way, folks won't be reminded of all the American casualties--nearly a thousand deaths now, tens of thousands of injuries--since Dubya had that little 'Mission Accomplished' fly-in to that carrier.

Well, enough of that. Hey, I'm a Patriot. I'll do my part to keep this illusion, this delusion going.

Laura Bush was swell last night. Little nervous, but that's understandable. That grunt she emits between sentences is cute in an endearing way. She truly is a class act.

Whoever put the twins out front is probably looking for a job this morning. That move was as dumb as a bag of hammers. And if that little stand-up they did is indicative, apparently so are they. My guess is the folks at Yale are reviewing their admissions standards right about now.

And how 'bout Cheney? Has he been having fun or what?

The Vice President looks like he's waiting for a root canal. His wife looks like she just had hers, and the pain killer is wearing off.

But, hey, guys! You're not by yourself! I'm with you! I think we've all got one coming.

And good luck tonight, Dick. Make Halliburton proud.

Posted by laura at 10:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Barnie Day: Tuesday Morning Coming Down

Editor's note: We're pleased to include columns by Barnie K. Day, the former member of the House of Delegates from Patrick County, on Documenting Democracy. Barnie has become something of a legend since he retired from the House, his columns have enlivened the pages of newspapers across Virginia and we're exicted to share his unique take on the current political landscape.

Tuesday Morning Coming Down

It is a glum and overcast Tuesday morning here in Meadows of Dan. It is early. Real early. I am reading e-mails and press reports from around the state. A few of the regular crazies have checked in -- folks who generally love or hate this column. A piece I did the other day on Jerry Falwell's law school has a few of them frothed up this morning.

I can actually visualize that big vein popping out just a shade off-center of some of the writers' foreheads. Hey, it takes real writing skill to paint that picture. The folks I hear from are skilled writers.

The weather and the Republican Convention and Ed Schrock are pretty much dominating the state news this morning. Richmond, and a lot of small communities in central Virginia, have practically washed away during the night. A foot of rainfall in just a few hours will do that--or make you think it's going to do it. In Richmond, the consequences were tragic, a story still unfolding at this writing.

Congressman Ed Schrock, a good man, is quitting his race for re-election. Sure, I've had a few breathless emails over the past few days in that regard. But I think about that like I think about this: when I was a kid we had 'white' and 'colored.' Now that we've become civilized, we have 'gay' and 'straight.

Unless you're the victim, it is not quite as pronounced as the system of apartheid we had that history knows as 'Jim Crow,' but make no mistake--it is the same shameful, disgraceful, unpardonable sort of thing. Lynching is still lynching.

From time to time I am gently upbraided by even some Democrats here in Virginia for being so (gasp!) partisan, for not playing quite the game of footsy with the Right some of them prefer. Be nicer, kinder, gentler, is their advice. But, bless their hearts, they give bum advice.

Ask James Baker and the folks who managed the 'win' for Bush in Florida. Ask Rudy.

Hizzonner took a New York brickbat to John Kerry last night. This guy understands that politics is a full contact sport, more akin to hockey without the helmets than to some hand-holding, think tank, hen club. But even the good mayor made some incredible reaches last night--comparing this Lilliputian to Winston Churchill? Please.

No wonder the mayor was laughing so much during his own speech last night. Just thinking about it after he'd said it, he couldn't keep a straight face, either.

I could have voted for Senator John McCain--until last night. He gave a good speech--some of the lines were good, even if the delivery was pleadish and whiny. And it didn't bother me that he took a shot at Michael Moore, even without seeing the movie. Hey, he's entitled to whatever blinders he wants to wear.

But who would have thought that bootlicking would come so easy to a man of McCain's experience? Maybe he just wants the presidency so bad himself that he can swallow the sordid lies, the trashing that the Bush campaign gave him in South Carolina last time around. Surprises me, though.

There were a lot of photographs flashed on the big screen behind the podium last night--hundreds of them, mostly from good angles--famous, square-jawed Republicans in one candid shot or another--where else could you see Gerald Ford as Marlboro Man?--but I didn't notice a single one of our real heroes of late.

Was there even one photograph of even one of the 974 (and counting) Americans who have died in Iraq put up on that big screen? No? When are we going to 'out' a few of them? When are we going to stop sneaking these corpses home under the cover of darkness?

In my house, the scariest moment last night was a zoom-in close-up of one of the delegates on the floor. The dog jumped up and growled. The cat's hair stood up. My wife screamed. I just smiled. My buddy, Tucker Watkins, Senator George Allen's aide de camp, was lookin' good.

Posted by laura at 10:08 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

On Going Blue, Virginia

By David S. Kerr

It all began on election night 2000. Before then, if you had talked to someone about red states and blue states, no one would have had a clue what you were talking about. But, thanks to a chance choice of colors by the major networks in coding their state maps, the states that supported President Bush have been labeled red states, and those that supported Al Gore, are now called blue states. And, Virginia, of course, is a red state.

But the big question this year, the one the Republicans nervously dismiss, and the Democrats embrace with a vengeance, is will Virginia, once considered amongst the reddest of the red, turn blue?

The answer seems to be a qualified maybe.

First of all, let’s go back in time a bit, like, oh say, a hundred years or more, and quickly see just how red Virginia really has been. After the Civil War, once the reconstruction period had ended and the traditional pre-war power base of Virginia has resumed control of state politics, Virginia was a part of the Democratic Party’s “Solid South.�

Throughout the late 19th century and well into the 20th Virginia consistently supported Democratic Presidential candidates. Mind you, Teddy Roosevelt was popular in Virginia, and he garnered a respectable percentage of the vote in the 1904 election, but the prospects of Virginia supporting a Republican remained practically nil.

However, in 1928, Virginia’s first “blue� phase began. That year, when Democrat Al Smith ran against Herbert Hoover, Virginia apparently wasn’t ready for a Catholic urban candidate from the Big Apple and Hoover carried Virginia. Alas, that campaign was particularly nasty, with Virginia Republicans, ruthlessly exploiting fears about Smith’s religion. But, while the Republicans were crowing about their successes, along came the depression and Franklin Roosevelt. Virginia, like the rest of the South, suffering badly during the depression, enthusiastically supported FDR and the New Deal.

The election of 1948, the first election without FDR at the top of the ticket in 16 years, was a little more dicey. Harry Truman’s views on civil rights had made him unpopular with Virginia’s conservative Democratic Party establishment, and the outcome was by no means a given. However, Truman carried the mantle of the New Deal, one more time, and just edged out Tom Dewey.

In 1952 and 1956, Virginia, helped by Senator Harry Byrd’s “golden silence,� (Byrd was a Democrat, at least on paper, and beginning in 1948, refused to endorse national Democratic candidates and just stayed silent) would go for General Eisenhower. In 1960 Richard Nixon carried the state rather comfortably. The one exception, to what was already a twelve year Republican trend, would be Lyndon Johnson in 1964. Virginia saw a southerner in the White House, the first since the Civil War, and well, Barry Goldwater was just too far off the political spectrum for Virginians who were used to a more sedate form of conservatism.

After that, what followed would be eight straight Presidential elections where the GOP would carry Virginia. Jimmy Carter came close in 1976, carrying all of the states on our borders, but as hard as he tried, he never cracked the Old Dominion. Ford won by about two points. After awhile, even when Democrats ran the statehouse, and had a majority of the Congressional seats, it was still presumed that the GOP would always carry the Commonwealth in a Presidential election. For the most part, national candidates just passed us by.

However, with election 2004 just two months away, it seems that traditional wisdom is being challenged and a quick look at the results of the past few elections, and the changing demographics of the state, indicate that there may indeed be a change in the winds. Larry Sabato, as well as the Rasmussen and Zogby Polling organizations, all consider Virginia a “new marginal� and “in play.�

In fact right now, the August 23 Zogby Poll shows a decidedly close race. The President is at 49%, John Kerry at 48% and Ralph Nader at 4%. That means, recognizing that there is a margin of error in these polls of give or take 5%, the outcome is almost too close to call. As a long time Virginia political watcher, all I can say, is that I have never seen it this close.

For one thing, Republicans, while carrying the state for their Presidential candidates haven’t produced landslide victories for a long time. In fact, in looking at the numbers, recent contests have been decidedly close. In 1996 Bill Clinton lost Virginia to Bob Dole by just two points, and in 2000, if you take Al Gore’s 45% and Ralph Nader’s 2%, the two combined adds up to 47% of the electorate that didn’t vote for George Bush. That alone, should give the Democrats hope, and cause the Republicans to take pause.

Then there is the state itself. During the past twenty years, at an accelerating rate, the population of Virginia has become more urban and suburban and at the same time much more diverse. The Northern Virginia suburbs, as well as the burgeoning suburbs around Norfolk and Newport News, have grown massively. There are nearly two million registered voters in these regions and there is every indication that they are leaning towards John Kerry and by a margin substantially larger than they did in 2000. And it’s that margin of victory that may make all the difference.

In 2000 the Northern Virginia suburbs in particular – Fairfax, Arlington, and Alexandria – supported Al Gore. But not by that much. However, this year, the polls indicate a wider margin for these suburbs and it’s that expanded margin, perhaps combined with stronger than expected support elsewhere that may give John Kerry the edge in Virginia.

Another cause for concern for the GOP this year is the economy and in particular the loss of jobs. Whether it’s what remains of the textile industry along the Dan River, electronic assembly plants in the Virginia Highlands, or metal fabrication shops in Roanoke, the industrial base of rural Virginia is getting weaker. These, generally rural areas, where the GOP usually does well, aren’t quite so solid this year.

Then there is another factor. Governor Mark Warner, starting with his first run for statewide office in 1996, has always been popular in southern and southwest Virginia. The reason is simple. While the GOP generally took these voters for granted, paying little attention to the problems of rural Virginia, Warner’s message, focusing on better funding for education and economic development has made him the first Democrat in a long time to be a successful vote getter in rural Virginia. If he can personally weave this message into the Kerry campaigns theme about jobs that may be enough to push these normally conservative rural voters into the Kerry column. But it will probably take Mark Warner to do it.

The GOP, and particular their chairman, not surprisingly, still says this is all nonsense. Virginia is Republican and that’s that. But the reality is a little different. George Bush’s campaign can read the numbers and the President has visited Virginia three times this year and more visits are planned. Quite a lot for a state they keeping saying is in the bag.

The Democrats, for their part, are putting a tremendous amount of energy into Virginia. John Kerry and John Edwards have both visited on several occasions, the statewide organization is getting tuned up, and the TV ads have been running for weeks. As for the GOP, the situations is pretty direct. They're starting to get nervous and are growing progressively concerned that Virginia, contrary to decades of conventional wisdom, may indeed be getting ready to turn blue.

But there is one more thing to consider. If Virginia does turn blue, if the Commonwealth does support John Kerry, and if for the first time since I was in the first grade our electors go to Richmond and vote for a Democrat, what does this mean for the future of Virginia politics? Is it possible that after two decades of growing Republican strength that the GOP’s power in the state might be waning?

It’s possible and should John Kerry win Virginia in November it will certainly bode well for 2005 when Lieutenant Governor Tim Kaine runs against the presumptive Republican nominee Jerry Kilgore. Just two years ago, the GOP considered Kaine an easy target. Indeed, I remember hearing several members of the General Assembly agree that Warner’s victory was an anomaly and that they would easily get the Governors mansion back in ‘05.

However, the Republicans aren’t saying that anymore, and should John Kerry win Virginia this year, or even just come really close, the conventional wisdom about the Commonwealth being a Republican friendly bastion might not be so true anymore.

While I wouldn’t expect to see control of our Congressional delegation or the General Assembly change hands overnight, a Kerry win, and the burst of Democratic energy that will surely follow, will probably embolden Virginia's Democrats. And who knows, some “safe seats� in the General Assembly or in Congress, when there is a strong Democratic challenger, inspired by a Kerry victory, might not be so safe for the GOP anymore.

Posted by laura at 09:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack