Sunday Thoughts

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Iowa is coming up in a couple of weeks, and the first Iowa debate took place this Sunday. Perhaps now is a time to answer that burning question: where is Iowa?

I think it is somewhere in the Midwest. I know Radar O'Reilly lives there.

I could say a lot of different things about Dean, the Democrats, and Bush, but there's just little new to say. I hate you, you hate me, and Lieberman doesn't like anybody very much. That about sums up the bulk of the Sunday shows.

The debates were not much more interesting. Dean, once again, was the focus of attention, and once again, he faltered several times, but nothing too significant. He was hammered over his statements about Bin Laden and Hussein, and about not releasing his records. Several of the attacks were unfair (Kerry misrepresented Dean on a few matters), but several were entirely fair (Lieberman insisting Dean open his records, and Gephardt slamming him on his support of NAFTA).

Dean also said the middle class got no tax cut. Now, I know what he meant: he meant that, on balance, the middle class was paying more in state and local taxes than they received in a federal tax cut. But apart from his reasoning on that matter being questionable, he actually said the middle class got no tax cut. But it did. So he got beat up on that.

So, that was the debate. Apart from the fact that it focused on Dean, there was no clear winner.


Just about the only interesting thing I heard on the Sundat shows was the heads talking about whether the attacks the Democrats are making on each other is a going to be damaging to the eventual nominee. I sure hope so, of course. And I think so. But is it wrong? I don't think so.

As I've mentioned before, if you are Gephardt or Lieberman or Kerry, I think you are better served having Bush, rather than Dean, as President. Dean will, if elected, ruin the Democratic party -- from the perspective of these Senators -- for years to come. He is against them on the two major issues: national security and middle class taxes. He will polarize the country even more (if that's possible) and, with a Republican congress, won't get much done.

If you are a moderate Democrat Senator, you would rather see Bush elected, drive up animosity toward the Republicans, and come in and win an open office in 2008 -- perhaps bringing in Congress with you -- than have Dean step in, and ruin all that. If Dean is elected, against all odds, he will be more hated than Clinton was by the right wing. You think the left wing is being reactionary? Just wait until 2008, if Dean wins. See what the right wing will do. It's not a long-term winning strategy for the party.

So yeah, it is a good thing for these men to beat up on Dean, for the sake of what they think the party should be. It would be like if Pat Buchanan won the Republican nomination. It would so alienate the country, it would kill the Republican party. Not because he is far right as Dean is (on many issues) far left, but because they are just such negative figures for the party.

Bush and Clinton, both well-hated by the opposite party, are essentially moderates. Clinton may be far-left, and Bush may be far-right, but both have essentially governed from just next to center. Bush, with Congress, is spending a lot of money on social programs and gets a lot of bipartisan support for the biggest bills. Clinton, with Congress, balanced the budget. Sure, they are on the right and left: Bush signed the late-term abortion ban, while Clinton vetoed it. Bush stopped stem cell research, and Clinton instituted "don't ask, don't tell."

But neither went "far enough" according to the extreme wing of their party, on these and many other issues. They may have talked conservatively and liberally, but they acted mostly moderately.

But not so with people like Dean and Buchanan. They would not govern from the middle. They would take "extreme" positions and stick to them. They would alienate the nation far more than it has been alienated over the past 11 years, when it became exceptionally fashionable to hate the President.

This Week did a "superdelegate" poll: a poll of 801 Democratic Senators, members of Congress, governors, and party activists. One third of them have committed to a candidate, and 89 of them to Dean, followed by Kerry (57), Gephardt (46), Clark (22), Lieberman (20), Edwards (16). Bringing up the rear are Mosely Braun (4), Sharpton (3), and Kucinich (2).

I suspect that half of Kucinich's votes are from himself.

But this shows what I am saying: Dean can be stopped, if the Senators join forces. Even if it is just the Big Three. They have the power -- in the polls, in the party leadership -- to stop Dean, if they work together. Their interests are all so similar. They agree on most of the issues, they agree Dean is bad for the party and can't win, they agree Bush should be defeated.

It's still early, but I expect two of the three to drop out after New Hampshire, and rally behind whoever is doing the best against Dean. The problem is that if they wait that long, it may be too late. If Gephardt loses in Iowa, though, he could drop out early and throw support to Kerry, possibly even making Kerry the front-runner in New Hampshire.

If Kerry wins there, Lieberman can drop out, and Edwards can follow suit and give him South Carolina. For Lieberman, the choice will be easy. For Edwards, still leading in South Carolina at this point, it won't be; it will take some heavy pressure from the moderate Democrats. But it is doable.

And the winner is ...

Who is the best candidate for you? Find out! This is a quiz from the PBS News Hour and WBUR (NPR Boston), and it is quite good. Of course, I disagreed with most of the candidates on most issues, so my results were uninteresting. :-) It's an in-depth quiz on 14 issues, so set aside a good half hour or more to take it.

Bin Laden

Clark says he would have captured Bin Laden. Dude: no one believes you. This is called "desperation," and it ain't any prettier on you than it is on the drunk girl at last call.


OK, I'll mention one other thing about Dean: he is the one who said the Democrats need to stop talking about "guns, God, and gays." And now he wants to talk more about God, saying he prays regularly, believes in God, reads the Bible, is a Congregationalist.

I won't question his personal religious beliefs. If he says they (whatever they are) are his, I have no reason to doubt him. The problem is that many people won't believe him, because of the manner in which he brought it up, in the context of campaigning. He even admitted it. He said, "I need to learn to talk about stuff other people like to talk about, to make people like me better." It's pandering, and he cops to it. I don't think this will win him votes.

Also, Dean says his favorite book of the Bible is the book of Job, saying his situation is similar to Job's. But Job was chastised by God for complaining about his situation. Who then shall chastise Dean for his complaints? (And I'll make no judgment on Dean's original, and false, assertion that Job is in the New Testament. I'll let you, the reader, make your own determination of whether that was a mere thinko, or evidence of an egregious lack of Biblical knowledge for someone who regularly reads the Bible and prays every day.)

Further, he is a self-proclaimed Congregationalist, which is a church of people who don't believe in any specific beliefs, essentially. Congregationalists have no particular beliefs, even among themselves, in a given congregation. Now, that's a bit of an oversimplification, because I don't want to get too much into it, but I just think it won't be a winning strategy for him, in large part given his church of choice. People who vote for religious reasons are not, in general, sympathetic to the congregationalist view of religion.

Maybe most people won't look at it that deeply that it will matter, I don't know. But Dean's the one bringing up his own religion, so it is fair game for the media to consider the nature of his beliefs (not that I think it would ever be inappropriate, but many people do), and that's a dangerous road to go down, especially in a national election.


Congrats to NASA. I've heard some people saying, in essence, "suck on it, Europe!" I hate to admit it -- I may have my American citizenship revoked -- but I get no pleasure in us succeeding where Europe failed in recent weeks (assuming they do not regain control of Beagle 2). Sure, I'd rather we succeed and have them fail than the other way around, but I get no pleasure in their failure. I'd rather have us both succeed.

I still hate the United Nations, though.

Power Player

Fox News Sunday has introduced a new feature since Chris Wallace took over, Power Player of the Week. It's a nice idea, whereby they feature someone in Washington who is not well-known. Last week they talked to a powerful PR consultant. This week, they talked to the C-SPAN CEO and president (and host), Brian Lamb.

Lamb, like every C-SPAN host, never says his name on the air. The idea is to be the antithesis of the network news, where the journalist often gets in the way of the news. "Play it down," he says. When Wallace asks him to say his name on the air in the interview, he declines. "Why?" "Just for the fun of it," Lamb says. I like that guy.

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