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See the World Through My Daughter's Eyes (Rodale, October 2003),
Saturday, December 06, 2003
Dean, Kerry, and McGovern. I
was taken to task yesterday by a reader who thought I was too facile
or Kaus-like or something to jump on the latest polls showing that
John Kerry is behind Howard Dean in New Hampshire by something like
30 points. Fair enough. The news was familiar, and I didn't exactly
add a lot of value by regurgitating the numbers.
Still, it's fascinating to see the
hand-wringing going on now over the fact that Dean will -- barring a
biblical-scale implosion -- win the Democratic nomination. Eric
that Kerry, whom he likes much better than Dean, is also infinitely
more electable against George W. Bush. Josh Marshall isn't quite so
certain, but also worries
that Dean is toast. The emerging wisdom is that it's McGovern all
Well, I worry how Dean is going to
fare against Bush, too. And I also think Kerry is the most
experienced and best qualified of the Democrats. But, at some level,
if Kerry is more electable than Bush, shouldn't he be beating Dean?
Frankly, at this point it's easier to construct a scenario that Dick
Gephardt or Wesley Clark will somehow emerge to give Dean a scare
than to picture how Kerry can recover.
Not to push this too far. After
all, if John McCain had somehow managed to defeat Bush in the
Republican primaries four years ago, he probably would have beaten Al
Gore by five or six points. But McCain, despite his conservative
stands on many issues, was in the wrong party in 2000. Dean and Kerry
are both real Democrats, and thus there's some reason to think that
the one who is able to win the nomination is, by definition, the more
electable of the two.
Of the nine Democrats, only three
manage to talk like normal people: Wesley Clark, Carol Moseley Braun,
and Dean. The rest, most definitely including Kerry, speechify, and
it doesn't work in the modern television environment. Dean has
managed to combine his plain speaking with a brilliant,
Internet-based campaign that's bringing in tons of money. His early
opposition to the war in Iraq continues to be his biggest selling
As for Kerry, it's not just that he
voted for the war, which was a perfectly respectable if wrong-headed
stance. (How could he not have figured out by the fall of 2002 that
the Bush White House lies so promiscuously?) It's that he has such a
hard time explaining it, and that he then turned around and voted
against the $87 billion in reconstruction money, which, regardless of
where you stand on Iraq, seems to be needed pretty
And yes, I realize that Dean has
had the advantage of not having to vote on anything. But that's why
governors get elected president and senators don't.
Ironically, Kerry is more liberal
than Dean on the environment, social programs for the poor, Medicare,
you name it. For the most part, he probably represents my political
values better than Dean does. But Dean's won. As Marshall asks, how
can anyone expect that Kerry, having blown a large lead in New
Hampshire, will somehow persuade voters there to switch back
Democrats shouldn't worry quite so
much about Dean. If he's sharp enough to beat Kerry, Clark, Gephardt,
Lieberman, et al., then he might be the best candidate the
party can put up against Bush next November.
posted at 9:53 PM |
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Friday, December 05, 2003
It's all over but the
voting. Late to Blogland today, but didn't want to let the latest
Dean-Kerry poll numbers slip by.
The Boston Herald's David
it up big today: the latest
poll of New Hampshire
Democrats shows Howard Dean at 42 percent and John Kerry at 12
percent. The Manchester-based American
Research Group has Dean 45,
What this means is simple. It's
over. It's so over that I realize I'm rather late in saying
Today's Washington Post has
a big piece
by Dan Balz on how Kerry plans to come back. The spin from the Kerry
campaign is pretty unconvincing -- so much so that The Note
Balz's article a "para-obit."
At this point, a Dean loss would
qualify as the worst choke job since the 1978 Red Sox.
-- Dean has not only held a big
lead since last summer, but it keeps growing.
-- He's got more money than anyone
-- Potential voters are going to
tune out presidential politics until after New Year's. The New
Hampshire primary takes place on January 27, just a few weeks
-- Though Dean has a penchant for
putting his foot in his mouth and for being slow to apologize, his
supporters don't seem to care.
There are a few clouds on Dean's
horizon. He's got to back down from his ridiculous refusal to release
his gubernatorial papers, for which he got poked by Boston
York Times editorials
But short of the Mother of All
Gaffes, it's hard to imagine how Dean could blow the enormous lead he
now has in both poll numbers and money. Democrats, meet your
As for Kerry, how does secretary of
Of course, his nephew is a lot
smarter than Sean Hannity.
Alan Colmes, the liberal
co-host of the Fox News debate program Hannity &
Colmes, lost an argument to his nephew Bryan while babysitting
the 8-year-old Monday.
Read the whole item at
Onion ("News in
posted at 1:50 PM |
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Thursday, December 04, 2003
The Plame game. Media Log
reader K.W. is very excited that Valerie Plame, the former undercover
CIA operative outed by the White House last summer, has allowed
herself to be photographed by Vanity Fair. (For my earlier
take on the scandal, click
The pertinent fact is that her
husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson of Nigerien-yellowcake
fame, had claimed she would rather "chop off her right arm" than have
her picture taken.
Writes K.W.: "Will you not concede
that this was a bogus 'scandal' hatched by Mr. Wilson and spurred on
by Democrats and a left leaning press (you included) who are just
desperate to bring Bush down. Just wondering if you'll say 'my bad'
on this one?"
Well, uh, no. And no.
K.W. directed me to this
by Slate's Timothy Noah, who labels Wilson's previous
insistence that his wife would remain invisible the "Whopper of the
Week." Noah also predicts that this "will surely give the Bush
Justice Department whatever slim justification it seeks in dropping
its Plamegate investigation."
Glenn "InstaPundit" Reynolds is
No word on whether she's
missing an arm.... Wilson says the pictures won't identify her.
Sorry -- if you're really an undercover spy, and really worried
about national security, you don't do this sort of thing. Unless,
perhaps, you're a self-promoter first, and a spy second. Or your
Let's concede that this wasn't
smart. Wilson was already hurting the cause with his aggressive media
whoredom. By letting herself be photographed -- albeit unrecognizably
-- Plame has harmed her image of being more serious, and thus more
credible, than her husband.
But what has changed? Plame's
career as an undercover agent was over last July, when syndicated
columnist Robert Novak passed along that sleazy little tidbit from
his pals at the White House. If Novak's act endangered the projects
Plame was working on and the people she associated with, the fact
that we now have some vague idea of what she looks like doesn't
As Noah suggests, seeming to enjoy
this too much may destroy any hopes of getting to the bottom of this.
But that doesn't mean there isn't a bottom to be gotten
New in this week's
Phoenix. New England Cable News will air a nuanced
on the life and times of the notorious Father Paul Shanley, who faces
numerous criminal and civil complaints alleging that he sexually
abused children. (Click here
for more information and video clips.)
Also, the Boston Globe is
two key staffers.
posted at 12:00 PM |
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Tuesday, December 02, 2003
Ice, snow, no go. We got a
half-inch of snow and a bit of ice this morning. So, naturally,
one can drive!
I just got back from an
hour-and-a-half in my car. Not that I actually made it
anywhere. No, I'm back home. I had to cancel my appearance on The
Pat Whitley Show, on WRKO Radio (AM 680), even after he and his
producer, Amy Hirshberg, were kind enough to move it off from 10 to
I heard a radio report calling this
maybe the worst traffic back-up in state history. Apparently drivers
were pulling off Route 128 in the Burlington area this morning and
sleeping after several hours of getting nowhere.
Even allowing for some exaggeration
-- there were, after all, a few traffic problems in the Blizzard of
1978 -- it is pretty horrifying out there.
posted at 10:41 AM |
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Smart move -- with an
asterisk. Boston mayor Tom Menino wants to reduce the ticky-tacky
factor at historic Faneuil Hall, and replace souvenir shops with a
first-class National Parks Service visitors center. Donovan Slack has
in today's Globe.
On the face of it, this sounds like
a terrific idea. There's something cheesy about letting the first
floor of Faneuil Hall -- one of our cradles of liberty -- be used as
a junk emporium.
But I pulled up short when I saw
this old quote from Frank Jones, who was involved in similar efforts
in 1990: "We're trying to raise Faneuil Hall to the same level of
consciousness as Independence Hall and the Statue of
I hope Menino doesn't intend to
pursue that particular vision. One of the things that makes Boston's
historic sites so compelling -- and so different from those in other
cities, including Philadelphia -- is that they are still being
used, and are not simply monuments to the past.
The reverential hush that surrounds
Hall, with its velvet-roped
exhibits of where the founders met and debated, may be appropriate to
that particular venue. But I'd hate to see the same thing happen in
For that matter, the National Parks
Service hasn't exactly done a kick-ass job at the current visitors
center, at the Old
State House, which has the
feel of a little-noted afterthought.
Before moving ahead, Menino needs a
commitment that things will be a lot different if the agency
relocates to Faneuil Hall.
Why don't we just go back to
paper ballots? I'm serious. We'd have to wait longer for the
results. But the problems of technology appear to be
New York Times columnist
Paul Krugman today writes
about the massive potential for fraud that exists with touch-screen
voting machines, which leave no paper trail. It wouldn't be difficult
to program such a machine to throw an extra vote to Candidate X for
every 20 ballots that are cast.
The best question comes from
Congressman Rush Holt, of New Jersey, who has filed legislation
requiring both a paper trail and open software standards. When told
by opponents of his bill that there has never been a problem with the
new technology, Holt asked, "How do you know?"
posted at 8:26 AM |
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Monday, December 01, 2003
Another gay news day. After
a week away, same-sex marriage is still a huge news story, and it's
likely to remain that way for some time to come.
The big news, of course, was the
Boston Globe/WBZ-TV poll
showing that 50 percent support the state Supreme Judicial Court
decision ruling that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to
wed, and that 38 percent are opposed.
That's not quite the "solid margin"
that the Globe portrayed it as, but it's surely better than
the reverse would have been. For legislators trying to decide whom to
pander to, it sends a powerful message.
On Friday, former state attorney
general James Shannon argued
that the man who currently holds that job, Tom O'Reilly, has a
reading-comprehension problem. Reilly has been trying to fudge it,
saying the SJC would be satisfied with a civil-unions law, even
though such a law would fall short of full marriage rights. Responded
It is hard to understand
how any of our political leaders can argue that the recent Supreme
Judicial Court decision could mean anything but extending civil
marriage to same-sex couples.
Which brings us back to
- New York Times
conservative columnist William
Safire comes out
cautiously for same-sex marriage, joining his right-leaning
colleague, David Brooks (no longer freely available online), who
was quite a bit more enthusiastic about it last week. And
syndicated conservative columnist George
Will yesterday came
close to endorsing it, albeit not without some inane blather about
polygamy. (At least this time Will left the critters
out of it.)
- Syndicated columnist
Novak explains why
same-sex marriage is the last thing that George W. Bush wants to
deal with during his election (whoops! I almost said
re-election) campaign. Even better, the Prince of
Darkness's online column is accompanied by an ad promising
"Relationship-minded Gays & Lesbians Pictures, Profiles, Chat
- Today's Globe
state legislators and finds that it's by no means a slam-dunk that
a joint session of the House and Senate will approve a
constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage when it
convenes in February. The earliest an amendment could go on the
ballot is in 2006. If the legislature fails to approve it in
February, it would be even later (if ever) than that.
Keller on Kerry. For some
reason I don't think Jon Keller likes John Kerry. Yesterday, WLVI-TV
(Channel 56) broadcast a Keller at Large half-hour special
on Keller's encounters with Kerry over the years.
And though I suspect Keller would
have something critical to say even if Kerry walked on water, the
program contained some valuable insights into why Kerry's
presidential campaign simply hasn't taken off.
While acknowledging Kerry's bravery
in Vietnam, in his later opposition to that war, and in his dogged
pursuit in the Senate of international money-launderers, Keller noted
that Kerry has committed "many instances of fence-straddling and
The issues range from Iraq to
education reform, from the Clinton "scandals" (where Ted Kennedy was
much more forthright in supporting the president) to the Title V
septic-system regulations, about which Kerry professed zero knowledge
even though environmental groups had hailed him for supporting the
legislation that created those regs.
For good measure, Keller whacked
Kerry for buying an $8600 motorcycle during a year when he gave only
$175 to charity.
Kerry's big tactical mistake was to
refuse an interview with Keller. No doubt he could have chewed up
long chunks of the clock, shifting the focus away from what Keller
wanted to say and toward what he wanted to say.
Then again, Kerry's entire
presidential campaign so far has been one tactical mistake after
another. Democrats who are terrified at the prospect of Howard Dean's
winning the nomination in a year when foreign policy is likely to be
the biggest issue can only be disheartened by Kerry's inability to
rev it up.
self-promotion. I'll be on The Pat Whitley Show, on WRKO
Radio (AM 680), on Tuesday at 10 a.m. to talk about Little
People. And on
Wednesday at 7 p.m., I'll be doing a reading and signing at the
Barnes & Noble at Boston University, in Kenmore
posted at 9:16 AM |
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MEDIA LOG ARCHIVES
Dan Kennedy is senior writer and media critic for the Boston Phoenix.