Notes and observations on
the press, politics, culture, technology, and more. To sign up for
e-mail delivery, click
here. To send
an e-mail to Dan Kennedy, click
For bio, published work, and links to other blogs, visit
For information on Dan Kennedy's book, Little People: Learning to
See the World Through My Daughter's Eyes (Rodale, October 2003),
Saturday, January 17, 2004
The field's turned
it is: the Des Moines
Register's Iowa Poll.
- John Kerry, 26
- John Edwards, 23
- Howard Dean, 20
- Richard Gephardt, 18
It's close, and Dean and Gephardt
are still thought to have the superior organizations heading into
Monday's caucuses. But this is quite a turnabout, no? And
organization might be offset by passion. Check out this
In another sign of
strength for Kerry, he is supported by 33 percent of those
definitely planning to attend the caucuses. Dean comes in second
in this group with 21 percent. Edwards and Gephardt follow with 19
percent and 16 percent, respectively.
Of course, this raises many, many
questions. If Kerry doesn't finish first now, is it worse than if he
had never held the lead? If he does finish first, do New
Hampshire Democrats care? Those are just for starters.
posted at 9:28 PM |
comment or permalink
But he's still John Kerry.
And he's still capable of whacking his fellow candidates for
supporting the Iraq-war resolution even though he, too, supported it.
Anne Kornblut and Patrick Healy report
in today's Boston Globe:
Kerry yesterday launched a
new attack against Gephardt and Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of
Connecticut over their support for the 2002 resolution authorizing
the use of force in Iraq. Kerry accused the two of siding with
President Bush on the resolution, ultimately approved by Congress,
instead of an earlier one that would have limited Bush's ability
to go to war quickly.
"When Joe Lieberman and Dick
Gephardt wound up down at the Rose Garden with the president
signing off on some deal, they pulled the rug out from the rest of
us in the United States Senate who were fighting for a different
resolution," Kerry told voters in Guttenberg, Iowa. Kerry ended up
voting for the resolution that passed.
For what it's worth, Kerry has also
backwards in Zogby's Iowa
tracking polls for the first time in a while.
posted at 9:14 AM |
comment or permalink
Friday, January 16, 2004
More on the Kerry surge. The
New Republic's Michael Crowley - like Al Giordano, a former
Phoenix colleague - gives
the credit to Michael
Whouley, who actually lives a few blocks from me. Not that he's ever
posted at 7:42 PM |
comment or permalink
The Kerry surge explained.
If John Kerry really has revived his campaign - and we'll know by
Monday night - then Al
Giordano's analysis will
stand as a pretty good explanation.
posted at 7:13 PM |
comment or permalink
More stuff reporters could learn
if they would read Howard Dean's book. Today's Boston
Herald has a news
Howard Dean, in a
revealing new magazine interview, candidly recalled suffering an
anxiety attack and "hyperventilating" when he unexpectedly learned
he was to become governor of Vermont in 1991.
"To suddenly get told that you
have responsibility for 600,000 people - it provokes a little
anxiety," Dean told People magazine.
The sudden death of then-Gov.
Richard Snelling came as a bolt from the blue for Dean, who was
thrust into the governorship literally overnight after having
served as lieutenant governor under Snelling.
The right-wing website NewsMax.com
is extremely excited about this development. Here's the top of the
behind the story" that it
front-runner Howard Dean offered more details this week on
psychological counseling he underwent for anxiety attacks suffered
in the 1980s - and revealed that he had a panic attack the day he
took over as governor of Vermont 13 years ago.
Reacting to news of Gov. Richard
Snelling's death in August 1991, Dean told People magazine,
"I hyperventilated and I started hyperventilating and I thought,
You better stop that or you won't be much good to
And here's an excerpt from pages
55-56 of Dean's book, Winning Back America, which has been
available for a good month and a half:
The call was from Bruce
Yost, one of Governor Snelling's staffers. "I'm terribly sorry to
inform you the governor's passed away," Bruce said. My first
split-second reaction was that he was kidding, but I knew
immediately by his tone of voice he wasn't. I then started to
hyperventilate, which was something I'd never done in my entire
life. I told myself to breathe normally because I wouldn't be of
use to anyone if I kept that up.
is the entire People interview with Dean and his wife, Judith
There are some interesting new
details in here about the anxiety attacks he suffered in the 1980s,
when his brother, Charles, was being held captive in Laos, and was
You should read it now, so you'll
have the context when the right-wingers begin attacking Dean for
being psychologically unstable or some damn thing. In fact, as you
will see from the NewsMax.com piece, it's already started.
posted at 11:10 AM |
comment or permalink
Thursday, January 15, 2004
New in this week's
Phoenix. Taking a look at the Democratic presidential
books. Also, what reporters
could have learned by reading
Howard Dean's book.
posted at 11:43 AM |
comment or permalink
Kerry's big move. John
Kerry's decision to spend nearly all of his time in Iowa appears to
be paying off in a major way. The Zogby
tracking polls, which have
been the talk of the political world the last few days, now actually
show Kerry to be in the lead in Iowa. The numbers: Kerry, 22 percent;
Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt, 21 percent each; and John Edwards, 17
percent. How dramatic is this? Well, barely a week ago Dean was
leading with 25 percent, Gephardt was running second at 23 percent,
and Kerry was third at 15 percent.
What does any of this mean? Who
knows? All the experts argue that tracking polls are notoriously
unreliable. Still, it seems that Kerry is, all of a sudden, the hot
candidate, at least in Iowa.
But with Dean, Gephardt, and Kerry
essentially tied, and with Iowa's convoluted caucus system requiring
more than the usual amount of devotion from one's supporters, the
results of Monday's caucuses are going to depend heavily on
organization. This Todd
Purdum piece in today's
New York Times suggests that Dean and Gephardt have the
strongest organizations - although Kerry, who's been reaching out to
his fellow veterans, will be no slouch.
Of course, the very real
possibility exists that Kerry's roll-of-the-dice gamble on Iowa will
fail. He could still come in third, giving him zero bounce going into
New Hampshire, where Dean and Wesley Clark (who's skipping Iowa) are
the leading candidates. The latest
Boston Herald poll -
reflecting other polls - shows Dean at 29 percent, Clark at 20
percent, and Kerry at just 15 percent.
learned recently, Kerry's
New Hampshire campaign has been all but moribund for quite a while.
What Kerry is banking on is that an unexpectedly strong showing in
Iowa - say, second place (especially if Dean falls to third) or, even
better, first - will give New Hampshire Democrats a reason to look at
A side note: one thing I've noticed
is that whenever I write about polls, I get e-mails from angry
partisans of one candidate or another lambasting me for focusing on
the horse race rather than "the issues." Well, of course, the issues
are important. But differences on Iraq (not so great as one might
suppose), health care, and tax cuts aside, the fact is that Dean,
Kerry, Gephardt, Edwards, and Clark are all from the Democratic wing
of the Democratic party. (I'm not so sure about Joe Lieberman.) The
most important issue is which candidate will give George W. Bush the
toughest fight. And that starts with which Democrat is able to win
Hynes City Hall? I love an
idea put forth by Boston city councilors Paul Scapicchio and John
Tobin to move City Hall to the Hynes Center, and sell off the current
City Hall - and the disastrous sea of brick that surrounds it - to
private developers. Ellen Silberman has the story
in today's Boston Herald.
No doubt the idea is impractical: a
logistical nightmare combined with a one-time financial bonanza that
might not even cover the cost of the move. But, given that city and
state officials seem determined to kill the Hynes in order to boost
the dead-on-arrival South Boston convention center, the
Scapicchio-Tobin idea would at least keep the Back Bay alive and
LaPierre on the loose. I'm
not sure which is more ridiculous: the fact that WBZ Radio (AM 1030)
lets Gary LaPierre anchor the "local" news from Florida or the fact
that LaPierre sees nothing wrong with it. Suzanne Ryan
in today's Boston Globe.
posted at 11:33 AM |
comment or permalink
Wednesday, January 14, 2004
Powell panders over F-word.
Not to intrude on your day with F-bombs, but it was the Federal
Communications Commission that ruled last October on the fine
distinctions between the adjectival and verb forms of that fine old
I don't find this quite as
personally exciting as quoting from the footnotes of the Starr
Report. Nevertheless, here is the excerpt from the
FCC report (PDF file)
exonerating the broadcast media for putting Bono on the air while he
used the phrase "fucking brilliant" at an awards show:
As a threshold matter, the
material aired during the "Golden Globe Awards" program does not
describe or depict sexual and excretory activities and organs. The
word "fucking" may be crude and offensive, but, in the context
presented here, did not describe sexual or excretory organs or
activities. Rather, the performer used the word "fucking" as an
adjective or expletive to emphasize an exclamation. Indeed, in
similar circumstances, we have found that offensive language used
as an insult rather than as a description of sexual or excretory
activity or organs is not within the scope of the Commission's
prohibition of indecent program content.
God, I love it when the FCC talks
dirty to me!
Anyway, the decision, arrived at by
the FCC's enforcement division, is now being challenged by the head
of the agency, Michael Powell, who, according to this
report on CNN.com, "is
actively campaigning inside the agency to get that ruling overturned
by the full commission."
Powell also wants fines for
broadcasters who let the naughty bits slip through to be raised from
$27,500 to $275,000. At an appearance at the National Press Club
today, Powell reportedly said, "Some of these fines are peanuts.
They're just a cost of doing business. That has to
The pandering, puffy-faced
offspring of Secretary of State Colin Powell is better known for
trying to convince us that corporate media concentration is good for
us. Edging into James Dobson territory is new for him, and somewhat
at odds with his image as a libertarian technocrat. But, of course,
it is an election year.
The MediaDrome notes
that "given the fact that Bono's outburst was broadcast live, it's
difficult to imagine how stations are to be expected to exert
control." Worth reading.
posted at 4:39 PM |
comment or permalink
Tuesday, January 13, 2004
Canellos calls Dean a liar - and
gets it wrong. The Boston Globe's Washington-bureau chief,
Peter Canellos, has hit the Iowa campaign trail to find out what it
is that makes Howard Dean tick. Canellos's answer: anger.
Grrr! Where have we heard that before?
But Media Log was especially struck
by this Canellos passage, since it suggests that he simply hasn't
been paying attention:
Now, Dean's tendency to
shoot from the hip has become an issue unto itself, as the other
candidates contend, reasonably, that Dean's arguments don't always
square with the facts. Take his oft-repeated insistence that
"there was no middle-class tax cut." There was. It just wasn't
nearly as big as the cut for the wealthy.
Did Canellos accurately portray
what Dean has been saying? Not even close. Here's Dean at the Des
Moines Register debate
of January 4:
Well, we've got to look at
the big picture. If you make over $1 million, you've got a
$112,000 tax cut. Sixty percent of us got a $304 tax
And the question I have for
Americans is, did your college tuition go up more than $304
because the president cut Pell Grants in order to finance his tax
cuts for his millionaire friends? How about your property taxes,
did they go up more than $304 because the president wouldn't fund
special ed, wouldn't fund No Child Left Behind, wouldn't fund COPS
and - how about your health care payments? Did they go up more
than $304 because the president cut thousands of people all over
America off health care because he wouldn't fund the states' share
that they needed to continue to insure people, and that was
shifted to insurance and the health care premiums?
Middle-class people did not see
a tax cut. There was no middle-class tax cut. There was a Bush tax
increase with tuitions, with property taxes, with health care
premiums, and most middle-class people in this country are worse
off because of President Bush's so- called tax cut than they are
Now, I have no idea whether Dean's
$304 figure is a fair representation of the middle-class tax cut.
Some of his critics - like John Kerry - have argued that it was
actually quite a bit more than that, and that it was pushed through
by Democrats over Republican objections.
But Dean's rhetorical intent is
absolutely clear: to disparage the Bush-era middle-class tax cut as
piddling, and to argue that it was more than offset by increases in
property taxes, college tuition, and health care caused by Bush's
ridiculous tax cuts for the rich - tax cuts that we now know,
to Paul O'Neill and Ron Suskind,
even Bush thought were absurd.
It's very simple. Canellos
mischaracterized Dean, and then used that mischaracterization to
build his case that Dean is an angry guy who has a "tendency to paint
complex issues in very stark terms."
The truth is that it's Canellos who
is shooting from the hip here.
posted at 9:20 AM |
comment or permalink
Monday, January 12, 2004
O'Neill speaks. The
principal revelations by former treasury secretary Paul O'Neill -
that the Bush administration began planning to go to war against Iraq
almost from the moment it took office, and that even George W. Bush
questioned huge tax cuts for the rich before gutlessly signing on -
It is an incredible indictment of
the state in which we find ourselves these days that it probably
won't make any difference.
is the transcript of
O'Neill's appearance last night on CBS's 60 Minutes. The
section on Iraq is appalling beyond description:
And what happened at
President Bush's very first National Security Council meeting is
one of O'Neill's most startling revelations.
"From the very beginning, there
was a conviction, that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he
needed to go," says O'Neill, who adds that going after Saddam was
topic "A" 10 days after the inauguration - eight months before
"From the very first instance,
it was about Iraq. It was about what we can do to change this
regime," says Suskind. "Day one, these things were laid and
As treasury secretary, O'Neill
was a permanent member of the National Security Council. He says
in the book he was surprised at the meeting that questions such as
"Why Saddam?" and "Why now?" were never asked.
"It was all about finding a way
to do it. That was the tone of it. The president saying 'Go find
me a way to do this,'" says O'Neill. "For me, the notion of
pre-emption, that the U.S. has the unilateral right to do whatever
we decide to do, is a really huge leap."
O'Neill's account of Bush and the
second tax cut comes from a "nearly verbatim transcript" that an
administration official gave O'Neill following a meeting in November
2002. Ron Suskind - author of the forthcoming The Price of
Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul
O'Neill - describes it like this:
He says everyone expected
Mr. Bush to rubber stamp the plan under discussion: a big new tax
cut. But, according to Suskind, the president was perhaps having
second thoughts about cutting taxes again, and was
"He asks, 'Haven't we already
given money to rich people? This second tax cut's gonna do it
again,'" says Suskind.
"He says, 'Didn't we already,
why are we doing it again?' Now, his advisers, they say, 'Well Mr.
President, the upper class, they're the entrepreneurs. That's the
standard response.' And the president kind of goes, 'OK.' That's
their response. And then, he comes back to it again. 'Well,
shouldn't we be giving money to the middle, won't people be able
to say, 'You did it once, and then you did it twice, and what was
it good for?'"
But according to the transcript,
White House political advisor Karl Rove jumped in.
"Karl Rove is saying to the
president, a kind of mantra. 'Stick to principle. Stick to
principle.' He says it over and over again," says Suskind. "Don't
In the end, the president
didn't. And nine days after that meeting in which O'Neill made it
clear he could not publicly support another tax cut, the vice
president called and asked him to resign.
If O'Neill is telling the truth -
and there is no reason to think he isn't - then this is an absolutely
The Time magazine
is, if anything, even more frightening in its picture of Bush and,
especially, of the machinations of the Dark Lord, Dick Cheney. Check
out the account of the "gang of three beleaguered souls" - O'Neill,
former EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman, and Secretary of
State Colin Powell.
Who elected this guy, anyway? Oh,
yeah ... right.
His bowtie is twirling.
Washington Post ombudsman Michael Getler slapped
buckraking columnist George Will yesterday for Will's
of the $25,000 payment he'd received from corrupt press lord Conrad
The ex factor. Right below a
column by Boston Globe Christine Chinlund today on the number
the paper ran last year (1223) is a piece by syndicated columnist
William Pfaff (not online at the Globe's website) that refers
to "ex-US Senator Charles Schumer."
is the Pfaff column - first published last Friday - at the website of
the International Herald Tribune. As you'll see, Schumer is
properly identified as a current senator. But, of course, this could
have been corrected after it came in.
So did a Globe editor
introduce the mistake or simply fail to fix it? Media Log will be
watching the corrections column.
Clipping service. Bruce
Allen wants to know: how much leeway does that disclaimer at the
bottom of the Globe's sports-notes columns give? Is it okay
for a writer - like football columnist Ron Borges - simply to
posted at 8:55 AM |
comment or permalink
MEDIA LOG ARCHIVES
Dan Kennedy is senior writer and media critic for the Boston Phoenix.