The Note

And today's papers, on the Friday before the Sunday when the nine current Democratic presidential candidates gather in the Motor City to both debate and witness once again (as if more proof were needed) that Gwen Ifill is one of the finest political journalists America has ever produced, check out the confusion, infighting, disarray pervading the Grand Young Party:

-- The Los Angeles Times' Brownstein writes on the Democratic presidential candidates "whose a real Democrat?" intraparty battle. LINK

-- Advice to the DNC: never cross a Boston mayor. Those guys play for keeps.

The Boston Globe 's straight-from-central-casting Frank Phillips says that Mayor Menino and the DNC aren't totally in sync on the convention. We can't decide which we like more: the blind quotes or the on-the-record ones! LINK

-- The Nashua Telegraph 's wonderful Kevin Landrigan drops General Clark into New Hampshire's still-swirling Tyco Bermuda Triangle, with a front-page story that the Clark campaign will see as unfair, but the Granite echo chamber is already echoing. LINK

-- The General and the Bay State junior Senator both get to deal with their favorite topic — the Iraqi war resolution — big time today.

The New York Times ' Halbfinger writes on Kerry and the war and the Boston Globe 's Scott Lehigh does General Clark and the war — and they are only must-reads if you wish to keep daily tabs on which candidate can accumulate more pretzelian Iraq war positions by the night of the Iowa caucuses.

Halbfinger charitably doesn't mention Kerry's recent claim to have secret information about the UN and the war, and/but he makes two essential points (amidst his letting Kerry's tortured words hang out there): LINK

1. Kerry's fundamental position on the war (when he doesn't deviate from it) is actually historically and intellectually consistent (but also non-bumper-stickerable).

2. Howard Dean's position on both the resolution and the WMD were in fact not as clear and consistent and anti-war as Dean would like us all to believe, and the press has done a horrible job with that.

Lehigh gets an exclusive interview (two, actually) with Swetty General Hosswhisperer, and comes up with this: LINK

"Clark says he didn't know what was in the resolution because he wasn't paying close attention. But had he been in Congress, he would have been aware of the details, and, having known them, his preference for patient internationalism, plus his suspicion of the administration's motives, would have led him to oppose the resolution."

So as you get ready for the debate, remember that in all likelihood, one of the six top contenders will before too long be the second-most prominent/dominant figure in American politics, and will ascend accompanied by quite a bit of baggage that will suddenly take on a presidential air (and they won't like that at all).

Campaigns be forewarned!

While it's no "Hardball: Battle for the White House," there is a political discussion today at 4 pm at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government that's sure to make some noise.

The Shorenstein Center's Alex Jones will moderate the "Election 2004: The Pundits on Politics" panel made up of the New York Times Magazine's Matt Bai, New England Cable News' Allison King, USA Today 's Susan Page, and ABC News' Mark Halperin.

Things could get rough there, but in a educational and collegial kind of way.

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