Everyone knows there is only one way to look at the 2004 presidential race: if a candidate can win 3 out of 4 of Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan, and Ohio, they will win the election.
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But before we can even get to that simple calculus, there is an intermediate question: no Democrat is going to even have a chance to beat President Bush unless he or she can talk clearly to the American people about how a new national economic policy would be better than what four years of Bush-Cheney have produced.
In today's Washington Post , Dan Balz has crafted a front-pager that is quite possibly the most important story written to date about the 2004 presidential election. LINK
Balz's first three paragraphs lay things out cleanly; finish them, and then go read the whole piece:
"President Bush's economic record should present an attractive target for the Democratic presidential candidates. Instead, it has become another source of division, disagreement and, so far at least, a missed opportunity to change public opinion."
"Under Bush, the U.S. economy has lost about 3 million private-sector jobs. The unemployment rate has risen from 4.2 percent to 6.1 percent. The Dow Jones industrial average, despite a recent rebound, remains more than 1,100 points below the levels of January 2001. The president's tax cuts and spending increases have turned budget surpluses into record deficits that some experts say amount to a long-term fiscal crisis."
"In the face of those figures, Democrats appear stymied. The party's congressional wing, operating in the minority, has neither the votes nor the megaphone to carry an economic message, party strategists acknowledge. The party's presidential candidates speak with nine voices, and they have failed to make the economy a consistent and coherent focus of their messages. Polls show that the public neither blames Bush principally for the state of the economy nor recognizes a Democratic alternative."
Of course, every presidential cycle for the last five, The Note always makes certain to be the first to mention the prospect of an October Surprise that completely remakes the election playing field. (Check out what the Googling monkeys found by doing a simple "October Surprise" search: LINK)
So while Balz is probably spot on that only a Democrat who figures out how to talk about the economy has a chance to win, President Bush is a divisive enough figure in the 51-49 Nation to allow the opposition party to dream big dreams right up until election day, no matter how the polls look.
And right now, you would have to say that the most likely October Surprise would involve Iraq or terrorism, and a strong New York Times ' pairing implicitly floats a possibility.
Displaying perfect pitch and some great reporting, the New York Times David Sanger and Carl Hulse write about the political stakes on the WsMD issue, and/but they find things (still) leaning Republican: LINK
"Despite growing questions about whether the White House exaggerated the evidence about Saddam Hussein's chemical and biological weapons, President Bush and his aides believe that the relief that Americans feel about Mr. Hussein's fall in Iraq will overwhelm any questions about the case the administration's built against him, administration officials and Republican strategists say … ."
"One senior Republican Senate aide said Republican lawmakers are trying to protect Mr. Bush on the intelligence issue and that they consider it more of a possible problem for him than members of Congress who supported his appeal for authority to move against Iraq. But they are still skeptical of the intelligence matter's overall potency as a political weapon for the Democrats … ."
"The White House is betting that no Democrats will ultimately want to challenge whether ousting Mr. Hussein was a good decision. 'Every time the Democrats talk about this stuff, they run the risk of having it backfire,' Glen Bolger, a Republican pollster, said. 'Ultimately, voters don't believe that Democrats handle national security and the war on terror as well as they think the Republicans do.'"
Even with all the burdens on Mr. Bush of governing 7 notches right of center in a country that is probably no more than 4 notches right of center, the onus remains on the Democrats, and Knight-Ridder's Steve Thomma has a must-read about how the dizzying number of presidential candidates is causing donkey agita. LINK
"Democrats are starting to wrestle with a thorny problem: how to brush aside three fringe candidates for president who have no realistic chance of winning their party's nomination next year." LINK
"Several state Democratic Party chairmen think the national party should find a way to limit debates to the top six candidates and exclude the three widely considered to make up the bottom tier: Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, former Senator Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois and the Rev. Al Sharpton of New York."
"In interviews before this week's annual meeting of the Association of State Democratic Chairs, several suggested setting a threshold for candidates' admission to debates based on support as measured in public-opinion polls, fund raising or campaign organization in early primary states. They favored doing this even before the first votes are cast next January."
"Other state chairmen disagreed, saying they preferred to keep the debates and the race wide open until Democratic voters start winnowing the field themselves with caucus and primary votes early next year. Any effort to bar candidates would be undemocratic, they said, and would risk alienating rank-and-file party members. Notably, two of the bottom three candidates are African-Americans, one of the party's most loyal constituencies. All three are liberals."
"The desire to thin the field months before voting begins stems from a widely shared perception that none of the nine candidates has emerged as a front-runner. With an unusually large field competing for money and attention, particularly in debates where answers can be limited to 30 seconds, many state chairmen fear that no one's message can break through.
"'Hopefully, the field will thin,' said Mike Erlandson, the state party chairman in Minnesota and host of this week's national meeting. 'I'd like to drop our field to three or four. If we had it down to three or four by this fall, we'd be well served. Some of these candidates have to look at their candidacies seriously. . . . Either you're engaging the electorate or you're not. That's measured with donors and the grass roots.'"
"Florida Chairman Scott Maddox said he thought the bottom three candidates livened debates and energized Democrats. But he hopes there will be a way to exclude poorly performing candidates by early December, when candidates will troop to Orlando for the Florida state party convention. By then, he said, Democrats need to focus on possible winners and can't give precious debate time to those who can't win."
"'When you have nine people in a debate, it's very hard to get anything substantive across,' Maddox said. 'As we get closer, it should wind down to those who have a real shot at being president."
The president is meeting with Senators about Medicare today, and a gaggle of SAOs are speaking to the "grassroots activists" of the National Federation of Independent Business.
Commerce Secretary Don Evans spoke at 8:30 this morning; Homeland Security director Tom Ridge speaks in the early afternoon.
Today, Senator Kerry has two evening events in New Hampshire. Senator Lieberman is in Oklahoma. And Congressman Gephardt remains in California.
ABC 2004: Bush-Cheney re-elect, the money: The AP's Queen of No Nonsense Jennifer Loven gets right to the point, "Headlining the first event of his unannounced campaign for re-election in 2004, President Bush set in motion a two-week, cross-country fund-raising push that advisers expect will bring in as much as all nine Democratic presidential candidates collected in this year's first three months." LINK
The Los Angeles Times' Ed Chen Notes the wholly reasonable Ari-line:
"The expected record-shattering fund-raising drive 'is probably a good indication that the president has a strong amount of support throughout the country,' Fleischer said. 'Otherwise he would not be successful in this endeavor.'" LINK
In The Washington Times ' write-up of President Bush's "$4 million fund-raiser", Bill Sammon includes this item: "Mr. Bush is expected to produce campaign ads that will air next year, just as the Democratic attacks intensify." LINK
Dan Bartlett told the Washington Post 's Mike Allen that those Democratic strategists who think the image of the president raising money will mean more to Americans than the hard work he is seen putting in on the economy day after day are wrong. LINK
Or something like that.
The New York Times ' Dick Stevenson ends his round-up of last night's event with Blaising speed:
"Republicans involved in the Bush campaign said it was too early to decide how to use the money, though they suggested that a bigger portion would go to get-out-the-vote efforts and a smaller part to television commercials than is typical for a presidential race." LINK
"'We believe strongly in the ground game,' said one Republican who is involved in the campaign."
The Boston Globe 's Names column writes about the Monday "hush-hush" Bush fundraiser at the home of Richard Egan. LINK
ABC 2004: Bush-Cheney re-elect: Texas Monthly's Evan Smith has a wonderful interview with George H.W. Bush, 41st President of the United States. It is so worth your time (even if you just have a second now to check out the cover picture and then read it later). LINK
Smith writes, "When he ambles out of his private office, cup of coffee in hand, Mr. Bush seems relaxed and happy, in the mode of a carefree retiree, and he looks like an older version of his trim, preppy self (he turned 79 in June)."
"What's interesting, I think, is that the press takes your silence as an indication of differences between you and the president. The fact that you're not speaking out supposedly says something. When a friend of mine like Jimmy Baker or Brent Scowcroft says, 'Well, we ought to do more about the Middle East,' the press says, 'It looks to us like they're reflecting what president number forty-one really feels but doesn't want to say,' which is all bullshit, if you'll excuse the expression."
Smith: We can edit that out.
"You can print it. At this stage in my life, I don't care." [Note to Jamie Gangel: start talking to those GE censors now!]
"It's crazy. If I wanted to say something publicly supportive of the president or different from the president, I'd do it. There was a story recently in the New York Times that implied that there seem to be differences. They picked out some phrase I used [in a speech] up at Tufts. And they acted like, Hey, there's a little running room between the two of them. Well, there wasn't. It certainly wasn't intended that way, whether someone interpreted it that way or not. But that's the big game: What do I really think; what advice do I give our son. It's better to just stay out of that altogether, and I do. I'm not in the advice-giving business."
Note Note: 41 is supposedly not referred to as 41 around his office, but instead as "FLFW," which stands for "Former Leader of the Free World."
Harry Shearer now has enough material to last a lifetime. LINK
The AP's Ramer picked this out of White House Chief of Staff (or, as we like to call him, the SAO-in-Chief) Andy Card's visit to New Hampshire yesterday:
'''I'm not sure the president would agree with me, but one of the best things that happened to President Bush in his quest for the presidency was losing in New Hampshire,' Card said. 'Because out of that defeat he demonstrated real resolve to go forward.''' LINK
'''That resolve created a climate for victory in South Carolina and showed the American people what kind of president he would be. He has proven to be that kind of president.'''
For more, see our
Bush Administration strategy/personality:
For whatever reasons, the White House seems ready to pick an environmental fight over the nomination of Governor Kempthorne to head the EPA, many (but by no means all) of the Washington Post 's sources believe. LINK
The Idaho Statesman's Rocky Barker reports, "Gov. Dirk Kempthorne´s environmental record is under the microscope as he remains on the short list of candidates for administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency." LINK
More: "President Bush has not yet offered the job to anyone. Though Kempthorne met last week with White House officials to discuss issues about the job. Others considered in the running are EPA Midwest Administrator Tom Skinner, Utah Gov. Mike Levitt and Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers President Josephine Cooper."
The New York Times ed board wants the president to work harder on national service funding. LINK
ABC 2004: The Invisible Primary:
Adam Nagourney rounds up the Democrats day of proposals and speeches with the big emphasis on John Edwards. LINK
The Wall Street Journal 's Jake Schlesinger gets just a few paragraphs to do both Edwards and Lieberman, and/but it's nice to see Jake on the political beat!
The Washington Post 's Faler and Balz ball up Edwards, Lieberman, Gephardt, and Graham — and Rosenberg — with their days and their ideas. LINK
The Chicago Tribune's Jeff Zeleny, who had a very busy Tuesday, writes, "Democratic presidential contenders, unable to compete with the fundraising muscle of the White House, presented themselves as protectors of average Americans as they criticized President Bush's re-election effort, which formally began here Tuesday night." LINK
"While the Bush-Cheney campaign collected about $4 million at the debut of a month long, $20 million fundraising drive, the Democrats struggled for attention as they announced plans to reduce middle-class taxes and cut the nation's poverty rate."
Donald Lambro of The Washington Times attended Tuesday's NDN conference and found Democrats offering "different prescriptions for what ails their party" but agreeing on the need to "stop the political squabbling". LINK
The Boston Globe 's Susan Milligan rounds up some Democratic candidates' views on the Medicare deal. LINK
Milligan has Senators Graham and Kerry opposing the bill in the Senate Finance Committee last week, and Senators Edwards and Lieberman expressing "serious concern about the Senate version."
We get a sampling:
Edwards: '''It doesn't do anything to control the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs.'"
Graham (who, we are reminded, represents a lot of elderly folks): "'loophole-ridden,'" '''does little but give political cover to the pharmaceutical companies and President Bush in time for the 2004 elections,'" "'It's a lemon that will in time come back to haunt those who support it.'"
Lieberman (who wants to revise the legislation): "'half-baked.'"
Kucinich: "'[the Bush administration] basically has broken faith with those who attempted to work with them on education, and people realize that this administration is not sincere in either education, health care, or foreign policy.'''
Doctor Dean is critical, with Tricia Enright saying '''Governor Dean is concerned that the ultimate objective of Republicans is to privatize Medicare, not to help seniors with their substantial drug costs.'''
Milligan also provides a summary of the issue, political ramifications and all, and gets in a Stu Rothenberg explanation: ''If they give Bush a win on this, not only is the issue off the burners for the next year and a half, but it gives the president an opportunity to crow about an accomplishment: that partisanship gripped Washington, but he, George W. Bush, found a way to get it done … I think the Democrats would rather take their chances by denying him an accomplishment.'''
The League of Conservation Voters is publicly pressuring two presidential candidates to attend their environmental forum in Los Angeles next weekend.
According to the LCV, Senator John Edwards and Congressman Dick Gephardt have said they won't go. Senators Graham, Kerry and Lieberman; Governor Dean; Reverend Sharpton and Ambassador Moseley Braun have said "yes" to the group. Congressman Kucinich is a "maybe," according to LCV's Josh Galper.
"Both John Edwards and Dick Gephardt have strong environmental records," LCV President Deb Callahan said in a statement. "The … forum will give them an opportunity to highlight their accomplishments, discuss their proposals for a cleaner environment, and contrast their environmental priorities with those of the Bush Administration."
While the LCV wants to enhance its role in the nominating process, such overt entreaties, particularly by a well-regarded Democratic interest group, is unusual.
(In a Los Angeles Times story in part about his environmental policy address yesterday, Messieurs Brownstein and Barabak add this: "Notably, Gephardt did not propose to increase automobile fuel-economy standards, a move favored by environmentalists but opposed by organized labor groups close to his campaign.") LINK
"Senator Edwards wishes he could attend but his schedule doesn't permit it," Edwards' spokesperson Jennifer Palmieri told ABC News this morning.
"The LCV is a very important organization and we're disappointed that a previous commitment will prevent Mr Gephardt from participating in this forum. The campaign looks forward to participating in other events the LCV organizes as part of their 2004 series," said Gephardt's spokesman, Erik Smith.
Edwards will also not attend Sunday's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition event in Chicago. LINK
Palmieri said the campaign did their best to arrange for the Senator to speak at their five-day conference but that scheduling conflicts prevented a workable solution.
"We really do feel bad about it," she said.
"Early support from Republican governors helped catapult George Bush to the presidency in 2000. But the nation's Democratic governors aren't inclined to follow their counterparts' lead by rallying behind one of the nine candidates vying for their party's nomination to take on Bush in 2004," the Tacoma News Tribune reports. LINK
The Hartford Courant's resident humorist, Jim Shea, ponders how the Democrats running for president can counteract Mr. Bush's "Rangers" and offers up some suggestions to the candidates on what to call their big donors. LINK
Roll Call 's Heard on the Hill urges staffers to make some convention contacts on Thursday night.
"With the Democratic National Convention heading to Boston next year, you can bet that Senator Edward Kennedy (D) and much of the Massachusetts delegation will be hustling over to the downtown D.C. location of Legal Sea Foods on Thursday night."
"That's because there will be a book party Thursday night for Roger Berkowitz, owner of the Boston-based restaurant chain, to celebrate publication of 'The New Legal Sea Foods Cookbook.'"
"Many officials from the Boston 2004 convention committee will be attending, so it's a good opportunity for Hill staffers to make some contacts with the people who will be doling out party passes at next year's confab."
As we suspected, Lieberman-er Tovah Ravitz-Meehan isn't the only devoted campaign staffer who's soliciting money and support from friends.
Dean finance director Stephanie Schriock sent this around:
"I know some of you have not heard from me in months or longer since I have thrown my life in to raising money for Howard Dean's campaign for President. The campaign is now engaged in a Primary for Moveon.org's endorsement. MoveOn is an organization that is about bringing people back into our democracy — and to stand for government of the people for the people and by the people. I have dedicated my life to this — and I need your help now — I need to ask you to register for the MoveOn Primary — all it will take is your name, email address and your zip code. Please register right now at the link below and then vote immediately when you receive the emailed ballot within the next week. I then ask you to vote for Howard Dean. This means too much to me to lose it because I failed to ask those who have helped me professionally and personally over the years."
And Gephardt senior adviser Steve Elmendorf is hosting a special fundraising featuring "Chrissy Gephardt (and dick)" [capitalization in the original].
"I have worked for Dick for 11 years and I know from personal experience that the Gay and Lesbian community has no better friend running for President. Dick's daughter, Chrissy, will be also be at the event. She has recently come out as an open lesbian and is working full time to help her father become President. Attached is an invitation to the event, a position paper on LGBT issues from the campaign and a copy of the People magazine profile of Chrissy. I hope you will consider attending and contributing $250. June 30th is an important benchmark for the campaign and we need to raise as much as we can by that date."
By our measure, Senators Kerry and Lieberman, Congressman Kucinich, Governor Dean and Congressman Gephardt have all sent e-mail entreaties urging supporters to vote in the MoveOn.org primary.
As Howard Meyerson opine-reports today, the winner will earn the group's endorsement. And no campaign is more focused on winning it than Howard Dean's campaign. The late Senator Paul Wellstone received $600,000 in contributions collected by MoveOn.org and that was before the website became uber popular with its opposition to the war in Iraq. LINK
"Both [Dean campaign manager] Trippi and the MoveOn leaders think that winning 50 percent support this early in the process will be an arduous task. The thing about an online election, however, is that it's no big deal to hold another one 30 or 60 days later — a process to which MoveOn seems committed until an endorsement emerges. Still, Dean's legions are filled with highly educated, Internet-savvy young people, and that's a pretty good description of MoveOn's members as well."
"How much money such an endorsement would be worth to its recipient is one of the hottest topics in liberal America today. MoveOn's staff offers only the most cautious projections, but political operatives sound awestruck as they contemplate what the numbers could be. 'If Dean has their support and wins Iowa,' says one longtime liberal strategist who's no Dean partisan, 'what people don't realize is that MoveOn could get him $30 million in the next two days.'"
Part four of the Boston Globe 's series on John Kerry jumps right in with a sequence of unsavory political lessons and his contentious time in the DA's office. LINK
Brian C. Mooney finds the nationally famous, "28-year-old activist" eager to enter politics, perhaps at the expense of good sense. As Mooney writes, "[h]is ambition tempered only by political naivete, Kerry tried on congressional districts like suits off the rack," with Kerry bouncing among three congressional districts in "less than two months" in 1972.
Mooney adds ominously: "To this day, he bears the brand of opportunist from that brazen district-hopping, which he acknowledges as part of his political 'baggage.'"
Mooney offers a brief course in the colorful Massachusetts congressional districts as Kerry sampled Waltham (withdrawing in favor of antiwar Jesuit priest Rev. Robert F. Drinan), Worcester (where Julia bought a house), and then Lowell (the Republican seat-holder took a job at the U.N.), where opportunism and cherrypicking was sneered upon, giving Mooney the opportunity to write this sentence:
"Resentment poured from many of the other nine candidates, whom Kerry would leave in the dust of a freewheeling Democratic primary."
Kerry is quoted about the choice: "'I can understand people who were pissed at me … I came into the district, crash, 'Here I am.' There was a brashness to it. … If I had known what I knew today about politics, I'm not sure I would have done it.'"
Kerry waged a "very expensive, sophisticated campaign;" was attacked by conservative paper the Sun; received Notable contributions from Otto Preminger, George Plimpton, Leonard Bernstein, and other celebrities; spent a total of $279,746 in the most expensive congressional race in the country; dealt with the arrests of his brother Cameron and his campaign field director for breaking into the building which housed the headquarters of Kerry and a Democratic rival on the eve of the primary; and was barraged with criticism during the general, particularly by that dratted Sun.
Mooney also addresses the notion that the Nixon White House was still plotting, with an eleventh-hour withdrawal and endorsement of Republican Cronin by the Independent party candidate four days before the election, and with conspiracy theories targeting Charles Colson as the mastermind.
Kerry lost big, and now says ""We didn't know what we were doing … We were kids. And we got our asses handed to us. It's a great lesson.'" (We've heard Chris Lehane say the exact same thing about another campaign.)
In 1973, John began, according to Cameron, "'The years in exile,'" settling down with Julia and newborn Alexandra, to mature, attend Boston College Law School, host a radio talk show on WBZ, briefly serve as executive director of MassAction, and, after earning his degree and passing the bar, become a prosecutor in the Middlesex District Attorney's office, to the surprise of his liberal buds.
New Year's Eve 1976, the family expanded with daughter Vanessa ("Nessy," to viewers of last Sunday's "This Week."), and a month later Kerry was named first assistant DA by the frail John Droney to the (surprise!) resentment of others.
He overhauled the office; added staff, especially women; involved himself in some high profile cases; ran into a touch of scandal involving press leaks; and left in 1979, perhaps, Mooney suggests, because of an interest in the top job.
Kerry formed a law practice with another Droney cast-off, and after two and a half years of success, was drawn back into the political game with the opening of the lieutenant governorship in the 1982 election.
Mooney gets this nice part-four-ending quote from Kerry: "'I decided I was going to run for office,'" topped off with the scribe's own coda: "Exile over. He was back in the game."
The Boston Globe 's Names column mourns the absence of wacky Teresa Heinz Kerry comments as she accepted the Dolores Mitchell Lifetime Achievement Award from the Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus in a rambling but charming and inspirational fashion. LINK
Names quotes THK ("women 'work to make this world a whole place''') and Notes the presence of a "60 Minutes"crew for an upcoming piece on Mr. THK. Fall, we hear.
The Boston Globe 's Glen Johnson uses his paper's seven part focus on John Kerry's box of chocolates to check in with Howard Dean and observe that sometimes fire-breathing leads to burns. LINK
Johnson sums up some apology-worthy remarks (his own Iraq "vote," the "pie-in-the-sky" Gephardt crack, his Edwards hit), and cites Monday's insult to judge-appointing Senator Graham as "'not one of the top-tier candidates.'''
Despite Dean's AP apology to his "'good friend," the Graham camp has a meaty retort via Jamal Simmons: '''I'm not sure why Dr. Dean thinks it's in his interest to pick fights with other Democratic candidates, but he underestimates the former governor of the fourth-largest state at his own peril … Bob Graham created twice as many jobs when he was governor of Florida than there are people in the state of Vermont.'''
Johnson quotes longtime Dean-watcher University of Vermont professor Garrison Nelson who links Dean's "'pop-off'" behavior and "'very short fuse'" to his status as a "'loner'" and a doctor.
Tricia Enright takes a rather positive stance on the hothead issue: '''If the country wants a programmed candidate who focus-groups every comment, that's not Howard Dean … The important thing is that if he does make a misstatement, he takes immediate responsibility for it and admits it. For others, everything they say is written and polled, and there really isn't an opportunity for a misstatement.'''
Johnson also offers a comment from Jim Jordan, (whose candidate, it is Noted, has never received an apology): '''It's a real political problem for the self-described 'straight-talk candidate.'"
And by the way, the story points out, Dean did win that Wisconsin straw poll.
"Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean chose a Des Moines home Tuesday to hold what he said was his first event for gays and lesbians in a year," the Des Moines Register reports.
"'These are certainly important Democrats and we certainly welcome their help, but I see this as a part of a general outreach structure to every part of the Democratic Party,' the former Vermont governor said at a house party attended by a few dozen people Tuesday evening in Des Moines."
"As governor of Vermont, Dean established the strongest same-sex marriage laws in the nation. The state has civil unions, a legal relationship that guarantees same-sex couples the same rights and obligations as married heterosexual couples. Dean said he would continue to advocate equal rights if elected president."
"'You can't force civil unions on other states,' Dean said. 'What you can do is make sure that federal rights under the law apply to everybody, and that's what I want to do. We're not talking about requiring Iowa to have civil unions, but we are talking about equal rights under the law.'"
Somewhat bizarrely, the article doesn't mention Canada … .
In Atlantic, Iowa on Tuesday, Dean "called for an independent investigation of President Bush and his justification for the U.S.-led war against Iraq, arguing that the commander in chief misled the country," reports the AP's Mike Glover. LINK
EDWARDS The Manchester Union Leader's Jack Kenny Noted Senator Edwards' rapid-fire response to news that Attorney General John Ashcroft was visiting New Hampshire. LINK
The Raleigh News & Observer's John Wagner writes up Edwards' laying down his marker on the issue of tax cuts.LINK "The move was intended to contrast Edwards' priorities with those of Bush and several rivals for the Democratic nomination, who have proposed canceling Bush tax cuts but would instead use the money for large-scale health-care plans and other initiatives."
"Speaking to business students at Georgetown University, Edwards accused Bush of pursuing a 'radical and dangerous' agenda tilted in favor of those who accumulate wealth from inheritance and investments."
"'I believe the way a rich nation gets richer is by giving all its citizens the chance to get richer, not by only helping those like me who've already succeeded beyond our wildest dreams,' said Edwards, who rose from a family of humble means to become a multi-millionaire trial lawyer before joining the Senate in 1999."
"Edwards said he would pursue a tax code that 'rewards work, not wealth.'"
And if Senator Edwards wants to be compared to Bill Clinton, the RNC is more than happy to oblige.
"Lindsay Taylor, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, dismissed Edwards' plans as 'class warfare' designed to play to a liberal Democratic primary audience. Taylor said that as a candidate, President Clinton also promised tax relief for the middle class. But as president, he delivered 'the largest tax increase in American history,' she said."
Senator Edwards is apparently still working at that day job of his. LINK
But perhaps not as much as the Charlotte Observer ed board would like. LINK
The Hartford Courant's David Lightman uses Senator Lieberman's appearance before the New Democrat Network to explore the potential problem the senator may have in exciting the passions of the moderates and centrists within his party. LINK
"Joe Lieberman, the best-known symbol of the Democratic middle, along with fellow moderates at the New Democrat Network annual meeting, tried Tuesday to show that they have as much passion as those who populate their party's political edges."
"They offered two messages: We moderates care deeply about social justice; and we care deeply about values, God and morality."
"Call them moderates with a heart or compassionate pragmatists, because their well-honed instincts tell them that's the way to take on the compassionate conservatism championed by President Bush. But the Democrats' potent liberal wing recoils at moderate talk. And the crack between the two is slowly growing wider as activists pick sides in the 2004 presidential nominating race."
"The way to beat Bush, and keep liberals from staying home, is to be both caring, strong and unafraid to fight back, said speaker after speaker."
"Lieberman showed how, with remarks that blended words from the heart, social justice and political pragmatism."
"He cited party icons John F. Kennedy and Jesse Jackson, and spent his entire 20-minute speech talking about the need to pull people out of poverty, the kind of social sensibility usually associated with the left wing of the party."
"'I know that some say I'm a different kind of Democrat,' Lieberman said, 'but George Bush is an indifferent kind of Republican, and as a result we risk becoming a poorer — and weaker — nation.'"
Go ahead and click on the link. You won't want to miss Simon Rosenberg's refusal to elaborate on his thoughts about Howard Dean or Mr. Lightman's assessment of how those on the ideological left will react to Senator Lieberman's plan to reduce poverty.
USA Today 's Jill Lawrence and Susan Page have Lieberman "citing a biblical duty 'to raise the destitute up from the dust'". LINK
Hawaii Rep. Ed Case has endorsed Senator Lieberman. LINK
The Washington Post 's Mark Leibovich offers up his profile of Dick Gephardt with the candidate making eloquent but frequent use of his family's history to engage audiences and woo voters, a move the fabulous Leibovich considers "a bold and somewhat risky foray into the politics of personal pain" in an attempt to break away from his image as a dull Washington fixture. LINK
Audiences learn about the agonizing yet ultimately heartwarming story of then-two-year-old son Matt's battle with cancer thirty years ago; the financial toils of schoolteacher daughter Kate; the social challenges to daughter Chrissy, who is gay; the struggles of milk-truck driver father Lou Gephardt; and the medical hardships of mother Loreen, who died earlier this year.
Leibovich describes Gephardt's quiet revelation of her death: "'My mother passed away last week," he said at a candidate forum in Washington last month. The audience went completely silent except for a ringing cell phone. 'She gave me everything I have.'"
Leibovich points out that other candidates use personal experiences to connect with voters (Kerry and Vietnam, Edwards and the mills, Clinton and Hope, Lincoln and the log cabin), but observes that cynics suggest Gephardt's personalized speeches are an attempt to "counteract the criticism that Gephardt, as he himself says, is 'some kind of automaton.'"
Gephardt "is easily dismissed as a Washington fixture, like an old building," Leibovich writes, and says that the seasoned candidate suffers the "mixed blessing" of an unchanging boyish mien with "the same puffy red face, intense blue eyes and invisible eyebrows." Leibovich also quotes the Congressman's oft-repeated "'If you're looking for a fresh face … I'm probably not your guy'" line.
Leibovich brings up Al Gore's controversial comments about his sister's fatal lung cancer and his son's car accident, as well as the 1996 death of John Edwards son, Wade, a subject about which the Senator declines to discuss at length, according to Jennifer Palmieri, in "'a political context.'"
Leibovich Notes that recent Republican presidents such as Bush, Bush and Reagan did not discuss intimate details of their lives, yet quotes Carter Eskew explaining "'[t]he Oprah-ization of politics has created new archetypes.'"
Gephardt's comrades defend his revelatory choices:
Tony Coelho: "'I've seen a newfound freedom with Dick that has been fascinating to watch.'"
Bill Carrick: "' The public and private Dick are much closer now than they were in the 1980s.'"
Ed Riley: Gephardt: "'gradually came to understand the importance of emotional touchstones.'"
Mickey Edwards: "'You reach a point as you get older that personal things become more meaningful and easier to discuss.'"
And Gephardt himself addresses the "'artificial" quality of avoiding life experiences as well as the conundrum that audiences tend to remember visuals but not words, particularly on television (Hey, we hear ya, Buddy.).
Carter Eskew bottom-lines with concern that Gephardt's emotional openness, while possibly valid, may have limits: "'When you burn out all your heavy stories, what do you have left? Where do you go?'"
And for those waiting for the patented Leibovich food reference, Gephardt merely "[sips] decaf in the back of a minivan."
The AP's Beth Fouhy reports from Sunnyvale, California, where Congressman Gephardt "outlined his energy strategy Tuesday, pledging to reduce the country's dependence on foreign oil through a formula of tax credits, research grants and technological innovation." LINK
USA Today 's Jill Lawrence and Susan Page have Congressman Gephardt proposing "a partnership with the auto industry to build 1 million gas-electric hybrid cars by 2010 and 2.5 million fuel-cell vehicles by 2020." The print edition also carries a close-up photo of Congressman Gephardt. LINK
Laura Kurtzman of the San Jose Mercury News writes, "Dick Gephardt came to Silicon Valley on Tuesday and promised to join high-tech executives in their fight against the movement to count stock options as expenses." LINK
Gephardt spoke "to about 175 people at a lunchtime meeting of the Silicon Valley Manufacturing Group at Sunnyvale software maker Synopsys" and said he would co-sponsor a bill "that would block the Securities and Exchange Commission from recognizing new accounting rules on stock options for three years."
"Gephardt is the first in the crowded field of nine Democratic presidential candidates to back the measure, and the move could help the veteran Missouri congressman who has struggled to win high-tech money and support."
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch presents bullet points of Gephardt's energy plan. LINK
The Boston Globe 's Scot Lehigh writes up a balance sheet for health-care-keen Dick Gephardt, and finds him a flawed but plausible threat to homegrown sorta "frontrunner" John Kerry. LINK
On the plus side: "Start with a keen intellect, strategic acumen, a folksy presentation, a strong campaign team, and reservoirs of Democratic good will. Next, there's Iowa, the leadoff (caucus) state. The neighboring Missourian enjoys an early lead in the state that launched him briefly into contention in the 1988 campaign."
On the minus side: "Besides doubts about whether a battle-scarred legislative leader who first ran for president back in 1988 is the party's best choice in 2004, there's also an ideological oscillation that lends itself to questions of expediency," Notably his evolution from "conservative Democrat to tough-talking trade populist to labor progressive to Democratic Leadership Council moderate — and now, to universal health care crusader."
NEW HAMPSHIRE Two endorsements of Note: new Democrat (and also a New Democrat) State Rep. Corey Corbin endorsed Senator Lieberman; Susan Calegari, who served as Bill Bradley's deputy state director in 2000, endorsed Senator Kerry.
Slate's Will Saletan looks at Ambassador Moseley Braun's rhetorical tropes. LINK
CLARK The Draft Clark folks were in abundance at the New Democrat Network event in Washington yesterday, passing out flyers touting their organizational success.
PoliticsNH.com's Pindell reports they filed a statement of organization with the Federal Election Commission. LINK And The Note spied Clark buying at copy of "Living History" at Senator Clinton's book party last night, and he seemed to pay full price.
Big Casino budget politics, Medicare: The Wall Street Journal 's John Harwood uses his column to set up the politics of Medicare changes for the president and his party.
It's a must read.
" … (F)ormer House Speaker Newt Gingrich Tuesday called the (Medicare) bill 'a profound threat' to Medicare that Republicans must fix before sending to the president's desk; the Republican Revolution, this isn't. The size of government, as a proportion of the overall economy, declined slightly under Ronald Reagan, increased slightly under George H.W. Bush, then declined sharply under Bill Clinton. In just two years under the current president, its 1.3 percentage-point increase — to 19.9% — already has nearly equaled what took Jimmy Carter four years to achieve … ."
"Mr. Bush's campaign advisers have concluded that the political risk of skipping the harder choices is minimal. The president has well secured his base on the right with leadership on tax cuts and the war on terrorism. Conservatives may punish Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist for this bill in 2008 Republican primaries, but not Mr. Bush in 2004."
"To the contrary, Mr. Bush might win points with moderates by skirmishing with the likes of Mr. Gingrich and the Heritage Foundation, which has posted a red "Disaster" alert on its Web site that bemoans an 'unconscionable … failure of leadership.' Bill Clinton similarly profited from liberal angst over welfare reform in 1996 … ."
"Indeed, the leverage of those seeking cost controls appears to be getting weaker, not stronger, as more lawmakers contemplate a politically gratifying end of their long stalemate over a drug benefit. When George W. Bush and Ted Kennedy compete on health care, Mr. Kennedy has home-field advantage."
"That won't help the senator's party recapture the White House next year. And his fellow Democrats could yet regret the collaboration if it sets the stage for Mr. Bush to secure Social Security privatization in 2005. For now, however, Mr. Bush's principles are at odds with Washington's realities, and they are losing."
The New York Times and Washington Post both track Medicare progress in the House and the talkathon in the Senate, with some conservatives worried about expanding entitlements and some liberals worried about ending Medicare as we know it, leaving the package either safely in the center or on the verge of being picked apart by both sides — although the members of the Gang of 500 with medical/policy bents see it as more the former than the latter. LINK
Still, the Los Angeles Times' Janet Hook Notes that "free-market conservatives" worry the White House will add unrealized Medicare reform to the scare list of steel tariffs and the farm bill. LINK
"Some Republicans say that retreat badly undercut any effort to accomplish broader reforms."
"'President Bush made it harder for us to come up with a responsible bill,' said Senator Trent Lott (R-Miss.). Conservative suspicions of the Senate bill, which won bipartisan approval by the Finance Committee last week, were fueled when it was embraced by Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), the liberal icon."
"'When you have Ted Kennedy out there saying, "This is the greatest thing since sliced bread," our members are saying, "Why are we for this?"' said Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.)."
Knight Ridder's Tony Pugh takes a look at the "estimated 6.5 million people who get health care through both Medicaid and Medicare, the nation's public-health plans for the impoverished and the elderly, respectively. Most are poor, sick and old." LINK
"As Congress nears approval of legislation that will spend $400 billion over 10 years subsidizing prescription-drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries, dual enrollees [ … ] have become a political hot potato. Neither state governments, stung by tax revenue shortfalls and rising Medicaid costs, nor the federal government, which is trying to rein in Medicare costs, wants primary responsibility for paying the $16 billion prescription-drug tab that dual enrollees run up annually."
The Boston Globe 's Robert Kuttner doesn't think too much of Bush's Medicare stance. LINK
Big Casino budget politics, taxes: David Broder says the Grover Norquist's openness about his desire for lower taxes and less government is tipping liberals off to the fact that the conservative movement in America wants lower taxes and less government, and now they are so mad about it they might actually organize to try to stop it. LINK
Grover says: liberals already knew, and Karl Rove doesn't mind the openness.
Another must-read, unless you don't think these are important/big issues.
"When a coalition of wealthy families, small-business groups and farm interests won temporary repeal of the estate tax two years ago, they immediately resumed their campaign for permanent repeal. Now, even as the House is expected to vote today for just that, some in the alliance have second thoughts," the Post 's Jonathan Weisman big-thinks. LINK
"It's not that they have backed off their vehement opposition to the tax on large inheritances. Rather, as the federal budget deficit grows and their patriarchs and matriarchs age, they are losing faith that permanent repeal will ever happen and are considering compromises that were unthinkable two years ago."
The AP's Mary Dalrymple writes that the House plans to vote today on a bill "that permanently abolishes the estate tax, a levy that Republicans condemn as a 'death tax.'" LINK
Dalrymple Notes: "A nearly identical bill that passed last year died in the Senate. House Republicans said the odds that the bill will become law have improved this year with the GOP in control of both houses of Congress and the White House."
Big Casino budget politics:
Roll Call 's Emily Pierce does her best David Firestone impersonation and describes what Senator Baucus calls a "macho thing."
"Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) are fighting again, and this time both the child tax credit bill and the Medicare prescription drug bill are caught in the crossfire."
"The lawmakers are at odds over who should preside over the conference committee to reconcile the Senate's bill to send $400 tax rebate checks to low-income families with a broader House bill."
Brody Mullins of Roll Call continues on the hunt through the financial disclosure forms and comes up with an interesting look at how the stock market dive of 2002 affected members of Congress.
"Members of Congress and their families lost millions of dollars last year in some of the biggest stock collapses in history."
"According to recently released forms that show where lawmakers invested their money in 2002, House Members and Senators lost between $2 million and $5 million by sinking their money into ill-fated companies as they careened into bankruptcy."
"In all, dozens of Members combined to lose between $583,000 and $1.6 million in WorldCom, between $781,000 and $1.9 million in UAL-owned United Airlines and $10,000 to $150,000 in Global Crossing Ltd."
"The hard-luck investments were spread between both parties. Losers included Democratic presidential candidates John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) — who lost money on investments in Conseco Inc. and WorldCom, respectively, while former Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) failed to sell his 200-share investment in Mississippi-based WorldCom until two months after the company filed for bankruptcy. At that time, the company's stock was worth pennies."
The Wall Street Journal editorial board is, shall we say, deeply skeptical about Congressman Don Young and highway spending.
California recall: Are "leading Democrats" different from "top-ranking Democrats?" Apparently, state comptroller Steve Westly is a member of the latter group but not the former.
Read the leads carefully …
"After months of refusing to say whether they might run to replace Gov. Gray Davis in a recall election, two leading Democratic contenders said Tuesday that they would not join the race if it occurs, offering Davis the first hint of party unity he has sought to save him from getting tossed out of office," the Los Angeles Times reports. LINK
According to the San Francisco Chronicle's Salladay and Marinucci: "Three top-ranking Democrats with large campaign war chests removed their names Tuesday from consideration to replace Gov. Gray Davis in a possible recall election, declaring the entire campaign odious and a threat to democracy." LINK
"[Westly] declared outright that he would not run. Lockyer and Angelides left the door slightly cracked by saying they don't "intend" to run on the recall ballot. But their comments were so forceful that it appeared nearly certain that three important players were removed from the elaborate game."
The Times Notes: "The Democrat most notably silent on Tuesday was Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante."
On Inside Politics, Bob Novak mused about the possibility that Governor Davis would resign if the recall petition made the ballot, ceding the state to Bustamante (and thus, effectively ending the recall crusade).
On the one hand, we had sympathy for Representative Darrell Issa: His appearance on Hannity and Colmes last night was interrupted by a FOX NEWS ALERT about a car chase in his home state.
On the other hand, the cable nets kind of like that type of thing, and we presume Congressman Issa is familiar with the charming quirks of that broadcast genre.
The Clintons of Chappaqua: If the Clintons and Bushes didn't exist, in all their rich thematics, what would MoDo write about (since one can only get 3 or 4 columns a year out of leafing through women's magazines and going to the press tour … .)? LINK
And Al Kamen gets practically his whole column out of the Clinton's today, with three Chappaqua items, our favorite of which involves the insinuation that Senator Craig thinks Senator Clinton hijacked the Bruce Willis event. LINK
Under an all caps headline that reads "NO HATE HERE," A3 of The Washington Times carries a large photo of HRC embracing Trev Broudy on Capitol Hill yesterday during a news conference about the need for hate crime legislation. The caption reports: "Mr. Broudy was attacked by men with a baseball bat six months ago in West Hollywood, Calif."
The New York Post 's Page Six mocks the adoring crowd at the Clinton Four Seasons book party, sniffing "It was amusing watching blasé New York media heavies get starstruck in front of Bill and Senator Hillary Clinton and jockey for position as if they were bobby-soxers trying to get close to Frank Sinatra." LINK
The Post also had its ears open for political talk, with 42 overheard saying "'No I'm not running for mayor. The path is clear for John [Catsimatidis] and Gifford [Miller]'" while others were no doubt checking out his hands.
The New York Post 's Liz Smith also attended the party, and eyed the guests of honor: "both Clintons looking absolutely trim and marvelous." LINK
The New York Daily News' Rush and Molloy follow an overwhelmed, belle-of-the-ball Hillary Clinton at the Four Seasons party, as she signed, mingled, and celebrated with the celebrated. LINK
The Washington Post 's Lloyd Grove is keeping an eye on whether "Living History"-dissing Tucker Carlson will have to eat a shoe. LINK
The New York Post 's Andrea Peyser anticipates frosty avoidance as Bill Clinton and Rudy Giuliani attend the Four Seasons of Hope benefit at Cipriani 42nd Street. LINK
Peyser gets all excited unraveling the complex orchestrations to get both men there, with separate arrivals and no planned handshakes.
Jim Kennedy acknowledged via email that Clinton's "'foundation is receiving a charitable contribution'" for his efforts.
You are going to want to find the hard copy of the New York Times with the picture (on A21 in our paper) of Senator Clinton, Senator Lieberman, and Congressman Boehlert, and you are going to want to enjoy the facial expression that Senator Clinton is making.
Campaign finance: The Los Angeles Times breaks news of a federal investigation "into the activities of celebrity fund-raiser Aaron Tonken[and] his involvement with a $1-million Hollywood political event for Hillary Rodham Clinton's 2000 Senate campaign.:
"The inquiry raises the stakes in a longstanding controversy that has pitted Bill and Hillary Clinton against some of their most dogged critics who have publicly questioned the source of underwriting for the gala. For Tonken, it also opens the prospect of cooperation with authorities in return for a possible plea deal." LINK
"It couldn't be determined whether Clinton or her campaign is a target, and a spokesman for the New York senator said her office had no information on any probe."
"Tonken has not testified before a grand jury, said sources close to the case, who requested anonymity."
"In addition, allegations by California's attorney general that Tonken has engaged in fraudulent fund-raising activities could later be used to challenge his credibility. Still, sources say, investigators are interested in the event he organized in August 2000, on the eve of the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles."
"Last week, U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Game Jr. postponed proceedings against Tonken on one charge of mail fraud in connection with his charity work. At the time, Game sealed a stipulation related to the 90-day delay, citing sensitive matters discussed in the court papers."
For the rest of today's Note please click here.LINK