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Cracker Squire


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Location: Douglas, Coffee Co., The Other Georgia, United States

Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Bush Team Casts Foes as Defeatist - Blunt Rhetoric Signals a New Thrust

From The Washington Post:

President Bush and his surrogates are launching a new campaign intended to rebuild support for the war in Iraq by accusing the opposition of aiming to appease terrorists and cut off funding for troops on the battlefield, charges that many Democrats say distort their stated positions.

With an appearance before the American Legion in Salt Lake City today, Bush will begin a series of speeches over 20 days centered on the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. But he and his top lieutenants have foreshadowed in recent days the thrust of the effort to put Democrats on the defensive with rhetoric that has further inflamed an already emotional debate.

Bush suggested last week that Democrats are promising voters to block additional money for continuing the war. Vice President Cheney this week said critics "claim retreat from Iraq would satisfy the appetite of the terrorists and get them to leave us alone." And Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, citing passivity toward Nazi Germany before World War II, said that "many have still not learned history's lessons" and "believe that somehow vicious extremists can be appeased."

Pressed to support these allegations, the White House yesterday could cite no major Democrat who has proposed cutting off funds or suggested that withdrawing from Iraq would persuade terrorists to leave Americans alone. But White House and Republican officials said those are logical interpretations of the most common Democratic position favoring a timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq.

"A lot of the people who say we need to withdraw from Iraq say we'll be safer, and I don't think that's accurate," said Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, a key architect of the party's strategy heading into the fall congressional campaign. Mehlman noted that al-Qaeda leaders and other Islamic radicals have said they want to drive Americans out of Iraq and use it as a base.

The White House strategy of equating Democratic dissent with defeatism worked during the 2002 and 2004 elections, but it could prove more difficult this time.

[S]trategists in both parties believe that the coming congressional elections will turn in large part on the Iraq war and whether voters believe it is part of the global battle against terrorism or a distraction from it. Bush advisers hope that the legacy of Sept. 11 will rally the public back to the unpopular president and his party, while Democrats are trying to tap into broad discontent with the Iraq war.

Republicans plan to load the congressional agenda with national security issues, including votes on spending for the military, terrorism-fighting measures and symbolic bills supporting U.S. troops. Democrats plan to force votes on providing more equipment to U.S. troops, implementing the recommendations of the bipartisan Sept. 11 commission and condemning Bush's Iraq policy.

The Democratic strategy for the next few weeks is twofold: First, punch back every time Republicans challenge their commitment to national security. Yesterday, for instance, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) was among the half-dozen leading Democrats to strike back at Rumsfeld by noontime. "Secretary Rumsfeld's efforts to smear critics of the Bush administration's Iraq policy are a pathetic attempt to shift the public's attention from his repeated failure to manage the conduct of the war competently," she said.

At the same time, Democrats plan a series of events in which to condemn Bush's Iraq policy and amplify their charge that Iraq is not a central front in the campaign against terrorism. In a late-morning conference call, Sen. Jack Reed (R.I.), the Democrats' leading spokesman on national security issues, said only a small minority of those involved in the bloodshed in Iraq are the kind of international terrorists the United States should be hunting down.

Unlike in the past two elections, it is not clear which party benefits most from these debates. Most polls show that the public is essentially split over which party will keep the United States safe from terrorists. Both sides anticipate that Bush and other Republicans will get a slight bump from the Sept. 11 anniversary and the public's renewed focus on terrorism on that day, but that will not end the focus. "Over the next 69 days," Mehlman said, "there will be an important discussion in America over what it takes to make America safe."

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Despite their lead in the polls, Democrats are concerned, and even feuding, about whether they will have enough cash to take back the House this fall

From Time:

Why the Democrats Are Worrying About Money

Democrats have been leading in the polls for months now, but that doesn't mean everyone in the party is feeling so comfortable about their chances to regain the House in November.

Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago congressman in charge of getting House Democrats elected, has already been in a months-long feud with Howard Dean, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, complaining that Dean isn't spending enough of the DNC's money on this year's congressional races. But now Emanuel is expanding his fight with other groups in his own party, blasting George Soros and MoveOn.org, two key sources of campaign cash for liberal candidates in 2004, for not spending enough money so far in 2006.

Noting that MoveOn.org had ran ads in four key congressional races earlier this summer and then stopped, Emanuel told the New York Daily News "they literally moved on. The election is in November, and they moved on in June. 'What is going on here?' I don't get it. I'm bewildered." On Soros, Emanuel said "he says his No. 1 priority is taking back the House. I say, 'Okay, I'm into that. So what are we going to do?.

Both Soros and MoveOn.org sharply defended themselves, with MoveOn Washington director Tom Matzzie telling TIME of Emanuel's remarks that "it's really in poor taste, it shows no class and its not not going to help Democrats get elected." (MoveOn says it stopped running ads in the earlier districts because Emanuel's Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is now involved in those races so they've focused their efforts on other places where ads by Democratic groups aren't running)

But the flare-up underscores one of the Democrats' biggest worries about this fall's elections: money. Top party officials are fretting that the GOP will dominate the ad wars in September and October. "My greatest fear is there will be a wall of money coming in at the end," said David Plouffe, a Democratic strategist working on some of the House campaigns. House Democrats actually have almost the same amount of money as House Republicans, $33 million to $34 million but the Republican National Committee has $43 million, compared to $11 million for Dean's DNC.

And GOP interest groups are putting in big ad buys as well. Democratic congressional officials were concerned earlier this month when the Chamber of Commerce starting running thousands of dollars in ads in key districts, praising several vulnerable GOP incumbents such as U.S. Rep. Thelma Drake of the Virginia Beach area for their support of the Medicare prescription drug benefit; the Democratic challengers in those races couldn't respond, hoping to save their money for the end of the year. In fact, for all Emanuel's criticism, one of the few liberal groups actually running ads is MoveOn.org, which currently has spots up in a handful of congressional districts, attacking Republicans like Charlie Bass of New Hampshire for their support of the Iraq war. MoveOn.org has so far spent more than $2 million dollars on ads in House races, although this still pales in comparison to the GOP-supporting Chamber of Commerce, which has already spent a combined $10 million on House and Senate races.

Looking at key individual races only highlights the problems the Democrats have as they try to up pick the 15 seats the party must gain to take control of the House. In the suburbs of Philadelphia, according to the last campaign finance filing, Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy had $960,000, compared to $2 million from Republican incumbent Mike Fitzpatrick. In a district near Denver, Democratic challenger Ed Perlmutter had raised $250,000, compared to $1.2 million for Rick O'Donnell. If an anti-incumbent wave hits, heavily underfunded Democrats could still win, but party officials think money that allows GOP candidates to bombard races with either positive or negative ads could be the difference. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi has spent much of August on a 25-city fundraising tour, raising $5 million for the party.

But even if they can raise enough money, the Dems continue to worry that, as in 2002 and 2004, the GOP might beat them in getting core supporters to the polls. This has become the latest issue in the battle between Dean and other Democratic officials, who are worried Dean won't put enough money or the right people to win the "ground game" in key races. Emanuel has reportedly reached out to Michael Whouley, a veteran organizer who was a key strategist in John Kerry's come-from-behind victory in the Iowa caucuses in 2004, to help Democrats with turnout. And when people approach Pelosi for autographs on her road trips, she's been imploring them to knock on doors in support of their local candidates.

Despite the critique by some Democrats that in 2002 and 2004 the party lost because they didn't have a clear message, Democratic officials feel are much less concerned about the party's proposals than about money and mobilizing voters.

After months of discussions, the Democrats came up with their campaign platform "A New Direction for America" last month and many candidates are now pushing some of the ideas in it, such as increasing the minimum wage, reversing President Bush's policy on stem cell research and making college tuition tax deductible.

The internal discussions that shaped the document included bringing in a bunch of corporate consultants who helped Democrats structure the plan. Jack Trout, a Connecticut marketing expert who has helped IBM and Burger King, said the party should define its message in terms of clearly "differentiating" themselves from the GOP, a term nearly every Democratic lawmaker is now using.

The opening line of the Democrats' agenda — "Congressional Democrats believe America should work for everyone, not just those at the top" — is a message Trout promoted constantly in conference calls and in meetings, while Democrats picked six issues, rather than five or seven, at the urging of software entrepreneur John Cullinane, who has been consulting with House Democrats since 2004. ("Seven too many, five is too few" he says)

Still, the marketing experts weren't all that happy with the final product. Trout said "they tend to do a lot of laundry listing," while George Lakoff, a University of California professor of linguistics who Democrats brought in to talk about their use of language, said "it doesn't get to the deepest values and principles behind what the Democrats believe."

Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold, who is considering a 2008 presidential run, was even less impressed. He called the Democrats proposal on Iraq, which asks President Bush to start withdrawing troops from Iraq this year, "weak tea." In a meeting with TIME reporters earlier this month, Feingold said "running out the clock, this is so much what the Democrats are trying to do. They're going to play it safe." He called for a much bolder agenda from the party, including a universal health care plan, full withdrawal of troops from Iraq this year and a commitment to stop any attempt to ban gay marriage. In fact, Democrats wouldn't have to look too far for some bolder ideas. Emanuel, along with another former Clinton White House adviser, Bruce Reed, just released a book called The Plan that calls for universal national service, requiring that every job come with a 401k plan, and expanding the army by 100,000 troops.

But the agenda satisfied the Democrats' overriding goal: offer something that didn't give the Republicans much to shoot at, but wouldn't allow the GOP to say its rivals have no ideas. Democrats believe the lesson from 1994 — when the Republicans put out a 10-point plan for governing called "The Contract With America" and won huge margins that gave them control of the House and the Senate — wasn't that the Contract helped the GOP get elected: most voters hadn't heard of the Republicans plan when they cast their ballots. Democrats say, that like 1994, an anti-incumbency feeling exists all over they country, and they need to keep voters focused on what President Bush and the Republicans have done wrong. So Democrats eschewed a big health care plan, for example, because they worried it would reinforce the Republican critique of Democrats as the "tax and spend" party. "Eighty percent of our message is negative," one party strategist said.

It’s all about the sheriffs

From the ajc's Political Insider:

Over at Hotline on Call there’s an interesting analysis of party politics in Georgia and Arkansas. It makes an argument that a lot of old-timers would say amen to: That sheriff’s races, or in this case sheriffs’ endorsements, are the truest measure of where party politics is at the grassroots level.

And the link to Hotline on Call notes in part:

The below press [release is] helpful in explaining, in part, why . . . Dems are . . . not given much of a chance in Atlanta [to regain the governor's mansion].

Gov. Sonny Perdue (R), the first GOP governor in the history of his state, crows about picking up the endorsement of 76 of Georgia's county sheriffs, 37 of whom are Dems.

Why the big deal?

As Georgia elects more Republicans up and down the ballot, the last bastion of rural Dem strength, the so-called "courthouse crowd," becomes more comfortable crossing party lines and publicly stating their support for statewide GOP candidates. Surely such Dem sheriffs are already -- and have been for some time -- voting for Republican presidents. Now they're backing a GOP governor over a South Georgia Democrat, LG Mark Taylor, with deep roots in his party's rural tradition. The next logical step is to back Republicans at the local level and, finally, to switch parties, themselves. The end result is the political death of the Dems' "courthouse crowd" and the top-to-bottom dominance of the GOP in states like Georgia. Without a local bench, where will Dems find their state house and congressional candidates?

Bush Speeches to Stress Stakes in Iraq

According to the Wall Street Journal, President Bush plans to launch another major public-relations offensive to strengthen support for the war in Iraq ahead of the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, a campaign apparently previewed yesterday by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who equated criticism of the administration's strategies with appeasement of Nazi Germany before World War II.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

In case you missed the Monday debate in Milledgeville between Barrow & Burns, you can tune into an even better one today: Andre Walker v. Decaturguy

On Monday night the debate was between Barrow and Burns. According to The Macon Telegraph:

Barrow, who described himself as an independent-minded Democrat who is not beholden to the party's more liberal leaders in California and Massachusetts, said he has voted against amnesty for illegal aliens and "cutting and running in Iraq," while voting for tax cuts, traditional marriage and gun-owners rights.

Speaking just before the debate, he cast himself as a "conservative-Democrat" of the same mold as U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall, the former Macon Mayor and current Democratic Congressman who represented this part of the state prior to the recent redistricting.

(Also see The Macon Telegraph article reporting that "U.S. Rep. John Barrow on Monday called himself an independent unafraid to buck the Democratic Party.")

Forget about the Barrow and Burns debate. The best one is found today in the Peach Pundit.

In one corner is Andre Walker of Georgia Politics Unfiltered. Andre writes:

"I’ve been lucky enough to gain front-page posting privileges, here at 'PeachPundit', and while you may expect me to use this opportunity to indoctrinate you with certain liberal politics and philosophies, I won’t because I’m not your typical Democrat."

"In short, I’m not your typical Democrat, but a Democrat nonetheless, and while members of my own party might accuse me of giving Republicans some 'bi-partisan cover', I’m used to it, and they should know by now from my postings at 'Georgia Unfiltered' that I’m not one to tow the party line because Democrats aren’t always right and Republicans aren’t always wrong."

And in the other corner is Decaturguy of Atlanta Public Affairs, who responds to Andre as follows:

"Andre is a political opportunist and wanna be Democratic Party insider. His positions on abortion and gay marriage have nothing to do with personal conviction. He is taking those positions because he believes they are politically popular."

Monday, August 28, 2006

Most Georgia lawmakers continue to stand behind Bush on war

From an AP article in The Macon Telegraph:

Despite growing opposition to the war among Americans and warnings that Iraq is descending into civil war, most Georgia lawmakers in Washington are standing behind President Bush's call to stay the course in the conflict.

With some exceptions among members of Congress from the Atlanta area, lawmakers say the kind of anti-war sentiment that helped defeat incumbent Sen. Joe Lieberman in Connecticut's Democratic primary this month has not significantly penetrated their districts.

[Georgia's two] Democratic congressmen facing difficult re-election battles - John Barrow of Savannah and Jim Marshall of Macon - said they back the White House position on withdrawal.

"We invaded that country; we dismantled its government; we disbanded its army. And that means that we need to see this through," Barrow said. "There have been incredible mistakes, but I think our focus needs to be on getting the Iraqis in a position where they can take care of themselves."

Marshall, a Vietnam veteran, said leaving the country in its current state would be disastrous for Iraq, the Middle East, and U.S. national security.

"It's still too early to tell whether the Iraqis can pull themselves together, but they surely won't if we decide to leave precipitously," Marshall said.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Democrats Split Over Timetable For Troops - In Close Races, Most Reject Rapid Pullout

From The Washington Post:

Most Democratic candidates in competitive congressional races are opposed to setting a timetable for pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq, rejecting pressure from liberal activists to demand a quick end to the three-year-old military conflict.

Of the 59 Democrats in hotly contested House and Senate races, a majority agree with the Bush administration that it would be unwise to set a specific schedule for troop withdrawal, and only a few are calling for substantial troop reductions to begin this year, according to a Washington Post survey of the campaigns.

The large number of Democrats opposed to a strict timeline for ending the military operations runs contrary to the assertion by President Bush and top Republicans that Democrats want to "cut and run" amid mounting casualties and signs of civil war. At the same time, the decision by many Democrats to refrain from advocating a specific plan for withdrawal complicates their leaders' efforts to convince voters that they offer a clear new direction for the increasingly unpopular war.

While Republicans have largely stood by Bush in opposing a timetable for troop withdrawal, congressional Democratic leaders this month coalesced around calls to begin drawing down troop levels by December, with no specified pace or completion date. But rank-and-file Democrats are far from unified.

With polls showing that a majority of Americans believe it was a mistake for the United States to invade Iraq, some Democrats say the wisest political course is to blame Bush and the GOP for problems in Iraq but avoid getting drawn into a debate with Republicans over how they would go about dealing with the war.

Democrats are pressing Republican lawmakers to defend Bush's war policies in the face of mounting troop and civilian casualties in Iraq, and to explain why the GOP-controlled Congress did not scrutinize mistakes by the administration and the military in prewar planning. Democrats say they would have held Bush accountable for what they deem his mismanagement of the invasion, occupation and rebuilding of Iraq. They promise rigorous oversight of the war if they take control of either chamber.

Issues Await if Democrats Retake House

From The New York Times:

As the start of the fall campaign looms and House Democrats remain within realistic reach of reclaiming the majority, party leaders are beginning to explore the delicate question of what happens if they win.

Rusty from being out of power for 12 years, Democrats are rethinking how they should parcel out coveted committee chairmanships and the other plums that would come with House control at a time when the party’s potential chairmen are increasingly being portrayed by Republicans as liberal extremists.

Democratic leaders are hinting they might abandon party tradition and award sought-after slots not solely on the basis of seniority, but instead follow the Republican lead of also weighing such factors as legislative record, diversity and work for the good of the party.

“Seniority is a consideration, but merit of course must come first,” said Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leader, who has approved a review of party rules so Democrats are not left scrambling should they reach their political goal.

Since winning the majority in 1994, Republicans have not hesitated to pass over senior lawmakers for chairmanships in favor of members more in tune with the leadership’s ideology or more assertive in fund-raising than their rivals.

Democrats anticipate they could face something of a generational clash in the event of a takeover. All of the lawmakers in line to lead major committees were in Congress before Republicans gained control in the 1994 elections, and some have bided their time in the minority for one more chance at the gavel.

But most of the Democratic caucus has been elected since 1994, and there will be some Young Turks who will argue that the old-line Democrats had their chance and that power should be shared. Already there have been calls to retain the term limits that Republicans imposed on their committee chairmen.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Bush's New Iraq Argument: It Could Be Worse

From The Washington Post:

Of all the words that President Bush used at his news conference this week to defend his policies in Iraq, the one that did not pass his lips was "progress."

For three years, the president tried to reassure Americans that more progress was being made in Iraq than they realized. But with Iraq either in civil war or on the brink of it, Bush dropped the unseen-progress argument in favor of the contention that things could be even worse.

The shifting rhetoric reflected a broader pessimism that has reached into even some of the most optimistic corners of the administration -- a sense that the Iraq venture has taken a dark turn and will not be resolved anytime soon. Bush advisers once believed that if they met certain benchmarks, such as building a constitutional democracy and training a new Iraqi army, the war would be won. Now they believe they have more or less met those goals, yet the war rages on.

While still committed to the venture, officials have privately told friends and associates outside government that they have grown discouraged in recent months. Even the death of al-Qaeda's leader in Iraq proved not to be the turning point they expected, they have told associates, and other developments have been relentlessly dispiriting, with fewer signs of hope.

Bush acknowledged this week that he has been discouraged as well. "Frustrated?" he asked. "Sometimes I'm frustrated. Rarely surprised. Sometimes I'm happy. This is -- but war is not a time of joy. These aren't joyous times. These are challenging times and they're difficult times and they're straining the psyche of our country."

Presidential counselor Dan Bartlett said Bush and his advisers still believe progress is being made and the war will be won. "No question about it, the last three months have been much more challenging," he said. "Are we always going to be pleased with the pace? No. There are days that are frustrating. But is the overall direction going the right way? . . . The answer to that is yes."

The tone represents a striking change from what critics considered an overly rosy portrayal of Iraq, and the latest stage in a year-long evolution in message.

With sectarian violence flaring into some of the worst bloodshed since the March 2003 invasion, the White House felt the need to connect with the anxiety in the American public. "Most of the people rightly are concerned about the security situation, as is the president," Bartlett said.

But with crucial midterm elections just 2 1/2 months away, Bush and his team are trying to turn the public debate away from whether the Iraq invasion has worked out to what would happen if U.S. troops were withdrawn, as some Democrats advocate. The necessity of not failing, Bush advisers believe, is now a more compelling argument than the likelihood of success.

Using such terms as "havoc" at Monday's news conference, Bush made no effort to suggest the situation in Iraq is improving. Instead, he argued: "If you think it's bad now, imagine what Iraq would look like if the United States leaves before this government can defend itself."

Christopher F. Gelpi, a Duke University scholar whose research on public opinion in wartime has been influential in the White House, said Bush has little choice.

"He looks foolish and not credible if he says, 'We're making progress in Iraq,' " Gelpi said. "I think he probably would like to make that argument, but because that's not credible given the facts on the ground, this is the fallback. . . . If the only thing you can say is 'Yes, it's bad, but it could be worse,' that really is a last-ditch argument."

As recently as two weeks ago, Bush was still making the case that things in Iraq are better than they seem. The new Iraqi government "has shown remarkable progress on the political front," he said on Aug. 7, calling its mere existence "quite a remarkable achievement."

The White House and the Republican National Committee regularly send e-mails to supporters and journalists highlighting positive developments. In yesterday's Wall Street Journal, an article by U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad argued that a shift in security operations in Baghdad has shown "positive results" and said that "this initial progress should give Iraqis, as well as Americans, hope about the future."

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said on a radio show this week that violence is largely limited to four of 18 provinces and that "the government now is starting to get its legs under it."

But Bush has been ruminating on the different nature of Iraq and the battle with Islamic radicals and how hard it is to define victory. "Veterans of World War II and Korea will tell you we were able to measure progress based upon miles gained or based upon tanks destroyed, or however people measured war in those days," he said in a speech last week. "This is different . . . and it's hard on the American people, and I understand that."

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a strong supporter of the war, suggested this week that the Bush team has only itself to blame for setting unrealistic expectations.

"One of the biggest mistakes we made was underestimating the size of the task and the sacrifices that would be required," McCain said. " 'Stuff happens,' 'mission accomplished,' 'last throes,' 'a few dead-enders.' I'm just more familiar with those statements than anyone else because it grieves me so much that we had not told the American people how tough and difficult this task would be."

Such statements, he said, have "contributed enormously to the frustration that Americans feel today because they were led to believe this could be some kind of day at the beach." Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) offered a similar assessment. "I think we undersold how hard the war would be," he told reporters this week. "I think we oversold how easy it would be to create democracy. I think we missed by a mile how much it would cost to rebuild Iraq."

Through much of the war, Bush and his advisers focused on meeting benchmarks laid out for rebuilding Iraq -- writing a new constitution, electing a new parliament, bringing disaffected Sunnis into the government and training Iraqi troops. As long as those benchmarks were met, the president had tangible events to point to as evidence of progress.

But the last step in that original timetable, election of a permanent parliament last December, has come and gone with no end to the violence. When Bush mentioned that election at his news conference, he depicted it not as progress but a sign that Iraqis want progress. "It's an indication about the desire for people to live in a free society," he said.

Bush used to mention the number of Iraqi troops trained as another barometer to watch, suggesting that once a new army is in place, it could defend its country. Yet 294,000 Iraqi troops have been trained, just shy of the goal of 325,000, and no U.S. official expects to turn over the war entirely to them anytime soon.

Instead, Bush has publicly emphasized how much his administration is changing tactics to deal with the evolving threats in Iraq, and he has privately reached out for advice about further steps to take. He had lunch at the Pentagon last week with four Middle East experts to solicit ideas about how to stabilize Iraq.

"I would say he was deeply concerned about how many lives are being lost, both American and Iraqi, and how much this is costing the American taxpayer," said Eric Davis, a Rutgers University professor who was among those invited, who urged Bush to launch a New Deal-style economic program in Iraq. "He would like to see progress sooner rather than later."

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Praise the Lord! Poll shows Americans increasingly see the war in Iraq as distinct from the fight against terrorism

From The New York Times:

Americans increasingly see the war in Iraq as distinct from the fight against terrorism, and nearly half believe President Bush has focused too much on Iraq to the exclusion of other threats, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

The poll found that 51 percent of those surveyed saw no link between the war in Iraq and the broader antiterror effort, a jump of 10 percentage points since June. That increase comes despite the regular insistence of Mr. Bush and Congressional Republicans that the two are intertwined and should be seen as complementary elements of a strategy to prevent domestic terrorism.

Should the trend hold, the rising skepticism could present a political obstacle for Mr. Bush and his allies on Capitol Hill, who are making their record on terrorism a central element of the midterm election campaign. The Republicans hope that by expressing a desire for forceful action against terrorists, they can offset unease with the Iraq war and blunt the political appeal of Democratic calls to establish a timeline to withdraw American troops.

Democrats in recent weeks have tried to portray the war in Iraq as a distraction from essential antiterror initiatives, and the poll indicates that the message may be working. Democrats say the war has sapped resources from tracking terrorists and bolstering domestic security.

“We took our eye off the real war, the war on terror,” Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, said in a conference call with reporters on Tuesday.

With the recent fighting in Lebanon, the public is more pessimistic about the possibility of peace between Israel and its neighbors. Only 26 percent of those surveyed could envision Israel and the Arab countries settling their differences, while 70 percent could not — a figure up six percentage points from last month.

Most of those surveyed, 56 percent, said they did not believe that the country had a responsibility to help resolve the conflicts between Israel and other Middle Eastern countries, while 39 percent said it did.

I promised to “end welfare as we know it,” to make welfare a 2nd chance, not a way of life, exactly the change most welfare recipients wanted it to be

From the August 22, 2006 issue of The New York Times:

How We Ended Welfare, Together

By Bill Clinton

TEN years ago today I signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. By then I had long been committed to welfare reform. As a governor, I oversaw a workfare experiment in Arkansas in 1980 and represented the National Governors Association in working with Congress and the Reagan administration to draft the welfare reform bill enacted in 1988.

Yet when I ran for president in 1992, our system still was not working for the taxpayers or for those it was intended to help. In my first State of the Union address, I promised to “end welfare as we know it,” to make welfare a second chance, not a way of life, exactly the change most welfare recipients wanted it to be.

Most Democrats and Republicans wanted to pass welfare legislation shifting the emphasis from dependence to empowerment. Because I had already given 45 states waivers to institute their own reform plans, we had a good idea of what would work. Still, there were philosophical gaps to bridge. The Republicans wanted to require able-bodied people to work, but were opposed to continuing the federal guarantees of food and medical care to their children and to spending enough on education, training, transportation and child care to enable people to go to work in lower-wage jobs without hurting their children.

On Aug. 22, 1996, after vetoing two earlier versions, I signed welfare reform into law. At the time, I was widely criticized by liberals who thought the work requirements too harsh and conservatives who thought the work incentives too generous. Three members of my administration ultimately resigned in protest. Thankfully, a majority of both Democrats and Republicans voted for the bill because they thought we shouldn't be satisfied with a system that had led to intergenerational dependency.

The last 10 years have shown that we did in fact end welfare as we knew it, creating a new beginning for millions of Americans.

In the past decade, welfare rolls have dropped substantially, from 12.2 million in 1996 to 4.5 million today. At the same time, caseloads declined by 54 percent. Sixty percent of mothers who left welfare found work, far surpassing predictions of experts. Through the Welfare to Work Partnership, which my administration started to speed the transition to employment, more than 20,000 businesses hired 1.1 million former welfare recipients. Welfare reform has proved a great success, and I am grateful to the Democrats and Republicans who had the courage to work together to take bold action.

The success of welfare reform was bolstered by other anti-poverty initiatives, including the doubling of the earned-income tax credit in 1993 for lower-income workers; the 1997 Balanced Budget Act, which included $3 billion to move long-term welfare recipients and low-income, noncustodial fathers into jobs; the Access to Jobs initiative, which helped communities create innovative transportation services to enable former welfare recipients and other low-income workers to get to their new jobs; and the welfare-to-work tax credit, which provided tax incentives to encourage businesses to hire long-term welfare recipients.

I also signed into law the toughest child-support enforcement in history, doubling collections; an increase in the minimum wage in 1997; a doubling of federal financing for child care, helping parents look after 1.5 million children in 1998; and a near doubling of financing for Head Start programs.

The results: child poverty dropped to 16.2 percent in 2000, the lowest rate since 1979, and in 2000, the percentage of Americans on welfare reached its lowest level in four decades. Overall, 100 times as many people moved out of poverty and into the middle class during our eight years as in the previous 12. Of course the booming economy helped, but the empowerment policies made a big difference.

Regarding the politics of welfare reform, there is a great lesson to be learned, particularly in today’s hyper-partisan environment, where the Republican leadership forces bills through Congress without even a hint of bipartisanship. Simply put, welfare reform worked because we all worked together. The 1996 Welfare Act shows us how much we can achieve when both parties bring their best ideas to the negotiating table and focus on doing what is best for the country.

The recent welfare reform amendments, largely Republican-only initiatives, cut back on states’ ability to devise their own programs. They also disallowed hours spent pursuing an education from counting against required weekly work hours. I doubt they will have the positive impact of the original legislation.

We should address the inadequacies of the latest welfare reauthorization in a bipartisan manner, by giving states the flexibility to consider higher education as a category of “work,” and by doing more to help people get the education they need and the jobs they deserve. And perhaps even more than additional welfare reform, we need to raise the minimum wage, create more good jobs through a commitment to a clean energy future and enact tax and other policies to support families in work and child-rearing.

Ten years ago, neither side got exactly what it had hoped for. While we compromised to reach an agreement, we never betrayed our principles and we passed a bill that worked and stood the test of time. This style of cooperative governing is anything but a sign of weakness. It is a measure of strength, deeply rooted in our Constitution and history, and essential to the better future that all Americans deserve, Republicans and Democrats alike.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Win Or Lose In November, Dems Will Get A New Chairman In January 2007

Dick Pettys writes in InsiderAdvantage Georgia:

[Chairman of the Democratic Party of Georgia Bobby] Kahn first was planning to step down in September when the party meets in College Park for its state convention on Sept. 16. That would have given the party’s gubernatorial nominee – Mark Taylor – a chance to help choose the new party chairman.

But party elders decided it probably wasn’t a good thing to change horses in the middle of the stream. Now a new chairman won’t be chosen until January.

With momentum seeming to belong to the Republicans right now, can the party ever bounce back?

Mike Berlon thinks so. Just now, he’s the only announced candidate to succeed Kahn, although high-ranking Democrats think the action may pick up considerably in that race after November.

Berlon, a sole-practitioner lawyer in Gwinnett County, chairs the Democratic party there and is vice chairman of the Georgia Association of Democratic County chairs. Besides laboring in party activities, he’s also seen action as a candidate. He got 21 percent of the vote against popular Republican Congressman John Linder in 2002 and got 28 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary for PSC in 2004, losing to Mac Barber (who lost in the general election.)

Democrats, indeed, face a rebuilding task, he said. “Democrats had been in power for such a long time, we got pretty comfortable with the fact the governor was going to be a Democrat. And when you’re the incumbent, it’s very easy to raise money. One of the big challenges for state Democrats is to figure out how to coordinate fundraising,” he said.

So what happened to Democrats in Georgia?

“It was like the perfect storm. A series of events – teachers, flaggers, low voter turnout,” he said. “One lesson we got is that GOTV (get-out-the-vote) doesn’t just mean you go on television. You need to be more grassroots, have more of an infrastructure than rely on the governor’s office.”

Berlon views 2002 as an aberration, says he thinks Taylor has an “excellent chance,” and believes Georgians fundamentally remain Democrats on the state level, Republican on the national.

But whether Taylor wins or loses, he said, he still wants to chair the party.

“You can’t say you want to do the job but only if Democrats win the governor’s mansion. The real test is, worst-case, what do you do if Mark Taylor loses. That’s where the real work begins,” he said.

Democrats have typically given their gubernatorial nominees a big hand in choosing the leaders of their party. Changing the election of the chairman from September to January may mark something of a change in philosophy and, indeed, some members of the party’s ruling executive committee do believe there should be more separation between elected officials and the party, itself.

A Democratic victory in November could sweep all that talk aside, of course. A Democratic loss could whip it up again.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Lieberman Jabs at Rumsfeld, Saying Military Needs a Change

From The New York Times:

Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, facing continued criticism from many in the Democratic Party because of his support for the war in Iraq, leveled his most pointed criticism yet at the Pentagon during a television interview on Sunday, calling for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Bush aides were bothered by a George F. Will column

From The Washington Post:

Bush aides were bothered by a George F. Will column last week mocking neoconservative desires to transform the Middle East: "Foreign policy 'realists' considered Middle East stability the goal. The realists' critics, who regard realism as reprehensibly unambitious, considered stability the problem. That problem has been solved."

Friday, August 18, 2006

Republicans Losing The 'Security Moms'

From The Washington Post:

Married women with children, the "security moms" whose concerns about terrorism made them an essential part of Republican victories in 2002 and 2004, are taking flight from GOP politicians this year in ways that appear likely to provide a major boost for Democrats in the midterm elections, according to polls and interviews.

This critical group of swing voters -- who are an especially significant factor in many of the most competitive suburban districts on which control of Congress will hinge -- is more inclined to vote Democratic than at any point since Sept. 11, 2001, according to data compiled for The Washington Post by the Pew Research Center.

Married mothers said in interviews here that they remain concerned about national security and the ability of Democrats to keep them safe from terrorist strikes. But surveys indicate Republicans are not benefiting from this phenomenon as they have before.

Disaffection with President Bush, the Iraq war, and other concerns such as rising gasoline prices and economic anxiety are proving more powerful in shaping voter attitudes.

The study, which examined the views of married women with children from April through this week, found that they support Democrats for Congress by a 12-point margin, 50 percent to 38 percent. That is nearly a mirror-image reversal from a similar period in 2002, when this group backed Republicans 53 percent to 36 percent. In 2004, exit polls showed, Bush won a second term in part because 56 percent of married women with children supported him.

Significantly, Pew and other polls in recent days have found little or no advantage for Republicans in the aftermath of last week's foiled terrorist plot in London, even as Vice President Cheney and GOP leaders have warned that the event showed the risk of voting for a Democratic Party that they say is dominated by security doves.

In its latest poll of the general public, conducted after the news from London broke, Pew found a majority voicing concerns that Democrats were too weak on terrorism, the precise charge Republicans have made over the past 10 days. Yet an even larger majority said they fear Republicans would involve the United States in too many military operations.

The result is a public that is essentially split over which party can best defeat terrorists. Washington Post-ABC News surveys found the Republicans held a 30-point average on the issue of terrorism in 2002-2004. But in the past two years, the GOP advantage has evaporated.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Democrats' Stock Is Rising on K Street - Firms Anticipate A Shift in Power

From The Washington Post:

Washington lobbying firms, trade associations and corporate offices are moving to hire more well-connected Democrats in response to rising prospects that the opposition party will wrest control of at least one chamber of Congress from Republicans in the November elections.

In what lobbyists are calling a harbinger of possible upheaval on Capitol Hill, many who make a living influencing government have gone from mostly shunning Democrats to aggressively recruiting them as lobbyists over the past six months or so.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Powerful role for Congressional Black Caucus if Dems win

From The Hill:

The Congressional Black Caucus is positioned to dramatically increase its clout next Congress if Democrats win control of the House.

The 43-member group, already one of the most powerful blocs among House Democrats, would control as many as five committee gavels in a Democratic House, including two exclusive panels, Ways and Means and Judiciary. Members of the group also would lead 15 subcommittees, six of them on exclusive panels. And Caucus Chairman Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) would be a contender for majority whip.

Although it is not the largest group in the Democratic caucus – the 64-member Progressive Caucus holds that title – the Congressional Black Caucus is perhaps the most cohesive and the most vocal, bound together by racial identity, shared experience and in many instances, similar districts. This year and in the past, members of the group have demonstrated that they are more than willing to challenge Democratic leaders when one of their own comes under fire.

Tide appears to be growing against GOP

From The Hill:

Despite a divisive Democratic primary in Connecticut and renewed attention to homeland security in the wake of a foiled terrorist plot, the political wave that Democrats hope will wash out Republican majorities in Congress appears to be getter larger.

With 83 days before the election, independent analysts and political observers say that the universe of competitive congressional races is broadening. Most of these newly identified endangered incumbents are Republicans, increasing the chances of a Democratic takeover of one or both chambers of Congress.

Republicans were expected to benefit politically from the thwarted plot to blow up airplanes bound for the U.S. and Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (D-Conn.) loss to Ned Lamont, an anti-war candidate, in the Democratic primary. But lawmakers and political strategists noted that those events have not shifted perceptions about President Bush or the GOP-controlled Congress.

Bush’s approval rating remains stuck at or below 40 percent, according to recent polls, while 62 percent of the public disapproved of his handling of the Iraq war. Meantime, Congress’s popularity has dropped to 36 percent, and in a hypothetical congressional matchup, Democrats were outpacing Republicans, 52 percent to 39 percent.

Perhaps more worrisome for incumbents is that their job approval rating is at 55 percent, a seven percent drop and just two points above where that number stood in September 1994, according to last week’s Washington Post-ABC News poll.

A change in power is more likely in the House, but Senate Democrats are growing increasingly optimistic.

Despite the downcast political climate, Republicans will continue to try to paint Democrats as hopelessly liberal and unreliable in the war on terror.

Democrats are confident that 2006 will be different than 2004 when Bush used national security to his advantage. They also believe that Republicans will fail in trying to alter the electorate’s perception of Bush.

Democratic lawmakers, candidates and political analysts are no longer asking whether momentum is on their side, they’re asking how much.

Still, there are lingering questions about Democrats’ ability to get out the vote, an area where Republicans have excelled in recent elections.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

'Birth Pangs' of What?

By Richard Cohen of The Washington Post:

The "birth pangs" are over. This was the term used by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to describe the war between Israel (supported by the United States) and Hezbollah (supported by Iran). If she is right, let us see what has come out: a defeat for the good guys, a victory for the bad guys (the "Islamic fascists" of President Bush's formulation) and some clear lessons. This has been a very hard birth.

It has been particularly hard for the Lebanese, of course, but no fun for Israel, either. Although Hezbollah has, as they say, been downgraded, it has nonetheless emerged as the fighting force with the best reputation in the Middle East. Not only did it stand up to the supposedly invincible Israeli army but those two kidnapped Israeli soldiers -- the proximate cause of the war -- remain unreturned, either still captive or dead.

From the start, it seemed that Israel had failed to take due note of the mistakes of Donald Rumsfeld. The longtime and (inexplicably) current U.S. secretary of defense propounded the bright idea that Iraq could be conquered and pacified with about 150,000 American troops. Military men of sound mind and vast experience thought that maybe 350,000 to 500,000 troops would be more like it, but Rumsfeld, fearing a quagmire and eschewing nation-building, got his way. The United States is still in Iraq, mired there for some time to come.

Israel tried something similar in Lebanon. It, too, chose to fight an optional war on the relative cheap. For good reasons, it responded to Hezbollah's provocations, but it might well have decided to make a punitive raid or two and then wait for the usual prisoner exchange. Preemptive wars have their own rules. They cannot justify high casualties, since these will not be seen as commensurate with the threat. The United States, for instance, could never institute a draft to get more troops into Iraq. Americans would not stand for it. This, among other things, is a lesson of Vietnam -- maybe the only one the Bush administration learned from that painful conflict.

But the lesson of Iraq and, now, Lebanon, is that zealots make tough enemies. It was one thing for Israel to fight apathetic and hapless Egyptians, Iraqis, Jordanians, Syrians and Lebanese. Those armies consisted of the indifferent: Sure, these Arabs opposed Israel, but they were mostly unaffected by it and would rather live with it than die fighting it. Even the Palestinians proved to be not much of a battlefield foe. This has not been the case with Hezbollah or, in Iraq, the various groups of fanatics who would blow themselves up for reasons that we could not begin to fathom. Hezbollah is now described in terms once reserved for the Japanese army of World War II. "If you are waiting for a white flag coming out of the Hezbollah bunker, I can assure you it won't come," said Brig. Gen. Ido Nehushtan, a member of the Israeli army's general staff.

This zealotry, this ideology, this religious fervor is not something we in the West -- and that includes Israel -- know how to deal with. The sheer scale and number of suicide bombings in Iraq was once considered inconceivable. Iraq, after all, was extolled as one of the more secular Arab states, which was among the reasons why some otherwise sane people predicted an easy U.S. victory followed by the national singing of "God Bless America."

This seemingly abrupt shift to the ideological, to the religious, is the most noteworthy and ominous development of recent times. The fight is no longer over territory -- the West Bank, Gaza -- but over the very existence of Israel. The people who seem to hate Israel most, who will kill to kill it and die for it to die, are not reclaiming ancestral land -- no Iranian pines for his lost orange grove near Jaffa -- but instead cannot abide the very idea of Israel.

Democracies are in a fix. If your enemy will gladly die for his cause while you wouldn't think of dying for yours (not that you even know what it is: freedom? liberty?) then clearly the fight is not to the swift but to the suicidal. The obvious short-term remedy is cold, lethal technology. But the reliance on high-tech stuff has not subdued Iraq, and it utterly failed in Lebanon as well. These are the realities of the new warfare, and if they are the "birth pangs of the new Middle East," then what is being produced is not some cute, babbling democracies but a hideous monster.

Just wait until he reaches for a nuclear weapon.

A Gap In Their Armor

By E.J. Dionne, Jr. from The Washington Post:

The Democratic Party has a self-image problem.

Talk to Democrats at every level about the strong position the party is in for this fall's elections and the conversation inevitably ends with a variation of: "Yeah, if we don't blow it." Karl Rove's greatest victory is how much he has spooked Democrats about themselves.

This, in turn, leads to a problem among political elites and, especially, fundraisers: While Republicans believe in their party and in the cause of building its organization from bottom to top, Democratic sympathizers tend to focus on favorite causes and favorite candidates, notably in presidential years.

If you understand this, you can understand the polemics over the past few months between Howard Dean, the Democratic National Committee chairman, and Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the leader of the party's campaign committee for this fall's House elections.

Emanuel has expressed frustration over how much DNC money Dean has spent in his effort to create strong party organizations in all 50 states -- money that congressional Democrats believe should be saved for this fall's key contests.

Dean argues, correctly, that Democrats will not be truly competitive if they are strong in only 18 or 20 "blue" states. Emanuel argues, also correctly, that this year offers Democrats their best chance in 12 at winning one or both houses of Congress. The party, he says, can't afford to fritter money away on long-term dreams.

There are many underlying issues here, including whether Dean's spending will actually be effective in achieving his goal and whether the national party is demanding enough accountability for the money it is sending the states. Dean defenders, in turn, note that he has directed more money to states with competitive races this year, and that Dean needs to worry about governorships and state legislative contests, not just Congress.

But Dean and Emanuel are both struggling against the same overlapping realities: Democrats have chronically underinvested in building state parties. Wealthy donors who bankrolled grass-roots organizing in the 2004 presidential campaign have largely gone to the sidelines this year. And Republican-oriented interest groups are, on the whole, better financed and disciplined than their Democratic counterparts.

Emanuel is especially frustrated with large donors such as billionaire George Soros, who donated heavily to such organizing efforts as America Coming Together (ACT) two years ago. "These guys -- where are they?" a frustrated Emanuel asked in an interview. After John Kerry's loss, Emanuel said, "they walked off the field."

Steve Rosenthal, who was ACT's chief executive officer in 2004, said his organization's financial backers were "very candid that they weren't in it for the long haul and never said they were." Nonetheless, Rosenthal worries about what the missing money will mean this fall.

There is a lesson here about campaign finance reform and those who pretend that Democrats can rely on a handful of wealthy donors when crunch time comes. There is also a lesson about how a political party needs to see itself -- and be seen by those who support it -- as a long-term operation, not simply as a label of convenience at election time.

"On the Republican side, everyone plays a role in supporting the party and building a party structure," says Amy Chapman, executive director of Grassroots Democrats, which raises money for state party organizations. "It's too big a job for one part of the party to do," meaning that Dean and the DNC can't do it alone.

The odd result is that Republicans, who defend individualism in theory, act like communitarians where their party is concerned. Democrats claim to be more community-minded but act like radical individualists in their penchant for candidate-centered, one-cause-at-a-time politics.

The organizational gap has spurred national Democrats to countermeasures. Emanuel has hired Michael Whouley, one of his party's premier organizers, to create turnout programs in the 40 most contested congressional races. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's two top staffers, J.B. Poersch and Guy Cecil, have long experience in field operations. The unions are kicking up their turnout efforts. And an anti-incumbent tide against the Republicans could counter the GOP's organizational advantages.

But Republicans -- from President Bush on down -- have long dismissed the fashionable claptrap about political parties becoming meaningless. If Democrats are to shed their self-image problem and create a durable majority, they, too, will have to learn to operate as a party.

Democrats See Security as Key Issue for Fall

From The New York Times:

After being outmaneuvered in the politics of national security in the last two elections, Democrats say they are determined not to cede the issue this year and are working to cast President Bush as having diminished the nation’s safety.

“They are not Swift boating us on security,” said Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leader in the House.

Seeking to counter White House efforts to turn the reported terrorist plot in Britain to Republican advantage, Democrats are using the arrests of the suspects to try to show Americans how the war in Iraq has fueled Islamic radicalism and distracted Mr. Bush and the Republican Congress from shoring up security at home. They say they intend to drive that message home as the nation observes the coming anniversaries of Hurricane Katrina and the Sept. 11 attacks.

But they are not waiting. A video Monday on the Web site of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee showed footage of Osama bin Laden, referred to an increase in terror attacks, highlighted illegal immigration and pointed out the nuclear aspirations of Iran and North Korea.

“Feel safer?” it concludes. “Vote for change.”

In another example, Representative Harold E. Ford Jr., a Democrat running for the Senate in Tennessee, issued a statement Monday noting that the administration shut down a C.I.A. unit dedicated to pursuing Mr. bin Laden. The administration has said that the C.I.A. shut down the unit as part of a restructuring of its counterterrorism division and that the move did not diminish its focus on Al Qaeda and its leaders.

“The president told us that the British attacks are a stark reminder that the nation is at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom,’’ Mr. Ford said, “yet his administration has dismantled the very infrastructure that is responsible for catching those terrorists.”

Those statements and others challenging Republicans head-on over antiterror initiatives are a sharp contrast to Democrats’ actions in the two previous elections, when they stumbled in the face of Republican efforts to paint them as weak. Democrats say polls show that Republicans and Mr. Bush have lost stature on the subject on terrorism as Americans have become disillusioned with the war in Iraq. They also believe that more voters are able to separate the war from efforts to protect the nation against terror attacks.

“During the 2002 and 2004 elections, Republicans tried to sow fear in the American public by claiming that they were the only ones who could keep America safe,” Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, said in an e-mail message to supporters. “This from the same crowd that has driven Iraq to the brink of disaster, left Osama Bin Laden on the loose to attack again and continues to ignore our security needs at home.”

Republicans said they believed that the Democratic efforts would fizzle and that voters would ultimately choose to trust Republicans on the issue of security. And Mr. Bush, in remarks at the State Department on Monday, disputed the notion that his policies had contributed to a more dangerous world.

“Some say that America caused the current instability in the Middle East by pursuing a forward strategy of freedom, yet history shows otherwise,” Mr. Bush said, ticking off terror attacks that occurred in the United States, Africa and elsewhere long before he took office.

Democrats say that such comments may have had power in the past, but that Republicans are no longer getting the benefit of the doubt. They were heartened this past weekend when leaders of the Sept. 11 commission said the war in Iraq was draining resources that could be put to domestic defense.

Other Democrats say the administration’s initial support of a business deal that would have allowed a Dubai company to assume control of parts of some seaport terminals was a turning point in the public’s view of Mr. Bush’s credibility on national security. As a result, they say they are advising candidates to respond quickly and with force to Republican attacks.

While a new poll by Newsweek showed a rise in Mr. Bush’s public approval rating on security issues in the aftermath of the arrests in Britain, the latest nationwide CBS News Poll, conducted Aug. 11 to 13, found that the recent threat had had little effect on the public’s view of the president and the two political parties.

The war in Iraq remains the most important issue facing the country, the poll shows, but terrorism has re-emerged as a major issue for many Americans, cited by 17 percent, up from 7 percent last month. The latest CBS poll showed no change in Mr. Bush’s job approval rating, which is at 36 percent, the same as in a New York Times/CBS News poll last month. His approval rating on handling terrorism, long a central element of his political strength, also remained unchanged at 51 percent

While Republicans are still seen as doing a better job than Democrats in handling terrorism, the difference in the latest CBS poll is now about 8 points, about the same as a month ago, compared to the 25-point advantage Republicans held on the question four years ago. The telephone poll was conducted with 974 adults and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said such findings reinforced his view that Mr. Bush had failed to blend the Iraq war and antiterrorism in the public’s mind. Mr. Emanuel said that Mr. Bush’s public standing was cemented in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and that Republican efforts to improve the president’s image by emphasizing terror could not overcome the damage done by the bungled response to the storm.

“Katrina equals competency,” he said.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Polarization Over War, Bush, Parties Confronts Voters

From The Washington Post:

American politics this year has been running on two divergent tracks. The first is intensified partisan combat in advance of a critical midterm election. The second is growing disaffection among many voters with a national capital seen as stalemated by polarization and distrust between the two political parties.

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) and former Virginia governor Mark R. Warner have been testing themes that include lowering the temperature of political rhetoric.

Simon Rosenberg, founder of the Democratic group NDN that has sought to be a bridge between centrist Democrats and the more liberal world of bloggers and Internet activists, said: "Lieberman's calculation here that there is a revulsion against Washington is not correct. There's revulsion at Republican governance."

Friday, August 11, 2006

Here's hoping to see you tomorrow at the Georgia Association of Democratic County Chairs (GADCC) in Macon

The Georgia Association of Democratic County Chairs (GADCC) will host its annual dinner to award the Richard B. Russell Public Service Award tomorrow evening in Macon. All proceeds from this dinner assist Democratic County Parties.

The 2006 Recipients are Senator Robert Brown and Representative DuBose Porter.

There is a reception at 5 and dinner will be at 6. The event will be held at the Baymont Inn & Suites / Macon Conference Center (former the Holiday Inn Conference Center) in Macon.

Democratic county chairs are workhorses of our party. Thank your local county chair for what they do for us the next time you see one of them.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Important for Democrats to work as a team if they hope to upset Perdue and the Republicans

Jim Tharpe and James Salzer write in the ajc:

[Emory University political scientist Merle] Black said Georgia's larger cities will likely go Democratic, the suburbs and exurbs will likely lean Republican, and the real battle will take place in the small towns and rural areas in central and South Georgia.

"That will be the critical area for this election," Black said.

Atlanta political pollster and analyst Matt Towery, a former GOP legislator, said it's especially important for Democrats to work as a team if they hope to upset Perdue and the Republicans.

"They are in the unusual situation of having to scrounge for money," he said. "And they also have to make sure their message stays centrist and conservative. If they have the same message, that is going to help Taylor a bit."

Towery said Democrats will need to talk a moderate game, but use popular former officials like ex-Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young and former Gov. Roy Barnes to help them drive African-American voters to the polls.

They will almost certainly be outspent by the Republicans in most races. Perdue had $9 million in his campaign war chest at the end of June, compared with $1.1 million for Taylor.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Why the Republicans Are Loving the Lieberman Loss

From Time:

At a time when the GOP should be back on its heels, Connecticut voters' rejection of a centrist Senator gives the party a potentially powerful new weapon to use against the Democrats this fall

From Washington State to Missouri to Pennsylvaina, Democratic candidates found themselves on the defensive Wednesday as the Republican Party worked ferociously at every level to try to use the primary defeat of Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut to portray the oppposition as the party of weakness and isolation on national security and liberal leanings on domestic policy. Doleful Democrats bemoaned the irony: At a time when Republicans should be back on their heels because of chaos abroad and President Bush's unpopularity, the Democrats' rejection of a sensible, moralistic centrist has handed the GOP a weapon that could have vast ramifications for both the midterm elections of '06 and the big dance of '08.

One of the nip-and-tuck Senate races this year is in Missouri, and backers of Sen. Jim Talent are preparing an attack on his opponent, State Auditor Claire McCaskill, that is emblematic of the sort that will be seen all over the country within 24 hours. "Does Claire McCaskill support the wishes of the angry left by endorsing Ned Lamont's candidacy or will she support the man who was chosen by Al Gore as the Democrat's 2000 nominee for Vice President?" Republicans ask in a statment that will force McCaskill to talk about messy party business instead of her favored issues of government accountablity and affordable health care.

Gleeful Republicans across the country mocked their opponents as isolationist "Defeat-ocrats," and even some Democratic officials said they can already imagine the ads in November races saying that Lieberman, once within a few hundred votes of being Vice President of the United States, is now "not liberal enough" for the Democratic Party. Republican officials, who have had little but bad news for months as Iraq festered and U.S. voters showed increasing signs of pessimism and discontent, said the Ned Lamont victory gave them a chance to paint Democrats as a party that had become captive to the liberal wing symbolized by the MoveOn.org civic action group. Mary Matalin, an outside adviser to the White House, signaled the message when she said on Fox News Channel shortly after the polls closed: "MoveOn is not fringe. They're the heart of the party."

On television and in speeches in coming days, party officials and strategists plan to talk about their respect for Lieberman as a distinguished public servant and argue that Lamont's victory represents the end of the long tradition of strong-on-national-defense Democratic leaders in the mold of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and John F. Kennedy. The GOP plans to try to broaden the argument beyond Connecticut, a liberal stronghold, and work to convince viewers and voters that Democratic nominees across the country have more in common with Michael Moore and liberal bloggers than Main Street America.

Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, speaking to the City Club of Cleveland this morning, said the rejection of a well-liked Senator who was strong on national defense showed that Democratic candidates must embrace "defeatism and isolation" or "risk being purged" for their party. "For those of us who follow politics closely, who work in politics, and who know that there can be good and honest people on the other side of the political divide, it is a shame," he said. "It is also a sign of what the Democratic Party is has become in the 21st century. It reflects an unfortunate embrace of isolationism, defeatism, and a ‘blame America first’ attitude by national Democratic leaders at a time when retreating from the world is particularly dangerous."

In his acceptance speech Tuesday night Martin served notice he won't forfeit the "values" issue to the Republicans.

"The values of faith, family and patriotism do not belong to any party. They belong to all of us. I'm not going to allow any political party or any political candidate to claim those values as belonging to them. I'm a Vietnam veteran, a church elder, a father of four and a grandfather of two. I'll take that fight to them."

From Jim Martin's acceptance speech as relayed by InsiderAdvantage Georgia.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Turnout Out Brisk In DeKalb

From InsiderAdvantage Georgia:

“It’s busy in DeKalb,” Kara Sinkule of the Secretary of State’s office said at mid-morning.

DeKalb County Elections Director Linda Latimore was predicting a 20 percent turnout today, roughly the same as for the primary three weeks ago.

A DeKalb County Democratic source said the early turnout was “very good” on the north side of DeKalb County, particularly around Tucker where a strong white vote would likely go heavily against McKinney, and was “brisk” on the southside, where McKinney and Johnson potentially stand to split the black vote.

Any move to get rid of the car tag tax wouldn't primarily hit state coffers

From The Athens Banner-Herald:

An unpopular tax is in the crosshairs of Georgia lawmakers as the November elections approach.

And as Republicans consider repealing the state's property tax on cars, local governments are standing on edge.

[A]ny move to get rid of the car tag tax wouldn't primarily hit state coffers. The overwhelming majority of the tax flows to local governments. Of the nearly $650 million collected a year in car taxes, only about $5.2 million goes to the state. Another $368.8 million goes to school districts, $171.9 million to counties and $55.7 million to cities.

And those figures don't include the revenues for some fire and police departments, parks and other services.

One final Lieberman post -- This race has tightened

From The New York Times:

[On Monday] Mr. Lieberman, the three-term incumbent whose support for the Iraq war has cost him voters, held nine events over 13 hours and exuded fresh optimism on the ninth day of a statewide bus tour. He also spent tens of thousands of dollars on an unconventional two-minute television ad in which he aligned himself with Democratic anger over Iraq and President Bush — an attempt to neutralize Mr. Lamont’s signature antiwar message.

The Connecticut race, which has been regarded by some Democrats nationally as a referendum on the party’s wartime posture, had been tilting in Mr. Lamont’s favor in the last two weeks, according to public opinion polls and anecdotal evidence from voters. Yet Mr. Lieberman seemed buoyed yesterday by a new poll from Quinnipiac University that showed him down by 6 points, within the poll’s margin of sampling error.

More than in recent days, the senator came across as both contrite and self-satisfied yesterday. He lamented that he had not “clarified” his criticism of the war and the White House earlier, but he also argued that Republicans were “salivating” over the possibility that Democrats would pick an antiwar liberal instead of Mr. Lieberman.

“They are anxious to say the left wing is taking over, the antisecurity wing,” Mr. Lieberman said of Republicans.

The Lieberman camp, tapping into more than $400,000 in new donations in the last several days, made the new two-minute commercial just yesterday, drawing wholly on excerpts from a major, hastily planned speech by Mr. Lieberman on Sunday about his war stance. The ad, which mixes images of him speaking and people listening, shows Mr. Lieberman saying that he felt a “heavy personal responsibility” for the war, wanted to bring troops home “as fast as anyone,” and valued Americans’ “right to disagree” with the president and himself over Iraq.

A Preview For November -- What Lieberman's Battle Tells Us

By E.J. Dionne, Jr. from The Washington Post:

Some events are so important that the battle to interpret their meaning begins even before they happen. So it is with today's Democratic primary challenge to Sen. Joe Lieberman in Connecticut.

Most of the commentary is premised on the idea that antiwar businessman Ned Lamont will defeat Lieberman, one of Congress's strongest supporters of the Iraq war. This speculation may be premature for reasons we'll get to. But the two lines of argument hardening into place tell us a great deal about what we'll be debating in this fall's campaign.

Republican supporters of Bush and the war are claiming that a Lamont victory would signal a dovish takeover of the Democratic Party by activists organized by anti-Bush bloggers -- and would show that there is no room left in Democratic ranks for moderates.

The most over-the-top version of this argument came from William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard. "What drives so many Democrats crazy about Lieberman is not simply his support for the Iraq war," Kristol wrote. "It's that he's unashamedly pro-American."

This charge of extremism enrages Democrats, including many Lieberman supporters. It's absurd, they say, to attribute Lamont's rise primarily to bloggers who were his prime supporters three months ago, when he registered less than 20 percent in the polls. Something has happened since then that goes well beyond the blogosphere.

In this light, the effort to play the anti-American card can be seen as a sign of the frustration felt by the architects of a war that no longer enjoys popular support and the desperation of those who realize how pervasive the anti-Bush mood has become.

The battle of interpretations has raged within the Lieberman campaign itself. For months, Lieberman tried to push the war aside, insisting that the election should not be decided by a "single issue." He focused on classic incumbent arguments about his role in bringing jobs to Connecticut, and on criticisms of Lamont.

But on Sunday night -- pressed by campaign advisers to speak directly to Democratic anger at the president -- Lieberman finally threw in his lot with the anti-Bush camp. He offered a "closing argument" that ticked off eight issues on which he had battled the administration. He defended dissenters opposed to the war whom he had once seemed to criticize and insisted that he "clearly disagreed with and criticized the president" on many aspects of Bush's Iraq policy.

The "biggest lie being told about me by the other side," Lieberman declared, is "the false charge that I am George Bush's best friend and enabler." Lieberman's closing speech reflected a clear recognition that he had no chance of surviving as long as voters associated him with Bush.

The embattled incumbent received a modest piece of good news yesterday when the Quinnipiac University poll, whose survey four days earlier showed him trailing Lamont by 13 percentage points, found the margin cut to 6 points. Although Lieberman's own friends were pessimistic (and, truthfully, polling for a summer primary is notoriously difficult), it's at least conceivable that Lieberman's closing declaration of independence might be just enough to push him over the top.

There is, in any event, a major flaw in the claim that Lieberman's troubles reflect an end to the role of moderates in the Democratic Party: Lieberman is the one prominent moderate to receive serious opposition in this year's primaries. As Robert L. Borosage of the liberal Campaign for America's Future noted, antiwar Democrats limited their challenge to one of the most pro-Bush Democrats in one of the most Democratic states in the country. Moderate Democrats in Republican-leaning states were left largely undisturbed.

Moreover, opposition to the war in Iraq and to Bush has spread well beyond the left. In the latest Quinnipiac poll, Lieberman leads Lamont among Democrats who called themselves moderate or conservative by only 53 percent to 43 percent. If Lieberman loses, it will be primarily because of defections in the disaffected center.

There will be a way to test the competing interpretations of the Lieberman-Lamont contest. Were Lieberman to be defeated, Republicans would mourn his loss as a blow to moderates and urge him to run this fall as an independent. But if petrified Republican candidates around the country accelerate their efforts to add to the distance they've already built between themselves and Bush, you'll know that they know what Connecticut's voters were really saying.

And if Lieberman miraculously survives, it will be because he finally realized that the last thing an incumbent wants to be this year is George Bush's best friend and enabler.

The stance that politics ought to stop at the water's edge makes sense if and only if the president isn't playing politics with foreign policy.

From The Washington Post:

The Connecticut race has drawn national attention because of what it may say about the president and the politics of Iraq heading into a critical midterm election and the 2008 presidential campaign, as well as what it may reveal about a Democratic Party that often has been at war with itself over foreign policy since the Vietnam era.

Long one of the Democrats' most prominent hawks, Lieberman has found himself at odds with the rank and file in his party, not only for supporting the war so vigorously but also for refusing to engage in the rhetorical combat of a politically charged moment in history. He has warned fellow Democrats that hyper-partisanship on foreign policy issues damages American interests. In recent days, he has noted that he has given the same warnings to Republicans and emphasized that he has not been a blind supporter of Bush on Iraq.

Lieberman's friends and allies have watched this drama play out with differing emotions -- both a sense of sadness that someone they have long respected has been caught in the vise of the Iraq war and a sense of alarm that he either ignored the warning signs or was somehow incapable or unwilling to adjust to them.

"The stance that, for a senator, politics ought to stop at the water's edge makes sense if and only if the president isn't playing politics with foreign policy," said William A. Galston of the Brookings Institution, who has often sided with Lieberman on intraparty battles but disagrees with him on the war.

"But this president and this administration manifestly have played politics with foreign policy, and their chief political adviser has been totally frank about that," he added. "I think it would have been permissible and even advisable for Joe Lieberman to conclude at some point that a bipartisan foreign policy has got to be a two-way street. He really didn't."

House Incumbents at Risk, Poll Finds -- Percentage of Americans Who Approve of Their Representative Has Fallen Sharply

From The Washington Post:

Most Americans describe themselves as being in an anti-incumbent mood heading into this fall's midterm congressional elections, and the percentage of people who approve of their own representative's performance is at the lowest level since 1994, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Two in three Democrats say it is time to begin decreasing troop levels in Iraq, although only one in four supports immediate withdrawal.

Especially worrisome for members of Congress is that the proportion of Americans who approve of their own representative's performance has fallen sharply. Traditionally, voters may express disapproval of Congress as a whole but still vote for their own member, even from the majority party. But 55 percent now approve of their lawmaker, a seven-percentage-point drop over three months and the lowest such finding since 1994, the last time control of the House switched parties.

[T]he poll's findings underline the challenge for Democrats. For all their disenchantment, most voters are not sure what the party stands for. Just 48 percent say Democrats offer a clear direction different from Republicans, while 47 percent say they do not. The public does not think that Bush or the Democrats have a clear plan for Iraq. Even a slight majority of Democrats say their party does not have an Iraq strategy.

What Democrats have to do, he said, is emphasize a break from Bush's direction in Iraq, even if they disagree about how. . . . "On the big question -- 'Should we stay the course or should we make a change?' -- it seems overwhelmingly the public wants a change," [says Mark Mellman, a Democratic consultant].

Some Republican strategists said they fear it may be enough for Democrats to hammer home on the troubles of the country. "There's just a frustration that a lot of things are going wrong and nobody in Washington understands," [says Republican consultant Ed Rollins, who was White House political director under President Ronald Reagan.] "Even though the Democrats haven't really picked up the ball and offered an alternative, the numbers keep getting worse and worse."

The poll mirrored results of surveys at this point 12 years ago, just three months before Republicans swept out Democratic majorities from both houses of Congress. Fifty-three percent now call themselves anti-incumbent, while 29 percent describe themselves as inclined to reelect lawmakers -- almost precisely the same percentages as in June 1994.

The generic ballot question, asking voters in general which party they would support in November, remained unchanged from the spring, with 52 percent favoring Democrats and 39 percent supporting Republicans.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Uniting Democrats

From InsiderAdvantage Georgia:

Mark Taylor quietly held a conference call Friday with key legislators, including some who sided with vanquished rival Cathy Cox, to try to heal old wounds and gird his team for battle in November.

“We are uniting the party,” said campaign spokesman Rick Dent, adding that he sees it as “an easy thing to do because we all believe we need a new governor.”

Some of those who participated in the conference call praised Taylor for the outreach, saying they’d never been brought together so early in a general election campaign.

The New York Times says documentary a "factor" in McKinney vs. Johnson struggle

From The New York Times:

The money, endorsements and opinion polls favor her opponent, but Representative Cynthia A. McKinney, who represents Georgia’s Fourth District, has been counting on a movie for last-minute help with the Democratic primary runoff vote here on Tuesday.

The movie, “American Blackout,” is a documentary that embraces Ms. McKinney as a progressive heroine while chronicling the alleged disenfranchisement of black voters in Florida and Ohio in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections.

[T]he movie, directed by Ian Inaba, was headed for commercial release on cable television until Ms. McKinney’s scuffle with a Capitol police officer last March helped put a damper on that plan.

But “American Blackout” was rushed to Atlanta last week, where it opened on Friday at the Landmark Midtown theater, and instantly became a factor in Ms. McKinney’s fight to ward off a challenge from Hank Johnson, a former DeKalb County commissioner.

Conn. Race Could Be Democratic Watershed -- Loss by Lieberman May Embolden Critics of War

From The Washington Post:

The passion and energy fueling the antiwar challenge to Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman in Connecticut's Senate primary signal a power shift inside the Democratic Party that could reshape the politics of national security and dramatically alter the battle for the party's 2008 presidential nomination, according to strategists in both political parties.

A victory by businessman Ned Lamont on Tuesday would confirm the growing strength of the grass-roots and Internet activists who first emerged in Howard Dean's presidential campaign. Driven by intense anger at President Bush and fierce opposition to the Iraq war, they are on the brink of claiming their most significant political triumph, one that will reverberate far beyond the borders here if Lieberman loses.

Should Lieberman lose, the full ramifications are far from certain. One may be to signal immediate problems for Bush and the Republicans in November, but another could be to push Democrats into a more partisan, antiwar posture, a prospect that is already adding powerful new fuel to a four-year-long intraparty debate over Iraq.

Strategists say the Connecticut race has rattled the Democratic establishment, which is virtually united behind the three-term incumbent's candidacy, and will force an uneasy accommodation with the newest, volatile power center within the party.

Republicans are already seeking to exploit a possible victory by Lamont as a sign that Democrats are moving too far to the left on national security issues. "They want retreat -- under the guise of 'reducing the U.S. footprint in Iraq,' " William Kristol writes in the latest issue of the Weekly Standard.

[M]any party moderates say they see worrisome parallels to what happened to the Democrats during Vietnam, when they opposed an unpopular war but paid a price politically for years after because of a perception the party was too dovish on national security.

Republican pollster Bill McInturff sees the Connecticut Senate race as critically important in shaping the midterm campaigns. "This will embolden Democrats around the country," he said. "I think that this primary in its own way sets off a chain of events that makes the fall elections very quickly a debate that could be framed as a [Democratic] timeline [for withdrawing U.S. forces] versus Republicans supporting a longer-term solution."

All of that may bode well for the Democrats, given sentiment about the war. As Democratic pollster Peter Hart put it: "What [Connecticut] tells us about the fall is something I think we've known all along, and that is the status quo in Iraq is unacceptable. It's unacceptable to Democratic primary voters, it's unacceptable to independents and it's unacceptable to a large minority of Republicans. Iraq is the number one issue and the message is exceptionally simple: We cannot abide the status quo."

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Thomas Friedman: Time for Plan B in Iraq

In 1968 former CBS anchor Walter Cronkite made a documentary following a visit to Vietnam during the Tet offensive. Urged by his boss to briefly set aside his objectivity to give his view of the situation, Cronkite said the war was unwinnable and that the U.S. should exit.

Then-President Lyndon Johnson reportedly told a White House aide after that, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost Middle America."

I respect the opinion of Thomas Friedman of The New York Times as much as any other columnist I read with respect to matters concerning the Middle East.

In Sunday's hard copy of the ajc his Friday New York Times editorial is reproduced. In his editorial he writes in part:

It is now obvious that we are not midwifing democracy in Iraq. We are baby-sitting a civil war.

When our top commander in Iraq, Gen. John Abizaid, tells a Senate Committee, as he did Thursday, that "the sectarian violence is probably as bad as I've seen it," it means that three years of efforts to democratize Iraq are not working. That means "staying the course" is pointless, and it's time to start thinking about Plan B -- how we might disengage with the least damage possible.

The Sunni jihadists and Baathists are as dedicated as ever to making this U.S. - Iraqi democracy initiative fail. That, and the runaway sectarian violence resulting from having too few U.S. troops and allowing a militia culture to become embedded, have made Iraq a lawless mess.

[The Bush] administration now has to admit what anyone -- including myself -- who believed in the importance of getting Iraq right has to admit: Whether for Bush reasons or Arab reasons, it is not happening, and we can't throw more good lives after good lives.

Since the Bush team never gave us a Plan A for Iraq, it is at least owes us a Plan B.

Mr. Friedman's editorial was considered significant enough by the media that it was noted Friday evening on NBC's Nightly News with Brian Williams.

Friday, August 04, 2006

More on the 4th District race

A quote from Matt Towery in InsiderAdvantage Georgia:

The polling numbers are beginning to become overwhelming, and early voting, contrary to some rumors, appears to be in Johnson’s favor.

According to Matt Towery on his August 4, 2006 Webcast on InsiderAdvantage Georgia, the overnight polling numbers are in, and Rep. McKinney faces almost certain defeat. According to these polling numbers, African-Americans who were trending in her direction are now trending back, and the African-American vote is now virtually split between the two candidates.

From an article by Dick Pettys in InsiderAdvantage Georgia:

The expectation among many is that [the contest between McKinney and Johnson] will bring an uncharacteristically high number of voters back to the polls in the 4th District, both from those determined to vote McKinney out of office and from those supporters she is able to rally to her defense.

In DeKalb County, which accounted for nearly 90 percent of the vote in the 4th District three weeks ago, advance voting for the runoff this week was up by 14 percent in the first three days compared to the first three days of the advance voting period for the primary.

Georgia does not require voters to register as Democrats or Republicans, so voters are free to vote in the primary of their choice. But they are not free to skip around. If they voted in one party’s primary, they can’t vote in the other party’s runoff. Those who didn’t vote in either party’s primary can choose either party’s runoff.

If Republicans and independents are part of the surge, as many expect, those voters will come from the ranks of those who for one reason or another chose to sit the primary out. They likely will have one thing on their mind – dumping McKinney . . . .

One [person involved in a runoff campaign] said he believes the Republican crossover will be less than McKinney and some analysts anticipate, pointing out that the biggest Republican precincts in northern DeKalb County – the ones believed to have contributed to McKinney’s loss of the seat in 2002 – are no longer in the district.