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2.20.2004

 

Special Report: Gay terrorists take over San Francisco City Hall!!




Plus, Don Asmussen's hilarious take on "Saving Private Bush" and "Meet the Press."

(Special thanks to my buddy Gil for the Asmussen link.)

On the gay marriage subject: A great post at Liberal Oasis on SF Mayor Gavin Newsom. "Smart politicians have good heads and trust their guts."

If and when America is ready for a "President Newsom," I'll be there right behind him. (Well...you know what I mean!!)


 

A tribute to the "Happy Warrior" from his friend, "the Prince of Darkness"


Following is a heartfelt tribute to Chicago Sun-Times columnist Steve Neal (who died Wednesday) from his good friend and Sun-Times colleague Robert Novak. Even if you are unfamiliar with Neal's work, Novak's essay will leave you with a true appreciation of one of the last true political news men.

"Steve Neal was one of America's very best political reporters, but he was much more than that. He was an accomplished historian, trying to portray and preserve a political culture that was fading away.

Steve recalled the days when politics was fun, when Republicans and Democrats got together over stiff drinks without seeking to gouge out each other's eyes. He was a rare -- perhaps a unique -- political columnist who was not only nonpartisan but also non-ideological.

His death is heartbreaking to those who knew and loved him, not only because we shall miss him and his reportage. Even when he was ripping the hide off a politician who did not meet his standards, he was always positive -- even gleeful. If I was the Prince of Darkness, he was the Happy Warrior.

When we met, Steve Neal was the 30-year-old White House reporter for the opposition Tribune, and I was a 50-year-old syndicated columnist for the Sun-Times. Normally, our paths would not have crossed. But he sought me out, as he often did people he wanted to meet.

That was my good fortune. We enjoyed many of the same things over the next quarter of a century: sports (especially the sweet science of boxing), high-cholesterol food, alcoholic beverages and gossiping and speculating about politics.

I was amazed when the Tribune called Steve back to Chicago to cover politics. We Washington journalists thought we were at the center of the world, and that a return to the ''provinces'' was a mistake. Steve did not see it that way. To cover politics in a great city and a big state was a step up, he told me. He was correct.

I was delighted when he crossed Michigan Avenue over to the Sun-Times, and our friendship grew closer. Sometimes in Washington but more often in Chicago, we would dine with politicians -- off the record -- over lots of food and drink. Eli's and Gene & Georgetti's were our favorite venues in Chicago for these meals. With politicians able to relax without dreading what they might read in the next morning's newspaper, Steve and I learned more of what really went on behind closed doors.

Politicians of both parties were invited to these sessions, but Bill Daley was one of Steve's favorites and mine. One of our most enjoyable dinners came last year at Gene & Georgetti's when Dan Rostenkowski led us on a hilarious and irreverent tour of politics in Chicago and Washington.

Even the most careful reader of the Neal column would have trouble discerning his bias, because he had none. Despite the running dialogue between us (mostly over the telephone between Washington and Chicago), I never was able to pigeonhole Steve as a Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative.

That does not mean Steve Neal was free of strong political judgments. A legion of Illinois politicians have felt his lash. He had been merciless in his treatment of the state's two current senators, Democrat Dick Durbin and Republican Peter Fitzgerald. Steve was unforgiving against what he considered political duplicity -- but always with a smile, always with good humor.

While reigning as Chicago's premier state and local political columnist, he became a renowned national political historian. Unlike some of the younger reporters who hardly recognize political figures of only a few years ago, Steve felt at home in the politics a half-century past.

He wrote the definitive biography of Wendell Willkie. Harry and Ike is a masterful feat of research and writing, weaving together the hitherto unexamined relationship of Harry Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower. His newest book, Happy Days Are Here Again (an account of the 1932 Democratic convention in Chicago that nominated Franklin D. Roosevelt), is about to be published. And Steve loved to talk about a half-dozen new projects he had in mind.

How Steve could cover Chicago and Illinois politicians comprehensively and produce these meticulously researched histories is a wonder. It is a blessing that we have the legacy of his life's work.

I await his posthumously published new book as final words from an old friend. It is small consolation for us who shall so terribly miss this blithe spirit and true comrade."


2.19.2004

 

Bush losing to Kerry by 12 points; to Edwards by 10.


Things are getting pretty rough for Karl Rove and the rest of the gang running the Bush re-election campaign. According to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released yesterday, both John Kerry and John Edwards would win landslide victories over President Bush if the election were held today.

In a head-to-head contest, 55 percent said they would choose Kerry for president over Bush, who drew the support of 43 percent. Edwards led the president 54 percent to 44 percent.

The poll was taken Monday and Tuesday, before the Wisconsin primary returns were complete.

While the Republicans will try to put the best possible spin on these numbers, there is no doubt that the increase in support for Kerry and/or Edwards is due to an administration that is in panic mode. Even at this early point in the election cycle the White House has an incoherent message and little to show domestically and internationally that would make the argument for another four year term.

Over at Whiskey Bar, Billmon takes a deeper look at the numbers:
"Gallup took a look at the past eight elections in which one of the candidates was an incumbent president, and found not a single case in which a president who was trailing a named challenger in the early months of the election year went on to win in November."
Both CBS and ABC released polls within the last week that showed Bush losing by five or more percentage points. The once invincible Karl Rove machine has been knocked off-stride. With the campaign heating up and moving at a faster pace, it seems the administration will have a rough time getting back in the game.


 

Chicago Mayor Daley on gay marriage: "No problem."


Chicago mayor Richard Daley said Wednesday he has "no problem" with Cook County Clerk David Orr issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.
"You have to point out the strength of that community -- they're doctors, they're lawyers, they're journalists, they're politicians, they're someone's son or daughter, they're someone's mother or father. They're parents, and I have been with them. They've adopted children. They have wonderful children. To me, we have to understand this is part and parcel of our families and our extended families. They love each other, just as much as anyone else."
County Clerk David Orr said he's open to a San Francisco-style protest if a consensus can be built.

The mayor's comments were welcomed by gay leaders in the city.

"Once again, Mayor Daley has recognized that gay people are part of the fabric of our society and are entitled to fair and equal treatment under the law," said Rick Garcia, political director of Equality Illinois. "We welcome Mayor Daley's support and we pray that other elected officials will follow him in standing up and speaking out for fairness and decency."

When he was asked about criticisms from conservative groups that same-sex marriages undermine traditional families, Daley said that it was divorce, not the gay community, that was the problem.
"People have to look at their own lives and at their own marriages. Don't blame the gay, lesbian, transgender community, please. Don't blame them for it."
Last October Chicago established a Domestic Partnership Registry.

So...Michael Bloomberg and Jim Hahn...(and hell, for that matter Marty Blum of sunny Santa Barbara)...what do ya say?


 

A true Chicago political treasure dies



Steve Neal, the classy political columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, famous for his sharp knowledge of history and politics, and for his books that ranged from a biography of Wendell Wilkie to the correspondence between Eleanor Roosevelt and Harry Truman, died Wednesday at his home in suburban Chicago.

Neal's family said he had been hospitalized recently for a heart problem. Police said they responded to a "carbon monoxide alarm" at Neal's home Wednesday afternoon, but they declined to elaborate until a full statement was prepared.

Mr. Neal was one of Chicago's most savvy political journalists. His column was a must-read for political junkies wanting to know who was running for what and who wasn't running; and his vast knowledge of the political game enabled him to recall vast amounts of political history on a dime. His commentary and insight were invaluable.

He could have been a national political correspondent for any newspaper in the country, but he loved covering Chicago politics, and the Sun-Times let him do that.

Last year I read Neal's book, "Eleanor and Harry: The Correspondence of Eleanor Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman" - a wonderful compilation of letters between the former first lady and the President. The book is a wonderful historical document, and shows how much influence Eleanor and Harry had on each other. It was an absolute pleasure to read.

Steve Neal was a true news man in every sense. He was the epitome of fair and balanced. You knew when you read Neal's column that he was going to give it to you straight. He had no political agenda, praising Democrats and Republicans when they were worthy; and giving them hell when they weren't. His readers didn't always agree with him, but they trusted him - perhaps more than any other Chicago columnist.

The city of Chicago - and the Illinois political scene - have lost a treasure.


2.18.2004

 

Fuzzy Math, Fading Rose



The "miserable failure" meme rears its ugly head once more... Our "first MBA" president, it seems, needs a refresher course in domestic economics.

From the AP:
"The White House backed away Wednesday from its own prediction that the economy will add 2.6 million new jobs before the end of this year, saying the forecast was the work of number-crunchers and that President Bush was not a statistician."
(The places I could go with that comment! I'll let the reader insert their own smart ass comment.)

Asked about the 2.6 million jobs forecast, the hapless White House press secretary, Scott McClellan said, "We are interested in reality."

(Attention Democrats: Two quotes above are campaign commercials custom made just for you.)

The jobs forecast was the second economic flap in recent days for the White House. Last week, Bush was forced to distance himself from White House economist N. Gregory Mankiw's assertion that the loss of U.S. jobs overseas has long-term benefits for the U.S. economy.

Day after day it seems the White House is in panic mode. Their credibility, already eroding fast, is THISCLOSE to being worthless.


 

And so it goes...


As expected, Howard Dean abandoned his quest for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination Wednesday. "I am no longer actively pursuing the presidency," Dean told a crowd of cheering, flag-waving supporters. "We will, however, continue to build a new organization using our enormous grass-roots network to continue the effort to transform the Democratic Party and to change our country."

Dean stayed united behind his party and their eventual nominee. "The bottom line is that we must beat George W. Bush in November, whatever it takes," he said.

The NY Times' Matt Bai sums up the Dean Legacy harshly.
"Dr. Dean can hardly claim to have laid the rails for some powerful engine of change...

...There was a moment, just after much of the Democratic establishment appeared to embrace his candidacy in December, when the Dr. Dean could have done something truly special in American politics. The party and the campaign were his to mold. He didn't. And what Dr. Dean and much of the news media now claim as his political legacy — using the Internet to raise money, forcing his party toward confrontation — is merely tactical. As the 1924 Progressive Party presidential candidate Robert LaFollette could have told him, a truly transcendent political campaign has to be rooted in something deeper than fervent rhetoric and small policy variations. It has to be daring enough to survive the candidacy itself.

In the end, the tragedy of Howard Dean's impressive grass-roots campaign is that he will be remembered not for any lasting reform agenda, but for the missed opportunity to create one."
(And for the record, LaFollette actually won Wisconsin's 13 electoral votes in the 1924 general election.)

Kevin Drum, never a "Deaniac," has praise for Dean.
"So the bottom line is this: Thanks, Howard. You weren't my candidate, but I sure appreciate everything you did. If we win in November, a big part of the victory will be thanks to you."


 

Where in the world is Mary Cheney?


Ya know...that's a good question.

(Thank you, Eschaton.)



 

Objects in your mirror may be closer than they appear


With all but one precinct reporting, the Wisconsin Democratic presidential primary results:
John Kerry
327,669 (39.7%)

John Edwards
283,326 (34.3%)

Howard Dean
150,682 (18.2%)

Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) continued his march toward the Democratic presidential nomination on Tuesday, but not after the results showed a closer-than-expected second place finish for Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) in the Wisconsin primary. Despite tracking polls showing Kerry winning by double digits, Edwards surprised political pundits - and himself - by the strong second place showing.

"Today, the voters in Wisconsin sent a clear message," Edwards told his supporters after the polls closed. "The message was this: 'Objects in your mirror may be closer than they appear.' "

Analysis from the CNN pundits here; from Tom Schaller here; and from Andrew Sullivan here.

Dean packs it up:
Details here, here, here, here, here, and here.

After a distant third-place finish in Wisconsin, Howard Dean is expected to announce that he will suspend his campaign for the presidency. CNN reports the former Vermont governor will keep his name on the ballot but will no longer campaign actively for votes. MSNBC reports that "Dean had a lengthy conversation on Tuesday night with John Edwards" regarding a possible endorsement of the freshman senator, "(but) did not reach an agreement..."

The New York Times reports, "Many of his aides say they expect an announcement by Thursday that he will abandon his White House bid and instead create a political action group working to oust President Bush and fill Congress and state legislatures with Democrats."

Dean is expected to make a formal announcement from Burlington, VT at 10am Pacific time.

Hoffmania's thoughts on Dean's probable exit here.

Blow out in Bush country:
In a state where George W. Bush bested Al Gore by 15 percentage points, Democrat Ben Chandler won a huge victory against Republican Alice Forgy Kerr in the U.S. House special election yesterday in Kentucky (55%-43%). Chandler, the former state attorney general, won the House seat of the man who beat him in last year's governor's race, and became the first Democrat since 1991 to win a Republican-held seat in a special election. The win reduces the GOP majority to 228-205 in the House of Representatives, with one vacancy and one Democratic-leaning independent.

CBS News reports that these results may have national implications. (And following the CBS poll that showed Kerry beating Bush 47%-42%, the implications are crystal clear.)

Kos' take on the Kentucky win and what it could mean for Democrats is definitely worth reading; and Hoffmania praises the blogosphere for their part in raising funds for Chandler, exclaiming "Is this a great country or what?"

As they would say in Wisconsin..."you betcha!"


2.17.2004

 

Wisconsin "too close to call;" Edwards peforming stronger than expected; Dean a distant third


Kerry and Edwards are in a real contest in Wisconsin as of 6:17pm Pacific time. Dean heads home to Burlington with nothing on his campaign schedule in the coming days.


 

"Say Anything"


Andrew Sullivan rakes John Kerry over the coals; and suggests Edwards stay in the race beyond what could be a strong second place finish in Wisconsin.


 

The most dangerous man ever to occupy the American presidency


Lefty blogger Liberal Oasis has posted an excellent interview with Nation columnist Eric Alterman, who along with Mark Green just published "The Book on Bush." Some key points:
-"It’s hard to fathom just what an extreme group of people [they] are, how little regard they have for what we think of as the public interest, until you examine the details. And in this case, the devil really is in the details."

-"It seems like it’s much more important what Cheney thinks there than what Bush does."

-"I care, as a patriot and as an intellectual, what are the results of the policies for the country and the world. And my view is that they are all uniformly disastrous. I can’t tell you a single good thing the guy has done for the country."

-"I am genuinely afraid for my country, for my daughter’s future of the consequences of a second Bush term. I am genuinely afraid of it. And it’s energized me…I think there’s a real healthy understanding among all sensible people right now that there is only one hope for the future of this country and that is to get rid of this man, no matter who replaces him. I would be very happy to vote for Bob Dole or George Herbert Walker Bush. He is the most dangerous man ever to occupy the American presidency in the past 100 years
."
The full interview is here.


 

War of Ideas


This is exactly how the Democratic presidential nominee should approach foreign affairs, the war on terrorism, and the war in Iraq. The nominee should run a disciplined, principled, and hawkish campaign compared to Bush's scatter-brained mess.
"...if I were president...I would immediately invite the leaders of the U.N., Germany, France and NATO to Camp David to rebuild the alliance that won the cold war, so we have the staying power to win this war of ideas in the Muslim world. And I would have my secretary of state out in the Middle East regularly, arguing our case, bolstering our allies and trying to bring about a secure peace for Israelis and Palestinians.

...Unlike the Bush team, I understand that just because you have a hammer, not every problem is a nail. It takes more than force to win a war of ideas. But...let no one have any illusions: a Kerry presidency will pay any price and bear any burden to try to build a decent Iraqi regime in the heart of the Arab world. My making that commitment now is the best way to prove to the terrorists that their actions are futile, and in that way save American and Iraqi lives. Failure to make that commitment would have horrific consequences for U.S. foreign policy."
Kerry (or whoever the Democratic nominee turns out to be) needs to think Truman and Kennedy when it comes to foreign policy; not Carter and Mondale.


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