On the surface, at least, there's good news for Democrats in the latest Washington Post-ABC poll | http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/07/AR2005060700296.html.
When you've got 52 percent disapproving of Bush's performance and 56 percent turning thumbs down on the Republicans in Congress, that's got to provide a morale boost to the out-of-power party.
But it turns out that 56 percent also disapprove of the Democrats in Congress. In short, no one in D.C. is terribly popular right now.
I'm sure people realize the Republicans are running everything right now, so an unhappiness with the direction of the country has ultimately got to hurt the GOP more. And, yes, when asked who's responsible for the lack of progress on the nation's problems, 67 percent blamed Bush and the Republicans while 13 percent blamed Dems on the Hill. Throw in the numbers on Iraq -- nearly six in 10 say the war wasn't worth fighting and two-thirds see the U.S. as bogged down there -- and it's not a pretty picture for the president's party. After all, if there's one issue that Bush gets the credit or blame for, it's Iraq. And Mr. War on Terror has just 50-49 support on his signature issue.
But I'm always skeptical about these polls when it comes to Congress, and here's why. People are often fed up with what's happening or not happening on Capitol Hill, but they almost never blame their own member of Congress. In the House, incumbent reelection rates are in the high 90s. Both parties have so carefully rejiggered the political map that there are rarely more than a couple of dozen competitive House races, and dislodging Senate incumbents isn't easy, either.
So while these numbers may make the Democrats feel good, the poll doesn't necessarily mean gains in the (D) column in 2006. In fact, few analysts are predicting that the Democrats have a real shot at taking either chamber. They could, of course, shrink the margins, and the sixth year of a presidency is usually tough for the president's party (though Clinton's party gained House seats in his year of impeachment).
The larger issue for Bush, who staked so much on Iraq, is whether perceptions that it was an ill-advised adventure will harden to the point where it will be seen as a negative part of his legacy. And with Social Security going nowhere fast, and the House having defied him on stem cells (where even 60 percent of Republicans want looser restrictions), it will be difficult for Bush to change the subject.
Former FCC chief Reed Hundt | http://www.tpmcafe.com/story/2005/6/7/125510/2356, in the TPM Cafe, floats some possibilities about the poll findings:
"A clear majority of Americans say President Bush is ignoring the public's concerns and instead has become distracted by issues that most people say they care little about, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
"So, what's explanation? Here are some basic theories:
"First, the Administration is showing real leadership, trying to change the culture, and that takes time. You may not agree with their goals, but you have to recognize their motive.
"Second, the Administration's full strategy has yet to be revealed.
"Third, the Democrats have done a good job persuading the public not to follow the Administration's lead.
"Fourth, the media have done a poor job explaining to the public what is important to care about -- or, the media have done a good job explaining what is really important.
"Fifth, voters and the voting process do not produce outcomes that the majority of the public prefers.
"Sixth, the media blitz of 2004 overwhelmed the public; in its absence, the public can form its own views about what is important.
"Seventh, the polls are wrong; the polled don't care much really because there's no decision to be made by them right now; public opinion doesn't matter much anyhow; an elite runs the world."
Well, that pretty much covers the map.
With the ombudspersons of both the NYT and the WP having chided their papers for not doing more on the Downing Street Memo, it's clear the press dropped the ball. Here's the explanation from USA Today | http://www.usatoday.com/printedition/news/20050608/a_memo08.art.htm:
"USA TODAY chose not to publish anything about the memo before today for several reasons, says Jim Cox, the newspaper's senior assignment editor for foreign news. 'We could not obtain the memo or a copy of it from a reliable source,' Cox says. 'There was no explicit confirmation of its authenticity from (Blair's office). And it was disclosed four days before the British elections, raising concerns about the timing.'"
My reaction: Copy or no copy, Blair's office never disputed the authenticity of the document, only its interpretation. And since when do we invalidate news that breaks four days before an election (see DUI arrest, Bush, G., 2000)? An election that wasn't even happening in this country?
Howard Dean is drawing some party support, says the Boston Globe | http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2005/06/09/democratic_leaders_stand_up_for_dean/:
"A round of criticism from fellow Democrats and major donors about Howard Dean's four-month tenure as Democratic National Committee chairman has prompted Senate leaders to rise to his defense at a public event planned for today.
"Originally scheduled as a private meeting between Dean and the leadership team of Senate minority leader Harry Reid of Nevada, today's session instead will now include a news conference and photo opportunity as a public embrace of Dean, who has rocked the political world over the past week with provocative condemnations of the Republican party. . . .
"Some leading Democrats and major donors are concerned that Dean is jeopardizing the party's ability to reach beyond its traditional base to win close elections, particularly for the White House. Dean has repeatedly said his goal is to build the party's ranks not only in Democratic-dominated states, but also in culturally conservative regions where Republicans usually prevail.
"Most of the criticism of Dean has come from prospective presidential candidates in 2008, such as Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware, who said Dean does not speak for the majority of Democrats, and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who said Dean is not the spokesman for the Democratic Party."
Lots of online chatter about Dean, with National Review's David Freddoso | http://nationalreview.com/comment/freddoso200506080745.asp offering a greatest-hits compilation:
"'I'm beginning to see through the Republican spin,' a GOP Hill staffer instant-messaged me the other day, 'and now I don't think it's spin anymore. Howard Dean is just totally nuts.'"
Ethical time-out: Shouldn't a Republican have to go on the record if he (she) wants to call the Democratic chairman totally nuts?
"Under Dean's leadership, the Democratic National Committee is different now from last year only in that it can't keep up in fundraising, and its chairman calls Republicans 'evil,' 'corrupt' and 'brain-dead' 'liars' who 'never made an honest living in their lives' and 'are not nice people.'
"Republicans, Dean said Tuesday in San Francisco, are 'pretty much a monolithic party. They all behave the same. They all look the same. It's pretty much a white Christian party.' If you belong to the GOP, he said in Washington last week, then you 'are all about suppressing votes: two voting machines if you live in a black district, ten voting machines if you live in a white district.' If you are a Republican, Dr. Dean says you offer a 'dark, difficult and dishonest vision . . . for America.'
But Dean assures us, "We're not going to stoop to the kind of divisiveness that the Republicans are doing." Quite a relief!
There is much legitimate debate over what makes for a good party chairman, but one criterion that nearly everyone can agree on is that he should not be his party's greatest liability. On that score, Howard Dean is really getting out of hand. When Dean starts speaking, even Barney Frank gets nervous and starts looking for the door."
Tom Alday | http://www.aldaynet.org/article/1031/ also uses the N-word:
"We already know at least some Democrats think he's nuts, when will they fire him altogether? They have to realize he's doing nothing for the party. Are they that self destructive?"
Rush Limbaugh | http://www.rushlimbaugh.com/home/daily/site_060805/content/rush_is_right.guest.html, a target of some of Dean's attacks, is also letting him have it:
"You don't see anybody making a move to get rid of him, do you?. . . . I'm telling you, folks, this is what they think. I have been trying to tell you this for I don't know how long. This is what they think of you. Why should this even be a surprise? You know the enmity they have for evangelicals; you know the paranoia and the fear they have of religious people. You know how they hate and don't understand the makeup of people in the red states and you know that they've had these fears for years, many, many election cycles."
But Nation Editor Katrina van den Heuvel | http://thenation.com/blogs/edcut?bid=7&pid=3211 defends the doctor:
"Congressional Democrats never supported Dean for DNC chair. They wanted someone lower-profile and less hyperbolic. Apparently they wanted someone like RNC Chair Ken Mehlman. Still, it was more than a little surprising for Senator Joe Biden, who is not renown for his diplomatic temperament, to take a potshot at the chairman of his own party for rhetorical excess. . . .
"Outside the beltway, Dean is immensely popular with the party faithful. He has raised tons of money and is using it to rebuild the infrastructure at the state and local levels. The same infrastructure Biden will need if he decides to run for president.
"Besides, Dean's statement is precisely the kind of red meat party chairmen are supposed to throw to rev up their base. You don't hear Republicans pulling any punches. So enough of the infighting."
Is there really something wrong with some Democrats saying "don't work for a living" and "white Christian party" go too far? GOP Chairman Ken Mehlman dealt with the latter charge by recalling his Bar Mitzvah.
Cenk Uygur | http://www.huffingtonpost.com/theblog/archive/cenk-uygur/seven-step-plan-for-media_2236.html, on the Huffington Post, says overheated rhetoric is the name of the game:
"Does Dean really believe that no Republicans work for a living? Of course not. Does Dean believe Tom DeLay is facing an imminent jail sentence for his ethical problems? Of course not.
"These are simple hyperboles that are commonplace in normal discussion. But we're not having a normal conversation. Our national conversation is dominated by right wing talk show hosts who blow everything Democrats say out of proportion and completely ignore the real problems of America.
"So, in this world, invading a country that didn't attack us and posed absolutely no threat to us is no big deal. But Howard Dean overstating his distaste for Republicans is an enormous deal. In this world, lying about Saddam Hussein's connections to 9/11, his WMD capabilities and misleading us into a highly destabilizing preemptive strike against another country is a tiny issue. What Howard Dean said last week is a giant issue. Tom DeLay's ethical violations aren't an issue, what Dean says about them is an issue.
"C'mon, c'mon, c'mon. How many times are we going to fall into this conservative talking point trap? Democrats shouldn't be backpedaling from aggressive comments, they should be attacking straight ahead."
But Democrat Justin Lewis | http://justintlewis.com/2005/06/08/can-i-get-ya-to-shut-up/ is disappointed:
"I had hope for Howard Dean when he was elected, I really did, but now I'm coming to the realization that he's doing more harm than good for our party. The focus hasn't, and won't be, on our message because we have a party leader who, instead of doing everything within our power to talk about the issues that affect the lives of Democrats, Republicans, Independents, whatever, keeps attacking Republicans. . . . So, I say again to Howard Dean: can I get ya to shut up?"
Salon's Eric Boehlert | http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2005/06/09/press_and_downing_street_memo/index.html is still steamed about the absence of Memogate:
"In setting up his question to Ken Mehlman on Sunday, Tim Russert said, 'Let me turn to the now famous Downing Street memo.'
"Famous? It would be famous in America if the D.C. press corps functioned the way it's supposed to. Russert's June 5 reference, five weeks after the story broke, represented the first time NBC News had even mentioned the document or the controversy surrounding it. In fact, Russert's query was the first time any of the network news divisions addressed the issue seriously. In an age of instant communications, the American mainstream media has taken an exceedingly long time -- as if news of the memo had traveled by vessel across the Atlantic Ocean -- to report on the leaked document. Nor has it considered its grave implications -- namely, that President Bush lied to the American people and Congress during the run-up to the war with Iraq when he insisted over and over again that war was his administration's last option. . . .
"And yet, as Russert's weeks-late inquiry illustrates, the Downing Street memo story has also refused to simply fade away. Championed by progressive activists, media advocates, nearly 100 Democratic members of Congress, liberal radio hosts and bloggers, ombudsmen, a handful of columnists and an army of newspaper readers -- who have flooded editors with letters demanding that the story be reported -- the British memo continues to enjoy a peculiar afterlife."
Bill Scher | http://www.liberaloasis.com/archives/060505.htm#060605 at Liberal Oasis backs William Schulz, Amnesty International's U.S. director, over his "Fox News Sunday" interview on the "gulag" flap:
"Schulz faced a particularly abominable Chris Wallace, yet calmly swatted back Wallace's loaded questions. . . .
"Overall, Amnesty's aggressive posture throughout the past week, despite having a smaller megaphone than the White House, has helped them get the truth out."
No verdict yet in the Jacko case, but "the lead defense attorney delivered a stinging rebuke to people claiming to speak for the pop star," says the Los Angeles Times | http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-060805jackson_lat,0,5346346.story?coll=la-home-headlines. "The statement followed a day when two spokespeople tried to paint favorable portraits of Jackson. The Rev. Jesse Jackson condemned what he called 'psychological warfare' against the unsequestered jury in a television report that showed a jail cell where the pop star could be sent if convicted. Jackson also painted a rosy portrait of Michael Jackson's finances."
This involved a Dan Abrams report on MSNBC. "He was followed by Raymone Bain, who has been a spokesperson for the family throughout the trail and told reporters that Jackson was awaiting a verdict by spending time with his children. She insisted that she spoke with the backing of defense attorney Thomas A. Mesereau Jr., which could have created a problem since a gag order has been issued on all participants. 'I have not authorized anyone to speak or hold any press conferences on behalf of Michael Jackson or his family,' Mesereau said in a posting on the Jackson web site. A companion message was issued by the Jackson family:" Hey, with 1,200 media types there, anything is news.
Finally, Jeff Jarvis | http://www.buzzmachine.com continues his crusade against what he calls "national mammarophobia: Teen actress Lindsay Lohan's breasts have been digitally reduced for forthcoming Disney film 'Herbie: Fully Loaded,' to avoid offending family audiences.
"Test screenings for the new movie, the fourth sequel to the 1968 film The Love Bug about a Volkswagen Beetle car with a mind of its own, indicated that some parents felt Lohan's character Maggie Peyton was too raunchy for a children's film.
"Disney technicians were forced to plough through numerous scenes - especially those showing the busty actress jumping up and down at a motor racing track, reducing her breasts by two cup sizes and raising revealing necklines on her T-shirts. The director denies it.
"The problem these days -- when grown people make news hunting down nipples -- is that you can't tell the parody from the truth."