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21/25/40: California has a spending problem. As State Senator Tom McClintock likes to point out, population and inflation combined have grown at a rate of 21% the past four years; revenue has grown 25%. Yet California government spending has grown 40%. The result is an unprecedented state budget deficit expected to exceed $35 billion.
- Thomas Krannawitter 5/2/03

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[1/30/04 Friday]

[Carol Platt Liebau - editorial director] 5:02 am [link]
Weasel Wealth: The Middle East Media Research Institute's Baghdad office has released a translation of an article which appeared in the Iraqi daily Al-Mada. It is a list of 270 companies, organizations, and individuals awarded allocations (vouchers) of crude oil by Saddam Hussein's regime. Funny how the list itself subverts all the Democrats' favorite anti-war arguments.

Standing for Internationalism on Principle Award: France.
The French-Arab Friendship Association received 15.1 million barrels; Former French Interior Minister Charles Pasqua received 12 million barrels; Patrick Maugein of the Trafigura company received 25 million barrels; and Michel Grimard, founder of the French-Iraqi Export Club, received 17.1 million barrels.

No Link to Terror Award: Palestine.
The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) received 4 million barrels; The PLO Political Bureau received 5 million barrels; Abu Al-Abbas received 11.5 million barrels.

Wonder Where the WMD's Are? Award: Syria.
Farras Mustafa Tlass, the son of Syrian Defense Minister Mustafa Tlass, received 6 million barrels; 'Audh Amourah received18 million barrels; Ghassan Zakariya received 6 million barrels; Anwar Al-Aqqad received 2 million barrels; and Hamida Na'Na', the owner of the Al-Wafaq Al-Arabi periodical, received 1 million barrels.

[1/29/04 Thursday]

[Doug Gamble - speechwriter, columnist] 5:15 am [link]
Switching Horses: Former Al Gore chief of staff Roy Neel taking control of the Howard Dean campaign is another nail in the Dean coffin. Dean being advised by a former Gore aide on how to win an election is like Martha Stewart getting advice from Leona Helmsley on how to stay out of prison. What fun to see the candidate who portrays himself as an outsider bringing in one of Washington's biggest insiders.

Watch for Neel's impact to be seen soon as Dean wears earthtones and denounces the internal combustion engine while planting a 2-minute kiss on his wife at a Buddhist temple fundraiser. That's after he sighs his way through the South Carolina debate and brags that he invented the temper tantrum.

[1/28/04 Wednesday]

[Carol Platt Liebau - editorial director] 9:40 am [link]
Old Socialists Never Die: Up on Capitol Hill, Teddy Kennedy's huffing and puffing at a Senate hearing like an old, asthmatic dragon, trying to bully weapons inspector David Kay, who has done a magnificent job in describing Iraq as a "serious gathering threat" to the world before the U.S. action to remove Saddam Hussein. Kennedy seems to think he can score points by asserting that the administration "selectively" interpreted conflicting intelligence reports about Hussein's weapons prior to the war.

What a ridiculous, disingenuous argument! It's inherent in the nature of policy-making that one has to choose between conflicting facts and theories, based on one's view of the world and the national welfare. To put it in simple terms that even Teddy K can understand, when he advocates raising the minimum wage, small business owners protest that he is going to make it more difficult for them to do business -- and perhaps force them to close. He IGNORES those arguments because he favors raising the minimum wage and, in his view of the world and the national welfare, it's more important for the people who have jobs to be paid more, than it is for more people to be able to find work (and employers being able to hire more people) at whatever the going market rate would be.

Given that Teddy K has been a hearty proponent of every failed big spending liberal program of the last 40 or more years, it takes some nerve for him to accuse the Bush administration of ignoring evidence that runs contrary to its ideology, and to condemn the administration for choosing the wrong policy route in the face of ambiguous and evidence. After all, Ted K -- who as recently as 1996 predicted that welfare reform would result in disaster for the poor, among his other flawed predictions -- has been proven much more wrong, much more often than everyone in the Bush administration put together.

[Doug Gamble - speechwriter, columnist] 6:15 am [link]
Post New Hampshire: Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry is starting to look -- I have to say it -- presidential.

While everything we know today still points to a reelection win for President George W. Bush this November, there is one thing in particular that could jeopardize it: arrogance. It's a nasty trait that has been associated with Bush and some of the people around him going back to the 2000 campaign when he acted as though he were taking New Hampshire for granted -- skipping the first two debates before finally deigning to appear for the third -- and got soundly thumped in the primary by John McCain.

Two days before the 2000 election, Bush guru Karl Rove, considered by some the reigning genius of U.S. politics, predicted that Bush would win with 320 electoral votes. It was an arrogant assertion that, needless to say, fell a tad short.

I would like to hear Republicans talk less about how Kerry, if he's the nominee, has no chance once he's portrayed to the national electorate as a looney liberal to the left of Ted Kennedy, and more about how they could have a real fight on their hands. Kerry is no Dukakis-in-the-tank candidate. And anyone who saw any of Kerry's 7 debates with William Weld in the hard-fought 1996 Massachusetts Senate race should understand he can be a formidable opponent.

Perhaps Kerry, again, assuming he's the nominee, will crumble in the general election once the Bush team begins portraying him as unworthy of the presidency during a time of national peril. But I'd prefer to see them operate on the assumption that he will not. The biggest mistake that can be made in sports or politics is to underestimate the opponent. All the underestimating I've been hearing lately makes me nervous.

Conventional wisdom says there's no way Bush can lose. The downside to conventional wisdom is that it often proves very unwise.

[Carol Platt Liebau - editorial director] 6:15 am [link]
Silver Lining Alert: It's too bad Howard Dean wasn't closer -- it would have been fun to see John Kerry set down a peg or two. That being said, it could have been a lot worse! Dean did well enough to be emboldened to continue, which is a good thing; what Republican wouldn't want to see Mad Dog Dean nipping at Kerry's heels all the way across the Super Tuesday states? Edwards has run poorly -- which also is good for Republicans, as he might be a more difficult frontrunner than Kerry. Yet his favorables remain high; that in itself will keep him on the short list for Vice President, and that's good, too . . . it would mean that if a Kerry-Edwards ticket went down to defeat in 2004, Hillary Clinton might have some stiff competition in the person of John Edwards when she makes her move in 2008. Finally, the poor showing of Wesley Clark is an occasion for schadenfreude of the first order: It's satisfying to see the self-important, weaselly General, along with his Clinton-leftover handlers, resoundingly repudiated in the primary that was supposed to mark the beginning of his march to victory.

[Joe Armendariz - columnist] 6:15 am [link]
And we will: Howard Dean's "And We Will" speech was a big improvement over last week's "I have a scream" speech delivered to supporters in Iowa. I have one of my own...

Oh how I hope we run against the moral bankruptcy of the Left-wing, idiot-fringe that has hijacked the Democratic Party and we will.

I hope we run against a presidential candidate who wants to raise taxes and we will.

I hope we run against a presidential candidate who wishes we had cooperated with Saddam Hussein and the French and we will.

I hope we run against a presidential candidate who thinks only Republicans have the support of powerful special interests and we will.

I hope we run against a presidential candidate who thinks Sean Penn, Martin Sheen and Barbara Streisand know more about foreign policy than Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice and we will.

I hope we run against a presidential candidate who thinks growing up rich, attending elite boarding schools and spending your entire adult life in public office makes you an "ordinary" American and we will.

I hope we run against a presidential candidate who if it were up to him Saddam Hussein would still be in power and we will.

I hope we run against a presidential candidate who thinks we should talk tough and carry a wet noodle and we will.

I hope we run against a presidential candidate who thinks global warming is fact and WMD's are fiction and we will.

I hope we run against a presidential candidate who panders to the military but impugns their every mission and we will.

I hope we run against a presidential candidate who thinks the American people are too stupid to know what a complete phony he is...and we will.

[1/27/04 Tuesday]

[Carol Platt Liebau - editorial director] 5:01 am [link]
Many commentators (including this one) were humbled by John Kerry's come-from-behind victory over Howard Dean in last week's Iowa caucuses. Even so, it's a new day and a new game in New Hampshire.

Given Howard Dean's third place finish in Iowa, coupled with his memorable non-concession speech and what the polls indicate, it's pretty clear that John Kerry will be the winner of the New Hampshire primary. But his supporters' optimism should be tempered -- Kerry's really the frontrunner by default, rather than by virtue of his splendid campaigning and universal appeal. After all, he has been well-known in the state of New Hampshire for years -- and if voters had been enthusiastic Kerry supporters to begin with, there would never have been such an intense initial surge for Dean. Perhaps the yard signs reportedly sprouting all over New Hampshire tell the tale: "I flirted with Dean, but I'll marry Kerry." Sometimes, you just have to go with the safe choice -- and it looks like that's what New Hampshire Democrats will do.

But Howard Dean may run a more competitive race for second place than many pundits are now predicting. Yes, Dean's campaign had a catastrophic melt-down at the beginning of last week. But notwithstanding his lackluster performance in the debate on Thursday, he was able to stop the erosion in his numbers, having sat for an interview with his wife and having offered the "Top Ten" list on David Letterman's show about how his campaign could recover. He doesn't seem able to climb much beyond his base of voters at the moment, but at least he isn't losing them anymore -- and his base exceeds 20%. In fact, his poll numbers have started to climb.

Admittedly, if (when?) Dean loses both Iowa and New Hampshire, he'll have some hard thinking to do about whether the race is recoverable -- and if so, in what state(s). But his organization is the best prepared to run a fifty-state campaign, and he's well-funded. So he could well remain a factor in the race even after losing all hope of winning the nomination. And in what would be a nightmare scenario for either Kerry or Edwards, he could continue to run a campaign exclusively devoted to dragging their favorable ratings down, thereby destroying Terry McAuliffe's dream of having a presumptive nominee and a united party by February 3.

Wesley Clark had been the presumptive third place finisher (more on him later), but John Edwards is the better bet to come in third. Voters seem to like him -- and his subpar performance in the debate on Thursday (bobbling questions on Islam and the Defense of Marriage Act) haven't seemed to hurt him badly. His numbers continue to rise, and interestingly, of all the candidates, he has the greatest number of voters who rank him as their "second choice" -- which means that, if these voters become disillusioned with another candidate (like Wesley Clark!), he's in a good position to inheirit that candidate's supporters. It's not out of the question that Edwards might even beat Dean and come in second -- in which case, Dean's history.

Joe Lieberman may well run forth -- if he's lucky. Despite the best performance of any candidate in last Thursday's debate, Lieberman's positions are simply too centrist to appeal to Democratic primary voters. He's been working hard to attract independents into the primary . . . but there aren't enough to carry him through. He insists that his campaign will continue even after a unimpressive showing in New Hampshire, but it's hard to see where and how his campaign would take off. It may not be too long before Lieberman joins Dick Gephardt on the sidelines.

And finally, General Wesley Clark looks well-positioned to come in fifth. Unlike the other candidates, his poll numbers have been falling almost a point a day -- and it's no wonder. His political instincts are dreadful -- he made the biggest flub of the debate by declining to take issue with propagandist Michael Moore's characterization of the President as a "deserter." (The mistake was a biggie, and so easily avoided -- rather than simply saying that Moore has a "right" to say whatever he wants, Clark could have saved his campaign a lot of distraction by tacking on a "but I wish he hadn't said that" or "although I respect Michael Moore [a ludicrous thought in itself], I don't agree with that."). All the former Clinton staffers on his team must be yanking their hair out by the roots.

The strategic rationales for supporting Clark had been three-fold: First, he could serve as the anti-Dean; second, he was someone who could run well in the South; third, he was seen as a general who could neutralize the GOP's advantage in the national security area. Well, all those rationales have been completely undermined -- as it turns out, John Kerry is serving as the alternative to Dean; John Edwards has emerged as a Southerner who has clear appeal for voters, at least in Iowa; and Clark's own inconsistencies on the Iraq war (which were highlighted at the debate) have never been convincingly addressed by the General. It's not out of the question that Clark could beat Lieberman, but it's looking less likely by the day.

[1/26/04 Monday]

[Bill Leonard] 5:01 am [link]
Between a Rock and a Hard Place:
California's financial status is squarely between the proverbial rock and a hard place. The Governor is proposing a $15 billion bond measure toh elp get us back on track. That is hard medicine to swallow, no matter what your political persuasion. However, a look at the alternatives puts me firmly in support of our Governor's plan. The Democrats' alternative is a tax increase. This defies logic because California does not have a revenue problem; it has a spending problem. The Republicans' alternative is cutting programs now, but the reality is that the Republicans need the time that the bond will buy in order to implement the budget cuts and make program reductions.

A recent poll has me worried that California voters are not thinking practically yet.

The deficit bond (Prop. 57) only has support at 33% and opposition at 40%.Yet, Prop. 56 (the measure that would lower the threshold for raising taxes) is in a statistical dead heat. If voters pass 56, but reject 57and 58 (the Governor's balanced budget proposal), we will have new, higher taxes quickly. Without the bond and the reform in 57 and 58, and with the majority in the legislature empowered by a new law saying they can raise taxes with a mere 55% vote, you can bet that your taxes will be going up soon. So, even if you are not thrilled with the deficit bond, I urge your vote in favor of 57 to prevent a disaster. [From Leonard Letter 1/20]

[1/23/04 Friday]

[Carol Platt Liebau - editorial director] 2:05 pm [link]
Judy Dean: It was interesting to see the ABC News interview of Howard Dean and Judith Steinberg last night. Here's my conclusion: She's just shy. And she actually seems very, very likable.

Ironically, a bunch of feminists have gang-tackled Dr. Steinberg for her refusal to hit the campaign trail earlier. I've been critical of her disengagement, as well -- but my reasons couldn't be more different. It's seemed to me that it's somehow not right NOT to be involved and not to make the effort to be proactively, affirmatively helpful when one's husband is undertaking the biggest endeavor of his life (whatever it might be), and in Dr. Steinberg's case, especially when he's running for President. During the interview, Dr. Steinberg inadvertently alluded to her unique value for her husband: "I tell him what I really think." Does she know how rare that quality is on the campaign trail, and how important it could have been for her husband to have at least one person to tell him honestly how he was coming across, and what he needed to do (and not to do)?

In contrast, the prominent feminists (like Maureen Dowd and Tina Brown) don't understand Dr. Steinberg because they can't comprehend someone who simply isn't interested in the limelight and the power. To them, I think it would be OK not to support one's husband if he were doing something they deemed "unimportant." But to happily forego the chance to be "important" in the little New York/Washington media bubble? Unthinkable. Dr. Steinberg honestly doesn't care what Tina Brown or Maureen Dowd think of her -- and worse yet, she might not even know who they are! And in those self-important (but insecure) ladies' minds, that's the real unforgivable sin.

[Carol Platt Liebau - editorial director] 5:05 am [link]
After the DemBate: Expect whatever ugly stuff there is to come out about John Kerry -- sooner, rather than later. Why? Because Wesley Clark made the biggest flub of the debate by declining to take issue with propagandist Michael Moore's characterization of the President as a "deserter." (Note that Clark's mistake was a biggie, and so easily avoided -- rather than simply saying that Moore has a "right" to say whatever he wants, which incidentally no one is disputing, Clark could have saved himself a lot of trouble by tacking on a "but I wish he hadn't said that" or "although I respect Michael Moore [a ludicrous thought in itself], I don't agree with that.")

Anyway, Kerry had better be ready for some unpleasantness -- because a key man on Clark's team, Chris Lehane, used to work for Kerry less than a year ago, and so presumably has whatever "dirt" there is on the putative frontrunner. After Clark's non-performance tonight, his team will be afraid that he's going to fizzle and come in third behind Dean (or even fourth behind Edwards, perhaps) and so may set out a few attack dogs, especially on Kerry, but maybe also a bit on Edwards -- because if Edwards trounces Clark down south, Clark's finished . . . especially if the General runs disappointingly in New Hampshire.

Then again, the Clark team may leave Edwards alone for a while, because after Clark, Edwards had the poorest showing of the debate. Commentators are asserting that he didn't know the substance of the Defense of Marriage Act. I disagree . . . he tried a slippery lawyer's trick. He engaged in an elevated form of dodging the question -- essentially misrepresenting the substance of the DOMA, so that he could disagree with it. He wanted to take issue with the legislation in order to keep the Democratic gay constituency happy, but at the same time, not say anything that would alienate his Southern base. Peter Jennings, who asked the question about DOMA, was prepared to let Edwards get away with this little scam -- but then Brit Hume chimed in and pointed out that Edwards' "states' rights" approach was precisely the motivating principle of DOMA. And so Edwards was left looking either ill-informed, or else slippery. If you are a first-term senator running for President, having made a living as a trial lawyer, nothing could be worse. Quite a bad moment for the Breck Girl.

Lieberman did a good job . . . perhaps sensing that his campaign is doomed, and so he might as well be true to his centrist roots, as there's nothing left to lose. Al Sharpton made it entertainingly clear that he has no clue about the function either of the IMF or the Federal Reserve, and it was a priceless Democratic moment to see Dennis Kucinich shooting the Reverend Al the peace sign when Sharpton expressed the hope that Kucinich would engage in a delegate-swapping scheme with him like the Kucinich-Edwards axis in Iowa. The most entertaining shot, however, was the close-up of the look of frozen terror on John Edwards' face when Dennis Kucinich announced to the world that "John and I are friends."

As for Ho-Ho, looks like he's a no-go. Dean failed to avail himself of Hugh Hewitt's excellent advice on how to save himself; though he made no big gaffes, he didn't undo the damage from his maniacal whooping exhibition on Monday. That, in itself, will save him from the tender ministrations of the Clark team -- there's no reason to try to destroy an adversary who does it himself and saves you the trouble.

If Kerry wins New Hampshire, already having won Iowa, he would look awfully well-positioned to win the Democratic nomination. And I could live with that. Unlike John Edwards or Wesley Clark, it makes no sense for Kerry to put Hillary Clinton of New York on the ticket . . . and a number of commentators, including Rush Limbaugh, have noted that Hillary might welcome the chance to lose a vice presidential race, as such a loss would inoculate her in 2008 from numerous charges she would have to face more directly as a presidential candidate.

Kerry comes across as pompous, lacking a common touch, and he has a voting record as liberal as that of Senator Teddy Kennedy. Bring him on!

[1/22/04 Thursday]

[Carol Platt Liebau - editorial director] 3:15 pm [link]
DemBate: Every good Republican watching the Democratic debate tonight should hope that Howard Dean resuscitates his candidacy, at least for now. (Hugh Hewitt has offered a brilliant strategy for him -- too bad Dean lacks the humility to follow it). Of course he would be both the most fun Democratic nominee, and the easiest to beat. And can you imagine the "war whoop" of victory we'd get after a successful showing in the NH primary? (After his performance in Iowa, Dean would doubtless restrain himself, actually, but we can dream).

Failing a "comeback kid" performance, Republicans should hope that Dean flames out spectacularly. Why? Because if he has a hope, albeit a feeble one, of still clinching the presidential spot, he'll go after John Kerry -- and has enough money to inflict serious damage. At the same time, if Dean harbors a thought of winning the vice-presidential slot (and that would only be if John Edwards were the nominee -- Kerry wouldn't pick a fellow notheasterner), he won't go after John Edwards.

In this scenario, John Edwards (probably the most formidable general election candidate left in the field) could sneak up through the middle as Dean takes out Kerry . . . much the way Kerry and Edwards slipped up through the polls to victory while Dean and Gephardt were concentrating their fire on each other.

Only a spectacular, no-hope-left flop could leave Dean bitter and angry enough to take on both Kerry and Edwards . . . and the whole "Democratic establishment" from Terry McAuliffe on down with all the money he's raised. And for sheer entertainment value, that might even rival the spectacle of Dean being named the Democratic nominee.

[Bill Leonard] 5:01 am [link]
Democrats Applaud Davis:
The California Democrat Party held its convention in San Jose this weekend. Gray Davis was one of the keynote speakers and was applauded by the party leaders, as well he should be. After all, it was the greedy positions of party leaders that were the final blow to his political career. Even as recall petitions were circulating and his popularity was sinking, they shoved their leftist agenda onto Governor Davis. The party members, in the words of Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi, acknowledged that “The loss of the governorship was a staggering blow to this party.” But are they really remorseful? Or do you think if they had a chance to push new legislation to give drivers license to foreigners without papers, or push more new spending plans that they would take it? I think they owe Davis a big “thank you” for sacrificing his Governorship on the rocks of their liberal extremism. [From Leonard Letter 1/20]

[1/21/04 Wednesday]

[Carol Platt Liebau - editorial director] 5:07 am [link]
Bush SOTU: It was bound to be anticlimactic when it became clear that President Bush wouldn't ascend the podium, roll up his sleeves, bellow at Congress for an hour and then end the State of the Union with a maniacal YYAAAARRHHH!!!

Despite its lack of Dean-like entertainment value, the President's speech was a good one nonetheless. President Bush offered an apologia (not an apology!) of his policies both foreign and domestic, and managed not to sound defensive doing it -- no mean feat. Like him or not, there's no denying he's a leader -- he made his positions on the war on terror (including the Patriot Act), taxes, education and a whole host of other matters crystal clear . . . creating obvious contrasts with the Democratic positions on these issues, and setting the stage for a very spirited debate with any Democratic nominee.

Yes, one could happily live a full and fulfilling life without having to hear the topic of steroids in professional sports discussed as part of the State of the Union address, but such laundry lists of topics have become standard fare in these yearly speeches; they must play well with at least some Americans.

What's always interesting during State of the Union addresses is watching the opposition party struggle with the decision about whether to stand and applaud. Their intention to "send a message" of disagreement to the President ends up causing the Democrats to seem opposed to some fairly uncontroversial propositions -- that frivolous lawsuits are bad, or that dramatic economic growth and educational gains are good -- and makes them look a little silly.

Speaking of Democrats, their response to the State of the Union was pure entertainment -- garden variety liberal style. Tom Daschle was his usual slippery, dishonest self . . . who knew that "the massive tax cuts that were supposed to spark an economic expansion have instead led to an economic exodus"? And did he miss the fact that economic growth last quarter was the largest in 20 years? In Daschle's world, though, tax cuts are the root of all evil -- apparently they "have put the states in a bind" so that college tuition must be raised. Overspending had nothing to do with it . . . After watching his performance tonight, one had to agree with Daschle himself that he had no business running for president.

But the best was listening to San Francisco liberal Nancy Pelosi comment on foreign policy -- she started out the Democratic response, and every Republican alive can only hope that normal, sensible Americans were still watching. Leader Pelosi believes that "America must be a light to the world, not just a missile." Huh? And she wants everyone to understand that "Democrats have an unwavering commitment to ensure that America's armed forces remain the best trained, best equipped force FOR PEACE the world has ever known."

So there it is -- the difference between Democrats and Republicans in a nutshell. Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats seem unaware that the purpose of the armed forces in, in fact, fighting (and sometimes killing). President Bush and the Republicans want to make sure that America has the best trained, best equipped force FOR WAR the world has ever known . . . because that's the way we can best ensure that Americans can live safely in peace.

It should be an interesting election year.

[Doug Gamble - speechwriter, columnist] 5:06 am [link]
Bush SOTU: If anyone had doubts that foreign policy will be at the center of President Bush's reelection campaign, they should have been dispelled by his State of the Union Address. The speech as a whole was probably not as eloquent as some in the past, and Bush can seem less than inspiring when reciting an election-year laundry list of domestic initiatives. But when it comes to discussing the war on terrorism and the U.S. liberation of Iraq, Bush positively lifts his words from the Tele-Prompter and makes them spring to life.

Previously not inclined to wear his heart on his sleeve, the events of 9/11 transformed Bush into a man whose pride in our troops, our country and the average American could light a darkened chamber with its glow. The war on terrorism has become more than his responsibility, it has become the very core of his being. He is never so presidential -- or, for his opponents, as effective -- as when he marshals his words in defense of freedom at home and abroad.

It may be that his reelection was assured the moment the first plane struck the first tower on 9/11. But like another wartime president, Franklin Roosevelt, he will still have to campaign against a presidential opponent, still have to convince Americans that he is the one who should continue to lead the effort. Because his heartfelt conviction in the correctness of his actions allows him to say what he truly believes about defending America, unlike the Democrats who say what they think Americans want to hear, he will be very difficult to defeat in November.

[1/20/04 Tuesday]

[Carol Platt Liebau - editorial director] 5:16 am [link]
Where did the Dean juggernaut go? The best funded, best organized candidate (veteran Iowa reporter David Yepsen called Dean's organization the best he had ever seen), with the most dedicated supporters, lost -- and it wasn't even close. John Kerry -- who a month or two ago was enduring zingers as he followed Triumph the Comic Insult Dog on the Jay Leno show -- emerged as a winner, with 38% of the vote; John Edwards followed with 32%; Howard Dean was a distant third, with 18%; and Dick Gephardt trailed with a disappointing 11% in the state he had won easily in 1988.

What are some of the lessons of Iowa?

1. Union endorsements don't mean very much -- and it's hard to count on college students.

Gephardt had the endorsement of the manufacturing unions, and Dean had the government unions. Neither paid off -- union members accounted for only 25% of the state vote, and Dick Gephardt won only 31% of that universe. Dean's performance wasn't much better -- and he was let down by the college students that he professed to have energized, having lost the counties where both the University of Iowa and Iowa State University are located.

2. Positive campaigning may pay off.

During the last weeks of the race, as Dean and Gephardt pounded each other, Kerry and Edwards quietly edged up in the polls. Conventional wisdom holds that negative advertising is unpleasant but effective . . . it was indeed unpleasant, but it was only effective for the people who didn't deploy it.

3. Electability matters.

Last week, a Gallup/USA Today/CNN poll revealed that 48% of Democrats wanted a nominee who shares their views; 48% preferred a nominee who can beat Bush. All the Democratic candidates in Iowa pretty much articulated similar views -- all that was left was electability, and voters decided that Kerry and Edwards had a better chance than "gaffe-prone" Dean and "yesterday's news" Gephardt.

Several weeks ago, the Democratic nomination was Howard Dean's to lose -- and it appears that he may be on his way to losing it. Not only has Dean made some remarkably silly statements (e.g. that America is no safer after the capture of Saddam Hussein), he has allowed himself to be portrayed -- by a press that clearly dislikes him personally -- as an angry, joyless candidate. Losing Iowa by a wide margin does nothing to help him in New Hampshire, which has become for him (rather than for Kerry) a must-win state. Even so, Dean can't be counted out unless and until he loses New Hampshire (especially if it's to Kerry) -- or wins it by fewer than 3 points (when he once enjoyed a double-digit lead like the one he had in Iowa). Then, he'll clearly be in trouble.

But whatever happens to Dean from here, he's the gift that will keep on giving for Republicans. At the outset of the race, it seemed that Al Sharpton could inflict damage on his fellow candidates that was disproportionate to his low level of support -- by forcing them to the left, and by forcing them to take positions on issues that wouldn't serve them well in a general election (e.g. reparations for slavery).

Sharpton's impact has been limited. Instead, Dean's angry rhetoric has forced the entire field to the left and to extremist statements in Iowa, thereby creating some sound bites that will return to haunt the Democratic nominee, whomever it is (Dean's popularity in Iowa inspired Wesley Clark to seek attention by making some truly strange comments himself in New Hampshire). And in the end, Dean's poor performance in Iowa tonight allows Republicans to continue to indulge their ultimate fantasy of a long, divided Democratic primary struggle. What a nightmare for Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, who tried so hard to "front-load" the nominating process to identify a candidate early!

One final point to consider: The late surge for Kerry and Edwards may not be as positive a sign as many Democrats might hope. ALL the candidates had been in Iowa for a long, long time. What does it say about Kerry's or Edward's appeal that voters couldn't decide whether to support them until the bitter end (or until after a love affair with the Dean candidacy had gone sour)?

Is Kerry the true frontrunner? Is Dean out of gas? Is Clark going to be a factor? Does Edwards have a chance? It's too early to tell -- but the shape of things to come will be growing clearer, especially after the New Hampshire primary scheduled for a week from Tuesday.

[Joe Armendariz - CRO columnist ] 5:15 am [link]
Kerry in Iowa: John F. Kerry, who is apparently running for President of the United Nations, in his victory speech from Iowa, suggested the existence of something called the "Bush Recession". The problem is there was no such thing. The last U.S. recession occurred in the 3rd Quarter of 2001. However, economists put the genesis of the slow-down in March of that year; less than 60 days after Bush took office.

No serious person can argue the recession in 2001 was the result of any economic policy(ies) supported by Bush.

Kerry also laments the "loss" of 3 million jobs in America. Memo to Kerry: there are more Americans working today (in small businesses as opposed to big businesses) than at any time in our nations history. Indeed, the U.S. economy (The Bush Boom) grew at a faster rate (8.2%) in the 4th quarter of 2003 than it has since 1983, when Reagan was President.

Finally, Kerry seems to believe Bush is vulnerable on the issue of children and education. But just remember this; the following United States Senators and Congressional Representatives co-sponsored the Bush "Act to Leave-No-Child-Behind" costing U.S. Taxpayers $26.5 billion dollars: Sen. Hillary Clinton (Democrat), Sen Edward Kennedy (Democrat), Sen Christopher Dodd (Democrat), Sen. Mark Dayton (Democrat), Sen. Paul Sarbanes (Democrat), Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Democrat) and the list goes on and on...

The 2004 Presidential election began tonight...if the Democrats insist on nominating a person who can't tell the truth...I guess I'll have to do it for him...

stay tuned!

[1/19/04 Monday]

[Charles Kopp] 5:09 am [link]
Honoring Dr. King: President Bush left a wreath at the grave of Martin Luther King Jr. Friday, and I saw television coverage of some hecklers there. I’ve been thinking of the ease with which contemporary folk claim to own the heritage of men such as King, and even Mahatma Gandhi. To judge by public statements, people as diverse as Al Sharpton, Hillary Clinton, Michael Moore, Yasser Arafat and Tom Daschle- seem to feel their own words and deeds are heirs to these moral giants.

As it happens, during my own years on the left of these arguments, I studied Gandhi and King at length, and even now as a conservative I am struck by how little they resemble anyone in the current political scene. Gandhi and King led demonstrations in a manner filled with dignity and courage. Dignity, in their attire, in their words, and deep within their character, a dignity evident to everyone who saw them. And this was not just a veneer to deflect criticism: both men did not seek to denigrate or humiliate their opponents, but to change the minds of their opponents through moral persuasion. Compare this to the speeches at anti-war rallies of today. For hours on end the speakers launch personal assaults on the character of people such as President Bush, Condoleeza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld, accusing them of a wide range of crimes and character flaws in paragraphs often laced with profanity. Phrases like “no blood for oil” are chanted with no thought given to the lack of evidence that the United States has appropriated even one gallon of Iraqi oil without payment to the owners, the Iraqi people. And I am not referring only to the wilder left occupants such as the radical group ANSWER. In the well of the Senate Mr. Byrd spoke for long hours, proving nothing so much as his own visceral hatred for the President. I for one have never found hatred an appealing thing.

It is not only by a lack of outer dignity or inner philosophy that the contemporary left differs from Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. There is also a vast difference in personal courage. As both of these men had studied history, I’m certain both men knew the likeliest outcome of their activities was assassination. We all know their outcomes. But when folk like Al Sharpton or Martin Sheen fly into town for some civil disobedience, the danger they face is an increased fan base and perhaps the equivalent of a traffic ticket. I don’t say there is any shame for those of us who are not so very brave, unless we claim to own the mantle of men who were so very brave.

I believe that the memory of these giants is only diminished, when in their names epithets are shouted by persons who resemble nothing so much as petulant adolescents. If you are a person of honor who aspires to follow in the footsteps of such persons, and you disagree with President Bush, our language and culture give you ample tools for expressing your disagreement in a manner that reflects better on your ideas.

[1/17/04 Saturday]

CRO/Alert - Radio: Sunday from 5:00-6:30 pm on KION AM 1460 (Monterey area) CRO editorial director Carol Liebau will be guest hosting "Straight Talk with Martha Montelongo" [link]

[Carol Platt Liebau - editorial director] 8:10 am [link]
Misery Loves Company: Well, well. Apparently the Democrats are meeting in San Jose this weekend. Guess who's their keynote speaker? That's right: Gray Davis! Apparently, the Dems have no one newer or fresher -- or else they're just nostalgic for the "good old days" of runaway spending, unfettered by a Republican in the Governor's seat. Apparently, Dennis Kucinich and Al Sharpton are flying west to participate in the fun, too. Should be quite a weekend. Hope someone from the right side of the aisle -- or at least the media -- is there to record some of the wacky dialogue that will surely be bandied about. Some of the sound bites would be fun to play when Phil Angelides or Bill Lockyer challenge Governor Schwarzenegger year after next!

[1/16/04 Friday]

[Matt Klink] - political consultant, CRO columnist 10:25 am [link]
There We Gore Again: Isn't irony beautiful? Yesterday, on one of the coldest days the East Coast has experienced in a century, Al Gore takes the stage at New York City's Beacon Theater to talk about global warming. Funny, but also pathetic at the same time. In his remarks, Gore again attacked President George W. Bush, calling him a "moral coward." Gore applied this pejorative term to Bush because he says that Bush hasn't done enough to stop global warming. Is it just me or does Al Gore have the absolute worst political timing of any politician in American history? Maybe he should have held his press conference outside in the zero-degree temperatures in NYC to talk about global warming.

Gore, the man who boasted about getting rid of the internal combustion engine in his book, "Earth in the Balance," just can't shake his addiction to the Kyoto global warming treaty -- which was rejected unanimously by Republicans and Democrats in the United States Senate and, mercilessly, President Bush indicated that the U.S. would not sign or implement.

Al Gore should realize -- as most Americans have -- that his political window closed a long time ago and that like his political career, his apocalyptic proclamations of global warming should be put in the deep freeze.

[Carol Platt Liebau - editorial director] 5:16 am [link]
Dealing With Reality: The Bush Immigration Proposal: There is no question that illegal immigration is a topic of vital concern, especially in California, where nearly all of the state's population growth between 1990 and 2000 was due to immigration – legal and otherwise, according to an analysis commissioned by Californians for Population Stabilization.

And from the right to the left, "opinion leaders" have had a field day this week lambasting President Bush's immigration proposal -- its centerpiece involves offering legal status for illegal immigrant workers, along with an open-ended guest worker program.

But a lot of the uproar may stem from a misunderstanding of a term in the sentence above -- "legal status." That does NOT mean amnesty, or citizenship for those who have come to the country illegally. Rather, the President's proposal offers industrious illegals an opportunity to come forward and obtain a work permit, and gives the United States a chance to try to get a handle on the massive "shadow population" existing within its borders.

Yes, there are good reasons to deny any legal status whatsoever to those who are unwilling to "wait their turn" to come to America. And yes, Mexico's President Vicente Fox is infuriating in his insistence that his people somehow are entitled to cross the borders illegally.

But for those who so robustly support deporting all those not in the country legally, here are a few questions: How exactly can/should this be done? Do we round up people and put them in detention until they can be bussed across the border? How would the detention work? And what about immigrants that are not from America's immediate north or south? Do we fly them "home" on military planes? Where would the planes land?

No, President Bush's plan isn't perfect. There are still many opportunities for fraud and abuse in the immigration system. But the critics have, so far, failed to offer any alternative of their own. At least President Bush's proposal seems to be a fair-minded start to tackling a truly thorny problem.

[Streetsweeper] Opinion Friday [link]
Uh, Well, No, I Didn’t Abort: One of our favorites, George Neumayr lays out some interesting observations about Doctor “I never performed an abortion when I worked at Planned Parenthood” Dean’s interview in People... Still Crazy: In the Standard Hugh Hewitt keeps banging his drum over the lunacy of the Mad Doctor...Been There: Investor’s Business Daily takes on Senate leader John Burton, an “unrepentant big spender”...a contagious disease among Progressives...After Boxer: Deb Saunders sketches out the GOP plan to challenge our demure Senator, noting that less than half of the state’s voters will vote for her and Bill Jones is rising in the polls – could it be? Uphill: Dan Weintraub outlines the tough road the Governor is going to have to sell the Big Bond to the voters...They All Lied: Jonah Goldberg replies to Senator Kennedy (“an embarrassment”) and to the rest of the Bush Lied crowd, and asks if Bush Lied, then did Clinton and his whole administration lie?

[1/15/04 Thursday]

[Streetsweeper] 5:09 am [link]
Taxing Matters: Just in case you didn’t know it, the tax bite in California is big... And the Editors at the Pasadena Star News want you to know how big...

The sales tax, which starts at a base of 7.25 percent and goes up to near 9 percent, depending on the county, is the highest in the nation. The combination of high income tax, business taxes, bond measures and various and sundry levies imposed by our lawmakers means we pay nearly one percent more on average than everywhere else.

While the average percentage of taxes in all states combined has dropped a slight amount, to 9.7 percent, the amount each Californian pays has risen from 10.2 percent of their income to 10.6 percent.

Remember that when voting in the March election, which includes Proposition 56, a measure to make it easier for state lawmakers to raise taxes.

[Bill Leonard] 5:09 am [link]
Were You Listening? Of all the legislators in the Assembly chambers last Tuesday evening listening to the Governor deliver his address, there were 23 Democrats who should have been paying particular attention. These 23 represent districts that voted for the Republican governor, despite having been drawn as “safe” Democrat seats. The voters in these areas are more likely to heed the Governor’s call to action and hold their Democrat Assembly members’ feet tote fire on the reforms for which the Governor is calling.

Patty Berg, 1st District, Santa Rosa Barbara A. Matthews, 17th District, Stockton Rebecca Cohn, 24th District, Campbell Simon Salinas, 28th District, Salinas Nicole Parra, 30th District, Bakersfield Hannah-Beth Jackson 35th District, Santa Barbara Cindy Montañez, 39th District, Mission Hills Lloyd E. Levine, 40th District, Van Nuys Fran Pavley, 41st District, Woodland Hills Dario Frommer 43rd District, Glendale Carol Liu, 44th District, Pasadena Judy Chu, 49th District, Monterey Park George Nakano, 53rd District, Torrance Alan Lowenthal, 54th District, Long Beach Jenny Oropeza, 55th District, Carson Rudy Bermudez, 56th District, Norwalk Ed Chavez, 57th District, Industry Ronald S. Calderon, 58th District, Montebello Gloria Negrete McLeod, 61st District, Pomona John Longville, 62nd District, San Bernardino Lou Correa, 69th District, Santa Ana Christine Kehoe, 76th District, San Diego Juan Vargas, 79th District, Chula Vista [From Leonard Letter 1/12/04]

[Streetsweeper] Opinion Thursday [link]
Bushie Plan 2: For my part, I think the President’s immigration plan is a bad, bad idea...I just don’t get it. Maybe this is some clever ploy to make us all finally see that immigration is really broken and really has to be fixed... After all, will the Republican Congress really go down this troubling road... I don’t think so. Okay, here’s what some real pundits had to say: Fred Barnes says “It won't work. It doesn't stand a chance...” Tony Blankley ”President Bush's recent, lamentable proposals on illegal immigrants...” David Limbaugh “It's a muddled plan, with dubious goals...” Gallup Poll “Two-thirds of Americans are convinced that immigration mostly hurts the U.S. Economy...” Editors at Wash Times “Vicente Fox's proposal Sunday for an open border between the United States, Mexico and Canada was distinctly wrong-headed...” Heather MacDonald “Some of the most violent criminals at large today are illegal aliens...” And Those Wacky Bay Area Liberals: Matier & Ross inform us that he’s got a plan for San Francisco to volunteer to pay more taxes “State Assemblyman Mark Leno is talking up the idea of asking the ever-liberal voters of San Francisco to reinstate, just for themselves, the vehicle license fee...”

[1/14/04 Wednesday]

[Carol Platt Liebau - editorial director] 5:16 am [link]
Daddy Dearest Dean: Apparently Howard Dean has extended his medical expertise from internal medicine to psychiatry. In an interview with "Rolling Stone" magazine, Dean opined:

"This president is not interested in being a good president. He's interested in some complicated psychological situation that he has with his father."

Well, now, if we're all going to take a turn playing armchair psychologist, I'd be tempted to call that statement an example of "projection" -- or the attribution of one's own feelings to other people. Why? Because there are clearly unresolved tensions with regard to Dean's relationship with his own father. A piece on Dean in the L.A. Times reads as follows:

"Dean says he spent some of those wilderness years [skiing in Colorado, medical school, etc.] running from the man known as 'Big Howard': his father. In his autobiography, 'Winning Back America,' Dean said his father's long shadow dogged him from Yale to politics."

Pretty revealing . . . Dean attributes to Bush the psychological trouble he himself may well be having. So here's one other question: Could Dean's unhinged anger at Bush be a little misdirected self-hatred? Maybe not, but it's an interesting question to ponder.

[Bill Leonard] 6:48 am [link]
The Basic Budget Question: I had just a couple simple questions about the Governor’s budget proposal that came out on Friday, so I looked at every budget story I could find int he newspapers. No answers there, but lots of stories about slashing cuts. I went to the Department of Finance web site and waded through pages and pages of information. My question that nobody seemed to want to answer was this: How much money did the state take in last year versus this year and how much are we spending last year versus this year? It is the basic question that every family and every business has to ask in order to even start making a budget.

The best that I can find is this: During the 2003-2004 year, which isjust half over, we are spending at the rate of $75 billion a year and we are taking in $74.6 billion so we are still spending more money than we have and have to resort to borrowing.

During the 2004-2005 year, which is the first Schwarzenegger budget, we are proposing to spend $79 billion-- a $4 billion INCREASE in spending-- and we are expecting $76 billion in revenue. To buy time to bring the expenditures under control, the Governor is proposing borrowing.

Those who wail and moan about the state budget must acknowledge that spending continues to increase. Revenues are not increasing fast enough to keep up with this insatiable demand. Governor Schwarzenegger has wisely said that his borrowing proposal is a one-time measure to give the Legislature time to bring things into balance or to give the people time to vote in the changes themselves. [From Leonard Letter 1/12/04]

[Streetsweeper] Opinion Wednesday [link]
Bushie Plan: Terry Jeffrey weighs in on the immigration plan, “There is higher ground in his debate: Our existing immigration law is morally sound and politically defensible. The government should just enforce it for a change.”... Yep, that's on target...or as Jermaine would say 1000% right...

[1/13/04 Tuesday]

[Streetsweeper] 7:09 am [link]
O'Neill's Bombshell: Uh, well, hmm.... Mr. O'Neill certainly blows the lid on the Administration's attitude towards Iraq from the very beginning... what do you know... Opps... Sorry, Mr. O'Neill and Mr. Suskind, regime change was the official policy of the United States since 1998.

Paul O’Neill’s Bombshell on 60 Minutes!

“From the very beginning, there was a conviction, that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go,” says O’Neill, who adds that going after Saddam was topic "A" 10 days after the inauguration - eight months before Sept. 11. - CBS News

Official US Policy since 1998

H.R.4655 Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 Public Law: 105-338
(REVISED AS OF 10/05/98 -- Passed House, amended)

Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 - Declares that it should be the policy of the United States to seek to remove the Saddam Hussein regime from power in Iraq and to replace it with a democratic government.

Authorizes the President, after notifying specified congressional committees, to provide to the Iraqi democratic opposition organizations: (1) grant assistance for radio and television broadcasting to Iraq; (2) Department of Defense (DOD) defense articles and services and military education and training (IMET); and (3) humanitarian assistance, with emphasis on addressing the needs of individuals who have fled from areas under the control of the Hussein regime. Prohibits assistance to any group or organization that is engaged in military cooperation with the Hussein regime. Authorizes appropriations.

Directs the President to designate: (1) one or more Iraqi democratic opposition organizations that meet specified criteria as eligible to receive assistance under this Act; and (2) additional such organizations which satisfy the President's criteria.

Urges the President to call upon the United Nations to establish an international criminal tribunal for the purpose of indicting, prosecuting, and imprisoning Saddam Hussein and other Iraqi officials who are responsible for crimes against humanity, genocide, and other criminal violations of international law.

Expresses the sense of the Congress that once the Saddam Hussein regime is removed from power in Iraq, the United States should support Iraq's transition to democracy by providing humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people and democracy transition assistance to Iraqi parties and movements with democratic goals, including convening Iraq's foreign creditors to develop a multilateral response to the foreign debt incurred by the Hussein regime.

Members of Congress behind this nefarious 1998 conspiracy.

...those voting for the bill in the House included Richard Gephardt, Sheila Jackson-Lee, Dennis Kucinich and by unanimous consent in the Senate, Carol Mosely-Bruan, Joe Lieberman and John Kerry...

[Carol Platt Liebau - editorial director] 5:16 am [link]
Moore Clark:If there were any doubts outstanding that Wesley Clark is (no other way to put it) a jerk, they should be set at rest now. The Drudge Report states that Michael Moore has chosen to endorse him. Q.E.D.

In making his endorsement, Moore reportedly said of Clark, 'He's an honest and decent man. I would like to see the General debate the deserter.' Well, that quote explains a lot on many levels. Wesley Clark shows a marked penchant both for conspiracy theories and a, how shall one say, "looseness with the truth" that is distinctly reminiscent of one Michael Moore -- who can't seem to grasp the distinction between a fact and an unfounded accusation. Earth to Michael Moore: President Bush is NOT a deserter . . . he served his time in the National Guard. He is a fighter pilot. Note to Wesley Clark: You DID support the war -- at least before you began running for President . . . and no, no one in the White House tried to get you kicked off CNN.

Growing up in St. Louis, I never thought the day would come that I'd feel even a twinge of pity for Dick Gephardt. But it must be real torture for him, Joe Lieberman, and even Kerry and Edwards to watch two clueless, classless grandstanders like Dean and Clark become the frontrunners for the Democratic nomination.

[Streetsweeper] Opinion Tuesday [link]
Clark: In the Chronicle Deb Saunders takes on the Weasely Westly Clark...Pension Fix: At SacBeeDan Weintraub says that the Governor is on the right track with his plan for out of control state pensions....Brakes: Also in SacBee Dan Walters says that the Governor wants action, but legislators want delay, welcome to Sacramento... Scheering: The always reliable Robert Scheer says about the Governor and the poor, “the pain that Schwarzenegger claims to feel is the fake suffering of actors in movies” - ah, yes, of course...

[1/12/04 Monday]

[in the ebag - Tim Leslie, Assemblyman] 6:14 am [link]
The Budget: It took us a half decade of wasteful government spending to get to this point, and a recovery will not come overnight. However, this budget strikes a common sense balance and puts us on the road to correcting the waste, fraud, and abuse that five years of one Party rule have given us. It starts to restore fiscal sanity.

These are difficult times that call for difficult choices. The governor has made those tough choices. He is doing exactly what he said he would do.These spending cuts are painful, but they are necessary, and they are not forever. And it is better to make them now than to end up with a bankrupt California that cannot afford any services.

[1/9/04 Friday]

[Jill Stewart - Columnist] 5:39 am [link]
State of the State: Clearly the Governor is using his carrot and stick strategy, or you might call it his bad cop-good cop strategy, and doing so even in the same speech and even in the same few breaths. He's letting the Democrats know they have a friend on the environment and real pet projects like solar energy, but also letting them know he understands that they have been horrible obstructionists in reforming workers comp. The imagery, which few television stations carried, of the Democrats sitting stone-faced through most of his speech, rarely clapping at all, speaks volumes about the incredible partisan divide in Sacramento. I doubt whether Democrats sitting at home watching television--normal, everyday people--had remotely the same reaction as the hardcore partisan Democrats in Sacramento. My guess? I'll bet even more than 62 percent of Californians were applauding that well-turned speech. My God, the Governor even got praise from the Los Angeles Times editorial board. So, we now see how huge the chasm is, and it is a psychological chasm as much as a political one, between the elected Democrats in Sacramento and most other people in California. They are out of step, and don't grasp what happened on Oct. 7. Someday, maybe my lifelong party will snap awake and start acting like a body that represents real people once again.

[Carol Platt Liebau - editorial director] 5:16 am [link]
Hillary Watch: As a native of St. Louis, Missouri, it's hard to resist a little commentary on Hillary Clinton's gaffe in my hometown last week -- when she jokingly identified Mahatma Gandhi as someone who "ran a gas station down in St. Louis." The remark is silly, and of course, stereotyping is wrong.

But it shouldn't be a surprise that Hillary Clinton would joke this way. During her run for the U.S. Senate in 2000, credible reports surfaced of her making anti-Semitic remarks, and people who wield ethnic slurs against one group would seem more likely to be willing to make them about another. Obviously, the remark was unworthy of a U.S. Senator, and it was unkind -- but who, having read about Hillary's treatment of the Secret Service and other household staff -- can be surprised that she is capable of inconsideration and cruelty?

What IS surprising, though, is that a woman who is obviously intending to run for President in 2008, and whose every move seems calculated to that end, would make such a juvenile, amateurish mistake -- especially when she belongs to a party that prides itself on its political correctness. Yes, she was among "friends" at a Democratic fundraiser, but surely she knows by now that no remark she makes at any sort of public event, will remain reliably "off the record."

Perhaps this is why I'm less frightened than some by the prospect of a Hillary candidacy. True, when she is following her husband's guidance, she can be a formidable politician -- but from time to time, the mask slips and political embarrassment ensues. Hillary's own political skills are overrated. And it's hard to be convinced that she's as smart as her supporters would have us believe, if she's making these kind of gaffes.

Hillary was in St. Louis on behalf of Nancy Farmer, the Democratic candidate for Missouri's U.S. Senate seat. It would be interesting to get a little reaction from Ms. Farmer on this episode . . . And don't hesitate to support Farmer's opponent, my former boss Senator Christopher "Kit" Bond, one of the best Senators in Washington (147 N. Meramec St., Suite 100 St. Louis, MO 63105).

[1/8/04 Thursday]

[Doug Gamble - speechwriter, CRO columnist] 7:54 am [link]
Bad, Bad Reform: Under President Bush's immigration reform, the U.S. Border Patrol should change its name to the "U.S. Y'all Come Patrol." Its job description will switch from keeping illegals out of the country to the federal version of Wal-Mart greeters, as aliens flood into the U.S. to shop for a new life.

If you're already here illegally, you're home free. If you want to come from another country, all you need is a job and you're here. The border has been effectively erased. It will be interesting to see if the increase in the Latino vote going Republican this November is worth it.

What a slap in the face to every immigrant who played by the rules.

[Jon Coupal - president Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association] 7:15 am [link]
State of the State: Conservatives have to give the new Governor high marks for his speech. First, in some of the clearest terms to date, he has taken tax increases off the table. He realizes that even a modest tax increase on some small group or industry would – irrespective of revenue impacts – send a negative shockwave throughout the state. His repeated no tax statements are necessary, however, to keep fiscal conservatives at least marginally in his camp. These folks are otherwise unhappy about Proposition 57 – an unprecedented $15 billion deficit restructuring proposal.

Other items on the right’s wish list (suspension of 98, forgetting UC Merced, and a tougher stance with the unions) were not present. But the no tax increase promise makes up for a lot.

As an aside, the selection of Dan Kolkey to renegotiate the Indian gaming contracts is very good. Dan has one of the sharpest legal minds in California and has a depth of experience with this specific issue.

[1/7/04 Wednesday]

[Matt Klink - political consultant, CRO columnist] 10:25 am [link]
State of the State: Arnold Schwarzenegger's first State of the State speech was a strong address with a clear message, abundant optimism about the future and with just the right mix of praise and prodding for a State Legislature deeply entrenched in the politics of the status quo.

Schwarzenegger reiterated his campaign promise not to raise taxes -- which is good news for our state and for California's future.

In the post-speech "spin," what became apparent is that Democrats in the State Legislature feel threatened by the Governor and by his remarks -- perhaps they hit too close to home about runaway workers compensation costs, overspending and Democrats' reliance on tax increases to pay for a bloated state government.

In all, Schwarzenegger's speech was a tremendous hit but he should be wary of Sacramento Democrats and not be afraid to pull the trigger on a statewide initiative when/if it becomes necessary.

[Doug Gamble - speechwriter, CRO columnist] 8:55 am [link]
State of the State: There should be a large marquee on the State Capitol bearing the words, "Now Playing."

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger brought a movie star's charisma to his first State of the State speech, and if Democrats weren't previously fully aware of what they're dealing with, they know now. It's not so much what the governor said -- although his words were certainly reassuring to Republicans fearful he might tilt leftward on taxes — but the aura of confidence and commitment he brought to the chamber.

Californians, even those who didn't vote for Schwarzenegger, know they have a leader.

Unlike the speeches of the previous governor, this one was directed not at members of the Legislature but at the folks watching at home. This ties in, of course, with Schwarzenegger's strategy of bypassing the professional politicians as much as possible in favor of going directly to the voters. If there is one lesson the Democrats will learn, if they haven't already, it's that charisma counts. Some might be saying, "Where's Willie Brown when we really need him." No one among the state Democrats can match Schwarzenegger's star power and the governor will continue to use that to his advantage. The governor is right. It's all about salesmanship. California's Democrats couldn't sell a Las Vegas weekend to Britney Spears.

[Shawn Steel - past chairman California GOP, CRO columnist] 8:55 am [link]
State of the State: Arnold's speech was the strongest debut in a generation. I watched Ronald Reagan over a hundred speeches. Arnold is joining Reagan's ability to communicate with voters over the democrat hacks in Sacramento. Schwarzenegger's performance was solid, persuasive and impressive.

Arnold's language was almost revolutionary. Wanting to blow up boxes, calling it a spending crisis and we can tax our way to recovery will warm any conservative's heart. I've learned not to hold on to great expectations from most politicians. Schwarzenegger continues to impress me. He repealed the car tax and saved us 4 billion, got the illegal drivers licenses repealed and, so far, has not called for tax increases.

So far, so good.

[Carol Platt Liebau - editorial director] 5:16 am [link]
State of the State: What a relief it is . . . to know that, at least for now, Republicans need have no regrets over having supported Arnold Schwarzenegger for Governor. His State of the State Address was excellent -- and with its relatively short length and accessible language, obviously designed to shore up the Governor's most important asset . . . widespread support among California's people. His positive, take-charge manner is probably intended to reassure California voters, who are tired of a legislature that seems to operate for its own benefit, rather than for theirs.

Along with his obvious (and praiseworthy) efforts to keep California's electorate interested and engaged, Governor Schwarzenegger also appears to be trying to offer something to those on both sides of the political aisle. Most important for Republicans and conservatives, he committed to no new taxes -- and sounded serious about eliminating (not restructuring!) California's bloated and inefficient government bureaucracies. For Democrats, he stressed his ongoing interest in the environment (obviously a topic that can be dear to Republicans, as well). And for confirmed Reaganophiles (like me), he ended his speech with the most heartening signal of all -- adapting a quotation from Ronald Reagan. At least he's seeking inspiration in some of the right places.

Finally, Governor Schwarzenegger appears to be fortunate in his political adversaries. The Democratic "response" -- featuring Senate President pro-tem John Burton and Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson -- was eerily reminiscent of a Saturday Night Live sketch. Republicans ought to get these guys (especially Burton) out front and center all the time. Their only firm commitment seems to be to tax increases . . . and they symbolize everything voters elected Governor Schwarzenegger to change.

All in all, the lesson of the evening: Political leadership counts. Can you imagine how different everything would be if Governor Bustamante had just wound up his maiden address?

[Eric Hogue - radio talk show host KTKZ - Sacramento] 5:14 am [link]
State of the State:
The reason that the Democrats were staying in their seats during Arnold's presentation was due to the bullets flying over their heads. Safer in the seats, playing the role of obstructionists.

This Governor understands the 'new process' in Sacramento, lead for change, if the legislative body doesn't respond, head straight to the people...and NO NEW TAXES!

The Democrat rebuttal was hilarious, Senator Burton and Speaker Wesson looked like 'deer in head lights'...the head lights of a People's Governor driving a new recall hummer right over their tax and spend candy!

[Ken Masugi - Director Center for Local Government Claremont Institute] 5:13 am [link]
State of the State: The Governor is blending Progressive measures such as the referendum (March budget curbing) with the political need to blame the Democrats for raising spending and eventually make them pay for it. In this way, his administration will be a fascinating exercise in using (or threatening) Progressive means to curb the worst excesses of left-liberal politics. Of course this "empire of aspirations" slogan is completely open-ended and susceptible of interpretation according to everyone's wishes-- which is why it is a great political slogan. But I preferred the punch of "I don't want to move boxes around; I want to blow them up." Good action hero dialogue.

[1/6/04 Tuesday]

[Carol Platt Liebau] 7:16 am [link]
Dem Race for the White House: With the Iowa caucuses only two weeks away, the race has gotten hot. Howard Dean has dominated not only the polls and the money race so far, but also the pundits' discussion -- a valuable advantage of emerging as an early frontrunner.

Even so, Dean may have peaked shortly before the capture of Saddam Hussein. He hasn't had a good December -- having made a variety of verbal gaffes and appealing to Democratic Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe to stop the attacks being showered on him from his Democratic opponents. In fact, the Iowa caucuses have become as important for Dean as for Richard Gephardt. It's long been acknowledged that Gephardt must win the caucuses in order to remain viable; now, having been anointed the frontrunner and having enjoyed some enviable poll numbers, a loss for Dean could tarnish the aura of inevitability he has been trying so hard to cultivate.

As the caucuses approach, here are some of the signs that may reveal which way the presidential (and vice-presidential) winds are blowing.

(1) Does Tom Harkin endorse anyone, and if so, whom?

Harkin is Iowa's senior senator, with an unparalleled state machine that could be the determining factor in a close Dean-Gephardt race. He has worked with Gephardt for years, first when he was in the House and then after Harkin became a senator. Even so, many of Harkin's former staff members work for the Dean campaign now, and Harkin has let it be known that he likes Dean's fiery style. But Harkin wants to go with a winner; any delay in his endorsement may indicate that the situation on the ground in Iowa is fluid and he's not sure where to turn. If he endorses a candidate early this week though (as he earlier said he would), his pick hands-down is the guy to beat.

(2) Which Candidates Attack Howard Dean?

Until now, almost every Democratic presidential candidate has taken multitudinous potshots at the putative frontrunner, with only two exceptions: John Edwards and Wesley Clark. Why have these two refrained? Despite their protestations (like Clark's yesterday on "Meet the Press"), both want to be considered for the vice-presidential slot -- and consider their strength in the South (and Clark's military background) to be strong points in their favor. So they certainly don't want to alienate the guy who might later be asking them to the big dance -- the famously sensitive Howard Dean.

(3) What Will the Turnout in Iowa Be?

Conventional Wisdom holds that a large turnout will help Richard Gephardt. But it may not be so simple -- one of the Dean campaign's selling points is their candidate's ability to bring new voters into the party. If turnout is high and Gephardt wins, chalk one up for the CW. But if turnout is high and Dean pulls it out, there may be something to the claims that he is bringing hitherto disaffected voters into his political fold.

In 2000, turnout totalled 61,000. Party officials in Iowa are planning for at least double that number -- and turnout may go as high as 150,000.

[Streetsweeper] 7:09 am [link]
Dornan v. Rohrabacher: Shawn Steel - CRO contributor had this to say to the Register's Steven Greenhut about the upcoming House seat challenge to Dana Rohrabacher by the B-1 himself:

"It's dispiriting that Rohrabacher, one of the most libertarian/conservative members of Congress and a spirited anti-totalitarian, is having this stuff thrown at him out of left field. This is one of the strangest things coming out of California in a long time," said Shawn Steel, immediate past president of the California Republican Party, and a tried-and-true conservative. He said Dornan is motivated by "anger and hatred." Sad but true.

[1/5/04 Monday]

[Streetsweeper] 7:05 am [link]
McAuliffe’s Age of Anxiety: Other Well Qualified Contenders? Facing enormous, far-reaching issues such as the threats of global Islamo-Fascistic terrorism, nuclear brinksmanship with North Korea, Franco-fried Euro-Stupidity in Euroland, UN or unUN, Mad Cow in the Big Mac, and – of course – the terrifying potential of Howard Dean upending the Clintons’ grip on the Democrat Party... it might be wise for the Party Machine to broaden its field of vision and look to other viable last minute candidates (think Wesley Clark) who are as seasoned as front runner Howard Dean with a) formidable executive credentials and b) the kind of breadth of leadership experience that can lead the world.

Let’s use the Mad Doctor as measuring stick...

Executive Scope by Population: Why, as the governor of Vermont the Doctor presided over a wide ranging citizenry. If this were our criteria for evaluating the potential for a Chief Executive we could reach out as far as Memphis and Democrat Mayor Willie Herenton. Memphis has virtually the same size population as Vermont. When you take this into consideration, this really widens the potential field. There are lots of city mayors who have this kind of experience, after all, Memphis is only the county’s 18th largest city – this opens up a lot of possibilities!

Executive Scope by Fiscal Management: Budgets! A heady executive responsibility. Big money... This limits the field. As governor of Vermont the Doctor managed a budget about the same size as the budget for the city of San Jose... Hey! This puts the possibility of a New Democrat squarely front and center! San Jose’s mayor Ron Gonzales!

So, Mr. McAuliffe, hurry up and start dialing! These are just two mayors who are every bit as experienced and qualified as the Doctor... Get with it and preserve the party of Clinton!

[1/2/04 Friday]

[Shawn Steel] 6:15 am [link]
I Don't Give a CAIR: I am particularly pleased that CAIR's Ex Dir for Southern California, [Council for American Islamic Relations ] Hussam Ayloush, lawsuit against me and National Review was dismissed December 16th. (See article links below) Orange County Superior Court Judge David Chaffee ruled that all causes of actions are dismissed. We are actively considering demanding attorney fees for the nuisance litigation. CAIR is a leading national Muslim organization in the US which has aroused great interest.

According to WorldNetDaily, December 4, 2003, by Art Moore:

  • In July, a member of CAIR's national staff, Randall Todd "Ismail" Royer, was among 11 men indicted for conspiring to train on American soil for a "violent jihad."
  • Another CAIR figure, Bassem Khafagi, was arrested in January while serving as the group's director of community relations.
  • CAIR is a spin-off of the Islamic Association For Palestine, labeled a "front group" for the terrorist organization Hamas by two former heads of the FBI's counterterrorism section.

[in the ebag - Scott Dillard] 6:14 am [link]
Thanks, you guys. I have had a lot of fun reading this site all year, and have contributed silly and not so silly emails when I had time or was sufficiently amazed/outraged/p.o.'ed, etc. Looking forward to the new year. Happy New Year to you all.

Go to CRO Blog December 2003

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