Friday, January 23, 2004

The need for intelligence reform

David Kay, the chief U.S. arms hunter in Iraq, has resigned, saying in a Reuters interview (link via Calpundit) that, "I think we have found probably 85 percent of what we're going to find." As to the question of large-scale WMD stockpiles, Kay said:

I don't think they existed.

I think there were stockpiles at the end of the first Gulf War and those were a combination of U.N. inspectors and unilateral Iraqi action got rid of them. I think the best evidence is that they did not resume large-scale production, and that's what we're really talking about, is large stockpiles, not the small. Large stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons in the period after '95.

In the battles over intelligence about Iraq's WMD capabilities, it seems clear that the professionals were closer to the truth on Iraq's actual capabilities than the Bush team. However, it's also worth noting that even the professionals overestimated Iraq's WMD capabilities -- which is one reason why the Clinton foreign policy team has been relatively muted in its criticisms of the Bush team on this issue.

The blogging over this Washington Post article from early this week on not finding WMD has been about whether the story stacked the deck against the Bush team. However, since the intelligence community was also off the mark, the key point is that the U.S. was going to be wrong about Iraq no matter what. The important point in the Post story is the bipartisan consensus that intelligence errors -- regardless of the cause -- can damage America's reputation:

The inability to find suspected weapons "has to make it more difficult on some future occasion if the United States argues the intelligence warrants something controversial, like a preventive attack," said [Richard] Haass, a Republican who was head of policy planning for Secretary of State Colin L. Powell when the war started. "The result is we've made the bar higher for ourselves and we have to expect greater skepticism in the future."

James Steinberg, a deputy national security adviser in the Clinton administration who believed there were legitimate concerns about Iraq's weapons programs, said the failure of the prewar claims to match the postwar reality "add to the general sense of criticism about the U.S., that we will do anything, say anything" to prevail.

Indeed, whenever Powell grants interviews to foreign news organizations, he is often hit with a question about the search for weapons of mass destruction. Last Friday, a British TV reporter asked whether in retirement he would "admit that you had concerns about invading Iraq," and a Dutch reporter asked whether he ever had doubts about the Iraq policy....

"I think there are [diplomatic] consequences as a result of the president asking these questions [about Iraq's weapons holdings] and the answer being no" weapons, said Danielle Pletka, vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, who believes the ouster of Hussein justified the war. "The intelligence could have been better."

Some might conclude that this is merely a case of the Bush team distorting reliable intel. However, other revelations this week suggest that the intelligence community can be wrong about important matters without any help whatsoever from the Bush team.

Consider Jack Pritchard's New York Times op-ed on how what's happening in North Korea is at variance with intelligence estimates:

In December 2002 North Korea was suspected of having one or two nuclear weapons that it had acquired before agreeing in 1994 to freeze its known nuclear program and to allow it to be monitored.

More than a year later, North Korea may have quadrupled its arsenal of nuclear weapons. During the intervening period, the Bush administration has relied on intelligence that dismissed North Korean claims that it restarted its nuclear program at Yongbyon with the express purpose of reprocessing previously sealed and monitored spent fuel to extract plutonium to make a "nuclear deterrent."

Now there are about 8,000 spent fuel rods missing — evidence that work on such a deterrent may have begun. It is just the most recent failure in a string of serious North Korea-related intelligence failures.

When North Korea claimed in 1998 to have launched a three-stage rocket to put a communications satellite into orbit, American intelligence initially denied the rocket had this capacity — and then, days later, confirmed the North Korean claim. That same year United States intelligence insisted that Pyongyang had embarked on a secret underground project to duplicate its frozen nuclear weapons program. Eight months later, an American inspection team visited the underground site to find that American intelligence was dead wrong. Then there was the intelligence in the summer of 2002 that indicated the North Korean regime was on the brink of collapse. That reporting was later recalled as faulty — but not before the damage was done.

Kevin O'Connell and Robert Tomes argue in the most recent issue of Policy Review about the implications of faulty intelligence (link via Patrick Belton):

The anticipated intelligence reform debate cannot be limited to getting domestic and national intelligence agencies merely to share information or post data others can access. Anyone who regards this as the core issue has mistaken the tree for the forest. An overhaul of how intelligence and information are created, gathered, and shared throughout the national security enterprise is needed. Although recent discussions have focused on domestic information sharing, this issue also concerns relationships with allies and security partners that are historically dependent on American intelligence to supplement their more austere intelligence activities. When American information and knowledge entities fail internally to correlate and act upon collected or reported data, the negative effects cascade through information networks both inside and outside the Untied States. This has the potential to negatively influence those who share with us, jeopardizing a relatively small but nonetheless critical source of information our human sources are often unable to ferret out.

Let me be clear -- I haven't the faintest idea how these problems can be fixed. I trust my loyal readers can come up with a few thoughts of their own.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum voices a similar concern from the opposite side of the political fence:

I think the administration did believe there was WMD in Iraq before the war. What's more, the CIA and MI6 thought the same thing and the yawning silence from both Republicans and Democrats about how our intelligence services could have been so wildly off the mark is a scandal of the first order. Is anyone serious about this stuff?

posted by Dan at 05:17 PM | Comments (49) | Trackbacks (3)

The Plame Game goes to the grand jury

Via Tom Maguire, I see that the Valerie Plame investigation is moving forward. Here's Time on the latest:

Sources with knowledge of the case tell TIME that behind closed doors at the E. Barrett Prettyman federal courthouse, nearby the Capitol, a grand jury began hearing testimony Wednesday in the investigation of who leaked the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame to columnist Robert Novak and other journalists....

Grand juries aren't always used in criminal probes, but they are the preferred way to go in cases with potential political fallout, if only to lend credibility to the result. One conclusion to be drawn from this latest step, said one lawyer familiar with the case, is that investigators clearly have a sense of how the case is shaping up. "They clearly have a sense of what's going on and can ask intelligent questions" to bring the grand jury up to speed. A grand jury is not a trial jury, but is used as an investigative tool and to decide whether to bring indictments in a case....

[T]rue to form, the Bush administration continues to be extremely tight-lipped about the investigation -- even internally. "No one knows what the hell is going on," says someone who could be a witness, "because the administration people are all terrified and the lawyers aren't sharing anything with each other either."

Maguire's take:

[A]s long as Rove is not tagged, the WH spin will be, we let the professional investigators handle it, and the process worked. Which, by pleasant coincidence, seems to be the truth. (emphasis added)

I'm of two minds on this. On the one hand, the convening of a grand jury suggests that demands for a Congressional investigation are probably premature and overblown. On the other hand -- and I might be reading too much into one anonymous quote -- the White House is worried about something.

posted by Dan at 03:27 PM | Comments (41) | Trackbacks (1)

Further thoughts on soft power

My last post on "soft power" generated quite a debate, in part over terminology, so it's worth following up a bit. Three points:

1) Here's a link to one definition. Unfortunately, it's a bit vague, and as a result people tend to define soft power the same way that Potter Stewart defined pornography -- "I know it when I see it." Here's my quick and dirty distinction between hard and soft power:

Hard power is having the capabilities to get others to do what you want them to do. Soft power is having the capabilities to get others to want what you want.

2) For states,* hard power is a crucial component of soft power over the long term. The Soviet Union had soft power when their economy seemed to be growing at a fantastic rate and their military technology seemed on par with the United States. The debate over "Asian values" occurred at the peak of East Asia's economic growth, and has since subsided. It's tough to make an argument about the strangth of values without pointing to the material rewards produced by adhering to such values.

3) As long as the American economy and culture remain vibrant, U.S. soft power will exert a powerful pull regardless of the foreign policies of the moment. Consider this Chicago Tribune story on Vietnam's attitudes towards the United States:

Thirty-six years after the Tet offensive that helped break U.S. resolve in the Vietnam War, young Vietnamese have put the bitter struggle in the past and embraced an America they see as a source of hope....

The Vietnam War killed more than 3 million Vietnamese, yet it does not evoke strong passions here, let alone hatred for an enemy who inflicted so much death and suffering.

Instead, many Vietnamese yearn to travel to the U.S., and they see it much the way Americans like their country to be seen: as a shining example of freedom, opportunity and wealth.

"My friends who have gone to the U.S. are very lucky," said Huynh Hoa, 26. "If my daughter [7 months old] can go there one day, maybe I would miss her, but it would be very lucky for her."

More than half the nation's population is younger than 20. For them, the war is not even a memory but a collection of artifacts and photographs confined to the War Remnants Museum.

Their parents and grandparents rarely speak to them of those times, said Xi, 53, who would not give a family name, citing fear of the communist government.

"There is no time for that," she said. "We work hard every day, for money for our families. . . . What happened then is not important now."

"I love America," Xi said. "I always think American people are the best."

* Intriguingly, for non-violent, non-state actors, the reverse can be true -- the soft power of persuasion can be converted into the hard power of bigger budgets.

posted by Dan at 11:01 AM | Comments (21) | Trackbacks (1)

Open debate thread

Feel free to debate the debate here -- click here for the full transcript. Useful blogging on the subject from Kevin Drum and Robert Tagorda. I was watching intermittently while giving Sam a bath, so I can't claim my focus was 100%. With that caveat, my impressions:

1) I agree with James Joyner -- the best line of the night came from Al Sharpton:

I wanted to say to Governor Dean, don't be hard on yourself about hooting and hollering. If I had spent the money you did and got 18 percent, I'd still be in Iowa hooting and hollering.

2) Wesley Clark's response on Michael Moore seemed particularly lame:

I think Michael Moore has the right to say whatever he feels about this. I don't know whether this is supported by the facts or not. I've never looked at it. I've seen this charge bandied about a lot. But to me it wasn't material.

Clark is correct about Moore being able to say what he wants. However, for Clark not to have a comment on Moore's comment seems like a complete cop-out. [Mark Kleiman disagrees, but I'm not sure if his two posts on this can be reconciled. Last week he admitted that Clark's non-response to Moore's accusation concerned him:

Moore was simply wrong to use the word "deserter." Clark, who surely knows that better than I do, should have corrected Moore's very bad mistake when asked about it. Having failed to do so, he should do so now.

Post-debate, he backtracks on Clark's response:

As to Clark, his answer tonight seemed to me quite sensible: Moore is at liberty to say what he likes, and Clark doesn't have to agree with him or disagree with him.]

3) More generally, I found Clark pretty weak and defensive -- I suspect his support is going to start dropping. The big question about New Hampshire should be, where are Dean and Clark supporters going to go? Are they all going to go to Kerry, or do they propel Edwards as well?

4) John Edwards' articulation of his "no" vote on the $89 billion appropriation for Iraq was coherent and compelling. His response to the Islam question was a bit wobbly. His response to the Defense of Marriage Act question was sound on substance but really wobbly on process -- by which I mean that he got his facts wrong.

4) John Kerry looked like he had lost ten pounds since his Iowa victory.

Go and discuss!!

UPDATE: Matthew Stinson has a great description of Dennis Kucinich's performance:

Kucinich and his charts. What’s there to say about that? Those scientists who decided to gene-splice Ross Perot and Noam Chomsky must be really proud of themselves right now.

posted by Dan at 10:24 AM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (3)

Thursday, January 22, 2004

New Hampshire update

My prediction that John Edwards would get the biggest media bump because reporters like him better than the other candidates hasn't been completely borne out. A quick Google search reveals that Kerry got more play out of Iowa than Edwards. John Ellis thinks that the Rule of Two means New Hampshire is getting played in the media as Dean vs. Kerry, leaving Edwards out of the media spotlight.

As for the content of the spin, Franklin Foer admits to a "growing male crush" on Edwards, but Josh Marshall compares him to Chinese food -- great when you consume it, but then you're hungry an hour later. The Boston Globe might not love Kerry, but at this point he's the bigger story than Edwards.

But what about the polls? The ARG tracking poll shows Kerry getting a much bigger boost than Edwards in New Hampshire. Same with Zogby. However, two other polls suggest Edwards is gaining more steam. The Boston Herald poll does show Edwards reaching double-digits -- and only five points behind Wesley Clark. Rasmussen has Edwards with 15%, and in the past two days passing both Clark AND Dean for second place.

For Kerry, a resounding victory in New Hampshire unquestionably builds momentum for February 3rd. At this point, he's the only candidate who could have the race locked up by that date. Winning New Hampshire and South Carolina (the latter is a huge if and dependent only on a wave of momentum coming from a New Hampshire victory) would deal a mortal blow to both Dean and Edwards.

However, if Edwards manages to beat Clark in New Hampshire, he kills Wesley Clark's campaign. How could Clark possible argue that he's electable if he finished behind Edwards despite the fact that he ignored Iowa? A stronger-than-expected showing for Edwards in New Hampshire -- over 20% and better than Clark or Dean -- means Kerry can't win South Carolina -- and the race moves onto more Edwards-friendly terrain.

One other fact suggests that Edwards is still a potent threat -- Matt Drudge is going after him.


UPDATE: James Joyner has thoughts on the race, and the value of tracking polls.

ANOTHER UPDATE: As for Dean, David Tell has this killer anecdote from an Edwards speech:

"I'm sure you all saw a lot of the speeches that were given after the Iowa caucuses . . . ," Edwards began.

But before he could finish the thought, a voice in the crowd said "Ohhhh, yeah" in that tone of voice a man uses at the office watercooler during discussions about the latest celebrity-weirdo embarrassment. And just like that, in a flash, 200-some-odd Democratic loyalists filled the Portsmouth V.F.W. post with unrestrained laughter. Nobody even had to mention his name. John Edwards' mere allusion to "the speeches that were given after the Iowa caucuses" called Howard Dean--unflatteringly--to mind.

When they begin to laugh at you automatically, you're dead.

posted by Dan at 02:40 PM | Comments (19) | Trackbacks (3)

Jack Shafer scares me

I think it's safe to say that Jack Shafer doesn't like the Atlantic Monthly's "State of the Union" package, produced "in partnership with the New America Foundation":

This 33,000-word barge grinds bottom for 40 pages, unimpeded by wit, verve, originality, or any of the other attributes we associate with successful political rhetoric or good magazine journalism. If you can imagine a dozen 750-word New York Times op-ed pieces, each bloated by a factor of three or four or five, suffused with the earnestness of a parson, and constructed with the flattest language available, then you've still not comprehended the pomposity of this special section.

However, Shafer does praise the essay by Francis Fukuyama on nation-building (which I discussed here):

Fukuyama, meanwhile, does that Fukuyama thing, explaining the need for a "standing U.S. government office to manage nation-building." I don't agree with Fukuyama, but at least his piece doesn't read like a monologue by a second-rate professor who has just set his pipe down to share a few giant thoughts. (emphasis added)

All right, which one of you gave Shafer my URL? [Not me! I know you don't smoke--ed.]

Seriously, Shafer's real adversary is the New America Foundation:

Ted Halstead, New America's founder and one of the contributors, loves to talk about how his foundation's message is "beyond left and right," when his organization rarely ventures beyond the sort of ideas you'd encounter driving the New Deal/Great Society Freeway. This is not to say that New America has wasted its money subsidizing the journalism of such stars as Kate Boo, Margaret Talbot, and Peter Bergen and bright young things Jonathan Chait and Brendan Koerner. But Halstead's "beyond left and right" slogan is a fund-raising shuck, and any claim that his State of the Union package teems with unorthodox and viable policy solutions should be investigated for fraud. (If the fraud unit opens a file on Halstead, it should subpoena his fellow State of the Unioner George W. Bush, too.)

Shafer's on the mark about New America [You're just annoyed because they, like so many other foundations, are not giving you a grant--ed.]

posted by Dan at 12:44 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

The persistence of U.S. soft power

One concern voiced about the style of the Bush administration's foreign policy was that it would erode America's "soft power" -- the attraction of American goods, services, and culture to the rest of the world.

The Financial Times reports on a study to test this hypothesis. The results are mixed. The good news:

Consumers around the world put aside any ill-feeling about US foreign policy when they choose their fast food, soft drinks and sports shoes, a Harvard Business School study has found.

The survey of 1,800 consumers in 12 countries including Egypt, Turkey and Indonesia found that, despite expectations of a consumer backlash against US brands, most people still choose brands such as Coca-Cola and McDonald's.

About 88 per cent of people, a consistent figure across most of the countries surveyed, selected well-known global brands rather than local alternatives when asked which products they would like to buy. There was a rump of 12 per cent who did not want to buy such brands, associating them with the US and globalisation....

[G]lobal brands, including Nike, were favoured by consumers in developing countries because they represented a guarantee of quality in markets where basic standards were not always guaranteed. Coca-Cola, for example, was seen as being a brand that used clean water in preparing its soft drinks.

The bad news is that these results might speak more to the adaptability of U.S. corporations than indications of U.S. soft power:

Prof Quelch said the study, carried out by Research International last year, just before and during the Iraq war, also found that consumers felt that buying global brands showed that they were connected to global society. They did not regard big US brands as identifying them with America itself.

Companies such as Coca-Cola had already been moving towards greater sensitivity to local markets before September 11 2001. The backlash against globalisation had made them adapt their image, moving away from overt American values. "They managed to inoculate themselves before the war on terror," Prof Quelch said.

However it's worth noting that one source of American soft power is the adaptability/openness of our cutlure and our actors. So, in the long run, this is still good news.

posted by Dan at 03:03 PM | Comments (38) | Trackbacks (1)

Tuesday, January 20, 2004


Here's the text of the speech.

I can't match James Joyner, Glenn Reynolds, Patrick Belton, or Stephen Green on real-time State of the Union blogging. Plus, I've been historically bad at reading these speeches. I used to be bored silly by Clinton's SOTUs, but he always got a public opinion bump from them.

My quick assessment was similar to Joyner: "a fairly boring speech." Compared to Bush's last two SOTU speeches, however -- the 2001 Axis of Evil speech and the 2002 "sixteen little words" speech -- a little boring might be good. And after seeing the Democratic response, it's easy to see why neither Nancy Pelosi nor Tom Daschle threw their hat into the ring to run for president. Hell, Howard "YEEEEEEEEEAAAAH" Dean looked better.

I thought the one effective line was about the Patriot Act:

Key provisions of the Patriot Act are set to expire next year.


The terrorist threat will not expire on that schedule.

Beyond that, there was a brazenness to when Bush said:

We're seeking all the facts. Already, the Kay report identified dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations.

As Andrew Sullivan pointed out in an interview:

I don't think we can over-look the failure of the US to find tangible stockpiles of WMDs. It's a big embarrassment, and a big dent in the pre-emption doctrine. It doesn't change my view of the war, but it does shift my position on pre-emption. If our intelligence is that bad, then it seems to me hard to base potential wars upon it.

Oh, and one last thing -- what the hell are steroids in professional sports doing in the friggin' State of the Union?

posted by Dan at 11:29 PM | Comments (41) | Trackbacks (4)

Vote early, vote often

Thanks to all who nominated my lovely wife's essay, "My Life as a Blog Widow" for the Best Article or Essay About Weblogs category. She thinks it's way cool.

[Why can't she speak for herself?--ed. She's afraid of the expectations game. One post, one Bloggie nomination -- that's a tough ratio to maintain.]

Go vote for her -- you have until 10:00 PM EST on Saturday, January 31!

posted by Dan at 02:58 PM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

For those who would disparage the U.N., part II...

Beyond helping Carmen Electra, the United Nations does have one commodity that is valuable to the United States right now -- legitimacy. Like it or not, the rest of the world confers a status to the United Nations such that their imprimatur on a course of action resonates with publics and governments.

Fareed Zakaria argues today that exercising power without legitimacy is costly and difficult:

On one side is history's most awesome superpower, victorious in war, ruling Iraq with nearly 150,000 troops and funding its reconstruction to the tune of $20 billion this year. On the other side is an aging cleric with no formal authority, no troops and little money, who is unwilling to even speak in public. Yet last June, when Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani made it known that he didn't like the U.S. proposal to transfer power to Iraqis, the plan collapsed. And last week, when Sistani announced that he is still unhappy with the new U.S. proposal, L. Paul Bremer rushed to Washington for consultations. What does this man have that the United States doesn't?

Legitimacy. Sistani is regarded by Iraqi Shiites as the most learned cleric in the country. He is also seen as having been uncorrupted by Saddam Hussein's reign. "During the Iran-Iraq war, Sistani managed to demonstrate that he could be controlled neither by Saddam nor by his fellow ayatollahs in Iran, which has given him enormous credibility," says Yitzhak Nakash, the leading authority on Iraqi Shiites....

The tragedy is that while Sistani's fears are understandable, Washington's phased transition makes great sense. It allows for time to build institutions, form political parties and reform the agencies of government. An immediate transfer would ensure that the political contest will overwhelm all this institutional reform. But Washington lacks the basic tool it needs to negotiate with the locals: legitimacy. (This is something well understood by anyone who has studied the lessons of Bosnia, Kosovo and East Timor.) Belatedly it recognizes that the United Nations can arbitrate political problems without being accused of being a colonizer.

Zakaria's thesis finds support from the Financial Times:

Kofi Annan, UN Secretary General is to consider sending a team to examine whether direct elections were a feasible way of choosing a provisional Iraqi government by the end of June, or to look for possible alternatives....

Abdel Aziz Hakim, an official in the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) who is believed to reflect Ayatollah Sistani's views, said: "There should be a real participation of the people through elections in choosing this council."

But "if this is not possible we should search for alternatives; after we establish the principle of referring the matter to the people". He suggested any conclusions by a UN team "would be respected" by Ayatollah Sistani. (emphasis added)


posted by Dan at 11:24 AM | Comments (32) | Trackbacks (3)

Monday, January 19, 2004


The Des Moines Register has actual numbers on the caucus (link via Atrios) -- and as I'm writing this, Kerry and Edwards are having big nights; Dean and Gephardt, not so much. The fact that Kerry and Edwards are doing so well in Des Moines -- the most liberal part of the state -- suggests that these results are going to hold.

A few quick thoughts:

1) Hey, I was right!! [About as often as a stopped watch!--ed. That's pretty much my read, too.] At least about the finish. We'll see if I'm right about the press reaction.

2) The nets seem puzzled by the fact that -- according to the entrance polls -- roughly 75% opposed the war in Iraq but are not supporting Dean, the clearest anti-war candidate.

This doesn't puzzle me as much. I suspect most Democrats don't want to refight the fight over the war -- it's happened. The question for them -- for all of us -- is where to go from here, given that we're in Iraq.

3) Howard Dean is not going away anytime soon -- he's still got the money and the national organization. I'm sure the press is thrilled by this fact.

4) I never thought I would say this -- but I feel sorry for Richard Gephardt.

UPDATE: A few more thoughts given that the initial results held:

5) To paraphrase an old Jewish aphorism, is this good for the blogs? Regardless of one's political stripe, the blogosphere embraced Dean's Internet campaign as a kindred spirit, emblematic of the same phenomenon that propelled blogs into prominence. I'm asking in a half-serious way what Scrappleface is asking in a completely humorous way.

[You could spin this the other way -- what killed Dean/Gephardt was the chase for establishment endorsements and union endorsements--ed. Well, I certainly like that interpretation better -- whether it's true or not I'll leave to the commenters.]

6) Having just seen Kerry, Edwards, and Dean's speeches, my respect for Edwards' political skills is growing. In many ways all three of them touched on the same themes -- the economy, health care, people vs. the powerful, etc. However, Edwards' emphasis was on lifting people up without tearing anyone down -- in this way, Edwards is the anti-Krugman candidate. Meanwhile, Dean and Kerry still sounded negative (Dean -- who seemed to have taken too many uppers -- was bashing other Democrats; Kerry -- far more sober -- was bashing Bush).

LAST UPDATE: Will Saletan has more worth thinking about.

posted by Dan at 09:14 PM | Comments (28) | Trackbacks (8)

Laugh with or at Janeane Garofalo?

Janeane Garofalo is hilarious. I'm just not sure she's being hilarious on purpose.

From Howard Dean's official blog:

Janeane Garofalo, wearing a red Perfect Storm hat, a Stand up for Choice Sticker, a Generation Dean sticker, a pink shirt with FREE SPEECH she made herself with a magic marker (and a pen stuck in her pink shirt), a TEXAS DEMOCRAT pin, and on her backback a Dissent protects Democracy pin, Give ‘em Hell Howard pin, and I won’t Cross the Line pin asked me to type this for her....

Link via Hugh Hewitt.

UPDATE: OK, some of the commenters -- perchance they are Deaniacs and it's not a great night for them? -- are taking this in the wrong spirit. What I thought was so funny was how many pins/hats/symbols she was wearing. [Flair. The word you're looking for is flair!!--ed.]

Nothing against Janeane -- I still like her from The Larry Sanders Show.

posted by Dan at 06:17 PM | Comments (24) | Trackbacks (0)

While I've been focused on the campaign...

Patrick Belton has actually been paying attention to what's going on in the Middle East. Two great link-filled posts here and here.

posted by Dan at 02:59 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

This is pure genius

Despite my prediction of Kerry and Edwards going one/two in Iowa, I confess to being in absolute awe of this Dean campaign tactic, as reported in the Chicago Tribune:

While five Democratic presidential hopefuls sprinted across Iowa in a final act of courtship Sunday, the substantive discussions of the 2004 campaign gave way to more practical concerns in this too-close-to-call race: persuading voters to devote at least two hours of their Monday evening to politics.

The Howard Dean campaign even offered free baby-sitting....

With the race suddenly tightening, Dean's supporters tried to eliminate any excuse for Iowans not to turn out Monday evening for the town-hall style meetings where voters discuss aloud their preferences. His backers aren't just telling people where their caucus site is or offering them a ride. They're ready to baby-sit.

Deborah Chubb, 41, of Michigan City, Ind., is one of hundreds of Dean admirers pouring into Iowa to knock on doors and urge support for the former Vermont governor. She also runs a child-care agency.

One of the biggest questions about the Iowa race is whether Dean's vaunted Internet organizing will yield real support. But at the very least it managed to identify Chubb as executive director of a group that educates day-care providers--the perfect person to watch the children of Dean supporters so they can caucus for the candidate. (emphasis added)

Genius. Pure genius.

It almost makes me wish that I lived in Iowa... and that I was a Democrat.


[Maybe parents like you will simply take the free babysitting and then vote for Kerry or Edwards!--ed. Most parents I know are pretty loath to annoy their babysitter. But these are out-of-town babysitters. There's no shadow of the future!--ed. Hmmm... there would still be parental guilt -- a force far more powerful than the blogosphere.]

posted by Dan at 11:04 AM | Comments (19) | Trackbacks (3)

Sunday, January 18, 2004

A milestone contest

Today this blog received its one millionth unique visit. Thanks to all for coming!! And thanks to Moveable Type -- if you look at this traffic graph, it's clear that the switch to has paid off in more hits.

In celebration, I am having a naming contest. I've noticed that whenever I do a media interview on blogging, they find it awkward to say that the name of this site is "Daniel W. Drezner." They'll say something like, "Daniel Drezner blogs at.... er.... the web site of his own name." I think it's time for the blog to get its own name

So what should I call it? The Daily Drezner? Drezner's Daily Dose? Drezfiles? Chez Drez? [How about something that doesn't involve your name?--ed. That's good too! How about "The Loony Hack"?] Suggest away!!

UPDATE: I might just have to name it, "Sissy Willis makes me laugh"

posted by Dan at 02:18 PM | Comments (77) | Trackbacks (5)

My final thoughts on Iowa

The latest Des Moines Register poll has the following results: Kerry, 26%; Edwards, 23%; Dean, 20%; Gephardt, 18%.

The latest Zogby tracking poll: Kerry, 24%; Dean, 23%; Gephardt, 19%; Edwards, 18%.

So what's going to happen tomorrow night? Roger L. Simon dared me to make a prediction. I've had really bad luck at making predictions -- so with that said, here goes:

The short prediction: Kerry wins in Iowa, but Edwards gets the biggest boost.

The long prediction: The media story is that polls don't matter because of the way the caucus structure is organized. What really matters is turnout and organization. This hurts Edwards, who is presumed to have the weakest infrastructure, and helps Dean, who's decentralized organization awed everyone a few months ago.

What's striking to me is that Kerry and Edwards are surging, and that they also have the lowest unfavorable ratings. In part this is because Dean and Gephardt are still bashing each other (As I'm typing this, I'm watching Gephardt on Meet the Press, and he's still bashing Dean).

The polls both show Kerry ahead and trending in the right direction -- though Tom Schaller makes some excellent arguments at DailyKos for why the poll numbers might be underestimating Dean's strength. As for ground strength, Michael Crowley makes the case that Kerry's operation on the ground is pretty strong.

The media seem to feel that Edwards will suffer because his organization on the ground is weaker than the other three candidates, so he'll get fewer delegates and lose the perceptions contest.

However, because the race is so close, interest and turnout should be extremely high. This brings in people who are outside of any campaign's organizational apparatus, who are likely to be more moderate, and who will react to the candidate that seems to be the most likeable -- which I'm thinking will help Edwards.

The Boston Globe thinks this will matter a great deal in second rounds of the caucus:

Inside the Iowa caucuses tomorrow night, John Edwards may end up attracting a disproportionate share of those voters who are forced to pick a second choice under the quirky election rules, political specialists and likely caucusgoers said....

The lack of negative associations could help mitigate the deficit in organizational support Edwards has in some precincts, said James McCormick, chairman of the political science department at Iowa State University. McCormick said because second-choice voters will not think of Edwards as the enemy of their first choice, they might instead focus on his image as an optimistic alternative who could win in the South.

"He ultimately comes across as a moderate among angry, hollering other candidates," McCormick said. "He's a fresh face, which also gives him an advantage."

Now, what's actually pretty interesting about that article is that beyond the expert quote, there's no evidence to support the article's thesis. Indeed, this is really the key section:

Under caucus rules, voters in each precinct first stand in a group for their candidate of choice. But any candidate who does not reach 15 percent in a given precinct is deemed "not viable," and his supporters will then pick another.

The four candidates leading in polls are expected to be viable in urban precincts, so only supporters of minor candidates, such as Dennis J. Kucinich, will be in play.

Because support for each candidate is not evenly distributed, some of the major candidates may not reach 15 percent in the many small rural precincts, where as few as a dozen voters may turn out. In those smaller precincts, supporters for Edwards hope his positive campaign and rural upbringing could help him dominate in the second-choice voting, because he will not be associated with attacks on those voters' initial choice. (emphasis added)

Why run a story on such weak foundations? It's one example of why I think Edwards will be the big winner coming out of Iowa -- he fits in best with the media's professional and personal proclivities.

Professionally, the media wants close races and new faces. An Edwards surge provides both.

Personally, reporters don't appear to really like Dean or Kerry all that much. In contrast, they do seem to like Edwards (see this Time dispatch for an example). I heard Brit Hume say on Fox News Sunday that "John Edwards is engaging, likeable, appealing." Brit Hume doesn't like anything, for God's sake. If any of the Democrats has the Clintonian charisma, it's Edwards.

If Kerry wins, he's going to get a bump, no doubt -- and New Hampshire becomes an interesting question. But if Edwards performs better than either Gephardt or Dean at the caucus, reporters are going to lock in on him as the story of the week. Whether he can sustain it is an entirely different question.

My apologies to Kerry and Edwards for sealing their doom.

UPDATE: Much obliged to Michele Catalano at The Command Post for posting this as an op-ed.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Hmmm... the New York Times has actual evidence that Edwards might pick up second-round caucus votes:

Representative Dennis Kucinich of Ohio said today that he and Senator Edwards had reached an agreement specifying that if neither reached the 15 percent viability threshold for delegates, the supporters of both would unite behind the candidate with greater support.

"John and I are friends," Mr. Kucinich said. "He and I have complementary constituencies. I'm going to do well in college towns and urban areas. He is going to do well in rural areas. Rather than leave it up to chance, we're letting our supporters know to support the other guy."

This ain't a misquote -- Kucinich posted this quote on his blog. Tactically, I understand this. Strategically, I'm not sure how much any viable Democrat would want to be associated with Kucinich.

posted by Dan at 11:01 AM | Comments (30) | Trackbacks (4)