Monday's must-reads


Geraldine Sealey
January 19, 2004 6:52PM (UTC)

Caucus countdown
Iowa remains a four-way race between John Kerry, Howard Dean, John Edwards and Dick Gephardt hours before the caucuses begin. The Boston Globe rounds-up how the candidates chose to spend their last day of campaigning in Iowa: Think special appearances by former presidents, campaign-shy spouses and aging rock stars like Joan Jett.

The Globe also keeps us up-to-date on Wes Clark, home alone in New Hampshire until the caucuses end tonight, when the other candidates will rush to join him. Yesterday Clark got the endorsement of 1972 Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern, who called the general the party's best chance at beating Bush.

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Hard truth on hard counts
The buzz phrase right now in trying to predict the outcome of the Iowa caucuses is "hard count," which describes how many sure-thing supporters each candidate can depend on to turn out tonight. What matters is how the hard count measures up to the actual turnout of voters, as political scientist Tom Schaller describes on political blog The Daily Kos: "If the indications are that turnout is rising, but your hard count is stagnating or only making slow progress, that means you're losing those newly-mobilized caucus-goers to somebody else."

Crying wolf on WMD hurts U.S. credibility
The Washington Post has an A1 story on how the disconnect between Bush's pre-war rhetoric on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the actual post-war findings of WMD -- nada -- have damaged U.S. credibility abroad. The piece quotes foreign policy experts from both parties, including a member of the hawkish Defense Advisory Board.

Already, other countries are doubting the quality and veracity of U.S. intelligence, the piece says. "In the crisis over North Korea's nuclear ambitions, China has rejected U.S. intelligence that North Korea has a secret program to enrich uranium for use in weapons. China is a key player in resolving the North Korean standoff, but its refusal to embrace the U.S. intelligence has disappointed U.S. officials and could complicate negotiations to eliminate North Korea's weapons programs."

Cheney's bland personality plays well on stump
When Dick Cheney emerges from his undisclosed location to raise money for Bush-Cheney '04, red-meat GOP supporters apparently lap up his subdued personality. The Los Angeles Times describes how, "as the presidential campaign moves into high gear, the White House is preparing to make new use of this unusual weapon: the anticharisma of Dick Cheney. Largely a behind-the-scenes power player, Cheney is emerging to take on an increasingly public role -- partly as emissary to the party's conservative base and partly to argue before a wider audience that the Bush administration has the wisdom and experience to navigate an increasingly dangerous world."

Bonus Cheney read: The Los Angeles Times also covers the eyebrows-raising duck hunting trip the vice president took with Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia just after the high court agreed to hear Cheney's appeal in the energy task force lawsuits. Scalia assures that he can be impartial about his hunting buddy.

Clinton's ghost in their machines
What does it mean to be a Democrat in the post-Clinton years? And does Bill Clinton's legacy depend less on what he did as president so much as what he helps the Democratic candidates do in 2004? Time takes a look at the shadow Bill Clinton casts over the Democratic candidates, and whether the party can unite in time to make another George Bush a one-time president.

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Time describes how Clinton waits for calls from Democratic candidates and hands out the expert political advice only he can give. "And so Clinton is the ghost in all their political machines, massaging Dick Gephardt's message, editing John Edwards' speeches, matchmaking between Wesley Clark and the party rainmakers. If too much time passes between calls, friends say, Clinton gets a little peeved, like a mother wanting her kids to succeed when they head off to college, but not without her help."


Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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