Tuesday's must-reads


Geraldine Sealey
January 20, 2004 7:44PM (UTC)

Let the dissection begin
Now that the sun is up on a campaign turned topsy-turvy, the post-mortems are well underway. If Howard Dean thought he faced heavy scrutiny as the frontrunner, he'll love the "What happened to Dean?" story, which is naturally a staple of the morning-after coverage. David Yepsen, the Des Moines Register columnist, started writing his Dean-in-Iowa obit yesterday morning, even before the caucusing. Yepsen says the more Iowa Democrats learned about Dean, the less they liked. Note the angry-liberal-gaffe-prone mantra, which comes full circle from the media to the public and back again.

"Iowa Democrats decided Howard Dean was simply too angry, too liberal and too gaffe-prone to be trusted with his party's presidential nomination. ... As Dean's political shortcomings became more evident, Iowa Democrats ... began having buyer's remorse. Dean's organization was the best ever built in Iowa, but it couldn't make up for the shortcomings of the candidate and the limitations of his message."

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Next, New Hampshire
Iowa's supposed to winnow the candidates -- and it did, at least axeing Gephardt from the race -- but looking ahead to New Hampshire, the Boston Globe says the caucuses may have actually boosted more candidates than they knocked down. A revitalized Kerry and Edwards and an organizationally strong Dean now face off against Wesley Clark, who's been showing strong in New Hampshire while everyone else stumped in Iowa.

If Iowa taught us anything, it's that we don't know what will happen once voters hand down their verdict. "All bets are off," the Globe says.

So much for the invisible primary
As if "pundit" weren't already a dirty word, Howard Kurtz slams the chattering class for getting everything wrong in Iowa and the months preceding the caucuses.

"The impressive showing in Iowa by Kerry and Edwards -- and the failure of Howard Dean to blow everyone away -- is already being depicted by the media as a surprise,' a dramatic turn of events, a 'stunning upset,' and so on. But since no one really knew what was going to happen in these frigid meetings, it was mainly a surprise because the press for so many months had been trumpeting a Howard Dean-Richard Gephardt showdown."

The angriest man in Des Moines
Mark Schmitt of The Decembrist blog adds an interesting angle to the "we thought organization was key" head-scratching. Of all the angry or disappointed people in Iowa last night, Schmitt says the most pissed off was probably Gerald McIntee of the AFSCME union. Not only did he reluctantly endorse Dean way back when everyone thought the candidate was marching toward inevitability. The Iowa results show that, at least in that state, labor's backing ain't what it used to be.

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" ... When the two labor-backed candidates get only 28 percent combined, less than Edwards, that's a huge setback -- even if Dean can come back and win the nomination. It glaringly shows labor's weakness, even within the Democratic Party -- or, the failure of organized labor to be organized, since even union members went for Kerry."

When Tom DeLay rules the world
Robert Kuttner explains in the American Prospect what will happen if President Bush is re-elected in November --- nothing less than the total domination of the GOP for a really long time. From parliamentary gimmickry that limits opposition in Congress to electoral rules that favor incumbents to federal courts that would rubber stamp the ruling party's agenda, another Bush win would cement a GOP autocracy for at least a generation, Kuttner warns.

State of disbelief
President Bush will lay out more "visionary" and costly proposals in tonight's State of the Union address -- think Mars -- but Paul Krugman isn't buying them. "Reports say that tonight he'll propose additional, and even more expensive, new initiatives, like partial Social Security privatization -- which all by itself would require at least $1 trillion in extra funds over the next decade. Where is all this money going to come from? ... But some Americans will respond to upbeat messages, no matter how unrealistic. And that may be enough for Mr. Bush, because while he poses as someone above the fray, he is continuing to solidify his base."


Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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