Wednesday's must-reads


Geraldine Sealey
January 21, 2004 7:16PM (UTC)

Sins of omission
President Bush adopted some creative vernacular in his State of the Union address -- substituting the vague "weapons of mass destruction-related program activities" for the all-familiar but ever-elusive WMDs. But the folks over at the Annenberg Political Fact Check center say what Bush omitted from his speech is even more telling, including "the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the loss of 2.3 million jobs, and who's responsible for the big deficits he proposes to cut." They've filled in Bush's blanks in a new FactCheck document.

The taunter-in-chief
If the blanket-broadcasted State of the Union address is the president's annual answer to reality television -- Bush's might be a hybrid of Fear Factor and Average Joe -- it's appropriate to turn to the TV critics for reviews. The Washington Post's Tom Shales gives Bush's performance a thumbs-down. "Often the words of the speech were written to sound lofty, but Bush had such a big Christmas-morning grin on his face that they came out sounding like taunts -- taunts to the rest of the world or taunts to Democrats in the hall." But Shales appreciated Ted Kennedy's eye-rolling reactions to Bush, saying "Kennedy has now reached a grand moment in the life of a senator; he looks like Hollywood itself cast him in the role."

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Kerry bounces, Dean breaks into song
The Boston Globe picks up the newly-defined race in New Hampshire, where the candidates are scrambling to position themselves for next Tuesday's primary -- the paper's new poll shows John Kerry bouncing into a statistical tie with Howard Dean for the lead. After his eyebrows-raising concession speech in Iowa, Dean is toning it down. The kinder, gentler Dean even responded to hecklers in Concord by leading a rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

The Achilles' heel of electability
On Donkey Rising, Ruy Teixeira takes a look at how the electability factor hurt Dean in Iowa. After analyzing Iowa voter surveys, Teixeira says "the ability to 'beat Bush' was a significant determinant of the caucus vote -- 26 percent selected this trait as the most important quality guiding their choice of candidate. These voters gave two-thirds of their support to Kerry (37 percent) or Edwards (30 percent)."

"Not exactly a record that inspires confidence in Dean as a viable general election candidate. Or in his ability to garner the Democratic nomination, for that matter," Teixeira says.

Dean: Politics' Pets.com?
In Salon, Farhad Manjoo takes a look at what Dean's Iowa setback means for the Web and Dean's use of it. "Now that Dean has lost a little bit of his luster, it may be the fate of his campaign to suffer endless comparisons to the dot-com crash. Live by the Internet, die by the Internet," Manjoo says.

If Dean crashes and burns, is it a referendum on the Web's potential as a political organizing tool, or just a reflection on Dean's candidacy? The debate has already begun, and some Deaniacs wonder if their man really has such wide appeal, or if they've just been blogging to the choir.

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Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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