Thursday's must-reads


Geraldine Sealey
January 29, 2004 7:10PM (UTC)

It's the movement, stupid
Former Clinton labor secretary Robert Reich shushes inter-party bickering between liberals and moderates with this admonition: Democrats need a movement, like the one that's given the GOP political dominance and allowed conservatives to woo once-Democratic constituencies, like the working-class. In an op-ed to the New York Times, Reich writes: "... Conservatives eagerly stepped into the void, claiming the populist mantle and blaming liberal elites for what's gone wrong with America. The question ahead is whether Democrats can claim it back. The rush by many Democrats in recent years to the so-called center has been a pathetic substitute for candid talk about what the nation needs to do and for fueling a movement based on liberal values."

Bill Clinton may have given himself and the party eight years in the White House, Reich says, but his triangulating ways left the party with no clear identity.

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"As we head into the next wave of primaries, the Democratic candidates should pay close attention to what Republicans have learned about winning elections. First, it is crucial to build a political movement that will endure after particular electoral contests. Second, in order for a presidency to be effective, it needs a movement that mobilizes Americans behind it. Finally, any political movement derives its durability from the clarity of its convictions. And there's no better way to clarify convictions than to hone them in political combat."

Dean chairman: We've got two weeks
Howard Dean's "leaner, meaner" newly-installed campaign machinery doesn't have much time to turn things around -- at least that's how his campaign chairman sees it. Steve Grossman tells the AP that Dean must win something soon to keep even the most loyal Deaniacs writing checks to their candidate. After all, it's tough writing compelling fund-raising literature well into primary season without a win. Even with disappointing showings in Iowa and N.H., Dean has managed to draw some small-dollar donors -- he's raised more than $100,000 on Wednesday and more than $1.8 million in the past week. "Now, we have to give them a return on their investment pretty soon, which is why we have to put a win on the boards sometime between now and February 7 to restore and revitalize their sense of the campaign's momentum," Grossman said. "Success in the next 10 days is absolutely essential" for the campaign to remain competitive financially, and Dean knows it.

How to talk to Southerners
The State's political columnist and veteran observer of Southern politics Lee Bandy gives some advice to the presidential candidates who'll debate tonight in South Carolina.

"John Kerry, the Northeastern liberal from Massachusetts the home of, gasp, Ted Kennedy needs to assure Southerners that he is not writing off the South, even though he all but ignored South Carolina for months."

"John Edwards needs to turn on his charm -- and his drawl -- and stress his Southern roots."

"Wesley Clark has to present himself as, gosh, what does Clark do? In terms of appealing to South Carolina voters, he has to present himself as a better Southern alternative than Edwards."

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"Howard Dean needs to not talk religion or try to reach out to the Bubba vote by talking about pickup drivers and the Confederate flag."

"Joe Lieberman needs to learn how to add. He shocked a lot of folks when he said he was almost tied for third place in New Hampshire."

"Al Sharpton needs to be his humorous self ...Dennis Kucinich needs to cede his time to someone else."

America gets a clue
Regardless of who emerges as the Democratic presidential nominee, Haroon Siddiqui writes in the Toronto Star, a greater purpose has already been served in the 2004 campaign. The American people are finally getting a clue about "the worldwide debates about their president's penchant for exploiting and fanning fears by exaggerating dangers, taking unilateral actions abroad, and squandering U.S. credibility." The Democratic candidates are doing their part to let Americans in on what the rest of the world is saying about Bush's America, Siddiqui says. And the stakes are high. "The White House is now trying a new tack: that Bush had never characterized Saddam's danger as 'imminent,' only as 'grave and growing.' There is a difference? The last time the White House tried such hair-splitting was when Bill Clinton argued it was not 'sex' that he had had with Monica Lewinsky. The difference in this case, of course, is that more than 500 Americans and nearly 15,000 Iraqi soldiers and civilians are dead."

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Did Kay neutralize a Democratic talking point?
David Kay may have unequivocally said there were no WMD, but the former chief weapons inspector in Iraq also told senators yesterday that he doesn't think the White House manipulated intelligence to suit its war plan. Now, GOP strategists think Kay has helped insulate the Bush administration from Democratic attacks on the pretense for war. No matter how the White House shifts its position on Iraq, The Washington Times says the American people just won't care. "Republican consultant Allan Hoffenblum said Saddam's defiance of the U.N. resolutions is a sufficient justification of the war in the eyes of most voters and the Bush-Cheney re-election team knows it. 'All the surveys I've seen so far shows that most Americans think the weapon of mass destruction in Iraq was Saddam Hussein, and they are quite happy to see him gone, whether or not WMD are found,' Mr. Hoffenblum said."

But P.J. Crowley, director of national defense and homeland security for the Center for American Progress, says Mr. Kay is "trying to put the best face" on prewar intelligence failures in order to help the president and that the public ultimately will hold Mr. Bush accountable. "It's hard to blame the intelligence community when the White House itself has already admitted that it stretched [its rhetoric] beyond the facts," Mr. Crowley said.


Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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