Wednesday's must-reads


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Geraldine Sealey
February 18, 2004 7:56PM (UTC)

A candidate, not a campaigner
All eyes are on Howard Dean today, a day after placing a distant third in the Wisconsin primary, as he mulls strategy at home in Burlington, Vt. But the Los Angeles Times' Matea Gold says the faltering candidate isn't planning a conventional exit strategy from the race. Dean "decided to essentially end his presidential bid Tuesday, according to a top aide Though Dean is not going to formally drop out of the race, he is going to stop campaigning, the aide said. The move would allow his supporters to continue to vote for him in the upcoming primaries and have a say at the Democratic National Convention in July."

Update: CNN reports that Dean will announce at 1 p.m. ET that he will leave his name on the ballot but stop campaigning. "The campaign, as we have known it for the past 14 months, will cease to exist," an aide tells CNN.

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Dean will announce his decision today at a Burlington hotel.

Dean should be uniter, not divider
In the Boston Globe Robert Kuttner says it's time to praise Howard Dean for performing a real service to his party and his country "and ask him to go gracefully." Dean showed us there was a hunger for speaking truth to power, Kuttner says, and made it safe for other Democrats to get tough on Bush, who once seemed unbeatable. Dean invented a new way of doing politics on the Internet, and every other candidate is now imitating him. Dean demonstrated the "small-d democratic potential of electoral politics," Kuttner says, and gave young people new hope in government and politics.

That said, "Dean, justly a hero for blowing the Democratic campaign wide open and for showing new ways to energize our democracy, has one remaining task. He needs to show some class in the days to come and to remember why he and so many of his supporters got into this race," Kuttner says. "To a remarkable degree, Democrats since the Iowa caucuses have managed to avoid their usual circular firing squad. Nothing would be better for his party and for Howard Dean's own remarkable legacy than for Dean himself to now play an unaccustomed role: that of a unifier."

The object in Kerry's mirror
John Edwards isn't going away, he showed last night with a closer-than-expected showing in the Wisconsin primary. His quotable line from last night's kind-of concession, kind-of victory speech, playing again and again on the radio and TV today, was that Wisconsin voters showed that "Objects in your mirror may be closer than they appear." It was a playful slap at the pundits and pollsters who predicted another Kerry runaway win and perhaps also at Kerry himself, who Edwards had to remind at a debate Sunday night ("Not so fast, John Kerry") that the primary campaign was not yet over.

But even now that Edwards has the two-man race he's been clamoring for, the Washington Post's Dan Balz looks at the daunting task Edwards has before him. Edwards is running short on cash, faces a sprawling Super Tuesday contest that will force him to spread himself and his resources across several states, and must confront John Kerry's formidable momentum, including mounting delegates and endorsements, including a new one expected Thursday from the AFL-CIO. It just may be that Edwards, the late surger who always seems to ask come primary day "what if I had another week," just doesn't have enough time.

"Edwards must deal with another factor," Balz writes. "A possible vice presidential offer from Kerry. Many Democrats see a Kerry-Edwards ticket as a strong pairing to run in November. But already there are signs of tension between the two men, and several Democratic sources said Kerry was irritated by Edwards's criticisms of him in Sunday's Wisconsin debate. If the competition turns more negative, Edwards could cost himself a place on the ticket."

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The prosecutorial 'Peyton Place'
The Washington Post reports that a prominent 15-year prosecutor in Detroit has taken the "highly unusual step" of filing a lawsuit against Attorney General John Ashcroft and other top Justice Department officials, alleging he was the target of a smear campaign that resulted in the exposure of a valuable counterterrorism informant.

Richard Convertino accuses Justice of "gross mismanagement" of terrorism cases, contending that "DOJ Washington had continuously placed 'perception' over 'reality' to the serious detriment of the war on terror." The move adds to the tumult that has roiled the offices of the U.S. attorney and the FBI in Detroit, which have overseen several major terrorism cases since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks but have recently come under scrutiny for allegedly mishandling both informants and evidence, the Post writes.

Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, said a lawsuit like Convertino's is almost unheard of within the Justice Department and could undermine the government's credibility in other terrorism cases. "This is really turning into the prosecutorial version of 'Peyton Place,' " Turley said. "Detroit has been a particular embarrassment for the government, because this is one of a number of such accusations there. . . . But most of these fights stay in-house. It's viewed with great disfavor for a prosecutor to be critical in public of either DOJ or the attorney general."

Permanent tax cuts? Not so fast
The Hill reports that President Bush's biggest hurdle in furthering his tax cut plans may come from within his own party. "Several Senate centrist Republicans are trying to blunt President Bush's tax-cutting plans. These Republicans who used their clout in the Senate to cut Bush's 2003 tax-cut proposal in half are now cautiously evaluating Bush's new efforts to make the enacted tax cuts permanent. One, Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, says: "People are now realizing that deficits are a problem realizing what we raised last spring," she said. Last month, officials predicted the federal budget deficit could reach $2.4 trillion over the next 10 years, $1 trillion more than previously estimated. Making the Bush tax cuts permanent would result in a loss to the Treasury of some $1.2 trillion, without accounting for any offsets, such as increased economic activity, the Hill says. Some $88 billion in tax cuts are due to expire this year unless Congress acts.

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"Since Bush has made the tax cut issue a major aspect of his re-election drive, the centrists' stance could prove to be a political liability to the president. While none of these centrists has voiced direct opposition to any of the tax cuts, members of the group are nevertheless gauging the political climate in the Senate while eyeing the forecasted deficits. If they end up adopting a hard position against any of the tax cuts, it would pose a major obstacle to Bush, who likely will need 60 votes for a Senate victory."

"Your Rights" -- or not
The Washington Post reports that even as the Bush administration is caught up in the debate on gay marriage, a Republican appointee at the independent agency Office of Special Counsel, whose mission is to protect whistleblowers and other federal employees from retribution, pulled references to sexual orientation discrimination off the Web site where government employees can learn about their rights in the workplace.

"The Web pages at the Office of Special Counsel, an independent agency, has removed references to sexual orientation from a discrimination complaint form, training slides, a brochure titled 'Your Rights as a Federal Employee' and other documents. Scott J. Bloch, the agency head, said he ordered the material removed because of uncertainty over whether a provision of civil service law applies to federal workers who claim unfair treatment because they are gay, bisexual or heterosexual." More Post: "The provision usually has been interpreted to mean that a worker's off-duty behavior cannot be used as a justification for dismissal, demotion or discipline unless it hampers job performance or interferes with the work of others. That has been the stance at the Office of Personnel Management, which oversees the government's workplace policies, for at least two decades. The OPM Web site continues to advise employees that bias based on sexual orientation is unlawful and informs them that complaints may be filed at the Office of Special Counsel."

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Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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