Wednesday's must-reads


Geraldine Sealey
March 3, 2004 6:47PM (UTC)

Draft Edwards? Not so fast
Now that John Kerry has the Democratic nomination sealed up so early, with months to go before the Boston convention in July, he reportedly wants to stir some excitement by choosing a VP candidate as quickly as possible. The inevitable talk today is of John Edwards' chances as he gives his official withdrawal speech in Raleigh. Some say the North Carolina senator was running for VP all along. But is he a shoo-in? The Los Angeles Times today says some political strategists and Democrats, including Kerry himself, have their doubts.

"Opinions differ among analysts on what, if any, advantages Edwards would bring to the Democratic ticket. He has proved to be one of the party's most talented speakers and has shown a particular fluency addressing the anxieties of blue-collar Democrats. But a Kerry-Edwards ticket seems unlikely to succeed even in North Carolina, let alone other Southern states that have been less hospitable to Democrats."

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"'While I think John Edwards has more political talent in his little finger than John Kerry has in his whole body, I don't know that as a running mate that makes much difference,' said Charles Cook, an independent campaign analyst in Washington. 'It's not obvious to me that he fixes any problem.' If history offers any guide, it would be unusual for Kerry to turn to a vanquished rival to fill out the ticket."

Elvis on the ticket?
When Dan Rather asked at last Sunday's debate whether John Kerry had enough "Elvis" in him, he clearly had Bill Clinton in mind. NYU professor Stephen Gillers suggests in this op-ed that instead of channeling Clinton, Kerry should just name him his VP choice. People might even pay to watch Bill Clinton debate Dick Cheney, he says. "The first objection, the constitutional one, can be disposed of easily. The Constitution does not prevent Clinton from running for vice president. The 22nd Amendment, which became effective in 1951, begins: 'No person shall be elected to the office of the president more than twice.'

"No problem. Bill Clinton would be running for vice president, not president. Scholars and judges can debate how loosely constitutional language should be interpreted, but one need not be a strict constructionist to find this language clear beyond dispute. Bill Clinton cannot be elected president, but nothing stops him from being elected vice president."

"So much for the constitutional obstacles. The political ones may be more formidable. They can be summarized in two questions: Would Clinton want the job -- and would Kerry want him to take it? We won't know until we ask, of course."

(Update: Astute reader and constitutional maven S.N. takes issue with Gillers' argument that "nothing stops Clinton from being elected vice president." The 12th amendment, S.N. points out, says "no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States." But does that include Clinton rising to the office from the V.P. slot? Probably doesn't matter, since this probably won't happen. But still, it's fun to think about. )

The money game
We've heard much of the war president's war chest -- the tens of millions of dollars the Republicans have at their disposal to fill the void between now and the conventions with well-funded attacks on John Kerry and gauzy, gushing ads promoting President Bush. The Boston Globe looks at the money race and how the Democrats can counter the gobs of GOP money at the ready.

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"The most recent official figures show that President Bush had $104.4 million in his campaign treasury as of Jan. 31, while the Democratic nominee-apparent, John F. Kerry, had a mere $2.1 million ... An incumbent president has an almost unlimited fund-raising ability, each side agrees, meaning money will be no object as Bush seeks a second term in the White House. The reelection committee has a stated goal of raising $150 million to $170 million, but party officials said they may not stop until they have raised $200 million or more."

"The Democratic nominee, meanwhile, will almost certainly be boosted by two factors. One is a raw yearning by Democrats to oust Bush. The other factor is third-party spending on the nominee's behalf by political action groups known as 527s, which party officials believe could contribute $70 million alone this spring."

"In addition, the Democratic National Committee is not only debt-free for the first time in recent history, but it also has $17 million in the bank, a direct-mail list with 1.5 million names, an e-mail list with 2 million names, and a goal of raising $100 million this year to support the nominee."

The talk that didn't happen
The Washington Post runs an account of a rare "deep background" conversation the president had with five network reporters who agreed they wouldn't quote him directly. "Word of the meeting got around before it was over. Several people provided accounts of it to The Washington Post but spoke only on the condition of anonymity because, in the view of the White House and by the agreement of the networks, the conversation never officially occurred."

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What did Bush tell the reporters? "The Oval Office session was designed to show Bush as eager to campaign and fight back against Kerry, and to portray the president as engaged in the issues of the day. The meeting was supposed to run just half an hour, and Bush seemed to enjoy showing that he could handle whatever topics were fired at him, according to the accounts."

But, the Post says, the conversation may have been intended more to get Bush friendly again with a press corps accustomed to being shut out by the White House. "Aides hoped to recapture some of the camaraderie of his campaign plane early in the 2000 race, when he engaged reporters with long, off-the-record chats," the paper says.

Wilson to ID leaker
The AP says former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson will reveal the name of the person he thinks leaked his wife's identity as an undercover CIA officer in a book due out in May. "A federal grand jury has heard testimony from at least four White House officials in its investigation to identify the leaker of Valerie Plame's name to syndicated columnist Robert Novak, who published the name in his syndicated column last July. Numerous other officials have been interviewed by the FBI ... Wilson's book, "The Politics of Truth," is scheduled to come out May 20."

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"Publication of the book and Wilson's accompanying promotional tour could have political overtones because he is now a foreign policy adviser to Democratic presidential front-runner John Kerry. Democrats are seeking to raise questions of credibility in the minds of voters about the reasons President Bush went to war."

Kay: Bush should come clean
David Kay, former chief U.S. weapons inspector, tells the Guardian of London the Bush administration should "come clean with the American people" and admit it was wrong about the existence of WMDs in Iraq.

"In an interview with the Guardian, Mr. Kay said the administration's reluctance to make that admission was delaying essential reforms of US intelligence agencies, and further undermining its credibility at home and abroad. He welcomed the creation of a bipartisan commission to investigate prewar intelligence on Iraq, and said the wide-ranging US investigation was much more likely to get to the truth than the Butler inquiry in Britain. That, he noted, had 'so many limitations it's going to be almost impossible' to come to meaningful conclusions."

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Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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