Saturday, July 22, 2006

An Open Letter to President Bill Clinton

Hello President Clinton,

In the 2006 California governor's primary, Steve Westley said some things about Phil Angelides that the Reps are using in their ads against Angelides.

I'm sure that the same will be true in the CT senate race against Lieberman or Lamont because of the rhetoric that's been flying every which way there.

You said yourself the other week in Aspen that: "If we allow our differences over [whatever] to divide us instead of focusing on replacing Republicans [in Congress]; that's the nuttiest strategy I ever heard in my life."

I have a suggestion that you might find hard to swallow BUT might also think is the right thing to do:

  • Convince Hillary NOT to run for President in 2008 AND

  • Develop and manage (with Hillary) a Draft-Al-Gore campaign for President because:
All these points have public appeal, and with your support (and without the conflict of Hillary's candidacy) could make the difference in what portends to be a very close, costly and bitter race.

And count on me for support in money, effort, technology and whatever else is needed.

Thank you for your consideration.


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Internet Privileged vs. Internet Resistant and the 2008 Election Cycle

Fellow bloggers, political browsers, and members of Daily Kos are the privileged ones. We can handle ourselves on the Internet; find what we want; view and listen and comment. We're not intimidated by blogs, vlogs, podcasts, etc. And when it comes to campaigning, we're more interested in getting the facts on our own rather than being told what they are through advertisements.

So who are the underprivileged; the resistant*? This group is equally important because they are also prime targets for the 2008 Election Cycle. If we don't find and identify this group they might miss the massive amount of real information, our candidate's information, and the pleasure of independent research.

People who were 12 or younger in 1992 were on the cusp of the Internet revolution. They learned it and took it for granted and are adept at navigating and searching for whatever they want. They gather information as they become interested; they participate when the feel like it; they buy confidently, contribute freely, and disseminate regularly. So the campaign pitch to those folks is to interest them in finding out more; doing more; thinking more; participating more; contributing more.

The older groups of 1992 contained many of the resisters, particularly in the 1992 age range of 40-65 who are now 55-80. Some of the seniors within that group have learned what it is and how to use it because it's their primary source of communication with their dispersed families, but they're not really at ease with all the capabilities and features. The remaining group of AARP-elegibles are prime targets for traditional advertising and also for sympathetic Internet training.

Segmenting the electorate into Internet saavy versus traditional and also by Internet resistance versus taking it for granted are necessary first steps toward making the 2008 Presidential Election our first real Internet-as-primary-media election.

Bob Schieffer of CBS News made a good point when he hosted "The Charlie Rose Show" and interviewed Jonathan Alter of Newsweek a few weeks ago. He said:
Successful presidents have all skillfully exploited the dominant medium of their times.

  • The Founders were eloquent writers in the age of pamphleteering.

  • Franklin D. Roosevelt restored hope in 1933 by mastering radio.

  • John F. Kennedy was the first president elected because of his understanding of television.

  • And with an issue as eye-glazing as the deficit, a wacky, jug-eared Texan named Ross Perot received 19 percent of the vote. He did it with "Larry King Live" and an 800 number.

Howard Dean and later John Kerry showed that the whole idea of "early money" is now obsolete in presidential politics. The Internet lets candidates who catch fire raise millions in small donations practically overnight. That's why all the talk of Hillary Clinton's "war chest" making her the front runner for 2008 is the most hackneyed punditry around. Money from wealthy donors remains the essential ingredient in most state and local campaigns, but "free media" shapes the outcome of presidential races, and the Internet is the freest media of all. Finally, since at least a quarter of the voting population voting early or absentee, traditional methods of advertising are diluted further still.

The 2008 presidential election cycle will begin shortly. I believe, like Schieffer, that he who masters the prevailing media will win. That media used to be TV but by 2008 it will be the Internet - and we are all players in this new drama.

Be sure to vote.

* Cartoonist Mike Reed became famous a few years ago because of a flame-out he had with a few people on a digital arts forum. He was silent for a few weeks and then came back with a dozen cartoons that expressed his anger. Appreciation of those cartoons led to a book called "Flame Warriors."

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

A Little Heart, A Lot of Brotherhood vs. the Politics of Fear

A recent interview in BusinessWeek with George Soros:

"The Bush Administration and the Nazi and Communist regimes all engaged in the politics of fear."

Do you really believe the Administration is a threat to democracy?

Yes, I really do believe that, and that is why I got involved in politics. By claiming to engage in a war against an unknown enemy that will never disappear... President Bush has appropriated excessive powers for the executive branch... undermining the division of powers that have been the mainstay of our democracy. In addition, he succeeded for a while in making any criticism of his policies appear as if it was unpatriotic. That undermines the first principle of an open society: critical thinking.

Your book dwells on the negative. Don't you run the risk of being perceived as a very wealthy Chicken Little?

I do. But I contend that we have become a feel-good society unwilling to face harsh reality. As a result, reality has become increasingly threatening.

Remember Lee Atwater? How ruthless he was? How harsh? How his words were so well chosen that they drilled their message into the hearts of the intended victims but sailed by everyone else?

Did you know that Bush was good friends with Atwater and worked across the hall from him during his father's campaign for president and encouraged his father to heed to Atwater's advice when it was cruel even to Bush Sr.? W learned from and repeatedly endorsed Atwater's tactics and practices. One of Atwater's lessons was repetition. Repeat a key phrase or idea from a variety of sources and people's disbelief will slowly deteriorate. You see this daily in DC with statements eminating from Rove's office delivered as talking points from the Speakers office, the RNC and various Rep candidates across the country.

Having been in that business and known the players - including Atwater - it's hard to be compassionate to Bush because he knows what he is doing. And I don't feel that I'm naive in this belief because I knew Atwater and felt the blows of his attacks and the pain of his victories. It was good training for Bush and there's no doubt that he was a quick and thorough learner.

Atwater came to recant what he had done.

In a February 1991 article for Life Magazine, Atwater wrote:

My illness helped me to see that what was missing in society is what was missing in me: a little heart, a lot of brotherhood. The '80s were about acquiring -- acquiring wealth, power, prestige. I know. I acquired more wealth, power, and prestige than most. But you can acquire all you want and still feel empty. What power wouldn't I trade for a little more time with my family? What price wouldn't I pay for an evening with friends? It took a deadly illness to put me eye to eye with that truth, but it is a truth that the country, caught up in its ruthless ambitions and moral decay, can learn on my dime. I don't know who will lead us through the '90s, but they must be made to speak to this spiritual vacuum at the heart of American society, this tumor of the soul.

It took a fatal brain tumor to elicit Atwater's poignent repentence. I don't see anything short of that which could shake President Bush's repeated lies and reliance on Rove and others who daily repeat Atwater's worst traits.

Soros is right: there are harsh realities that are slipping away from us day by day by the repeated diversions, fear and bickering of the Bush Administration.

It's time for people in the news to return to being investigative reporters instead of repeaters of Administration stuff. Doesn't any newspaper or magazine have an investigative reporter and editor willing go after Rove and Bush and stand up to the harassment that is sure to come?

Friday, July 07, 2006

Open Letter to the Editor of Time Magazine

I'm astounded that Time chose Rove for "Lessons from a Larger-than-Life President" (with a cover highlight) for your Teddy issue (which I very much enjoyed and appreciated (sans Rove)).

He was cited as a history buff. Actually he is more of a malicious political trickster. He has learned how to misuse and manipulate the system and the people who depend on it. During his time in the campaign process, and now on the federal payroll, he has undermined trust, accelerated fear, spread rumors, cultivated a culture of religious elitism, and disseminated so many attacks that he can hardly be a credible addition to your magazine's cadre of respectable reporters.

One blogger, in response to this article, said that Rove "should be kept away from elections for the same reasons we keep Charlie Manson away from the cutlery. And not only that, but he's the guy who spent a flat year hanging one of Time's own reporters out to dry! Rove's a vandal and a thug who would tear the Time-Life Building down for a parking lot if he thought it would mean five points on the next Gallup Poll."

Instead of adding articles from Rove, Time should be writing articles about the terrible things that Rove is doing while we, as taxpayers, are paying him. Isn't that a crime? Doing the things he does on the government payroll? Doesn't Time have an investigative reporter and editor willing go after him and stand up to the harassment that is sure to come?

I hope so!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

2008: The First Internet Presidential Election?

Bob Schieffer of CBS News made a good point when he hosted "The Charlie Rose Show" and interviewed Jonathan Alter of Newsweek. He said:
Successful presidents have all skillfully exploited the dominant medium of their times.

  • The Founders were eloquent writers in the age of pamphleteering.

  • Franklin D. Roosevelt restored hope in 1933 by mastering radio.

  • John F. Kennedy was the first president elected because of his understanding of television.

  • And with an issue as eye-glazing as the deficit, a wacky, jug-eared Texan named Ross Perot received 19 percent of the vote. He did it with "Larry King Live" and an 800 number.

Howard Dean and later John Kerry showed that the whole idea of "early money" is now obsolete in presidential politics. The Internet lets candidates who catch fire raise millions in small donations practically overnight. That's why all the talk of Hillary Clinton's "war chest" making her the front runner for 2008 is the most hackneyed punditry around. Money from wealthy donors remains the essential ingredient in most state and local campaigns, but "free media" shapes the outcome of presidential races, and the Internet is the freest media of all.

Jonathon Alter wrote:
No one knows exactly where technology is taking politics, but we're beginning to see some clues. For starters, the longtime stranglehold of media consultants may be over [Yeah!!!]. In 2004, Errol Morris, the director of "The Thin Blue Line" and "The Fog of War," on his own initiative made several brilliant anti-Bush ads (they featured lifelong Republicans explaining why they were voting for Kerry). Not only did Kerry not air the ads, he told me recently he never even knew they existed. In 2008, any presidential candidate with half a brain will let a thousand ad ideas bloom (or stream) online and televise those that are popular downloads. Deferring to "the wisdom of crowds" will be cheaper and more effective [than focus groups and pollsters].

Open-source politics has its hazards, starting with the fact that most people over 35 will need some help with the concept [but this is easy to overcome].

Also, the Internet strips big shots of their control of the process [which is a good thing]. Politics is at its most invigorating when it's cacophonous and chaotic.

I began writing and speaking about the Internet in politics in 1994. I had a vision that is just now taking place. A vision where funds came from eager people wanting to join the process of electing their choice to the Presidency; where they could afford their contribution(s); where they could be informed of and join a regional rally or event; where they could research his or her stances on issues pertinent to them; where they could download photos, posters and campaign materials for themselves and their friends; where they could hear and see their candidate speak on various issues - basically what is happening now and can be seen clearly by reviewing the Edwards, Clark, Clinton, Warner and McCain websites.

The 2008 Presidential election cycle - now beginning in earnest - may be the first where the Internet is the key media factor. And using Schieffer's analogy, he who master's the media most effectively, wins.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Cut and Run: Postscript

To see how Rowe's manipulation of the Iraq issue gets disseminated throughout the administration, here's what happened "not quite six minutes after the Senate chaplain prayed yesterday for God to use senators "as agents of your grace." Majority Leader Bill Frist started the sloganeering. "If we break our promise and cut and run, as some would have us do, the implications could be catastrophic," he said. In case anybody missed that, he also said "we can't cut and run" twice on CBS News and issued a follow-up press release titled: "FRIST DENOUNCES DEMOCRATS' PLAN TO CUT AND RUN."

All on government time, produced at taxpayer expense - and all a distraction from the real issues of Iraq. All his comments do (and did) was to inflame everyone present into loud unproductive bickering.

Gen. William E. Odom, (ret), Yale professor and ex-director of the NSA - taking on the Cut and Run comment - wrote an op-ed piece for "Foreign Policy" entitled: Cut and Run? You Bet!" and then goes on to debunk each of the Administration's arguments for NOT leaving Iraq.
Cut and Run? You Bet.
By Lt. Gen. William E. Odom

Why America must get out of Iraq now.

Withdraw immediately or stay the present course? That is the key question about the war in Iraq today. American public opinion is now decidedly against the war. From liberal New England, where citizens pass town-hall resolutions calling for withdrawal, to the conservative South and West, where more than half of “red state” citizens oppose the war, Americans want out. That sentiment is understandable.

The prewar dream of a liberal Iraqi democracy friendly to the United States is no longer credible. No Iraqi leader with enough power and legitimacy to control the country will be pro-American. Still, U.S. President George W. Bush says the United States must stay the course. Why? Let’s consider his administration’s most popular arguments for not leaving Iraq.

If we leave, there will be a civil war. In reality, a civil war in Iraq began just weeks after U.S. forces toppled Saddam. Any close observer could see that then; today, only the blind deny it. Even President Bush, who is normally impervious to uncomfortable facts, recently admitted that Iraq has peered into the abyss of civil war. He ought to look a little closer. Iraqis are fighting Iraqis. Insurgents have killed far more Iraqis than Americans. That’s civil war.

Withdrawal will encourage the terrorists. True, but that is the price we are doomed to pay. Our continued occupation of Iraq also encourages the killers—precisely because our invasion made Iraq safe for them. Our occupation also left the surviving Baathists with one choice: Surrender, or ally with al Qaeda. They chose the latter. Staying the course will not change this fact. Pulling out will most likely result in Sunni groups’ turning against al Qaeda and its sympathizers, driving them out of Iraq entirely.

Before U.S. forces stand down, Iraqi security forces must stand up. The problem in Iraq is not military competency; it is political consolidation. Iraq has a large officer corps with plenty of combat experience from the Iran-Iraq war. Moktada al-Sadr’s Shiite militia fights well today without U.S. advisors, as do Kurdish pesh merga units. The problem is loyalty. To whom can officers and troops afford to give their loyalty? The political camps in Iraq are still shifting. So every Iraqi soldier and officer today risks choosing the wrong side. As a result, most choose to retain as much latitude as possible to switch allegiances. All the U.S. military trainers in the world cannot remove that reality. But political consolidation will. It should by now be clear that political power can only be established via Iraqi guns and civil war, not through elections or U.S. colonialism by ventriloquism.

Setting a withdrawal deadline will damage the morale of U.S. troops. Hiding behind the argument of troop morale shows no willingness to accept the responsibilities of command. The truth is, most wars would stop early if soldiers had the choice of whether or not to continue. This is certainly true in Iraq, where a withdrawal is likely to raise morale among U.S. forces. A recent Zogby poll suggests that most U.S. troops would welcome an early withdrawal deadline. But the strategic question of how to extract the United States from the Iraq disaster is not a matter to be decided by soldiers. Carl von Clausewitz spoke of two kinds of courage: first, bravery in the face of mortal danger; second, the willingness to accept personal responsibility for command decisions. The former is expected of the troops. The latter must be demanded of high-level commanders, including the president.

Withdrawal would undermine U.S. credibility in the world. Were the United States a middling power, this case might hold some water. But for the world’s only superpower, it’s patently phony. A rapid reversal of our present course in Iraq would improve U.S. credibility around the world. The same argument was made against withdrawal from Vietnam. It was proved wrong then and it would be proved wrong today. Since Sept. 11, 2001, the world’s opinion of the United States has plummeted, with the largest short-term drop in American history. The United States now garners as much international esteem as Russia. Withdrawing and admitting our mistake would reverse this trend. Very few countries have that kind of corrective capacity. I served as a military attaché in the U.S. Embassy in Moscow during Richard Nixon’s Watergate crisis. When Nixon resigned, several Soviet officials who had previously expressed disdain for the United States told me they were astonished. One diplomat said, “Only your country is powerful enough to do this. It would destroy my country.”

Two facts, however painful, must be recognized, or we will remain perilously confused in Iraq. First, invading Iraq was not in the interests of the United States. It was in the interests of Iran and al Qaeda. For Iran, it avenged a grudge against Saddam for his invasion of the country in 1980. For al Qaeda, it made it easier to kill Americans. Second, the war has paralyzed the United States in the world diplomatically and strategically. Although relations with Europe show signs of marginal improvement, the trans-Atlantic alliance still may not survive the war. Only with a rapid withdrawal from Iraq will Washington regain diplomatic and military mobility. Tied down like Gulliver in the sands of Mesopotamia, we simply cannot attract the diplomatic and military cooperation necessary to win the real battle against terror. Getting out of Iraq is the precondition for any improvement.

In fact, getting out now may be our only chance to set things right in Iraq. For starters, if we withdraw, European politicians would be more likely to cooperate with us in a strategy for stabilizing the greater Middle East. Following a withdrawal, all the countries bordering Iraq would likely respond favorably to an offer to help stabilize the situation. The most important of these would be Iran. It dislikes al Qaeda as much as we do. It wants regional stability as much as we do. It wants to produce more oil and gas and sell it. If its leaders really want nuclear weapons, we cannot stop them. But we can engage them.

None of these prospects is possible unless we stop moving deeper into the “big sandy” of Iraq. America must withdraw now.

My sentiments exactly!

"Cut and Run" is a Example of Rowe's Manipulations

As a followup to my previous blog suggesting a story idea to any willing investigative reporter, here's a perfect example of a politically damaging spin emanating from Karl Rowe.

It was made by a government official (Rowe, whom we taxpayers pay) on government time, and repeated by many other taxpayer-paid administrative officials on their government time.

Consider the facts:

Sunday, June 18, 2006
GUEST: TONY SNOW White House Press Secretary

SCHIEFFER: Let me--let me just ask you about the quote that Karl Rove put out, because he clearly is trying to make this a part of the coming campaign. He was up in New Hampshire, and he said, Democrats "are ready to give the green light to go to war, but when it gets tough, when it gets difficult, they fall back on that party's old pattern of cutting and running. They may be with you at the first shots, but they are not going to be with you for the last, tough battle." He mentioned, especially, John Murtha and also John Kerry. What pattern is he talking about? When have Democrats been cutting and running?

Mr. SNOW: Well, I'm not going to--I'm not going to get into the middle of Karl's political fight. But let's talk about...

SCHIEFFER: But that's--you're on the same team.

Mr. SNOW: ...a couple of things. We are on the same team, but, but let's talk about some of the things that are going on on the Hill because there have been a couple of interesting votes. The Senate, for instance, voted this week on a proposal that Senator Kerry put forth to withdraw troops by the end of the year. It got six votes. I think one of the interesting things is trying to make sure that there's clarity about what the--what people want in terms of moving forward in Iraq. What exactly do they want? The president's position is pretty clear, and I'm going to be here--I'll tell you about the president's position, but I'm not going to get into sort of the political...(unintelligible).

SCHIEFFER: But are you comfortable with characterizing the Democrats as people who want to cut and run?

Mr. SNOW: I think what Ker--Ker--what I'm comfortable doing is telling you what the president's position is.

SCHIEFFER: All right.

Mr. SNOW: I'll let Karl carry the political football.

To Mr. Schieffer's credit, he asked the questions - particularly whether it was fair. But I wouldn't have let it be "All right" because it's not.
The two Luckovich cartoons say it better than I: It's not all right and it's time that we say we're not going to take it anymore. Their fantasies are getting us into serious international trouble which we may never recover from. Thus my request for a courageous reporter (or perhaps editor) to regularly show that Rowe is misusing his government position to produce and manage slanderous campaign rhetoric that misdirects the media and public from the real issues... unflattering as they may be. It's time for reality versus fantasy!

Any takers out there?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Wanted: Press Heroes

I've known few heroes. My political heroes were one of the reasons I went to work in politics. Another was a Hungarian that I met at a political consultants conference in Budapest. He and a group of like-minded friends chose the news business as their fight for freedom. He owned and operated a free press, collecting information during the day, printing and distributing at night. On and off – for ten years – they produced and distributed their information… until the fall of the Soviet Empire. During that time he was repeatedly beaten up, jailed often and for long periods of time, and his equipment trashed. Yet he persevered. Then, when Hungary reconstituted itself, he became it’s first Minister of Information.

His primary task was to transform the existing press into a free press. The apparatus was there: TV, radio, newspapers, magazines. But the staffs were not reporters; they were repeaters or as Stephen Colbert would say: they were typists. They gathered, typed and repeated information given them by the state for fear of reprisals from the state. The new Minister of Information had to retrain them to investigate and report – a not so easy task. But in looking at Hungary today, just 15 years later, as a new member of the EU, with a booming economy, one can see the difference in the press and be proud of his work.

He was one of many admirable people – heroes really – from the press. We have ours here in America. Certainly Woodward and Bernstein fit that category, and many of the Pulitzer winners in the investigative, explanatory, editorial cartoon and international reporting categories. I love the cartoons – particularly Nick Anderson and Mike Luckovich’s – because they make me think and smile.

But the news biz is large and the number of heroes few. Remember what Stephen Colbert said at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner:
I am appalled to be surrounded by the liberal media that is destroying America, with the exception of Fox News. Fox News gives you both sides of every story: the president's side, and the vice president's side.

But the rest of you, what are you thinking, reporting on NSA wiretapping or secret prisons in eastern Europe? Those things are secret for a very important reason: they're super-depressing. And if that's your goal, well, misery accomplished.

Over the last five years you people were so good -- over tax cuts, WMD intelligence, the effect of global warming. We Americans didn't want to know, and you had the courtesy not to try to find out. Those were good times, as far as we knew.

But, listen, let's review the rules. Here's how it works: the president makes decisions. He's the Decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put 'em through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know - fiction!

It’s time for people in the business of reporting to become more courageous and not be so intimidated: to uncover secrets people would rather keep quiet and dig deep into cases that may involve important topical issues.

One story idea I have is to show how manipulative Carl Rove is and how wrong it is for him to be doing what he does on the public payroll. Any takers?

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Rove is back. Let's stop him from doing what he does so well.

Carl Rove is back and he's on the warpath to divert attention from Bush's failures in Iraq by attacking Democrats for their being against the war and for their lack of a plan to do anything about it. That's what he does best: attack the strengths of his enemies.
  • He attacked Kerry's Vietnam war experience and his subsequent stance against the war with the Swift Boat ads.

  • He attacked McCain's character during the 2000 Primaries -- a slanderous campaign in South Carolina that knocked McCain virtually out of the race with a barrage of fabrications about the personal lives of McCain and his family.

  • Towards anti-war Democrats Rove orchestrated the campaign to depict the war's critics as terrorist sympathizers. He told a right-wing audience that "liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers."

Jonathan Alter of Newsweek said that Rove "neutralizes that strength to the point that it begins to look like weakness." And that's what he did in each instance (and there are many more).

Perhaps we can turn the tables on Rove by exposing (repeatedly) Rove's tactics for what they are: diversions and campaign tactic; not delving into issues with an open mind and a willingness to resolve (as should come from a White House employee).

Rove carries the title Assistant to the President, Deputy Chief of Staff and Senior Advisor, Office of the Chief of Staff. Shouldn't someone like that NOT be allowed, at least while drawing government pay, to be so low down?

The press has been compliant because Rove and this administration slam back with depictions of being unpatriotic. The press was beginning to turn when Rove was under indictment but now that that threat has passed and Rove is no longer diverted, the press cannot give in to his harassments. Nor can we. Why not examine each proclamation and comment by the White House which can be clearly seen as coming from Rove's office and show how it is diverting, nothing more than a tactic, and unfit to have been produced and distributed using our tax dollars.

Unfairness is unfairness no matter how it is couched. And Rove's tactics of diversion and vicious attacks, of labeling and harassment is, in itself, a diversion from the real global issues of the day: Iraq, terrorism, climate change, migration, AIDS and poverty.

Let's not let another story on these major issues be repressed and replaced by inflammatory and otherwise much less important issues.