Should the Dems target desperate housewives?

Should the Dems target desperate housewives?

Should the Dems target desperate housewives?

A mostly political Weblog.
Oct. 5 2004 5:14 PM

Those Desperate Housewives ...

Are 'modern moms' morons?

Desperate Housewives: Mark Penn makes the badly-needed point that there are too plenty of swing voters, but he thinks the way to get them is to pivot to domestic issues in an appeal to "modern moms." I tend to be pro-swing, anti-pivot, mainly for the reason given below by Noam Scheiber. And if Kerry beats Bush on national security it's all over, no? Plus, I fear Kerry will be most ... er, Kerryesque talking about domestic concerns, where his tendency to pander will be maximized (given his historically insecure relationship with the Democratic base--especially African Americans). Penn says voters want "ideas," but Kerry doesn't dare bring up his ballsiest "ideas," like means-testing Social Security or questioning affirmative action and teacher tenure. ... P.S.: Penn accidentally stabs his own "pivot" argument to death in paragraph #9, declaring

We might all learn a lesson from Bill Clinton in 1992. He won by making the Persian Gulf War irrelevant to the election.

Right. The Gulf War was long over by the 1992 election. Iraq isn't. The larger fight against terrror isn't. Kerry isn't going to 'make them irrelevant.' ... 1:41 P.M.

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It turns out Joe Lockhart is not universally beloved in the Kerry campaign. One knowledgeable Democratic insider recently described ithe campaign to me in familiar Hollywood terms: "Mary Beth Cahill is the producer; Shrum is the director, Kerry is the star, and Lockhart is the publicist and hem-straightener." ... 12:30 A.M. 

Monday, October 4, 2004

Michael Massing consults George Orwell and decides he can be "more effective" if he hides from readers that he strongly supports Bush in this "absolutely critical election." Did I get that right? ... P.S.: I do think there are steps a journalist (even an opinion journalist) can take that invest his ego in a political cause in a way that discourages honest reporting--the classic case is when you write a speech for a candidate. Or when you publicly predict a particular candidate will win or lose. But just stating your preference, or giving a candidate money, isn't all that compromising, in my experience--it doesn't in itself discourage you from acknowledging new facts that might cause you to change your mind (the way, say, publicly  anticipating a humiliating Kerry defeat  might discourage you from recognizing new pro-Kerry facts). ... After all, if you endorse a candidate and then change your mind you can get another column out of it! ... 3:29 P.M.

Now I Bore You With Democratic Interest-Group BS Again, Yes? Noam Scheiber articulates what was kf's half-formed thought--why, exactly, should Kerry "pivot" to domestic issues when he's effectively beating Bush up on Iraq and the war on terror?

The point isn't that Kerry had to establish credibility on Iraq. The point is that Bush is much more vulnerable on Iraq than the economy--particularly since the current economic data just aren't that bad.

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Or is Kerry's heavily-telegraphed "pivot" misdirection by his camp designed to throw Bush's strategy off? ... 2:50 P.M.

Sunday, October 3, 2004

Faced with a large drop in unwed births in New York state, the NYT doesn't even try very hard to defend the previous liberal party line, which is that welfare reform couldn't possibly be the cause. Instead, Leslie Kaufman gives Pataki aide Robert Doar (a secret member of  James Wolcott's Hair Club for Men!) top billing, and Doar credits the end of welfare's "nonproductive incentives there were to have children out of wedlock." It falls to Dr. Allan Rosenfield of Columbia to put forward the traditional non-welfare explanation:

[T]he most powerful force responsible for declining out-of-wedlock births in the city was a "significant increase in contraceptive use among teenagers, particularly the increased availability of emergency contraception."

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Of course, Rosenfield's account begs the question of why teenagers are increasingly using  contraception. Is it all the convenience of the new birth-control technology (Norplant, injections, etc)? That view is at odds with the detailed picture of ghetto-poor life offered by Jason DeParle's new book, American Dream. DeParle drives home a point I first saw made by journalist Leon Dash: Many teenagers have out-of-wedlock babies because they want to have the babies, not because they do not have access to or knowledge of contraception. You only have to get to page 11 of DeParle's book to read:

Like lots of girls who have a baby in high school, Jewell had gotten pregnant on purpose, thinking a child would bring her something to love.

Welfare reform holds out the hope of changing the minds of future Jewells. ... DeParle, remember, was only recently the star Newt-bashing welfare reporter for the New York Times. His book will be hard for the left to dismiss. ...

P.S.: The NYT's Kaufman quotes an expert to the effect that

if everything else stayed the same and married couples had greater numbers of children, that might be enough to explain the change.

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Huh? According to Kaufman's story, there was a drop in the absolute number of out-of-wedlock births. More births to married couples would not affect that number. ...

P.P.S.: Kaufman also snipes at the Bush administration for wanting to end the $25 million "illegitimacy bonus" New York won for reducing its out-of-wedlock births. The administration argues that it's hard to figure out what causes declines in a single state--and indeed,  a few weeks ago the Washington Post was sniping at the welfare law  precisely because the District of Columbia won a $25 million bonus it probably didn't deserve (because its reduction in illegitimacy was mainly caused by people leaving the District, not by its anti-illegitimacy campaign). In other words, when the Bushies try to fix the problem noticed by the Post, they get whacked in the Times. ...

Update: Reader M.F. notes that Kaufman reports "the state's decrease came as births to unwed mothers had actually begun to climb again nationally." I will try to find out more about whatever national stats Kaufman is talking about. In the meantime, here's a chart, showing the dramatic positive change in the '90s, to offer some perspective. More: Here's a chart showing a small national increase in the ratio of unmarried/married births from 2000-2001 compared with 1998-1999. It would be interesting to see what the national figure is for the lower-income population most affected by welfare (whose life opportunities are also most likely to be radically restricted by an out-of-wedlock birth). In other words, is the national increase being driven by an increase in illegitimacy among the Murphy Browns--relatively affluent women....

Still more: Highly-informed grad student S.W. emails to point out that a) the ratio of unmarried to married births might have risen (what the chart shows) even though the birth rate of unmarried women continued to decline, for the simple reason that many fewer women are now married (as more women delay or forego marriage entirely). It also seems to be true that b) while the overall ratio has indeed been getting a bit worse lately--with the percentage of total births that are out-of-wedlock nudging up into the mid-30s--the ratio for blacks is still actually moving in the right direction after 50 years of moving in the wrong direction. It's just that the increase among whites swamps the decrease among blacks. Similarly, c) "marriage became less common among white women post welfare reform but not among black women, even though marriage had been in decline for both groups for decades." ... The obvious point is that welfare reform disproportionately affects blacks, and sure enough that's where the positive trends are showing up. ...  11:42 P.M.

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Smells Like Victory: New Republic'sPeter Beinart seems to feel that if

a) we manage to make Iraq safe enough to have a fair election in January; and

b) duly elected Iraqi politicians then ask our troops to leave; and

c) we bring our troops home

that's a defeat. Huh? Wouldn't that be a major success? Beinart must have some definition of victory (and democracy) he hasn't fully explained. .... 11:05 P.M.

Baker's Revenge? Let's see: Acting on behalf of the Bush campaign, James Baker negotiated to have timing lights on the podiums, which worked to Kerry's advantage by forcing him to keep his answers short. Baker negotiated to make the first debate entirely about a single topic, foreign policy, which worked to Kerry's advantage because (as an alert kf reader suggests) Kerry, as the more "verbose, fluid" speaker, was better able to fill the time; Baker demanded no split-screen coverage, a provision that was immediately disregarded by the TV networks, to Kerry's advantage; and Baker insisted on equally-high podiums, which absolutely killed Bush in the visual department, virtually handing the "look at it with the sound off" victory to Kerry. Was Baker simply taken to the cleaners by the old P-man, Vernon Jordan? Or is there some more complicated plot possibility? ... It's not as if Baker might be bitter because he had put in years of loyal service to the Bush family, including sacrificing much of his elder statesmen rep to salvage the Florida ballot fight in 2000, only to be dissed by George W. and left festering in academic exile in Texas except when he was called on to perform like a loyal janitor when the administration had a particularly unpleasant job to do, like the task of traveling the world trying to talk alienated allies into forgiving Iraq's debt following a war that Baker opposed! Nah.  ... 8:40 P.M.

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Saturday, October 2, 2004

The Case Against Editors, Part 104: Several readers have pointed to this Allahpundit post criticizing Newsweek's Hosenball and Isikoff for calling Qatar-based Egyptian cleric Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi a "moderate." It now seems the word was the product of "an editing change"--Newsweek has appended a correction. ... P.S.: I'm not at all convinced (even by Dana Priest and Tom Ricks) that the war in Iraq isn't winnable. But it doesn't seem like a good thing if clerics--even immoderate clerics--who once refrained from supporting the Iraqi "insurgency" now endorse it. ... 7:03 P.M.

Bizarrely, the estimable Charlie Cook thought Kerry's debate performance was "awful." Give him points for being completely out of synch with the CW. ... 5:52 P.M.

Friday, October 1, 2004

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If I were a paranoid, I might engage in the following too-obvious-to-mention line of reasoning: 1)If Al Qaeda wants Bush to win--because it seeks a high-profile violent confrontation with the U.S. and 2)if it realizes that a terrorist attack on the U.S. will almost certainly help Bush; and 3)if whoever pays attention at Al Qaeda HQ either watched the debate last night or read the coverage and concluded that Bush might now lose; and 4) if Al Qaeda  uses the tapes it releases to Al Jazeera to send signals triggering attacks--then the release of a tape  this morning containing phrases like "We can't wait" and "Let us start resisting now" should prompt intense official and unofficial worry about an imminent attempted attack. ... That's a lot of "ifs," but I'd say each is a better than 50/50 proposition, no? ...P.S.: Wouldn't Kerry be more likely to pull out of Iraq than Bush would? Probably--which is why there might be a Zawahiri/Zarqawi split on thie issue of which candidate terrorists should back. But Zarqawi, while capable of causing destruction and fear in Iraq, presumably doesn't command a terror network with the ability to hit the U.S. mainland. Zawahiri does. ... 2:38 P.M.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Kerry Takes the A Train: I didn't folllow the pre-debate commentary, and haven't read other blogs, so these comments are made in a state of laboratory-like purity: 1) Kerry won. I assume everyone is saying this. He not only was shockingly succinct and sharp ("Certainty sometimes can get ya' in trouble") he managed to gloss over all his problems--finessing his prior votes, avoiding the trap of seeming to argue that 1,000 American soldiers died in a vain or inglorious cause, keeping his left in line while saying he wanted to win in Iraq. O.K., maybe he lost a few people on the left. Still ... 2) A skilled debater might have picked Kerry apart; Bush is not that kind of debater; 3) Bush was badly hurt by, yes, the podium height, which made him seem smaller, in comparison to Kerry, than he actually is. He looked--as a friend of mine put it--a bit like a gargoyle, or someone who needed the podium for protection; 3)  Did they really shut down the N.Y. subways during the GOP convention, as Kerry claimed? I think I took the subway during the GOP convention. 4) Bush wasn't that bad--he looked like a plausible president too! His North Korea answer was effective and he's obviously learned a lot in four years. But he was off--too relaxed and smug and contemptuous; 5) Why did Bush say Kerry's Iraq plan wouldn't work, as opposed to saying that Kerry's plan was the same as his plan? 6) By arguing we need a "fresh start" and "new credibility" in the world, Kerry at least flicked at the "rebranding" idea, key to a Pedro Martinez strategy  that doesn't vilify Bush so much as thank him and retire him; 7) Why didn't Bush have an answer to Kerry's Tora Bora shot, which he had to know was coming? 8) After an hour I'd had enough of Kerry's humorlessness. But I no longer had such a problem with him being humorless in the Oval Office. If he doesn't get a one or two point boost in the polls, I'll be very surprised. ... Update: PoliPundit  reached the same conclusion after five minutes. ... P.S.: Was that James Lee Witt I saw on the IRT? Assuming Kerry was wrong about the N.Y. subway, it shouldn't damage him the way Gore's erroneous comment about going to Texas with James Lee Witt damaged the Democratic nominee in the first debate of 2000. Why? Gore was being heavily criticized, before the first debate, for his tendency to fib and embellish. If you had given Gore one bit of advice before the debate, it would have been "Don't embellish!" When he went ahead and embellished, it seemed to reveal some sort of uncontrollable urge born of deep insecurity. (That's why Adam Clymer was wrong in his goo-goo criticism of the fuss made about Gore's Witt misstatement.)  Kerry's misstatement, in contrast, appears to be just a free-floating bit of B.S. ...  More: In the NYT of Sept 4, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is quoted boasting about the convention that had just ended:

''I'm proud to say by any standard, we passed this one with flying colors,'' Mr. Bloomberg said. ''Crime remained at record lows throughout the entire city. Parks were open and safe. There was no change in subway service, and no major disruption to commuters.:

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[Thanks to alert reader J.B.] 9:04 P.M.

The Note says that at tonight's debate Kerry needs to present a version of himself who "organically projects intensity and pacific calm at the same time." Sounds like he needs yoga, not botox. Is there time to squeeze in a session? ... 3:17 P.M.

Matt Klam was very kind to kf in his recent NYT mag piece on blogging. Comments: 1) I don't think Klam was trying to discredit the left-wing bloggers he wrote about or to pump them up. I think he was trying to find some novelistic truths. He does. But I think he's off when he implies that blogging largely involves creating an artificial "online writing persona." All life involves creating personas, I guess, but Andrew Sullivan's persona on his blog and Josh Marshall's on his blog are close to the Sullivan and Marshall I know--closer than their respective personas in print. 2) I'm not sure non-Webby readers of Klam's piece got a very good idea what these people do, as opposed to what they eat. Needed: More quotes from actual blogs; 3) Am I a "Larry David basket case of self-doubt and indignation," harrassed by a fake "editor"? [yes-ed. So you're the leaker!] 4) No way "left wing politics are thriving on blogs the way Rush Limbaugh has dominated talk radio." Ask Dan Rather! Left-wing blogs have surged in the past year and Klam is right to highlight the trend. But nobody "dominates" the blogosphere, which is one virtue it has over talk radio. 5) Klam buried the lede!

Since February, with the explosion of blog traffic and the invention of blog ads as a revenue source, a few elite bloggers have found themselves on the receiving end of a Howitzer of money, as much as $10,000 a month.

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If blog ads continue to work at this level, it would represent a big shift in the ecology of blogging (i.e.: you can make a living at it).

P.S.:  Kausfiles--Big Enough to Serve, Small Enough to Care! Klam says my traffic "has flat-lined recently." I think I told him that, and it was probably true when I told him.  But not now. The truth is my traffic rises and falls with the election cycle. It peaked at Sullivanesque levels during the primaries, then fell. But it's been rising since June as the general election gets closer. The overall trend is upward, although not steeply upward. [Didn't the NYT Mag fact checker check this fact when he called?--ed No. Another case of shoddy blog standards infiltrating the mainstream media!]

P.P.S.: Another fact-check point that matters mainly to me: Klam writes that "in 1999" I "began a political blog on Slate." Actually, kausfiles was an independent site, blog included, from 1999 to 2002--and may be again one day. There's all that Blogads money to chase! 2:15 P.M.

Mystery Pollster defends Gallup and makes a good point about MoveOn's cocoonish conspiratorialism:

I have admired MoveOn's efforts, but I have to ask, is it now so flush with cash that it can afford to buy a full page ad in the New York Times a few weeks before "the most important election of our lifetimes" attacking a polling company? Do swing or less-than-likely voters really care? Wouldn't it be better to spend that money, say, making a case against George Bush or just turning out the vote?

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It's not just that the cocoon filters out the bad news. The cocooners are now wasting their ammo attacking the would-be bearers of that bad news. ... MoveOn's obsession might be OK if it were an in-house discussion of Kerry supporters. But this was the New York Times. ... Oh wait. ... [Cheap-ed. First shoot the fish in the barrel.] 1:33 P.M.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Update: Newsweek's trustworthy Hosenball and Isikoff report  that the "new" intelligence against Yusuf Islam--the former Cat Stevens--is probably flimsy, and that his move away from flirtation with Islamic extremism is genuine. Presumably Hosenball and Isikoff's government sources would leak them any fresh damaging anti-Yusuf material if it actually existed, which is why the reporters' conclusion carries great weight. ... P.S. It would be more convincing, however, if Islam publicly admitted he'd previously been wrong, instead of spinning and engaging in traditonal celebrity PR (e.g., donating money to 9/11 families). ... 12:26 P.M.

Swift Check-Kiters for Truth! Can't Kerry make some hay out of the new "Check 21" law? For decades, like many people, I have resisted the attempts by my bank to stop sending me back my cancelled checks. I've found, on several crucial occasions when a merchant has insisted he hasn't been paid, that waving around the actual cancelled check is a very effective way to end the argument. Under the new Check 21 law, however, it will be virtually impossible for consumers to get back their paper checks from the bank.   That's because your bank won't get the actual checks back from other banks. (The other banks will send an electronic copy of the check instead, and destroy the original check.)  That means a) You won't be able to show a merchant the cancelled check. At best you'll be able to show him a copied "substitute check" which may be about as convincing to him as Dan Rather's National Guard memos were to the blogosphere; b) Because the original paper check will likely be destroyed, it will be very hard to prove that your signature has been forged. Kafkaesque nightmares ensue; c) The risk that the bank will charge your account twice--once for the original and once for the electronic copy--is increased; and d) If you write a check, it will clear nearly instantly, meaning you won't be able to count on it taking two or three days to actually be withdrawn from your account. .... The point isn't that the Check 21 law is all that important, compared with, say, Iraq. Nor is the "national security" rationale for eliminating paper checks totally bogus: If banks don't have to ship paper checks around the country, that reduces the ability of terrorists to cripple the monetary system by disrupting air travel. But the law still provides an easily grasped example of legislation drawn up under the Republicans that favors big corporate interests (banks) at the expense of ordinary consumers. It's hard to believe a law couldn't have been written that better protected bank customers--by, say, requiring that banks store the original checks somewhere where they could be retrieved in a pinch (even if the checks don't need to be shipped from bank to bank). ... Conveniently for Kerry, the "Check 21" law takes effect October 28, which means consumers will feel maximum frustration a few days before the election. ... Kerry could even wave around a paper check in one of the debates, as a prop. (Do the rules say he can't bring his own wallet and checkbook onto the set?) ... P.S.: Of course, with the need to move actual original checks eliminated, a lot of the banks' check-approval work will now probably be outsourced to India. Do you think Shrum could do something with that?. ... 11:48 A.M.

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Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Ted Kennedy is going to be attacked  for saying that the war in Iraq has "made the mushroom cloud more likely, not less likely."  But why shouldn't he say it? That's what the campaign is mainly about--namely, whose policies will minimize the risk of a "nuclear 9/11".  ... Dick Cheney was similarly  within his rights to argue that if Kerry's elected "the danger is we'll get hit again." That's his argument. ...The point is that neither argument can be ruled out of bounds as excessive fear-mongering--after 9/11 fear of catastrophic terrorism in the U.S. clearly isn't excessive at all. The arguments need to be judged on their merits. ... P.S.: I also tend to think Kennedy has the better of this particular argument (even if he sounds like a reflexive partisan pessimist on the separable issue of whether we can win in Iraq). In pursuit of our goals in Iraq, we've angered hundreds of millions of people around the world who might otherwise have been sympathetic or neutral. A certain small percentage of them will become terrorists--some of whom, inevitably, in due course will get hold of a WMD. It seems likely this will happen before any process of democratization we may set in motion in the Middle East works to lower the number of people who hate us. In any case, that's the sort of calculation voters need to make. ... 3:57 A.M.

Curmudgeaggedon! David Broder sees a  decline of journalistic standards that started

when news organizations -- television particularly, but print as well -- began offering their most prestigious and visible jobs not to people deeply imbued with the culture and values of newsrooms, but to stars imported from the political world.

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Who is Broder talking about? Shafer says George Stephanopoulos and Tim Russert. My not-completely-uninformed guess is that it was the S.F. Examiner's1987 hiring of Chris Matthews, fresh from Tip O'Neill's staff, that really got Broder's goat. At the time, Matthews was quite boastful about how he didn't need to go through normal journalistic boot camp. ... Also WaPo's hiring of Sidney Blumenthal, who hadn't yet gone into politics but who was an open Gary Hart booster. ... P.S.: But doesn't it trouble Broder that none of the "instances of gross malpractice" that he says have so damaged his profession were produced by the Matthewses, the Stephanopoulouses or the other opinionated, activist intruders from the political arena? The "damaging failures" were the failures of hazed and certified members of the journalistic caste (Rather, Raines, Kelley)--professionals who had come up through the ranks, worked their beats and were in theory "deeply imbued with the culture and values of newsrooms." ... Broder blames bloggers, politicos, good writers--everyone except those who actually did the screwing up. Projection! The obvious possibility he doesn't want to consider is the one Shafer hammers: That the practices of Broder's profession were never that terrific, even in the alleged golden era before Chris and Sid. ... P.P.S.: Broder and Adam Clymer  curmudgeoning away on consecutive days! Really, we are not good enough to deserve this. ... 1:08 A.M.

The Mystery Pollster calculates the ground the Kerry campaign has regained so far in September: Zero.  ... But he seems to think Bush has only barely enough support to win. ... 12:10 A.M.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Mr. Peace: Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) says it was "totally ridiculous" for the U.S. to put him on a "no fly" list and bar him from entering the country. But if you go to the library and read Jake Tapper's May, 2003 GQ article on Islam, you'll think it's not so ridiculous. ...  To judge by Tapper's report, Islam seems guilty, at least, of glossing too lightly over his previous statements (e.g. , about Salman Rushdie) and contacts with radical Islamists.  If the American government thinks it has "additional information" about Islam that "further raises our concern," I wouldn't dismiss that out of hand. ...P.S.: I couldn't find Tapper's article on the Web. But here's a response from Islam  ("still on the Peace Train"). It's good to see he got over that worry about Islamic strictures against photos that may cultivate sentiments of human worship. ... Update: But see the result of Hosenball and Isikoff's search for that "additional information" against Yusuf Islam. (They didn't find any--and they have sources who'd leak it to them if it existed). ... 12:49 P.M.

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Joe Lockhart was supposed to be the Clintonite pro who came in and saved the Kerry campaign. So far he's a) embroiled the campaign in the Dan Rather/Bill Burkett CBS memo fiasco and b) ham-handedly called Iraqi interim P.M. Allawi a "puppet."   But I hear he's a good closer! ... P.S.: I've been all for a Kerry's recent assault on Bush's policy on Iraq and the larger war on terror. That's what the election is about.** But is there any evidence that Kerry's Iraq push is working to change votes? Maybe the ABC/WaPo poll tonight will have some. ... Update: Nope. ...

(** I don't like the way Kerry's gone about it, reacting in slightly hysterical doom-and-gloomish fashion to whatever bad news or minor Bush gaffe is out there each day. But I only authorized Kerry's Iraq attacks. I don't approve of of the way he's used that authority.) 11:38 A.M.

Friday, September 24, 2004

New Republic's Noam Scheiber says the "security mom" phenomenon is bunk, and he's got a convincing set of numbers from public polls. He even gets CBS's Kathy Frankovic to note that Bush's lead among women in her post-convention poll, which fueled the "security mom" craze, was short-lived. ... But what about the private polls of the candidates? They tend to be more expensive and elaborate than public polls--and the Kerry advisers quoted in this NYT piece (even Scheiber's hero, fellow debunker Diane Feldman) don't seem wildly confident that they aren't losing more women than men. ... Update: Scheiber's response. ... More: The AP-Ipsos poll taken last week has a 17 point "gender gap," seemingly validating Scheiber's argument that Kerry's "losing everybody"--but still doing relatively better among women. ... 11:08 A.M.

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Thursday, September 23, 2004

kf, the Speechwriter's Friend: Jason DeParle's book on welfare--which turned out to be very good (and you know I wouldn't say that if it weren't true!)--contains at least two passages that can easily be turned into pure gold by political speechwriters:

1) On pages 74-75, DeParle tries to put his finger on why two of his three main subjects hadn't achieved "conventional success" in the years before welfare reform pushed them firmly into the labor market:

Angie and Jewell offered no theory about what stood between them and conventional success. But one striking part of the story they told is what they left out. They didn't talk of thwarted aspirations, of things they had sought but couldn't achieve. They certainly didn't talk of subjugation; they had no sense of victimhood. The real theme of their early lives was profound alienation--not of hopes discarded but of hopes that never took shape. In an unnoticed line in the first welfare speech of his presidency, Bill Clinton would say, "America's biggest problem today is that too many of our people never got a shot at the American Dream." He might have added that some people never even get the chance to dream it. [Emphasis added]

2) Lillie Harden was the former welfare mother whose example Bill Clinton cited at nearly every welfare reform event he staged--she's the one who said she appreciated the move to work because when her son was asked "What does your mama do for a living" he could now give an answer. On page 325, DeParle reports:

Harden had a stroke in 2002 and wanted me to ferry a message back to Clinton, asking if he could help get her on Medicaid. She had received it on welfare, but had been rejected now, and she couldn't afford her $450 monthly bill for prescription drugs. More sad than bitter, she said of her work: "It didn't pay off in the end."

I'd say #1 could be of use to a speechwriter in either party (just cut the word "alienation"). #2 would work for Republicans if Harden is covered by the Bush prescription drug bill Congress passed last year, but I don't think she is. (The Bush plan steers a disproportionate share of benefits to lower-income seniors. But Harden is not a senior, if news reports of her age are correct.) Harden's example works best for Democrats who want to argue that universal affordable health care is one of the next logical steps in welfare reform--i.e., adults who work hard and get off the dole shouldn't lose their health coverage as a result (even if their children are typically covered under various government plans). ... P.S.: The transcript of a 9/22 Brookings Institution discussion of DeParle's book in which I participated  can be read here. ... 10:10 P.M.

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Today's Robert Novak column, if true, offers badly-needed evidence that campaign finance reform might work: Independent campaigns (like Terry McAuliffe's DNC push attacking Bush's National Guard record) often step on the message of the candidate's official campaign. What goes for the DNC goes double for non-party "527s." Soon, big donors to 527s may conclude they've been wasting their money. Nor is a candidate like Kerry likely to feel beholden to the millionaires who finance a media campaign that gets in the way of his comeback. As long as campaigns really can't "coordinate" with independent efforts, some degree of corruption has been eliminated (while preserving the speech rights of anyone who wants to run an independent campaign). ... 6:30 P.M.

Oh, Looooooocy ....:  John Ellis argues, with some powerful evidence, that Dan Rather is pursuing a "Krazy Glue" strategy  as he attempts to save his job. ... Meanwhile, where in the world is "Lucy Ramirez," the alleged source of Rather's bogus Bush docs? She seems hard to find! Doesn't she even have a blog? ... 6:03 P.M.

The knowledgeable Mystery Pollster, who used to send kf highly informative emails, now has a blog. Bad for kf, good for 2004 campaign coverage. In his latest post, MP explains why he's against the momentarily-expedient Dem push for weighting polls by party identification  (to "correct" those pro-Bush polls that allegedly "oversample" Republicans). He also catches left-cocooner Ruy Teixeira in gruesome hypocrisy on this issue. ... P.S.: Do not confuse the Mystery Pollster with kf emailer "Y" (see below). They're two completely different, equally mysterious, pollsters! They both bust Teixeira, though. ... Update: It turns out the identity of the Mystery Pollster is no longer much of a mystery, given his highly informative "About" page. ... 12:27 P.M.

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Drudge Report--80 % true. Close enough! Instapundit--All-powerful hit king. Joshua Marshall--He reports! And decides!  Wonkette--Makes Jack Shafer feel guilty.  Salon--Survives! kf gloating on hold. Andrew Sullivan--He asks, he tells. He sells! David Corn--Trustworthy reporting from the left.  Washington Monthly--Includes Charlie Peters' proto-blog. Lucianne.com--Stirs the drink. Virginia Postrel--Friend of the future! Peggy Noonan--Gold in every column. Matt Miller--Savvy rad-centrism. WaPo--Waking from post-Bradlee snooze. Calmer Times--Registration required.  NY Observer--Read it before the good writers are all hired away. New Republic--Left on welfare, right on warfare!  Jim Pinkerton--Quality ideas come from quantity ideas. Tom Tomorrow--Everyone's favorite leftish cartoonists' blog.  Ann "Too Far" Coulter--Sometimes it's just far enough. Bull Moose--National Greatness Central. John Ellis--Forget that Florida business! The cuz knows politics, and he has, ah, sources. "The Note"--How the pros start their day. Romenesko--O.K. they actually start it here. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities--Money Liberal Central.. Steve Chapman--Ornery-but-lovable libertarian. Rich Galen--Sophisticated GOP insider. Man Without Qualities--Seems to know a lot about white collar crime. Hmmm. Overlawyered.com--Daily horror stories. Eugene Volokh--Smart, packin' prof, and not Instapundit! Eve Tushnet--Queer, Catholic, conservative and not Andrew Sullivan! WSJ's Best of the Web--James Taranto's excellent obsessions. Walter Shapiro--Politics and (don't laugh) neoliberal humor! Eric Alterman--Born to blog. Joe Conason--Bush-bashing, free most days. Lloyd Grove--Don't let him write about you. Arianna--A hybrid vehicle. TomPaine.com--Web-lib populists. Take on the News--TomPaine's blog.  B-Log--Blog of spirituality!  Hit & Run--Reason gone wild! Daniel Weintraub--Beeblogger and Davis Recall Central. Eduwonk--You'll never have to read another mind-numbing education story again. Nonzero--Bob Wright explains it all. [More tk