Mea Culpa regarding Liberty Concepts

While I am uncertain that many people still read this blog considering I haven't updated it in ages, I just want to apologize for something that I wrote last fall, and better late than never, no? In this post I said some very mean things about Liberty Concepts, a web design group from Boston that works exclusively for Democratic or progressive candidates. In that post, I wrote, based on my experience with Liberty Concepts on the Wulsin for Congress website, "Lame, ugly designs, unstable web infrastructure, and horrid customer service.". However, I believe that what I wrote was inaccurate, and that my negativity was due almost entirely to my inflated expectations about campaign web management, my disgust at Joe Liberman's Senate campaign-- and apparently-- a volatile mood when I sat down at the computer to write that post.

First of all, Liberty Concepts consists of more than three people, which I had inaccurately stated in that post. Secondly, Liberty Concepts is a firm-- not a "firm" with derisive quotation marks. Thirdly, Joel and Jonathon, two people who work at Liberty Concepts (Jonathan is the CEO) were actually available most of the time to answer customer service-related questions. They were also polite and accommodating, which is probably the reason why I regret writing what I did the most. And finally, the website was not aesthetically displeasing in the end. We received nothing but compliments from people about the website, and there were very few major technical problems that arose.

The important lesson is: what you write on blogs does have consequences, so watch what you say and make sure that you mean what you say and that you can defend it if called out. In this embarrassing case, I didn't really mean what I said, and I can't defend it. So I'm apologizing.

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Richardson in Sudan

Bill Richardson, a true statesman and diplomat, just secured a cease-fire in Darfur from the Sudanese government and Darfur rebels. The ultimate success of Richardson's diplomacy has yet to be seen, but it strikes me as a major step in the right direction- and an indication of the rising stock of a dark horse presidential contender.

Ending the genocide has been a compelling component of Edwards's message thus far. Richardson has just put such rhetoric into action. In terms of sheer job performance- the ability to enact positive change and address our most pressing domestic and international challenges, Richardson would be a spectacular president. His expertise on international crises and energy alone give him the edge. That still does not mean I will vote for him in the primary. The dreaded electability question remains because his relationship with the media and his susceptibiltiy to slanderous narratives- has yet to be examined. But my admiration and fondness for him as a statesman has just increased immensely.

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MO-SEN: Best Political Ad of this Cycle

Claire McCaskill's new ad featuring MIchael J. Fox is one of the best political ads I have ever seen.  The simplicity of the shaking Fox talking directly to the camera about an issue on which he has so much public respect and credibility effectively establishes the connection between undeniable human suffering and political decisions.  Without coming across as nasty, the ad indicts the grotesque inhumanity of Senators like Jim Talent who attack the hope of so many in pursuit of cynical political purposes.  I can honestly see an ad like this winning McCaskill the election.


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Richardson in 2008

I've posted about the appeal of a Bill Richardson presidential campaign before (here and here).  At the time, my 2008 affinities were divided evenly between Mark Warner and Bill Richardson, two centrist governors from purple-red states.  Now that Warner is out, I feel simultaneously upset by the exit of such a promising candidate and energized about a Richardson candidacy.  Before, I simply couldn't decide.  Now, by necessity, I'm forced to.  And that's a good thing.  As Kos pointed out, the fewer male candidates cluttering the field, the better the chance of taking down Hillary.  (I neglect to explicitly mention that I'm part of the anti-Hillary-in-08 crowd because if anti-Hillaryism isn't already a foregone conclusion, it damn well should be).  

As others have cogently pointed out (here and here) Richardson would be a seriously formidable candidate in the general election- the most electable of all the current crop of candidates.  The main arguments for a Richardson candidacy are as follows:

-Common Sense Electoral Strategy He's a popular governor of a swing state.  New Mexico went to Bush by roughly 5,000 votes in 2004.  Kerry lost Arizona by under 200,000 votes.  With Richardson running, Arizona and New Mexico could easily transfer to the blue column.
-Foreign Policy Experience His credibility on foreign policy matters is truly superlative.  He was ambassador to the UN under Clinton, and he has negotiated hostage releases from Iraq, North Korea, and Sudan.  In a post-9/11 world, we cannot afford to nominate foreign policy lightweights.
-Energy Credibility He served as Secretary of Energy also under Clinton.  The political significance of energy independence will continue to increase as 2008 approaches
-The Minority Angle His Hispanic heritage will earn him free media attention, unify Hispanic votes (important in Florida) behind the Democratic Party, and call the GOP's xenophobic bluff on immigration
-Personality He is genuinely charismatic- an articulate speaker with a sense of humor.  The "guy-you'd-wanna-drink-a-beer-with" factor.

My chief fear is, how the hell is this guy going to get through the primaries?  In drumming up support, he may be uncomfortably lodged in a position whereby the grassroots activists dismiss him for his associations with the DLC and the Beltway crowd dismiss him in favor of Hillary or Bayh.  Warner seemed to navigate well through both the grassroots/netroots and the Beltway crowd.  His interest in technology and populism appeared genuine as did his committment to helping Democrats, particularly in Virginia, win in '06.  At the same time, the Beltway crowd increasingly sought him as the most viable anti-Hillary candidate.  Can Richardson muster support from either of these key pools of talent, resources, and most importantly, money?

With each passing day, electoral cripples like Hillary, Bayh, and especially Edwards gain frightening traction.  I fear that if Richardson falls too far under the radar early on, the inevitability of any of the aforementioned candidates running will occur.  That is why I would like to support a Richardson candidacy.  

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Murtha Stumps for Wulsin in Cincinnati- Pics and Report

Congressman Jack Murtha stumped for Vic Wulsin today in Cincinnati at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Hall.  Hordes of international, national, and local media, as well as virtually every southwest Ohio Democratic activist, volunteer, friend, and operative I've come across in my two plus years involved in local politics, came to show their support for Vic and Congressman Murtha.    

Murtha, as many know, was the recipient of Jean Schmidt's disgraceful comments on the House floor.  Throughout the whole episode, Murtha never reciprocated the incivility Schmidt showed towards him, gracefully accepting Schmidt's apology.  Even today, in a room filled to the brim with anti-Schmidt sentiment, Murtha opted for elevated discourse, exclusively discussing the substance of our current Iraqi policy and the need for a new strategy and accountability.  

The reverence in the room towards Murtha was palpable.  I saw tears in several spectators' eyes when the Congressman walked in the room, arm around Vic. Bob Woodward recently described Murtha in an interview with 60 minutes as "the soul and the conscience of the military." Woodward furthered "...he came out and said, 'We need to get out of Iraq as soon as it's practical.' And that sent a ten-thousand volt jolt through the White House.".  He spoke with a powerful authority and conviction- from the perspective of a hawk, a Vietnam Veteran, and a soldier with military lineage dating back to the Revolutionary War.  

Murtha opened his speech with the obvious: no domestic problem can be fixed until the Iraqi problem is brought to a resolution.   He brought up the cost of the war as well as the reality that the War effort has compromised our ability to defend ourselves against legitimate national security threats like terrorism and nuclear proliferation in Iran and North Korea.  In an era where the Democratic Party still seems to operate by the Bob Shrum- "it's the economy stupid" playbook, what a breath of fresh air to hear the significance of this debacle firmly expressed by a credible voice!

For many on the campaign, this event felt like a reward for all the hard work the campaign has put into this race.  A few months ago, no one took us seriously.  Then Howard Dean noticed the potential of the race, followed by national bloggers like Howie Klein and finally by the DCCC.  The momentum for this race has been reaffirmed and enhanced by a new independent poll showing Vic leading Schmidt.  To have a voice as credible and powerful as Murtha's in our presence was a culmination of all the doors that have been pried opened, all the gates that have been crashed by a little grassroots campaign.

Murtha will always be remembered as the man who helped change the discourse on this War- the man who gave anti-war criticism the media credibility it finally deserved.  And for that he embodies courage- not cowardice.

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OH-02: Murtha Stumps for Vic Wulsin this Saturday!

Jack Murtha is coming to Cincinnati to stump and fundraise for Vic Wulsin this Saturday at noon.  Ohio 2nd has the full details about the event.  As Ohio 2nd points out, this event could potentially be huge and really tip the momentum of the race.  With the New York Times via Congressional Quarterly already reporting on the event, the press on this event will, at the very least, draw significant attention towards Vic, boosting her name ID among voters, while also highlighting Jean Schmidt's most infamous moment in Congress.  I'm coming home for my first weekend back from Missouri, and I'm thrilled that the weekend coincided with such an exciting event.  Hope to see all of you there!

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TN-SEN: Harold Ford's Telegenic Charisma

Is there a Democratic politician out there who possesses a greater mastery of the art of talking to a camera than Harold Ford?  Watch "The Difference," (center screen) the deliciously insincere ad that has many liberals enraged at its blatant conflation of religion and politics.  The New York Times reports that Ford's chances of victory are increasing.  If he does pull it off in November, it will be due, in part, to his tremendous charisma.

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Shame on Sherrod

Sherrod Brown just pissed off his base today.  Big time.  The same base that can barely stand him- and let him know it by voting 22% for his primary opponent: a lunatic, anti-gay truck driver named Merrill Kaiser. 

I understand Brown's rationale for voting for the infamous torture bill  He feared that opposition would alienate him from swing voters, especially as Republicans are putting forth the "Democrats coddle terrorists" meme.  The lively discussion at Buckeye State Blog has yielded a few key counterarguments to this strategy 1) Dewine has and will continue to attack Brown regardless of his votes one way or the other 2) The torture issue is not clearly defined for the American people to elicit a truly effective attack from DeWine.  

Though the polls will soon clarify the effect this has on the race, my preliminary analysis is that Brown has inflicted way more damage upon the base than he had hoped to reduce amongst swing voters.  The torture bill is about the radical dismissal of the core principles of our country.  Brown seems silly to think that the base will forgive him so readily.  As conservative Andrew Sullivan explains,

"I repeat: this is a huge deal. It really should be a huge deal for conservatives who care about restraining government power. Its vulnerability to abuse is enormous; sanctioned torture, history tells us, never remains hermetically sealed. It always spreads. It eats away at decency and law and civility. If the president sincerely believes that torture is our most potent weapon in this war, and that habeas corpus is a quaint relic from the past, then we are in far greater peril than even the most dire pessimists believe."

So, shame on Sherrod.  Not just for participating in an ignominous chapter in our nation's history, but for jeopardizing his already-tenuous Senate chances in the process.  In a perfect world, political gain and principle are two sides of the same coin.  We don't live in that ideal world.  We live in a world constrained by a hostile media and the multifaceted sources behind Republican power, where, in order to get elected, Democratic politicians must posses a delicate balance of both political courage and the ability to compromise for political gain.  But Brown has proven that he probably does not have what it takes to successfully navigate through this rotten political world we're stuck with, for he lacks both components of this balance.

That all said, I will continue my plan to vote for Sherrod Brown this November.  Again, to quote Sullivan:

"If this Republican party maintains control of all branches of government, the danger to individual liberty is extremely grave. Put aside all your concerns about the Democratic leadership. What matters now is that this juggernaut against individual liberty and constitutional rights be stopped. The court has failed to stop it; the legislature has failed to stop it; only the voters can stop it now. If they don't, they will at least have been warned."

UPDATE:Some of the names of the Democratic senators who voted for the torture bill frankly shock me.

Bill Nelson? Jay Rockefellar? Frank freakin' Lautenberg?

While these Democrats contributed to the passage of the bill in a much more harmful and significant way than Sherrod Brown did, blame ultimately rests in our leader, Harry Reid and the other prominent Senators of influence (Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama) who decided not to organize a filibuster.

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Youth Making a Difference

Several students at my alma matar, Indian Hill High School just launched a new extracurricular group: Indian Hill Liberals.  They are working to coordinate students for volunteer efforts on behalf of Democratic candidates.  The targeted race is Vic Wulsin's congressional bid in OH-02, as Vic is a respected member of the Indian Hill community whom many students already know.  What makes this group particularly cool and unique is the rampant conservatism at Indian Hill- the school and the community.  Indian Hill is the home to, among others, Republican officials such as White House Deputy Chief of Staff Joe Hagan and Ambassador to Switzerland Mercer Reynolds.  As Mother Jones reports residents within the Indian Hill zip code (of which I am not one, by the way) gave more money to President Bush's reelection campaign as of May 2004 than any other zip code, except Manhattan's Upper East Side.  As a rough estimate based upon my four years there, I'd say conservatives outweigh liberals 7:3 among the high school populace.  Despite this hostile climate, a pocket of highly motivated youth took it upon their own initiative to create a positive change.  And what's even better?  There isn't a Republicans or Conservatives Counter-Group (yet).

The creation of the IH Liberals club is yet another way in which Vic has positively impacted the Indian Hill community by involving youth in social and political causes. The SOTENI (Vic's non-profit AIDS relief organization) chapter at IH was a considerable success, enabling community service opportunities and generating AIDS awareness across the school.  Several students even spent their summers in Africa and India to administer aid to the orphans of AIDS victims.  The IH Liberals group will hopefully be another way for students to engage in a cause larger than themselves.  

As a Howard Dean Democrat, I believe that the 50 state strategy is absolutely essential.  We will never build the party infrastructure for long-term gains unless we fight hard battles in hard places.  The excitement that leaders like Paul Hackett and Vic Wulsin have imparted on the community, including on our youth, really has changed- and will continue to change- the district.  Regardless of who wins this thing, we have changed the district forever and will continue to foster these improvements. I will be sending a campaign contribution to Vic tonight.

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OH-02, September a Good Month for Wulsin

The Wulsin campaign has clearly had a fantastic month of September in their quest to unseat unpopular Republican incumbent Jean Schmidt.  Where does one begin in describing just how well this campaign is going?  

-An independent A SurveyUSA/ABC poll shows Vic within 3 points of Jean Schmidt, confirming the Wulsin internal poll's description of the competitiveness of the race.  
-After a meeting with Rahm Emanuel and Howard Dean, Vic is added to the DCCC's Emerging Races list whereby she will now receive "financial and strategic support." 
-Vic attends high-profile DC fundraiser hosted by none other than Jack Murtha, war hero, progressive hero, and the recipient of Jean Schmidt's most unpopular and defining moment as a Congresswoman.  
-The AP and all the local papers pick up on a story about how Jean Schmidt plagiarized a press release.  (See Buckeye State Blog for an amusing visual elaboration.  
-The campaign launches an attractive, brand-spankin' new website.
-The blogs can't stop talking about Vic and her impressive international and humanitarian background. The blog attention includes two frontpaged Kos entries written by Kos himself (1) and 2 ) and a glowing endorsement on Ezra Klein's blog.  Down with Tyranny's Howie Klein (whose excitement has even led him to describe Vic as a "breathtaking candidate") even makes a television and radio ad for Vic. And, perhaps most importantly, the preeminent local blog, Ohio 2nd makes a reluctant-yet-still triumphant return.  

As a former staffer currently living in Missouri, I am thrilled at the developments, though I can't say I'm altogether surprised.  If there's one defining quality to Vic, it's her fearless optimism in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges.  Whether it's fighting AIDS in Africa or beating a Republican incumbent in one of the most conservative districts in the country, Vic views everything as possible.  Yet this idealism is weighed and informed equally by a staggering intellect and years of formal experience.  These qualities are what we want in our leaders: the idealism to perceive the possible in the impossible and the practical skills and abilities to actually make that vision a reality.  In two words: GO VIC!  

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