Cleland, Clark. Clinton Speak for Massa

Tonight, Tuesday, new, old and in-between Democrats joined Eric Massa for a fundraiser in Washington, DC just hours after George W. Bush campaigned in Canandaigua, NY for freshman Republican Congressman Randy Kuhl.  Bush tried, and failed, to explain to New York seniors his complex, budget busting big-pharma enriching prescription drug scheme.

I was not anywhere near the Bush event.  Instead, I joined Eric Massa as he rolled out "big gun" Democrat supporters to endorse his challange to Randy Kuhl in New York's 29th district.  Kuhl was elected in 2004 with less than 50.3% of the vote.  Sen. Clinton spoke about the 29th district and the great job Massa has done to unite and energize Democrats in the region.  Massa is expected to announce shortly that all of the Democratic county organizations in his expansive New York district have united behind his candidacy.  Sen. Max Cleland spoke frankly about how difficult it is to run for Congress bucking the party establishment.  He noted an amazing figure -- only 4 Democrats who are Veterans of military service ran for Congress in 2004, 71 are running this year -- 2006.  Wow!  Wes Clark spoke with emotion about Massa, his former aide, who was diagnosed with cancer while serving as an aide to then Supreme Allied Commander (of NATO) Clark in  1998.  Other speakers on behalf of Massa included Admiral William Crowe and Rep. Steney Hoyer of Maryland.

This post does not do justice to the spirit of the Massa event.  Everyone in the crowd was struck by the fact that Massa has been running against Kuhl for over a year already, during times that were thin and tough.  In terms of campaign money, Kuhl is a gassed up Hummer while Massa is running on fumes.  Massa has faced an uphill battle and is still, very much an underdog.  Kuhl has the support of deep pocketed interests and the army of lobbyists who owe their living to his patron, Rep. Tom DeLay.  Massa is still, way, way behind in the quest for campaign cash and the ability to buy television time.  For more info on Eric Massa and his campaign go to

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Washington, DC Events Newsletter

This is a newsletter I do every 2-3 weeks covering events in the Washington, DC region.  Please e-mail me if you would like to be on our mailing list.

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Gary Hart on Hackett

Old Politics at its Worst, by Gary Hart

Based on news reports alone and knowing nothing (thank goodness) about behind-the-scenes politics, the pressure brought on Paul Hackett, the bold Iraqi veteran, to abandon his campaign for the U.S. Senate from Ohio is deplorable.

This is simply old politics at its worst. There is a party which hand-picks its candidates, decides who can and cannot run, directs money to the favorite candidate, and dictate terms.

Up till now, that party has been the Republican party.

Now, it seems, my Democratic party is once again imitating the Republican party in a desperate effort to regain power. With the McGovern democratic reforms in the early 1970s, political bosses were diminished and grassroots voters were elevated. The theme was, Let the people decide.

Telling Paul Hackett that he cannot run for the Senate, and purportedly calling contributers to dry up his funds, is the worse kind of old politics. It will drive voters away from the supposedly "open" party, the Democrats, and further add to public cynicism about how politics in America is played in the early 21st century.

Shame on us.' pressuring-paul-hackett-t_b_15637.html

Some history:

'At the 1968 Democratic National Convention, McGovern stood as the flagbearer for some of the supporters of the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy, losing the Presidential nomination to Hubert H. Humphrey, and coming in behind Minnesota Senator Eugene J. McCarthy as well.

However, during the convention a motion was passed to establish a commission to reform the Democratic Party nomination process. [White pp. 17-20] In 1969 McGovern was named chairman of this Reform Commission; due to the influence of former McCarthy and Kennedy supporters on the staff, the commission significantly reduced the role of party officials and insiders in the nomination process, increased the role of caucuses and primaries, and mandated quotas for proportional black, women, and youth delegate representation. [White pp. 24-33]  These changes eventually facilitated McGovern's successful own nomination at the 1972 Convention

McGovern's campaign manager in the 1972 election was future United States Senator Gary Hart.' vern

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Primaries Are Often Good!

I'm not from Ohio and don't know enough about what is going on there to go far too out on a limb, lest it break off.

We must never forget that principles and results are more important than politics.  There are plenty of Dem. politicians who I don't like but who get results -- the problem is that I really can't say that, yet, about the current leadership crowd.  

I do think the Dem. leadership is being shortsighted in, apparently, adopting a policy that primaries are bad and all sorts of manipulation is justified to avoid primaries.  Regardless of what is right according to some sort of moral judgement, I just think it is poor political judgement.  This comes from a party leadership that does not exactly have a good record over the past 10 years or so.  Tom DeLay was a skunk, but until he went too far with ethics he was darn effective.  Who among the Dems. is effective?  Time will tell.

Case 1: Wisconsin 1988, a 3 way primary for the US Senate between Rep. Jim Moody, Millionaire Businessman Joe Checota and State Senator Russ Feingold.  Who raised & spent the most money? Checota & Moody by a LONG shot.  Who won, Feingold and he has held the seat ever since in a swing state.  The "kingmakers" of the time wanted Feingold out, if they had got their way a Republican would probably hold the seat today.

Case 2: 2002 Maryland, the primary was to succeed Gov. Paris Glendening, a not terribly popular two term incumbent who could not run for another term.  The establishment choice was Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, daughter of Robert Kennedy.  Popular Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley badly wanted to run.  The party establishment put HEAVY pressure on O'Malley to forego it.  O'Malley bowed to the pressure.  Townsend proved to be a poor candidate -- she had never had to run in a contested primary.  She would have been a stronger candidate had she beaten O'Malley.  Conversely, most observers believe O'Malley would have beaten current GOP Governor Bob Ehrlich.  O'Malley is trying again in 2006, he has a tough primary.

Case 3 2004 Presidential -- the strategy was get the primaries over ASAP and unite quickly behind the (fairly narrow) winner of Iowa & New Hampshire.  Kerry had other problems but this strategy was flawed -- for more reasons than I have time to write about.

A great Dem. leader who had his own problems with the grassroots of his time said that "It's better to have 'em inside the tent pissing out than outside pissing in." That was Lyndon Johnson.  Increasingly, netroots activists are being forced outside of the tent of Democratic politics.  Somebody needs to make it a bigger tent, even if there are a few primaries.

Howard Park

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Dem Campaign Aides in DC Have All the Answers eHill/News/Campaign/020906.html

From an article by Peter Savodnik in The Hill 2-9-06

"Democratic campaign aides called Hackett and Rowley, like retired Gen. Wesley Clark, who ran a 2004 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, loose cannons who could not be counted on to say the right thing at the right time."

Whoever the unnamed Democratic campaign aides are quoted in the article are depriving the rest of us of their infinite wisdom in always knowing the right thing to say at the right time.  Hmmm...who could this Democratic genius be?  Bob Schrum - 0 for 8 or whatever in Presidential elections?  Might it be the architects of our successful take back Congress strategy in 2004? 2002? 2000? 1998? 1996? 1994? I guess these Democratic aides are just too modest and are too shy to tell the rest of us who they are and how they got to be so much smarter than Wes Clark, Paul Hackett or the pesky Fighting Dems who dared to run for office without clearance from the infallible Democratic aides in Washington.  How dare anyone run against established Republicans?  I just look forward to someone explaining how we ever take back Congress if Democrat's are discouraged against running for seats held by Republicans.  Perhaps we just trust the experts to pick the "swing" districts and put all the money there, just like President Kerry did in 2004 -- pick the swing states and hope you win em all.  I'm just too dumb to understand it.

Howard Park

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Dem Veterans Gather

Yesterdaymorning I attended an event on the National Mall in Washington, DC with 40 Democratic challengers for the US House.  The group has organized itself as the "Band of Brothers" (I liked "Fighting Dems" better)  Former Sen. Max Cleland and Sen. Jack Reed introduced the group. Cleland was especially moving as he spoke of the "political assassins" who would try to "swift boat" the veterans.  Later in the day, I was honored to speak to the group for about 10 minutes about podcasting & internet audio/video.

Contrary to what you may have heard, this event and the Band of Brothers PAC is the product of a self-organizing process among the candidates.  It was not a top-down, directed event by the DCCC or anyone else.  Believe it or not, Fox News tonight aired a fairly good report with sound bytes from Cleland, Eric Massa (NY-29) and Andrew Duck (MD-6).  The report also featured an annoyed sounding Republican operative claiming that Rep. Rahm Emmanual had orchestrated the whole thing but for evidence he only cited the fact that Illinois candidate Tammy Duckworth (who was not at the DC event) had been recruited by the DCCC.  

Many, if not most, of the Veteran candidates are taking on Republican incumbents and are getting little, if any, support from the DCCC, DNC or any major national group.  I don't think it makes sense to direct huge resources toward solid GOP districts.  It does seem, however, that the Democratic strategy is focused too narrowly.  Just as the Kerry campaign directed massive resources to 16 swing states and seemed to mostly ignore the rest, the Dem. congressional strategy seems to focus only on what national experts determine as the very closest races.  The strategy begs the question: is the playing field large enough for the Democrats to take control of the House?  

It is a sign of great vitality to see the Dem. candidates such as this group of Veterans build their own networks rather than simply complaining about the lack of support from the DCCC and others.  They need our help and is a great place to start.  It would be great to see Democratic candidates who are teachers gather to emphasize education policy, doctors and nurses to talk health care, etc.  I don't support any candidate just because he or she is a veteran but it is great to see such groups unite to get the message out that so many veterans are running as Democrats.

The Democrats gathered in Washington vowed to "take the Hill".  If they are successful there must be some surprises in November among the candidates who are fighting, virtually alone, without help from the powers that be in the Democratic leadership

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James Webb & Netroots

James Webb's surprise announcement that he will challenge George Allen for the US Senate in VA is a shocker given that most of the Netroots activists who were seeking to draft Webb had thought he had decided against running.  The story I heard was that he wanted to run but that personal and business commitments were a major issue.

Webb will be a strong candidate and a primary will be a good thing in Virginia.  Even the strongest supporters of Harris Miller (and Webb) must admit the fact that thier candidate has never run for anything before (unless I'm missing a school board or class president race).  Hopefully, competition will strengthen both candidates.

Aside from the personalities, this is a victory for Netroots activism and "Draft" movements in general.  The Washington Post article from today spotlighted the efforts of and quoted from the site.  Webb was moved by the draft movement.

Not everyone on the blogosphere is going to like everything about James Webb -- I predict more than a few flame wars -- but everyone should be glad that George Allen is going to get some serious competition.  

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Ford to New York, Bush to New Orleans: Drop Dead

Thirty years ago, the City of New York was bankrupt and the conventional wisdom was that New York was a city of the past.  New York was a cesspool of crime and corruption whose economic reason for being had come, and gone.

The New York Daily News ran a headline that became one of the most famous ever to appear in print: "FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD".  Oh yes, the President was Gerald Ford and like the current one, he had not been elected by a majority or even a plurality of the voters, although he was selected under the U.S. Constitution.

Narrowly, the establishment decided not to give up on New York and something called the "Municipal Assistance Corporation" was formed to, in effect, re-finance the great City of New York.  It was just too big to fail.  Even as New York was being abandoned in droves by "good" people and the Bronx literally burned every night, the city was still home (at least Monday - Friday) to the tip of the top of the American elite.  

Within a year, the country had a new President, Democrat Jimmy Carter.  A lot of folks who did not like the idea of the President abandoning a great American city just might have provided Carter with his narrow margin of victory. People like Chicago Mayor Richard Daley did not like the idea of the President telling big cities to drop dead.

Anyone who can read between the lines (or even read lines) knows that President George W. Bush has abandoned New Orleans in 2006.  Speaker Dennis Hastert may have had poor timing but there can be little doubt that he spoke for his party when he questioned the expense of rebuilding of New Orleans right after Hurricane Katrina.  Why rebuild New Orleans when the money can be used to finance a war in Iraq??

The difference is that New Orleans has no Wall Street and no Park Avenue.  The right people (i.e. white people, except for a few bohemians and history lovers) don't live in New Orleans. Good Republicans visit Commander's Palace, Brennan's or Antoines, even like jazz, but they don't live in New Orleans and the city is not too big to fail.  No major banks or brokerage houses are threatened.  Sure, there is Bourbon Street and it will rise again, but New Orleans is dead or at least in an extended coma. The next President and the next Congress will either bring it back to life or let it die.  President Bush has, at least, made his position clear -- bring Congress back into session to save a long gone Terri Schivo but let New Orleans rest in peace.

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Anti-War Movement, Then & Now

I recently read David Mixner's memoir, "Stranger Among Friends" -- Mixner is best known for his activism related to gay rights but much less so for his role in the late 1960's anti-war (Vietnam) movement and with electoral politics.

I was struck by Mixner's experience, early in his activist career, when the best & the brightest of staff for Eugene McCarthy, Bobby Kennedy and many of the liberal Senators of the time moved fairly easily between the left stream of mainstream politics and the anti-war movement.  Mixnir himself went directly from the McCarthy campaign to the Mobilization to End the War.

Things are very different today.  I can't think of anyone I knew (and I knew a lot of 'em) on the various 2004 campaigns who is working in the anti-war movement.  A few are working for leftish pressure groups.  Most are working for consulting firms, political and otherwise.

The anti-war movement has attracted big crowds and, like her or not, has made Cindy Sheehan into a near household word.  There is however, a huge gulf between anything that could be termed the "Anti-War Movement" and the political mainstream, even on the left.  I think this is too bad and hurts both. The anti-war movement needs to move beyond the fringe groups like ANSWER that nurtured it in it's early days.  The left needs to be seen as standing for something and nurturing it's base.  Clearly the "base" is anti-war.  

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How Do We Go On The Offensive?

Democrats are the minority party.  Almost by definition, the Majority sets the agenda, especially in majestic settings like the State of the Union.  Democrats also don't have a real leader, instead we have several politicians with followings -- John Kerry, Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Ted Kennedy, Howard Dean, Harry Reid, Wes Clark, John Edwards...a long list...but no single leader that everyone agrees upon.  The opposition controls the White House, The Congress and the Supreme Court.

SO how do we go on the offensive? How do Democrats reframe and refocus the debate, even in the short term?

I'm not looking for unrealistic, easy answers like "Get a Spine" or "remove Bush now"...anyone have any bright ideas?

The best I can do right now is that we should attack the GOP on the prescription drug mess and start taking a stand against war with Iran.

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