For those of you who don't live in Iowa, you've been missing Howard Dean's somewhat creepy television ad. The Dean campaign has spent $300,000 for this one spot, and the Iowa caucus isn't until January 19! In the ad Dean gives a basic "times are bad because of Bush, let's get some fresh air with me" speech in front of a tractor. But then, right at the end Dean says "... and I approve of this message." Wha?
It turns out this little annoying line is a product of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance laws that are currently on the books, but are under review by the Supreme Court. Apparently every ad now has to say that the candidate approves of it. What a pain.
But anyway, the timing of this ad just seems a bit odd and poorly targeted. No one in the campaign I work for is sure what the thinking behind this is, since the people that go to caucuses aren't the type of people who get swayed by television ads. Caucus-goers are the people who read the newspaper every day about the candidates, have a strong interest in politics and are willing to spend three hours of their time talking with strangers about the presidency. Television ads target the casual voter, who's opinion won't be felt very strongly under Iowa's caucus set up.
I'm sure the Dean people have some sort of motive behind this, but right now that motive just isn't clear.
(Watch the ad here for Real Media Player, and here for Quicktime)
Please vote in the poll to the left! If there are enough votes to actually show anything, I'll discuss the implications some time in the future. If there's enough response I'll make a new poll each week for your opining pleasure.
During yesterday's White House press briefing, Ari Fleischer was asked why President Bush is willing to take the millions in government matching campaign funds, but not willing to donate himself on his own tax return. The hypocrisy ensued as follows:
"Q: Several questions on fundraising. First of all, why is it that the President checks the "no" box? Does he have a philosophical rejection, or what's his reason for doing that?
Ari: No, I think the President views campaign funding as a voluntary matter, as the American people do, where people want to support the candidate of their choice. We have on the presidential level a somewhat mixed system where there is some level of taxpayer support. And the President, as you know, in the primary is not going to accept any taxpayer support, he will raise funds privately -- which means he will get support as the American people see fit to give it.
Q: But why does he -- why does he check the "no" box?
Ari: Because I think the President's approach is that from him, personally, that he believes in personally financing the causes in which he believes.
Q: But he does accept public funding for the general election.
Ari: That's correct.
Q: Yet he is not contributing to it by checking that box. Isn't there a disconnect?
Ari: That's the way our system works. If he contributed to it, he'd have three more dollars.
Q But you won't answer the question why --
Ari: I think I just did."
No Ari, you didn't really. You didn't honestly explain why Bush is willing to take millions of dollars of public money, but not willing to contribute a few bucks to support it. So, instead of at least paying homage to the idea of publicly financed campaigns, which wouldn't take more than a check mark in the little box, Bush is making a principled stand for privately funded elections, er, except not really since he is more than willing to take the cash for the general election. Hmm.
Newt Gingrich. I bet you were hoping you'd never hear that name again. I know I was. Unfortunately sitting in his big office at AEI wasn't stimulating enough for him - he had to start trouble once again.
This time he's picking on the State Department. Back in April he made a scathing attack on Powell's leadership at State and lumped a lot of the blame of American foreign policy and the subsequent intelligence failures on the disorganization of the Foggy Bottom crew. Among his main complaints are that State failed to have a response ready when France went against us, and that State failed to convince Turkey to join us against Iraq. Gingrich suggests that State has become too polite, too accomodating, "too narrow."
Unfortunately Gingrich fails to see that the very reason that France became a stubborn opponent and Turkey refused to submit was that in those areas the Department of Defense was allowed to effectively hijack "diplomacy" and to create the kind of foreign policy that Gingrich thinks we needed. We got the allies that we did not because of a roughshot foreign policy of bullying and arm-twisting, but rather through the concerted efforts of Powell and his dilligent team of State diplomats.
Gingrich needs to go back and take Diplomacy 101 again (if he ever did in the first place). Friends that get their arm-twisted into being your friends only like you when they have to and go about hating you the rest of the time. Friends that can be persuaded are lasting, for they feel they have a stake of their own in how their support effects the outcome.
Gingrich writes, in his article for Foreign Affairs, "the world does not have to love us," and he's right. But why make people hate us? Sure the world doesn't have to love us, but there's no harm in trying for it's affection. After September 11 there was an ourpouring of support and compassion towards the United States. Who wasted it all? I have my guesses, but I can tell you who it wasn't: State.
If there's anyone in the Bush administration doing the right thing, it's the folks down the street from me at the Department of State. Here's to foreign service.
Is the end of the current Republican rhetoric in sight? They call it "compassionate conservatism," but where is the "compassionate" part? Let's look at the record:
- The Bush administration recently pushed to have the requirements for federal college aid limited so that fewers low income students would qualify. No child left behind? Really?
- In the course of the latest tax cuts, military veterans' benefits were cut from lifetime coverage, to a mere two years. Two years. Apparently that's all you can expect from the government for risking your life for it these days. Good thing we got the tax cut, huh?
- Instead of providing states with the needed aid to alleviate their various budget crises, we all got a tax cut that no one will spend. So, instead of propping up the already hobbling Medicaid system for the poor of Illinois, the federal government gave me money back that I wouldn't spend anyway. I was able to save (read: not spur on the economy) my new bundle of cash. I don't need it - the elderly, the poor, the sick, the children, they, they need it.
How "compassionate" does this sound to you? Not so much, huh?Calpundit thinks its this kind of faulty understanding of what Republicans think Americans want that will lead them to trouble. He thinks Republicans are assuming that people agree with their positions a lot more than they do and that this will be their undoing. Hopefully he's right:
"Every party in power eventually overreaches, and I think the Republicans are on the verge of doing this right now because they keep fooling themselves into thinking their economic policies are popular. But they aren't. Sure, no one wants to pay taxes, but eventually we'll have to make a choice between cutting taxes and cutting Social Security and Medicare and other programs, and Republicans are going to learn what they know in their hearts already: these programs are a lot more popular than tax cuts. When that day comes, the Republicans will be out on their ears.
"I know conservatives hate to face up to this, and libertarians hate it even more, but the social safety net is really, really popular. You screw with it at your peril, and sometime soon it's going to become clear that Republicans have no support for a policy that's designed to cut back on them. The only question is, is "sometime soon" 2004 or 2008?"
2004 will be a great test to see how much the American people can take. No one likes a burdensome government, but there is a minimum too. A part of the American ethic should be to care for one's fellow man and look beyond one's own self-interest to what will benefit society as a whole. Unfortunately that ethic is on the verge of extinction with this administration. Let's hope for a rejuvenation in 2004.