Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Preacher Primary


The Republicans’ first primary contest is this week, and it’s not in New Hampshire. It is in Orlando, at the annual meeting of the National Religious Broadcasters.

With George Bush and Karl Rove out of the way, the gathered congregation is split all over the place about whom they will support for 2008.

The word is that the three big names - Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and Frank Dobson (of Focus on the Family) are themselves each leaning towards different Candidates.

Falwell favors McCain. Robertson, who hates Falwell in the worst possible (but totally Christian) way, is likely to back Romney - guess age will do that to your brain. And Dobson, who loves himself above all others (again, in a wholly healthy and Christian fashion), will probably plump for former Arkansas Governor, Mike Huckabee - come on, you gotta love faith!

The problem is that these rattlesnake-charmers are suffering from the same blinkered mind-set that plagued the Democrats before 1994 - they've been kingmakers for so long in the corridors of Washington that they don't pay any attention to election results.

Brothers! Brothers! Hello! Your flock went independent on you in 2006. More than half of Christian voters did not follow your lead. Get with the program. Or the service. Or the missal. Whatever.

My prediction about what the Christian Right will do in 2008 goes something like this:

But first, some advice for the Democrats: don't get too cozy about the results from 2006. Last year, Christian voters suddenly got all righteous and touchy-feely. They wanted to give George a bloody nose. And they felt bad about Iraq, Katrina, and particularly the struggling families left behind by many working-class military personnel.

The problem with people shifting their political position is that it's like cheating on your partner - if you do it once, you can do it again.

Frankly, the Democrats face a conundrum with their new majorities on the Hill. First off, they are not naturally liberal Democrat majorities. They are made up of a lot of conservative Democrats, who won in normally Republican areas.

Secondly, those Democrat majorities are pretty much buggered if they do and buggered if they don't. If they do well, those Christians, who shifted over to the Democrats in 2006, may well think "mission accomplished," and go back to supporting perhaps a liberal Republican for President in 2008.

On the other hand, if the Democrats screw up, those same Christians may feel they did wrong by the Lord, and vote once again for a socially conservative disciple of Jesus, rejoining their brethren on the solid and rabid Christian Right.

Now, here's the thing about that psycho Christian Right. I think that they, like their moderate and more left-wing Christian friends, have begun to enjoy the sinful taste of independence.

It is not just that they are sick and tired of Republican Presidents who promise them Armageddon, but then refuse to let rip the fire and brimstone. It's that they are totally fed up with the plump and aging preachers who keep telling them to support those false idols.

And thus it is, yeah verily, that the likes of Huckabee (a former conservative preacher himself), Kansas Senator Sam Brownback (a favorite son of the religious right), California Representative Duncan Hunter and Colorado Representative Tom Tancredo all think they have a real chance with the Christian Right this time round.

But I have to say this - fellas, get real. Wacko, the Christian Right may be. But stupid, they ain't. They know minnows when they see minnows. And you boys be tiddlers. You don't have a prayer.

The exemplary pro-life (but also pro-death penalty, pro-killing in Iraq) evangelists of the Christian Right may well decide not to listen to their earth-bound masters in 2008, but the Holy Spirit is still going to make them plump for one or other of the Republican fat cats. So, which one is it going to be?

Romney? I'm getting bored even typing his name.

Giuliani? Even he knows he's wasting his time courting these voters. He's not intending to speak at the National Religious Broadcasters' meeting at all.

McCain? Hmmaybe. There may be some nose-holding, though. Memories still go back to Mac's talk of "agents of intolerance" in 2000.

So? Yup. You got it. The Dark Horse. The guy all the pundits just love to overlook - Newt Gingrich.

That's my prediction. Look for The Newt to pick up heavily - and unexpectedly - among Christian Right voters, once the caucus and primary season begins in 2008.

In particular, look for a strong showing in South Carolina, which I think Newt will win. Pretty much bringing to a close the campaigns of the minnows. Dealing a death blow to Romney, and seriously denting McCain.

There's even a chance that South Carolina will do for McCain what I predict it will do to Hillary - show that they're both losers in the South. After S.C, Mac may hobble through some more primaries in the North and Mid-West. But The Newt could then seal the deal when the circus tracks back South later in 2008.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

"I'm Real. Really!"


Have a certain ring to it...?

It ought to. Much of the article about John in this week’s Newsweek reflects the points I’ve been making - and the way I've been making them - on this blog for some time now. All of them in a bid to help make John the 'real' Candidate he says he wants to be.

Indeed, the parallel between the Newsweek article and OneJohn: Courage, Conviction and Calculation is uncanny.

Well, the good news, John, is that you seem to be accepting the fact that ordinary people are beginning to see the credibility disconnect between the TwoJohns – the ‘real’ John you say you want them to see, and the carefully-protected John they are actually being allowed to see.

The bad news is that you think regular folk will buy that they are seeing the ‘real’ you just because you tell Newsweek you’re trying harder. Real people will know they are finally getting to see the 'real' you when you actually let them do just that.

The funny thing is that, without any prodding from me (or maybe it was because of that prodding – who knows?), you set out both the problem and its solution in this same article. They are there, for all to see, in the following excerpt:
Still, Edwards' new commitment to authenticity may have real roots: in 2004, the candidate learned the hard way that too much caution can be fatal.

When the Kerry campaign faltered, Edwards and his wife were convinced that a broad swath of competing consultants, offering conflicting advice, were largely to blame.

"Consultants can make it hard to tell the truth," Edwards says. "They want you to be so cautious it makes it hard to say anything."

Aides, who didn't want to be named discussing their boss's internal thinking, say he walked away from 2004 convinced that only strong, centralized decision making works in presidential campaigns.
I agree there should be strong, central control of your campaign organization. The Great Blogging Scandal underlines that very point. But not by you - at least, not any more.

You say it yourself: if there’s going to be control of the campaign, and you’re at the center of the campaign, it follows that you have to be subject to that control, too. And that's the very thing we are both agreed gets in the way of real people seeing the 'real' you.

If ordinary folk are going to believe that they are seeing the ‘real’ you, then they have to see something uncontrolled. And you can only do that by separating yourself from your own hugely-choreographed campaign.

I can’t help but feel there should have been an ergo in there somewhere…

So John, one more time. Leave the controlling to Dave. Get away from your campaign. Lose a little control. Go and meet some real people. In real settings. Without too much advance work.

And when you really feel ready to reveal the ‘real’ you, as opposed to hiding it in Newsweek, I’ll be here, waiting to help you do just that in a real, genuinely-revealing, grass-roots, radio interview.

Real questions. Real feelings. Real credibility.

Really.

Meet The Boss


Ok. We got way too serious there for a while. Time for some levity...

A few weeks ago, John interviewed with Tim Russert of NBC’s “Meet The Press.’

Let’s rewind. And replay the interview. But this time, imagine Tim as the boss of the company where John is applying for a job…

Tim: Good morning, Mr…ah…Edwards.

John: Hi.

Tim: Now I see your last job was as Director of the Center for Poverty. Did you finish the job...'cos we still seem to have lots of poverty...?

John: Er. Well. No.

Tim: Why not?

John: I wanted this job.

Tim: Can we get a reference from the University of North Carolina?

John: Lemme see. I left the job early... I sued their hospital for malpractice... Er. Probably not.

Tim: And before that, you were a Vice Presidential nominee. How did that go?

John: I lost.

Tim: Ah. Can we get a reference there?

John: Uh...John Kerry… Probably not.

Tim: Hmm. And prior to that, you were a Senator. For just one term. Why did you stop?

John: I was going to lose.

Tim: And…reference…?

John: Er. Probably not.

Tim: So. To summarize. You’re not too good at finishing the job. You have little experience. And you can’t give us any references.

John: That’s about it.

Tim: And you want to be President of the company…?

[Oh come on, John. It's worth a small grin!]

Biden His Time?


Mind you, on the subject of tough causes, there are still some out there who believe that Joe Biden has a chance, notwithstanding his 'open-mouth-insert-foot' comments about Barack's washing habits.

This from The Politico's Roger Simon:

Best Corridor Conversation [at DNC Winter Meeting]: I chatted with Don Fowler, a former chairman of the DNC from South Carolina, and a guy who has forgotten more about Southern politics than most people have ever learned.

The Democratic presidential ticket did not carry a single Southern state last time and I asked Fowler which candidate could carry Southern states this time.

Obama could carry Mississippi, Alabama and South Carolina,” said Fowler, who has not endorsed anybody yet. “That is based solely on black voter registration. And [Joe] Biden could carry Florida and Virginia.”

Hmm. Any truth to the rumor that Joe is now going for broke in the fund-raising stakes by filing a paternity suit in respect of Anna Nicole's child...?

[Graphic courtesy of Dustin Ingalls of UNC-CH. I take the view he'll be grateful for any profile anyone gives to Joe...]

Straight-Talker -v- Tightrope-Walker?


John has been getting good news from Newsweek for a couple of months now.

Their December polls showed John as the only Democrat able to beat John McCain. And their January polls confirmed that only John could beat both Mac and Rudy.

The bad news is that it won't be Newsweek deciding the next President. It will probably be Jonny Nascar and Wynette Walmart.

It was they who tipped 2004 in George Bush’s favor. And they'll still be around to deal a potential blow to John’s chances in 2008.

The issue that may make the difference is Iraq – which is why John has been trying to muddy the waters with “The McCain Doctrine.”

Here’s the deal. I’m betting Mac’s advisers have already said to him: Mac, if it’s Edwards (or, indeed, Obama), forget a podium debate. Get up close and personal. Like the ‘conversation’ between Edwards and Cheney, in 2004.

And then keep hitting Edwards with Iraq.

The line will be: forget how we got here; what we need to do now is end it – and what do you know, sonny, about ending a war?

Mac will continue: look, this is a mess. But it was a frat boy that got us into it. And it won’t be another frat boy that gets us out of it. Why don’t you leave this to a grown-up – a grown-up who truly knows about war.

That will play strong with Jonny and Wynnette. And all their friends down at the VFW. The ones who still wave the Confederate Flag, have bumper stickers that boast "We're Real Patriots," and who sing that God-awful Toby Keith song every Friday night at the karaoke.

There's not much else John will be able to do but come back with the line: but...but...Mac, you got us into this, too.

Which will lead to an entertaining spat about blame, and mind-changing, and posturing. But none of that will truly count with Jonny and Wynette. What they will be waiting to hear is what these guys intend to do next.

And that may be the cruncher for John.

The Presidential Election may well come down to John’s perceived credibility on any plan to end the war in Iraq. Not Mac’s.

It won't matter whether Mac's plan is good, bad or indifferent. He has all the credibility the VFW crowd need - he was a Prisoner of War.

The only thing that will make the difference is John's credibility. And even that may have little to do with any war plan.

Rather it may depend on the extent to which John has managed to convince Jonny and Wynette that he is Real. Really.

And, of course, whether he looks as good as George (Bush) and Mac in a Stetson...

[I swiped the 'Rifle Jesus' pic from Jeff Fecke's blog. Only peripheral relevance - God-fearing Jonny, the righteous crusade in Iraq, and all that. But I liked it. So, sue me.]

Mitt-ens


What can I say about Mitt-ens ("The Face-Lift") that is short and incisive, yet fair and comprehensive, while still thoughtful and interesting?

Hmm? Ah yes.

Fluff.

Period.

No wait. I think I can do better than that. I was just having trouble breathing, while picking myself up from the floor, and wiping away the tears of mirth.

I mean, Sweet Mother Mary and Joseph. Why does anyone take this dandy seriously? Fer chrissakes, he's had more re-invents than he's had face-lifts.

I'd be more ready to vote for The Penguin as Mayor of Gotham City than for this guy to be President of anything other than the Aspen Apres-Ski Ladies' Knit 'n Bridge Club.

But hang on. This just in. Pat Robertson takes him seriously. Oh well. Why didn't someone mention that earlier? That's a lock on the White House then.

Guess Mitt ’n Ann won’t be inviting me to their Deer Valley skiing soiree this year…

The Newt


Do not underestimate Newt Gingrich.

In many ways, he is the ‘John Edwards’ of the Republican Challenge – just not as good-looking.

He has been quietly putting together an organization these past few years, "Winning the Future" one supporter at a time.

Like John, he has a web-site which has all the all the bells and whistles that go with a modern political campaign, centered around the use of social media and web-networking.

Newt has a brain that is every bit as organized as John’s, and is possibly more nimble, on both a strategic and tactical level.

This is the guy who stole the House of Representatives from the Democrats back in 1994, with “Contract with America,” and then dictated Bill Clinton’s political agenda for the next six years.

It was Newt’s Republican House that balanced the federal budget, as much as Bill and Robert Rubin.

And don't be thinking Newt is just an ivory-tower policy wonk. Who can forget the unscripted Town Hall meeting between Bill the President and Newt the Speaker?

When two of the cleverest populists of their time went toe-to-toe for an hour, treating those watching to one of the finest debates of political fundamentals that this country has seen in several generations.

Newt's aura amongst rank-and-file Republicans may well have increased in potency with the loss by his Republican colleagues of their control of Congress. Control which those same grassroots Republicans remember, all too well, was engineered by Newt in the first place.

They may take the view that, as a born-again Washington outsider, Newt can work that same magic all over again, in the face of the current Democratic groundswell.

What may tip things Newt’s way is the social conservative vote in the Republican Primaries. For all his posturing, Mac is still seen as a social liberal. Rudy is way beyond hiding the fact that he’s always been one. And Mitt...oh please!

It may come down to New Hampshire. I'm guessing Newt will have to get at least 15% of the vote there to be taken seriously. And if he fails to achieve that benchmark, then I believe he will have to win heavily-religious South Carolina to stay in the race.

Thing is, he’s actually leading polls in several states at the moment – including North Carolina…

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

America's Security Blanket


In the week that saw The Dixie Chicks cleaning up at The Grammy's with their song, "Not Ready to Make Nice," it's probably a good a time as any to look at the likely Republican Challenge to John Edwards and the rest of the Democratic Presidential field.

Forget what anyone else says, John McCain is clearly the man to beat. He’s the one with the organization. And that counts for a whole lot more than what 1,000 people say in a poll conducted by a bunch of bored interns on a slow Friday afternoon.

Both Rudy Giuliani and Mac know that Rudy’s current lead in the polls is all ‘smoke ’n mirrors.’ It exists solely because no-one in the media has had the balls to say that "America's Mayor" was actually something of a failure until 9/11 happened to put him in the wrong place at the right time.

As soon as Rudy hits the Presidential Trail, folks will see that his wooden campaigning style makes John McCain look positively charismatic. And once that happens, the media will feel more comfortable reminding voters that, before 9/11, Rudy was downright unpopular in New York.

True the crime rate fell with Rudy as Mayor. But he'd had an embarrassing divorce from his wife. And he backed off a one-on-one Senate contest with Hillary because he knew he was going to lose.

Once the press and the electorate think of Rudy as a potential President, they will realize that their over-hyped assessment was based on fuzzy memory rather than reality, and the candy floss poll figures will plummet.

The problem is that Mac can’t pick someone as his Veep who’s suffered a complete loss of credibility. Thus, the main purpose of Rudy’s Presidential Campaign will be to get him loads of national exposure, so as to offset the negative effect of his campaigning style and the info coming out of New York.

Don’t get too sidetracked by talk of “The McCain Doctrine,” either. It’s clever lawyer-speak, but it won’t run with Jonny Nascar and Wynette Walmart.

Remember, it was Jonny and Wynette who voted for Bush in 2004, because George wore cowboy boots and brought the oil home. They made the difference then (well…they and the Diebold machines), and they’ll still be the demographic of choice in 2008.

Jonny and Wynette, and their friends down at the VFW, like Mac because he’s ‘real’ military. They know there’s no-one going to come out of the woodwork and suggest that Mac was actually a stooge at the Hanoi Hilton. They know he did ‘real’ time at the hands of his North Vietnamese captors.

And so, Mac and Rudy will form the Republican Ticket in 2008, and together they will counter “The Dreamy Team” (Edwards/Obama) by portraying themselves as “America’s Security Blanket.”

Unless…

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Valentine John!


Of course, there are those who say that the sight of a man's pecs does more for women than the smell of his sweat.

Which gets me thinking of the lady who said that all John needed to do to win the Democratic nomination hands down was to put out a swimsuit calendar...

So. Edwards. John Edwards. What about it? Take your shirt off, for Valentine's Day!

Show us what you've been up to in that new gymnasium on your 'plantation.' Grab a few cheap votes while you can.

Happy Valentine's Day, one and all!

Don't Sweat It!


For women, apparently there's nothing like the smell of a man's sweat.

Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley said women who sniffed a chemical found in male sweat experienced elevated levels of an important hormone, along with higher sexual arousal, faster heart rate and other effects.

So John, that's why you were getting yourself so worked up at the DNC Winter Meeting a week ago? And that's why you have both a gymnasium and a basketball court at your new 'plantation' outside of Chapel Hill, North Carolina?

You son of a gun, John. You really are a calculating genius, after all!

Friday, February 9, 2007

Unbug the Blog?


I get that Amanda Marcotte was chosen as Blogmistress for John Edwards '08 because she's loud and sassy and free-thinking - and has great Internet connections.

But hasn't this most recent episode proven that Johns' Blog Team needs some other disciplines, too? Well. Maybe just some more discipline...

Here, in John's home county - Orange County, North Carolina - we have an excellent Blog Moderator, by the name of Ruby Sinreich. Who, if she ever gets to read this post, will instantly grow gray hair, hearing this praise come from me.

Ruby and I have crossed swords. However, in the space of just of few years, she has put together an extraordinarily professional multi-author blog. Which she moderates assiduously. She is intelligent, outgoing and dedicated. And is more than capable of swapping acid with the best of them.

My only complaint - hence the sword-play - has been that she has sometimes been a little too keen to edit out posts. Which actually may be just what John's blogging effort needs at the moment.

Ruby lives down the road from John. She's on great terms with the family - to the best of my knowledge. She is already on John's Blogroll (OrangePolitics and LotusMedia). And I believe would be a tremendous asset to John's campaign.

I'm still not sure I'd want to spend an evening in a bar with her. But you don't have to like someone to recognize their suitability for a particular position.

Bug in the Blog...


...or storm in a tea-cup?

I don't pretend to know all the details of The Great Blogging Saga within John Edwards '08. What little I do know tells me that all the parties concerned need to get real. There really are more important things to worry about.

The central point seems to be the one I've been hacking on about for a while now - you need to separate the individual from the campaign. On the one hand, when you join a campaign organization, you have to leave the individual behind. And on the other, the campaign needs now to be separated from its figurehead, so that the campaign's everyday machinations are not constantly distracting him.

This is a Presidential Campaign. Not a Friday evening, beer-keg, blogathon. Wise-cracking, college-level, smart-ass may be appropriate when you're an individual author on an independent blog. But when you've just become Blogmistress to a Presidential Campaign, you need to provide something a little more thoughtful - and yes, calculated. Get real!

As for the right-wing. Is this really the biggest dent you can find to make in John's campaign. Really? I mean, I was raised a Catholic. As a species, we helped to make half the world dysfunctional. We're crying out to be made fun of. Get real!

And the fairweather left? Look, I have the odd poke at John, but I'm along for the ride. I'm just trying to make him a better Candidate and President. You want to jump ship the first time the sea swells. You really think this is the roughest it's going to get? Get real!

And John? This is my point, entirely. I don't care whether the decision to hire the two bloggers was the right one, or not. I don't care whether the decision to reprimand them was the right one, or not. The only thing I care about is that both decisions should have been made by the campaign, and its manager - and not by you. Get real!

As it is, we've had another distraction. Which should have been an organizational hiccup, reported as the last sentence of a side column on The Slate. Instead, it made waves because you, John, got involved.

Hand the campaign over to Dave. And let the press focus on the real you, as an individual, meeting the ordinary people to whom and for whom you say you speak. Let Dave speak to and for the campaign staff.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

OneGreatSociety?


Maybe John and I are of OneMind, after all?

Imagine my surprise and pleasure when I reviewed the YouTube videos of John's DNC speech. Paid close attention to his remarks on healthcare and poverty. And heard myself talking back.

Nope. No tongue in cheek this time!

Last weekend was the first and formal unveiling of John's stump speech on healthcare and poverty. Followed by his interview with Tim Russert on "Meet The Press," where John shared more specifics.

Sixteen months ago, two fellow broadcasters (Paul Aaron and Ian Kleinfeld) and I aired a four-part radio series, on John's home-town community radio (WCOM 103.5LPFM), on what it might take permanently to eliminate poverty in the US.

We came up with FOCUS on Poverty, a $200 billion a year program to ensure that every man, woman and child in the United States had access to food, clothing, housing and healthcare.

We very specifically excluded education, feeling it should be considered separately - as John has done.

The first program in the series dealt with our general progressive principles, by way of context.

The second program dealt with the specifics of FOCUS on Poverty - and please, I took enough stick from kid sister about FOCUS not being a precise anagram!

In the third program, we had a professor of economics from the University of North Carolina join us, to discuss our proposals as to how FOCUS on Poverty could be funded.

And the fourth program in the series dealt with what language could be used to 'sell' FOCUS to an electorate, which (pre-2006) we felt might still be in a tax-cutting rather than a tax-raising mood.

Our proposals, our costings and even the language all appeared in John's recent pronouncements on the subjects of poverty and healthcare.

Right down to borrowing back George Bush's 'no-one should be left behind' tag line, and the emphasis on children - hey, we may be progressive, but we know the power of a marketing message!

Frankly, I'm delighted!

Of course, I don't know for sure that John or his staff ever listened to our radio show - which is not that outlandish a suggestion, bearing in mind WCOM broadcasts where he and we all live, and the fact we informed him, OneAmerica and the UNC Center for Poverty of our four-part series.

And it may well be that they came up with their almost-identical proposals quite independently of us.

What I do know for certain, however, is that we devised our program independently of them.

And that none of them spoke then or have spoken since then (in public) about anything that faintly resembles FOCUS on Poverty - until John spoke this past weekend.

Indeed, a professor of sociology at Duke University (I apologize to fellow Tar Heels for letting those words pass my lips...!) declared that we would have to do all the work of devising the specifics of FOCUS on Poverty and its costings, on our own, because he was unaware of anyone else approaching the elimination of poverty in this manner.

Whatever the case, who cares? I say again - I'm delighted!

All I care about is that we elect in 2008 a President who agrees that the single most important priority facing him is the need to ensure that not one single child goes to sleep at night in America without food, clothing, housing and healthcare.

The 'how we got here' ain't important.

All this episode proves, at the very least, is that a group of progressive-thinking minds, living just a few minutes away from each other, all had the same great idea at the same time. Says wonders for the fresh air in North Carolina!

Now all I have to do is manage to convince John to clear the over-calculated clutter of his campaign out of the way, so that good people can hear the real message...regardless of where it came from!

Back to you, John!

Monday, February 5, 2007

OneJohn: Courage, Conviction and Calculation


Ok. Time for a deep breath. I'm still bothered that Jon Elliott of Air America Radio initially thought I was opposed to John Edward's campaign.

Before Jon understood what I was really saying, turned around 180 degrees, and agreed to help me get John to do a grass-roots radio interview with me.

So, to echo John's speech to the Democratic National Committee last Friday: why am I here; what am I doing; and what am I hoping to achieve?

Well, the first thing to say is that, contrary to all the advice I've seen about writing blogs, this may be a lengthy post.

Then again, Technorati says there are over 55 million blogs. And if my experience is anything to go by, we bloggers are mostly a bunch of basement-dwellers, who enjoy playing by ourselves. So, self-indulgence is pretty much the name of the game...

...um...ask Amanda Marcotte...ouch!...but more of her later!

In the meantime, let's go back to my beginning vis-a-vis John Edwards.

I was first inspired by John in 2004. He was the only Candidate talking about the plight of the poor, and doing so with language which resonated with me and my own experiences of having lived with people who are honest, hard-working, yet poor folk.

Fast forward to 2007. We all knew John was going to run again. And I was eager with anticipation as the day of the official announcement drew close.

Then, I heard that John was going to open his new National Campaign HQ across the village green from where I work, in this palace of an office complex (on right).

Frankly, I was puzzled. And that's putting it mildly.

The press had already told us that John would be kicking off his campaign in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. This was to be more than merely symbolic. It was to represent the very essence of his campaign.

A campaign that was to be about all of us. A campaign where we all took responsibility for what we did. Where we made a difference with our actions on the way to the White House, as well as when we got there. The whole message was: I mean what I say - judge me now for what I will do then.

Brilliant!

Except that with his first public campaign decision, John had created a disconnect between what he said he was doing, and what he was actually doing.

I work in a grocery co-op. I've just received my W-2 for last year. Technically, I am no longer working poor. I fall above the poverty line by about $1,000.

The co-op happens to be in one of the smartest, richest, most exclusive office/residential developments in North Carolina. What on earth was John thinking? For my views at the time, go to the very first post on this blog ("A Tale of Two Hills").

Chapel Hill is a few miles away from Durham, an old tobacco center, which has a load of undeveloped warehouse space. It also has large areas of poor districting, which cry out for some sort of starter-development.

Wouldn't John have sent a message more consistent with his campaign themes and persona by situating his National Campaign HQ in one of those areas? Re-developed a run-down corner shopping area, for example. Done it in a way that would have allowed him to hand it over to the local residents, after the campaign.

Blimey, one of his best mates here in Chapel Hill is one of the region's most successful and most progressive developers.

At the time, I drew no conclusions. I just got worried. Poked a little fun about Lower and Upper Ninth Wards. And decided to start "watch on the ninth..." To "keep a friendly, but gently irreverent eye" on John's continuing moves - to help him stay on message.

You see, this isn't about me. It's not even about John. It's about my friends.

For the first time since Robert Kennedy, someone has finally stuck their head above the political parapet, and has had the gumption to state that having some 50 million of our friends and neighbors below the poverty line, in the richest country in the world, is the single greatest obscenity in this nation at the moment. Period.

I want to make damn sure that he doesn't let my friends down. I want to make damn sure he's real; that he stays on message; that we are not merely a factor in some grand political equation - and, frankly, that he doesn't screw up.

Why me? Who the heck do I think I am?

I am precisely the guy to whom John says he wants to reach out. I am exactly the person upon whom John is basing his success. John says that he wants the electorate to measure his credibility on his ability to speak to and speak for me and my friends - real working men and women.

And that's who I am. A working stiff. Nothing more, and nothing less.

No-one may read this blog. No-one may listen to what I have to say. But no-one will tell me or my friends that we are not good enough to be heard.

Am I a shameless self-promoter, as some of the kinder private e-mails have called me? Hell yes! I have a message I want to get across. And I don't have a million dollars and a team of high-priced consultants to help me. I have a free blog and a loud voice.

But back to John. Unlike many in the media I don't give a toss about John's looks, or his wealth, or even the new 'plantation.'

I have some doubts about the political judgment that said it would be a good idea to build the compound in the middle of a Presidential campaign.

But hey. This is America. I want to be rich, too. And I want to drive a racing-green Bentley Continental. You know, the new one. Convertible. With a tag that says, "so maybe it is compensation, but it's still worth the ride..."

Real people, John, don't care who you are, or what you do, provided they feel they can trust you to deliver what you say you want to deliver.

But when you say you are doing something, and you are not. Then that has a psychological impact. Real people begin to wonder if you can be trusted to deliver. They question whether or not you are 'real.'

Two years out from the Presidential Election, a full year away from the first caucus, everything that you are doing is related to its psychological impact. You know that.

And it's not just me thinking this way.

Even your own people put up a post Iowa for Edwards hoping that you mean what you say. The guy who lives at the end of your new asphalt driveway complains that he's never met this Candidate who says he wants everyone else to meet the real him.

The Washington Post runs an article saying that Democrats in Iowa - the state you're supposed to have tied up - are curiously unenthusiastic about you. They think there is something not quite right about you.

Now, these are mere whispers at this stage.

But my twin sister says that one of my curses is that I see patterns (no, John...patterns...not dead people!). Patterns, where other people do not see them. And generally well before anyone else sees them.

What I am sensing at the moment is that real people are no longer worried about the apparent disconnect between your wealth and your message on poverty. And its seeming clash with your message on TwoAmericas. That is simply the outlet they are choosing for what I perceive as a more insidious concern.

Deep down what they are truly worried about, in my opinion, is the growing disconnect between the TwoJohns: between what you say you are doing, and what you are actually doing.

Now John, we ain't stupid. I talk with ordinary working folk every day. They may not have all the clever words. But they understand politics better than some consultants give them credit - and, indeed, some Democrats.

To be honest, there are too many Democrats, with fancy backgrounds, who make the mistake of assuming that they know better than regular people what is best for those regular people.

Regular people know best. All you have to do is ask them.

And they understand the calculations that have gone into producing your 2008 campaign, John - better than you know.

In 2004, you connected with ordinary folk, on an emotional level. You spoke to them of issues and with language that they instantly recognized as coming from the heart, and representing the real experiences of real people who'd been there.

But you didn't win. And you want to win, so that you can help those people. At least, that's what we all hope.

So, this time round, you wrote a new campaign playbook.

You had to appeal to the left-wing in the primary and caucus season. So, opposition to the War on Iraq, heavy on the poverty angle.

You wanted the support of trade unions to help get the vote out. So, lots of schmoozing with union leaders, and heavy on talk of securing jobs at home.

Howard Dean blazed the trail on the Internet. So, you have a web-site that is second to none in its clever use of social networking and Internet activism.

But you know there's a problem. People are going to say you're a rich lawyer trying to win the nomination like you're trying to win a court case - with careful calculation and intricate choreography.

So, you come up with this 'real guy' approach. Slim down, put on jeans, take off the tie, talk about grass-roots a lot, and beg people to see the real you.

The icing on the cake is that you paint your whole campaign as not-a-campaign at all. As the anti-campaign. It's now a people-driven movement, that's going to change America even before you take office. Brilliant again!

But then a second problem enters the equation. The money people may sense Howard Dean all over again. A populist campaign with a charismatic leader who might well implode through his own populist zeal.

And that's when political fudge comes into the picture. Look, you say in those oak-panelled boardrooms and screening theaters, don't confuse the image with reality. I know what I'm doing...

I'm so reminded of a passage in a Time magazine article about Howard, back in 2003:
Last week I asked Dean's mother Andree Maitland Dean of East Hampton, N.Y., whether her son is truly a liberal insurgent. "He's not really," she said. A beat passed, and she added with a chuckle, "I hope they don't find that out just yet."
Good for you, John. Say whatever it is you have to say to win the all-important first beauty contests. The money-raising stakes. We know they set the psychological scene for the real primary and caucus contests in 2008.

But that brings us to your third and current problem. Ordinary folk are beginning to see the disconnect between the TwoJohns. They don't mind you calculating, providing they can trust you to ensure that the calculation leads to the right result.

But when you hedge about the calculation, pretending that it's not there, then regular people see that, and they begin to wonder if, indeed, you're taking them to the promised land.

The answer, as I see it, is to be open about your calculation. John, real people want a clever guy looking after their interests in the White House. Don't hide it. Frankly, we all worry about the wrong things.

And the first thing you should be open about is that your campaign continues to need calculation. But if you're the one doing it, then you can't be out there, connecting with real people, and letting them see the real you. It's too schizophrenic.

So, become the OneJohn by admitting openly to the TwoJohns. [Ok, I'm getting a headache here, but stick with me.]

Have the political calculation to hand over the whole schmoozing, organizing, speaking out of side of mouth, photo op, plastic smile, Hollywood, calculating, OneAmerica monolith to Dave.

And then have the political courage to step away from it. Have the political courage to go out (almost) alone into this country. Become the uber-candidate.

Meet with real people, in real grass-roots settings. Treat us like real human beings. Talk about real issues.

And have the political courage to share with us what you truly believe needs to be done. No fudging, no hedging your bets. Just like you did in 2004.

And have the political courage openly to address some of the apparent disconnect that real folk have seen in the TwoJohns.

So that you may become OneJohn.

Trust me. You will re-connect with ordinary working folk. And your money people? They might not understand what you're talking about. But they'll know a winning political calculation when they see one.

The fact is, John, real people know that all Candidates are driven by political calculation. The thing that separated you from the rest was that, along with the calculation, you promised a real you, who would show real political courage and real political conviction.

So far, all we think we're seeing is the political calculation. This is the time for the real you. This is the time for real political courage. This is the time for real political conviction.

All I want is to see you achieve that. For my friends, John, and for yours - the real working poor people in this country.

So I will continue to prod and to poke. To josh a little. To get serious at times. To applaud - and to remonstrate. And to hold open that offer to help you start re-connecting by doing a down-to-earth, grass-roots, radio interview with me...

TwoJohns: Political Courage


Onto the NBC "Meet The Press" interview with Tim Russert, and the subject of healthcare.

Again, John, great beginning. We need universal health coverage, so that there is not one child in this country who falls ill without a safety net to catch them. And we will need to raise taxes to do this.

Wonderful! Just last week, on this blog, I asked if there was a Democratic Candidate out there who had the courage to say we're going to have to raise taxes to do what needs to be done in this country to put things right.

Like you, John, I'm no tax-and-spend fiend. But you do what you have to do when it's time to do it. That's what real political courage is all about.

But then you got to the punchline...

You came up with the usual, tired, old tax fudge - we're going to get that money by abolishing Bush's tax cuts for the rich, and by having the government collect more back taxes.

It's like a farmer saying he's gonna get that coyote this time by having a louder alarm system. The reason the farmer ain't ever gonna get the coyote is 'cos the coyote is wily.

Same thing with the rich folks. They're going to get around paying taxes and having their back taxes collected because they hire good lawyers and accountants - whatever the government does. And real people know that, John.

So again, you say you're doing one thing - being politically courageous - but then regular working folk see quite clearly that the rough reality is that you're not being courageous at all.

Real working people have to make check-books balance in real time, rather than with accounting fudges. They know that you have to make tough choices to make those ends meet. You know that too, John. You spoke about it this past weekend.

Ordinary folk know that if you're going to pay the bill for what needs to be done in this country, you're going to have to find room in the federal budget for real money coming from real sources.

And if we're talking about $200 billion a year extra - and I think we are talking that much, to eliminate poverty - then that will mean either a dramatic re-ordering of priorities in federal non-discretionary spending (if you want to make your proposals tax and deficit neutral), or something like my suggestion for a one per cent federal tax increase across the board.

Now granted, not every working person would put it like that. They might say they understand that they might have to choose between funding Smokey the Bear or paying to ensure that every child in this country gets to eat properly, sleep properly, be educated properly and have a doctor if they need one. A genuine "No Child Left Behind" policy.

Real people, John, truly get the difference between real political courage and a political fudge.

And so, once again, we see this new disconnect between the TwoJohns. You say you're doing one thing, and ordinary folk people clearly see that you're actually doing another.

Maybe, John, you shouldn't be making any more cute videos about lousy political consultants? Maybe you should be be sending them out into the cold, to join the others on the turf-laying detail...bless their hearts?

TwoJohns: Political Calculation


So John, you had a busy weekend.

I read the transcript of your remarks to the DNC Winter Meeting. Truly wonderful.

Full of the language which shows that you've actually spoken to the ordinary men and women who have gone through those experiences.

I know - because I've been there, too.

This is you at your best. In its unvarnished form, it's what helps you to convince real working people that you speak for them.

And then we get to the punchline. As highlighted on your own campaign web-site:

"This is not the time for political calculation. This is the time for political courage."

Oh John. Are you really so hollow? And do you really think real folk are so shallow?

Look, we know you've got to calculate. Particularly now, what with all the big money people you have to schmooze. So don't pretend.

Do us all the credit of treating us like grown-ups. It's not who you are, or what you're doing that is causing the disconnect I fear so much. It's what you then say by way of rationale.

You talk of the disconnect between the TwoAmericas. And the pundits are still having merry hay because, with the way you're displaying your wealth and its timing, you seem to represent that very disconnect. That's what worried me at first, as well.

However, I'm now concerned about a much more damaging potential disconnect: the one between the TwoJohns - that is, when you say you're doing one thing, when in fact you're doing another.

Real people see that. They're not stupid. And it's beginning to worry them too. Because they know it's not 'real' at all.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

The Rough Reality of Money


I do believe that before the end of 2007 John Edwards will have taken my advice about making moves to re-connect with ordinary people.

The bottom line is that he has made his ability to speak to and speak for working folk the measure of his credibility and electability.

However, while we're on the theme of "Reality is Rough," the reality of the modern election cycle is that until at least June of this year, the focus of all Presidential Candidates is going to be on raising money.

Not so much because they need the money (which, of course, they do), but because everyone now recognizes that the first electoral beauty contest will not be Iowa in January 2008, but Wachovia in March 2007, followed by Bank of America in June 2007.

Howard Dean changed the dynamics.

Howard didn't leap from nowhere to the front of the Democratic pack one year before 2004 because he opposed the War on Iraq. He stole that front-runner status from John Kerry because he raised more money than anyone else, as reported in the first two quarters of 2003.

And contrary to popular opinion, Howard didn't raise all that money sitting on the Internet in Vermont. He raised it trading on his family connections with Wall Street powerhouse Dean Witter Reynolds.

The rough reality is that, with a wide-open race for the Democratic Nomination, the person who reports the most money raised at the end of the first two quarters of 2007 will probably achieve an unassailable popular lead going into the caucus and primary contests in 2008.

I say again, not because of the money per se, but because fund-raising chops on their own will be viewed as an early psychological test of electability.

And remember, that money will be coming from Wall Street, not Main Street. From Hollywood, not your neighborhood. The only thing about the Internet that will truly interest campaign treasurers will be those companies and individuals who became billionaires as a result of it.

Howard Dean opened up a whole new box of tricks in 2003. But he then closed it all down again in 2004.

He had everyone - including those holding the purse strings - convinced that the campaign playbook no longer had to be safe. You could go the whole way with a populist, insurgency campaign.

And so the check-books opened, and the political endorsements followed soon after.

Just in time for Howard to implode.

This time, boardrooms are going to want Candidates to play it safe - and they're going to want to know the definition of 'safe' before they empty their pockets.

That's why Hillary will be spending this week in meetings with her top money men and women. She's going to be showing them her campaign playbook, to convince them she has the moves to go all the way.

And that's why John, who has put together an excellent campaign that looks truly populist, actually has it under tight control, with intricate choreography of every aspect - he doesn't want to frighten off his own money men and women.

John knows the importance of making a big showing early on with election money efforts. Even though it was Howard who ended up making the biggest fund-raising splash among Democrats in 2003, it was John who led Democratic fund-raising in the first quarter of that pre-election year.

That was a feat that was to prove curiously prophetic of of his second place finish in the 2004 Iowa caucus - a result that may have been surprising to all but John and a few others who truly understand the bandwagon effect that success in fund-raising can have on voters in caucuses and primaries.

The word is that John has scheduled 24 fund-raisers over 19 days this February alone. Once again, John will be reaching out to fellow trial lawyers — as he did in 2004. “Fund-raising has been a lot easier than we thought it would be,” said Jennifer Palmieri, one of John's spokespersons.

Howard Wolfson, a spokesman for Hillary's campaign is on record saying: “No one plays the expectations game better than the Edwards team. For two years, they have been telling their extensive network of donors to hold off giving him money so they could collect at least $20 million in the first filing period of 2007."
[Editorial comment: "would that be a 'surge' of cash in the first filing period...oh come on; I couldn't resist!"]

So, the rough reality is that John will probably have to continue playing it polished until at least June, in the hope that by then he will have repeated and perhaps improved upon his election money performance of 2003.

The irony is that by then he may already have lost too much credibility with the very folks upon whom he is betting the whole deal - the real working men and women of America.

And the double irony may well be that the check-books were opening for John in the first place precisely because of his perceived ability to appeal to those working folk.

What to do? Frankly, if I had an easy answer to that conundrum, I'd probably be running John's campaign.

But Dave and John, is there not some way to do both - raise serious money, and maintain connection and credibility with real working people?

I can't help but wonder if my idea of two parallel efforts - Dave running OneAmerica, and John out doing grass-roots glad-handing - wouldn't actually prove quite attractive to potential financial supporters.

Populist and safe - both at the same time...?

The "Reality is Rough" Bandwagon (Episode II)


Air America Radio is now getting behind my efforts to help John Edwards get back on message.

Jon Elliott ("The Most Dangerous Liberal in America") has made an on-air pledge to help coax John into accepting my "Reality is Rough" invitation.

Jon hosts the 'fastest two hours on liberal radio,' between 10pm and midnight, Monday to Friday, on progressive Air America Radio.

Jon and I had become bogged down in a 'muscular' exchange of views via e-mail, when I decided to phone his show last Friday evening, and clear up all the misunderstandings.

I explained that I wasn't and never have been anti-Edwards. Far from it. I'm an admirer and supporter.

I'm just concerned that John is allowing himself to be swallowed up by the monolith of a campaign that he has so brilliantly put together.

I said that I feel John needs to take more time away from the OneAmerica juggernaut. And put its organization in the capable hands of Dave Bonior.

That would leave John free to return to grass-roots campaigning, where he could re-connect with ordinary people - let them see him right up close and personal.

I told Jon that I believed the best way to start that process would be for John to pop down the road and do a one-hour, no-holds barred interview on his local grass-roots radio station - with real people, talking about real issues.

Jon got the point in an instant. 180 degree turnaround. And the offer to use his best efforts to encourage John to get on the "Reality is Rough" bandwagon. Pronto!

Mind you, the fact that Jon thought I was anti-Edwards got me thinking. Look, I'm irreverent. That's the way I am. I poke fun. And I speak my mind when I think something's going wrong. But sometimes irreverence can be confused with mindless stridence.

Hmm.

Ok. Thanks Jon. Both for your vote of confidence. And for your little nudge to get me back on message too. No-one should be scared to admit they got off track. Not me. Not John Edwards.

I will continue to try to rescue John from his own campaign. But with a tad more humility and humor, and perhaps a little less stridence and aggression...well, I'll try!

In the meantime, good luck Jon on Air America, and best wishes to all at Progressive 1360AM in San Diego.

Now, over to you...John!

Thursday, February 1, 2007

The "Reality is Rough" Bandwagon (Episode I)


Now, I’m no great friend of trade unions, because I don’t think they’re great friends of real working people.

But I’ll give one union its due. It’s jumping on the “Reality is Rough” bandwagon.

Andy Stern, President of the Service Employees International Union, is now inviting all Presidential Candidates to "Walk a Day in My Shoes" with ordinary union members and their families, so that the Candidates can discover for themselves the reality of life in a regular union family.

To his credit, John is the first Candidate to have accepted the invitation. John said he was proud to be asked and that Elizabeth also has volunteered to participate.

Good for John, Elizabeth and Andy. Now John, all you have to do is go that OneStep further, and start meeting with and taking questions from real working folk.

Remember my open invitation to do just that, in a live, grass-roots, radio interview, with unscripted and unscreened call-ins from real working people.

John, just want to help you keep it real…