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Bullish Democrats

Senator Chuck Schumer, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), held a press conference with reporters this afternoon and was absolutely bullish about the Democrats chances of taking back the Senate.

As an example, he pointed to Arizona. Polls have shown Republican Senator Jon Kyl with a comfortable lead over Democratic challenger Jim Pederson. But according to early voting indicators, 30 percent of Arizonians have already voted, and, based on DSCC polling, Pederson leads Kyl among that group, 44 to 40 percent.

"If Virginia is the cinderella story of '06, Arizona is the sleeper," Schumer said. Among the overall electorate, Kyl leads Pederson by single-digits, according to Schumer, and the DSCC recently went on the air in Phoenix and Tucson with $1 million in television ads. "This could be a harbinger of a wave," Schumer predicted.

Democrats need to pick up six seats to take back the Senate. Polling indicates that they're ahead by significant margins in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, clinging to a small lead in Montana and tied, if not up slightly, in Missouri and Virginia. Tennessee, where Harold Ford has been hit with a barrage of nasty, racially-tinged TV ads, appears to be trending Republican.

In these tight races, the DSCC is spending $25 million on get-out-the-vote efforts, which Schumer believes made the difference for Republicans in '04. "The two states where we built the strongest field operations were Montana and Missouri," Schumer stated, though he admitted to not knowing the difference between an RV and a Winnebago.

Luckily, John Kerry's much-discussed comments came up only once. "Senator Kerry has apologized," Schumer said. "He's said he's not gonna say anything else."

Before concluding, Schumer had one last message for the press: "Don't forget to vote."

Dear John Kerry: Shut Up!

With all due respect to my Notion colleagues, John Kerry is a pathetic loser --indeed, an almost compulsive gaffe-maker -- and we shouldn't waste time and energy defending him. He is that all-too-common Democratic politician who makes you paranoid that you're living in a scary science fiction story, in which the supposed "opposition" candidates are actually androids controlled by the ruling party, programmed to weakly simulate campaigns, then quickly disintegrate into self-sabotage. Why else would Kerry have defended himself against the mendacious Swift Boat veterans two years too late? And why else would he and the rest of the Democrats be doing next-to-nothing to fight voting machine fraud, and curb racist vote suppression by the Republicans? And why must he invariably be such a dumbass?

Granted, Kerry didn't intend to make fun of the troops. But he's in no position to mock anyone else's academic record. The Yale transcripts of Bush and Kerry -- widely reported last year --showed that the two were equally sorry students. Kerry actually got four Ds his freshman year. Bush isn't the only one who owes his success more to his privilege than to hard work or talent. Let's hope this latest snafu puts the kibosh on presidential hopes that should have died long ago, and that Kerry shuts up before he helps elect more Republicans. (Apparently some in the Party establishment agree -- his campaign appearances have reportedly been cancelled.)

So, let's shrug our shoulders and let Kerry twist in the wind. There are many more important things at stake in Tuesday's election. It looks like the Republicans may lose their shirts, despite Android Kerry's best efforts to re-elect them. And despite the manifold forces working to convince them to do otherwise, some voters may actually consider real issues when they go to the polls. The citizens of Boulder, Colorado, for instance, will consider a "carbon tax" on businesses and homeowners, based on their electricity usage. The tax will fund efforts to reduce emissions that cause global warming (wind and solar power projects, initiatives to encourage people to drive less) and will also provide a much-needed incentive for businesses and homeowners to strive for greater energy efficiency. This ballot measure isn't pie-in-the-sky, either; it's been endorsed by the town's Chamber of Commerce, and has no organized opposition.

Rove Rides the Swift Boat Once More

John Kerry's not even on the ballot. So how come everyone is talking about the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee's failed attempt to make a joke at the expense of George W. Bush's education -- or lack thereof?

Because media coverage of this campaign, at least in its final days, is going according to Karl Rove's script -- thanks in no small measure to the inability of most political reporters to chart their own course on the eve of an election.

Rove needs the focus to be on Kerry.

The White House political czar is fully conscious that the Republican base -- social conservatives, people who don't want to pay their taxes and angry white men with an exceptionally narrow view of what it means to be a patriot -- has been trained to despise and fear the Massachusetts senator in a way that there just is not enough time to gin up hatred for Nancy Pelosi or any other Democratic "infidel" of the moment.

With Rove shifting the entire Republican pre-election push toward a base-energizing initiative that relies almost entirely on stoking disdain for Democrats, he's got to get people focused on Kerry.

Rove has seen the polls. He knows that the base is shaky. Republican House candidates are stuck in close races not just in the classic swing districts of suburban Philadelphia and south Florida -- where folks who actually voted for Al Gore in 2000 and Kerry in 2004 are represented by vulnerable Republicans -- but also in contests in Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Nevada and other states that voted overwhelmingly for Bush in both of his presidential runs.

To avoid the election of a House -- and perhaps a Senate -- that might have substantial enough majorities to hold the Bush administration to account for its actions, Rove has shifted the Republican focus toward a number of competitive Senate and House contests in the interior west, where large numbers of Republican base voters have grown disenchanted enough with the party to consider Democrats.

Republican money is being pulled out of high-profile Senate races in Ohio and Pennsylvania -- where it costs a fortune to maintain a media campaign in multiple markets -- to the smaller states of the west where it is possible to get more bang for the buck. And the biggest bang comes from scaring base voters back into the Republican camp.

Hence the Kerry message.

That's why, well after the story had run its course, Bush and Dick Cheney were still talking about it on the campaign trail.The president and vice president are incorporating lengthy riffs on Kerry's comments in their stump speeches. And they are being steered into states that don't usually experience White House visits on the eve of an election.

The Republicans focusing particularly hard on Montana, where populist Democrat Jon Tester has led scandal-plagued Republican Senator Conrad Burns for most of the fall. Tester's been helped by the broader Democratic trend in the west, and particularly in Montana, as well as the incumbent's verbal stumbles and extensive links to convicted influence-peddler Jack Abramoff.

But Rove and the other Republican strategists have decided to make a stand in the Big Sky state. Bush and Cheney are being dispatched to the state, as well as to other western states where the GOP is betting that a final push against Kerry and "elite" Democrats will save enough seats to hold the Senate and perhaps the House. Cheney was in Montana Wednesday, talking at great length about Kerry -- ``Of course, now Senator Kerry says he was just making a joke, and he botched it up,'' the vice president announced in Kalispell. ``I guess we didn't get the nuance. He was for the joke before he was against it."

Bush will pick up the line of attack today, when he too visits the state.

Why Montana?

The fight for control of the Senate really is close. Count on Democrats to hold every seat that is now in their column and to pick up Republican seats in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. There are decent chances for Democrats to pick up another Republican seat or two in the highly-competitive and much-talked-about races of Virginia, Missouri and Tennessee -- although it now appears that Democrats are wavering on whether to remain in the Tennessee fight after their candidate, Harold Ford, slipped in several polls.What this all adds up to is the prospect that Democrats could expand their Senate caucus to 49 seats on Tuesday. But to get to 50, where they can demand the equal position on committees that is key to organizing hearings and investigations, or even to 51, where they can control the chamber, they need Montana.

Montana Democrats have figured out how to win as western populists and outsiders, such as Governor Brian Schweitzer. They don't run to the right -- Tester's for bringing the troops home from Iraq and against the Patriot Act -- but they do run against Washington insiders. And they don't want to be linked to Kerry and other Democrats who are portrayed as east-coast elitists. The same goes for surging Democratic House candidates in Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho, Nebraska and other states -- whose victories would give Nancy Pelosi not just a bare majority but room to move as the Speaker of a Democratic House.

Tester, one of the most well-grounded and genuinely impressive of the new crop of outside-the-beltway Democrats, is in Rove sites. He's fighting back with everything he's got. And he's still a good bet to win. But, bet on this, Rove, Bush, Cheney and the entire Republican spin machine will be doing everything in their considerable power to hang John Kerry around Jon Tester's neck. It's not fair to Kerry, whose comments are being taken out of context. It's not fair to the political process, which ought not be focused on such silliness at so critical a point.

But no should expect Karl Rove to play fair. And, unfortunately, no one should expect most political reporters to recognize that, by again helping to swiftboat John Kerry, they are working from Rove's political playbook.

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John Nichols' new book, THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure for Royalism is being published this month by The New Press. "With The Genius of Impeachment," writes David Swanson, co-founder of the AfterDowningStreet.org coalition, "John Nichols has produced a masterpiece that should be required reading in every high school and college in the United States." Studs Terkel says: "Never within my nonagenarian memory has the case for impeachment of Bush and his equally crooked confederates been so clearly and fervently offered as John Nichols has done in this book. They are after all our public SERVANTS who have rifled our savings, bled our young, and challenged our sanity. As Tom Paine said 200 years ago to another George, a royal tramp: 'Bugger off!' So should we say today. John Nichols has given us the history, the language and the arguments we will need to do so." The Genius of Impeachment can be found at independent bookstores and at www.amazon.com

The Soldiers Speak Out

"As a patriotic American proud to serve the nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq. Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for US troops to come home."

This statement – the Appeal for Redress – has been signed by over 600 active-duty soldiers who have had enough of seeing their brothers and sisters sacrificed to the disastrous war in Iraq. In this month alone, 101 American soldiers have been killed, more than in any month since January, 2005 and the fourth highest monthly total since the war began in March, 2003.

Seaman Jonathon Hutto and Marine Sergeant Liam Madden spearheaded the Appeal which is co-sponsored by Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans for Peace and Military Families Speak Out. It is the latest effort stemming from the antiwar energy that has emerged among military families, veterans, and active military, including generals and other high-ranking officers. It's also the first antiwar movement organized by active military personnel since the Vietnam War.

Hutto, who served off the Iraq coast from September 2005 until March, told the Washington Post, "I hear discussions every day among my shipmates about the war in Iraq and how it doesn't make any sense at this point. There is no victory in sight."

Madden served in Anbar province from September 2004 until February 2005. "I don't think any more Iraqis or Americans should die because of the US occupation," he told ABC News. "If people want to support the troops, then they should support us coming home." Madden cited his disillusionment with a war based on non-existent weapons of mass destruction and phantom links between al Qaeda and Iraq.

One soldier, speaking under condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said, "I don't think that the American public realizes just how many soldiers and service members in general really do have reservations about what is going on over there….It's very hard. These soldiers seeing all this tribal fighting, ethnic fighting going on around them.…There is not really anything you can do to stop this."

Another soldier said he believed the Appeal would have "a snowball effect" and more and more people would sign on. "Once they start seeing momentum going forward and more and more service members coming out, they will be much more inclined to come out as well."

The names and comments of those signing onto the initiative are not made public. The Military Whistleblower Protection Act allows for "a protected communication" with Congress – but only while off-duty and out of uniform. The Appeal will be delivered to Congress on Martin Luther King Day, 2007.

These brave men and women, who put their lives on the line for our nation every day, must be heard.

New Voter ID Requirement: Platinum AmEx Card

What are the new voter ID requirements set by Republicans? "You can vote if you present a Platinum Visa or American Express card; a signed golf scorecard; a yacht license, a $10,000 bill, or a large public building named after you." That was Samantha Bee's report on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on Tuesday night.

The new voter ID requirements were established in Ohio by Republican Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, who is African- American. Stewart asked how minority voters were responding to these new requirements. "Minority voters are excited – and proud," correspondent Aasif Mandvi explained. "It's a milestone. For the first time in our history, a black man will have the chance to disenfranchise everyone else."

Blackwell himself is also running for governor. Stewart asked, "doesn't that give the appearance of conflict of interest?"

"No, John," Mandvi responded. "It's the definition of conflict of interest."

If young people are indeed getting their news from Jon Stewart, as many have reported, our future seems to be in good hands.

The Real Iraq Scandal

Ten Iraqis were killed and 21 injured this morning in a series of attacks in Baghdad, according to CNN. Yesterday, a car bomb struck a wedding party, killing 15 more.

One hundred and four American troops died in October, the fourth deadliest month for the US since the war began. Pick up a newspaper and look at the fatalities. Soldiers ages 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, their lives taken prematurely in an unnecessary war.

If anyone should apologize for the mess in Iraq, it's George W. Bush. But Republicans--who brought us this tragic, brutal war--want to once again turn John Kerry into the scapegoat.

Here's what Kerry meant to say at a speech Monday in California: "I can't overstress the importance of a great education. Do you know where you end up if you don't study, if you aren't smart, if you're intellectually lazy? You end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq."

Here's what he actually said: "Education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. And if you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."

As Michael Crowley of The New Republic notes, Kerry bungled a joke. Bush bungled a war. What's worse?

A New 'Moyers for President' Twist

Several months ago, Molly Ivins and I wrote columns suggesting that Bill Moyers should consider seeking the presidency in 2008 [Molly] and that, if he did, he should mount a serious campaign [John]. Despite the fact that the journalist and author who has become in many senses the moral voice of the nation did not leap at the opportunity to wade into the swirling political waters of this turbulent moment, the columns sparked an enthusiastic response -- hundreds of emails, several websites and a busy Draft Bill Moyers for President weblog.

Now that the 2006 election season is coming to the close that in this era of the permanent campaign marks the opening of the 2008 election season, the Moyers movement -- if a campaign without an announced candidate can be called that -- has attracted an unexpected enthusiast.

Consumer activist Ralph Nader, something of a regular on the presidential campaign trail himself n recent years, has penned a sharp, well-articulated case for a Moyers candidacy.

Nader begins by asking "How does 'Bill Moyers for President' sound to you?"

It's a rhetorical question, which Nader has clearly answered for himself.

"The long time Democrat and special assistant to President Lyndon B. Johnson would surely widen the political debate inside the Democratic Party and its primaries in 2008," he writes.

The man who carried the Green Party banner in the 1996 and 2000 lays out a savvy proposal on behalf of a Moyers run for the Democratic nomination in the next presidential election:

For over a year, since leaving Public Television and his luminous Friday night program /NOW/, Moyers has been completing a book about President Johnson. His periodic lectures on the politics of progressive populism and the dangers of corporate power and abuses have thrilled large civic audiences and circulated widely on the Internet.

A few months ago, columnists Molly Ivins and John Nichols wrote about the desirability of Moyers' tossing his hat into the ring. In his private conversations with friends, I am told, he has not ruled out a run. On the contrary he showed some interest in an exchange with an old Texan friend.

Moyers brings impressive credentials beyond his knowledge of the White House-Congressional complexes. He puts people first. Possessed of a deep sense of history relating to the great economic struggles in American history between workers and large companies and industries, Moyers today is a leading spokesman on the need to deconcentrate the manifold concentrations of political and economic power by global corporations. He is especially keen on doing something about media concentration about which he knows from recurrent personal experience as a television commentator, investigator, anchor and newspaper editor.

As millions of viewers and readers over the decades know, Bill Moyers is unusually articulate and authentic in evaluating the unmet necessities and framing the ignored solutions in our country.

He has interviewed hundreds of authors, scholars, politicians and activists demonstrating his penchant for being well prepared in advance.

Moyers would bring to the Democratic Party a much needed understanding of the South, its political, populist and religious history and contemporary dynamics. His Baptist, Texas background would help his Party understand how to stop writing off the South to the Republicans from the Presidential to the state and local levels and how to become engaged in this fastest growing region of the nation.

Few people can bridge the perceived gaps between political regions. His books demonstrate that unique and calm ability to persuade people to come to grips with fundamentals. His presence in the Presidential primary debates would not be marginalized.

Moyers has done numerous television programs on the corruption of money in politics-commercial money given to incumbents and candidates with the understanding that there is a /quid pro quo/. He wouldn't follow those paths. Still he would have to raise money without strings attached to be credible to the media and the pollsters.

This is where Moyers has an advantage over other progressive candidates either within the Democratic Party, like Dennis Kucinich, or in the Green Party, like Peter Camejo and Howie Hawkins.

Moyers has the best contacts among well-to-do progressive Americans of anyone I know. People, who want nothing in return but clean politics, responsive government and more power to the people to make corporations servants, not masters, respect Moyers.

My guess is that with a good campaign staff he could raise $30 million during the primary season and receive millions more in federal matching funds. Such a sum would not come close to the cash that Hillary Clinton or John Kerry could raise. But carefully spent and connected to a community based movement of new leaders to freshen and redirect the Democratic Party, something of a breakthrough could happen.

At the least Moyers would quicken the pulse of his Party and give it some moxy.

Nader closes off by taking things a step further, suggesting a willingness to serve as a pointman for a Moyers campaign by closing his statement with the line: "If you have any interest in this proposal contact me at P.O. Box 19312, Washington, DC 20036."

Ralph Nader has plenty of critics, especially when he starts stirring the presidential waters. But this is a proposal that both his supporters and his critics should read with interest, as should a certain journalist from Texas.

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John Nichols' new book, THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure for Royalism is being published this month by The New Press. "With The Genius of Impeachment," writes David Swanson, co-founder of the AfterDowningStreet.org coalition, "John Nichols has produced a masterpiece that should be required reading in every high school and college in the United States." Studs Terkel says: "Never within my nonagenarian memory has the case for impeachment of Bush and his equally crooked confederates been so clearly and fervently offered as John Nichols has done in this book. They are after all our public SERVANTS who have rifled our savings, bled our young, and challenged our sanity. As Tom Paine said 200 years ago to another George, a royal tramp: 'Bugger off!' So should we say today. John Nichols has given us the history, the language and the arguments we will need to do so." The Genius of Impeachment can be found at independent bookstores and at www.amazon.com

Moral Depravity Week

I never pegged Senator George Allen as much of a reader. Nor, after his sister's memoir, did I imagine he spent much time worrying about the mistreatment of women. But last week he sounded more like a English major with a minor in gender studies than a foul-mouthed ex-football jock when he complained that his opponent's novels portrayed women as "servile, subordinate, inept, incompetent, promiscuous, perverted, or some combination of these."

It seems like a Saturday Night Live parody of a political attack until you focus on two of the adjectives: promiscuous and perverted. That is because the Republican's October surprise turns out to be moral depravity.

In Wisconsin they accused one Democratic Congressional candidate of spending tax dollars to study Vietnamese prostitutes and another of having connections to a child molester. In New York, they accused a Democrat of dialing a fantasy hotline. And in Tennessee, they accused Harold Ford of taking money from a porn producer and meeting a white woman at a Playboy party.

After ten years of corrupt Republican rule, this is apparently the best that Karl Rove and Ken Mehlman can come up with. Let us pray that election day the American public makes it their last, dying gasp.

Osama's Party

Who's trying to use the war in Iraq for political gain, the Bush Administration or the insurgents?

"It's my belief that they're very sensitive of the fact that we have got an election scheduled," Vice President Dick Cheney said of the insurgency yesterday on Fox News. "Their basic proposition that they can break the will of the American people."

Oh yeah, and it's just a coincidence that Saddam Hussein's verdict will be delivered on November 5. "Shouldn't that raise a few eyebrows somewhere?" our own Tom Engelhardt wrote earlier this month.

The Bush Administration has a long and documented history of politicizing the war in Iraq. They marketed the war after Labor Day in 2002 to swing the midterms to Republicans. They delayed major assaults on insurgent strongholds until after the '04 election. So delivering a death sentence to Saddam two days before election day certainly wouldn't be out of character.

And since the Administration consistently confuses the insurgency with Al Qaeda, who do you suppose bin Laden is really rooting for in '06?

President Bush bungled the war in Afghanistan, failed to capture bin Laden in Tora Bora and played straight into bin Laden's hands by invading Iraq and turning a secular Muslim country into an Islamic extremist breeding ground. If Al Qaeda had their way, the US would probably stay in Iraq forever.

Bin Laden's pre-election videotape in '04 is widely credited with swinging the election towards Bush. So Osama, if you're reading this blog in your wireless equipped underground cave, I have a special message for you. Please sit this election out.