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Thursday, November 04, 2004

Need to Connect With Religious, Rural Voters Noted

As the Democrats began picking up the pieces yesterday after their latest defeat, many leaders focused on the need to re-engage their party with church-going and rural constituencies they acknowledge ignoring in the past.

The Democratic Party and allied groups waged an expensive and largely effective effort to increase the turnout of urban and minority voters, but Republicans trumped them by finding even more support among white voters outside the cities and inner-ring suburbs -- many of them people for whom religion is a central element.

That yielded a quickly emerging consensus yesterday across the Democrats' ideological spectrum that they "have to take the time to understand the concerns of rural families and Christian families," as Clinton White House chief of staff Leon E. Panetta put it. "We cannot ignore the swath of red [Republican] states across the South and Midwest. The party of FDR has become the party of Michael Moore and [his film] 'Fahrenheit 9/11,' and it does not help us in big parts of the country."

Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D), easily reelected Tuesday by Arkansas voters even as her state went for George W. Bush for the second time, said, "People are faced with so many problems they cling to faith and prayers." She added: "I don't hesitate to stand up in a crowd and express how important faith is in my life. It is important to be able to express that in a way that is believable, and Democrats have to get comfortable doing that."

Unlike 2000, when many Democrats blamed Al Gore for losing an election to Bush that they expected to win, few of more than a dozen Democrats interviewed yesterday said Sen. John F. Kerry was personally responsible for the crushing loss.

"Kerry comes out of this well," said Simon Rosenberg, head of the New Democrat Network. "He took on a very tough enemy and fought very well. The other team just beat us, and we have to figure out why."

But several others said his Senate colleagues are unlikely to accept Kerry as the party spokesman when he returns to the chamber. His running mate, Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, is retiring this year and will have to create a platform for himself to remain a visible leader.

Sen. Harry M. Reid of Nevada, a soft-spoken Capitol Hill veteran, is poised to take over as minority leader from Sen. Thomas A. Daschle of South Dakota, a skilled television performer who was defeated for reelection. Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, the House minority leader, saw her party lose seats in its first test since she moved into that post. She leads a caucus shrunken in size and in its geographic range.

Losses in five Senate races in southern states, where the Democratic incumbents are retiring, and the decimation of a redistricted Texas Democratic House delegation cut more states and districts from their strongest personal links with the national party.

Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (Conn.), who decided yesterday not to challenge Reid for the Senate Democratic leadership, said it behooves Democrats to "think long and hard about what happened yesterday. We were on the right side on the issues . . . but we lost our ability to connect to people on values. We have to get that back."

Despite speculation that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) would become the center of news media attention as a possible 2008 Democratic presidential candidate, her colleagues seemed skeptical that she would seek to establish a more prominent role for herself before she faces reelection in New York in 2006.

"Were I her, I would not want to be thrust into that, and I think she will go to considerable lengths to avoid that," said Harold Ickes, a former Clinton White House aide and a strategist in her first Senate run.

Rather than search for a quick fix from a political celebrity such as Clinton, several Democrats suggested that the party tap the strength of its governors. Gerald W. McEntee, the head of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the director of AFL-CIO political operations, cited Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack and Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell as examples. "You have to reach out to the Vilsacks and Rendells and listen to what they know from being out there," McEntee said. "You can't just have the leadership in the House or Senate go to some retreat 50 miles away and think they will figure it out."

Time and again, Democrats' comments yesterday circled back to the need to restore the language of values to the party's rhetoric and to try to reconnect with people of faith.

Ickes, who helped run America Coming Together, a coalition of liberal interest groups that supplemented Democratic Party advertising and voter-mobilization efforts, said his organization "hit all our goals" in terms of increasing Democratic turnout in states such as Ohio. "But we did not take into account the increase in [the Republican] vote. They're reaching people we don't reach and talking to them in a different way."

Sen. John Breaux (D-La.), who is retiring this year, said exit polls showed the vulnerability. "Any time a party does better with non-church-going people than with church-going people, you've got a problem," he said. "That is why we've lost across the South."

Henry G. Cisneros, a Clinton administration secretary of housing and urban development, said Democrats managed to fend off Republican efforts to score a major breakthrough Tuesday in the rapidly expanding Latino vote, but still were damaged by some cultural and religious issues.

"When the Catholic bishops started talking about abortion and gay marriage, it was enough to matter in the Latino and ethnic Catholic neighborhoods. We said our position on gay marriage was only marginally different from Bush's, but that did not deal with it."

Initiatives to ban marriages between same-sex couples were on the ballots of 11 states, and all of them passed. The initiatives were credited by Republicans with drawing more of their voters to the polls.

Peter D. Hart, one of the Democrats' most respected pollsters, said that if the party is honest with itself, it will acknowledge that for all the improvement in its voter-mobilization efforts, "we came out on the short end again. It goes back to fundamentals. When 40 percent of the voters are regular church-goers and they go for Bush by 20 points, what don't you get?

"Bush," he noted, "brings it back again and again to faith. That word turns up over and over in his speeches. We have not been able to connect, as he has, with people's core values. Kerry did a very good job in the debates in talking about his values, but that was the only time." Reticent at the beginning of the campaign to discuss his Roman Catholic faith, Kerry became more open in his comments as time went on.

Because the kind of shift Hart and others advocate will not come easily to many Democrats, they are calling for a substantial period of reflection and discussion as the first step in the recovery of their party.

James Zogby, an Arab American political activist and a member of the executive committee of the Democratic National Committee, said Democrats have to ask themselves: "Why did we become a party of little causes and no vision? Why do we so cavalierly throw off the religious vote?"

This defeat, he said, creates "an extraordinary opportunity for us to have a serious discussion independent of ambitions for the 2008 nomination. But our party seems averse to discussing policy."

David S. BroderWashington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 4, 2004; Page A35

Palestinian Official Says Arafat in Coma

PARIS - Yasser Arafat has lapsed into a coma in a French hospital, a senior Palestinian official said Thursday, a day after the Palestinian leader was rushed to intensive care following a sharp deterioration in his health.

French President Jacques Chirac went to the hospital and saw Arafat and his wife, "to whom he expressed his best wishes," Chirac's office said. The president also met members of the Palestinian Authority and doctors "who are doing everything possible for the health of the president," Chirac's office said.

The visit lasted about 30 minutes. Chirac did not speak to reporters.

French television station LCI quoted an anonymous French medical official as saying Arafat was in an "irreversible coma" and "intubated" a process that usually involves threading a tube down the windpipe to the lungs. The tube is often connected to a life support machine to help the patient breathe.

The Palestinian official would not say when Arafat lost consciousness. Two Arafat aides in Paris denied he was in a coma, but the senior Palestinian with close access to the medical team insisted Arafat was comatose.

A prolonged Arafat incapacitation or death could have profound impact on the Middle East. There are fears of unrest among Palestinian factions, which Arafat, viewed as a national symbol by even some who opposed him, was largely able to prevent. Furthermore, chaos in the West Bank and Gaza could make any cooperation with Israel even more difficult.

On the other hand, Israel and the United States have in recent years shunned Arafat as a terrorist and an obstacle to peace, and his replacement by a new leadership could open the door to renewed peace talks. Such a scenario could affect Israel's current plans to pull soldiers and settlers out of the Gaza Strip in a unilateral move not coordinated with the Palestinians.

French hospital officials would not comment on Arafat's condition. The 75-year-old leader was rushed to the Percy Military Training Hospital outside Paris for emergency treatment Friday. Since then, his condition has largely remained a mystery, with Palestinians issuing conflicting reports.

Israeli media, citing Israeli intelligence officials, said Arafat suffered organ failure and lost consciousness several times. The Maariv daily said his condition was "very critical."

Anxious Palestinian leaders held an emergency meeting in the West Bank on Thursday. Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath said top officials were in touch with Arafat's hospital every 30 minutes to check on his condition.

"The Palestinian leadership is in constant meeting to follow up on the president's health," Shaath said from Ramallah, where leaders of the PLO and Arafat's Fatah movement were meeting.

There is concern in Israel about the potential for chaos in the West Bank and Gaza Strip if Arafat dies or is incapacitated to the point where he is unable to perform politically. The Israeli army has a plan, called "new leaf," to deal with the fallout from Arafat's death, including possible Palestinian riots.

The Israeli military had not yet moved forces to anticipated problem areas, but commanders were told to be on standby.

Israeli security officials were meeting Thursday to study the repercussions in the Middle East should Arafat die, Israeli officials said. Top officials, including Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Army Chief Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon, were to focus their weekly meeting on reports that Arafat's health took a sudden turn for the worse, the officials said.

Among Israel's plans are ways to prevent Arafat from being buried in Jerusalem. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has said he would not permit Arafat to be buried in the city, claimed by both Israel and the Palestinians as their capital.

Cabinet official Saeb Erekat called reports Arafat had lapsed into a coma "baseless." Erekat told The Associated Press in Ramallah that Arafat's wife, Suha, told him Arafat's condition was "stable but difficult."

Shaath said, "He is not getting better but not getting worse either. He is being examined. He is not in a coma. There is no explanation for what has happened."

Mohammed Rashid, Arafat's financial adviser, also denied that Arafat was in a coma.

"Last night, several blood and bone marrow tests were done that required the president to be in an isolation unit for several hours, and there is no truth to any of the reports that he is in a coma," Rashid said in Paris.

Mohammed Dahlan, a former Palestinian security chief, accused Israel of spreading rumors.

"These unfounded reports are not coming from French medical teams, these are leaks from the Israeli side," he said in Paris. "Leaking such rumors will only complicate things and also complicate the situation within the Palestinian public."

Earlier Thursday, Palestinian officials said Arafat had lost consciousness repeatedly and described his condition as extremely serious. Efforts to reach Leila Shahid, the Palestinian envoy to France, were unsuccessful Thursday.

Arafat's condition worsened Wednesday and he was rushed into intensive care. Doctors do not know the cause of the blood and digestive disorders uncovered over the past few days.

Israel Radio reported that Mahmoud Abbas, No. 2 in the PLO hierarchy and a former prime minister, was on his way to Paris on Thursday.

Arafat, who fell ill three weeks ago, was flown to France after passing out briefly at his West Bank headquarters. He was initially described as having a bad flu, with symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea.

Palestinian officials insist publicly that leukemia and other forms of cancer, as well as any type of poisoning, have been ruled out.

The officials, undoubtedly conscious of the anxiety at home at the thought of a future without Arafat who has led the Palestinians for 40 years with no obvious successor, previously described his condition as improving and said more tests were being done.

Rashid said early Thursday the medical analysis was "deepening a little bit" but he remained confident Arafat would recover.

"There are no setbacks," he said. "It's no secret he's ill, that's why he's in France. But there is no threat, there is no danger, no serious degradation."

On Wednesday, Shahid said Arafat felt well enough to ask about the U.S. presidential election. An aide later issued a statement in Arafat's name congratulating President Bush on his re-election.

Associated Press

Bush in Position to Reshape Entire Federal Judiciary

WASHINGTON -- President Bush's victory in the popular vote, coupled with big gains in the U.S. Senate, may enable the White House to take a more aggressive approach in reshaping the federal courts, including the Supreme Court.

Over the next four years, Bush will make hundreds of lifetime appointments to the federal trial courts and appellate courts. He also is expected to name at least one, and possibly more, justices to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has not had a vacancy in more than a decade.

"He's already left an indelible mark on the lower courts," said Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice, a liberal public interest group that has opposed Bush nominees. "A second term will cement his hold on the entire federal judiciary."

The Senate has confirmed 201 of Bush's nominees to the federal trial and appellate courts. But Democrats filibustered some of his more controversial nominees, infuriating Senate Republicans who could not muster the 60 votes necessary to bring them to a vote.

Tuesday's election gave Republicans four more seats in the Senate, bringing them to 55. One was from South Dakota, where Republican Rep. John Thune defeated Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle. Some predicted that the addition of Republican seats, coupled with Daschle's defeat, would make it more difficult for Democrats to block future nominees.

"I suspect the president will have something of an easier time in dealing with the Senate Democrats over judicial nominations," said Bradford Berenson, a Washington lawyer and former administration official.

Bush's solid win in the popular vote robs Democrats of one of the main arguments they have used to support their filibusters. They have long said they were justified in filibustering some of Bush's judicial nominees because the president failed to win the popular vote in 2000, meaning he had no mandate to reshape the courts in a strong conservative vein.

Some have speculated that Daschle's defeat could make other Democratic senators in states that voted for Bush hesitant about joining a filibuster against judicial nominees. But Aron said the Democrats would stand firm.

"If there's been one issue that's galvanized the Democrats over the past four years, it is judicial nominations," Aron said. "I don't see senators holding back for one second," Aron said.

Sen. Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who is expected to be chairman of the Judiciary Committee next year, warned Bush against selecting any Supreme Court nominees who were too conservative to win confirmation.

The Supreme Court is divided 5-4 on a host of controversial issues, including race, religion, civil liberties and the environment. With four of the justices aged 70 or older, it's likely that Bush will have a dramatic impact on the direction of the high court, just as he has had on the lower courts in his first term.

An appointment could come sooner than expected. Chief Justice William Rehnquist announced this week that he is being treated with radiation and chemotherapy for thyroid cancer and would not return to the court as soon as planned, prompting doctors to speculate that he has an advanced form of the disease.

But his illness and advanced age--he is 80--increase the possibility that he soon would step down.

In recent years, White House officials have had ready a list of possible nominees from outside the court to replace him, with White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales at the top.

But many on the right oppose Gonzales because they believe he isn't reliably conservative, especially to replace the solidly conservative Rehnquist. Some also say he could be the next Justice David Souter, an unknown Republican nominee who became a liberal voice.

In recent weeks, some Republicans have suggested that Gonzales instead would become the nation's first Hispanic attorney general, taking the place of the controversial John Ashcroft in Bush's second term.

Bush then could nominate a more conservative chief justice, such as Judges J. Harvie Wilkinson or J. Michael Luttig from the Virginia-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.

Also under consideration is U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Edith Jones of the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit. Jones, a strict conservative, was a finalist for the court in 1990.

Jan Crawford Greenburg
Washington Bureau
Published November 4, 2004
Copyright © 2004, Chicago Tribune

A Dark Day in America: Bush wins

Bush's popular vote outcome is not surprising to me. Bush has been always successful in fear mongering the "patriotic" base into loyal submission. That's been a hallmark of his administration. What I'm worried about is how, with all the Fahrenheit 9/11s, all the government leaks, the Paul o' Neils, Richard Holbrookes, Abu-Ghraib's, Al-Qaqaas, the dismal presidential debates (for Bush), the depressed economy, the ballooning of the federal deficit, the loss of millions of jobs, the absolutely Orwellian anti-environmental policy of this administration, the Leave No Child Left Behind initiative (entitled sarcastically by actual teachers as the "No Child Left Alive" act), the smearing of our international reputation like no other administration before, the unnecessary embroilment in Iraq, the fumbling of the ball with respect to finding Osama Bin Laden in Tora Bora, the Patriot Act and curtailment of liberties and so on....

How could the American people vote massively (by a 3-4 million vote margin) to re-elect this fool...this dangerous, arrogant fool? We in the U.S. can look forward to 4 more years of increased reactionary policies in government. With re-election now not an issue for Bush, with the Congress firmly in Republican hands, and with the Supreme Court looking to be shaped for the next decades by Bush, you're going to see some of the most reactionary bills in the history of the United States suddenly be taken off the shelves of Republican think-thanks and pressed on the Congress to be passed quickly and easily. Welcome to Bush's 2nd term!

In one way, I feel relieved. For years, I've tried to state to my friends that it's not just the "government" but "the people". There seems to be an unspoken taboo regarding accusing the American people to be the source of our bad government, but in this case, I think that the adage that a people "deserve the government they elect" proves true. How long are we supposed to look the other way to the fact that a large part of country holds increasingly ignorant and radical-religious views? Who are the voting for? The American people have chosen to ignore all the incredibly abundant signs of corruption and reactionary ultra-conservatism of this administration and have given control of the world's fate to this arrogant Cowboy from Texas, and his crew of corporate-ruled cadres, and neocon imperial fanatics....AGAIN. "Fool me once, shame on you...fool me twice, shame on ME". And boy does it seem that we've been fooled! The first time the election was stolen...this time, we gave it to the thief!

Shame on you, American people. You were given a lot of facts and you ignored them, focusing more on whether you liked Bush's "confident" swagger than Kerry's more reserved style. Stylistic issues took precedence over hard facts. My message to Red States and Republicans: I don't want to see a single tear about dead soldiers anywhere on the globe from Red States or Republican families. You've forfeited your right to be legitimately to be angry about our embroilments abroad when you voted for the man who sent your sons/daughters to die unnecessarily. I don't want to hear laments about how we find ourselves still quagmired in Iraq and the President is saber-rattling about starting a War with Iran. I don't want to hear about how you felt uncomfortable in your last trip to pretty much all of Europe, Asia, Africa, or Latin America. I don't want to see a single cry of surprise or outrage if another terrorist attack does occur....we've had ample evidence to prove that Bush's arrogance has proved a recruiting boon for equally angry radical Islamists in the Middle East. We've made that easier for them, and an attack more likely. I don't want to hear a single complaint about gas prices going up or a Republican losing his job or the economy deepening its inequality...you knew who you were electing in this election and you knew his record on the economy. I don't want to hear about another "hero" who has died in foreign lands. If they truly were our heroes, we wouldn't have elected this President, which will assure that they stay in harm's way for more unnecessary reasons and for longer times. If you get searched on some airplane and detained at an airport, don't act indignant that they stopped you (a Republican); instead reflect on how you made it possible for the "big brother" government to continue, and worsen. If you have any integrity left, Republicans and Red States, you will suck up all "second-thoughts" in the Bush 2nd term and spare us, the Democrats, the pain, anger and anguish of having to say, "not only did we TELL YOU SO, you could see it for yourself for the last 4 years!". You knew...damnit, you knew what you were doing...and you still gave power to this dangerous fool.

We deserve the government we elected, we deserve the corruption, fearmongering, and war-waging that will occur in the 2nd term, we deserve every single part. We have nothing more to do than wade through Dante's last circle of hell and hope we come out the other side with some semblance of our Republic.

Jamie Foxer is an undergraduate student at the University of Massachusetts. She may be reached at jamiefoxer@hotmail.com

Arafat Rushed to Intensive Care

PARIS, Nov. 4 -- Yasser Arafat, the ailing Palestinian leader who was flown to a French military hospital last week, was rushed to intensive care after suffering a setback and was undergoing a new round of tests, Palestinian officials said early Thursday.

The two officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Arafat's condition had seriously deteriorated over the past day and that doctors who have been examining him still did not know the cause of his illness.

Top aides to Arafat, however, denied that there had been any setback and accused Israel of spreading rumors. The report first aired on Israel's Channel 2 television.

Khaled Salem, a top aide to Arafat, said early Thursday that the medical analysis was "deepening a little bit," but he remained confident Arafat would recover. "There are no setbacks."

Arafat, 75, left his shell-battered compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah for the first time in more than two years after receiving assurances from his longtime enemy, Israeli Prime Minster Ariel Sharon, that he would be allowed to return after undergoing treatment.

Arafat has suffered for months from an apparent stomach disorder and other ailments. But until Friday he had refused to seek medical treatment outside his compound, where he has been under virtual Israeli house arrest since March 2002, fearing that Israeli authorities would not allow him to return to Palestinian territory.

An aide said that Arafat felt well enough Wednesday to ask about the U.S. presidential election. A statement was later issued in Arafat's name congratulating President Bush on his reelection.

Associated Press
Thursday, November 4, 2004; Page A08

The Once and Future Hope?

If you set out to create the perfect Democratic presidential candidate, you would probably choose someone from the South or the border states, since John Kerry lost virtually the entire region on Tuesday, and someone who is comfortable talking the language of religion and values, since John Kerry was not, and someone whose wife is identified with conventional values, and, last, someone who took a very early position against the war in Iraq, which John Kerry did not. Such a person already exists and, as luck would have it, has a name: Al Gore.

I know, I know. It is much too early to start thinking of 2008, because we first must unite the country, confront our enemies and utter all the standard cliches. Nonsense. At a certain hour Tuesday night thoughts already turned to next time. In many of the blue states the name Hillary Clinton was uttered with frequency, and in others it was John Edwards (who has the right demographics). Not to my knowledge is anyone talking Gore -- not even, according to his friends, the man himself.

Still, you have to notice that either as a generic type of politician or a real one, Gore is what his party needs. He has relocated from Washington to Nashville, and he threw himself into the 2004 presidential campaign with commendable abandon. He endorsed Howard Dean, you will remember, but wound up campaigning for Kerry. Significantly, he was where Hillary Clinton, among others, was not -- against the war in Iraq. If the war continues, it will deepen as an issue, and Gore, as Gary Hart said about George McGovern, will be deemed "right from the start."

It is paradoxical that the Democratic Party, which is so beholden to Jews for energy, funds and ideas, has not looked into a mirror and noticed something odd. No matter how rich the Jewish community got, no matter how powerful, too, it continued to vote overwhelmingly Democratic. In other words, it voted against its economic self-interest, which would be lower taxes or, in the fantasies of Republicans, almost no taxes at all. This is the power of culture. Two, three generations out of the impoverished Eastern European ghetto, powerful and privileged beyond compare, most Jews still vote as if the Cossacks might come at any moment and the sweatshop boss might throw them out into the streets.

So it should come as no surprise that the power of culture -- the power of it to override or cancel out economic self-interest -- has become so prominent in American political life. The very fact that Ohio remained a battleground state to the end is a case in point. It had -- and has -- a weak economy. It has lost hundreds of thousands of jobs. Yet it seems that countless Ohioans did not vote their wallets but their cultural values -- 62 percent in support of an amendment banning same-sex marriage, for instance. The economy may be bad, but not so bad as the prospect of gay marriages.

From a Democratic perspective, what this country needs is a good recession. Barring that, the party needs a candidate who can be comfy talking religion and who, once that's established, can go on to talk about other things. Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), once a key political aide to Bill Clinton, points out that both Clinton and Jimmy Carter had that quality. Clinton coined the klutzy term "new covenant" in his first campaign -- not catchy but freighted with biblical meaning. Carter proclaimed himself a born-again Christian and, amazingly, has spent a post-White House lifetime proving it. By establishing their cultural bona fides, they were able to move on to other issues. It was "the economy, stupid" only because Clinton first hurried home from the campaign trail to preside over the execution of a cop killer -- a jackpot of a social issue.

Back in July, delegates to the Democratic National Convention were asked whom they would choose in 2008 if Kerry lost. Twenty-six percent of them said Hillary Clinton, with Edwards the runner-up at 17 percent. It is always a mistake to discount Clinton -- or to ignore her spirituality. But she is blue where she needs to be red and North where she needs to be South and still and maybe forever more associated with scandal. The Democrats know what their candidate has to look like. They can see him, or someone like him, in the rearview mirror.

Richard Cohen
Thursday, November 4, 2004; Page A25