Saturday, June 10, 2006

Quick hits from Sin City

It's a busy time out here in Vegas - talking to lots of bloggers who think they're the future kingpins of Democratic politics, commiserating with bloggers who were cleaned out at the blackjack table...but I do have a few drive-by observations on various and sundry matters:

As I noted here yesterday about the Zarqawi killing, there seem to be a fair number of Americans who can't easily be labeled by the right as "defeatist," just because they fail to view the event as a turning point in the war. Here's another, David Brannan, who worked for the Bush administration back in 2003 and 2004, directing security policy in Iraq for the Coalition Provisional Authority.

An excerpt from his Los Angeles Times op-ed piece yesterday: "But what will the death of Zarqawi mean to the hopes for peace in Iraq? Probably very little. An Al Qaeda website has already declared him a martyr. New leadership has likely stepped into place and is probably planning the next attacks on Iraqi Shiites and coalition forces. Zarqawi was credited with recruiting fighters from Jordan, the Palestinian territories and other lands previously unconcerned with Iraq, but his 'glorious' martyrdom at American hands will probably prove a potent recruitment tool for the fighters he trained. The overarching problem is that death and martyrdom are all that any Al Qaeda leader expects, so Zarqawi may be as effective in death at inspiring terrorist acts as he was in life."


Earlier this week, I analysed Democratic candidate Francine Busby's loss in a key congressional election in southern California, and, prior to the vote, I also wrote how a crucial verbal gaffe committed by Busby was quickly circulated by the well-oiled conservative communications empire. On that latter point, here's a piece that puts it all in a larger political perspective.

Robert Parry, the author, discusses the GOP apparatus that pounced on the Busby gaffe: "The conservatives keep building up their media infrastructure; the Republicans exploit this advantage with an instantaneous message machine that keeps them plugged into their backers and the broader electorate; the GOP then puts into play a powerful wedge issue in the weeks before the election; the missteps of the Democrats – no matter how minor – are blared out to voters."

But, as you see for yourself, he also contends that the Washington-based Democratic consultants are part of the problem. That's a widely-held view at the bloggers convention here in Vegas - there's major tension in the Democratic party between these outsiders and the DC insiders -- and I'll mention some of that Monday, in my print column on the blogosphere.


The quote of the week comes from Republican congressman Chris Shays, who is fighting for his job in Connecticut largely because of his early support for the Iraq war. He now says that he should have demanded more pre-war accountability when the Pentagon said the price tag wouldn't be high: "I fault myself. I was hearing voices in my own head that this was going to cost more, and I accepted the Pentagon numbers that were too low."

When a politician talks favorably about hearing voices in his head, you know he must be in trouble.


The New York Times ran a piece this morning on the bloggers convention, and flattered itself by mentioning that one of its visiting luminaries, Maureen Dowd, was getting mobbed by fans. So I'll balance that anecdote with this one:

At one point, the popular blog held a caucus meeting. The room was filled with bloggers, all toting their laptops. Since the room was wired for the Internet, they all went online, called up the MyDD website, and, as the meeting progressed, they blogged their reactions onto the website, in real time. A big screen was set up at the front of the room, beaming the website to one and all, presumably so that the bloggers could react to their blogged reactions in real time.

Anyway, Maureen Dowd came in and sat in the corner. Within seconds, this appeared on the big screen: "Oh (darn). New York Times in the corner." Rest assured that the scathing word was not darn.