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Howard Dean, Blonde Goddesses, etc.

Lately -- in the push for maintaining Democratic unity -- I have not found a whole lot of writing out there that mirrors my own thinking about the state of the presidential election. But Peter Beinart's piece in Time Magazine, If Howard Dean Were the Candidate really strikes a nerve in this household.

If Dean were the nominee, flip-flops wouldn't be the issue; Iraq would. The former Vermont Governor opposed the war from the start, and his rationale was as simple as Kerry's was convoluted: Saddam was not a threat. Of course, Dean would have had other general-election vulnerabilities. Republicans would have branded him the second coming of peacenik George McGovern. But Dean could have retorted that he (unlike Kerry) backed the first Gulf War. They would have ridiculed his lack of foreign policy experience. But there's an advantage to not having 20 years of Senate votes to defend, as Kerry has learned. (That's part of the reason Governors usually make stronger presidential candidates than Senators.)

Then there's Vietnam. In the primaries many of those Democratic voter-pundits figured Kerry's heroic service would reassure general-election voters that he was tough enough to lead the country after 9/11. But at best, Vietnam has proved a wash. After weeks of G.O.P.-orchestrated attacks on Kerry's war record, the Los Angeles Times in late August asked registered voters how his Vietnam service affected their vote. Twenty-three percent said it made them more likely to support Kerry, 21% said it made them less likely, and 53% said it had no effect.

And in a subtler way, Dean's lack of a war record might have actually helped him. For the Kerry campaign, Vietnam has been a crutch, an all-purpose response to any foreign policy attack. Partly as a result, Kerry's team didn't use the Democratic Convention to develop a compelling national-security message, a mistake it is frantically trying to remedy now. Dean, because he couldn't talk about Vietnam, might have focused on other things — like Bush's failure to get tough with the Saudis or fund homeland security — that Americans care more about than whether Lieutenant Kerry deserved his Bronze Star.

(Via Technorati.)

MEANWHILE, several newspaper articles about blogging have been making waves. The New York Times Magazine article strikes a blow for female bloggers. Its author does not wonder where all the female bloggers are. Rather, he makes me wonder how Wonkette got him to stop following her. In his article, female bloggers are slim blonde goddesses of Scandinavian descent who know how to find the best hours d'oeurves and liquor, whereas male political bloggers are argumentative nerds in rumpled clothes.

The other piece making waves in Billmon in the LA Times: Blogging Sells, and Sells Out. It seems to me that the effect Billmon describes is attributable not so much to commercialization, as to the presidential election. In this polarized environment, political blogging has become much tamer, more atuned to what the campaigns want us to say. Some have even gone so far as to discuss how we could try to be more "on message." (This last bit, I won't even link to, since its author was so well-meaning and I found the sentiment so appalling.) We don't sell out for the small payments for ads on our blogs, but I think significant tradeoffs in candor are being made in order to maintain party unity.

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