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Friday, July 23, 2004

Connolly/VandeHei Watch 7.23.04: Gang Mentality

Jim VandeHei writes on Kerry's Thursday speech promoting programs to crack down on gangs through additonal funding for inner cities. In doing so, I think it's mildly ironic that VandeHei exhibits some traits of his own gang, the national press corps. Check out paragraphs 3-5:

Kerry proposed spending $400 million over 10 years to prevent gang violence in no more than 20 communities. This new government money would be sent to cities to fund pilot programs focusing on such activities as tutoring and after-school training. ...

Sarah Bianchi, Kerry's domestic policy adviser, said other unrelated domestic programs would be scaled back to fund this new increase. The Bush campaign says this speech continues the trend of Kerry promising to spend money without detailing where it would come from. Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt faulted Kerry for previously voting against several programs to combat gang violence, including funds to help prosecute gang activity.

Kerry dropped his standard message of fiscal responsibility and listed more than one dozen government programs he would create or expand to help inner cities. He talked up tax incentives for attracting companies to big cities, new housing assistance, a new health care plan and billions of dollars in increases for education.

Is it really fair to say Kerry "dropped his standard message of fiscal responsibility" by proposing "$400 million over 10 years"? Let's keep the size of the federal budget in perspective here. The deficit is currently running over $500 billion (that's billion with a b), also known as $500,000,000,000. Kerry wants to spend what amounts to an extra $40 million per year (that's million with an m), also known as $40,000,000. Doing the math, 40,000,000/500,000,000,000 = 0.00008. Kerry wants to spend slightly less than one ten-thousandth the size of the current federal deficit on preventing gang violence--talk about irresponsible! Perspective, please.

(On the issue of this being a problem for the larger press corps, I would point to the "Fleecing of America" segment on the NBC Nightly News. Yes, they point out government waste, but the segment also furthers an anti-government sentiment in the country, I feel, and they leave out the perspective of just how vast that government is. So the Commerce Department mistakenly flushed a million dollars down the toilet--it just seems so disproportionate compared to other stories that get ignored.)

The "billions" in education spending VandeHei references at the end of what I quoted is money Bush's own No Child Left Behind Law requires but the White House refuses to spend, so it's wrong to blame Kerry for that. It amazes me that this administration, after the performance it has put together running up deficits, can challenge anyone else's fiscal responsibility while maintaining a straight face. (How exactly did Bush propose that we fund the war? Oh yes, by adding to the deficit.) It sure helps that the likes of Jim VandeHei are still under the Republican illusion that holding down domestic discretionary spending will make any sort of difference. The budget balance is almost entirely the product of entitlements, defense spending and tax revenues, not bitty urban social programs, sheesh.

Late in the piece, VandeHei does a bit of additional campaign housekeeping.

One week before he will accept the party's nomination, Kerry won the endorsement of the only Democratic rival left standing: Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (Ohio). Kucinich, the former mayor of Cleveland, was mostly a non-factor in the primaries but enjoys a loyal following among the party's antiwar wing.

Yes, the "antiwar wing" that now comprises a majority of the Democratic party. Kucinich didn't lose because he opposed the war; he lost because he is a fruitcake.

Then the final graf:

Kerry flew to Colorado, where he will launch his final march to the nomination Friday with a rally in his hometown of Aurora, where he lived until he was 4 months old.

I see an interesting contrast in how the Kerry campaign keeps emphasizing the candidate's birthplace in Colorado, like they're desperate to have people see him as being from somewhere other than New England. Bush, by contrast, isn't very keen on divulging that he was born in New Haven, Connecticut. His White House bio says, "President Bush was born on July 6, 1946, in New Haven, Connecticut, and he grew up in Midland and Houston, Texas." Lest we think any of Connecticut rubbed off on him (or those summers in Kennebunkport), they quickly assure us he grew up in the Lone Star State.

Ceci Connolly, by the way, was relegated to doing a victims' relatives reaction piece on the 9/11 report today. She's getting a variety of assignments these days.

MORE: Patrick Healy has a much better version of the Kerry/anti-gang story in the Globe.