July 28, 2004


Breaking sharply with the enforced harmony of the Democratic National Convention, the president of the largest AFL-CIO union said Monday that both organized labor and the Democratic Party might be better off in the long run if Sen. John F. Kerry loses the election.

Andrew L. Stern, the head of the 1.6 million-member Service Employees International Union (SEIU), said in an interview with The Washington Post that both the party and its longtime ally, the labor movement, are “in deep crisis,” devoid of new ideas and working with archaic structures.

Stern argued that Kerry’s election might stifle needed reform within the party and the labor movement.

Neither, probably, is this:

Whether democracy is really coming to Iraq, or whether it is even possible here, seemed of no immediate concern to Dr. Ahmad Abu-Raghif, a physician in Baghdad. He was game anyway.

He showed up at a university hall here on Sunday with a good haircut, a blue suit and a big smile: the outfit of the office-seeker worldwide. He buttonholed 50 people, he said, at the grass-roots caucus, making the pitch for their votes. . . .

Caucuses like the one Dr. Abu-Raghif attended have been convening around Iraq to select roughly 1,000 delegates, who will hold a national conference in Baghdad in the next week.

The concrete goal of the conference is to vote – openly and freely – on a 100-seat transitional council that will oversee the government of Iyad Allawi, the interim prime minister, until national elections are held in January.

(How do we know it’s bad news for Kerry? The UN wants to delay elections!) And, while we’re on the list of things that sound bad for Kerry, how about this report?

U.S. consumer confidence rose this month to a two-year high, boosted by an improving job market that also is helping keep new-home sales close to a record. . . .

The creation of 1.3 million jobs so far this election year is starting to lift optimism that lagged as gasoline prices rose as much as 35 percent and higher food and health-care costs helped pushed consumer prices up 3.3 percent from June 2003. The Conference Board said the percentage of Americans who consider jobs hard to find is now the lowest since October 2000.

It must be a bummer to be in a situation where all this good news feels like bad news.

UPDATE: The terrible tidings just keep rolling in:

The first-ever public opinion poll in Afghanistan shows that people there are optimistic about the future and excited about upcoming elections. . . .

Afghanistan has a constitution, is registering voters and is moving toward holding a presidential election in October. And the survey of 804 randomly selected male and female Afghan citizens, commissioned by the Asia Foundation notes that:

* 64 percent say the country is heading in the right direction.

* 81 percent say that they plan to vote in the October election.

* 77 percent say they believe the elections will “make a difference.”

* 64 percent say they rarely or never worry about their personal safety, while under the Taliban only 36 percent felt that way.

* 62 percent rate President Hamid Karzai’s performance as either good or excellent.

This was no pro-Bush put-up job. The polling firm, Charney Research, is a partisan Democratic polling firm. And superstar Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, who’s read the study — and who has worked on similar polling in developing countries — calls it “very reliable.”

The horror, the horror.

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