The Outsiders

If you've bothered to pay any attention to the low-wattage drama of the race for chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), you probably know that Howard Dean is on the verge of winning it. But, during a three-month process in which many candidates and would-be candidates have stumbled briefly into the fray, nothing is more illustrative of how Democratic politics have changed than the fate of Leo Hindery. You've probably never heard of Hindery, but he is one of the party establishment's longtime moneymen.

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The Last Casualty

The moment one lands at Baghdad Airport, all the political arguments, all the philosophical certainties, all the things that Iraq has come to represent in the American imagination simply melt away. What's left is a place--a not very nice place. From the backseat of a beat-up sedan steered by a gun-toting Iraqi driver, the streets of Baghdad look no different than they did during my last trip here six months ago—except for the large number of Iraqi police, who seem to be everywhere. The smell of burning trash is ubiquitous, as is the sound of gunfire.

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Last week, after 2.8 million votes, three recounts, four lawsuits, and innumerable accusations of fraud and corruption, Christine Gregoire was sworn in as governor of Washington State. The inauguration in Olympia, the state's mythically named capital, took place on the kind of sodden, blustery day that passes for winter in the Pacific Northwest. It wasn't so different, in fact, from the day before the ceremony, when protesters filled the narrow road leading to the Capitol and shouts of "Revote!" swelled through the old logging and fishing enclave.

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Learning from Newt

Early last year, a Democratic representative named Chris Bell decided it was time someone really went after Tom DeLay. Like many of his Democratic colleagues, Bell had come to believe that DeLay, a fellow Texan, was not just a tyrannical House majority leader, but that his pursuit of power had led him to trample House ethics rules.

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Hardball 101

It is getting increasingly difficult to find any Democrat who backs President Bush's plan for partially privatizing Social Security. Private accounts are now officially out of favor even among New Democrats, the most obvious source of potential administration support. The Democratic Leadership Council and a new centrist policy shop called Third Way both recently announced their opposition. Over in the House, many have been eyeing Adam Smith, the leader of the New Democrat Coalition, which has 67 members in the House.

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Broken Contract

In the summer of 1987, Newt Gingrich rode in my car while bragging that he would soon launch an "ethics offensive" that would lead to a Republican takeover of the House of Representatives. At the time, Republicans were not even within sniffing distance of a House majority. And with the Iran-Contra scandal dominating the news, only a nut or a visionary--or a nutty visionary like Gingrich--would have predicted a GOP takeover.

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Rumblings

Outside the Hotel Ivoire in Abidjan, Cte d'Ivoire's main city, loyalist youths recently milled around the site where as many as ten protestors were killed days earlier in a confrontation with French peacekeepers. As I began talking to one of the young men--a member of the self-styled Young Patriots movement of pro-government militants--a small crowd quickly gathered, watching me closely. Fortunately, I passed the initial nationality test.

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Notebook

INHERIT THE WIND Billy Tauzin of Louisiana was one of the most venal politicians ever to sully Capitol Hill. As Michelle Cottle chronicled in these pages ("Cajun Dressing," October 6, 2003), the Republican representative used his perch on the House Energy and Commerce Committee to shill for almost every big business in America--until a business broke enough laws to spark public outrage, at which point Tauzin would hold showboat hearings and recast himself as a consumer champion.

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Identity Crisis

Franklin Foer on Persia and the neocons.

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Amid the celebration over passage of the intelligence reform bill this week, one dissonant voice could be heard through the self-congratulatory din. The new reform bill "practically invites terrorists to come into our country," said one speaker on the House floor Tuesday evening. It is "a recipe for a disaster--the same kind of disaster that occurred on 9/11. ...

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