March 19 marked the sixth anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq war, so we went five years back for this edition of Historic Whispers. Five years ago, President George W. Bush was touting the positives of the war while ramping up campaign efforts for the 2004 election. John Kerry was close to grabbing the Democratic nomination as Howard Dean's campaign imploded and John Edwards's floundered. (Though Edwards was apparently a big hit with the ladies, according to our Whispers). And another election was even being discussed — 2008. And the Democratic frontrunner for this one? You guessed it — Hillary Clinton.
* One Year Later, Muted Cheers of All in Iraq War. He won't stand under a "Mission Accomplished" banner this time, but that will be the general theme next week as President Bush —and his whole war council—celebrate the anniversary of the March 19 Iraq invasion to remind the country of what U.S. and coalition troops have faced and what they've accomplished so far. Starting later this week, Bush, his veep, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and National Security Adviser Condi Rice will begin making media rounds to talk up the international antiterrorism partners and the positive changes brought to Iraq. Bush will highlight oil production that's higher than before the war, expanded electricity supply, widespread education and healthcare opportunities, and a stable currency. The effort will step up as the anniversary approaches, with Bush meeting antiterrorism troops and coalition partners and the Pentagon hosting a town hall meeting. The overriding theme will be that America is safer a year later. But, officials added, nobody will be spiking the ball. (March 15, 2004)
*Ogling Edwards. Women love Sen. John Edwards. But not just for his politics. MSNBC focus group guru Frank Luntz tells us, "Women go absolutely gaga over Edwards." Luntz says they find the White House hopeful "cute and sexy and say he's got that JFK thing going on." (Feb . 16, 2004)
*Dang That Dean! Nobody, maybe not even his own supporters, is as mad at glib Howard Dean as the Bush-Cheney campaign. "Why'd he have to blow up so soon?" asked one insider. "Why couldn't he have waited until he was the nominee?" Dean's disappearing act has forced "BC-04" and the GOP to dig deeper into front-runner John Kerry's past. One nugget they plan to hit: wife Teresa Heinz Kerry's decision to steer Heinz Family Foundation money to the League of Conservation Voters, which has since endorsed Kerry and is running TV ads trumpeting his record. (Feb . 16, 2004)
*Going for the Green. Fuming that Ralph Nader has jumped into the race, Democratic National Committee boss Terry McAuliffe is chasing down supporters of the 2000 Green Party nominee. McAuliffe says turning Greens into Dems is the goal of his college visits and a key purpose of the DNC's new computer system. (March 8, 2004)
*Going AWOL on Stern. The '08 presidential race seems to have started early in New York, where Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is already being called the Democratic front-runner if President Bush squeaks out a win this time. But it's also worth paying attention to Republican hopefuls Gov. George Pataki and ex-Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Observers suggest that both of them are cleaning up their acts and point to their recent dissing of former pal Howard Stern. Once jolly regulars on the shock jock's show, they've gone underground since his FCC-baiting antics made him radioactive, and last week they refused to defend him. (March 15, 2004)
*Holy Toledo. Ohio is fast becoming 2004's Florida. Both sides think that the presidential election could be decided there. "It's our No. 1 state," says a Bushie. "Our candidate will practically be a resident of Ohio when we're done," says a Democrat. Which, for Bush, is why Rep. Rob Portman counts. He's Bush's go-to-guy in the state and the Bush-Cheney campaign's chief Ohio spokesman. Portman's got jam: He recently got former President Bush to headline a fundraiser that broke records by collecting over $700,000, none from PACs. (March 15, 2004)