UpFront

NEVADA SAY NEVER AGAIN

When the Democratic Party chose Nevada as an early caucus state in summer 2006, there was sober talk of making the process more democratic (with a "small d"). After all, unlike lily-white Iowa and New Hampshire, Nevada has a diverse, growing population. Twenty-three percent of the state's residents are Hispanic, and the Las Vegas congressional district is the fastest growing in the nation.

But Nevada, the new Athens, the cradle of deliberative democracy? What's the spread on that one? Las Vegas, a booming gaming, prostitution, and tourism town, founded by Bugsy Siegel to be a city nowhere near a hill, dominates the state's politics -- not that politics looms large in its civic consciousness. For weeks, the new O.J. Simpson caper has captured all the headlines.

Worse yet, Nevada isn't even holding a straight-up election; it's convening those arcane, time-consuming caucuses that have proven so daunting that even in staid, deliberative Iowa, where people genuinely have nothing better to do, turnout has been as low as 6 percent of eligible voters. In Nevada's back-of-the-pack caucuses in 2004, a scant 1 percent of state Democrats turned out. This time around, Nevadans will vote on Jan. 19, and what happens in Vegas will be beamed to the 46 states yet to vote. Depending on where the unions go, the smart money's on Edwards, Ron Paul, or Wayne Newton.

RALLYING THE BASS

Mike Huckabee has been getting a lot of undeserved respect lately as a guitarist. CNN recently described him as "an ordained Baptist minister who plays guitar in a rock and roll band." A New Hampshire weekly referred to him as "the governor on guitar." Let's be clear: Mike Huckabee plays bass. The blog "Hobbies for Huckabee" posted a picture described as "Mike Huckabee playing guitar" that was actually a picture of Mike Huckabee playing bass. Another pro-Huckabee site posted a YouTube video of Huckabee playing "Freebird" "on the electric guitar" which was actually Huckabee playing "Freebird" on bass, in a bloodless rendition that seemed designed to call Ronnie Van Zandt forth from the grave to unplug the amps.

Like most bass players, Huckabee started out playing guitar, and probably switched to bass after a bitter 3-to-1 vote against the Mike-on-guitar idea from the other members of his high school rock band. By most accounts, Huckabee is a pretty good bass player, but please, America, let's not unfairly place him on a pedestal that should be rightly reserved for guitarists.


FEITHLESS

Where's Doug Feith when you really need him? The release of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran surely brought home to Dick Cheney and his dejected neo band how much they miss Feith's intelligence-on-demand operation, which Paul Wolfowitz installed at the Pentagon in the heady days leading up to the Iraq War. Actually, it was a counterintelligence operation, since its mandate was to counter any real intelligence on Iraq with its own tendentious and, when the occasion demanded it, ludicrous interpretations of such matters as the links between al-Qaeda and Saddam -- whatever it took to justify the war. The neos always had trouble with both the intelligence community and the reality-based community; now, in a conspiracy so vast it boggles the neo mind, they confront a reality-based intelligence community. Oh, for the days of faith-based, or Feith-based, facts.


DENIALS "R" US

How best to distract yourself when the Senate Ethics Committee is looking into your conviction in a sex sting and your hometown paper is publishing the alleged details of your gay sex life, the existence of which you baldly deny? For Idaho senator Larry Craig, the answer was to fly to Bali, Indonesia, this December to take part in the United Nations summit on climate change. As the designated Republican from the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Craig took his growing fluency in denials to a global scale: His mission was to subvert as best he could the efforts of the world community to combat climate change. Back in D.C., the senator has been busy of late fighting Senate leadership on global warming legislation, alleging that committee chair Barbara Boxer's climate bill amounts to "all-pain, no-gain" and would "revert the United States to a developing country." Give Craig points for consistency, at least: In macro as in micro, he's denying on all cylinders.


SPEAKING OF CRAIG

In early December, The Idaho Statesman published an extensive report detailing the claims of two men who said that they'd had sex with Larry Craig, and two more who said he'd propositioned them. One of the claimants, former prostitute Mike Jones, said that Craig paid him for an hour-long sexual encounter three years ago. This is the same Mike Jones whose revelations of such encounters with another right-wing leader, the Rev. Ted Haggard, led to Haggard's resignation as president of the National Association of Evangelicals -- making Jones the unchallenged Zelig of Clandestine Gay Sex with Conservatives.


THE QUESTION:
The Republicans have embarked on a "GOP rebranding" project. Any suggestions?

"Rich people and angry people coming together" -- David Halperin, former speechwriter for Bill Clinton and Howard Dean

"GOP: Gay. Out. Proud." -- Rick Perlstein, senior fellow at the Campaign for America's Future; blogger, The Big Con

"20 percent less corrupt than last year" -- Michael Gehrke, Research Director, the Democratic National Committee


PARODY By T.A. Frank

What's OUT, What's IN, in Washington 2008!

OUT: Specs with no rims. What do Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and Larry Craig have in common? That's right: rimless eyewear. Any man who places that on his nose and shows up to work in 2008 had better start packing up and looking for speaking engagements and AEI sinecures. Are you destroying the country and/or harassing restroom users? We've placed a tracking device in a pair of rimless glasses and placed them near you, because you're sure to put them on.

IN: Specs-free look. Washington won't be making passes at men who wear glasses. Special specless stars include Robert Gates, Barack Obama, Dick Lugar, and David Souter. Whether it's the judicious puppy-brown eyes of Souter, or the shrewd glare of Gates -- whose crimson blush with subtle sheen radiates outwards like a force of nature -- the specs-free look has something to offer nearly every man of stature. These men know that in 2008, Washington will be seeing a seismic shift in eyewear, and this is one quake they're planning to survive.

OUT: Raspberry-red lips. Liddy Dole has raspberry-red lips, which might look the same as cherry-red lips, but which do not fool the Washington insider. They physically say, "I am excited to pick up an assignment to the Small Business Committee." But, mentally, they lie.

IN: Cherry-red lips. Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Rules and Administration Committee, has the lips in the Senate right now, with a bold, sheer cherry color that says, "Listen. Sit down. Get sworn in. I'm going to rule and administrate you."

OUT: Thick, ebony hair on low-hairline forehead. Alberto Gonzales was hot in 2007, but post-resignation and perjury investigation, rich, dark hair needs a breather, says Chaz Charlton, Pentagon hair consultant.

IN: Downy whites. Look for a softer palette in 2008, with more grays, whites, and balds. "With pale wisps resting softly atop pale domes, Dick Cheney, Mike Mukasey -- they have It right now," says Charlton. "No Washington combination is as timeless and popular as white hair on a white man."

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