- The Washington Times - Monday, December 22, 2003

Running for the Democratic presidential nomination presents a wide array of thorny issues for the candidates, but few are so fraught with pitfalls as what kind of holiday greeting to send out this time of year.

Even the gruff former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean tap-danced to the tune of nearly every conceivable end-of-the-year holiday in his greeting dispatch.

“Happy holidays to all who are celebrating Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa this season, and may each of us have a happy new year,” Mr. Dean, a Congregationalist, said in an e-mail Friday. No word from his campaign on why he excluded Ramadan, celebrated last month by Muslims.

Other candidates avoided listing any of the possible holidays — or any hint of favoritism for any one of them.

Sen. John Edwards, a North Carolina Methodist, mailed out a card bearing a photograph of his entire smiling family.

Inside is printed a conversation between daughter Emma Claire Edwards, 5, and her parents from November.

“What are you doing?” Emma Claire asked.

“Trying to think of the words for the Holiday Card,” replied Mr. Edwards and his wife.

“Words? Like the words Daddy says?”

“Yes. What words do you think we should say to our friends?” they asked.

“Love,” replied Emma Claire, according to the card.

“Okay.”

Still others avoid the whole mess by simply allowing supporters to pick out cards on their campaign Web sites that suit them best.

Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, a Catholic from Ohio, offers 37 different holiday cards on his Web site, although none veer into any explicit reference to religion.

One card features a cardinal squawking “Kucinich!” above the words, “Merry Caucus” — apparently a reference to Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses next month.

The card is designed by Alana Lea, who “as an artist, as a mother and as a member of this human family,” supports Mr. Kucinich.

So far, according to Kucinich webmaster Karen Kilroy, 3,000 cards have been picked and sent.

The most-popular card, she said, is one titled “Word of Mouse.” It shows a mouse flying through clouds holding a Kucinich yard sign.

And for Wesley Clark of Arkansas, who attends a Presbyterian church, there’s no place like his holiday card for a shameless pitch for his presidential campaign. All the cards offered on his Web site prominently advertise his desire for the Democratic nomination.

One reads: “We all still dream of a better America. Wesley K. Clark for President.” Above, four white stars (he was a four-star Army general before retiring) flutter down like snowflakes.

Another card shows Mr. Clark bundled in an overcoat trudging through deep snow in the nighttime. It reads: “Wesley Clark. Forging a new path for America.”

Supporters can click on whichever card they like and customize a message on the inside before sending. The campaign offers suggestions such as, “The greatest gift you could give me this holiday season is a contribution to Clark for President.”

The Democratic candidates aren’t the only politicians tiptoeing around the holidays this year.

President Bush, a Methodist who hasn’t had to deal with even a spark of opposition for the Republican nomination, posted a holiday greeting on his Web site beneath a picture of him, wearing a tuxedo, and first lady Laura Bush, wearing a red ball gown, in front of a twinkling tree (possibly a Christmas tree).

“The President and Mrs. Bush wish all Americans a safe and happy holiday season,” says the greeting, even as the administration ratcheted the country up to terror alert orange — as high as it has been since the September 11 terrorist attacks more than two years ago.

The one candidate who wasn’t pandering amid the poinsettias was Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who is Jewish.

One of the only mentions of the holidays on his campaign Web site is an invitation to a Hanukkah party in New York tonight, at $1,000 a pop. Yesterday, the campaign also added another holiday item urging supporters to donate their frequent flier miles to the Department of Defense, so troops can come home for the holidays.

Asked about his rivals’ groveling greetings, Lieberman spokesman Jano Cabrera said, “In the spirit of the holidays, I think all I’ll say is that I wish all our Democratic opponents safe and happy holidays this season.”


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