not worth archiving.
Me: Frank Lynch
These are my mundane daily ramblings.
At some point he has to stop making it up
as he goes along. I mean, come on: he's the President of the
United States. This is the guy who has all the red buttons,
controls the most powerful military in the world, runs the
government of the greatest nation on the face of the earth. And
he can't even decide whether we're trying to reduce terror as
much as we "can" vs. trying to eliminate it? Bush has not just
flip-flopped, he's flop-flip-flopped. You just know that Karl Rove
wishes he had one of those little amnesia blaster lights like
Tommy Lee Jones had in Men In Black.
Al Franken is saying that last night
at the Republican convention he was surrounded by "goons" —
shoved — who restricted his ability to move freely. He also
says they wouldn't talk to him, and they weren't Secret Service,
probably hired by the RNC. This is an on-air story he's telling
right now, so there's no link, but he says he's been to two prior
Republican conventions and this has never happened before.
Either rubber stamp or go unheard. When acting CIA head John McLaughlin responded to a report on our intelligence failures regarding WMDs in Iraq, he said "We get it." That was a rare exception to the norm under Bush. Far truer to form was Bush's pathetic failure to think of a mistake he'd made since 9/11 at his last press conference; far more normal was Health and Human Services' clearing itself of guilt for failure to disclose cost projections for the new Medicare program. And now this:
Could McLaughlin's acceptance of responsibility have anything
to do with his being a career employee, and not a political
appointee? And Asa Hutchinson's for his being where he is due to
his being rewarded for involvement in the Clinton impeachment? Ya
We need less of this: Ugly confrontations between delegates
and protesters. No matter who starts it, it will get blamed on
protesters back in the battleground states; New York is not some
blind usenet group where you can spout off without repercussions,
OK? There will be video, and it will be played ("they're so full
of hate and anger...") Please don't be stooges.
So Bob Novak, no Kerry fan, has said
many positive things about the Swifties and their book, published
by the Scaife-subsidized Regnery. Did you know that Novak's son
works at Regnery? I didn't.
If your undecided friends listen to popular, more moderate speakers at the Republican convention as Giuliani, McCain, and Arnold, and start to say, "hey, this party's alright," remind them that they're not hearing Ashcroft. Or Tom Delay, for that matter. Remind them who the Senate Majority Leader was before Frist (that would be Trent Lott), until his racist core became more apparent. And let them read this editorial from GOPUSA.com, which calls out to Bush to remember his conservative base:
The presidential election on November 2 certainly needs its share of swing voters to stay with President Bush in order to keep him in office. But, the election will ultimately come down to whether conservatives will turn out in large numbers. If conservatives are energized, they will do more for the president's reelection than any move by the president to the middle. This convention will surely reach out to the middle, but hopefully it will also see the greater importance of giving the base what it desperately wants and needs. This election will be won in the trenches, and it will be the conservatives doing the fighting.
Actually, if you want, inoculate your undecided friends in
advance by emailing them the link.
It's time to change the subject of the conversation. If the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth have dominated the conversation, it's partly because they've been allowed to. Sufficient information is out there to refute them, somebody ought to be able to hire a broadly respected politician like John Glenn to do an ad that just says something like, "I've looked at the information... Kerry's a hero. Find out more if you want at such and such a web site. If you don't have the Internet in your house, go to your local library. That's such and such dot org" or whatever. A politician like Glenn would be compelling; the web site could be easily updated to respond to whatever revised lies or version the Swifties come out with.
And then we can turn the conversation back to where it ought to be. We can point out:
Need I go on? It's not like there isn't anything to talk about
except the Swifties. So let's start talking about other issues,
Demonizing the dissenters is a big part of the GOP strategy.
From everything I've read, it was very peaceful
yesterday. Pictures are up at rion.nu; NYC Street Photos; Joe's NYC Page 1 and 2; 114th.net (click the
large images for a series); and
MetroPlus. (There are probably more elsewhere that I've
missed; if you see others, please add them in the comments box.)
On abolishing the Electoral College. An editorial in yesterday's New York Times called for the abolition of the Electoral College. (For those of you reading from outside the United States, the President is not elected by popular vote. Each state has "electoral" votes, all of which are supposed to go to that state's popular winner. But the electoral votes for the states is not directly proportional to population; smaller states have a disproportionate number.) The Times' arguments are solid: the votes of every individual in every state would again count, and minority party voters would no longer feel marginalized. As the Times mentions, sometimes even majority party members feel superfluous if their preferred candidate is the likely winner.
An unmentioned benefit of eliminating the electoral college is that voter turnout should increase. No voter is more or less important than any other, and at the same time that turnout increases, candidates have to again pursue national agendas, not just "battleground state" agendas. John Kerry would actually have to visit New York and talk to New Yorkers; Bush would actually have to spend time campaigning in Alabama. The state would no longer be the critical unit.
The value of voter turnout itself, of course, is that more people participate not only in the Presidential election but in all the additional ballots that occur at the same time. And increasing participation is a good thing.
I'm all for it. Let's do it!
Be careful when you go literary. Over at Horsefeathers there's a post contrasting John Kerry with Fitzgerald's Gatsby, to Kerry's detriment. The theme of the post is personal reinvention, and the point of the column seems to be that Kerry's anti-war protest history cannot be sloughed off as easily as Democrats would like, that our histories are part of us, and they cannot be escaped.
I'll argue with that conclusion's validity in a moment, but along the way there's an elevation of Gatsby which goes well beyond Fitzgerald's character. For instance, there is an early Horsefeathers reference to Gatsby as a hero: Gatsby may be a protagonist, but he's no hero. By the end of the book, we learn he and his old flame plan to leave her husband behind. The husband also tells us that Gatsby made his money through bootlegging; and after a fatal auto accident which happens shortly thereafter, Gatsby thinks that responsibility can be avoided (he expresses a relieved belief that there were no witnesses). If Gatsby can't escape his past, it's because he hasn't been particularly honorable since "escaping" it. (On more careful consideration, I'm sure Horsefeathers would recognize that Gatsby has not behaved honorably, and is no paradigm of either Republican or Democratic values.)
Now, John Kerry...
Horsefeathers claims that Kerry has reinvented himself:
John Kerry is his own fictional creation, a Gatsby minus the charm. He has invented a romantic self: the bold, bemedalled and courageous warrior who fought in defense of his country.
The problem with that starting point, of course, is that Kerry has not invented something fictitious: it's real. The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth have been refuted on so many of their accusations, shown to be inconsistent in both praising and accusing Kerry over the years, and shown to be ignorant of key details or not there to know that they are less than credible witnesses. Any prosecutor who used them as witnesses would lose his case.
Like the Swift Boat Veterans, Horsefeathers is on stronger footing by pointing to the anti-war protests Kerry made after returning to America. But Democrats are not trying to hide any man behind any curtain: Kerry's convictions were deeply felt, and are more valid for their having come from someone who was in Vietnam. He was not someone who avoided the war because it was inconvenient.
The Swift Boat Veterans' next ad, focusing on Kerry's 1971
senate testimony, will soon be on the air (if not already —
I don't live in a battleground state). But the ad takes Kerry's
testimony out of context, and suggests that he personally saw
atrocities. What he testified was that at a meeting in Detroit,
heard veterans talk of atrocities; when Kerry speaks of
affiliation, through "we," he is identifying with the group as
protesters, not as a partaker in war crimes. The ad also suggests
that Kerry's suggestion of war crimes is so general that every
veteran should be disgusted with what Kerry said; but since Kerry
never said all soldiers behaved so, any such disgust would be
misplaced, and better directed at the soldiers who actually
committed atrocities. Kind of like no one blames the entire
military for what happened on the night shift at Abu Ghraib, you
If traditional media were put under pressure by bloggers to cover the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth claims — an argument which seems to be the major point of this article at the Weekly Standard — then someone needs to weigh in on whether it's a good thing. The article's author, Jonathan Last, does a fine job detailing the reluctance of major newspapers and networks to cover a foundationless story, but doesn't weigh in on this important issue. Nor does he get anyone else to, so the major question remains unanswered. You might infer that he thinks the story needed to be covered, but he only implies that by using phrases like "taking credit," but that hardly scrapes the ethical issues involved. (It's also telling that he never spends significant time talking about the many ways that the Swift Boat Veterans' story has been refuted, so his readers don't read how baseless the accusations are.)
If investigation reveals that the accusations are baseless, should this be considered "news that's fit to print"? Traditional media frequently spend weeks developing a story or investigating it, carefully considering the mix of facts and suppositions before weighing in on them. (This period of gestation is what allowed Matt Drudge to unequivocally state that a major media organization was investigating whether Kerry had an affair, as if the investigation itself was proof of dalliance.)
Personally, I think the blogger triumphalism expressed in the Weekly Standard article is unmerited: the case is still baseless, and in the meantime it's distracted from dealing with the real issues this country faces.
(Link seen through Instapundit, who is mentioned quite favorably in the article.)
UPDATE: I've changed my mind. Normal Weekly Standard
readers read that article in the context of a conservative
mindset, and see it as part of a magazine that's pro-Bush. In
that context, Last's "neutrality" is actually anti-traditional
media and in favor of how bloggers have forced the issue to
bubble up. If he had mentioned that the Swift Boat Sailors'
accusations had been debunked, or how Drudge rushed the
Kerry-mistress rumor out, you might conclude he had
reservations about the journalistic practices of bloggers, but he
doesn't mention anything that would lead to those
The White House can't even claim that major combat operations were over back when Bush spoke before the "Mission Accomplished" banner. Fallujah is still holding out, and it won't be solved through a tiddly-winks match:
Marine commanders at Camp Falluja, a sprawling base less than five miles east of the city, have been telling reporters for weeks that the city has become little more than a terrorist camp, providing a haven for Iraqi militants and for scores of non-Iraqi Arabs, many of them with ties to Al Qaeda, who have homed in on Falluja as the ideal base to conduct a holy war against the United States. Eventually, the Marine officers have said, American hopes of creating stability in Iraq will necessitate a new attack on the city, this time one that will not be halted before it can succeed.
Now, Tommy Franks has acknowledged that he asked for a declaration that major combat operations were over, in order to provoke allies to recognize a new phase and participate. So let's think about this: was Franks being overly optimistic, or did he want to lie to our allies? And how much did Bush know?
Further, can anyone recall from reading Woodward's book (I
don't remember it) anyone talking about what the goals
were for invading Iraq, and how success would be graded?
Christopher Buckley is no Dave Barry.
(But you probably knew that.) Years ago the New York Times ran a
magazine cover article on Miami showing its worst side (it
probably discussed some positives, of course), headlined "Can
Miami Save Itself?" Barry responded with a very funny
piece (syndicated, but his base paper is the Miami Herald),
called "The Death of New York." It had really funny parts such as
"you get in your cab at La Guardia, and read a sign saying
'Caution. Driver speaks no English and hates you.'" Buckley, a
writer of some wit, has written a similar
piece directed towards Republicans who are visiting NYC this
week, telling them of Republican crannies, behaviors which will
spark negative reactions from the locals and so on.
Unfortunately, it's not executed nearly as well as Barry's piece.
So it goes: at least it's a light approach.
It would be a shame if this distracted
from the convention. (Not.) There are reports that Bush wore
a military medal he hadn't
earned. This sort of thing is widely looked on as a big
transgression: a deceit, a fraud. The White House is "checking"
The Kerry campaign thinks it has succeeded in discrediting the scurrilous attack on Kerry's military service, but Rove got what he wanted. Instead of talking about a failed war in Iraq and a new report that shows 1.3 million more Americans living in poverty, we're debating what happened in the Mekong Delta in 1968. The strategy "came straight from the West Wing," says the GOP staffer. "Nobody should be confused." Asked to explain, this Republican says Rove is smart enough to keep technical distance. But all it takes is a well-placed wink to activate a web of Bush family hit men, confidantes and deep-pocket donors. "They know what to do it's like sleeper cells that get activated," he says, likening the players to "political terrorists."
Kinda makes Kerry look less "unhinged," doesn't it? Kinda
gives new meaning to Bush calling 527's "shadowy" (have you seen
your political advisor, baby, standing in the shadows...) Enough
with these charlatans: let's really elect a President this
What a bullet we dodged! With NYC receiving so many Republican guests this week, I was thinking about how we have more similarities than differences, yet still recognizing the significant differences. And I started to remember some of the political disagreements I've had, and then it occurred to me:
Remember the early days after the statue of Saddam Hussein fell, and everything was looking so rosy, the question on everyone's mind was not how are we going to rebuild this country peacefully, but, who shall we invade next: Syria? Iraq?
Remember that? The initial gung-ho, some sort of 21st century Manifest Destiny that since it was only a matter of time before it would be necessary anyway, it would be better to do it while all the troops were already in the region, and since they weren't going to be needed any longer in Iraq... Remember that?
We got so lucky that didn't happen, because it was
being discussed. And seeing as how we've basically concluded that
there are no WMDs in Iraq, that the intelligence was flawed...
Well, what an international reputation we could have had
A quick reminder to all convention
protesters: We have an election to win. Remember how Dean's
campaign was punctured by the simplistic characterizations of the
Press? ("He's too angry..."?) Don't let the swing states think
that your passion has gotten the better of your sensibilities.
We're all in this to win it, and the Republican insiders have
already said they intend to spin the protests as disrespect for a
sitting president. I happen to think that's wrong-headed, but
let's not fall into that trap, OK? Four years of Georgie has been
more than enough for us all.
A quick reminder to all New Yorkers:
yeah, it's OK to have a different opinion about national
politics, but be good hosts. Smile when asked for
directions, and make our visitors feel welcome. Be helpful. Most
of them had absolutely nothing to do with Florida 2000, or the
decision to bring the convention here as close to 9/11 as
possible. You'd be nice to them during the summer if they were
regular tourists, so be nice to them now.
If you haven't yet, add the Columbia
Journalism Review's Campaign Desk to your
bookmarks. It's a good read to see how lazy the media can get,
and I especially liked its analysis of the failure to
take a point of view on the Swift Boat Veterans farce.
A bunker in NYC during the RNC convention shouldn't be that difficult to find, if you think about it. First, where are the delegates likely to be? They'll likely remain in a small part of Manhattan, restricting themselves to "safe" activities like the convention itself, shopping at Macy's, or walking on Broadway. Greenwich Village will sound too bohemian to most, or filled with Gays (it's clear from their platform that they don't want Gays to marry), so few will venture there. Can you imagine hordes boarding the subways to visit Prospect Park, or the better ethnic restaurants in Queens? Ain't gonna happen: most people's neighborhoods will be untouched. I wish I could say the same for all those who have to work in the area of Madison Square Garden: getting a pizza delivered to your office will be hell.
More questions about Thurlow's account of Kerry's actions. A fellow sailor says not only was there enemy fire (which the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth charge was nonexistent), but that major Kerry critic Larry Thurlow was too distracted to have seen what was really going on. And these observations come from someone who still resents Kerry's post-war protest activities.
For another angle on Thurlow, the Daily Howler
covers Thurlow's inability to come up with a better source than
someone who wasn't there for information on another accusation.
Out with these charlatans!
John McCain needs a good talking to, because he either doesn't understand the phrase "fair game" or he's politically twisting it. In a discussion with Washington Post, he endorses efforts to limit the activities of 527s such as Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. McCain continues to condemn the content of their ad questioning Kerry's service, and still wants Bush to repudiate it. But he also goes on about whether or not it's legitimate to examine Kerry's Vietnam record, when Kerry focused on it himself:
I think McCain is blurring issues here. No one on the left (so far as I know) has ever said that Kerry's record shouldn't be examined. We like the disinfecting power of sunshine! The problem is that the ads and statements from the Swift Boat Veterans are riddled with inconsistencies, which makes it illegitimate. If they want to claim credibility, they have to give reasons why the perspectives of those hundreds of yards away are more accurate than those on the same boat. (No jury would buy that.)
No, scrutiny is fine. Bring it on. But do so honestly, or you
disgrace yourselves and your fellow soldiers. (And by the way,
what it makes it so much cleaner to have your surrogates trumpet
your record? Everyone knows, just the same.)
One of those "shadowy" groups which
Bush complains about — moveon.org — isn't even
a 527, Atrios reminds us. It's a political action
committee (PAC) and has far stricter reporting standards.
Somebody better get Bush to stop with the noise already.
Why stop at 527's, then? In an interview with the New York Times, Bush refused to condemn the content of the Swift Boat Veterans' ads against Kerry — but did defend Kerry's record. Oddly, though, he seems to object to the support which many conservative magazines and publishers receive from Richard Scaife:
"Five twenty-sevens - I think these ought to be outlawed,'' he said. "I think they should have been outlawed a year ago. We have billionaires writing checks, large checks, to influence the outcome of the election.''
No, he doesn't mention publishers, and focuses on
527's, but Scaife writes big checks for publishers which don't
make a profit, enabling them to stay in business. What, exactly,
is Bush's issue?
The latest poverty statistics are out, and no one's surprised that the 2003 figures are higher than the 2002s. (You can read more on the trending in my May discussion.) I don't think anyone expected an improvement, given the lag between the release of the data and the period it represents. What is curious is the timing of this year's release, occurring a month earlier than last year's. Here's how the Times put it:
Having it out earlier does give the campaigns more time to absorb it and spin it. It will also get drowned out by the convention next week. So even if you presume innocence, you can be cognizant of the effects.
The Carpetbagger Report lays out the argument for cynicism
over the data's release: not just the timing, but also at a
remote location, and not from a career Census Bureau official but
from a Bush appointee. As for me, I'd like to hear more
justification about it coordinating better with other reports.
Which reports? How?
Activist court judges have a new best friend: the Bush administration. Rather than focus on the true problem with the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads — that they are fallacious — Bush prefers to condemn the form in which those ads are found -- the 527 organizations Bush referred to as "shadowy," whether the ads are true or not, and now wants to pursue legal action in order to end the organizations. This would mean, of course, that if you're an independent group with a legitimate beef, working independently of a political campaign, you can't advertise to express your views. So here we have Bush, working to erode the Constitution by suppressing free speech.
This initiative is completely politically motivated,
has nothing to do with improving the process, and has everything
to do with removing a thorn from Bush's side: issue-oriented
advertising which calls his record into question.
I've been to a dozen Todd Rundgren
shows (at least) but the way
this review reads, I missed the wrong one. Scoot past the
adulation and just read the ensemble that did "While My Guitar
Standards of proof should vary after considering the severity of false positives and false negatives, too: this was how the Bush administration lowered the standard when it came to Saddam Hussein, for instance in Cincinnati (October 2002) when he warned of "the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud." By manipulating public opinion through fear, we invaded Iraq with far less than a smoking gun's evidence, and of course we all know now that the conclusions that Iraq had WMD were unjustified.
The 527 organizations which the McCain-Feingold campaign spending bill left intact are supposed to operate completely independently of the campaigns. And truth be told, we probably do need hard proof of collaboration with a campaign in order to shut one down. But as people, we don't need a smoking gun in order to draw our own conclusions, because we are not a court of law. We draw conclusions on incomplete information all the time, such as when we give wide berth to an unseemly looking stranger on the sidewalk.
So, when I read that an attorney has left the Bush campaign
because he was also giving legal advice to the Swift Boat Veterans for
Truth, and you add it on to the network of
connections between the campaign and the 527, well, it's
certainly healthy to smell a rat at least. We're fast
approaching the land of "Give me a break; who do they take us