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Wednesday, September 8, 2004:

"He made faces at me!" says Dan Bartlett. Or something akin to that. CBS broadcast an interview with Ben Barnes, a Texas politician who many years ago enabled George Bush to slip into the Texas National Guard and avoid going to Vietnam. Dan Bartlett (White House Communication Director) reacted thus:

Bartlett said this was all part of the Kerry campaign. "I chalk it up to the politics they play down in Texas. I've been there. I've seen how it works. But the bottom line is that there's no truth to this," he says.

"The fact that 55 days before an election that partisan Democrats are recycling the very same charges we hear every [time] President Bush runs for reelection. It is dirty politics." (Emphasis mine.)

In my view, the fact that this comes up almost two months before the election — less than a week after the convention — is nothing to complain about. At what point wouldn't Bartlett have tried to brush it off as "partisan politics"?

  • Had it been last week, he'd have said they were just trying to ruin the convention.
  • The week before, and he'd have said they were just trying to rob the party of momentum going into the election.
  • Three weeks ago, and they'd have said Kerry was just trying to distract from this or that...

In all honesty there is probably no time (save after November) that Bartlett wouldn't have complained about. If he prefers, he can look fondly back on the time when news about Bush's DWI conviction came out just five days before the 2000 election.

I'm sorry, but what does he expect?

UPDATE: An earlier version of this post misnamed Dan Bartlett as "Bruce" Bartlett.
Link 10:11 PM

Bush AWOL in Massachusetts, too? The Boston Globe is reporting (according to Reuters — I can't find the original story) that when Bush went to Harvard for his MBA he was supposed to show up for National Guard duty there, too, but didn't.

The Globe said in July 1973, before Bush moved from Houston to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to attend Harvard Business School, he signed a document saying: "It is my responsibility to locate and be assigned to another Reserve forces unit or mobilisation augmentation position. If I fail to do so, I am subject to involuntary order to active duty for up to 24 months... "

Bush spokesman Dan Bartlett told the Washington Post in 1999 that the future president had served at a Boston-area Air Force Reserve unit after leaving Houston. But Bush never joined a Boston-area unit, the Globe said.

"I must have misspoke," Bartlett, now White House communications director, was quoted as telling the Globe in a recent interview.

Man alive, he's got the raw material for national leadership, don't he? A strong understanding of obligations, I'd say.

UPDATE: The Boston Globe story is here.
Link 2:48 PM

Keep hope alive! Keep hope alive! We all know these things shift around, but there's a bunch of new state-by-state polls updated at the Current Electoral Vote Predictor, and Bush's electoral college vote lead is gone. Neither Kerry nor Bush is shown with the requisite 270, but Kerry is closer now, leading 264 to 222. The bad news is that many of the interviews were conducted before Bush's speech. (But then, that was the case with the Time and Newsweek polls, too.) Importantly, Florida (27 votes) has shifted out of the Bush category and into the undecided; Pennsylvania (21) is now shown as being for Kerry. Stay tuned, of course, it's going to be a bumpy ride.
Link 2:10 PM

Voting in November, vs. rubber-stamping. I was talking to a Bush supporter I know very closely, and he didn't want to get into this topic very deeply: possibly because with no power in his house he had to preserve his cell phone's charge, but I think it's really because his desire to avoid confrontation cut it short. But he said he would never be able to listen to Al Franken, or what he had to say. I suspect it extends to a lot of the media which he considers liberal.

But anyone who "votes" in November without considering both sides of the story, as it comes from each side, isn't really voting. It's rubber stamping. And anyone who fails to seek out opinions which they might disagree with is engaging in willful ignorance; and in my view, that's a sin, because you're not taking full advantage of the capacities you've been blessed with. I also happen to think it's not civic, perhaps not patriotic, because the future of the country depends on you hearing both sides. And it doesn't matter if you support Kerry or Bush: it's your obligation as a citizen to thoroughly understand the issues.
Link 1:57 PM

A middling pilot who still may not have shown up for duty in Alabama. The Pentagon has released another set of records on Bush's National Guard Service, showing that he did indeed fly a fighter jet, and ranked 22nd out of 53 in his class (almost exactly in the middle, which would have been 27th). However, nothing the Pentagon released shows service in Alabama.

The article also points out that advertisements are going to start running questioning whether or not Bush ever showed in Alabama, courtesy of a group calling itself "Texas for Truth." I tried a Google search for them but found nothing except the mention in this news story.
Link 10:49 AM

Cheney GUARANTEES no more 9/11's under Bush. Guarantees it! That's right:

Stepping up the battle over national security, Vice President Dick Cheney warned on Tuesday that the country would be at risk of a terror attack if it made "the wrong choice" in November, and President Bush accused Senator John Kerry of adopting the antiwar language of his Democratic primary rival Howard Dean.


"It's absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on Nov. 2, we make the right choice," Mr. Cheney told a crowd of 350 people in Des Moines, "because if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we'll get hit again and we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States."

How else to interpret this ridiculous comment, Dick? Are you saying that if we vote for Bush, all chance of another attack goes away? Even your campaign thinks you're not providing the right soundbites in your fear mongering:

Anne Womack, a spokeswoman for Mr. Cheney, said that the vice president's comment was taken out of context, and that he was addressing policy differences.

"Whoever is elected is going to face the prospect of another terrorist attack," Ms. Womack said. "The question is whether we will have the right policies in place to protect our country."

Policies? I gotcher policies right here, ma'am. Your bosses have been quite successful in running a war against terror. (Poor Dick: if he didn't say what he didn't mean, think how efficient his staff could be.)
Link 10:36 AM

Tuesday, September 7, 2004:

Another entry in the "as if you care" department." I think I passed Eric Clapton on the street in Manhattan the other day. He — or his close double — had just left a non-high rise building. He's not the first celebrity I've passed, so I didn't make enough note to tell you whether it was Friday or Sunday. But he had on a short sleeve shirt with a collar (like he wears in "Concert for George" and when he played with Sheryl Crow in Central Park). Short hair, glasses, I think it was him. Fortunately he didn't recognize me and let me go by.
Link 9:12 PM

Demonizing the New York Times. There's a meme out there right now that the New York Times has been disgraceful for not labeling the Chechnyans and others who held that Russian school hostage as "terrorists." Some claim that the Times is too "PC," or soft on terrorism, or something. They don't want you to read the Times — God forbid you might learn something about the President's policies from other source but them.

So let's be clear about something: the Times referred to them as terrorists in the very first day of coverage. (You could have checked this yourself in a search on the Times' site; heck, they could have done so, too, but they prefer to think otherwise.)

  • September 1: what are we to make of this paragraph?
    President Vladimir V. Putin, for the second time in eight days, disrupted his working vacation in the Black Sea resort Sochi and returned to Moscow, as he did the day after the two airliners crashed. He did not immediately discuss the unfolding hostage crisis, but in an interview with Turkish journalists on the eve of a state visit to Turkey, Mr. Putin said Russia would never negotiate with terrorists or separatists in Chechnya, who have been fighting Russian forces in the republic with little interruption since 1994. (Emphasis mine.)

    If the Times isn't characterizing the crisis as terrorism, what's the relevance of introducing Putin's policy on terrorism? And what about this part?

    Russia's defense minister, Sergei B. Ivanov, speaking in Moscow even as the hostage crisis unfolded in the south, said the attacks scourging the country amounted to a state of war.

    "War has been declared on us, where the enemy is unseen and there is no front," Mr. Ivanov said. "This is regrettably not the first and I fear not the last terrorist act."

    I don't understand...

  • September 2, the next day's article from the same writer says in its first paragraph, "Their release was the first sign that negotiators had made progress in their efforts to end the siege, after the terrorists rebuffed several offers, including safe passage out of the city." Later, same article, "Facing unusually pointed public criticism after a bloody wave of terrorist attacks here..." A later version of the same article included the sentence "Mr. Dzugayev said authorities knew the ethnicity of the terrorists." (Emphasis mine.)
  • September 2, in an editorial on President Bush's statement about whether or not the war against terrorism is winnable, the Times wrote, "The horrific pictures of victims on an Israeli bus and slain airplane and subway passengers, as well as of a school held hostage in Russia, are a stark reminder to Americans that terrorism is not all about us. It is the tactic of preference for the self-obsessed radical movements of our age."

This is just in the first two days of coverage. There are more examples of them being referred to as terrorists (or their act as one of terror) in articles and editorials at the Times: here, here, here, here , and so on. The article which seems to have really upset some is this one, which discusses the intricacy of the planning of the siege — seeming to glorify it, in some people's eyes, I guess; yet while it doesn't refer to the hostage takers as terrorists, it uses the word "terror" in its opening sentence. And it's by the same reporter who had referred to them as terrorists from the start.

Am I tilting at windmills? I honestly don't know how many are making complaints, nor whether or not they're reputable people. Michelle Malkin didn't notice the Times' characterization until September 6, five days after the Times was first putting it in that context. Daniel Pipes updated an April post to complain that the Times had referred to them as "heavily armed captors." You can read a similar complaint at Horsefeathers.

Now, again, I honestly don't know what influence these people have. But when Michelle Malkin made her first attack on the Times, she titled it "Yet Another Reason Not to Trust the New York Times." At the same time, online media outlets are trying to supplant traditional media (see here, for instance: "I think that era is over now. First of all, because of the net, which has diversified our sources of information so dramatically. We no longer need the networks or the various Post's and Times's. We can just log on.")

I don't know what all of the problem is with the criticism of New York Times; I don't know if some people have some sort of check-list to make sure that the right words are used and in the right proportions or what. (Robert Klein used to joke that when he was on Johnny Carson, Carson would get hate letters from ignorant bigots who would complain that Carson hadn't referred to that "Jew Boy.") But to demonize the Times over this, and to do so without checking to make sure you're correct, strikes me as an effort to create some sort of ideological ghetto: do not read those ideas, you'll get contaminated. And I can't see how polarizing our country further is any kind of public service. I just can't: it's irresponsible. Anyone could have checked the Times' coverage and looked beyond one article.
Link 5:02 PM

Catching up on some needed updates.

  • Bush bounce: in this post I questioned the results of polls showing double-digit leads for Bush, not just the validity of the size due to potential shifts in cooperation rates from energized Republicans, but also the stability. Mickey Kaus has been pointing to biases in those two polls, such as an overabundance of Republicans (which is what you'd expect if my hypothesis of higher cooperation rates among energized Republicans were true). He also points to another poll showing a Bush bounce, but not as strong as those from Time and Newsweek.
  • The Palm Beach Post has continued to add to its collection of Hurricane Frances photos. Everyone in my family is healthy, thank you; my parents' oak tree has no leaves, and one brother's house has some roof damage. All in all relatively minor, and for that we're thankful, even if they don't have power yet.
  • Through Sadly, No, I saw a video clip of Jon Stewart's analysis of night three of the GOP convention, entitled Zell on Earth. (No better line in my book than the "build a bridge" one.)
  • Special Thanks to Tom Tomorrow for linking to this post. Traffic has been wonderful, I hope you share it with friends. Also see his cartoon this week, it dovetails nicely.

I think I'm caught up with updates, anyway.
Link 11:03 AM

Monday, September 6, 2004:

Some partial success to report on the "as if you care" front. Zoë, I've mentioned, is not only an adventurous eater but also an adventurous cook. And today we explored home-made chocolates, pouring melted milk chocolate into lollipop molds. The chocolate didn't solidify quite as firmly as we wanted it to in the molds — we may have heated it too high when melting it, or the room may have been too warm. But we rescued them somewhat with a little time in the fridge; they popped out of their molds, but with less detail than we wanted, yet we're happy enough to work at it again.
Link 10:26 PM

Next year maybe we all should boycott shopping. It's Labor Day here in the US, and an astonishing number of stores selling nonessential items are open. This means people have to work in order to sell you a book or lipstick or software which you could very easily have bought yesterday or the day before or tomorrow. And while you might say, yeah, well, they have to work anyway so I might as well, the reason they have to work is because their bosses think there's a market. So next year let's not buy anything on Labor Day, and then all these people can spend the day with their families. It's Labor Day. (I feel differently about food stores and pharmacies, and stores in Florida where so many people have to replenish essentials — they couldn't go shopping in the middle of a raging hurricane.)

If people have to work, it's because we ask them to. Case closed. Let's boycott stores next year!
Link 4:57 PM

Sunday, September 5, 2004:

More missing records from George Bush's National Guards file. The guy has just had such a run of bad luck, hasn't he? All the stuff which could show he served just isn't there.

The AP talked to experts unaffiliated with either campaign who have reviewed Bush's files for missing documents. They said it was not unusual for guard commanders to ignore deficiencies by junior officers such as Bush. But they said missing a physical exam, which caused him to be grounded, was not common.

"It's sort of like a code of honor that you didn't go DNF (duty not including flying)," said retired Air Force Col. Leonard Walls, who flew 181 combat missions over Vietnam. "There was a lot of pride in keeping combat-ready status."

Bush has said he fulfilled all his obligations. He was in the Texas Air National Guard from 1968 to 1973 and was trained to fly F-102 fighters.

"I'm proud of my service," Bush told a rally last weekend in Lima, Ohio.

Records of Bush's service have significant gaps, starting in 1972. Bush has said he left Texas that year to work on the unsuccessful Senate campaign in Alabama of family friend Winton Blount.

Meanwhile, Frank Rich reminded me of a heretofore unnoticed indication that the economy is really swell: no one has stepped forward to claim the $10,000 reward offered by Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau if they could document Bush serving in Alabama. It must be because in these boom times no one wants $10,000.

As we leave the scripted conventions behind us, that is the uber-scenario that has locked into place, brilliantly engineered by the president of the United States, with more than a little unwitting assistance from his opponent. It's a marvel, really. Even a $10,000 reward offered this year by Garry Trudeau couldn't smoke out a credible eyewitness to support George W. Bush's contention that he showed up to defend Alabama against the Viet Cong in 1972. Yet John F. Kerry, who without doubt shed his own blood and others' in the vicinity of the Mekong, not the Mississippi, is now the deserter and the wimp.

Unbelievable, ain't it?
Link 6:53 PM

I cannot for the life of me understand why anyone would think George Bush would be better at protecting us in the future than John Kerry. Bush actually has a record of performance on this very issue, a record he can be judged against. And while it's true that there have been no terrorist attacks on American soil since 9/11, we're better off looking at other measures (call them "leading indicators"), because should another attack happen it will be too late to attach much value to a judgment of his performance at that point. Let's look at his performance, all of which adds up to "wow, have we been lucky": (UPDATE: I should point out that this is all post 9/11, so there is no pleading of "How should we have known?" allowed.)

  • Remember how, when some senators (I think it was Lieberman and Specter) foresaw the need for a Homeland Security Department and recommended it, Bush did this sleight of hand where he talked about Tom Ridge as reporting directly to him on homeland security but not having a department? And how, when it was argued that it really needed to be a consolidated department with everyone talking to each other, he resisted, and resisted, and resisted? And then, when he acceded, he almost blew the whole thing when he insisted on denying the employees in the new department collective bargaining rights?
  • Remember the wacky formula for funding which failed to appreciate that some cities are just not likely targets, yet funded them anyway, at the cost of more funding for obvious targets like New York?
  • Remember how, when it was pointed out that we needed more funding for first responders and to increase security at our ports, rather than work for that funding Bush chose to emphasize tax cuts?
  • Remember how, when there was a need felt to learn from the intelligence mistakes which allowed 9/11 to occur, the Bush administration resisted? Dragged it heels and refused to set up any kind of overview, until a panel was actually mandated by the people? And how difficult it was to get Bush to allow it the time to do its work, and how difficult it was to get Bush to testify before it?
  • Remember how, when the 9/11 Commission report finally came out, he ran with one of the few recommendations he could do on his own — creating an intelligence overseer — but was against giving the position any budgetary authority and thus no power? Thus rejecting a key part of the commission's recommendation?
  • Remember how, when it was suggested our intelligence capabilities could be improved if a committee studied how our WMD intelligence on Iraq went wrong, Bush resisted and resisted and resisted?
  • Remember how, when we had Osama Bin Laden trapped in Tora Bora, we didn't finish the job, and instead delegated it to corruptible leaders in the Northern Alliance who subsequently let him slip out?
  • Remember how the Taliban — Al Qaeda's shelter, we were told — was led by a guy named Omar, who like Bin Laden has yet to be captured?
  • Remember how we worked so hard to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan and rebuild that nation, but somehow the White House forgot to put any money in its budget to help it out?
  • And remember how we were so interested in routing out Al Qaeda that we turned our attention to Iraq — for reasons that still aren't clear... a new rationale was presented at the convention this week — leaving the Taliban still alive, and currently working to come back?

I've lost count of the bullet points, but these are all that I could remember as to why we can't be comfortable with Bush on the war on terror. Each of these is a leading indicator that he just doesn't have it in him.

And remember, all I've discussed here is the war on terror. I haven't gotten into other aspects of judging a president (the economy, healthcare, and so on). Why would anyone have confidence in him? Why?
Link 5:51 PM | Home

Hurricane photography: The Palm Beach Post has over 150 shots, many very human.
Link 11:48 AM

An inconsistency regarding Catholic politicians and abortion beliefs. Rudy Giuliani, an abortion-supporting Catholic, is having a Catholic hospital named after him.

"If you would name a center after somebody, certainly that would qualify as an honor," said the Rev. Frank Pavone, a priest who lives in Staten Island and runs the national anti-abortion campaign Priests for Life. Father Pavone called the naming "troublesome," saying, "It certainly isn't something I would do if I were in that position."

He said that Republicans who support abortion rights should be treated the same as Democrats who hold similar views, including some who have been denied communion. Mr. Giuliani is a Republican.

Christopher Slattery, an anti-abortion activist in the New York area, said the naming of the trauma center was "outrageous."

"I think it's a scandal that a Roman Catholic institution is prominently honoring a man who has a serious, at least one serious moral flaw, if not many," he said.

I don't think it rises to hypocrisy, however, unless those responsible for naming the hospital see that John Kerry is denied communion. But it does point to a need for a more uniform understanding of how the lost sheep who support abortion should be treated.

In related news, the bishop of St. Louis says it may not be a sin for Catholics to vote for Kerry. If Catholics feel that the rest of Kerry's positions outweigh his position on abortion, it's not a sin, but to vote for Kerry because of his abortion position would be a sin.
Link 10:38 AM

The Bush bounce may also be an artifact of differences in cooperation. In a post last night I mentioned that Bush had grown to a strong lead in two different polls from Newsweek and Time, double-digit leads in each case, and I suggested that because much of the surveying was done before the conventions had even closed, that it might not be stable. Here's an additional consideration (it takes a bit to build it, so please be patient, I can't do the normal pyramid down explanations here.)

  • Men support Bush more than women do; women support Kerry more than men do. These trends are pretty well established.
  • In surveys, men are generally less willing to cooperate than women are, so you have to work extra hard in order to get men to participate. In the Time survey at least, they follow a pretty standard procedure of checking to see if there's a man in the household before surveying anyone about their opinions, and trying first to get the man on the phone. It doesn't always work: often the man will still not come to the phone. Men are just less willing to participate. The survey method is not a bias, it's an effort to correct a bias.
  • It's possible that the convention speeches may not have energized opinions so much as they energized the willingness to cooperate among Bush-supporting men. Women are already more willing to participate, so there would be less opportunity for this kind of shift among women. Put another way, the advantage for Bush may not be among the population at large but among the population of those willing to participate in surveys.

How much do I believe this? Well, I know from my 20 years in marketing research that it's quite possible, but I honestly don't have the data to support or refute it. The Time poll doesn't break out preference by gender at all, but the Newsweek poll shows women preferring Bush over Kerry (50-43), but doesn't mention gender in its write-up. Nor do I see any trending information by gender. I think that figure showing that women prefer Bush are an argument against this hypothesis, but without trending information it's tough to say.

For this hypothesis to be valid, we'd need to have information showing an increased cooperation rate among men in the recent polls. That can be a tough number to get from polling organizations, because survey conclusions always assume that those who participate are representative of those who don't; it's an unknown where you have to make this assumption or you'll never conclude anything, and research is driven by the need to draw conclusions. If you're not willing to make that assumption, you don't do research (or you take extra steps to increase participation through methods such as paying people to participate.)

But so many of the polls were dead even going into the convention, I honestly don't see how a double-digit bounce could be both genuine and stable.
Link 8:18 AM

Oddly, I don't see the difference. The Bush campaign defends its smear tactics, saying in effect "at least it's not name-calling."

Before a recent rally for President Bush in Las Cruces, N. M., campaign officials showed the crowd a video featuring John Kerry's shifting explanations of his stands on issues. The audience broke into laughter toward the end as a catchy theme from a popular `60s TV show accompanied the clip: "They call him Flipper, Flipper, faster than lightning/ No one you see is smarter than he." That tack was hardly unusual. In fact, on the campaign trail and at this week's Republican convention, Bush and other GOP speakers reduced Kerry to a punch line: a flip-flopping Boston Brahmin with a Senate record that's best used as joke fodder.

Bush campaign officials say the pokes are all in good fun, a light-hearted way to illustrate the differences between Bush and Kerry.

"Too often, those in Washington resort to name-calling and negativity to attempt to make a point," said Scott Stanzel, a Bush campaign spokesman. "There are other ways to point out the differences between the president and his opponent."

I'm sorry, but when the Bush-Cheney campaign distorts Kerry's positions into overly-simplistic characterizations which are basically lies, it's no better. Obviously, the Bush-Cheney campaign prefers to treat Americans as if they're ten-year olds, resorting to 'useful stories.' (So much for that grand concept Bush tried to sell the other night, that he thinks we know better than government.)
Link 12:35 AM

Saturday, September 4, 2004:

What to make of Bush's bounce? Newsweek is reporting a significant lead for Bush, now that the Republican National Convention has ended. (Time magazine was also reporting a huge jump for Bush, and I saw it on their web site, but it now seems to have been buried for some reason: it's not evident on their web site's home page, nor on the home page of their election coverage. Very strange, but you can see the results here if you scroll down.)

First, any Kerry supporter would always prefer to see numbers which demonstrate majority support for Kerry, and these don't. However, in both cases a lot of the surveys were conducted while the convention was still in progress, meaning this is about as snapshotty as one could get: pure, instantaneous reactions to what they were seeing on the screen, with little settled consideration. (The Newsweek poll was conducted over two days, the day of Bush's speech, and the day after. In the Time poll, no surveys were conducted even so much as a day after Bush spoke, they were all conducted August 31 through September 2.)

Is this wrong? Well, it depends on what you want to do with the numbers. The questions are posed as "if the election were held today," and if it had been held yesterday maybe you could run with those numbers. But it's clear that participants were responding on the first flushes of emotion, many after damning speeches from Zell Miller and Dick Cheney. Without the benefit of their debunking — some of which has already started and will continue, I'm sure — how would you expect voters to respond? It's a known fact that in every US trial, juries don't start deliberating after the prosecution has presented its case, but after both sides have. Projecting from these immediate numbers (many drawn from surveys conducted while the convention was still on!!) would be like asking the jury for its verdict without hearing the defense.

It's probably a genuine bounce, but there are still two months to go. It could well be a temporary, unstable result. Wait and see, is my advice, and don't get pessimistic: careful deliberation and more information can still have a significant impact.
Link 10:39 PM

West Palm Beach in the dark. Right now, a web cam of the old court house shows how dark it can get with the power out... My folks have been without power all day, and are now huddled in a room that's about 7' by 3', with their African Grey and a mattress. I'm sure they'll be OK, but there's definitely a human toll to all this. (I'm not sure one sees people huddling on CNN.)
Link 8:45 PM

Put this man in front of cameras for a TV ad. Earlier this week I said it was time to change the agenda away from Vietnam and focus on the Bush record, and use John Glenn in ads to set the Swift Boat Veterans' lies aside. Well, he's not making TV ads yet, but he's swinging for the fences:

Former Sen. John Glenn of Ohio, campaigning with Kerry in the town about 25 miles east of Columbus, urged voters "to separate out fact from fiction." He accused Republicans of making false claims against Kerry and engaging in the kind of propaganda once employed by the Third Reich in Nazi Germany.

"That makes this a very, very tough fight because too often, too often in this country, if you hear something repeated, it's the old Hitler business," Glenn said. "If you hear something repeated, repeated, repeated, repeated, you start to believe it."

Note that Glenn never accused Bush/Cheney of rounding up minorities or having schemes of world domination, only that their repetition of lies mirrored the propaganda techniques of the Nazis. I personally don't think that all comparisons to the Third Reich should be verboten: some are legitimate, and I think this is in that group. Now let's put him in front of a camera for television commercials. Who wants to be the first to question John Glenn's patriotism? Huh? Who?
Link 8:39 PM

I hope this becomes a recurring theme. Kerry has been mentioning not just the costs of the war in Iraq, but the opportunity costs:

Even Mr. Kerry's comments about Iraq centered on the economics of the war and its potential impact on domestic priorities.

"He told America the war would cost you how much?" Mr. Kerry said. "One billion dollars. The war has cost $200 billion, and as you look around this country, think of what that money could have done for schools, for health care, for prescription drugs, for all the things we need to do."

Aren't you glad we didn't march on into Syria or Iran?
Link 12:19 PM

Friday, September 3, 2004:

Is this cool or what? Zoë (11 years old) had her first raw oysters on a trip to Florida this past July. Loved 'em. For me, they've always been something I'd be happy to leave behind. But I always knew I could get them cheap in Chinatown, and I picked up a dozen today for $5. The reason I went to Chinatown for seafood was because she wanted us to finally grill this summer, and with the relatively cool temps we've had, we hadn't so far, and I figured shrimp in the shells was as easy as it could get. Well, to my pleasure, Zoë actually shucked the oysters. Herself (under guidance). What more could you ask?
Link 10:21 PM

Current electoral college counts (based on polling) now give Bush the 270 votes he would need to be re-elected. (I suspect it showed this earlier in the week and I didn't notice.) However, there are still two months to the election, and since we've already seen it shift, it could shift again. For instance, Bush's lead in Arkansas is currently only 1% point, and Clinton is still popular there and bound to campaign. (In fact, Clinton has done relatively little campaigning, and I'm sure he would as soon as asked.) Bush's lead in Pennsylvania (21 votes, enough to reverse the current lead in electoral college votes big time) is also slim, just a percentage point. Gore carried PA in 2000, and it's difficult to imagine why anyone who voted Gore in 2000 would vote Bush in 2004.

At the same time, of course, results for Colorado (9) and Iowa (7) have Kerry and Bush dead even, and Kerry is a slim leader in Minnesota (10). If Bush took all three of those, that would cancel the potential loss of Pennsylvania. It's all far from over, and well worth continuing with the energy. We're going to be reading about convention bounce soon, but remember, unless it's looked at in terms of electoral college votes, the popular vote doesn't matter beyond a 'moral victory.' Did Gore even get a personalized coffee mug out of winning the popular vote?

I know times are tough, but donate to the DNC if you can.
Link 12:56 PM

I was confused last night when Bush said, "You know where I stand." (His exact words were, "This election will also determine how America responds to the continuing danger of terrorism, and you know where I stand.")

You see, here's where I get confused...

  • On September 11, we were attacked by a group called Al Qaeda (or Al Qaida if you choose — so far as I can tell they're not picky). And when we had its leader, a guy named Osama bin Laden — who apparently approved the attack plans and helped in their development — trapped like a rat in Tora Bora, we entrusted the job of his final capture to corruptible war lords in the Northern Alliance, who were subsequently bought out by OBL and then allowed him to escape. Where do you stand on capturing Osama Bin Laden?
  • Al Qaeda had been harbored in Afghanistan by the Taliban, which was led by Mullah Omar. It was primarily him who resisted giving up OBL after your ultimatums were issued. He remains at large, and in spite of that our forces were diverted from Afghanistan to Iraq. Where do you stand on capturing Omar?
  • The Taliban has not been eradicated in Afghanistan, and there are reports that it is in resurgence. There are also reports that many of its leaders are in Pakistan. Doctors without Borders is pulling out of Afghanistan; a UN office was bombed, and its employees union has called for the UN to withdraw. Where do you stand on eliminating the Taliban, which harbored terrorists? I ask because so many of our forces are in Iraq...
  • I don't need to go into great detail here, but you redirected our forces from Afghanistan to Iraq, on the basis of faulty intelligence. On-the-ground intelligence (in the form of UN inspectors) indicated that there were no WMDs in Iraq, yet still you persisted in invading Iraq (who hadn't attacked us) at the cost of an incomplete mission in Afghanistan. Where do you stand on defending us against those who have actually attacked us?
  • This week you famously flip-flopped in an interview with Matt Lauer over whether the war on terror was winnable. In the past, you had said we were actually winning that war — not just progressing, but winning. Speaking to Lauer you unequivocally said "I don't think you can win it." The next day you revised your position again (this would represent a flop-flip-flop) to say you merely meant that you didn't envision some kind of treaty signing ceremony, winnable in that sense. (Since when was that a criterion?) Where do you stand on whether or not it's winnable, and whether or not we are still winning it?

Get on it, press corps!
Link 12:36 PM

Worth sharing with your friends. It's the Washington Post's summary of Kerry "facts" which the GOP has plain wrong. You need this, maybe even in your back pocket.
Link 12:08 PM

Thursday, September 2, 2004:

Others will say it too, but that won't stop me: Bush was WRONG to suggest Kerry doesn't support the troops. Tonight Bush accused Kerry of not supporting the troops because he was against an $87 billion bill that had as one of its parts support for the troops. Kerry supported the troops, he just didn't support the part that gave Iraq huge amounts of funding as an outright gift. Bush didn't support a bill where, along with support for our troops, that ancillary funding for Iraq was set up as loans. If Kerry didn't support the troops, then neither did Bush. By Bush acting this way, he is showing disrespect for the office of the Presidency. Presidents do not behave this way. (I'll probably have other comments on the speech at another point, but this one drove me to the room with the computer.)
Link 11:03 PM

Maybe Zell Miller is a double agent. Seriously: everything he did last night is going to backfire on the GOP, and you can already see the press becoming more active just from how they responded to his speech. Now, when a party chooses a keynote speaker for its convention, you would expect that they thoroughly vet them — not only what they'll say, but how they'll respond in interviews. Perhaps Karl Rove was just a little too gleeful about getting a seemingly non- partisan "statesman" to criticize Kerry that they didn't notice that Zell was still secretly working for the Dems. And then, when given his opportunity, Zell just went ballistic at the podium, and manic in the interviews afterwards. I mean, why wouldn't he have changed parties long ago if he really felt this way? He's a spy, I'm tellin' ya. And those Rovies fell for it. :-)
Link 8:48 PM

Just how pathetic can the New York Times be? As I mentioned below, Zell Miller gave a fiery anti-Kerry speech last night, one in which he listed several weapons programs Kerry had voted against, without noting that Kerry had often voted for those same programs when they were less laden with pork, or that Cheney himself had argued against the same weapons programs. He also claimed that Kerry has said that he would go to a foreign body first if we were attacked:

Senator Kerry has made it clear that he would use military force only if approved by the United Nations.

Kerry would let Paris decide when America needs defending. I want Bush to decide.

Flat wrong, and a lie to boot. Here's what Kerry said at the DNC in Boston:

I defended this country as a young man and I will defend it as president. Let there be no mistake: I will never hesitate to use force when it is required. Any attack will be met with a swift and certain response. I will never give any nation or international institution a veto over our national security. And I will build a stronger American military.

Why does Miller even try to get away with such a bald lie as this? Well, it's because he knows that many journalists are pathetic. Like the New York Times. Here's the bit of fluff that pretended to discuss Zell Miller's speech last night... As you read it, look carefully for any mention that Miller was even shading the truth.

Republicans enlisted the Democrat who delivered the keynote address at the 1992 Democratic convention that nominated Bill Clinton, Senator Zell Miller of Georgia, to offer the keynote for the Republicans, which amounted to a memorably brutal attack on Mr. Kerry and the Democratic Party. Mr. Miller, a Southern conservative who has grown increasingly alienated from his party, said Democrats had placed partisan politics over national security during this time of war and portrayed Mr. Kerry as "faint-hearted," self-indulgent and indecisive.

"For more than 20 years, on every one of the great issues of freedom and security, John Kerry has been more wrong, more weak and more wobbly than any other national figure,'' Mr. Miller said, adding: "George Bush wants to grab terrorists by the throat and not let them go to get a better grip. From John Kerry, they get a 'yes-no-maybe' bowl of mush that can only encourage our enemies and confuse our friends."

But it was a full-throated attack on his own party that roused the Republicans who filled Madison Square Garden.

"At the same time young Americans are dying in the sands of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan, our nation is being torn apart and made weaker because of a Democrat's manic obsession to bring down our commander in chief,'' Mr. Miller said, staring sternly across the hall. "What has happened to the party I've spent my life working in?"

Did you see anything that told you what Miller had done in his speech? Of course not, that would have required more than the skills one learns in creative writing classes. Just plain derelict in their duty. Don't let any of your friends get away with thinking that Miller was telling the truth last night. You have to fight to re-establish the reality when the Republican attack machine is acting as it is. Work at it!

UPDATE: Through Atrios, here's a transcript of CNN questioning Miller on his charges.
Link 5:01 PM

It would have been masochistic of me to spend more time watching Zell Miller's speech last night: at various points he repeated hypocritical canards about Kerry's voting record (positions which Cheney had shared with Kerry, for instance), and completely misrepresented what Kerry had said in the DNC convention (by 180 degrees) over whether or not we would defend ourselves when attacked; on later television interviews he suggested to CNN's Wolf Blitzer that it was irrelevant whether or not Cheney had argued for similar positions as Kerry had, and on CNBC he basically challenged Chris Matthews to a duel. I'm not a political writer by profession, so it really would have been masochism on my part to watch all that. But I have emailed both of my senators asking for a censure resolution, because Miller was a genuine embarrassment to the Senate chamber.
Link 2:44 PM

NYC whisks protesters away, and deprives the GOP of major leverage? Could this have been a planned outcome? But according to the NY Times, the convention protesters have been taken care of so efficiently, that the Republican party can't point to wild-eyed Bush hatred:

In general, though, if the week's protesters wound up shouting mostly to themselves, the Bush-Cheney campaign did not get the wild-eyed foil it had counted on, either. While Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and the Police Department had promised an orderly city all along, several Republicans had indicated that they hoped to blame the campaign of the Democratic nominee, John Kerry, for any destruction.

So far, there has been little to pin on the Democrats.

"If the protesters do something outrageous, they benefit Bush; if they don't do something outrageous they don't get covered," said Kieran Mahoney, a Republican political consultant from New York. "They are the answer to the question, 'If a tree falls in the forest, does it make any noise?'"

In fact, the image that went nationwide, on television and in newspapers, was from Sunday, when United for Peace and Justice, a protest coalition, held a huge but orderly march that managed to cast a shadow over the opening day of the convention.

Just goes to show you what a lousy Republican (ex-Democrat) Bloomberg is. Not only does he quarrel with the Republican state governor and disagree with Washington, but when handed the opportunity to act like Richard Daley on behalf of the GOP, he blows it.

(I'd feel better, though, if I didn't have the memory of this post in the back of my mind.)
Link 12:15 AM

Wednesday, September 1, 2004:

Kosovo never happened. I don't think I'll be able to listen to all of Zell Miller's speech. But after mentioning the new Miller great grandchildren (and forgetting to mention the national debt they'll be bearing because of W's excellent adventure in Iraq), he's just given this list of occasions where Democrats fought for world freedom, and contrasted that with what he sees as the current position on Iraq. (We could of course disagree with his view on Iraq; both the Catholic Church and Human Right Watch felt that the war couldn't be justified even on humanitarian grounds.) But oddly, Zell made no mention of how just last decade Clinton bombed Kosovo to save lives, and Republicans like Tom Delay loudly resisted. If you disagree with the Democrats' position on Iraq, what on earth would make you think that Republicans will consistently be better? Wouldn't it be better to wonder if there's possibly some other reason we went in to Iraq? How often did President Bush or any of his people mention that we were doing it in order to liberate people? Nooooo, I'm sorry, that was certainly not top of mind. (And why did Miller talk about 1940 as being a visionary year for Roosevelt, to recognize the danger of Hitler? Hitler invaded Poland in 1939. It was more to the discredit of isolationists here that they didn't see it, than it was to FDR's credit. What country did Iraq invade in 2003?)
Link 10:20 PM

Why foes Gov. Mitt Romney hate the Catholic Church? In his speech just now, he came out against the "hate America first" crowd who were against our troops going off to fight a "just war" in Iraq. Now, everyone supports our troops, but the Catholic Church didn't consider it a just war either. Why is Mitt Romney anti-Catholic? Will Massachusetts let him get away with this? (His remark is not in the advance text delivered to the media, by the way.)

UPDATE: Here's the line from Romney, from a transcript at the Washington Post: "On the just war our brave soldiers are fighting to protect free people everywhere, there is no question: George W. Bush is right, and the 'Blame America First' crowd is wrong." So again: the Catholic Church said it wasn't a just war. Why does Romney hate the Catholic Church?
Link 9:52 PM

So there were these two talking heads... One was PBS interviewer Terence Smith, and the other was a gentleman named Kohut, from the Pew Research Center, during convention coverage. (When I get his full name from the transcript, I will silently update this post, along with the verbatim from the transcript.) The point of the discussion is the seemingly conflicting opinions of the American public — inconsistencies. The very first one Kohut cited was something like 65% want a strong response to an international crisis, yet a similar proportion were dissatisfied with Iraq. Going into Iraq? Current status? I don't remember him being specific... But either way, this couldn't really be a conflict, because Iraq wasn't an international crisis. If there was any tension, even, it was the US who put it there. We provoked the problem in the UN, not Iraq. Iraq was being contained from the sanctions, and we now know they had no WMDs. Why would Kohut have thought this was a conflict? And why would Smith have just let it glide by? What did I miss?

UPDATE: The researcher's name is Andrew Kohut, and there's no transcript provided by PBS, but you can listen through RealAudio here. Here's my transcript of the relevant part...

SMITH: Thank you Jim. I'm back with Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center. And on this whole issue of foreign policy, and specifically, what the U.S. should do when confronted in international crises, when you talk to voters, what do they tell you?

KOHUT: Well we did a major survey in the summer with the Council on Foreign Relations on foreign policy attitudes, and we see two conflicting results, the American public continues to be concerned about terrorism but also disappointed in Iraq. And here's an interesting factoid: the two highly valued foreign policy values are, 65% said our foreign policy should be decisive, but then 65% also said it should be cautious...

Smith follows up on the second set of statistics, but never asks more about the first pair. I was wrong to think Kohut was first referring to international crisis — that was from Smith's lead in — but there is nothing conflicting about being concerned about terrorism and being dissatisfied in Iraq. Our venture in Iraq seems to have provoked terrorism, not quelled it. Smith must have been asleep at the wheel on this one.
Link 9:25 PM

Somewhere a butterfly flaps its wings, and Bush gets elected. Well, Theresa LePore, the well-intentioned designer of the infamous butterfly ballot which confused about 15,000 voters to vote for Pat Buchanan instead of Al Gore, has lost her bid for re-election. And you know what Samuel Johnson didn't say about intentions and hell, don't you?
Link 4:36 PM

Will THIS be the Bush defense? Al Franken just had other-side-of-the-aisle talkshow host Hugh Hewitt on, and he asked Hewitt his opinion on a recurring craw in Franken's throat: having read the August 6 Presidential Daily Brief (the one titled "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in the US," and including information that airline hijackings were a plan), should Bush have gone into the Booker Elementary classroom at all, having already heard that a plane had struck the WTC? Hewitt's immediate response was to fire back with a question as to whether or not Franken thought that the second jet might have been stopped had Bush not gone in.

The 9/11 Commission report concludes that it's really unlikely that any of the jets could have been stopped, based on the procedures in place at the time. But this shouldn't be the question. At the time, Bush didn't know what the limitations of the procedures were. He didn't even try to stop them. Not only did he proceed to go into the classroom, he stayed there for the famous seven minutes after he'd heard about the second jet. "Might have" is not the standard, and we shouldn't let the GOP push it on us; the standard is should. Bush shouldn't be compared to other politicians such as Kerry, whose role wasn't to direct the national defense; Bush shouldn't be compared to what he might have possibly achieved now that we have 20-20 hindsight. All we need to do is measure him against what was known at the time; that's fair, isn't it? And how did Bush respond to the crisis?

The GOP has been very good about putting out false standards for behavior (see my earlier discussion in a similar path here). Condoleezza Rice seemed to think it visionary that Bush was "tired of swatting flies," yet when 9/11 Panel Commissioner Bob Kerrey asked for a single instance of when Bush had done so much as swat a fly, she couldn't offer one.

Let's be really clear here, and not give an inch.
Link 2:49 PM

Giuliani's spin. Would you be very surprised to read that on Monday night Rudy Giuliani didn't properly represent Kerry and his positions? (Link via Atrios.)
Link 12:24 PM

The core pessimism of the Republican party came through loud and clear last night. Through the speakers they chose to highlight as if they were representative of the broader party, and through what the speakers had to say, it was clear that the GOP truly has low standards for success. For instance, no offense to the Lieutenant Governor of Maryland, but in my book it's not overly significant that as a black American he was elected to statewide office. Isn't the Lt. Governor elected as part of a ticket? How are we expected to separate out his ascension from the governor's? When the Republicans can put up statewide elected black Americans like senators and governors — who not only get the majority vote, but also the majority of registered Republicans' votes — then they will have something to boast about perhaps. But not yet. And is it telling that they find a Hispanic speaker in the President's own family? That certainly doesn't make a great claim that Hispanics are pervasive.

And you also have Arnold Schwarzenegger, chiding us that we're "girlie men" if we complain about the economy, because it's still envied by the rest of the world. An interesting point for him to make, on two accounts. On the one hand, it's inconsistent with something else he'd said, that we were a better voice for democracy than the U.N. (suggesting that international opinion doesn't count). Secondly, and this is the pessimistic part, Schwarzenegger is grading the economy by comparing it to other countries, not comparing it to what America is capable of. Remember the Clinton era? We already know what this country can do: why does Schwarzenegger hate America so much that he wants to hide its potential from us?

I think we all know the answer to that one: by setting up genuine standards, the Bush administration is a failure.
Link 10:43 AM

Some of this reads like police over-reaction. It doesn't help the cause when groups of protesters deliberately forego applying for permits and provoke confrontations, but when you read that a woman putting up a banner on the library steps was pinned down, or that "[p]eople coming off the subways were thrown to the ground"? Without any details that people coming off subways were provoking the police or disobeying the police instructions, I don't know how you read this otherwise.

As police drew close, they tried to scatter. Police tackled them in streets, corners and in front of stores. Innocent bystanders were also caught up in the maelstrom.

Now, I don't blame the entire military for what happened at Abu Ghraib. And like I've already written in this post, some of the protesters certainly provoked a firm reaction from the police by not even applying for permits. But since the article also states that the police re-strategized during the day, how much of what seems to be an overreaction was actually planned vs. a "mistake"?
Link 10:15 AM

I can't wait for my Yankee-fan daughter to wake up, so I can do the great nose-thumbing over last night's game, but I will wait, of course.
Link 8:48 AM

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