Thursday, September 30, 2004

The Debate 

I was going to comment on the debates; after reading Goldberg's post below, it appears that Goldberg and Guthrie has proven to a mathematical certainty that Kerry won the debate and will win the election.

In all seriousness, Kerry won this debate. Period. He had better ideas and was more prepared. Kerry appeared in control and confident; the President appeared annoyed and tired. I admit in some ways it's not fair; for all his faults, Bush is trying to wage a war while running a campaign. Kerry only has to talk about a war. It's no wonder Bush looks tired and pissed. However, I don't see how intelligent people can disagree about who won this debate. How this will effect the election, of course, remains to be seen.

Also, I've heard some rumblings over on Pandagon that some conservatives may be pointing the finger at Lehrer. I can't believe that this is true; he ran a perfectly reasonable and fair debate, and I'm sure any conservatives flirting with this line of argument will abandon it within a day. Never the less, I point you to the following exchange. If I went back and pasted this in the Bill O'Reilly thread below, you wouldn't know the difference.
LEHRER: Thirty seconds, Mr. President.

BUSH: You know my opinion on North Korea. I can't say it any more plainly.

LEHRER: Well, but when he used the word "truth" again...

BUSH: Pardon me?

LEHRER: ... talking about the truth of the matter. He used the word "truth" again. Did that raise any hackles with you?

BUSH: Oh, I'm a pretty calm guy. I don't take it personally.

LEHRER: OK. All right.
For some reason, all I could think about during this was the season finale of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Larry David and David Schwimmer are in The Producers, and Larry forgets his line. David's attempt to cover/cue the line is: "I was saying, under certain circumstances a producer could make more with a flop than a hit. Does that, um, bring any scheme to mind?" This was the funniest moment of the debate.


We Get Letters 

From a correspondent in DC:
I watched the debate at a Kerry fundraiser. The crowd is thrilled.
And then he sent me a follow-up email:
I'm standing in front of the Repub Club. No one is smiling, including several Members of Congrss.
Take it for what it's worth. I was watching on cspan.org in a 1-inch Windows Media Player Screen, and I don't think I could get a real flavor for what was going on.

My only Debate Comment 

Bush just said (very close paraphrase): "When we had the debate in 2000, Jim, I never dreamt I'd have to send troops in harms way." What the fuck is that? I sure as hell hope anyone running for president thinks aobut sending troops in harms way. Good god. Good god.

UPDATE: This is Goldberg's post; minor typo corrected by Guthrie.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

The NFL 

So, time to blog a bit on the NFL (although, to chime in on politics, I really was a bit surprised that O'Reilly was such a softy to President Bush. Oh well). Anyway, I keep hearing announcers--from the terrible, such as Kevin Harlan and Randy Cross, to the good-to-great, like MNF and the ESPN Sunday Night Crew ("You want to talk about blocking, let me show this....")--talk about whether or not a challenge decision is good decision or not. The weird thing about it is that they never, in analyzing whether or not challenging the play was a good decision, look at the probability the challenge will actually succeed. It's always a formula based on possible outcomes, as if each outcome (call upheld or call overturned) has 50% probability. So, they'll say, "well, this is a good challenge because if they succeed it will force 4th down," or "stupid challenge, if you succeed it's still 3rd and long, but if you lose you're out a timeout." But, if the call on the field in the latter situation is egregiously wrong to anyone watching on TV, then it's a good challenge b/c it will get overturned. If the former situation involves a call that was clearly right, then the challenge was stupid. The possible outcomes matter much, much less that, duh, whether the call on the field was right or not.

And, of course, it's pretty easy to tell if a call is correct or not after watching one replay, which takes about 15 seconds.

So, NFL announcers, cut the shit.

No Spin 

Part 1 and Part 2 (of three) of the O'Reilly interview with Bush have happened. And the questions were hard hitting - tough, but fair. Let's take a look at some of the questions O'Reilly nailed the President with:
O'REILLY: [A]ccording to a poll taken by the Coalition Provisional Authority last spring, only five percent of the Iraqi people see the United States as liberators. Are you surprised they don't appreciate the American sacrifice more?

O'REILLY: The South Vietnamese didn't fight for their freedom, which is why they don't have it today.

BUSH: Yes.

O'REILLY: Do you think the Iraqis are going to fight for their freedom?

O’REILLY: Not Jacques Chirac?

BUSH:: Well, he voted yes at the Security Council.

O’REILLY: Yeah, but he stabbed you guys in the back, you thought he was going to help you and he didn't.

O’REILLY: What’s Chirac’s problem?

O’REILLY: ... In light of the CBS document fiasco, do you think you get a fair shake from the network news and the elite media like the “New York Times?”

O’REILLY: Cause you went to Yale and Harvard.

BUSH: I did.

O’REILLY: And they’re all, pinhead liberals over there, right?
Nice work, O'Reilly.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Lowry on War 

Rich Lowry begins a post on The Corner with the following:
One thing I was struck by listening to Allawi last week was how often he referred to “tribes,” the tribes of Fallujah, the tribes of Najaf, etc, etc. It made me realize how little any of us “generalists” sitting here in the US really understand of what's going on in Iraq. What do we know about how a tribal society operates?
So after supporting an invasion of a country before it took place and after continuing to support if for two years after it took place, he now admits that he knows very little about the country that we just invaded and the society that we are trying to reconstruct. It's actually a good point - but shouldn't we have figured this out BEFORE we decided to invade Iraq? Shouldn't Lowry have figured it out before he decided to support the war?

Friday, September 24, 2004

Good Cartoon 

This cartoon is great/sad/brilliant. Talking Points Memo linked to it.

A More Controversial Stand 

Below, I insinuate that John Kerry is responsible for killing Americans. Here, I shall take an even more controversial stand: Eddie Murphy should have won an Oscar for his performance in The Nutty Professor.

I was watching this last night, and he is incredibly funny. He also brings real life and heart and dignity to Professor Klump and Buddy Love. The Academy always overlooks comedic performances, usually choosing to bestow an Oscar on whoever best portrayed a disabled person. (Indeed, the year that Murphy played Klump Geoffrey Rush won for Shine.) (Geoffrey Rush - a very good actor - also got an undeserved Best Supporting Actor nomination for Shakespeare in Love. I thought the nomination should have gone to Tom Wilkinson for the same film.)

Also, I hadn't remembered until last night that Dave Chapelle is in The Nutty Professor: he plays the stand-up comic. God, he's funny.

I think this movie will always be Murphy's best performance as an actor. Obviously, nothing in the world could be funnier than Murphy in 1980s. But The Nutty Professor is sort of the film in between Murphy as vulgar comedian and Murphy as star of every Disney family movie. He's really at the top of his game here; since he can't rely on some of the humor he used in his usual R-rated films, he has not rely purely on talent, and he has an endless supply of it.

Kerry on Iraq 

You know, I was watching The O'Reilly Factor last night - and Bill played an interview he had with John Kerry from late 2001. The topic was Iraq. (No link or transcript available.)

I don't care what he says now and I don't care if he is who I am voting for in November. John Kerry was not talking as if he was a person against the war. HE was talking about weapons of mass destruction. HE was talking about a possible link between Iraq and September 11th. Of course he noted that he did not have solid evidence for this link: but that's exactly what Bush has done for three years and it's exactly why significant portions of this country still believe that there was some link.

There actually was a strong case to be made for invading Iraq. George Bush made it: sometimes dishonestly, but he made a legitimate case nevertheless. What we didn't have by our Democratic leaders was any effort to present the case against invading Iraq. We didn't have a respectable anti-war movement. Democratic leaders like John Kerry simply didn't present the case - nor did Goldberg and Guthrie. (Of course, we didn't exist at the time.)

This was a mistake on numerous levels. It was a political mistake: John Kerry simply cannot run against Bush's greatest vulnerability - this war. It was a strategic mistake: the same mistake that Bush made when he analyzed the intelligence out of Iraq.

Most importantly, it was a moral failure. American men and women are dying - due to the mistakes that Bush and Kerry made. Bush of course bears primary responsibility; but the lack of an important anti-war movement made disaster inevitable. John Kerry was a Democratic leader. He had voted against the first Gulf War, and had courageously fought against the Vietnam War. He did not fight against this war. Who will be the last American to die for that mistake?

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

What would a Kerry or Bush victory really mean? 

Andrew Sullivan says this, and I think he's on to something:
BY THE WAY: I wonder if either candidate has pondered the benefits of actually losing this election? If Kerry wins, you can see how the Republicans would then blame all the inevitable mess in Iraq on his vacillation (even if he doesn't budge an inch), and marshall a Tet offensive argument that implies that if only Washington hadn't given up, the Blessed Leader would have seen the war to victory. Kerry wouldn't be able to win, whatever he does. And because he'd be more fiscally responsible than Bush (could anyone be less fiscally responsible?) he wouldn't have much in the way of domestic goodies to keep his base happy. But if Bush wins and heads into a real, live second Vietnam in Iraq, his party will split, the country will become even more bitterly polarized than now (especially if he's re-elected because he's not Kerry) and he'll become another end-of-career Lyndon Johnson. The presidency of the U.S. is never an easy job. But it could be a brutal one these next four years. Which sane person would want the job?
I think his prediction of a Kerry victory is right: The VRWC will be all over him worse than Clinton. And, while I'd like to think the press learned their lessons about trusting the GOP spin after Clinton, I'm not sure they did (witness Swiftvets). Therefore, a terribly combative political culture is probably what Kerry will be delaing with. As for a Bush victory splitting the GOP, lots of moderates have thought this would happen, and it hasn't yet. And while I do think the DC-based elite GOP might split, I don't see the rank-and-file GOP base doing anything but supporting Bush.

Also, while a purge of the radical elements of the GOP would be good for the country, that good is still outweighed by the bad of a 2nd Bush Administration. No more Roe v. Wade, more fiscal insolvency, more secrecy in the executive branch, more cronyism, more go-nowhere macroeconomic policy, etc. We need to stop the bleeding now, even if it would mean a one-term Kerry presidency.

Bin Laden = Sitting Bull 

Jonah Goldberg posts the following letter from a "retired Army guy" on The Corner:
Jonah, It's an Indian fight -- a violent and bloody struggle against an enemy without morals or values as we understand them, and a way of life alien to us. In an Indian fight they took scalps; now they take heads. The US Army fought the Indians on this continent for 115 years; the British Army and Colonial militias had fought them for 150 years before that. The War on terror is going to be long and bloody, and fought on many fronts. It won't be won in the next four years, but it could be lost.
I don't even know how to begin to comment on this. To argue that "Indians" were "an enemy without morals or values as we understand them" is beyond ignorance. Indians were fighting to protect their home: a value we could understand, but chose to ignore. The Indians chose to believe Europeans and Americans when they signed treaties with them: a value that we understood, but chose to ignore. The crime perpetrated on these people was on a scale beyond anything that Osama Bin Laden could dream of accomplishing. If this war really is the same as that one, then we're on the wrong side.

Of course, this war is nothing like that one, but it's disturbing that a prominent conservative would approvingly post a letter that says that it is.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Man Pretends to Have Bush Sign Stolen 


I can't recommend highly enough that you read the article I link to below. I couldn't paste it here because you need to see the pictures, and I'm not smart enough to do that. It's well, well worth reading - very funny.


Very, very funny - you should read this.


An excellent point on this from Steve M. in the Atrios comment thread on this:
Damn, if we were Republicans, this would be in Drudge and Taranto today, on talk radio all day, on Scarborough and O'Reilly and H&C all next week ... and Kurtz and Kaus and Paula Z. and Nagourney all the rest would follow by mid-week. There'd be talk that he should up on felony charges. By late next week, Lott and DeLay would be calling for congressional hearings.


Just for context, read this original Washington Times article on this. So funny.

Things like this are what make politics great.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Conservative Hilarity  

I've been meaning to post on this article for a while, and now seems like the right time. Let's be honest... things are getting heated around here. A little too heated, and we could use a little light hearted humor. But if you're like me, you've noticed a problem... comedians are just a little too, you know, liberal. Well, as Fox News reports, we may have found a solution...
Growing Group of Comedians Veer Right
As soon as I saw this headline, I knew I'd be in for some chuckles. And God was I right. But first, Fox had to identify the problem...
Though a lot of comics and entertainers have lately been taking potshots at the president and the war he waged in Iraq, a number of right-leaning, conservative comedians have found their voices and started talking back.
I could not agree with this statement more, especially when I recall the free pass comedians gave to the Clinton administration. But just where are these Jackie Robinsons of the stand-up world? Who are these comics brave enough to stand up for conservative values? Enter, Brad Stine...
[One] of the new breed is Brad Stine, a politically conservative Christian who weaves both elements of his value system into his act.
Incidentally, based solely on this sentence, I came to the conclusion that Brad Stine is a closeted homosexual. I would not be more sure of this conclusion if you sent me a tape of gay porn starring Brad Stine.

But that is neither here nor there... let's get to Brad's material. I think you're going to like it.
"I'm a conservative comedian - one of two known to exist in the Western hemisphere," Stine deadpanned in a phone interview.
Oh dear God, that is funny. Do you think he came up with this on the spur of the moment? Was this planned? Because the Western hemisphere is pretty big. God damn you Stine, you're a rascal.
"I'm very pro-America, very patriotic. I use my time on stage to say how great the country is as opposed to saying how bad it is."
I don't know about you, but nothing says HI-LARIOUS to me like talking about great America is. But enough of my gibbering... let's hear what Stine can do beyond his hilarious dead pans.
Stine, for his part, did the struggling Hollywood comedian routine before moving to Nashville (the "Christian Hollywood," as he calls it) and booking shows for the Promise Keepers and other primarily Christian audiences.

The targets of his jokes are the cast of characters you might expect: atheists, animal rights activists, the politically correct, "fanatical left-leaners," gun control advocates, divorcees and, yes, France - but Stine means no personal harm, he says.
When I was going through this list, the whole time I was thinking is he going to do it? Can he make fun of them? And then, yes, I read the word France. And I knew that I had not happened upon a comic gold mine like this since that time I heard a joke about a fanatical left-leaning divorcee who didn't believe in God and liked animals. And then when I read about the Stine-man's patented style of delivery, I was basically hooked.
His act is part mock-angry rant, part sermon and part exaggerated mugging, Jim Carrey-style. And he keeps it clean, without the usual barrage of four-letter words. The closest he gets is liberal use of the word "stinkin'."

"There are a lot of people in this country with no religious affiliation that would rather hear clean comedy than dirty comedy," Stine said. "I believe creativity is funnier than crude."
I'm sure they also enjoy having their beliefs mocked by the Stininator, in a clean way of course. And Stine isn't the only one bringing conservative hilarity to the masses...
Right Stuff creator and producer Eric Peterkofsky didn't start his group to espouse Christian values, but he and the comedians in the show share Stine's conservative bent and patriotism.

"I was sick of all these Bush-bashing comics," Peterkofsky said. "We've added more to the buffet so that [our audiences] can finally come out. A lot of these people never go to comedy shows because they're offended."

The butts of the jokes in the Right Stuff gigs, according to Peterkofsky, are "the war, John Kerry, John Kerry's wife, France, animal rights, the over-labeling of Americans, the education system and gun control."
If there's one thing funnier than divorcees, it's the war. And if there's one thing funnier than the war, it's John Kerry's wife.
One of the comedians poked fun at Teresa Heinz Kerry's remarks at the Democratic National Convention last month.

"I enjoyed her speech so much. It was actually like Heinz Ketchup: It was slow, full of vinegar and when she was finished, you wanted to smack her bottom," the comic, Jeff Wayne, told FOX & Friends recently.

But back to Stine. Let's just say he's not afraid to make a joke or two about some controversial issues...
When Stine flirts with the topic of gay marriage in his "A Conservative Unleashed" DVD, for instance, he wonders why men would want to marry other men since men are "cowards."
I have a series of reactions to this sentence:

(1) In the name of the seven mad Gods who rule the sea, how can I get my hands on a copy of "A Conservative Unleashed"?

(2) Is this a joke? Is saying that "all men are cowards" a joke? Is this a conservative joke? Does this make any sense? What does this have to do with gay marriage?

(3) Could I have possibly been more right in my initial assessment of Mr. Stine?

And Stine doesn't stop there! What happens next in Stine's act is in all likelihood the funniest thing that has ever happened in the entire history of comedy.
[Stine] laments the fact that his religion doesn't let him hate anyone, even though sometimes he wishes he could.

"One of the great downsides of being a Christian is that my religion forbids me to hate people," he says, groaning. "I want to hate people. ... Not that anybody comes to mind right off the bat (FRANCE!)."

That follows with a stereotypical impersonation of a snobbish Frenchman.


But why exactly is this so funny? Fox found an expert to tell us...
"It's 'in' right now to be pro-U.S.," said psychologist Steven M. Sultanoff, the former president of the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor. "There's been a resurgence of a lot of basic family values. That's become the politically 'in' thing - a return to conservatism...."

"...Humor is a great way of communicating," Sultanoff said. "In a very simple cartoon, joke or statement, you can say a lot about your position." ...

Humor is so effective, said Sultanoff, because of its power to unify.

"Humor tends to bind people together," he said. "If you're trying to solidify a group that may be pro-Democrat or pro-Republican, [humor] enhances your influence on the group."
Of course, there's an audience for this sort of side-splitting humor.
The right-wing comics are coming at the right time, since some are sick of anti-government shticks.

"I like comedy, but I don't like what I've been seeing lately," said Jim Smith, 42, a military dad in Indianapolis. "I don't like it when they start hammering on people. Right now we're in a state in this world where we need to be one."

Smith said he doesn't care who is in the White House - he thinks mocking a sitting president shouldn't be allowed, period.

"That's wrong," he said. "It shouldn't be a shooting match."
That's right - there are actually Americans who believe that mocking a sitting president isn't just distasteful, it shouldn't be allowed. Now that's funny. Not as funny as a stereotypical impersonation of a snobbish Frenchman, mind you, but funny.

(FYI, I didn't quote the article in full, so go read it if you want to see what jokes Stine reserves for his own kind. That's right, even Christians don't get off without a good Stining.)

Digby responds...to Guthrie? 

So, I totally disagree with Guthrie's post below. Digby seems to have responded directly to that kind of thinking. This is a "read the whole thing" kind of post, but here's the main thrust:
I just wish that Dems could put on their game faces and try to sell the guy a little bit instead of constantly writing his epitaph. He's really a good man, you know. He's spent his life in public service, trying to do the right thing, working hard and carrying our agenda. He's our most liberal nominee in decades. He's smart and energetic and he's never been tainted by corruption or scandal. Is it so hard for Democrats to get behind a man like this or are we just as shallow as everybody else? Would we too be happier with a brand name in a suit?
Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Why does George W. Bush enjoy the deaths of police officers? 

As you may know, Congress recently let the 1994 assault weapons ban expire. More than two-thirds of the country support the ban. It was very easy to predict - even a year ago - that this would happen. Why aren't Democrats talking about this and only this? Why didn't the Kerry campaign immediately have ads ready to go? Why aren't we injecting this talking point into the media?
Here is the ad I would run:
NARRATOR (a woman): At his convention, George W. Bush bragged about how he stood on the graves of hundreds of police officers and firefighters. (Shot of Bush during 9/11; scary music.)

COP: (being interviewed) I think leadership is about more than slogans... it's about doing the right thing.

NARRATOR: George Bush stood with our police officers when they were dead.... (shot of Bush at World Trade Center

COP: Sure, I admired the President that day...

NARRATOR: But now, George Bush stands by while the leaders of his own party allow a ten-year old bill banning assault weapons to expire...

COP: (tearing up) My first partner was killed when he was shot in the chest with an assault weapon. (silence, while he cries.)

NARRATOR: George Bush - he stood by our cops when they were dead. Why won't he stand by them when they're alive?

COP: (shaking head) I just don't understand it...

NARRATOR: This message was paid for by Police Officers for Sensible Gun Control (or some such group.)
Unfair? Probably. Full of provable falsehoods like the Swift Vote ads? No. (I promise a crying cop whose partner was killed by an assault weapon could be found.) Effective? Probably.


Andrew Sullivan:
THE FLIP-FLOPPING NANNY: Saletan on Bush. Bush is for big government except when he's against it; he's for restraining spending, except when he's boosting it; he's for rooting out insurgents in Iraq, until he favors a more "sensitive" strategy; he's for free trade, except when he's against it; he's against stem cell research, except when he's bragging about it; he's pro states rights, unless they do things he disapproves of; he's in favor of responsibility, except when it comes to the budget; he's pro-U.N., except when he's against it; he's for church-state separation, except when it comes to federal funding. Any decent opponent would make mincemeat of Bush's wavering, straddling and inconsistent policy pronouncements. But Kerry is useless. And if he's this useless as a candidate, how good would he be as a president?
I don't agree with the final two sentences. In the current media environment, I think it would be supremely difficult for anyone to get this type of attack to stick against Bush (too much indoctrination of the "says what he means" and "strong leader" ideas re Bush). But I certainly do agree with the Bush critiques.


to be negative, but Kerry's Presidential campaign is the most ineptly run organization I have ever witnessed. Who are these people? How is it possible that we are losing to this man?

WHY THE HELL IS THE DNC RUNNING ADS ABOUT BUSH'S GUARD SERVICE? Who in the hell gives a flying fuck? The damage from the Swift Vote ads is done - you can't wait three weeks to respond, and even then the response should have been only to point out that those ads were based on total and complete fabrications. But here's the point about the Swift Vote ads: Bush and the RNC can deny they had anything to with them! They can have the benefit of the negative attacks, and claim they are against negative attacks. WHY IN THE FLYING FUCK DON'T THE DEMOCRATS UNDERSTAND THIS? The only thing that has frustrated me this much in the last few years is Mike Brown's failure to hire a General Manager.

How cowardly is the DNC? If you're going to launch unfair attacks, why not make them effective? Why not make fun of his total inability to speak? Why not run a split-screen ad showing what was happening at the World Trade Center and what Bush was doing in Florida? Why not accuse Bush of using terrorist attacks as a political tool? Why not accuse him of stealing elections?

Ultimately, the problem with this election is simple. The only important issue is national security. I don't think you can make that strong of a case that Bush's pre-9/11 and his actions right after 9/11 were any different than any Democrat's would have been. (Yes, there is a strong, strong case to be made that the Bush administration put a much lower priority on terrorism than the Clinton administration, but the Democrats simply can't communicate messages like that and, frankly, it's probably too complicated for most Americans to understand.) The case you CAN make against Bush is simple: he hurt our cause in the war on terror by launching a poorly planned, costly and unnecessary war in Iraq. This war not only cost lives and diverted resources, it strengthened Islamic terrorism by destroying any hope of forming an effective international coalition against it.

BUT DEMOCRATS CANNOT EFFECTIVELY MAKE THIS CASE BECAUSE JOHN KERRY SUPPORTED THE WAR IN IRAQ. There, I said it. Also, and I will deny ever having said this between now and the election, his vote against the $87 billion was a cowardly and politically stupid thing to do. Yes, I know the arguments about why he supposedly voted against it; but I also remember when it actually happened, and anyone with half a brain realized that he was voting against it because he was losing to Howard Dean, a candidate with a clear anti-war position.

How can we be having this debate when both candidates essentially agree on the most important issues? John Kerry vaguely stands for competence and reason; George Bush vaguely stands for strength and pride. Yet, they both concretely stand for invading Iraq. When it came time to decide how to best use our armed forces, they both made the wrong decision. (As did I; but I sort of hold the President to a higher standard.)

John Kerry needs to win this election. We cannot let George Bush take over the Supreme Court. We cannot allow him to destroy our standing in the world. We cannot allow him to continue to slowly elevate to the status of law the hate and ignorance of the radical, religious right. We cannot allow him to cripple our government for years as he continues to enact preposterous tax cuts with one hand as he fights a war with the other hand.

But almost more importantly, after this election, no matter who wins, we very much need to fix the broken Democratic party.

Advice for Kerry 

Now, one of the reasons I've been posting so infrequently lately is that I'm really just sick of the campaign. Mainly, two aspects of it: the immorality of the Bush campaign and the defeatism I'm hearing from so many Democrats. Nevertheless, I just read this piece by Mark Schmit, and it's pretty good:
If I were running the issues department of the Kerry campaign, or any campaign, the sign above my desk would not be James Carville's "It's the Economy Stupid": my sign would say, "It's not what you say about the issues, it's what the issues say about you." That is, as a candidate, you must choose to emphasize issues not because they poll well or are objectively our biggest problems, but because they best show the kind of person you are, and not just how you would deal with that particular issue, but others yet to rear their heads. The best illustration of that is John McCain. The most admired political figure achieved his status in large part by his crusade for campaign finance reform. I've seen all the polls on this for seven or eight years, and "campaign finance reform," as an issue, is of interest to at most 5% of the public. I'd like for it to be otherwise, but it's not. And yet, for McCain, campaign finance reform is the perfect issue. It's tells a story about his independence, and his persistence, and it gives him a populist message without having to embrace more liberal economic policies. Clinton's much-derided "micro-initiatives" of the mid-1990s likewise sent a message about who he was: responsible, not extreme, neither a lover of government for its own sake nor a nihilist like Newt Gingrich. The insignificance of his gestures was a potent message in itself, and saved his presidency.

I don't think the problem with Kerry is that he talks about issues when he should be talking about character. That was Al Gore's problem. I think the problem is that the Kerry brain has split into an issues half, and a character half, and the two sides aren't communicating. The character half controlled the convention, and focused on Vietnam. Fine, but what did that say about how he would deal with Iraq? And the issues half has plans -- entirely good ones, even for Iraq. But those proposals don't reinforce any sense of the kind of person Kerry is, and how he would cope in a crisis.

My Being Rude Last Night (but I feel I had no choice) 

Conversation between myself and a friend of a friend (whom I'd never met):
Me: Well, I think Bush has done a lot of bad things, but going into Iraq was, in my mind, clearly the worst.
Her: Well, but if we didn't we'd be in like a huge depression. Worse than in the 20's*
Me: Huh?
Her: Oh, yeah, definitely.
Me: Well, I don't like to dismiss arguments out of hand, and I'm sorry I'm telling you this, but I feel I have to dismiss this one out of hand. No need to discuss it.
That was it. I mean, I don't even think the Bush Administration claims that. Weird. And this person sells stocks to large institutional investors--I almost feel I should name the company to warn people that they have economic simpletons working the sales desk. But I won't.

*Yes, she actually seems to think the Great Depression was in the 20s and not the 30s. Wow.

Friday, September 10, 2004

9/11 Alert!!! 

Three years ago, the world came to a halt when terrorists attacked the U.S. In the weeks following the attacks, people tried to find some normalcy in their lives, something to be happy about, a way to move forward.

In 2001, the Yankees gave New York something to smile about.Now, HBO's moving documentary "Nine Innings From Ground Zero" tells the story of how baseball gave Americans, especially the citizens of New York City, a way to recapture the pride and sense of play that seemed to be lost in the rubble of 9/11.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Getting Nasty 

A lot of people think the Kerry campaign waited too long to get down and dirty. Maybe. But even now, they're using the wrong stuff. The National Guard issue is nice, mainly because it's true, but I don't think it's going to sway anyone. Terrorism and homeland security is the place to get nasty, as Cheney did yesterday. In response to Cheney's "Vote for Kerry and die" comments, David Neiwert has some solid facts:
Cheney has created an opening for Democrats, really, to say what needs to be said: When it comes to terrorism, Bush was asleep at the wheel on Sept. 11. And he has driven us deeper into the ditch in the years since.

Just remember:

-- It wasn't Democrats who dragged the presidency through the mud with a political witch hunt culminating in a bogus impeachment trial, diverting the national interest from serious issues -- like the mounting threat of terrorism -- at a time when the threat was first manifesting itself.

-- It wasn't Democrats who minimized the seriousness of the Al Qaeda threat by dismissing President Clinton's missile strikes on their camps as mere "wagging the dog."

-- It wasn't Democrats who dismissed the warnings of the outgoing Clinton team regarding the need to take Al Qaeda and the larger threat of terrorism seriously, simply because they came from Clinton's team.

-- It wasn't a Democrat who went on vacation for month after receiving initial intelligence warnings about an imminent terrorist threat, and who failed to act on that intelligence in any discernible fashion.

-- It wasn't a Democratic administration that first focused its attentions on Iraq after the 9/11 attacks, only changing to Afghanistan after it became irrevocably clear that Osama bin Laden, and not Saddam Hussein, was responsible.

-- It wasn't a Democratic leadership that then withheld manpower from Afghanistan (almost certainly in anticipation of an Iraq invasion), depending to a large extent on help from local forces, which created an opening for the majority of the Al Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan -- including Osama bin Laden -- to escape over the Pakistani border.

-- It wasn't a Democratic president who then proceeded to (perhaps intentionally) misread intelligence and mislead the public about the nature of the threat posed by Saddam, successfully portraying him as an essential component of the "war on terror," when the reality both before and after the subsequent invasion was that Hussein played no role whatsoever in the events of 9/11, and had only a secondary and relatively minor role in terrorist activity. (It's worth remembering that a substantial number of the horrifying victims of his brutal regime were radical Islamists.)

-- It wasn't a Democratic administration that so poorly prepared for the post-invasion reality of the forced occupation of Iraq that it created a violent quagmire in which the death toll for American soldiers (not to even mention the thousands of civilians) has now passed 1,000. This quagmire is gaining all the earmarks of an insoluble mess, regardless of who inherits it, and competence and measured judgement -- none of which Bush has displayed -- will be required to deal with it.

-- Nor was it a Democratic president who, by creating the opening for an armed insurgency, has actually fanned the flames of terrorism by creating a massive cauldron for anti-American hatred and an environment rich for swelling the ranks of Islamic radicals.

-- It wasn't, in other words, a Democratic administration that foolishly, through its own arrogance and incompetence, handed Al Qaeda leadership nearly everything it hoped for at nearly every step of the drama: a lax mindset regarding security, an escape through Pakistan, a gift invasion of Iraq that diverted precious resources from the serious work fighting terrorism, a mishandled occupation that provided a groundswell of recruitment.

Friday, September 03, 2004

New Poll, 52-41 Bush Lead 

The latest Time poll shows a clear Bush lead.

There's really no way to a put a postive spin on this, except to say that if things stay as they are a country full of stupid people is about to exactly what it deserves.

Not Funny 

Let's just all agree that Russian special forces, or SWAT, or whatever they are, can no longer raid any building in which hostages are being held. Because when they do, you know, everyone seems to die:
BESLAN, Russia (Reuters) - One hundred or more people were killed when Russian troops stormed a school Friday in a chaotic battle to free parents, teachers and children who had been held hostage for 53 hours by Chechen separatists.
Unbelievably irresponsible.

Thursday, September 02, 2004


I was too disgusted by the revolting display by Zell Miller yesterday to post anything about it - and I still am. I would recommend you read, again, Andrew Sullivan's thoughts on the matter. (I'm really on an Andrew Sullivan kick today.) I do think yesterday was a disaster for the GOP - in that, Miller and Cheney's speeches did nothing to appeal to swing voters, and while they may have excited the Republican base, they likely did more to excite the Democratic base.

I thought today went much better for the Grand Old Party. Bush's speech was coherent and rational - and actually pretty good towards the end. I don't think it was spectacular by any means, and he looked absolutely terrified when those protesters started causing a hubbub. I would also point out that, with a few notable exceptions, Bush's speech steered away from the outright lies and deceptions that dominate the Republican talking-points these days. The Bush people have mastered this art for at least four years now - they never let Bush himself get involved with the scum that is the main thrust of his campaign. We, on the other hand, cannot grasp this actually very easy to understand concept - tonight, Kerry attacked Dick Cheney's record during Vietnam.

I thought before and think now that Bush will get a bounce from this. Something very good better happen at these debates, or the liberal blogging community is going to have a lot of great material for four more years.


...I have always been an Andrew Sullivan supporter; I've always thought he was a good man and a true, principled conservative. This is one of the better things I've read about this election:
I CANNOT SUPPORT HIM IN NOVEMBER: I will add one thing more. And that is the personal sadness I feel that this president who praises freedom wishes to take it away from a whole group of Americans who might otherwise support many parts of his agenda. To see the second family tableau with one family member missing because of her sexual orientation pains me to the core. And the president made it clear that discriminating against gay people, keeping them from full civic dignity and equality, is now a core value for him and his party. The opposite is a core value for me. Some things you can trade away. Some things you can compromise on. Some things you can give any politician a pass on. But there are other values - of basic human dignity and equality - that cannot be sacrificed without losing your integrity itself. That's why, despite my deep admiration for some of what this president has done to defeat terror, and my affection for him as a human being, I cannot support his candidacy. Not only would I be abandoning the small government conservatism I hold dear, and the hope of freedom at home as well as abroad, I would be betraying the people I love. And that I won't do.
Of course, this was obvious to some people in 2000; but where are the good men and women who are conservatives supposed to go? They are not Democrats. The Republicans - epitomized by their embrace of the hate and lie-filled speech of traitor Zell Miller - are fast becoming an unacceptable option to many good people. (Including, it seems, the Vice President's own family.)

However, this is a bed conservatives made for themselves. They surveyed the political landscape - and they sold their soul by allowing the religious right to become such an important part of the Republican base. This why Sullivan is such a fascinating person - and someone I very much enjoy reading. On one hand, he can write something as powerful and important as the above. On the other hand, he can somehow act surprised by this development. What Republican party has he been following the last 30 years?

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