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Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Time To Put On Your Game Face

I enjoy backseat campaign managing as much as the next person. And I admit that the press and our inability to manage it profoundly depresses me. But, I NEVER say we are going to lose. I love to analyze the race and offer my ideas, but it is never done in the spirit that the Kerry campaign are a bunch of losers. I cannot conceive of a more demoralizing and hopeless thing to read than something like this:

Some prominent Democrats are already grumbling privately that none of the people in Kerry's communications operation should ever work on campaigns again, should Kerry lose. Given all the money Kerry, the DNC, and the 527s have raised and spent this time around, the typical Democratic lament of having been vastly outspent will ring hollow. If Kerry loses, it will not be because he was outspent; he will be because he was outfoxed.

There was a moment in the 1992 campaign, former Clinton-Gore '92 communications director George Stephanopoulos told Frontline in 2001, where the staffers could suddenly feel the weight of what it was they were trying to do. Stephanopoulous talked about it in the context of the history of the War Room, and it's quite illuminating:

Frontline: After the primaries in California, you then set up the war room. What are you trying to do?

Stephanopoulous: Not to be the Dukakis campaign, which a lot of us had worked in. And a lot of us felt we had been beat because the Republicans had laid out a pretty targeted, fierce assault on Dukakis that we didn't answer. We were determined that if we were going to lose, we were going to lose fighting. We were going down fighting. In June, we were in third place, broke and we hadn't gotten paid in two months. And Ross Perot was moving. And like I said, we were not going to go down without a fight.

And the war room was important, not just for the actual work it would do in answering the Republican charges and counterattacking, but the very idea of it was important -- just having a war room so that Democrats, especially, but also others who were just going to start to pay attention to the campaign, would see that we weren't like Democrats in the past. They'd see that we were different -- not only because we were different on our ideas -- but because we fight back when we're hit.

Frontline: Later in the fall, polls were looking pretty good for you with Bush. Still, according to everything everyone had written, there's a sense of fear that never goes away.

Stephanopoulous: It's a different kind of fear. I remember the first time I ever really let myself believe we could win and we're going to win. It was late September in the Washington Hilton on a Sunday morning, and Clinton was about to go give a speech in North Carolina on NAFTA. And he called me in and had his standard morning outburst on the speech and was yelling about it. And, but his heart wasn't really in it, and I could tell. . . . And he suddenly stops yelling, looks me right in the eye and says, "You think we're going to win, don't you?" I said, "Yes." And he goes, "I do, too." And for me, that was just incredible. He was saying out loud what we all hoped for, but could never say. It would be like talking about a no-hitter in the eighth inning.

And from that moment on, inside we didn't feel like underdogs anymore. We felt like we had this responsibility to win. And as a staffer, it was starting to get a little bit out of control, because I had never been through anything like that and nobody else had either. When you're in a presidential campaign at its peak in the fall, all the sudden it's not just 20 people in Little Rock sitting in a room. You're representing a lot of people who have invested in you, and not just the money. People have just invested their hopes. The whole country is paying attention. There are millions. And we start to think, my God, if we blow it now, it's all our fault. And we will have blown this opportunity that a lot of people are counting on us to carry out.

So the fear of making a mistake and letting these people down and thinking, basically, that you're going to have to leave the country becomes tremendous. You just don't want to blow it.

You have to wonder if the Kerry team is feeling that same fear right now, though, as they approach late September trailing rather than confident of victory. Because if they blow this one...

In late September of '92 people were beginning to beg Perot to get back in the race and nobody knew what was going to happen. There was no empirical reason to believe that Clinton had it in the bag although I'm not surprised that he felt confident. That's how competitors make themselves get up in the morning. That race was like a fucking bungee jump. And believe me, if you'd asked the same crew of sad sack Democratic insiders what they thought at the time they would have said that the sky was falling and that we were doomed, doomed, doomed and should have nominated Tsongas because he didn't have a draft problem.

I'm as fond of Clinton hagiography as anyone on the planet, but a whole lot of this fuzzy nostalgia about '92 is just crap. Bush senior was in free fall in the polls because he was widely considered to be out of touch on the economy, which was perceived to be very bad. Ross Perot had sucked all the oxygen out of the campaign for months and took the press's eye off of the Bush assault on Clinton. Then he dramatically withdrew from the race during the Democratic convention saying that the Democratic party was "revitalized." That was quite a gift and it gave Clinton a chance to re-start what had been a very anemic campaign.

He fought back, yes, by using the innovation of answering charges within the same news cycle. But, I watched that campaign more closely than any in my life and I can tell you that each one of those hits took another piece off of his hide. He didn't lie down, and that was admirable, but that's not why he won. He won because both he and Perot were hitting Senior hard on the economy while Senior and his crew were having to discredit both Perot and Clinton with character smears. Perot imploded, but by the time he did he had helped drive Senior's negatives even farther into the dirt than Clinton's and maintained a "movement" that siphoned off 20% of the vote when he got back in. It was one of the weirdest campaigns in American history and virtually no lessons can be drawn from it.

Kerry has every reason to be hopeful. Indeed, there is good reason to believe that Bush's ephemeral lead is shrinking as we speak. It's a nailbiter, but it is far from over.

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?

Poll Jumpy

DonkeyRising has a few more thoughts on the state of the race:

Well, those cards and letters keep coming in, so I thought I'd respond to a few of the most common questions that have been posed to me.

1. How can you deny that Bush is ahead?

I don't. My view is that he is currently ahead, but only modestly, contrary to the tone of media coverage and the findings of some polls. I have tried to explain the reasoning behind this assessment, especially as it pertains to possible problems with contemporary polls.

It's worth noting that the latest poll data on RVs--ending the night of the 12th--have Kerry up by 2 (IBD/CSM/TIPP) or Bush up by 4 (ICR). That averages out to a 1 point Bush lead, even without party-weighting the data. And Rasmussen LV data for the period ending the 12th also has Bush with a one point lead.

2. How is it possible for samples of RVs to suddenly have too many Republican identifiers? Aren't voters just shifting their party identification?

It is certainly possible that we gone from, say, a 4-5 point Democrtic lead in party ID to a 4-5 point Republican lead in the space of the last month. But color me skeptical about this 8-10 point swing in a few short weeks.

A better explanation for this sudden shift in poll samples, in my view, is that when the political situation jazzes up supporters of one party, they are more likely to want to participate in a public opinion telephone poll and express their views. An increased rate of interview acceptance by that party’s supporters would then skew the sample toward that party without the underlying distribution having changed very much, if at all.

In this case, the Republican convention, coming on the heels of the Swift Boat controversy, may have helped raise political enthusiasm among Republican partisans, leading to more interview acceptances and a disproportionate number of Republicans in recent samples.

Do I know this for sure? No, I don't, because we lack direct evidence that this is happening, just as we lack direct evidence that individual voters are suddenly and massively shifting their party allegiance. But I do know which of these explanations I find more plausible and consistent with other evidence about the general stability of party ID.

More here

My uninformed gut tells me that this race is, and will likely remain, close. I always thought it would be, as inexplicable as that is. I have been following this interesting theory by professor James Galbraith that Bush is on a slow trajectory to defeat for some time. Basically, he says that Bush has been artificially boosted above his natural level by three events, 9/11, Iraq and the capture of Saddam. He is fairly sure that it will take an October Surprise for Bush to win:

With about seven weeks to go, this equation suggests that if no new major episode occurs, Bush should lose about 2.1 percentage points between now and Election Day. In that case, he will face John Kerry with approval ratings very close to the lows of his presidency. And very close to the floor, below which he probably can't sink.

The moral remains the same. As I've said in earlier columns, an "October surprise" could tip the balance. The country should be braced for news on the terror front from Pakistan or elsewhere. Or perhaps we'll see the gift of a "You can go home soon" speech by Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. One hears, at this stage of the campaign, all kinds of rumors. They can't be verified, but they gain weight from the fact that the Bush team tried to manipulate the terror war -- ordering up well-timed arrests in Pakistan -- to squelch Kerry's convention bounce last July. Who knows what else they have planned?

On the other hand, it's clear that Bush hasn't put the contest away. Kerry can win this thing for sure.

True Lies

The truth of the Killian memos has been established, at least according to Andrew Sullivan in TNR. But, while simultaneously taking credit both for being a superior blogger and a superior journalist he explains that he is actually superior to everyone by telling them that they should all just stop being so superior. Meanwhile, he reveals that he is living on another planet.

There's been a lot of hubris in the blogosphere about this, and, indeed, some blogs, most especially Power Line, should get the blog equivalent of a Pulitzer for their dogged pursuit of the truth. But the reality is far simpler and less flattering to bloggers. Journalism is not a profession as such. It's a craft. You get better at it by doing it; and there are very few ground rules. By and large, anyone with a mind, a modem, a telephone, and a conscience can be a journalist. The only criterion that matters is that you get stuff right; and if you get stuff wrong (and you will), you correct yourself as soon as possible. The blogosphere is threatening to some professional journalists because it exposes these simple truths. It demystifies the craft. It makes it seem easy--because, in essence, it often is.

Blogging's comparative advantage has nothing to do with the alleged superior skills of bloggers or their higher intelligence, quicker wit, or more fabulous physiques. The blogosphere is a media improvement because the sheer number of blogs, and the speed of response, make errors hard to sustain for very long. The collective mind is also a corrective mind. Transparency is all. And the essence of journalistic trust is not simply the ability to get things right and to present views or ideas or facts clearly and entertainingly. It is also the capacity to admit error, suck it up, and correct what you've gotten wrong. Take it from me. I've both corrected and been corrected. When you screw up, it hurts. But in the long run, it's a good hurt, because it takes you down a peg or two and reminds you what you're supposed to be doing in the first place. Any journalist who starts mistaking himself for an oracle needs to be reminded who he is from time to time.

This must be the bizarro world blogosphere where truth is decisively discovered by an objective judge (perhaps Sullivan himself) who hands down a final order when the facts have been established. In my blogosphere, nobody agrees on what color the sky is. And for some reason, the vaunted self correcting mechanism only seems to run one way. Why is that? For instance, the right spent two months swearing the John Kerry faked his medals in Vietnam and I haven't read any "corrections" to that "simple truth."

Here on planet earth even if writers correct their errors, readers pick and choose which versions to believe and continue to battle the arcane details long after everyone else has lost interest, clinging to their own version of reality as if it is a life raft. The "transparency" of the blogosphere is as clear as orange juice with pulp. Nobody gets stuff "right." They just get stuff. Errors are sustained forever. The "collective mind" is schizophrenic. The blogosphere demystifies the craft of journalism all right and turns it into an endless self-referential loop of The Osbornes.

What an nice bizarro blogosphere it is indeed when you just dismiss fully half of it as "moonbats" in order to believe that you have achieved a pure and real set of facts. I'd like to go there. It sounds soothing. What's the URL?

In Sullivan's blogosphere, credibility is granted once everyone (who's anyone) agrees. Therefore, the famous blogger hero Buckhead, who within seconds of the CBS broadcast, had "proven" the documents were forgeries, should be deemed credible for his other scoops as well, yes? Like this one:

The question on the table is going to be whether John Kerry was a witting or unwitting communist agent.

1. He traveled to Paris for illegal meetings with the communist enemy.

2. He comes back and in his Senate testimony gives them a major, major, major propaganda victory with his lies about war crimes.

3. He presents to the Senate and the country, and argues for, the communist proposal for giving them complete victory.

4. He attends, in leadership positions, meetings of the VVAW at which the assasination of American political leaders is openly discussed, and does not immediately disasssociate himself or do anything to report on this criminal conspiracy.

5. Post war he is lionized by the Vietnamese communists for his indispensable contributions to their victory.

135 posted on 09/02/2004 5:41:03 AM PDT by Buckhead

Just another credible blogger/journalist plying his craft. I'm sure Sullivan will get right on the case and fact check his ass.

Oh and by the way, I'm no expert mind you, but I've spend a bit of time on blogs and I've never come across Sullivan's little insider "blogspeak" term for the mainstream media --- MSM. Is this only for super bloggers who get more than 20K hits a day or something? I feel so small and insignificant.

Bringing The Two Together

The Decembrist makes an extremely valuable insight into the way the intersection between issues and character help people to make decisions. His advice to the Kerry campaign is, I think, very valuable:

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.

I don't know enough about the internal politics of the Kerry world (in which I know almost no one) to speculate whether one side is represented by Bob Shrum or Michael Whouley or John Sasso or whoever. But whatever the factions are, they have to get it together. The issues and scheduling side of the campaign has to stop picking an issue of the day, based on the polls. It has to start trying to choose some issues that really emphasize whatever it is that they want to say about Kerry as a person that contrasts him to Bush (honest, brave, forward-seeing, smart, common-sense, independent, cares-about-ordinary-people -- pick one and reinforce it) and then use those issues to tell that story over a period of a week or more. And where they want to attack Bush on either character or issues, pick a point that best emphasizes a single point that they want to emphasize to draw the contrast with Kerry. That means, among other things, saying no to all the issue-advocacy groups that are besieging the campaign, brandishing polls and begging Kerry to devote a day to their cause.

The issue advocates need to be bum rushed out the door. Kerry is hanging in there in the polls (contrary to the news which has suddenly decided that outlying polls are the best guage of the state of play) but he needs some focus as we go into the stretch to pull this out. Relying on the debates isn't enough because you simply cannot depend upon the press corpse to properly report the event. What they can do is try to find that sweet spot and hammer it home so that when the debates arrive your storyline has been set.

"Brave" is the quality I'd choose and I'd hammer Bush for not being brave enough to fight off the special interests, the neocons, the tax cut zealots and the extremists in his own party. Kerry volunteered to fight a war, take on criminals as a prosecutor and big corporate interests as a Senator and says "bring It on" to smear artists and dirty tricksters who've tried and failed to take him down. (You don't even have to mention the guard stuff. The implication is clear.) You could tie this in to terrorism, health care, Iraq, the economy and judicial nominations. Any of those issues can be framed as Bush being unable to stand up and be his own man. You could even use the fact that he hasn't vetoed one bill as evidence of his cowardice in facing the congress.

But, regardless of what character trait they choose to highlight, the key is to stick with it and hammer it home relentlessly. Bush is vulnerable on almost everything but I think it it could be quite helpful for Kerry to focus on one character contrast that can illustrate the whole enchilada.

What The White Men Want

Apparently most white guys are so egotistical that they think they could be president and so they want a president who is just as stupid as they are. People were offended by the title of Michael Moore's book, but the truth hurts.

George W. Bush has it down: the "bring 'em on" macho sensibility, the public swagger, even the quick-draw High Noon cowboy stride. Call it the testosterone factor. It's one reason Bush has maintained a strong appeal to white men throughout his presidency, especially in the South and Southwest.


"Part of it is a Republican thing," says Rutgers political scientist Ross Baker, "but a good part of it is a Bush thing. For guys who drank and loafed their way through college, he's a familiar figure." And, it turns out, a popular one. In his early years, Bush was a likable party animal, seemingly committed to a lifestyle of making wisecracks, chasing women, and guzzling brew. He says he reformed two decades ago, giving up alcohol and becoming a born-again Christian. As president, he has come across in an equally comfortable way to white men--as a strong commander in chief and a conservative who seeks to return honor and responsibility to public life.

What works for most white men (as opposed, for example, to African-American men, who evaluate the president in starkly different terms) is Bush's reputation as an "average guy," says a senior White House official--the opposite of what California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger famously calls "girlie men." Baker says Bush "has a down-to-earth quality that men find appealing. You know he won't slip off to a quiet place and strum a six-string guitar." And his support among white males has helped Bush open up a 52-to-43 percent lead over Kerry among likely voters, according to that Washington Post /ABC News poll.[bullshit ed.]

Vacillating. No Democratic presidential candidate has won a majority of white male voters since Jimmy Carter in 1976. That's partly because the party's candidates have come across as vacillating on military issues and lenient on social concerns like crime and federal "giveaways" to the poor. Al Gore got only 36 percent of the white male vote in 2000; Bush pulled 60 percent. Bush now has about 57 percent support among white men to Kerry's 39, according to GOP pollster Ed Goeas, and Bush appears to be gaining momentum on issues most important to those voters, such as making America safe and waging the war in Iraq Bush leads Kerry by 8 points among single white men and by 20 points among married white men, according to recent polling.

Adding to Kerry's problems, if the Democratic challenger tries to court the white male vote too aggressively, he risks alienating white single women and minorities who are turned off by Bush's macho tendencies. Joe Lockhart, former White House spokesman for Bill Clinton and now a Kerry adviser, says, "If you want the easiest way to define the Bush doctrine, it's what I call the testosterone presidency. They've worked very hard making him look like Gary Cooper in High Noon. Why? Men have testosterone. Does that make good policy? No, of course not."

But Bush advisers say the president's big advantage in attracting the "white-guy vote" is that he can just be himself. Bush, like those in this core constituency, likes to watch sports on television, enjoys fishing, doesn't take himself too seriously, and doesn't express himself well. White males like to see themselves in what White House officials call Bush's "moral clarity," his attitude toward the war on terrorism, and his espousal of conservative values, such as opposition to gay marriage.

"Bush has his flaws," says Ted Stout, 39, who runs a bus company in Scranton, Pa., where Bush and Kerry made stops after their respective conventions. "But there's no question that when he says he's going to do something, he does it. That's what I like about him." Stout, waiting to bowl on league night at Scranton's Southside Bowl, adds: "He might seem a little dull-witted, but he's an average person. He makes the right decisions when he needs to."

Sporty. "We can't be girlie men" about the war on terror, says Michael Bidwell, a 38-year-old Republican dining at Scranton's Stadium Club with three male coworkers. "We need to go after terrorism. Terrorism isn't going to go away, and we can't put a blanket over it." Bidwell says he has a son and a daughter serving in the Middle East and adds: "I don't want to see them over there on a mission that's not finished." Steve Pasternak, a retired utility worker standing among "Sportsmen for Bush" signs at a pro-Bush rally in Johnstown, Pa., says he will vote for the president "because he thinks like sportsmen do. He's a hunter going after the people who need to be hunted."

Kerry has made a bid for white males by calling attention to his record as a Vietnam War combat hero. The Democratic nominee has also been emphasizing Bush's poor record on job creation and improving the economy.

But so far, none of this has made much difference. "I'd rather vote for action than inaction," says David Thorn, a 30-year-old communications representative from Overland Park, Kan., who sat in the dark-paneled comfort of O'Dowd's Little Dublin, a bar in Kansas City's upscale Plaza district. "And I'd rather stand for something than nothing. John Kerry doesn't seem to stand for anything." That's not an enviable position to be in with the election less than two months away.

God, that's depressing.

However, there is some good news. The GOP pollster who says that Bush has 57 percent of white males to Kerry's 39% is full of shit. (Why this guy is the only one quoted for this article is anybody's guess, but fair and balanced it ain't.) This article by John Judis and Ruy Teixeira explains why. Iraq.

Monday, September 13, 2004

The Kennebunkport Project

Here's Kitty:

While the Camp David coke party is getting the headlines, Kelley's book is filled with many other tawdry stories about the Bush dynasty. Here is a family that looks 'like "The Donna Reed Show," and then you see it's "The Sopranos,'' Kelley tells Salon in the interview below. As Kelley tells it, the dynasty had respectable origins -- in the form of family patriarch Prescott Bush, the distinguished, moderate Republican senator from Connecticut -- but rapidly slid into cynical opportunism, skulduggery, and a mean-spirited sense of entitlement. The first President Bush is presented as a weak yes man, driven not by political vision but a savage preppy spirit of competition instilled in him by his whirlwind of a mother.

But it is his wife, Barbara (whom the ex-wife of White House counsel C. Boyden Gray calls "bull-dyke tough"), and their eldest son, George, who are the true pieces of work in Kelley's book, a mother and son team brimming with such spite and ambition they would give the ruthless duo in "The Manchurian Candidate" the shivers. In one of the creepier passages of the book, a family gathering from hell at Kennebunkport, Maine, Barbara is shown mercilessly baiting her dry-drunk son, then governor of Texas, as a teetotaling "Chosen One," while he keeps pleading to skip the cocktails and put on the feed bag, and his elderly father "drools over [TV newswoman] Paula Zahn's legs."

Isn't it time the president came clean about his dysfunctionaL family?

Sticky Blogs

Chris Bowers at MYDD has a very interesting post about the right vs left Blogosphere. In the interest of not being too sticky, I will not discuss it, I will simply recommend that you go and read it.

Sharon's Revenge

I don't know how many people saw Kitty Kelley this morning on the Today Show, but it was interesting. She'll be on a couple more days so tune in if you get up early. This morning Sharon Bush was on to refute the claims that she told Kelley that Junior was doing cocaine at Camp David during the 80's.

She was pretty weak, mainly because she just couldn't resist trashing the family about how they were treating her during the divorce. It was clear that she harbored enough resentment that she could have easily spilled the beans on little George during a contentious divorce case. It's possible she lied but you'd think she would have come up with one that would be more current if she wanted to stick it to him. Regardless, it seemed clear to me that Kelley accurately quoted her. Here's the publisher's response to Bush's appearance on the show:

Statement by Doubleday Regarding Kitty Kelley:

NEW YORK, Sept. 13 /PRNewswire/ -- The following is a statement by
Doubleday regarding Kitty Kelley:

In an appearance on the Today Show on Monday, September 13, 2004, Sharon Bush repeated a denial she made earlier last week. After telling Kitty Kelley that she had knowledge of President George W. Bush "doing cocaine" at Camp David -- "not once, but many times," Mrs. Bush now denies that statement.

This denial has already been utterly discredited by a third party to the meeting at which Mrs. Bush made the statements. Doubleday and Kitty Kelley, author of "The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty," firmly uphold the accuracy and veracity of reporting on this topic. Further, Doubleday and Ms. Kelley affirm that Mrs. Bush was read her comments on the day following the meeting in a telephone conversation, lasting over an hour, that was witnessed by Random House Vice President Peter Gethers -- that those comments included her remarks on cocaine use at Camp David -- and that she once again agreed that these comments were true.

The following are undisputable facts:

-- Mrs. Bush confirmed that she was aware of cocaine use by President George W. Bush at Camp David when his father was President

-- Mrs. Bush confirmed that such usage occurred on more than one occasion

-- Mrs. Bush knew that Ms. Kelley planned on using this information in her book and was read the exact quotes that would be utilized

-- Mrs. Bush continued to have a good relationship with Kitty Kelley -- long after the meeting in April at which she confirmed the cocaine report

-- Mrs. Bush called Ms. Kelley in May, 2004 after which there was a friendly correspondence.

Additionally, Today Show host Matt Lauer and Mrs. Bush suggested that Kitty Kelley had a "relationship" with Lou Colasuonno, a public relations executive who witnessed the April 1, 2003 lunch meeting between Kitty Kelley and Sharon Bush. Kitty Kelley had never met or spoken with Mr. Colasuonno prior to April 1, 2003. Kitty Kelley has never had and does not have any personal, social or financial relationship with Mr. Colasuonno.

Knowing the way Kelley operates, there are probably a few hidden bombshells that will come out over the next few days. Has anyone heard anything?

Free To Be Unemployed

For those who wonder if I am right in saying in my post below that your boss can fire you for your political beliefs, yes she can.

It seems reasonable to ask what business Michael Italie's political convictions were to his employer. But when the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union looked into Italie's case, it discovered, as Pastrana evidently had, that Goodwill was on strong legal footing. "There is no legal case to be brought," explains Miami chapter president Lida Rodriguez-Taseff. "The law is pretty clear that a private employer can fire someone based on their political speech even when that political speech does not affect the terms and conditions of employment." A public employer would be prevented from firing someone based on political speech (because that would constitute the government itself suppressing free speech). Rodriguez-Taseff briefly held out some hope that Goodwill could be challenged based on its government contracts. Apparently, though, the case law isn't favorable for government contractors, either. Italie told Chatterbox that every lawyer he's spoken with has told him essentially the same thing. Everyone who isn't a lawyer, Italie said, is outraged. Chatterbox tested this hypothesis by describing Italie's case to Ronald Radosh, the virulently anti-Communist writer. "Everybody has a right to run for mayor on the SWP ticket," Radosh said. "That's a clear-cut infringement of civil liberties."

The irony is that one can make (and many have made) the case that people like Michael Italie shouldn't be permitted to hold jobs in government, where at least in theory they have the power to subvert the U.S. system. Yet it is in government where Italie would be protected. In the private sector, where Italie is entirely harmless, he enjoys no protection at all.

If you refuse to swear fealty to your leige's politics, you can be kicked out on your ass. If you wanna eat, keep your mouth shut. Freedom of speech only goes so far. Creepy, isn't it?


Gary Farber helped me to figure out why I've been having disturbing dreams of bouncing a tennis racket off of Scott McClellan's face every night:



On Sunday night, Scott McClellan, the president's press secretary, told of Mr. Kerry's comments, said: "Senator Kerry wants to return to the failed policies of the previous administration, where the U.S. was duped. We've been down that road before and we have no intention of letting it happen again."

We are instead far better off with the failed policies of the current administration! Look how much safer we are, today, from the threat of North Korea achieving nuclear weapons, thanks to the Strength™ of the Bush Administration!

It's just that simple. Anything else is just rhetoric.

Truly has there ever been a more arrogant administration? This, apparently, is a real step forward:

A mushroom cloud that towered over a remote corner of North Korea last Thursday was a result of a huge blast to prepare earthworks for a hydroelectric dam, the North said Monday.

Bill Rammell, a British Foreign Office official, met with Foreign Minister Paek Nam Sun of North Korea to discuss the incident, according to a BBC correspondent in Pyongyang."It was no nuclear explosion or an accident," Rammell quoted Paek as saying. "It was a deliberate, controlled detonation to demolish a mountain in the far north. The Press Association of Britain gave similar details about the explosion in a pool report, and Xinhua, China's press agency, quoted a North Korean Foreign Ministry official with the same explanation. In a pool report received by Reuters in London, Rammell noted that he had asked permission for "our ambassador and other ambassadors to be allowed to visit the scene of the explosion." "I am very pleased the North Koreans have agreed to the request," he said. North Korea's neighbors, China, Russia and South Korea, have reported no increased radiation releases.

But five days after seismic detectors picked up the blast, there were as many questions unanswered Monday as after the train explosion on April 22 that leveled a railroad station and killed 171 people shortly after the passage of a train carrying Kim Jong Il, North Korea's dictator, whose father was Kim Il Sung, the nation's founder. If the government planned to blast apart a mountain on Thursday, the 56th anniversary of the founding of North Korea, why do it in the middle of night, when no heroic propaganda videos could be made?

The date was purely a coincidence, I'm sure. Clearly, the reality is that Kim Jong Il is so afraid of Crusader Codpiece that he is trying to get the American people to vote for his good friend John Kerry who will let him have all the nuclear bombs he wants. At least Senator Roberts thinks so:

SEN. PAT ROBERTS (R), KANSAS: It wouldn't surprise me a bit if Kim Jong Il would think in some deranged way that if he had some kind of a test that that would affect the election. I don't know if that's the case, but that could be one of the conjecturing that is going on in the intelligence assessment.

BLITZER: What would be his motive in trying to affect the U.S. election, Senator Roberts?

ROBERTS: Oh, just to cause, you know, more concern in regards to possible terrorist attack, and they would then be the eighth nation that would have the kind of nuclear capability and what we're working against.

We were able to convince Libya to, you know, go the other way; same thing with Pakistan; same thing with other countries. But it's very hard to predict what Kim Jong Il will do. He's just not very predictable.

BLITZER: Before we move on, are you suggesting he would like to see President Bush defeated?

ROBERTS: Well, I think that's probably the case. I'm not going to go out on a limb and say he's endorsing -- or anybody that would want any kind of endorsement from Kim Jong Il.

I'm just thinking in terms of what he is up to, we have to very closely monitor it. And I'm saying the intelligence is mixed, and we'll continue that monitoring.

Yeah, he's obviously very afraid of Junior. That's why he's building nuclear weapons right in front of the whole world while John Bolton ineffectually shakes his tiny fist and Lil' George pulls his proverbial pud. This is working out really well. I sure hope Bush gets elected. Maybe we can have a full fledged nuclear war. That'll teach 'em who's boss.

Can You Believe It?

The World's Shortest Blog's bounty is up to $2,060.00! A thousand here and a thousand there and pretty soon you're talking about real money.

Isn't it time for the president to come clean about how many times he's been arrested?

Speaking of which, has anyone ever asked him why he had his drivers license number changed in the early 90's?

There Ought To be Limits To Freedom

Via Salon:

Moulton woman says she lost job for sporting Kerry sticker on car:

MOULTON — Lynne Gobbell never imagined the cost of a John Kerry-John Edwards bumper sticker could run so high.

Lynne Gobbell said her boss fired her last week because of the Kerry-Edwards campaign sticker on the back of her car.
Gobbell of Moulton didn't pay a cent for the sticker that she proudly displays on the rear windshield of her Chevrolet Lumina, but said it cost her job at a local factory after it angered her boss, Phil Gaddis.


"We were going back to work from break, and my manager told me that Phil said to remove the sticker off my car or I was fired," she said. "I told him that Phil couldn't tell me who to vote for. He said, 'Go tell him.' "

She went to Gaddis' office, knocked on the door and entered on his orders.

"Phil and another man who works there were there," she said. "I asked him if he said to remove the sticker and he said, 'Yes, I did.' I told him he couldn't tell me who to vote for. When I told him that, he told me, 'I own this place.' I told him he still couldn't tell me who to vote for."

Gobbell said Gaddis told her to "get out of here."

"I asked him if I was fired and he told me he was thinking about it," she said. "I said, 'Well, am I fired?' He hollered and said, 'Get out of here and shut the door.' "

She said her manager was standing in another room and she asked him if that meant for her to go back to work or go home. The manager told her to go back to work, but he came back a few minutes later and said, " 'I reckon you're fired. You could either work for him or John Kerry,' " Gobbell said.

"I took off my gloves and threw them in the garbage and left," Gobbell said.

Though she is unemployed and uncertain if she will get her job back, Gobbell said, she doesn't regret her decision to keep the sticker on her windshield.

"I would like to find another job, but I would take that job back because I need to work," she said. "It upset me and made me mad that he could put a letter in my check expressing his (political) opinion, but I can't put something on my car expressing mine."

She was referring to a flier that she said Gaddis placed in employee envelopes to remind them of the positive impact that President Bush's policies have had on them. An employee at the plant who would not identify himself confirmed the contents of the letter.

Gobbell provided a copy of the flier. It says:

"Just so you will know, because of the Bush tax (cut):

I was able to buy the new Hammer Mill
I was able to finance our receivables
I was able to get the new CAT skid steer
I was able to get the wire cutter
I was able to give you a job"
It further says:

"You got the benefit of the Bush tax cut. Everyone did."

It's perfectly legal for an employee to express his or her political view. It's perfectly legal for an employer to express his or her political view.

And it is also perfectly legal for that employer to fire that employee for expressing his or her political view.

Kind of harkens back to the glory days of the feudal system, doesn't it?

It's All They've Got

The Political Animal is absolutely correct about what this election is really all about. Whether we like it or not, national security is the issue on which this election is going to be won or lost. And Democrats have been at a disadvantage on this issue for the last forty years which is why, despite the fact that the country agrees with us on virtually every other important issue, (and knows that Bush has been a disaster even on national security) it is an article of faith with many people that Republicans are better at defending the country. I believe that John Kerry, of all the primary candidates (except Clark who ran explicitly on that issue) understood that this election would be played on Republican turf and positioned himself to challenge Bush there. And that, in combination with the fact that there were no WMD and Iraq is looking more and more like a total disaster, is why we are tied instead of behind. If Iraq had turned out well, I never believed that there was any chance the Democrat would win.

I have said before and I will repeat, we can and must discuss other issues and in swing states particularly, there is nothing wrong with hitting hard on the economy and other domestic concerns. But, the sub-text of everything in this election has to do with each candidate proving that he is tough enough to beat the terrorists and handle any new threats that come up. If you do an ad about medicare reform, it must show Kerry being tough and calling Bush weak. If you do one about education, again, Kerry tough, Bush weak. The Democrats must show that they will give as good as they get, that they aren't afraid and that they will go after anyone who challenges their willingness to fight. No matter what the actual subject of discussion, the sub-text is who can keep America safe from terrorists and since Democrats operate at a disadvantage on that issue, we have the higher bar to meet.

Kevin notes that Clinton won at a time when national security was not a major concern. (I agree. If Clinton were running for the first time today, I don't think he'd have a chance.) He wisely used that period to lay to rest the shibboleth about Democrats being too irresponsible to manage the economy. He was largely successful in realigning the public's view on that a fact which has only been reinforced by Junior's fiscal nightmare. (They'll keep trotting out their "tax and spend" mantra but it just doesn't have the punch it once had.) Now, we face the other propaganda set piece that the Republicans successfully sold the public for the last forty years, which is the defense issue. Like Clinton and the economy, Kerry is challenging them on their field of battle and is promoting a better and more rational approach to national security. But, it's tough sledding, just as it was for Clinton, to change public perceptions after a notion has been inculcated in the national sub-conscious for a generation.

This is also why I have to laugh at this notion that Rove has gone after Kerry's strength by attacking him on national security. It's bullshit. Any Republican would have done that and they all have since 1960. When we won, it was largely in response to external events that changed the landscape temporarily (assasination, Watergate, end of the cold war.) As long as there was an external threat, the Republicans built in their advantage through relentless propaganda.

But, this is a cautionary tale that we should be very careful to look at with eyes wide open. Forty years ago, as now, the problem of convincing the public that we are tough enough to meet the threats of our time is only the first step. The real problem will be when we win and have to fend off the constant attacks from the right that we are appeasing the enemy. This was an ongoing problem during the cold war and it was how we ended up with a Democratic president escalating a war simply because he was hamstrung by the right wing's obsession with communism. He didn't believe in the war:

It looks to me like we're getting into another Korea. It just worries the hell out of me. I don't see what we can ever hope to get out of there with, once we're committed. I believe that the Chinese Communists are coming into it. I don't think that we can fight them 10,000 miles away from home. … I don't think it's worth fighting for and I don't think that we can get out. It's just the biggest damned mess that I ever saw.

But the political reality was daunting. Robert Sheer explained like this:

Why did Johnson commit to such a disastrous course? He clearly did not share the hubris of his advisors, led by Defense Secretary Robert McNamara (who later recanted), that the war could be won. Nor could those advisors convince him that winning a war against one of the poorest nations on earth mattered to U.S. security.

But he did agree that the status quo in Vietnam was untenable; the choice was withdrawal or escalation. And he chose the latter because to do otherwise would endanger his chances for victory in the election that fall. "The Republicans are going to make a political issue out of it," warned Georgia Sen. Richard Russell, the president's longtime political confidant. "It's the only issue that they've got," Johnson replied.

In particular, Johnson was concerned that Henry Cabot Lodge, the U.S. ambassador to Vietnam, would return to take a place on the GOP ticket, probably as the vice presidential candidate, and use weakness on Vietnam against Johnson. "Now, one of our big problems, the biggest, between us, and I don't want this repeated to anybody, is Lodge," Johnson told Russell. "He ain't worth a damn . . . and he can't work with anybody . . . so it's just a helluva mess."

Russell agreed, adding that in dealing with the Vietnamese, Lodge "thinks he's dealing with barbarian tribes out there and that he's the emperor and he's going to tell them what to do, and there's no doubt that, in my mind, that he had old Diem killed out there himself." Of the killing of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem, Johnson responded, "That was a tragic mistake." But he didn't dare remove Lodge because "he'd be back home campaigning against us on this issue every day."

So in the end, Johnson sent half a million troops to Vietnam and carpet-bombed the country with more explosives than were used during World War II because he wanted to deprive the Republicans of their one issue and feared even Congress would turn against him if he withdrew: "Well, they'd impeach a president that would run out, wouldn't they?" he asked Russell.

They impeach presidents for a lot less than that these days.

Kerry is, I believe, uniquely qualified to deal with this difficult issue and reposition the democrats on national security as Clinton did on economics. His personal knowledge of the Vietnam problem and the experience of dealing with the Washington power structure for the last twenty years prepared him for the political battle that lies ahead on Iraq and terrorism. But, it is going to be tremendously difficult to deal with the Republicans on these issues.

As Johnson said forty years ago, "It's the only issue they've got."

UPDATE: Since I linked to Drum's piece, I should make it clear that I generally agree Michael Tomasky's take on why Democrats' fealty to the notion that elections are won on issues as opposed to "character" (I would call it personality) is losing us elections. ("Republicans understand the world, and Democrats do not," is, however, a statement I don't think is precise or wise. The out of context possibilities are frightening.) I don't think that Drum and Tomasky really disagree with one another, either --- what Kevin calls an "issue" (national security) Tomasky would call "character."

Republicans certainly use national security as a character point --- tough, uncompromising and aggressive vs being weak, vascillating and fearful --- to beat us over the head. The reason that people trust republicans more than Democrats on the issue is not because of their superior 10 point plans, but because they trust them to have the character and temperament to fight and win. They have been taught to think the opposiote of Democrats.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Big Improvement

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Sept. 12 - In a series of tightly sequenced attacks, at least 25 Iraqis were killed by suicide car bombings and a barrage of missile and mortar fire in several neighborhoods across Baghdad on Sunday.

The attacks were the most widespread in months, seeming to demonstrate the growing power of the insurgency and heightening the sense of uncertainty and chaos in the capital at a time when American forces have already ceded control to insurgents in a number of cities outside of Baghdad.


American forces appear to be facing a guerrilla insurgency that is more sophisticated and more widespread than ever before. Last month, attacks on American forces reached their highest level since the war began, an average of 87 per day.

In a Sunday appearance on the NBC News program "Meet The Press," Secretary of State Colin L. Powell acknowledged that the United States faced a "difficult time" in Iraq but had a plan to "bring it under control" before nationwide elections scheduled for January.

"It's not an impossible task," he said.

The violence, which began before dawn, all but paralyzed this country's capital city, where portions of several central highways were closed, and traffic slowed to a crawl.


After the attack, fighters and gleeful onlookers scaled the burning armored vehicle, said Hassan Lazim, assistant security director at nearby Karkh Hospital who said he saw the scene. Reuters reported that several young men had hung a black banner of the Unity and Jihad militant group, believed to be linked to Al Qaeda, on the barrel of the Bradley's main gun.

Helicopters that flew in to protect the Bradley were then fired on from the ground and fired back, the military said in a statement, adding that the aircraft then destroyed the armored vehicle as well. The helicopters "fired upon the anti-Iraqi forces and the Bradley, preventing the loss of sensitive equipment and weapons." The military stressed that the helicopters had not fired indiscriminately into the crowd, but said, "An unknown number of insurgents and Iraq civilians were wounded or killed in the incident."


In the fighting before and after the attack on the Bradley, 13 people were killed and 61 were wounded, the Iraqi Health Ministry said. A journalist for the Arabiya television network and a 12-year-old girl were among the dead, hospital officials said.

Al Arabiya showed dramatic footage that followed the journalist, Mazen al-Tumeizi, as he stumbled away from the scene of the airstrikes, yelling, "I'm dying, I'm dying!" More than 20 journalists have been killed here since the beginning of the American invasion.

"We can say there were innocent people who died," said Sabah Abud, head of emergency room statistics at Yarmouk Hospital, which received most of those wounded on Sunday.

There's more to the story and it's all bad. I don't know how much more of the "freedom" these poor Iraqis can take.

An Expert

Just one last little word on this document drama and the blogosphere. We have among us here in left blogistan someone who is not only and expert in typography, but an expert on the blogosphere --- Barbara O'Brien who has written a book called Blogging America (which you should all buy because it features many fine and familiar bloggers, including yours truly) and who also runs the great blog the Mahablog.

Her expertise in these two areas means that her blog is required reading on this subject:

From Friday on the documents:

Even I think I am spending way too much time on the Killian memo issue, but I'm visiting it again because, dammit, I'm an expert. And I don't think they are forgeries.

I studied typography as an academic discipline (circa 1971) as part of the old journalism school curriculum at U of Missouri. I spent roughly 30 years in the book publishing business, most of which was on the production side dealing with type compositors and printers. I have worked with typography and printing processes from the end of the raised-metal-type era to current digital technology. I have designed and written complete type specifications for more books than I can remember.

As a production editor in the 1980s I became especially good at measuring the type in books to be reprinted so that corrections could be made by patching the film. To do that, I had to measure the old type and match font, body size, ledding, and letter spacing exactly. This is not a skill people need much any more, since books are stored digitally. But I still know how to do it.

I'm bouncing around the web seeing wingnuts flying off about proportional letter spacing and kerning and whatnot, and I'm telling you these people are off the wall.

Read the details here

Sunday on the blogosphere:

As of now, I believe all of the "proof" of forgery of the Killian documents has been tossed out of court, so to speak. We've accounted for proportional type several different ways, centered heads, all manner of character questions (including the famous raised "th," which turns out to have been a special character on some type element balls, as I suspected), kerning (there wasn't any), and the astonishing fact that when you set the same document twice in the same type face and size it will look pretty much alike. Imagine.

The hyenas on the right are still mindlessly yapping about forgeries, because that's what they do. But by now most people with brains understand the documents are most likely authentic.

According to this LA Times article, the "forgery" claim can be traced to an anonymous poster on Free Republic. Of course. Then some junior technoweenie on Little Green Footballs discovered he could replicate the documents on Microsoft Word, which said junior technoweenie, who clearly knows absolutely nothing about typography, assumed was proof the documents were phony. And then Matt Drudge picked it up, and then it went to mainstream media. And this in a space of about 12 hours.

No question that the Web is impacting major media and the political campaign. The question is, how? Quoting the LA Times:

This was the first time, some said, that the Web logs were engaging in their own form of investigative journalism — and readers, they warned, should be cautious.

"The mainstream press is having to follow them," said Jeffrey Seglin, a professor at Emerson College in Boston. "The fear I have is: How do you know who's doing the Web logs?

"And what happens when this stuff gets into the mainstream, and it eventually turns out that the '60 Minutes' documents were perfectly legitimate, but because there's been so much reporting about what's being reported, it has already taken on a life of its own?"

There are two legitimate issues here. One is the content of the documents, which proves Our Fearless Leaders was indeed a spoiled little princeling who got away with disobeying a direct order while dissing his country.

But the other question is, how can we restore some semblance of responsibility to news reporting?

When I was in journalism school (a zillion years ago, seems like) there was this notion that a professional journalist verified his information before making a story public. And even then, statements were to be cautiously edged with lots of qualifiers just in case the reporter had been misled.

But now false allegations hit the public so fast the whole world hears them before knowledgable people can clear their throats to speak up.

Short of giving a responsibility transplant to anyone within ten feet of a computer keyboard, I don't know what to do.

I don't either, but whatever we do, I know it's not going to happen before November.

Two Extra Memos

I'm no expert on the arcana of the Killian documents, but I hadn't been aware until a reader alerted me that there are six memos rather than the four reported by CBS linked on the USA Today site. Maybe everyone already knows about these other two, but they were news to me.

The first is dated 02 February, 1972 and says simply

Subject: Flight Qualifications


Update me as soon as possible on flight certifications, specifically Bath and Bush.

The other is dated 24 June, 1973 and says:

Subject: Bush, George W. 1st Lt.32447544FG


1. I got a call from your staff concerning the evaluation of 1st Lt Bush due this month. His rater is Lt. Colonel Harris.

2. Neither Lt Colonel Harris or I feel we can rate 1st Lt. Bush since he was not training with 111 F.I.S since April 1972. His recent activity is outside the rating period.

3. Advise how we are supposed to handle this.

Like I said, I'm not an expert and don't want to become one, but these two docs were news to me. The note concerning Bush and Bath from February 1972 is particularly intriguing.

Here's the USA Today pdf link.

If I'm not just misinformed here, I think it's a bit odd that USA today has two documents that CBS never reported. They don't mention it in their article. Where did they come from?

UPDATE: Apparently DU has been on this all day and has lots of intrigue. I'm not all that engaged in the details on this so if you want to get the latest go over there and check it out. In case anybody doesn't know the illustrious history of Bush and Bath, here's a handy site.

UPDATE II: Kevin Drum talked to the USA Today reporters who say that they received the memos from their own sources. One does wonder why they published them but didn't mention that they had their own sources or that there were two more memos. Very strange.

Who Da Man Redux

Kevin Hayden the overlord of The American Street alerted me that the Freepers seem to think there was a long term conspiracy to get Bush on these TANG issues and they are linking to an old post of mine on AS as some sort of proof. I can't really follow what they think they've found (check for yourself at http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1213742/post) but it did remind me that this old post of mine from last April illustrates nicely why the Swift Boat Liars needed to be formed and why the TANG stuff had to be trivialized.

When you put these two records together it's really quite devastating:

April 21, 2004

Via Atrios, I read that the Republicans have decided to try to take on Kerry’s war record. They’ve trotted out one of Nixon’s old lackeys to disparage his leadership and they got lapdog Russert to imply that he was hiding something in his military files, so today he released them in their entirety. I think that’s a good idea. To start, let’s take a look at some of his military fitness evaluations:

A top notch officer in every measurable trait. Intelligent, mature and rich in educational backround and experience. ENS Kerry is one of the finest young officers I have ever met and without question one of the most promising. Polished, tactful and outgoing, this officer is a brilliant conversationalist who can contribute much worthwhile comment to any discussion. In three months aboard he has clearly made his mark as an outstanding division officer and a skilled administrator. He has done a superb job as Public Affairs Officer, putting many extra hours into collateral duty and exhibiting uncommon ingenuity and initiative. He utilizes the English language expertly, both orally and in writing. He is an alert and active original thinker with great potential to the Navy. He eagerly accepts and actively seeks out tasks of greater responsibility. He is recommended for accelerated promotion.

In a combat environment often requiring independent, decisive action LTJG Kerry was unsurpassed. He constantly reviewed tactics and lessons learned in river operations and applied his experience at every opportunity. On one occasion while in tactical command of a three boat operation his unites were taken under fire from ambush. LTJG Kerry rapidly assessed the situation and ordered his units to turn directly into the ambush. This decision resulted in routing the attackers with several enemy KIA.

LtJG Kerry emerges as the acknowledged leader in his peer group. His bearing and appearance are above reproach. He has of his own volition learned the Vietnamese language and is instrumental in the successful Vietnamese training program.
During the period of this report, LTJG kerry had been awarded the Silver Star medal, the Bronze star medal, the Purple Heart medal (2nd and 3rd awards.)

LTJG Kerry was assigned to this division for only a short time but during that time exhibited all of the traits desired of an officer in a combat environment. He frequently exhibited a high sense of imagination and judgment in planning operations against the enemy in the Mekong Delta. Involved in several enemy initiated fire fights including an ambush during the Christmas truce, he effectively suppressed enemy fire and is unofficially credited with 20 enemy killed in action. Though relatively new to the PCF he is thoroughly knowledgeable of all aspects of his boat and PCF operations. He is instrumental in planning of highly successful Sea Lords operations. He was cited for his performance during action against the enemy by Commander Task Force in his message 0808072Z Jan 69.

LTJG Kerry is one of the finest young officers with whom I have served in a long naval career. His combat record prior to becoming my personal aide speaks for itself and is a testimony to his competence and courage at sea.
As my personal aide he could not have been more effective. In every instance he has displayed tact, judgment, foresight and energy. he is particularly adept in his relations with people both military and civilians from all strata. I have given him personal speaking assignments which he has performed in an outstanding manner to the credit of the Navy and himself.

This young man is detached at his own request to run for high public office to whit the Congress of the United States. The detachment of this officer will be a definite loss to the service. He is the dedicated type that we should retain and it is hoped that he will be of further perhaps earlier greater service to his country, which is his aim in life at this time.

This is a man who certainly seems to have the requisite qualities of leadership. In the earliest evaluation, where he is on ship awaiting his requested assignment to Vietnam (pdf), he is described as an intelligent, energetic, skilled administrator who uses ingenuity and initiative. Special attention is given to his outstanding communication skills and he is shown to be actively seeking out responsibility.

The next assignment shows Kerry in Vietnam. Using phrases like “independent, decisive action” he is said to be constantly reviewing tactics and using his growing experience at every opportunity. Wounded three times, winner of the silver star and the bronze star he is a heroic leader who has smartly taken initiative in everything from battle tactics to learning the vietnamese language.

By the third report, we see a seasoned, battle hardened veteran who has imagination and judgment; a well known leader of men at the highest levels. He is also credited with killing the enemy in double digits in an ambush during the Christmas truce.

At the final report we see Lt Kerry back in the states assigned as the personal aide to a high ranking officer in Washington. Hardened by battle he is described as a young man of tact, judgment, foresight and energy who his officer sees as a great loss to the Navy as he leaves the service to make a run for Congress. The trajectory from his earliest fitness reports to the last were of an intelligent, ambitious, brave young man who consistently surpassed his previous success and abilities.

George W. Bush (pdf) entered the National Guard in May 1968. Despite his lackluster performance on the entrance exam, he was allowed to train to be a fighter pilot, which by all accounts he managed to do without incident. His fitness reports start off in promising fashion:

Lt. Bush is an exceptionally fine young officer and pilot. After completing the F102 all weather interceptor school in November 1969, he came to this unit as a highly qualified fighter interceptor pilot. Lt. Bush possesses sound judgment and is mature beyond his age and experience level. During the last weapons firing deployment, he delivered both primary and secondary weapons from the F102. Lt Bush performed in an outstanding manner, following the best project requirements set forth. He also participated in a practice deployment during annual field training. He was able to handle intercepts with varying [?] and tactics selections. He continually flies intercept mission with the unit to increase his proficiency even further. Lt Bush is a natural leader but he is also a great follower of military discipline. Lt Bush has outstanding growth potential and should be promoted well ahead of his contemporaries.

Strengths: Lt Bush’s main strengths are his eagerness to participate in the unit’s activities and his ability to work harmoniously with others.

Suggested assignments: At the present time Lt Bush should continue to serve as a squadron pilot. This will enable him to gain valuable knowlege of the Air National Guard’s role in the defense of this country and experience as a pilot.

Self Improvement Efforts: Lt. Bush makes an effort to learn more abnout the all weather interceptors mission and capability by attending squadron briefings and studying available material in his spare time.

Other comments: Lt Bush is employed by Statford of Texas. Being on the managerial side of this diversified company he tells the story of the ANG and the USAF to the public at every opportunity. Since completing pilot training in November 1969 and F102 all weather interceptor school in June 1970, he has made a concentrated effort to improve his proficiency as a pilot. He is a member of the National Guard Association of the United States and Texas. Lieutenant Bush is an outstanding young pilot and officer and is a credit to his unit. I have personally observed his participation and without exception, his performance has been noteworthy. This officer is rated in the upper 10% of his contemporaries. 27 May, 1971.

Lt. Bush is an exceptional fighter interceptor pilot and officer. He eagerly participates in scheduled unit activities. During this past year he participated in several target force deployments and an F-102 aircraft deployment to Canada. His conduct and professional approach to the mission were exemplary and apparent to observers. His skills as a interceptor pilot enabled him to complete all his ABC intercept missions during the Canadian deployment.

Strengths: Lt/ Bush’s major strength is his ability to work with others. He makes a welcome addition to any group of team effort.

Suggested assignments: Lt Bush should be retained in his present assignment. He has gained valuable experience in the [?] area and would be a welcome addition to any fighter squadron.

Self improvements efforts: Lt. Bush is enrolled in the Squadron’s Officer School by correspondence and progressing satisfactorily. He also participates in ground school and briefings to stay abreast of the F-102 response employment and the ANG mission.

Other comments: Lt Bush is very active in civic affairs in the community and manifests a deep interst in the operation of our government. He has recently accepted a position as campaign manager for a candidate for United States senate. He is a good representative of the military and Air National Guard in the business world. His abilities and anticipated future assignments make him a valuable asset. He is member of the National Guard Association of the United States and Texas.

Lieutenant Bush is an exceptionally fine young pilot and officer and is a credit to this unit. I have personally observed his participation and without exception, his performance has been noteworthy.

This officer should have been reassigned in May 1972 since he no longer is training in his AFSC or with his unit of assignment.

Lt Bush has not been observed at this unit during the period of report. A civilian occupation made it necessary for him to move to Montgomery Alabama. He cleared this base on 15 may, 1972 and has been performing equivalent training in a non flying status with the 187 Tac recon Gp, Dannelly ANG Base, Alabama

Verbal orders of the Comdr on 1 Sep 72 suspending ist Lt george W. Bush ANGUS (Not on EAD) TX ANG, Hq 147 Flt GTp, Ellington AFB, Houston TX, from flying status are confirmed, exigencies of the service having been such as to preclude the publication of competent written orders in advance. Reason for suspension: Failure to accomplish annual medical examination. Off will comply with para 2-10, AFM 35-13 Authority: Para 2-29m, AFM 35-13

Not rated for the period 1 May 72 through 30 Apr 73
Report for this period not available for administrative reasons.

It’s true that until 1972 they consistently say that Bush is a fine pilot and a credit to his unit. But, look at what he’s actually doing during this time. The only thing that seems to set him apart is that he’s an excellent cheerleader for the National Guard — his “anticipated future assignments make him a valuable asset.” They assert without evidence that he should be promoted ahead of his peers because he is a natural leader, but his strengths are always listed as simply “works well with others.” His performance is “noteworthy,” for what we don’t know. The trajectory is of someone who performed to expectations at first and then lost interest.

Finally, he just stopped showing up altogether.

Perhaps the best way to look at this election is as if we are making a movie called “Post 9/11 America.” That’s something anyone can understand.

Which one of the above two stories provide us with a glimpse of a true leading man for our movie? The full time cheerleader, part-time pilot or the smooth, heroic, battle tested naval officer?

Business As Usual

The state Democratic Party chairman said Friday that GOP leaders should denounce a state lawmaker who urged Republicans to disrupt a campaign event by supporters of presidential candidate John Kerry.

In a news release, the DFL Party included an e-mail that Rep. Bill Kuisle had sent to Olmsted County Republicans, urging them to attend an event in Rochester on Friday featuring singer Carole King and the group Minnesota Women for John Kerry.

Kuisle provided the details of the event and said, "If anyone can go and harass it would be appreciated. Bill."


Randy Wanke, a spokesman for the state Republican Party, said it's hard to take the criticism seriously given that Erlandson "didn't condemn the Democrats who heckled the President in Duluth," where Bush campaigned in July, and other disturbances at Bush rallies.

Yes, the two parties are equivalently malignant this way. Except that Bush supporters are routinely allowed their freedom of speech to heckle Kerry and do it quite often. Bush on the other hand deals with it differently:

Officially, the Secret Service does not concern itself with unarmed, peaceful demonstrators who pose no danger to the commander in chief. But that policy was inoperative here Thursday when seven AIDS activists who heckled President Bush during a campaign appearance were shoved and pulled from the room -- some by their hair, one by her bra straps -- and then arrested for disorderly conduct and detained for an hour.

After Bush campaign bouncers handled the evictions, Secret Service agents, accompanied by Bush's personal aide, supervised the arrests and detention of the activists and blocked the news media from access to the hecklers.

The Bush campaign has made unprecedented efforts to control access to its events. Sometimes, people are required to sign oaths of support before attending events with Bush or Vice President Cheney. At times, buses of demonstrators are diverted by police to idle in parking lots while supporters are waved in. And the Secret Service has played an unusual role; one agent cooperated with a plan by the Bush campaign last month to prevent former senator Max Cleland (Ga.), a Kerry ally, from handing a letter to the agent outside Bush's Texas ranch.


Sullywatch and Steve Gilliard take issue with my recent posts on typegate and I think they deserve a response.

Sullywatch takes the intriguing position that the left blogosphere should actively debunk these Killian documents because they are forgeries from the right meant to be exposed as such to discredit the news media and the left blogosphere if we fall for them. Therefore, we should get ahead of that and expose them ourselves. That's an interesting idea. We all know that Rove has a history of such dirty tricks. But, I believe that there is almost no chance that we will ever prove that Rove's fingerprints are on this, so if they are forgeries it is actually more likely to be pinned on our side than theirs just because it's the simpler more obvious explanation. I guess I don't buy that by helping to expose the fraud that Democrats would not be blamed anyway.

In the bigger picture, I actually did not suggest that lefty bloggers had an obligation to actively embrace the documents. I don't think it matters one way or the other because a huge news organization has its reputation resting on this and they are highly motivated to see them proven valid. But, I also don't see any strategic benefit in actively helping the other side enact a tactical misdirection, for the reason I stated above. Even if an alleged forger is exposed, I don't think the truth of who was behind it will ever be known and even more depressing, even if it is, I don't think more than half the people will believe it.

On one point, I seriously disagree with my esteemed blogger comrade. I absolutely do not believe that the left blogosphere will be granted points for integrity or for credibility and furthermore I think that we will either be discredited or ignored by the other side no matter what we do. And, there is no mediator to decide who's right and wrong. It depends on who you believe. Certainly, the consensus of belief that your past performance translates into credibility down the road no longer exists. For instance, this morning's LA Times approvingly quoted Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs, a site that pushed the Swift Boat Lies relentlessly, (not to mention that he is racist and xenophobic to an extreme.) They also discussed Free Republic and Drudge without mentioning that they are wrong about virtually everything.

Modern politics is epistomological quicksand and relativism is the order of the day. There will be no reckoning. Therefore, if the documents actually are forgeries or if they aren't isn't really relevant to the larger point. Being factually right or factually wrong does not necessarily accrue to our benefit not does it discredit us. All that matters is how the story plays out in the media's and public's perceptions.

Which brings me to Steve Gilliard's argument. I stand behind my statement that this was a masterful play on the right. We had 60 Minutes, the most respected news show on television just set back on its heels by the Mighty Wurlitzer (joined by it's newest players, LGF and Free Republic) within twenty four hours. What was a confluence of stories from CBS, the Globe the AP and others revealing that Bush got many more favors in the Guard than previously known was reduced to an arcane argument about typewriters almost immediately. Compare that to the Swift Boat controversy which played out in great detail over the course of a month.

I agree that Rove would rather not have the story be about Bush being AWOL, and he certainly wishes the story would go away entirely. But given the choice between having the press discuss the substance of the charges or typewriter fonts and duelling document experts I think it's clear he would choose the latter. From the look of the Sabbath Gasbag shows, it may be dying more quickly than it came alive. When the major media all decide that "the story" is based upon bogus information they all drop it. It looks as if that may be exactly what happened.

Finally, my post Dupes and Skeptics was aimed at the media. I frankly don't believe that anything the left blogosphere did on this story helped or hurt. It wasn't our play and we were more or less irrelevant. What I do see is that the right blogosphere has now become an integral part of the Mighty Wurlitzer and I have to grant grudging respect for its power and effectiveness. We underestimate them at our peril.

My post was widely seen as being defeatist, which I think is unfortunate. I do admit that I am deeply cynical about the way politics and the media intersect these days but the truth is that I believe that the Democrats can certainly win, both on superior substance and with superior strategy. But, I maintain that we are not going to get there by relying on rules that don't apply anymore --- rules about credibility and fairness and factual integrity. It's difficult, I admit, to know where the lines are and whether we should or should not cross them. It's hard to let go of the idea that truth and reality will out.

The political world I see is one dominated by media manipulation and marketing and public relations in which reality is not as important as the perception of reality. I think we adapt to that or we cease to survive. I certainly believe that we can do it. We are, after all, the smart people.

Right Blogosphere Takes A Victory Lap

A big article in the news pages of the LA Times this morning. (The best thing about it is that Instapundit isn't mentioned even once.)

No Disputing It: Blogs Are Major Players

Netizen's late-night post questioning CBS claims about Bush's service spreads at warp speed.

These days, CBS News anchor Dan Rather and his colleagues at the network's magazine program "60 Minutes II" are enduring an unusual wave of second-guessing by some of the public and fellow journalists.

For that, they can thank "Buckhead."

It was a late-night blog posting by this mystery Netizen that first questioned the validity of documents Rather cited Wednesday as proof that George W. Bush did not fulfill his National Guard duty more than 30 years ago.

Buckhead refuses to further identify himself, other than dropping hints that he is a male who lives on the East Coast — preferring to proclaim that the scramble to verify the contentions in his posting marks an extraordinary achievement for a medium that has operated more as an underground world of ideological venting than a source of legitimate news.

But Buckhead is vehement about one thing: He acted alone when he posted, to the conservative website FreeRepublic.com, what was widely believed to be the first allegation that the CBS report relied on documents that could have been forged.

"Absolutely, positively, on my own, sitting at my computer in my bedroom just before midnight — but not in my pajamas," he wrote in an e-mail exchange with The Times. "But once I posted the comment to Free Republic I was no longer working alone, and that is the real point of the story about the story about the story."

That story began Wednesday, 19 minutes after the "60 Minutes II" broadcast began, when another FreeRepublic poster, TankerKC, noted that the documents were "not in the style that we used when I came into the USAF…. Can we get a copy of those memos?"

Less than four hours later, Buckhead pointed to "proportionally spaced fonts" in the memos, which CBS said had been written in the early 1970s by Bush's commanding officer, Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, who died in 1984. Buckhead concluded that the documents had been drafted on a modern-day word processor rather than a typewriter.

"I am saying these documents are forgeries, run through a copier for 15 generations to make them look old," Buckhead wrote. "This should be pursued aggressively."

And it was — with startling speed.

Early Thursday morning, Minneapolis lawyer Scott Johnson was in his basement home office, preparing to link some morning news reports to the site he co-authors, when a reader sent an e-mail about Buckhead.

Intrigued, Johnson, whose online ID is "The Big Trunk," put a link on his site, PowerLine Blog.com, to Buckhead's post.

Then the floodgates opened.


Soon Charles Johnson, a Los Angeles musician-turned-conservative-blogger who hosts the site LittleGreenFootballs.com, posted the results of his own investigation. He wrote that he had opened Microsoft Word, set the font to Times New Roman and used the program's default settings to retype a purported Killian memo from August 1973.


Within 90 minutes of that post, the Power Line site was linked to perhaps the best-known conservative site of all — the Drudge Report, made famous when Matt Drudge took a lead role in the first reports on the relationship between then-President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.


Suddenly, the story line shifted from the question Democrats had been trying to ask — whether Bush received special treatment in the Guard — to whether a network long detested by conservatives had been duped in its quest to air a report critical of the president in the midst of the reelection campaign.

Journalists at mainstream media outlets rushed to consult with experts to check the validity of the documents. The claims of seemingly legitimate analysts posting commentary online could not be ignored.

"If the blog enthusiasts wanted to write a better scenario, they'd have a hard time coming up with one more spectacular than this one," said Jim Geraghty, host of the Kerry Spot blog published by the conservative National Review, whose e-mail queue was filled by font experts from across the nation wanting to weigh in.


"It was amazing Thursday to watch the documents story go from FreeRepublic.com, a bastion of right-wing lunacy, to Drudge to the mainstream media in less than 12 hours," said Jim Jordan, a strategist for independent Democratic groups opposed to Bush.

"That's not to say the documents didn't deserve examination. But apparently the entire thing was cooked up by a couple of amateurs on Free Republic. The speed with which it moved was breathtaking."

By Friday, articles in The Times, the Washington Post and other news outlets were quoting some analysts raising questions about the CBS documents, and others saying it was impossible to judge the memos' authenticity without seeing the originals.


Media experts said the role of the bloggers illustrated a significant development in the relationship between mainstream news and the still-nascent phenomenon of blogging.

This was the first time, some said, that the Web logs were engaging in their own form of investigative journalism — and readers, they warned, should be cautious.

"The mainstream press is having to follow them," said Jeffrey Seglin, a professor at Emerson College in Boston. "The fear I have is: How do you know who's doing the Web logs?

"And what happens when this stuff gets into the mainstream, and it eventually turns out that the '60 Minutes' documents were perfectly legitimate, but because there's been so much reporting about what's being reported, it has already taken on a life of its own?"

"All hail 'Buckhead,' " wrote one posting to Free Republic.

"Here, here," wrote another. "But how do we know Buckhead is really not Karl Rove..."

This is really a testament to the right wing echo chamber, not blogging per se. They had a conduit to get this information into the mainstream quickly. Had our side done the same thing it would have taken days to get the attention of the mainstream.

We don't have a Drudge, which is an absolutely necessary bridge from the internet to the mainstream media.

Why not?

Saturday, September 11, 2004

A Country Full Of Zealots

Craig Crawford notes that if swing voters are turned off by the negative tone of the campaign and don't vote, it would turn the election "into a test of the turnout strength of each side’s faithful."

"That, sadly, would put the next four years in the hands of those seduced by the shrill sound of ideological zealotry. Such people should not be labeled 'true believers,' because they have allowed themselves to believe the most ridiculous lies being spread, frequently on the Internet, about one candidate or the other. Rabid Democrats insist that Bush and Cheney sent young Americans to their death in Iraq just to make money for Halliburton. Equally rabid Republicans insist that Kerry deliberately shot himself for a war medal."

"If these are the people who now decide elections, Heaven help us."

Yes, it's definitely better that 17 uninformed morons who would refuse to vote based upon their dislike of all that icky "negativity" do the deciding. Those are the kind of citizens that make this country great.

That Awful Day

The best way to show your respect for those who died three years ago today is to read the 9/11 Commission Report. You can download it here or you can get it at any bookstore.

It is a harrowing account of years of political confusion leading up to an administration that pushed it down the list of priorities to that final day of reckoning.

That the man who presided over that day, with all his early inattention and his terrible performance at the time and in all the days that have followed, may be rewarded with another term is sobering indeed.

Dupes And Skeptics

Not that it matters, because the echo chamber seems to have made a decision, but there are a couple of interesting articles today in the SF Gate ("Authenticity backed on Bush documents") and the Boston Globe ("Some skeptics now say IBM typewriter could have been used") about the premature conclusions reached by the so-called experts in typewriter-gate. There are some who are sticking to their guns but at least two of them are questionable themselves.

I would like to see someone do a thorough forensic investigation on how the skepticism on the memos made its way so quickly into the mainstream. This is a good start. What it says is that once again, the Mighty Wurlitzer played the press for chumps. And, I suppose it won't be the last time because press feels no shame or guilt about falling for GOP super-spin time after time.

Today, we hear the startling news that General Hodges now says he was misled into believing that the memos were handwritten, which for some reason is supposed to make a difference. He claims that he said, "well if he wrote them, that's what he felt."

According to the Washington Post, the conversation went like this:

A senior CBS official, who asked not to be named because CBS managers did not want to go beyond their official statement, named one of the network's sources as retired Maj. Gen. Bobby W. Hodges, the immediate superior of the documents' alleged author, Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian. He said a CBS reporter read the documents to Hodges over the phone, and Hodges replied that "these are the things that Killian had expressed to me at the time."

Now, it's possible that CBS is just lying outright on a story that was guaranteed to put the entire Republican establishment into a frenzy. Or, perhaps they were terribly sloppy. If you believe Hodges today that is what you have to assume because whether or not these memos were handwritten is irrelevant if they were simply read to Hodges over the phone. And the quote from CBS is entirely different from the one that Hodges claims he gave them.

I will take the big leap here and say that the likely scenario is that when Hodges heard that they had these memos he figured he might as well tell the truth, which was that they reflected Killian's feelings as he remembered them. After the memos were called into question he lied about what he told CBS. (I would say that he'd better be sure they didn't have it on tape, but then the tape will be called a forgery and we'd be back on the merry-go-round.) Logic says that CBS, being a professional news organization, knew that this was an explosive story and was extremely careful with its quotes.

None of the hysterical forensic evidence produced so far has held up. The Boston Globe article pretty well establishes that the "experts" who were contacted by the Post and others in the first cycle had their heads up their asses about what was and wasn't in use during the period. Nobody, as far as I know, has done the basic forensic task of comparing Killian's other memos of the period with these, which would probably shed real light on the subject.

Meanwhile, Killian's wife and son, who if you believe them must have spent many Thanksgivings and Christmases engaged in fond recollections of that fine first Lieutenant George W. Bush, say that they know their husband/father wouldn't have written those memos. And according to the LA Times this influenced Hodges on the issue:

On Friday night, retired Maj. Gen. Hodges, Killian's former supervisor, said in an interview that he also now believes the documents are not real — in part because of the statements of Killian's relatives.

Certainly it is very common for wives to have intimate knowledge of the work memo stylings of their husbands and can vouch for their reliability 30 years after the fact. One should always believe them over a man like Robert Strong, a friend and colleague of Killian who ran the TANG administrative office in the Vietnam era, and who said on camera:

"They are compatible with the way business was done at the time. They are compatible with the man that I remember Jerry Killian being," says Strong. "I don't see anything in the documents that is discordant with what were the times, what was the situation and what were the people involved."

His testimony was very interesting and nobody gives a damn. What he said was that the TANG of the period was completely corrupt. That the kind of favors being granted to rich little chickenhawks like George W. Bush were commonplace. I know that it doesn't speak directly to whether the documents are real but it's a helluva lot more relevant than whether Mrs Killian thinks that Lil' Georgie Bush was a nice boy.

Interestingly,in the LA Times Hodges seemed to walk back a little bit on what he said to ABC:

He also said that he could not recall any conversations in which Killian had complained about Bush's performance or about the fact that Bush failed in August 1972 to take a physical exam, removing him from flight status

"I have no recollection of anything like that happening," said Hodges. "It's possible we did talk about the physical not happening, because we would have to ground him."

In other words, after he'd shot his mouth off, Hodges remembered that he signed off on the grounding. It goes on:

The retired Guard general, who favors the president's reelection, called Bush "a truly outstanding pilot." He called Killian "a good guy" who "ran a tight ship" and might have had concerns about Bush's service.

"But he was maybe a little bit too conscientious, because he wanted his pilots to do everything perfect," Hodges said. "Pilots, like everyone else, are not perfect. [Killian] was conscientious to a fault."

So, if the memos do turn out to be real, it was Killian's fault because he was a tight ass perfectionist about pilots being qualified to fly million dollar airplanes.

(Still think this guy didn't tell CBS what they say he told them?)

(As for Bush being an outstanding pilot, this brings up some new questions on that.)

Perhaps we will never know what the truth is, but we do know three very important things.

First, contrary to the malarky that the Wurlitzer began circulating almost immediately, every single so-called anomoly in the douments that made them questionable could have been produced by typewriters in use at the time. The press jumped the gun and the "experts" were wrong.

Second, CBS had every reason to be extremely careful with its quotes on this story. Hodges, the Bush supporter, has every reason to lie about what he told CBS now that the documents have been called into question. His babbling about handwritten vs typewritten makes no sense. He admits that Killian had very high standards and didn't hold with pilots not meeting them. Therefore, it's not reasonable to assume that Hodges saying that he told CBS "if he wrote it, it must be true" is more credible than CBS's original quote. Indeed, it is ridiculous.

Third, the statements of Killian's family are irrelevant compared to the statement of Strong who handled Killian's work documents and others like it at the time. Unless you believe that spouses and children have better direct knowledge of workplace events than co-workers, that is the only conclusion to which you can come.

But, that is not going to be the story. From this point forward it will be who in John Kerry's campaign (Clinton??) forged the documents:

McClellan made this clear:

Q Scott, on the National Guard documents, do you have any suspicions about their authenticity?

MR. McCLELLAN: We don't know whether the documents were fabricated or are authentic. You know, the media has talked to independent experts who have raised questions about the documents. CBS has not disclosed where the documents came from. But, regardless, it does not -- the documents do not change the facts. The President met his obligations and was honorably discharged. And the one thing that is clear is the timing and the coordination going on here. There is an orchestrated effort by Democrats and the Kerry campaign to tear down the President because of the direction the polls are moving. And it's not surprising that we're seeing the same old recycled attacks. The Democrats are determined to throw the kitchen sink at us, and I suspect this is just the beginning.

Q When you use the word "coordination," it seems to suggest in a legal sense that the Kerry campaign is illegally coordinating with the 527 --

MR. McCLELLAN: It's clear. I mean, look at the media reports, they've documented the coordinated efforts by Democrats to tear down the President here, because they're falling behind in the polls. You look at the -- The Washington Post had a story about it today, talking about the multi-front effort by the Democratic National Committee, other Democrats. You have outrageous comments being made by Senator Harkin. You have the Democratic National Committee using the term "Operation Fortunate Son." "Fortunate Son" was the name of a book by an ex-convict that was widely discredited in the 2000 campaign.

This whole pushback by the right, from the blogosphere to the Wurlitzer to the Whitehouse, is absolutely masterful. And, it should give everyone pause if they think there is even a snowball's chance in hell that any member of the Bush administration will ever get justice for the crimes they have committed while in office. Clearly, the press and much of the public are so willing to be used that it is hopeless. This entire episode is nothing but a pathetic reminder of how easily they manipulate perceptions.

We'd better be content to congratulate ourselves for having integrity because it's clear that we do not get any public credit for it. Indeed, we are perceived as being just as bad as they are. If that's the case, does it even matter that we aren't?