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Monday, October 04, 2004

No Samaritan

Matthews just interviewed Joe Lockhart and mentioned the new zogby poll question "If your car was broken down on the side of the road, who do you think would stop and help you?" Shockingly, 32% said John Kerry and 40% said Junior.

Unbelievable. It is indisputable that John Kerry saved Jim Rassman's life in Vietnam, which should be enough to prove that Kerry not only will stop and help you fix your car, he will rush across 6 lanes of traffic to do it. (Our swift boat pals have so successfully lied and schemed that this image of Kerry has been forever tainted, to their enternal damnation.)

However, Rassman wasn't the only life that Kerry famously saved. How about this one:

Former U.S. Sen. Chic Hecht of Nevada is a staunch Republican, but he thanks his lucky stars for Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.

On July 12, 1988, Hecht was attending a weekly Republican luncheon when a piece of apple lodged firmly in his throat.

Hecht stumbled out of the room, thinking he might vomit but not wanting to do it in front of his colleagues. Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., thumped his back, but Hecht quickly passed out in the hallway.

Just then, Kerry stepped off an elevator, rushed to Hecht's side and gave him the Heimlich maneuver -- four times.

The lifesaving incident made international news, and Dr. Henry Heimlich, who invented the maneuver in 1974, called Hecht to say that had Kerry intervened just 30 seconds later Hecht might have been in a vegetative state for life.

"This man gave me my life," the 75-year-old Hecht said Thursday.

Hecht said he was amazed that Kerry acted so quickly -- some people were assuming that he was having a heart attack.

"He knew exactly what to do," he said. "But a lot of people know what to do. They just don't size up the situation immediately."

The story has a twist of irony: Hecht was up for re-election that year, and Kerry, who was serving as the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, had pegged Hecht as one of the most vulnerable Republican seats.

Indeed, the Democratic nominee for Hecht's seat, then-Gov. Richard Bryan, beat Hecht, who served just one term in office.

"Only in America can this happen, where he's working against me to get me defeated and then saves my life," Hecht said.

Hecht, who prides himself on having one of the most conservative records on the books during his six years in the Senate, said he and his wife, Gail, see politics as "a secondary issue" when it comes to Kerry.

"We've had a wonderful life, and it would have all been down the tubes," said Hecht, who is about to celebrate his 45th wedding anniversary with his wife.

Every year the Hechts call Kerry's longtime personal secretary, who tracks down Kerry wherever he is.

Then they recount some of their experiences in the last year. Hecht and his wife thank Kerry for thinking so quickly in the Senate halls that day. And Kerry tells them that their phone call is one of his favorites of the year.

"He's so nice and appreciative," Hecht said.

Ther Daily Show did a spoof of this and I suspect that many people thought it was a joke. But it's actually true. Kerry stepped off the elevator, immediately assessed the situation and then saved the guys life while a bunch of others stood around dithering. (Compare this to Bush frozen in a little boys chair reading 'The Pet Goat" after Andy Card said, "We are under attack.")

Is there even one example of George W. Bush doing a personal good deed ever in his life? I honestly can't think of one.

In fact, even aside from all of his cruel policy decisions (like approving the use of TORTURE for instance) there are many small indications that this guy is totally lacking compassion for his fellow man --- even his own family.

Remember James Byrd's family in Jasper texas begging him to help them pass hate crimes legislation?

"I went in there pleading to him," Mullins says. "I said that if he helped me move it along I would feel that he hadn't died in vain ... [Rep.] Thompson said, 'Gov. Bush, what Renee's trying to say is, Would you help her pass the bill?' And he said, 'No.' Just like that."

"He had a nonchalant attitude, like he wanted to hurry up and get out of there," Mullins says. "It was cold in that room."

Remember when his daughter had an emergency appendectomy?

As he boarded the plane, reporters inquired about Jenna's condition. 'Maybe she'll be able to join us in Florida,' the president-elect said. 'If not, she can clean her room.' The reporters stared at him, stunned. 'I couldn't believe it,' one of those present later said. 'First of all, I'm a father, and I cannot imagine a scenario in which my daughter would have major surgery and I would just leave on vacation. And then he just seemed so snarly about it, like he was pissed at her.'"

Not only wouldn't he stop to help you at the side of the road, he's the type who'd slow down and stare at you, then laugh uproariously and hit the gas, spraying gravel in your face as he sped away.

The Mediawhore Doctrine

Goddamn it. Wolf Blitzer just asked William Cohen about the so-called "Kerry Doctrine" and then defined it exactly as the Bush campaign is in its talking points --- you know, the nonsense about about giving foreign countries veto power over our security yada, yada, yada.

Cohen gave a nice scholorly response that glazed the eyes of every listener before they realized that he was obliquely saying that the spin was full of shit.

Time to blast Wolfie, folks. Call if you can. This "Kerry Doctrine" thing is being pushed by the wingnuts with everything they have, and the whores are eating it with a spoon. Blitzer knows very well that Kerry did not actually say that he would allow other nations to veto America's right to preemptive self defense. He challenged Condi Rice on that subject just yesterday by showing the entire clip from the debate and explaining it quite lucidly. He knows that it is bullshit yet he continues to "ask" people about it as if there really was some controversy about what Kerry said.

And he is spreading this meme "The Kerry Doctrine" a phrase that Kerry has never used, mainly because what he was talking about already had a name --- the Pre-emption Doctrine and we've been living under it for more than fifty years.

Blitzer's CNN Complaints Form


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GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The A.Q. Khan network has been brought to justice.

BLITZER: To justice? The guy has been -- Khan has been freed. He's been pardoned by President Musharraf... Khan himself lives in a villa. And the IAEA would like to question him, and the Pakistani government doesn't even allow that to happen.

RICE: I think we all know that A.Q. Khan was a particular kind of figure in Pakistani lore, a national hero... if you don't think that his national humiliation is justice for what he did, I think it is. He's nationally humiliated.


Earlier this year, Khan's underground nuclear bazaar--dubbed the "nuclear Wal-Mart" by IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei--was uncloaked, solving the mystery of how North Korea, Iran and Libya acquired so much nuclear technology so fast. The answer: Khan's network sold it to them.

In other news:

Martha Stewart will do her time for lying about a stock sale at a remote West Virginia prison camp where inmates sleep in bunk beds and rise at 6 a.m. to do menial labor for pennies an hour.

The millionaire celebrity homemaker confirmed Wednesday that she had been assigned to the minimum-security prison at Alderson, but noted that she had hoped to be sent to a facility closer to her family and attorneys.

Stewart, convicted in March of lying to investigators about a stock sale, had asked to serve her five-month prison term in Danbury, Conn., close to her 90-year-old mother and her own home in Westport.

But a source familiar with the government's decision, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press that Alderson was selected because it was more remote and less accessible to the media than Danbury or Stewart's second choice of Coleman, Fla

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Two Faces. One Public, One Private. One Phony, One Real.

Over the last week or so we have seen an edgy, enigmatic black and white image of George W. Bush appear on web-sites and blogs. At first people thought that sites had been hacked, as Eschaton and Kos and Democratic Underground spontaneously erupted with the black and white figure only to have it disappear and randomly return. Within days it linked to a mysterious DNC web-site with cryptic material that only slowly came into focus. Clearly something was up.

This image is disconcerting and it evokes strong reactions because it symbolizes the cognitive dissonance so many of us have been living with for the last four years as we’ve watched the man who lost the election but won the office drive us to distraction with the contradictions of his character. And nothing has been more frustrating than the fact that so many in the media and in the public at large seemed to see something entirely different than we did.

I believe that this happened because after 9/11, the media cast Bush in the role of strong, resolute leader, perhaps because the nation needed him to be that, at least for a little while. And the people gratefully laid that mantle on him and he took it because the office demanded no less. The narrative of the nation at war required a warrior leader and George W. Bush was all we had. Karl Rove and others understood that they could use this veil to soothe the American people and flatter the president to take actions that no prudent, thoughtful leader would have taken after our initial successes in Afghanistan. This “man with the bullhorn” image of Bush crystallized in the minds of many Americans and has not been revisited until now.

That phony image took us from a sense of national unity to a misguided war with Iraq; it excused his failure to effectively manage the economy and fomented partisan warfare by portraying dissent as unpatriotic; it allowed people to overlook his obvious failure to take the threat of al Qaeda seriously before 9/11 (and even after) and created a hagiography based on wishful thinking and emotional need rather than any realistic appraisal of his leadership.

His handlers wisely kept him under wraps, allowing him face time on television only in the company of world leaders or to give stirring speeches written by his gifted speechwriter, Mark Gerson. He rarely held press conferences and when he took questions, he was aggressively unresponsive, choosing instead to offer canned sound bites and slogans and daring the press corps to call him on it. Few did. The mask stayed in place and he remained a symbol instead of a president --- the symbol of American strength, resilience and fortitude. He was, in many people’s minds, the president they wished they had.

On Thursday night sixty-one million people watched George W. Bush for the first time since 9/11 not as that symbol, but as a man. And for those who had not reassessed their belief in his personal leadership since 9/11, it was quite a shock. Their strong leader was inarticulate, arrogant, confused and immature. They must be wondering who that man was.

The truth is that since George W. Bush entered politics he has always had two faces. In fact, virtually everything you know about his public persona is the opposite of the real person.

He claims to be a compassionate, caring man, often admonishing people to "love your neighbor like you loved to be loved yourself." Yet, going all the way back to Yale, he is quoted as saying he disapproved of his fellow students as "people who felt guilty about their lot in life because others were suffering." His business school professor remembers him saying that poor people are poor because they are lazy. This from a man who was born rich into one of America's leading families and relied on those connections for everything he ever achieved.

He lectures on responsibility, saying that he's going to end the era of "if it feels good do it" and yet he failed to live up to his responsibility as a young man in the crucible of his generation, the Vietnam war. In fact, if it felt good, he did it and did it with relish --- for forty years of his fifty eight year life. He has never fully owned up to what he did during those years spent in excess and hedonism, relying on a convenient claim of being “born again” to expiate him of his sins. Would that everyone had it so easy.

He ostentatiously calls himself a committed Christian and yet he rarely attends church unless it’s a campaign stop or a national occasion. The man who claims that Christ is his favorite political philosopher famously and cruelly mocked a condemned prisoner begging for her life. He portrays himself as a man of rectitude yet he pumped his fist and said "feels good!" in the moment before he announced that the Iraq war had begun. (One would have thought that if there was ever a time to utter a prayer it was then.) How many funerals of the fallen has he attended? How many widows has he personally comforted?

He portrays himself as a salt of the earth "hard working" rancher, clearing brush on his land in an artfully sweaty Calvin Klein-style t-shirt. Yet in the first 8 months of his presidency leading up to 9/11, he spent 42% of his time on vacation. His "ranching" didn't begin until he bought his million dollar property just before he ran for president in 1999. He has lived in suburbs and cities since a brief period in his childhood in the 50’s, when he lived in the medium sized boom town of Midland before going to Andover.

He actively promotes the notion that he is a man of action yet in the single most important moment of his life he froze in front of school kids, continuing on with a script prepared before the national psyche was blown to bits. He didn’t take charge. He didn’t react. He was paralyzed at the moment of the nation’s worst peril.

He claims to be a strong leader and yet he is skillfully manipulated by his staff, who learned early that the only thing they needed to do to convince him of the rightness of their recommended course was to flatter him by saying it was the "brave" or "bold" thing to do. His self-image as a resolute leader is actually a lack of self confidence that is ripe for exploitation by competing advisors who use it to convince this him to do their bidding. This explains why he seems to believe that he is acting with resolve when he has just affected an abrupt about-face. His advisors had persuaded him to change course simply by telling him he was being resolute.

George W. Bush is a man with two faces--- a public image of manly strength and a private reality of childish weakness. His verbal miscues and malapropisms are the natural consequence of a man struggling with internal contradictions and a lack of self-knowledge. He can’t keep track of what he is supposed to think and say in public.

There is no doubt that whether it's a cowboy hat or a crotch hugging flightsuit , George W. Bush enjoys wearing the mantle of American archetypal warriors. But when he goes behind the curtain and sheds the costume, a flinty, thin-skinned, immature man who has never taken responsibility for his mistakes emerges. The strong compassionate leader is revealed as a flimsy paper tiger.

On Thursday night, the president forgot himself. After years of being protected from anyone who doesn't flatter and cajole, he let his mask slip when confronted with someone who didn't fear his childish retribution or need anything from him. Many members of the public got a good sharp look at him for the first time in two years and they were stunned. Like that black and white image, the dichotomy of the real Bush vs. the phony Bush is profoundly discomfiting.

Luckily for America and the world, a fully synthesized, mature man stood on the other side of that stage ready to assume the mantle of leadership, not as a theatrical costume but as an adult responsibility for which he is prepared by a lifetime of service, study and dedication. I would imagine that many voters felt a strong sense of relief that he was there.

Too Funny

AMERICAblog does it again:

Drudge outdoes himself today with a post claiming Kerry came to the debate podium and allegedly takes a sheet of paper out of his breast pocket. The debate rules apparently say that you can bring NOTHING to the podium not even paper or pencil, and that all the materials will be placed for you on the podium.

Oh, but only as Drudge can do, the video Drudge posts as "proof" on his site bites Bush in the ass. If you zoom the video to full screen (right click on it while it's running and click "zoom" and then "full screen") you can see Bush unfolding a piece of paper and laying it down on his podium!

Here's the link.

And it's fairly clear to me that Kerry was taking a pen out of his pocket, probably out of habit, which does mean that he broke the debate rules. Clearly, that's the sort of lawless behavior that undecided voters won't stand for. Remember, it's not about the pen. It's about the rule 'o law.

Once again the fighting hellmice of the 101st keyboarders speak truth to power!

No Joke

The wonderful Meteor Blades over at kos comments on the George P Bush quote from spin alley in the NY Times today in which he says:

"I think his main objective, apart from not falling on the ground on the stage, which he didn't do tonight, was to say, look, here are my positions, and talk directly to the voters."

The Times characterizes this a setting the bar low and Meteor Blades generously says:

I wish I could be certain that hunky George P. merely succumbed to a bit of nervous levity after the stress of watching his uncle send months of meticulous image manipulation down the toilet in 90 minutes. Just a joke to take the edge off.

Or maybe not. We all know the President has fallen down on the job for the past four years. But we didn't mean it literally.

Frankly, I think he meant it literally. After all, George W. Bush falls flat on his face quite frequently, for reasons that nobody can adequately explain.

Little Voices

TalkLeft mentioned during the debate how wierd it was for Bush to say "let me finish" when nobody had interrupted him. I noticed it too and thought he had just had a bit of a brain lapse and fell into an intimidation tactic that often works to restrain the press but was clearly inappropriate in the present circumstances. (See the infamous Carole Coleman interview for a perfect example of how he employs it.) I even commented that I could only imagine what they would have said about the "delusional" Al Gore if he'd done such a bizarre thing in one of the debates.

I see, however, that some think that this is actually an indication that Bush uses an earpiece, which would explain why he oddly appeared to be speaking to someone who wasn't present during the debate.

I can't remember where I saw it, but there have been pictures of Bush published on the internet that show a strange outline in the back of his jacket when he's standing at the podium. And if I'm not mistaken, one of the debate rules was that they could not shoot either candidate from the back.

The right-wing blogosphere has a very good defense for this charge, however. If Bush was using an earpiece you have to assume that the person who was feeding him his lines at this debate was very drunk or very dumb because his answers were just awful.

On the other hand, that would definitely explain why, in front of 61 million people, he finally had to say something even though it made him look like he was speaking to an imaginary friend. He was desperate for Karen to shut the hell up.


Here's a picture from the actual debate posted on Raw Story. This truly is strange.

Thanks to Hepzipah for the tip

Better Red Than Dead

Jesse and Atrios both rightly take Press The Meat to task for their unbalanced panel of bloviators this morning, although I disagree that Brownstein leans Republican. I think he is one the last of the real journalists in the business. Kate O'beirne can only be correctly balanced by someone like Robert Sheer or Katerina Vandnheuvel (maybe even the ghost of Joseph Stalin) but they never have them on.

However, I think both of the guys miss the truly egregious crime perpetrated by Lil' Russ these last couple of weeks.

He's featuring a stultifying series of Senate debates for most of the hour and he's done something quite appalling by only focusing on senate races in conservative states where the Democrat is forced to repudiate John Kerry at every turn in order to eke out a win --- South Dakota and Oklahoma. And he glories in putting this Democrat on the defensive by making him publicly disagree with Kerry while the other guy backs his strong reolute "leader" to the hilt. Unfortunately, the people voting in both of these contests are rather small compared to the national audience that is led to believe that Democrats don't like Kerry or are useless wimps.

Will we be seeing a debate between Specter and Hoeffel do you think? How about Boxer and Jones? It's only fair that we watch some blue state Republican twist in the wind a little bit, too.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

The Two Faces of Bush

Friday, October 01, 2004

Good Instincts

LiberalOasis, as usual, has a very cogent take on why Kerry pulled it off last night and I agree with him.

In serious times, people are unsurprisingly anxious for a serious, substantive discussion of serious issues. Kerry's calm, cool temperament and his mastery of the facts made people feel confident that he could handle the job:

How did Kerry make this happen?

Part of it what was LiberalOasis discussed yesterday, the Bushies blew the expectations game, setting Kerry's bar very low.

Part of it was Bush's own defensive and irritated demeanor.

(The guy has never had to debate with a controversial record to explain, and he's not naturally good at it.)

But the other part of it was Kerry's own instincts.

He chose not to panic at the polls, not to feel the need to force a KO punch.

He made the decision to be himself, which is, to be a statesman (a good contrast with Dubya).

And to not dumb down the issues, but treat the voters -- who are looking for answers in an uncertain, anxious time -- as adults.

Surrogate Rudy Guiliani's main spin point (heard on NBC and The Daily Show at least) was Kerry was "lecturing" people.

Nice try.

Rudy and the GOP message masters may think people are stupid, but Kerry doesn't.

By delving into the issues, Kerry's the one treating the voters with respect, not you.

The media should take note of this.

Kerry is is a sixty year old man who is prepared to be president in every sense of the word. But, he also has great political instincts and they should not be underrated. By showing his serious, authoritative personality in direct contrast to the impatient, hot-headed president, he may have turned this race at exactly the right moment.

Fierce Partisans

The Political Animal is somewhat, shall we say, dismayed that the blogosphere is actively disseminating talking points for either side, seeing as we're supposed to be so independent and stuff.

It's not surprising that the campaigns are reaching out to bloggers, of course, but as near as I can tell both sides are eating this up. Bloggers everywhere are basking in the illusion that they're sophisticated media operatives, actively collaborating to figure out the best spin for their guy. Emails are flying around from all parties pleading with fellow bloggers to stay on message.

This is insane. It's bad enough when the mainstream media spends too much time lazily regurgitating talking points, but doesn't the blogosphere supposedly pride itself on being fiercely independent, a small band of brave truthtellers immune to the spin and cant of professional politicos?

I'm afraid if anyone believed that last, they were the ones who were insane. Fiercely independent? Most bloggers are openly political and we always have been. We don't identify with the flaccid he said/she said psuedo objectivity of the mainstram media; we are a blatently partisan media and proud of it. I imagine that many of us took up blogging in the first place because of what we saw as a necessary counterbalance to the Mighty Wurlitzer of talk radio, cable news and think tank talking heads that the right has built up over the last 25 years.

We are in the midst of a close fought presidential campaign and I am a devoted liberal who wants to do everything I can to see Kerry elected and to keep the modern Republican party from holding too much power. I recognise that spinning the media (which is what this is all about)is part of that effort and I will happily do whatever tiny little thing I can do. I never held myself up as objective or "independent" in this sense and I'm proud to help the campaign spread its message. To me it's the same thing as volunteering to phone bank or walk the precinct.

I don't have any particularly strong belief that the blogosphere is meaningful to this effort (yet), but it certainly costs me nothing to try to spread the word about something I believe in. If I can provide a little inspiration to my fellow travelers, then I feel that I've made a small contribution to the cause.


Blogs will continue to offer personal views and independent analysis. But, after all the talking we've done over these past few months about Lakoff's framing and the right's information infrastructure, I thought it was obvious to everyone that one of the the things that must be done to cut through the white noise of contemporary media culture is repetition of key phrases, marketing penetration of message and speaking with one voice to hone our ideas and drum them into the public's psyche.

If Democratic partisans don't help with this, then the left blogosphere will be a nice little collection of individual iconoclasts who speak to each other while the right blogosphere becomes an internet message behemoth. No thanks.

I can write all I want about anything I want and I'll continue to do so. Honing the message goes both ways. But, in the final stretch of the most importan political campaign in my lifetime I don't think it's too much for us to try to help work the refs a little bit on behalf of our candidate.

And in the long term, we'd better get our shit together or the Republicans will own every last piece of political media while we're out here singing kumbaya. This is serious and Democrats had better get serious about it.

Petulant And Out Of Touch

The DNC has this video up that's quite amusing and quite revealing. Bush looks petulant, immature, arrogant, out of touch, unfocused and annoyed. We'll have to wait for Saturday Night Live and Jay Leno to tell us whether this will take on a life of its own, but he certainly didn't look presidential in any way shape or form with his puerile fidgeting.

Blitzer appeared to be shocked at that suggestion when it was brought up this morning, however, because the president simply can't look unpresidential in his book. Sorry, Wolfie, the president is routinely not only unpresidential he is an embarrassment. Here's some footage (real player) of him spitting out a wad of gum before he signed a major treaty with Russia back in 2002.

We know that Junior has always believed that a dictatorship would be easier as long as he's the dictator, but that's too bad. It's a shame that a president has to go through all this election unpleasantness, but it's part of the "hard work" of democracy. His highness behaved last night as if he shouldn't have to stand on the same stage and debate a man who he believes is his lesser.

He's quite the regular guy, our ill-mannered boy King.

A Tie?

It appears to me as I'm watching the gasbags this morning that there is consensus emerging that the debate was a tie but that Kerry helped himself by energizing the Democratic base that pretty much hates him.

If anyone feels like writing a letter or making a call and reminding the networks that last night they clearly believed that Kerry won, as did most of the editorial boards and polls, here's the info.

The following links are to articles and transcripts of the post debate analysis:

Larry King Live Post Debate Spin

MSNBC - Kerry, a clear winner


PBS-Shields and Brooks

ABC's The Note (calling it a tie)

CNN Post Debate Analysis


Contact Information:

ABC News


47 W. 66th St
New York, NY 10023
Phone: (212) 456-7477, 456-3796
Fax: (212) 456-4866, 456-2795

World News Tonight with Peter Jennings

Phone: (212) 456-4040
Fax: (212) 456-2771

CBS News

542 W. 57th St.
New York, NY 10019

News Desk:
Phone: (212) 975-4321, 975-3691
Fax: (212) 975-1893



1 CNN Center
POB 105366
Atlanta, GA 30348
Phone: (404) 827-1500
Fax: (404) 827-1593, (404) 827-1784

Fox News


1211 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10036
Phone: (212) 301-3000
Fax: (212) 301-4224



One MSNBC Plaza
Secaucus, NJ 07094
Phone: (201) 583-5000
Fax: (201) 583-5453

NBC News


30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10112
Phone: (212) 664-5900
Fax: (212) 664-2914



635 Mass Ave
Washington, DC 20001
Phone: (202) 414-2323
Fax: (202) 414-3324



PO BOX 50880
Washington, DC 20091
Phone: (800) 356-2626

Never Mind

As I watch Schneider, Blitzer and Rothenberg do the post mortem of the debate this morning, I can't help but laugh at the fact that today they all seem to believe that the debates don't really mean much in the long run and that nothing really changes because of just one performance no matter how much the public believes one or the other won or lost.

Gosh. It seems like just yesterday that they were saying that last night's debate was make or break for John Kerry and that if he didn't pull it off his campaign was in deep deep trouble. Today, all the polls and editorial pages are saying he won. But, it doesn't really matter.

Rothenberg did allow that Kerry might have helped himself with his base which Blitzer said had been in terrible malaise. So, perhaps winning the debate by two to one may have helped poor old Kerry just a little bit. Maybe.

They also discussed how often the first impressions of who won a debate later change "once people have a few days to think about it" and then named a list of first debate winners --- Mondale, Dukakis, Perot and Gore --- who went on to lose the election.

I came away with the clear impression that winning the first debate is the kiss of death.

Won On A Hemmer

The General finds that CNN's Bill Hemmer had a GOP ringer in his group of "undecided's"

Early in the program, Mr. Hemmer interviewed three undecided Florida voters about their hopes for last night's debate. The fact that at least two of the three seemed to be fairly intelligent made me wonder just how undecided they really were--after all, you'd have to be a complete idiot to be unable to choose between one of the candidates by now.

I found it more than a bit curious that one of undecideds, Edward Martos, is a graduate student in public administration at the University of Miami. Public administration? You'd think that he'd certainly be a bit more informed about politics and public policy that the average guy. How could he still be undecided?

After a little googling, I learned that Mr. Martos seems to be leading a double life. While claiming to be the politically independent president of a non-partisan campus group called the Council for Democracy, he is also very involved with the College Republicans, having served on committees to draft the UMCR constitution and organize a veterans memorial committee. He has also served as the Assistant Editor in Chief for the CR newsletter, Eye On Politics.

"Perhaps," I thought, "there are two Edward Martoses attending UM," but then I learned that the College Republican Edward Martos promoted Council for Democracy events at College Republican meetings. Certainly, it's the same guy.

The picture sealed it for me. The College Republican Edward Martos is the guy I saw on CNN. He's supposed to be on again this morning. Watch it and see for yourself.

Here's the CNN form to make comments to Bill Hemmer.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Get Ready

Scarborough is saying that the Bush campaign is going to put up an ad showing that Kerry flip flopped in the debates tonight on building alliances (something to do with Australia) and Matthews was excited at the prospect.

Tomorrow is where the action is folks. Tonight, the consensus is that Kerry won the debate and he did. Tomorrow, the push back begins.

Get your phone numbers in hand. Get ready to write e-mails. They will not go down without a fight. We will have to fight them back with their own words.

I will post tonight's various transcripts of the immediate responses tomorrow and we should be prepared to shove the mediawhores' impressions down their own throats.

Tomorrow is the day in which we will crystalize Kerry's win in this debate. Everybody needs to help. I'll have all the contact info for you --- all you need to do is write some e-mails and make a few phone calls. The campaign could be seriously helped by this effort. Let's do it.


Martini Republic captures the meme:

As John Kerry elucidated on Administration error after Administration error on the war in Iraq, in North Korea, in Iran, George W. Bush repeated meaningless mantras wholly composed of his own rectitude, not so much in debate, nor even in defense, but as a refrain a child hums when scared of thunder.

Kerry's demeanor was the demeanor of someone the public can trust, and he scarcely seemed the flipflopper the Bush campaign presents him as; the President's demeanor, conversely, could only be termed as trustworthy by the most partisan Republicans. Kerry delivered with honesty, smoothness and strength; the President, conversely, stumbled many times--once, amazingly, saying that our troops were fighting "vociferously", another time calling the Senator "Bush" (?), was full of blinks and stammers, and began, probably to the horror of Karl Rove, explaining himself. Three times he asked for more time from the moderator to clarify not a Kerry charge but his own position.

Being resolutely wrong is hard to defend.


Spinning Like Tops

Kondrake just said that Kerry looked like a commander in chief.

Barnes feels that Kerry helped himself with his base.

Kristol said that this race now a real race.

Brokaw said that Kerry renergized the base and gave undecided voters a good reason to vote for him.

Russert said John Kerry was the candidate that Democrats thought they were nominating in Iowa.

Matthews said Bush elected to recieve instead of taking it to his opponent.


We just saw the next president of the United States and his name isn't George W. Bush.

George W. Bush behaved like a petulant child. He smirked, he rolled his eyes and he behaved very immaturely. His bearing was not presidential. Kerry didn't lose his cool. He stayed on message. He looked like a president.

John Kerry won this debate folks, because he was right on substance and he was right in attitude. Even the mediawhores are taking Bush to task.

Scarborough on MSNBC said it was Kerry's best showing in a debate ever.

Andrea Mitchell said that Bush misbehaved with his smirking and annoyance.

I'm going back to the spin room. I'll be back in a minute.

Loose Nukes

Prior to 9/11, the Bush administration sought to slash funding for the Nunn-Lugar initiative, calling it a waste of money. Since 9/11, the administration has prudently reversed that posture, but despite his claim of a close personal relationship with Russian president Vladimir Putin, it's hard to find any evidence that Bush has made nuclear threat reduction a particularly high priority in U.S.-Russia relations. After the last Bush-Putin summit, the subject wasn't even mentioned in the two leaders' public declarations. Meanwhile, the administration's vaunted homeland security effort has placed an equally low priority on ensuring systematic inspection of cargos entering our country via sea, land, or air for nuclear materials.

As it happens, Bush's rival, Sen. John Kerry, who has a strong record on proliferation issues, has made aggressive international action on nuclear nonproliferation the centerpiece of his plan for a new collective security system to meet 21st century threats to America and world peace and order. Aside from promising to make the "loose nuke" threat in the former Soviet Union the top item on the agenda in every discussion with Russia, Kerry has called for repealing the loophole in international nonproliferation treaties that allows countries to obtain and process nuclear materials for "peaceful energy uses." That's the guise under which North Korea has created its nuclear weapons program, and the excuse Iran is using to explain its equally aggressive drive to obtain nuclear materials and build enrichment and reprocessing plants. Kerry wants to offer such states and others a simple deal: We will give you the nuclear fuel you need for energy use so long as you agree to let us recapture the spent fuel so it cannot be redirected to a secret weapons program. He has also called for steps to make prevention of nuclear terrorism a central preoccupation of every federal agency involved in national security or international diplomacy.

We Are Bogged Down In Iraq

...and any sentient person knows it. He took the pressure off of al Queda and let bin Laden escape in Tora Bora.

This is indisputable. Iraq was not an imminent danger, but al Qaeda was. Bush took his eye off the ball because a bunch of starry eyed neocons were looking for an excuse to take out their old, dotty nemesis Saddam Hussein.

It is indisputable that the post war planning for Iraq was left in the hand of a group of nepostic know-bothings like Ari Fleisher's brother and people are now dying. On average, U.S. forces are now being attacked well over 60 times per day. This is a 20% increase from the three months before the transfer of sovereignty.

Bush keeps saying that changing position on Iraq is a sign of weakness. But, anyone can understand that when things are hurtling out of control you should change direction. Bush is incapable of doing this because he has staked his presidency on a war he wanted to fight instead of the war we needed to fight.

Hard Work

Have you heard that it's hard work?

It's hard work.

Let 'Em Have It

If the post debate spin tonight is as unfair and absurd as it has been in the past, it would be helpful if people would call the networks in large numbers and complain. It usually takes a few days to gel and it might be possible to turn an incorrect spin if we make an issue of it. If they don't hear from us, they don't realize that they are living in their own little media echo chamber.

Don't jump to conclusions. Wait and watch for a while to see how it plays out. The press corpse might just see the obvious, for once, and realize that Bush's canned, robotic responses are not persuasive and that the public really needs to hear something more than bumper sticker slogans. Bush's cockiness and arrogance may just go too far this time and even the media may be put off by it. We know that Kerry is by far more intellectually prepared to answer questions and win in a fair debate. Perhaps the media will finally wipe the stardust from their eyes and recognise that outtakes from "Bonanza" are simply not adequate answers to serious questions.

But, if they immediately say that Kerry lost then call and complain. Tell them that you thought Kerry did great and that what you saw was the next president of the United States. Don't accuse them of bias. Tell them you wonder if they watched the same debate you did.

If Bush spin grows tomorrow, call again. (Use those free nightime minutes. They aren't good for anything else.) Let the media know that we are watching and listening and that they will hear from us.

My reader jake in the comment below says:

This tactic was at the backbone of the right's onslaught on the media for the last 20 years. This phenomenon didn't happen overnight. Straightening it out won't happen quickly either. But it's gotta start NOW.

And don't email. That gets no attention. You have to call. You have to express yourself verbally and forcefully. You have to be clear, strong and organized. Don't engage in twit-speak about your "feelings." You also have to write letters...Paper ones, delivered in the mail (gasp! horrors!). As I said, I know because I've been in the belly of the beast forever.

ABC News


47 W. 66th St
New York, NY 10023
Phone: (212) 456-7477, 456-3796
Fax: (212) 456-4866, 456-2795

World News Tonight with Peter Jennings

Phone: (212) 456-4040
Fax: (212) 456-2771

CBS News

542 W. 57th St.
New York, NY 10019

News Desk:
Phone: (212) 975-4321, 975-3691
Fax: (212) 975-1893



1 CNN Center
POB 105366
Atlanta, GA 30348
Phone: (404) 827-1500
Fax: (404) 827-1593, (404) 827-1784

Fox News


1211 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10036
Phone: (212) 301-3000
Fax: (212) 301-4224



One MSNBC Plaza
Secaucus, NJ 07094
Phone: (201) 583-5000
Fax: (201) 583-5453

NBC News


30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10112
Phone: (212) 664-5900
Fax: (212) 664-2914



635 Mass Ave
Washington, DC 20001
Phone: (202) 414-2323
Fax: (202) 414-3324



PO BOX 50880
Washington, DC 20091
Phone: (800) 356-2626

Get your phone in hand. Listen to the democratic voices in the spin room and make note of their key words and phrases. Read your regular blogs after the debate.

Then get on the phone and make some calls. Tonight. If they fuck this up, the media need to hear from us.

"The Situation"

Everyone needs to read this. George W. Bush is living in a fantasyland of spin, pretending that things are getting better. George W. Bush has turned a potential threat into an active threat.

Here is an excerpt from the Wall Street Journal Reporter's E-mail:

It's hard to pinpoint when the 'turning point' exactly began. Was it April when the Fallujah fell out of the grasp of the Americans? Was it when Moqtada and Jish Mahdi declared war on the U.S. military? Was it when Sadr City, home to ten percent of Iraq's population, became a nightly battlefield for the Americans? Or was it when the insurgency began spreading from isolated pockets in the Sunni triangle to include most of Iraq? Despite President Bush's rosy assessments, Iraq remains a disaster. If under Saddam it was a 'potential' threat, under the Americans it has been transformed to 'imminent and active threat,' a foreign policy failure bound to haunt the United States for decades to come.

Iraqis like to call this mess 'the situation.' When asked 'how are thing?' they reply: 'the situation is very bad."

What they mean by situation is this: the Iraqi government doesn't control most Iraqi cities, there are several car bombs going off each day around the country killing and injuring scores of innocent people, the country's roads are becoming impassable and littered by hundreds of landmines and explosive devices aimed to kill American soldiers, there are assassinations, kidnappings and beheadings. The situation, basically, means a raging barbaric guerilla war. In four days, 110 people died and over 300 got injured in Baghdad alone. The numbers are so shocking that the ministry of health -- which was attempting an exercise of public transparency by releasing the numbers -- has now stopped disclosing them.

Insurgents now attack Americans 87 times a day.

We did not need to fight this particular war. We had a real war to fight and we did a half assed job of it in Afghanistan because certain members of the Bush administration used 9/11 as an excuse to go after an old enemy who was not an imminent threat. Invading Iraq played into our real enemy's hands and gave their cause new life and many, many recruits. It lost us friends and allies throughout the world. We are less safe than we would have been if George W. Bush had fought the war we needed to fight instead of the war he wanted to fight.

The American people do not want to believe that our government could make a mistake of such epic proportions. But it did and the man at the top needs to be fired. He is not willing to change course and fix his mistakes, so the American people are going to have to do it for him.

Read the entire piece. Send it to the media and ask them why they are covering this election as if it were a sporting event when it is a matter of life and death. "The situation" is lethal and Americans may have to pay a very heavy price if we don't take this war out of Bush's hands while we have the chance. He and his comrades have shown that they cannot be trusted to wage the war correctly.

Pool Coverage

I wrote yesterday that Fox would be in control of the feed of the debate tonight and therefore could not be trusted to show Kerry in a fair light. As it turns out, each network will have a choice of various shots.

Fox News is running the "pool" coverage, feeding multiple streams of video to the other networks -- and also feeding suspicion in the liberal blogosphere that somehow the choice of images shown would be biased toward Bush -- but it's up to each control room what shots to show.

In the past, the feed that went out was the feed that everybody saw. I guess that's changed. So, if they play games with the reaction shots, it's the fault of the particular network, not necessarily FOX.

That's something we should complain about as well. Keep those phone numbers handy. Work those refs.

Who Cares What Grieving Moms Think?

Apparently, the Dan Rather debacle has the quaking mediaswhores completely cowed. None of them are going to talk about anything "controversial" going forward.

So far in this campaign, the surest way for political advocacy groups to grab some TV exposure is to create commercials (the more emotional the better), buy airtime in a handful of swing states and then hold a press conference to announce the spots. The first Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ad that argued Sen. John Kerry lied about his war medals won free airtime for weeks on cable television. More recently, an anti-Kerry ad mixing a grainy picture of Kerry in among notorious Islamic terrorists was dutifully noted by most major news organizations.

The latest ad buy entry came yesterday when families of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq held a press conference in Washington, D.C., to announce two new emotional anti-Bush ads that are set to run in the crucial swing states of Florida, New Mexico and Nevada. Calling themselves RealVoices.org, the mothers of slain soldiers appear in the two ads, often in tears as they describe their loss and their anger over the war in Iraq.

Sounds like some pretty gripping stuff, right? Apparently not to TV news outlets. So far they've been overwhelmingly MIA on the story. Here's an up-to-the-minute tally of the mentions that RealVoices.org has received so far:

CNN: 0
CNN Headline News: 0
Fox News: 0
ABC: 0
CBS: 0
NBC: 0


Write some e-mails folks. Work those cowardly refs. This is a powerful ad campaign and the goddamned gasbags ought to give it just as much coverage as they gave those swift boat bozos.

Here's the CNN feedback page



Rhymes With Wee-Ahtch

Spare me, dear readers, any more chastisement for making a very vague passing remark about Lynn Cheney's backside. The nasty witch doesn't seem to have a problem with mocking other people's looks:

During a campaign stop in Minnesota yesterday, Mrs Cheney joined in the ridiculing of Mr Kerry.

As a group of volunteers moved into a crowd with microphones for a question-and-answer period, the vice-president told supporters to look for the people with dark orange shirts.

When Cheney paused as if searching to describe the shade of orange, his wife said: “How about John Kerry’s suntan?”

Live by Drudge, die by Drudge. If you want to be treated respectfully, you should probably behave respectfully --- particularly if you have an ass the size of a love seat.


Wes Clark and Rudy Giuliani will be doing the live debate coverage with Jon Stewart tonight on The Daily Show: The place where the smart people go for their fake news.

When Will Bush Face The Grim Reality In Iraq?

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Three bombs exploded at a neighborhood celebration Thursday in western Baghdad, killing 35 children and seven adults, officials said. Hours earlier, a suicide car bomb killed a U.S. soldier and two Iraqis on the capital's outskirts.

The bombs in Baghdad's al-Amel neighborhood caused the largest death toll of children in any insurgent attack since the conflict in Iraq (news - web sites) began 17 months ago. The children, who were still on school vacation, said they had been drawn to the scene by American soldiers handing out candy.


"The Americans called us, they told us, 'Come here, come here,' asking us if we wanted sweets. We went beside them, then a car exploded," said 12-year-old Abdel Rahman Dawoud, lying naked in a hospital bed with shrapnel embedded all over his body.

The day of violence, including insurgent attacks and U.S. airstrikes in Fallujah, left a total of 46 people dead and 208 wounded


Also Thursday, the Arab news network Al-Jazeera showed video of 10 new hostages seized in Iraq by militants. Al-Jazeera said the 10 — six Iraqis, two Lebanese and two Indonesian women — were taken by The Islamic Army in Iraq. The group has claimed responsibility for seizing two French journalists last month.


Hours earlier, a suicide car bomber struck in the Abu Ghraib area outside of Baghdad, killing the American soldier and at least two Iraqis, and wounding 60, Iraqi and U.S. officials said.

That bomb targeted a compound housing the mayor's office, a police station and other buildings, police 1st Lt. Ahmed Jawad said. A U.S. Bradley fighting vehicle parked in front of the compound was hit, Hutton said.

"I saw people flying in the air and falling on the ground," said Saad Mohsin, who was in front of the mayor's office and was struck by shrapnel.


American jets, tanks and artillery units repeatedly have targeted al-Zarqawi's network in Fallujah in recent weeks as U.S.-led forces seek to assert control over insurgent enclaves ahead of elections slated for January. The military says the attacks have inflicted significant damage on the network, which has claimed responsibility for a series of bombings, kidnappings and other attacks.

Doctors say scores of civilians have been killed and wounded in the strikes.

Jesus H. Christ.

Are the American people going to fall for the same old tired tropes tonight about freedom and democracy and being resolute or are they going to demand to know why our president has us stuck in a living goddamned nightmare from which we cannot awake in a country that had nothing to do with 9/11?

If you want more of this, America, vote for George W. Bush. He'll stay the goddamned course come hell or high water:

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

"Bush lied, my son died"

In a TV commercial released Wednesday, Cindy Sheehan, a 47-year-old woman from Vacaville, Calif., whose 24-year-old son was killed in Sadr City in April, speaks directly to George W. Bush.

Shot in black-and-white, her soft voice cracking, she says, "I imagined it would hurt if one of my kids was killed, but I never thought it would hurt this bad, especially someone so honest and brave as Casey, my son. When you haven't been honest with us, when you and your advisors rushed us into this war. How do you think we felt when we heard the Senate report that said there was no link between Iraq and 9/11?"

This is one of four new ads featuring relatives of soldiers killed in Iraq, produced by a new political action committee called RealVoices.org. At a time when soldiers' parents have been arrested at Bush rallies and thrown out of the Republican National Convention for trying to make themselves heard, Real Voices was formed to broadcast the excruciating messages of those who feel that their loved ones' lives were wasted in Iraq.

Real Voices is spending $200,000 on its initial ad buy while trying to raise more money. Each one of the spots is bitter and searing. In one, Raphael Zappala, whose 30-year-old brother was killed in Baghdad while searching a warehouse for weapons of mass destruction, says, "My brother died trying to make an honest man out of George W. Bush, needlessly. He was betrayed by the lies of his commander in chief. And the troops still in Iraq are being betrayed." Another features a California mother named Jane Bright, who remains livid about Bush's rash "Bring 'em on!" challenge. "Mr. Bush," she says, "I have no way of knowing whether the insurgent who killed my son ever heard your foolish taunt. But thanks to you, Mr. President, I have the rest of my life to wonder about it."


One might think that Sheehan's sacrifice would protect her from assaults by the right-wing patriotism police, but one would be wrong. Since she started speaking out, she's been attacked as a political opportunist and accused of treason.

"I have had people tell me that what I'm doing is supporting terrorists and that my son would be ashamed of me," she says. "I was on a radio call-in show on Sunday morning, and I had a lot of people call me a traitor."

This group is raising money to run these ads in swing states. If you have any left to spare, this is a good place to put it.

Real Voices

Brat Boy Debater

In case anyone's wondering why Bush and company negotiated hard for the networks not to show cut-away or reaction shots in the debate, this little passage from "When George meets John" by James Fallows explains it:

The debate was held in a tiny basement room on the campus of the University of Texas at El Paso. The candidates' families and a few local officials sat on metal folding chairs in the room; everyone else, including reporters, watched TV monitors elsewhere. Laura Bush sat a few feet away from Mauro's children, whom she knew but (according to Mauro) did not speak to or acknowledge. According to the rules of this debate, insisted on by Bush's team, the screen had to show only whichever candidate was speaking—that is, no cutaway or reaction shots were allowed

Therefore no one outside the room saw the miniature drama inside. Bush was halfway toward his presidential style, speaking more slowly and less gracefully than four years earlier, and with a more dismissive air toward his opponent. While Mauro was speaking, Bush would sigh, grimace, and send body-language messages of boredom or contempt. "It was incredible," Mauro told me recently. "I almost can't believe it in retelling it. Because the press was upstairs, they didn't realize how aggressive he was on the stage—pulling the sleeve of the moderator, staring or winking at Laura in the crowd." The moderator of the debate, Bob Moore, of the El Paso Times, told me that Bush actually grabbed him just before the debate: "In the hallway, Bush did grab me by the lapels, pull me close to his face, and say, 'Bobby, you clean up real good.' Typical Bush." When Bush was on stage but off camera, Moore said, "there was that Bush smirk, rolling his eyes, all of which Bush is very good at."

Now, supposedly the networks are not going to follow the negotiated restrictions:

And the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates, which is not a party to the agreement, said it could not be expected to enforce strictures on network coverage of the four debates.

At issue are rules that bar the networks from airing "cutaway" shots of either Republican President Bush or Democratic challenger John Kerry while they are waiting their turn to speak during the debates.


Fox News Channel, whose turn it is under a rotation system to operate the "pool" cameras for all the networks in the first debate on Thursday in Coral Gables, Florida, said it would follow its own editorial judgment in operating its cameras.

"They don't want reaction shots," said Fox News spokesman Paul Schur told Reuters. "We're not going to bow to outside pressure. We're not going to follow these restrictions."

Yeah, sure.

This is a problem. FoxNews has a very bad track record of signalling GOP propaganda in debates. In the January 22 Democratic primary debate, they cut to their panel for immediate spinning by William Bennett before the debate was over.

Fox News is going to follow it's own editorial rules all right. And, I think we know what they are, don't we?

Dick's Big Flop.

Most of you have undoubtedly seen this Campaign Extra post featuring an interview with Dick Cheney in 1992 via Atrios, but it's worth thinking about a little bit.

Here's what he said back then:

We stopped when we did, and it was a unanimous recommendation on the part of the President's advisors, civilian and military, we stopped when we did because we had achieved our objectives. We had said from the outset that our purpose was to liberate Kuwait and destroy Saddam Hussein's capacity to threaten his neighbors, his offensive military capability, we did that. We destroyed about two-thirds of his army in that portion that he sent in to Kuwait and Iraq, and stripped him of most of his weapons of mass destruction.

We could have gone on. There is no doubt in my mind, from a military standpoint we could have sent forces on down the road to Baghdad, captured Baghdad, but I would expect in terms of trying to get rid of Saddam Hussein that it would not have been an easy task. I don't think it was the kind of situation where we could have pulled up with a paddywagon in front of the Presidential Palace and said, "Come on Saddam, you're going to the slammer." I think we would have had to run him to ground, and doing that in Baghdad or in a nation as large as Iraq would have involved a lot of US forces.

Once we rounded up Saddam, then the question is what do you do? You're going to put a government in his place. Presumably, you're not just going to turn your back and walk away. You have to put some kind of a government in its place. And then the question comes is it going to be a Shi'a government or a Kurdish government, or maybe a Sunni government, or maybe it ought to be based on the old Baathist Party regime, or some combination thereof.

How long is that government to be able to stay in power without US military support to keep it there? How long can we maintain the coalition?

Remember we entered into this activity with the support of 30 other nations. A very important part of that support was the support of other Arab nations who took up arms against a brother Arab state, who allowed us to operate military forces from their territory, who sent combat forces to fight alongside our people in Kuwait.

How long could we have maintained that coalition of Arab states if we had been involved in the long-range occupation by the US in Iraq? I would guess if we had gone on to Baghdad I would still have forces in Iraq today. I don't know how we would have let go of that tar baby once we had grabbed hold of it.

A final point that I think is very important. Everybody is fond of looking back at Desert Storm and saying that it was, in fact, a low cost conflict because we didn't suffer very many casualties. But for the 146 Americans who were killed in action and for their families, it was not a cheap or a low cost conflict. The question, to my mind, in terms of this notion that we should have gone on and occupied Iraq is how many additional American casualties would we have had to suffer? How many additional American lives is Saddam Hussein worth? And the answer I would give is not very damn many.

Not very damn many...

Now, the harpies will screech at the top of their lungs, "But, 9/11 changed everything OHMYGODTHEYARETRYINGTOKILLUS!!!!!"

But, you know, it didn't change the fact that Saddam had not reconstituted his WMD, that he had no ties to al Qaeda and that all we needed to do was to get weapons inspectors back into the country to harrass him and keep him in line. An invasion and occupation simply wasn't necessary for our safety or the safety of those in the region.

Junior will wax on about liberating the Iraqi people and freeeeedom and demaaahcracy and loving yer neighbor like you just love to love yerself. But, if that's why we did it --- because we're so good --- then Unka Dick sure has some splaining to do. How many additional American lives is Saddam Hussein worth? And the answer I would give is not very damn many. Yup.

It's funny to me how differently I see the events of 9/11 changing "everything" than these people do. To me, it meant that we could not go gallivanting around the world "liberating" people if it meant that we would exacerbate the terrorist threat without any tangible benefit in security. Until this period of radicalism is brought under control or ends through other means, wars of liberation in the mid-east and the Indian subcontinent anyway, are just too dangerous. 9/11 turned me, a dyed in the wool liberal, from something of a Wilsonian internationalist into much more of a realist.

And, as I have written about many times before, we are much less safe today that we were before we let the entire world know that our vaunted intelligence services couldn't find a weapon of mass destruction if it fell out of the sky and landed on the White House lawn. And now we've also let everybody know that we have a thinly stretched part-time military and a government that can't get it together enough to plan an occupation properly.

A little mystery about the super powers of a super power is a very powerful thing. We are now looking pretty damned weak compared to what the world thought of us in January of 2002.

Weirdly, I think that Dick Cheney, of all people, would have agreed with me back in 1992. Sometime between then and now he drank the neocon fire water and it packs a punch. What did Lady MacMyleroie put in that stuff, anyway?

Good News

Over the past 30 days, more than 2,300 attacks by insurgents have been directed against civilians and military targets in Iraq, in a pattern that sprawls over nearly every major population center outside the Kurdish north, according to comprehensive data compiled by a private security company with access to military intelligence reports and its own network of Iraqi informants.

What is good about that, you ask?

military officers argue that despite the rise in bloody attacks during the past 30 days, the insurgents have yet to win a single battle.

"We have had zero tactical losses; we have lost no battles," said one senior American military officer. "The insurgency has had zero tactical victories.

See, the ragtag insurgency in Iraq has not "won" a "battle" against the mightiest military the world has ever known so they aren't accomplishing anything.

In other news, death by a thousand cuts was declared illegal by the Ashcroft torture division of the Justice Department.

Dancing For Democracy

MSNBC just had a professor from Syracuse University on telling us that body language and gestures are what matter to voters in debates and it occurred to me that it is a mistake for Bush to agree to debates at all. He should insist that the candidates instead do an interpretive dance for the citizens and let them decide strictly on the basis of physical expression.

Karl Rove always says that politics is TV with the sound turned off and Preznit Gibberish has proved it time and again. He wears costumes and mimes being a flyboy, a cowboy and a good ole boy so well that he's downright french about it. As a presidential interpretive dancer, Dubya's the best there's ever been. He'd be unbeatable if he never had to open his mouth.

Fortune Telling

Atrios has a good post up about the polls and mentions that Matt Yglesias takes Texeira and others to task for focusing on the Gallup poll's obvious bias. Matt says:

The reality is that after a few days of what looked to me like a comeback, the Kerry campaign has once again lost its momentum.

You know, I hate to bring this up, but perhaps it's time to issue a reminder here about political prognostication and instincts. It seems like it was only a few months ago --- and, by gosh it was --- that we heard this:

Do note that, much as Dean's nomination is inevitable, it is also inevitable that at some point in the not-too-distant future, his nomination will cease to look inevitable. Nevertheless, it will still be inevitable as has been clear for some time. When you combine the most impassioned supporters with what's obviously the best-run campaign, and the most money, you're looking at a winner.

As you can see, prognostication is a dangerous game.

The reality is that this race is close. It is NOT clear that Kerry has lost momentum. It is simply unknowable from the polls who has momentum, if anyone, and whether Kerry is ahead by a few points or behind by a few points --- because the race is close. These divergent polls are likely the result of the impact of technology on polling methods finally coming to fruition, a shifting undecided electorate as they finally tune in heavily and some very bad polling methods that don't matter a lot when the race is a blowout. We simply don't know anything more than that the race is within spitting distance for both candidates at this point.

As for political instincts, one of the purposes of calling the damn polls into question is to try to work the refs a little bit. The polls are all over the place and some of it is obviously due to this ridiculous sampling of extra Republican.
Just now Blitzer had Frank Newport on and, needless to say, Blitzer stood up for Gallup and even said he would "vouch" for the poll. But by even airing this controversy it shakes at least some people's faith in the poll and puts Gallup on the defensive. That's how the game is played, folks.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Swimming In The Tank

Media Matters has a run down on debate expectations and clearly, the media have high expectations of George W. Bush in this debate. Across the board they are assuming that he will win with his two-faced, phony folksy ways. After all, they are the ones who decide such things. So, don't get your hopes up for John Kerry to "win" this debate even if he wins it. The press is in the tank.

On the other hand, I have a feeling that undecideds may be looking for more substance this year than robotic, on-message non-sequitors and they might just find the president's slouchy, casual style a little bit disconcerting in a time of serious challenges. It's easy for him to appear in charge and in control when he's all by himself on a stage. But, when you see him next to someone who has command of the issues and looks straight in the camera and challenges his unresponsive bumper sticker mantras, they may just be surprised. Anything's possible.

By the way, has anybody noticed that Bush is sounding a little bit spacey on the stump these last couple of days? Maybe he hasn't been getting enough sleep or enough coffee. His eyes are very puffy. I don't know what it is, but he doesn't seem to be himself. Wierd.


Kitty's Number One

Here's a fun little tid-bit from page 492, just to whet your appetite:

Barbara Bush was more determined than ever to see her daughter re-marry. She believed that only through marriage could Doro and her children find their safest haven. To that end Barbara encouraged Doro to date.

"We spent a weekend up at Camp David with the Bushes....They had two dogs up there at the time and the divorced daughter," recalled one congressional wife. "Barbara told me she was concerned because Doro had dated Representative David Dreier for a year and he never touched her... 'Never laid a hand on her,' said Barbara... I think Doro had better luck when she started dating a democrat."

There's more --- much, much more.

Thanks to Sekmet and Pandora on BCF

Pink Slip

Taking Bob Novak at face value (always a dicey proposition) I think we have to conclude that our vaunted resolute, CEO president doesn't listen to anyone and can't manage his way out of a bag of pork rinds.

Paul R. Pillar, the CIA's national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia, sat down Tuesday night in a large West Coast city with a select group of private citizens. He was not talking off the cuff. Relying on a multi-paged, single-spaced memorandum, Pillar said he and his colleagues concluded early in the Bush administration that military intervention in Iraq would intensify anti-American hostility throughout Islam. This was not from a CIA retiree but an active senior official. (Pillar, no covert operative, is listed openly in the Federal Staff Directory.)

For President Bush to publicly write off a CIA paper as just guessing is without precedent. For the agency to go semi-public is not only unprecedented but shocking. George Tenet's retirement as director of Central Intelligence removed the buffer between president and agency. As the new DCI, Porter Goss inherits an extraordinarily sensitive situation.

What a good idea it is to re-elect a president who is at war with his own State department and CIA in the middle of a national security crisis. This alleged great leader makes enemies of practically everyone he comes in contact with, particularly those who have expertise and knowledge he desperately needs. Harvard Business School must teach some odd management techniques.

For a man who coasted on his daddy's name until he was fifty four, antagonizing all of America's allies and half the US government is quite an achievement in just three short years. His family must be so proud. Four More Years!

Inevitablity Dance

Sunday's Washington Post made me suspect that the Bush campaign really does think things are going poorly right now. Why? Because Republicans are starting to make preposterously overconfident predictions of a Bush landslide.


It's well-known that Karl Rove believes that swing voters like to vote for the winner. Therefore, one of the central political strategies for Bush has been to create an "aura of inevitability" that, theoretically, will bring people to his side. If everyone believes you're a political juggernaut, the theory goes, then you will become a political juggernaut.


The worse things get for Bush, the more likely his aides are to declare that he is invincible. The Bushies are starting to sound like Baghdad Bob, trumpeting a decisive victory for Saddam Hussein as the American military zooms into Iraq's capital city. Whenever Bush is in trouble, someone—usually Rove—declares that things are going just swimmingly. The most memorable example of this was Bush's 2000 campaign trip to California to make it look like his election was going to be a walk even though polls showed that the race was a toss-up. Bush also took a day off from campaigning as a sign of confidence in his impending landslide. On Election Day, of course, Al Gore won more votes than Bush did, and eventually Bush won the presidency with only one more electoral vote than he needed to take office.

And, if one were to make the obvious comparison of their political campaign to their military campaign, then we can see this exact same dynamic at work with the war in Iraq. Lots of happy talk about "winning" and "mission accomplished" when the results are anything bit clear.

Let's keep this in mind as we go forward this next month. Whatever they say is happy horseshit spin from here on out. And the news media is unlikely to help out much. On Inside Politics yesterday, wide-eyed Judy Woodruff was extremely confused when Tad Devine pointed out that her poll was stacked with Republicans. The cable press corpse ranks only slightly above undecided voters and FoxNews viewers for sheer ignorance of current events.

Monday, September 27, 2004

The Big Fix

Jeffrey Rosen writes in TNR today:

It's November 2, and the presidential election looks close in Ohio. An army of lawyers are dispatched by the Bush and Kerry campaigns to scour all 11,614 precincts in the state for any hint of voting irregularities. Within hours, both sides have filed competing suits in state courts challenging the standards for counting provisional, absentee, and military ballots, as well as for the use of different voting machines. Within days, Laurence Tribe and James Baker are filing petitions to the Supreme Court, arguing that Bush v. Gore--the case that decided the 2000 election--compels the justices to intervene. The justices, who once confidently predicted that Bush v. Gore would have no effect on future elections, are horrified. Even the Bush v. Gore dissenters are shocked at the mess the decision has created. After all, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called Bush v. Gore a "one-of-a-kind case" as recently as February 2003 in a speech to San Diego law students, adding optimistically, "I doubt it will ever be cited as precedent by the court on anything."


Unfortunately, the hopes that Bush v. Gore would fade from memory like an embarrassing dinner guest have proved to be wildly mistaken. And, if the election is close, the nightmare scenario described above seems all too likely to come to pass. During the four years since Bush v. Gore, the case has emboldened political candidates to file a tangle of litigation challenging election procedures in federal and state races--from the recall of Governor Gray Davis in California to the replacement of Senator Robert Torricelli in New Jersey. Moreover, in response to the legalization of politics that has followed Bush v. Gore, Democratic and Republican legal swat teams have been assembled to challenge the results of the 2004 presidential election if the vote in any state proves close enough to provide the margin of victory in the electoral college. And, even if the presidential election is not close, Bush v. Gore will continue to haunt congressional and local elections in November and beyond. "You could have dozens or even hundreds of cases filed on the Wednesday morning after the election," says Jack Goldsmith of Harvard Law School. "Given the litigation opportunities in Bush v. Gore, you could have real, real uncertainty for many weeks and months, not only about national elections but about local elections. And it's likely to get worse."

If this came from anyone but Rosen I would think it was another of those Greenfield-esque parlor games in which they sit around on CNN for hours at a time in stultifying discussion of bizarre election scenarios that will never happen. But we'd be fools to ignore the fact that Bush vs Gore is a cancer that has the potential to metastisize very rapidly if this election is as close as we expect it to be.

If you haven't had a chance to read the fascinating in-depth article in Vanity Fair this month about the Florida debacle in 2000, here are the (pdf) links to it--- Part one and Part two. It opens with a conversation between two of the Supreme court clerks who seem to have had the exact same opinion that I forcefully espoused at a dinner party during the recount drama (as I imagine many others did throughout the country.)

Shortly after the presidential vote in November 2000, two law clerks at the United States Supreme Court were joking about the photo finish in Florida. Wouldn't it be funny, one mused, if the matter landed before them? And how, if it did, the Court would split five to four, as it so often did in big cases, with the conservative majority installing George W. Bush in the White House? The two just laughed. It all seemed too preposterous. Sure, friends and relatives predicted that the case would eventually land in their laps, but that was ignorant, naïve talk -- typical of people without sophisticated legal backgrounds.

A majority of the justices were conservatives, but they weren't partisan; mindful of the Court's fragile authority, the justices had always steered clear of messy political spats. Moreover, the very jurists who'd normally side with Bush were the ones most solicitous of states' rights, most deferential to state courts, most devoted to the Constitution's "original intent" and the Founding Fathers had specifically provided that the Congress, not the judiciary, would resolve close elections. To top it off, the Court rarely took cases before they were ripe, and the political process in Florida was still unfolding. "It was just inconceivable to us that the Court would want to lose its credibility in such a patently political way," one of the clerks recalls. "That would be the end of the Court."

Boy, was I ever wrong. And as you read the article the sheer partisan nature of the court's involvement becomes even more obvious than we have previously known. The article goes on to show how Anthony Kennedy, widely considered dumb as a post and obsessed with his own grandeur, had been staffed by the right wing with a cadre of federalist society Hitler Youth who "guided" him the partisan direction Big Tony and the Chief wanted him to go. (Our gal Sandy, it turns out, was in the tank from the get-go.)

The Bush's petition for certiorari - that is, for the Court to take the case?went initially to Justice Anthony Kennedy, whose task it was to consider all emergency motions from Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. For Kennedy, then 64, a man known to relish the pomp and circumstance of the Supreme Court and his own, often crucial role in close cases, weighing such a momentous matter must have been glorious indeed. Batting aside a Thanksgiving Day plea from the Gore campaign to pass on the case, Kennedy urged his colleagues to take it on, suggesting that the Court was absolutely the essential arbiter of such weighty matters. He conceded, though, that Bush faced an uphill struggle on the law. When Kennedy's memo circulated, one flabbergasted clerk had to track down Justice John Paul Stevens on the golf course in Florida and read it to him over the phone. Under the Court's rules, Kennedy needed only three votes beside his own for the Court to hear the matter. Quickly, the four others who make up the Court's conservative block signed on: Chief Justice William Rehnquist, along with Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Sandra Day O'Connor.


As was customary, the Court did not detail how many justices had voted to hear the case, or who they were, and Gore's lawyers didn't really want to know. At that point, they felt a certain faith in the institution and in the law: it was inconceivable to them that the court would intercede, much less decide the presidency by a vote of five to four.

As you continue through this article you see that this was the problem for the Democrats throughout the recount period. It wasn't cowardice, it was a naive faith in the rule of law. It was the last vestige of true, internalized belief that the American legal system was immune from naked, opportunistic partisanship.

Desperate for legal advice, Klain reached out to prominent firms in the capital of Tallahassee. He found little help. "All the establishment firms knew they couldn't
cross Governor Bush and do business in Florida," recalls Klain. And so he improvised,
pulling together a team headed by former secretary of state Warren Christopher, now a Los Angeles-based lawyer in private practice. Christopher, Gore felt,would imbue the team with an image of decorous, law-abiding, above-the-fray respectability.


Unlike Christopher and company, Baker spoke to the press loudly and often, and his message was Bush had won on November 7. Any further inspection would result only in "mischief." Privately, however, he knew that at the start he was on shaky political ground. "We're getting killed on "count all the votes," he told his team. "Who the hell could be against that?"

Baker saw his chance that Thursday, November 9, when the Gore team made a formal request for a manual recount in four counties: Volusia, Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade. Asking for a recount in these large, Democrat-dominated counties left the Gore team fatally vulnerable to the charge that they wanted not all votes counted, as Gore kept claiming in his stentorian tones, but only all Gore votes. Yet the Bush team knew full well that Gore could not have asked for a statewide recount, because there was no provision for it in Florida law. A losing candidate had 72 hours to request a manual recount on a county-by-county basis or wait until the election was certifed to pursue a statewide recount. The requests had to be based on perceived errors, not just the candidate's wish to see recounts done. Certainly, Gore chose counties that seemed likely to yield Gore votes. But he chose them because that's where the problems were.

Proper as this was by Florida election law, the Democrats?strategy gave Baker the sound bite he'd been seeking: Gore was just cherrypicking Democratic strongholds. It was a charge the Bush team wielded to devastating effect in the media, stunning the Gore team, which thought its strategy would be viewed as modest and fair.

Foolishly, Gore thought that being modest and fair still meant something. He was not prepared for a streetfight. And, looking back I realize that I wasn't either. Like a green youth I didn't believe they'd actually go that far. Even after the impeachment sideshow, an event that solidified my belief in the lethal, fascistic nature of the modern Republican party, I was not fully prepared for the no holds barred approach they would take in this situation.

It is what led me to the point at which I am able to say without any sense of restraint or caution that I would put NOTHING past them --- even a staged terrorist attack. This is because every time I think they have some limits, they prove me wrong. As the old saying goes, fool me once shame on you, fool me twice...won't get fooled again....

Gore and his team knew that the Republicans would fight with everything they had, but they still maintained some faith in the legal system to require basic fairness in something this important. And, even the most cynical of us thought that the egos of the Supreme Court justices would never allow them to make a purely partisan decision because history would remember them as whores.

If I had any political idealism left it died on the day that Antonin Scalia stopped judges from counting votes in Florida.

This article shows that fix was in from the beginning. Had Gore audaciously requested a statewide recount he would have been accused of not following the strict laws that required him to show problems in each precinct. It was always headed to the Supremes and once they took the case, the interviews with the Supreme court clerks show that there was never any question about who would win. It was always a decision in search of a rationale.

If Jeffrey Rosen is correct and dozens of lawsuits await filing in close races out there, all based on this ill-considered opinion, then we are likely to see a repeat. After all, the same five vote majority still sits on the court today. And like all the others who voted for this irresponsible, unqualified, incompetent boob in 2000, they are not likely to admit their mistake and vote otherwise this time out.

This time, we must operate on that assumption and prepare for a knife fight --- in the courts and in the realm of public opinion. There are no rules other than winning.

I urge you to read the entire article. There is much more about the disenfranchisement of the black community and the shocking actions they've taken since then to supposedly update the voting system. (Kevin Drum has more on this latest.) With fine fellows like "Buckhead" working on the wing nut Voter Integrity Project, and Ashcrofts new intimidation tactics, this election could be very, very ugly.

Update: Via Suburban Guerilla, here is more on the suppression of black voters Jeb has planned for 2004.