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Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Back In The Saddle

This is driving me nuts. All night long, on all the cable networks, the whores were going on and on about how the polls are terrible news for Kerry. On Matthews they were studiously trying to figure out what moment it was exactly when Kerry lost the election. Nobody questioned GOP shill Dave Drier when he said he was ecstatic that the polls have done a 180 and Bush now has a good chance to take California. Shake ups in the Kerry camp are afoot. Fineman points out that Kerry may have been a fighter but he's never had to face Karl Rove before. That explains his ignominious defeat. These Republicans are just too good.

Except for one thing. This is all bullshit. Here's the latest from polling report. It's a goddamned dead heat. And the question nobody asks is how a Republican incumbent who stood at a 90% approval rating for more than a year is now below 50% and can't seem to put away the pussy Democrats in the middle of a war.

There's your story, press corpse.

I guess it's just so comfy cozy for them to be back in the loving arms of the GOP where they nestled so sweetly for more than two years suckling on the mother's milk of wartime propaganda. Extolling the manly heroism of George W.Bush is something that comes so naturally they don't even realize they're doing it. Why bother with the real story? This one just feels so right.

Never listen to the pundits. They are living in an alternate universe and they are almost always wrong about everything. Just look at the last four years of punditry if you doubt me.

Nick Kristoff, Comedian

A related lesson for Mr. Bush, if he has time to read Shakespeare, is the inevitability of intelligence failures.

Whew. Let me catch my breath here. That was a good one.

They're Kind Of Simple

Listening to these idiots on Matthews talk about "what women want" is truly unbelievable. Apparently, women will vote for Bush because the war in Iraq means that their children will come home safely from school. Also because his wife met him at a bar-b-que. You see, women need the wife to vouch for her husband because they have to vote for men all the time and it's icky.

This is Matthews, Mitchell, Meachum and Scarborough who are saying this. The elite SCLM.

I'd like to see Hillary march up to the platform and slap the shit out of all of them.

The Dynasty Collapses

The poor job they did with the twins humanizes the Bushes. That Rove mind at work...!

Yeah. That Rove is sneaky.

Men, Men, Men

Just as Andrew Sullivan was coming over to the side of goodness and light, he sees the macho performance of the hairy and manly real men of the GOP last night and hurries back into his rightful place as their favorite gay mascot who shall be explicitly denied his rights under the US Constitution. Some things are even more primal than the desire to marry and settle down, I guess.

I can't say that I'm surprised. Bush worship --- in the George W. sense, anyway --- is very hard to shake. I think you have to hire one of those deprogrammers.

What's more upsetting, though is that Michael Bérubé, bleeding heart liberal professor hockey playing Bush hater, was taken in as well. If they've got Bérubé, I'm afraid it's all over:

And then McCain. What is there to say about McCain? McCain is McCain. The quintessential maverick, quintessentially mavericking all those other sucker-quintessential pseudo-mavericks who try to bring that weak shit to the hole. When he called Michael Moore a "disingenuous filmmaker," I realized that my own piddling critiques of Moore were so much dust in the wind. As McCain explained in his post-game interview with CNBC, Michael Moore's film suggested that Iraq under Saddam was some kind of Biblical paradise, and that's so wrong it's just . . . just . . . disingenuous, is what it is. Isn't it weird that Democrats won't say anything bad about Saddam? Rock on, John. The disingenuous must die!! Die, disingenuous Democrats, die!!

And then, listening to the testimonies and watching the montages after McCain's speech, I began to think about my own prejudices as a liberal-left blogger. Seriously, the last time I had a substantial debate with one of my liberal-leftist colleagues about the Bush presidency, it was at an American Studies panel at Tiny Elite Liberal University titled, "Republicans-- Do They Merely Give Voice to the Vilest Elements of American Society, or Are They Themselves the Vilest Elements of American Society?" At the time, I argued strenuously in favor of either the former or latter position, but now that I've finally seen some actual Republicans up close on TV, I've had to reconsider. These people really seem very nice, once you get to meet them. They're not wild-eyed ideologues-- they're just ordinary folks, sitting there in Madison Square Garden, trying to have a good time. They're as sensible as you or your grandmother, and all they want is for people to love one another, inclusively, in a big tent that is inclusive. They love their country, and you should too.

And then . . . Rudy G.

Read on if you dare. Rudy G is more than just a manly man filled with macho manliness and male machismo. He's the man.

But hold on to your codpieces, fellas. The Terminator, a man so masculine he isn't even human, is on deck. It's a manly night to end all manly nights. I sense you'd better have cigarettes and tequila at the ready --- and tell the women folk to put on something frilly and make a few sandwiches. GOP don't need no silver star. They've got a movie star, mothafuckah!

No Glory

One of the hazards of democracy is that if we endorse our government's willingness to use torture, others will feel justified in holding we the people as responsible for it as our leaders. It's unlikely that the billion Muslims on this planet will continue to see a distinction between themselves and the Islamic radicals if the people of America validate the illegal actions of this government and extend this administration's power for four more years.

This is going to haunt our country forever. We unleashed the beast and I fear we will all pay a heavy price if we do not hold our leaders accountable.

Political Hate Speech

A GOP delegate handed out bandages with purple hearts on them Monday night at the Republican National Convention in a swipe at Democratic nominee John Kerry's war record, but national GOP officials have asked him to stop.

The bandages were handed out by Morton Blackwell, a longtime GOP activist from Virginia, with the message: ''It was just a self-inflicted scratch, but you see I got a Purple Heart for it.''

Kerry won three Purple Hearts, a Silver Star and a Bronze Star for his service in the Vietnam War. A group calling itself Swift Boat Veterans for Truth has been attacking Kerry as a liar through campaign ads and media interviews, but Kerry's wartime experiences have been backed by crewmates and official records.

''It is inexcusable for a delegate to mock anyone who has ever put on a soldier's uniform,'' said Democratic Chairman Terry McAuliffe. ''It is inexcusable to mock service and sacrifice.''

Blackwell, who gave out almost 250 of the bandages, said veterans have every right to be angry about anti-war comments Kerry made after returning to this country.

Party Chairman Ed Gillespie spoke to Blackwell, and they agreed that he would not distribute the bandages tonight, said GOP spokesman Jim Dyke.

This is where the talking heads come in. Don't let this go. They need to repeat their shock and dismay at this disgusting little "joke" that dishonors the troops over and over again until everybody is sick of hearing it. And when the other side says that it wasn't the RNC who did it and that Gillespie asked them to stop, they need to say "yes, you people claim that you are never responsible for any of these smears against veterans. But they just keep coming, even at your own convention."

This is a rather silly issue on its face, but it's an easy to understand symbol of the GOP's willingness to devalue a veteran's service if he doesn't agree with their politics. Even the press corpse gets it. And, according to the polls, this isn't going down very well with the electorate.

The underlying issue here isn't dishonoring the troops. It's dirty campaigning. It's smart politics to scream bloody murder every time Bush or his shock troops do it, particularly when it involves military matters. The idea is taking hold --- people believe he is behind it. (The AWOL thing is the sub-text.) Having to feel some pain for it will make Rove more cautious and put him off his game.

If we really want to fuck with Gillsepie's head the Dems should call it "political hate speech."


Tom Tomorrow had a great strip a week or so ago about undecided swing voters in which he noted with his usual subtlety that swing voters are idiots.

This article in the LA Times confirms it. They say they want specifics. They always say they want specifics, but they don't understand the specifics when they hear them so they just pretend that they didn't hear any and piss and moan again about the candidate not addressing "the issues."

Undecided Voters Want Bush to Offer Specifics

When he steps on stage at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night to accept the Republican Party's presidential nomination, swing voters say, they want to know how he plans to lower gas prices, make healthcare more affordable and create jobs.

America's shrinking cadre of crucial undecided voters say they want to hear Bush promise that he won't touch Social Security funds to pay for something else. They want him to describe how he'll get rid of the national debt. But most of all, they say, they want to know how he plans to extricate U.S. forces from ongoing combat in Iraq.

"We have soldiers dying every day. One thing I learned in the military is you have to have an exit plan," said Terry Eaton, 50, a paramedic training officer in San Antonio. "One of the things George Bush didn't have was a way to get out. I want to hear what his goals are for Iraq."


On the plus side for Bush, most of those interviewed said they think he has done a relatively good job in his first four years. And they take into account the Sept. 11 attacks when looking at the president's progress on improving the economy.

You can see why they need to hear more from him on where he stands. They've only had four years and he's done a relatively good job except for the jobs, gas prices, health care, social security, running up the deficit and Iraq. He just needs to lay out his agenda so they know what to expect.

Charlotte Stone, a nurse's aide and registered Republican from the central Missouri town of Crocker, said she was worse off than when she voted for Bush in 2000. She had $3,000 in the bank back then. Today, her savings have dwindled to $300.

She'd like to go back to school and become a nurse or a massage therapist. But she can't afford to quit her job to pursue her studies.

Kerry has yet to win her over, but Bush, she complained, doesn't understand how Americans are struggling.

"I had money saved, but the price of gas went up," said Stone, 50, who grosses about $14,000 per year. "People here live on $10,000 a year, and we have to drive. We're trying to afford health insurance and 401(k) plans. We want to pay our way. But we can't do it much longer, the way things are going."

Stone said she'll tune in to the convention in New York City, listening for a Republican plan to ease gas prices and a job-training program for older workers.

"I think he's been an excellent president," Stone said of Bush. "But with the economy and the gas prices, there are people out there who can't afford him."

Yes, he's been an excellent president except for the living hand to mouth and affording her 401(k)! on 14,000 a year and no savings. You can see why she'd be wanting to hear about his plan for job training for older people. Those Republicans are big on that kind of thing.

Even those who voted for Bush in 2000 said their biggest fear was that the war in Iraq would develop into another Vietnam.

Eaton, the paramedic training officer, said Bush "talks about bringing troops home, but I have friends who are being called up to the National Guard for two years."

Bush did a lot to make the nation safer by creating the Department of Homeland Security after the 2001 terrorist attacks, said Eaton, but that progress could be squandered if troops remain in the Middle East.

"It'll add more fuel to the fire for Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Hamas," he said. "They'll be more angered about the Western presence. In some ways, I'd say, no, we don't have a right to be there."

But he might vote for Bush anyway.

Before the Republicans turned radical, there was a decent case to be made that you could split tickets or swing from one election to the other. Government was largely by consensus so it was possible that you could find a place in the middle of either party to be comfortable if you were a moderate. Small differences in terms of specific issues were relevant. Those days are no more and the much smaller numbers of swing voters (as opposed to independents who vote with one party or another) is a reflection of that change. Swing voters today are simply ideologically incoherent.

I recall focus groups in the last couple of weeks before election 2000, after the debates, when these swing voters were being féted like visiting potentates by the networks. To the last person, they all said they still couldn't make up their minds because they needed even more specifics. This after hearing hours of discussions of prescription drug plans and patient's bill of rights and privatising social security and lockboxes and Dingell-Norwood until I thought I was going to kick in the TV.

The truth is that the issues really have little to do with this. These people cannot connect their own lives to the actions of the government in any coherent fashion. And they either love being seen as "above partisan politics" or they simply don't get the warring philosophies of the two parties. Their decision making process is incomprehensible and I'm not sure how you can fashion a message for them that makes any sense. They don't make any sense.

As Tom Tommorrow pointed out, it's frightening that the fate of the nation and perhaps the world relies on these people. They literally don't know their own minds.

Codpiece Convention

Via Catch, I see that in case there's any doubt about the "Triumph of the Will" narrative that's building in Madison Square Garden this week, Kate O'Beirne is there to gushingly spell it all out for us:

Tonight's Message: Republicans fight back. Democrats light candles. It is so striking that the Democrats' Boston tribute to 9/11 was a remembrance of helpless victims who lost their lives that day. Those gutsy women reminded us of the stakes in this election by seeing a call to arms as the fitting tribute to their loved ones. Such a stirring reminder of the selfless heroes who walk among us would be an impossible display for the modern Democratic party.

Will it be effective? Who knows? I might point out that the last time old Kate got all moist like this was when Bush strapped on his codpiece and strutted around like Jim Dandy on that aircraft carrier. That one didn't work out so well and this might not either. Republicans seem to think that America wants to see itself as a warrior nation kicking ass and taking names. There is absolutely nothing in our history to suggest this. We don't see ourselves as a corps of chest thumping soldiers looking for a fight. We see ourselves as individualist cowboys, fighting only as a last resort. Both myths assume that America will prevail but they are very different images. These modern GOPers can't seem to resist stepping over that line, though, and it might backfire on them again. The cultlike devotion to the warrior chief is vaguely ... unamerican.

However, I imagine that the America Uber Alles theme is going to continue and probably get worse over the next few days. Last night featured, after all, the gay-loving, pro-death sissy wing of the party. By the time Cheney comes on, I'm expecting precision marches up and down the aisle to the tune of "We Are The Champions."

I'm especially looking forward to hearing my own Austrian Governor give his speech. Why do I have a feeling that this Republican message is going to sound so much more compelling in his voice than any of the others?

And They're Off

Texeira has a major new polling analysis of the state of the race on the eve of the RNC.

The Myth: The SBVT controversy seriously harmed the Kerry campaign. Bush comes into his convention in much better political shape than he has been for quite a while.

The Reality: The race has changed little since the start of the SBVT controversy. Bush enters his convention with basically the same political vulnerabilities he had previously.

Let's go to the numbers. The poll that best provides a before-SBVT damage and after-SBVT damage picture of the horse race is the Gallup poll. That's because Gallup polled both on August 9-11--about a week before media coverage of SBVT really heated up--and on August 23-25, right after the coverage peaked and just as the Kerry campaign began its push-back.

What do the Gallup numbers show? As Gallup's release on their latest poll succinctly puts it: "No Change in Presidential Race Despite Attack Ads". Just so.

I urge you to read the entire post because at this point the horse race really starts to matter and these are the numbers going out of the gate. It is a tie among "likely voters" and Kerry is slightly ahead among registered voters.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Sleeping Better

"Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind." Albert Einstein

We are Americans first, Americans last, Americans always.

Let us argue our differences.

But remember we are not enemies, but comrades in a war against a real enemy, and take courage from the knowledge that our military superiority is matched only by the superiority of our ideals, and our unconquerable love for them.

Our adversaries are weaker than us in arms and men, but weaker still in causes. They fight to express a hatred for all that is good in humanity.

We fight for love of freedom and justice, a love that is invincible. Keep that faith. Keep your courage. Stick together. Stay strong.

Do not yield. Do not flinch. Stand up. Stand up with our President and fight.

We're Americans.

We're Americans, and we'll never surrender.

They will.

"The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them". George Orwell

It was here in 2001 in lower Manhattan that President George W. Bush stood amid the fallen towers of the World Trade Center and said to the barbaric terrorists who attacked us, "They will hear from us."

They have heard from us! They heard from us in Afghanistan and we removed the Taliban. They heard from us in Iraq and we ended Saddam Hussein's reign of terror.

They heard from us in Libya and without firing a shot Gadhafi abandoned weapons of mass destruction.

They are hearing from us in nations that are now more reluctant to sponsor terrorists.

So long as George Bush is President, is there any doubt they will continue to hear from us until we defeat global terrorism.


And I say it again tonight, "Thank God George Bush is our President."

On September 11, George W. Bush had been President less than eight months. This new president, vice president, and new administration were faced with the worst crisis in our history.

President Bush's response in keeping us unified and in turning the ship of state around from being solely on defense against terrorism to being on offense as well and for his holding us together.

For that and then his determined effort to defeat global terrorism, no matter what happens in this election, President George W. Bush already has earned a place in our history as a great American president.

But let's not wait for history to present the correct view of our president. Let us write our own history. We need George Bush now more than ever.


Before September 11, we were living with an unrealistic view of the world much like our observing Europe appease Hitler or trying to accommodate ourselves to peaceful coexistence with the Soviet Union through mutually assured destruction.

President Bush decided that we could no longer be just on defense against global terrorism but we must also be on offense.

On September 20, 2001, President Bush stood before a joint session of Congress, a still grieving and shocked nation and a confused world and he did change the direction of our ship of state.

He dedicated America under his leadership to destroying global terrorism.

The president announced the Bush Doctrine when he said: "Our war on terror begins with al-Qaida, but it does not end there.

It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.

"Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists."


When it catches hold there is nothing more powerful than freedom. Give it some hope, and it will overwhelm dictators, and even defeat terrorists. That is what we have done and must continue to do in Iraq.

That is what the Republican Party does best -- when we are at our best, we extend freedom.

It's our mission. And it's the long-term answer to ending global terrorism. Governments that are free and accountable.

We have won many battles -- at home and abroad -- but as President Bush told us on September 20, 2001, it will take a long-term determined effort to prevail.

The war on terrorism will not be won in a single battle. There will be no dramatic surrender. There will be no crumbling of a massive wall.

But we will know it. We'll know it as accountable governments continue to develop in countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq.

We'll know it as terrorist attacks throughout the world decrease and then end.

"How you can win the population for war: At first, the statesman will invent cheap lying, that impute the guilt of the attacked nation, and each person will be happy over this deceit, that calm the conscience. It will study it detailed and refuse to test arguments of the other opinion. So he will convince step for step even therefrom that the war is just and thank God, that he, after this process of grotesque even deceit, can sleep better." Mark Twain

It will always be only a part of the Nation which will consist of really active fighters, and more of them will be asked than the millions of other citizens. For them, the mere pledge "I believe" is not enough; instead, they will swear to the oath "I will fight."

The Party will for all time to come represent the elite of the political leadership of the people. It will be unchangeable in its doctrine, hard as steel in its organizational tactics, supple and adaptable; in its entity however, it will be like a Holy Order!

And this was "moderate" night.

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise

Does anyone else think that Lindsay Graham sounds like Gomer Pyle? I wonder if he can sing?

Active Duty Republicans

Eric Alterman has a tip for a story for those of you who are covering the convention with actual credentials:

Possible Actual News Alert: Is the Republican Party in violation of the US military’s rules on the participation in party politics by active duty military?

It sure looks that way. The RNC convention week is boasting that it has 144 active duty military delegates at the convention or three percent of the total. That information can be found here.

Meanwhile, according to DOD Directive 1344.10, which can be found here this is a violation of the code of military conduct. It explicitly says:

A member on active duty shall not
Participate in partisan political management, campaigns, or conventions (unless attending a convention as a spectator when not in uniform).

But the Republican Party itself is claiming that the active duty personnel are not spectators but delegates. What’s going on here? Why are the Republicans encouraging our soldiers to violate the Uniform Code of Military Justice and its stated rules of political engagement? And why for goodness sakes, aren’t these rules being enforced? Hey MSNBC.com, can we put a reporter or two on this story please?

I doubt that MSNBC has time to follow up what with all the primping and the ass kissing they are having to do. But, perhaps one of those writers for liberal magazines who are wandering around aimlessly looking for internet access could just do the story and then file it from their hotel room. It sounds like a good one to me.

Miscalculator In Chief

It looks as if the Kerry campaign and I are on the same wavelength regarding Bush's statement that he "miscalculated" the conditions ensuring from the "catastrophic success" of the invasion of Iraq. I wrote a couple of days ago:

I think Junior just made a tactical error. Kerry and every other Democrat appearing in the media should wrap that statement around his neck. This is a trap if they want to spring it...he's now simultaneously admitted that he screwed up big time on the single most important issue a president ever faces, while also saying that he has no intention of trying to figure out what went wrong. That is the worst of all possible worlds. It's best not to have to admit screwing up something as important as war planning but if you do you simply have to make the case that learned from the experience and you won't do it again. He didn't do that. Iraq is a massive failure and the president has just opened the door to his own culpability on that.

From various press information I've received today, it looks like we can expect to hear the word "miscalulate" about 763,000 times in the next few weeks.

As I wrote in the earlier piece, one of the nice side effects of this particular claim is that somebody told Bush that he needed to admit to making a mistake -- I think because they knew that his bumbling inability to think of anything he could have done better was going to be used against him. If Kerry succeeds in wrapping Bush's admission that he screwed up the iraq war around his neck, then somebody in Junior's inner circle is going to pay. I'm betting it was Karen.

Clean And Sober

Shhh. Don't tell anybody, but apparently they weren't serving kool-aid at Andrew Sullivan's vacation spot this last month and he's come back to work detoxed and rehabbed.

If you read all of his posts for today, you'll see that he has had an epiphany on a range of issues surrounding George W. Bush and the ascendent fundamentalist wing in the GOP and he is saying some things that moderate Republicans might just listen to. Perhaps it just that Bush finally went too far with the FMA, but I think it's more than that. I think he's speaking for a number of Republicans who have awakened from their trauma after 9/11 and are seeing that their leader is a fraud. I don't know if any of them will vote for Kerry, but I think there's a chance that at least some of them will find that they "forgot" to vote this fall. To non Limbaugh cultists of all political stripes who have been paying attention, Bush's leadership is alarmingly bad. So bad that even one who was previously dazzled by Bush's warrior image have realized that he's incompetent. Sullivan says:

Waging war requires both determination and effectiveness. Bush has a lot more of the former than the latter. And, if we want to avoid more Abu Ghraibs, that counts.

Well, that's if you think we should avoid "catastrophic success" such as that which has unfolded in Iraq. It appears that Sullivan agrees. Regardless of his past political errors, he's a wonderfully talented writer and as far as I'm concerned if he's belatedly realized that the GOP is in the hands of incompetents and radical fundamentalist extremists, it's better late than never. He's one of the right's sharpest tacks and they will have lost a valuable commodity if he finally rejects them. His posts today on everything from Rumsfeld to the Swift Boat Liars aren't going to get him any love at the RNC, I can tell you that.

Shit Disturbance

Here's the latest from Donkey Rising on the Swift Boat Smear numbers:

Aug 23-26th Poll by the Annenberg Center for Public Policy shows a plurality of Americans - 46% - believe President Bush was behind the ads attacking John Kerry's military record while only 37% believe the Bush campaign's denials.

Day by day tracking of the percentage of voters who were influenced by the accusations and came to doubt that Kerry deserved his medals showed that from August 10-15 the percentage of doubters hovered in the low 20's, then rose between August 16-22 (reaching almost 30% on August 18th) and then returned back down to the low 20's between August 20-25.

It appears that the smear itself didn't take. But, of course, you have to take into account the time and effort spent refuting it was time and effort that could have been better spent elsewhere, so it's not a simple case of no harm no foul.

The most important thing is that Kerry survived a near death experience and the old saying "whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger" is more true than ever. This is what we will have to look forward to for the next four years after he's elected. We might as well get used to it.

You Never Wonk Alone

I guess I'm not really understanding one particular beef some have with the protests in New York. Both Yglesias and Klein are disturbed by the inchoate nature of the march yesterday, what with the different agendas being present and nobody looking quite alike and focused. And, they are right, of course. The different groups protesting have many different issues that motivate them. But, it seems to me that in this case particularly, there is one thing they they all agree upon and it is the reason they are protesting when and where they are protesting. They all agree that George W Bush should not be reelected, which I think is a pretty damned good common cause.

I realize that protests are to some degree an act of self-expression but it's a big mistake to discount that as an important part of the political process. Human beings are not all motivated by wonkish intellectual policy discussion. For a lot of people politics is an emotional and social committment. Walking down the street with 100,000 other people who believe in the same goal (if not the reasons behind it) can provide a powerful and exciting feeling of shared purpose.

We liberals need more of that sort of thing. The right has its anger and its sense of victimization to motivate it on that emotional level. Protests like that in NYC signify for liberals a sense of shared belief and goals with people with whom you might never cross paths. For many of us, that's the motivating passion behind our politics. Inclusion, equality, free speech etc. We need to demonstrate that once in a while in order to sustain our committment to the process. Otherwise it's all dry, cerebral talk talk talk --- which I may love and those of you who read this blog may love --- but simply doesn't animate the human social part of politics for many people.

Are they meaningful as policy statements or effective organizing tools? Probably not. But as a motivating tool for grassroots politics I think they are invaluable. For a lot of people around this country yesterday, seeing the streets lined with people protesting the presidency of George W. Bush on the eve of his convention at the site of 9/11 was an inspiring moment of solidarity. That's a good thing.

Update: For a most thorough and enjoyable first person report on the protest check out Roy Edroso at Alicublog:

The participants provided lively footage. A ring of Philadelphians clad in black and pink led some anti-Bush cheers. One of them wore a shirt that read, "When I say Gender, you say Fuck." That remains my favorite shirt of the day (though the plaintive "I Still Hate George W. Bush" is up there, too). Even a few of the park bums got in on the act; "Bush gotta go, Bush gotta go," repeated a scrawny man shuffling around with a framed Saturday Evening Post cover under his arm.


The crowd was getting bunched up round 25th Street and some of the organizers sprang into action to regulate the flow -- young, mostly female, red bandanas tied on their arms, they linked hands across the avenue and held the pace. Very neatly done. If you want to know why moderates march with fringe groups, it's because the fringe groups know their shit.

Now, that's interesting. For even more fun, read his rundown of the right wing blogospheric apoplexy at the protests. These brave, macho wingnuts sound suspiciously like my grandmother --- "those ruffian protesters are so disheveled and unkempt!" The freepers do not disappoint, either. Read the whole thing.


Has anyone ever trashed his reputation as a journalist more thoroughly than Robert Novak? It turns out that his son is the publicist for Regnery, publisher of Unfit For Command, but that was information Novak didn't find relevant enough to mention when he scored an exclusive interview with the ghostly Admiral Schachte --- you know, the guy who nobody remembers being the fourth guy in a three man crew on the day Kerry got wounded?

Novak's son is the publicist for the publisher of a controversial book and Novak writes a fawning and unskeptical interview with one of the prime sources and Novak relies on his sterling reputation as a journalist to cover himself. Except, of course, his reputation as a journalist is in tatters.

But, Al Hunt seemed to think that there was even more to the story. He pretty much called Novak an outright liar on CNN over the week-end and it's pretty clear he is right. The two guys besides Kerry on that skimmer, Zaladonis and Runyan, have told everyone the exact same story. They don't remember Schachte ever being on that boat and they remember being under fire. It is only to Bob Novak that they are supposed to have said that there was no fire.

NOVAK: I interviewed Admiral Schachte this week. He is a former deputy judge advocate general of the Navy, a very distinguished man. He said he was definitely in the boat that night. John Kerry says he wasn't in the boat. I believe Admiral Schachte. I checked with a couple of other officers who were there at that time. They say it is inconceivable that on his maiden mission, Lieutenant Kerry would have been sent off in that boat alone, that this -- using this Boston whaler or skimmer was Lieutenant Schachte's own idea. He was in all the missions on the Boston whaler, and I -- and he is -- and the idea that Kerry said nobody who was ever on a boat on him was ever critical of him is wrong because I believe Schachte was there.

SHIELDS: Yet the enlisted man who was on the boat, and everybody agrees was on the boat, says he wasn't on the boat.

Al Hunt?

HUNT: Well, Mark, let's leave John Kerry and let's leave Schachte aside for a minute. I talked to those two enlisted men today. I talked to Pat Runyon and Bill Zaladonis. They both were on that boat December 2, 1968. They say there is no way that the admiral could have been on that boat. And they describe in vivid detail that night. They say it was a small, 14-foot boat with an outboard motor, that, in fact, with their weapons and other material, that four people would have been a really, really tight fit. They took orders from John Kerry. They remember -- Zaladonis remembers Kerry saying, Shoot over here, rather than over here, when they were in a firefight. And Runyon remembers him telling him to, Start the boat. Let's get the hell out of here. Zaladonis remembers when Kerry was hit, and they just say it's absolutely impossible to -- you wouldn't have had two officers on a little boat like that on that kind of a mission.

Moreover, Schachte has changed his story. A year ago, he talked to Michael Kranish of "The Boston Globe," and he said that there was a firefight. He didn't say he was in the boat. He said Kerry was hit -- quote, "hit" -- though it wasn't very serious. Now he says there wasn't a firefight and it was a self-inflicted wound. Moreover, he went and he said that he -- when he saw Kerry 20 years later in Washington, he was with a top aide with -- of Fritz (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Ashley Thripp (ph). Ashley Thripp I talked to today and said, No way. I wasn't there.

So I think that -- I think the admiral is either mistaken or he's lying.


NOVAK: Let me stick to this -- this Schachte thing for just -- just a moment. In the first place, I also interviewed those two guys, Runyon and Zaladoris (SIC), and they both said they both doubted there was any enemy fire. I don't know if you didn't ask them that question. But they told me they didn't believe there was any enemy fire. That -- that's just a factual thing.

No. 2, I really do believe that -- I've talked to other officers, and they say that this Boston whaler, this skimmer, usually had -- almost always had two officers in it. Only has room for three, right. They usually had two officers and an enlisted man in the back. So there was a -- I think these two men are probably good men. I think they're the ones that are confused.


HUNT: Bob invoked my name and said I -- you know, didn't know if I asked them -- I did ask them the question. They both very clearly say there was a firefight. They describe it in detail. They describe firing at people that night. And Zaladonis -- by the way, you have his name wrong. His name is Zaladonis, Bob. You know, if you called him, you ought to get his name right -- describes when Kerry was hit. They both say that, Mark, and I challenge anyone to call them, and they'll tell him.

NOVAK: They both -- they both told me they didn't believe there was any fire coming from the enemy on that boat.

HUNT: And they also told...

NOVAK: Now, maybe they've changed their story!

Novak, like so many Republicans in this era, has completely lost his honor both as a journalist and a citizen. This man is not a journalist, he is a GOP propagandist and should not be afforded the same kind of shield offered to real journalists in protecting their sources. The profession should shun this guy. By allowing him to evoke that shield in the Plame case, they are likely to lose it all together.

Cold Cock Him

Atrios points out that the GOP theme is "Bush's Leadership" and wonders if a 500k ad buy of "My Pet Goat" would garner three solid weeks of cable blather.

I think it would gather some and I honestly thing it would be a smart thing to do. The Republicans would go nuts --- and that is what would fuel the controversy --- but it's him in that video and there's no denying it. It is a devastating answer to his claims of being a brave man of action in a crisis and would deflate his convention bubble right quick.

Whatever they do, I'm hoping that the Kerry campaign is prepared to metaphorically stalk across the ring and slam Bush right in the nose on the day after the convention and change that storyline immediately.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Rogue Element

The long awaited first installment of the Washington Monthly article by Marshall, Rozen and Glastris is online. It is looking more and more as if we have another rogue element that's been working out of DOD and I have to assume, some part of the White House. The many interconnecting webs seem to lead to and through the forged Niger documents, Chalabi, "Clean Break" and Valerie Plame. It's got the earmarks of a John LeCarre novel and if it weren't so incredibly dangerous it would be amusing.

The article is entitled "Iran Contra II" and that is apt for more reasons than the recurring roles of Mr Ghorbanifar and Mr Ledeen. Once again we see a marked "impatience" with the unfortunately cumbersome working of democratic government. That this may have happened for the second time in twenty years featuring many of the same people is a pretty clear indication that letting bygones be bygones will not do when dealing with this sort of traitorous, undemocratic behavior. The stakes are a hell of a lot higher now that they ae crashing airplanes into NYC skyscrapers. If there is an immediate lesson to be gleaned by the people, perhaps the simplest is that when you have a stupid and easily manipulated man at the head of the government, his minions and courtiers spend all their time jockeying for position and finding shortcuts to get their way. If Kerry happens to win he really must bite the bullet and see that this is investigated and people are brought up on charges. It's completely unbelievable that these same players came back into government and ran their game all over again. Unbelievable.

If anyone is unfamiliar with the braintrust that is at the center of this little scheme, Michael Ledeen, here's a little taste of the man's brilliance. I'm sure you'll agree that he is just the sort of guy you want running a secret back channel foreign policy in the middle of a national security crisis:

From March 10,2003:

Assume, for a moment, that the French and the Germans aren't thwarting us out of pique, but by design, long-term design. Then look at the world again, and see if there's evidence of such a design.

Like everyone else, the French and the Germans saw that the defeat of the Soviet Empire projected the United States into the rare, almost unique position of a global hyperpower, a country so strong in every measurable element that no other nation could possibly resist its will. The "new Europe" had been designed to carve out a limited autonomy for the old continent, a balance-point between the Americans and the Soviets. But once the Soviets were gone, and the Red Army melted down, the European Union was reduced to a combination theme park and free-trade zone. Some foolish American professors and doltish politicians might say — and even believe — that henceforth "power" would be defined in economic terms, and that military power would no longer count. But cynical Europeans know better.

They dreaded the establishment of an American empire, and they sought for a way to bring it down.

If you were the French president or the German chancellor, you might well have done the same.

How could it be done? No military operation could possibly defeat the United States, and no direct economic challenge could hope to succeed. That left politics and culture. And here there was a chance to turn America's vaunted openness at home and toleration abroad against the United States. So the French and the Germans struck a deal with radical Islam and with radical Arabs: You go after the United States, and we'll do everything we can to protect you, and we will do everything we can to weaken the Americans.

The Franco-German strategy was based on using Arab and Islamic extremism and terrorism as the weapon of choice, and the United Nations as the straitjacket for blocking a decisive response from the United States.

It makes me feel all cozy knowing that a guy like this and his compatriots have been meddling in mid-east policy apparently in concert with a rogue element in the Pentagon for the last three years.

Waddaya Gonna Do?

ONLY A FEW years ago, it seemed the slightest suggestion of malfea- sance by a presidential administration -- allegations of tampering with a minor administrative office, say, or indications that a cabinet secretary might have understated the amount of money given to a former girlfriend -- could trigger a formidable response from the other two branches of government: grand juries, special prosecutors, endless congressional hearings, even impeachment proceedings. Some of that auditing, especially during the Clinton administration, went too far. Yet now the country faces a frightening inversion of the problem. Though there is strong evidence of faulty and even criminal behavior by senior military commanders and members of President Bush's cabinet in the handling of foreign detainees, neither Congress nor the justice system is taking adequate steps to hold those officials accountable.


When the prisoner abuse allegations first became public in May, many members of Congress, including several senior Republicans, vowed to pursue the evidence up the chain of command and not to allow low-ranking reservists to be prosecuted while more senior officials escaped sanction. Yet, as matters now stand, Mr. Rumsfeld, Gen. Sanchez and other senior officials are poised to execute just such an escape. When the scandal began, these leaders told Congress they were prepared to accept responsibility for the wrongdoing. As it turns out, they didn't mean that in any substantive respect. Their dodge shames not only them but the legal and legislative bodies charged with enforcing accountability.

Whoda thunk? And after they've been so zealous in investigating all the other crimes and scandals of the George W. Bush administration. Why, I'd almost think that Republicans (and their accomplices in the press) used their power to harrass and intimidate Clinton with phony, partisan scandalmongering and are now using it to cover for their Republican president's criminal malfeasance and massive policy failures. No, that can't be. That travel office scandal was a threat to the republic. This torturing of muslim prisoners in an age of islamic radicalism and terrorism is nothing by comparison --- not to mention all the espionage, intelligence failures and negligent military planning. My mistake.

While it's gratifying that the Washington Post may coming down from it's self administered three year acid trip, it continues to amaze me that the paper of Ben Bradlee has concluded that it is a powerless little institution that has no influence on the way that politics are conducted in this country. It certainly appears that they have come to believe that investigative reporting means regurgitating partisan smears and reporting the results of official government investigations. Jesus, if these guys were in charge during Watergate we'd be dedicating the Nixon Memorial on the mall right now.

Is it reasonable to believe that nobody in the entire military establishment understands that this whitewash is seriously counterproductive to the security interests of the United States considering the pesky little issue we have with Muslim hearts and minds and people blowing up buildings and all? I just bet some enterprising reporter could find a few people who might think these bogus "investigations" are a mistake. After all, the guys most likely to suffer from this total disregard for international law regarding the treatment of prisoners are those in the military.


I'm think it may be time to give Kerry a little r-e-s-p-e-c-t. Donkey Rising analyzes the LA Times poll and all the others that have recently been released in the wake of the swift boat smear:

In short, the four major polls conducted since August 20th do not reveal any consistent or substantial pro-Bush swing such as would be expected from a successful attack on John Kerry's war record and character during the week and a half before. Instead, the only generalization that can be made from looking at a broader group of over 20 polls of registered and likely voters since the beginning of August is of a slight and gradual shrinkage of about 3 or 4% in Kerry's lead.

If August had been a slow news month, this trend would almost certainly have been ascribed to an inevitable "coming back down to earth" following the run of positive news coverage Kerry had enjoyed for several months during the spring (the remarkable fundraising success, the popular choice of Edwards, the united, energized Democratic convention). Instead, because the attacks on Kerry’s medals and military service were intensely dramatic and widely covered, many commentators simply assumed that any changes in the opinion polls had to be due to their influence.


...there was never any realistic possibility that Kerry would hold onto the support of many of these voters [who remain angry at the anti-war movement] even after his quite effective performance at the Democratic convention. All the Bush campaign needed to do was to make sure that these voters were made aware of Kerry's significant role in the anti-war movement of the early 1970's.

This is what the LA Times poll essentially found. In July, 32% agreed that "By protesting the war in Vietnam, John Kerry demonstrated a judgment and belief that is inappropriate in a president". By late August, this had risen to 37%. Similarly, 26% of the sample (and 31% of the men) agreed that Kerry's anti-war protests made them less likely to vote for him. The voters among whom the LA Times survey found Kerry loosing ground in August were married, less educated, self-described conservatives, owning a gun and living in a rural area -- a demographic profile that also describes the cultural environment of many U.S. veterans.

Had the Bush campaign been satisfied with simply harvesting these sympathetic voters, they probably could have done so with even a relatively honest and low-key series of commercials. Instead, however, they hoped that, with the help of their surrogates, they could achieve an even more ambitious goal - to impugn Kerry's valor, honesty and character through attacks on his wartime record of bravery and heroism.

The essence of this strategy was not only to directly damage Kerry's image and reputation, but to trap him into choosing between "taking the high road" and not responding to the attacks (which could then be spun to make him look weak and indecisive) or to provoke him into an ill-tempered, aggressive response (for which he could then be criticized as negative, partisan, bitter and shrill).

But the Bush campaign made a profound miscalculation. In the L.A. Times survey, only 18% of the voters had been convinced that "Kerry misrepresented his war record and does not deserve his war medals" while 58% said Kerry "fought honorably and does deserve" them. Independent voters sided with Kerry 5 to 1. Even men and self-described conservatives - groups that are normally quite pro-Bush - strongly supported Kerry, by 59 to 19 for men and 42 to 29 for conservatives. Other polls, such as the Fox/Opinion Dynamics and Annenberg Center for Public Policy survey found similar attitudes. In the Fox poll, even most veterans held, by 50% to 21% that Kerry deserved his purple hearts.

Moreover, Americans did not buy Bush's transparent attempts to pretend his campaign was not involved with the smear. The Gallup poll showed that more Americans think Bush is responsible for the commercials (50%) then do not (44%) and 56% think he should specifically denounce them while only 32% think he should not. An August 26 Annenberg Center survey found very similar attitudes.

It was this failure to convince the American people of the charges against Kerry that set the stage for the growing backlash against the Bush campaign - the investigative reports and editorial statements in newspapers across the country, the resignations of two Bush officials when their links to the smear campaign were exposed, and then Bush's disingenuous and finally humiliating series of statements and clarifications.

From the Bush campaign's point of view, the magnitude of the swift-boat fiasco becomes clear when it is recognized that a major goal of the August campaign was to put John Kerry on the defensive - to have him stumbling over his words, being pilloried in the press and firing his advisors. Instead (although the issue will now be muted by the theatrics of the Republican convention) it was Bush who was forced onto the defensive by the end of last week while Kerry weathered the attacks with an extraordinarily small decline in the level of his popular support.

I agree with this and am coming very close to calling this one a win for Kerry. I'd like to see a couple more polls before the RNC gets started and the dynamic becomes too muddy to know what the hell went on, but it sure looks to me as if Kerry may have survived a very serious atack and actually inflicted some damage on Bush. The narrative now has Bush as a dirty campaigner in the election and it's going to much harder for him to launch another filthy smear. That's big.

The "swift boat smear" is now in the annals of all time low down character assassination attempts. If Kerry really has prevailed then I am going to feel much more sanguine about this election and perhaps even more importantly, his chances of actually getting something done. Political instincts are the key and he's showing me he's got some.

Projection Politics

This theory about Karl Rove's wily and bold strategy of going after rivals' strengths instead of their weaknesses is Rove's own self-serving analysis and frankly, I think it's bullshit:

"Look, I don't attack people on their weaknesses," he once told reporters in Texas during a campaign. "That usually doesn't get the job done. Voters already perceive weaknesses. You've got to go after the other guy's strengths. That's how you win."

That's not what he does at all. In fact, it's something quite different all together. Rove has developed a campaign of projection in which he tars his opponents with his own candidates' weaknesses and then attacks them.

He attacks Kerry for phony heroism thirty years ago when just last year his own candidate had himself filmed in a little costume prancing around on an aircraft carrier pretending he'd won a war that had only begun. But, by tarring Kerry with using war as a PR stunt for his own personal gain, people can process the uncomfortable feelings they are experiencing about Iraq as not really being caused by Junior, but by his rival who is the real shallow opportunist who only pretends to be a man of proven leadership and experience.

He spent 70 million to get people to call Kerry a flip flopper when the truth is that the compassionate-conservative-uniter-not-divider has a very recent proven record of unprecedented ugly partisanship and ruthless bloodlust. He's mananged to convince a large number of Americans that Kerry is unprincipled when the fiscal conservative Bush has just spent the entire surplus and run up the deficit beyond our wildest imaginings just three years ago. That's a pretty good trick.

He's projected Bush's weaknesses on to Kerry and then gone after them ruthlessly. It makes it very difficult to then turn the attack back on Bush because it's been co-opted. It's another example of the Republican epistomological relativism that's driving everybody up the wall.

Now, it is also true that Kerry bears some structural weakness on national security that makes it easier for this absurd notion to be accepted even though he has a box full of medals. (That anyone thinks attacking a Democratic candidate on national security is attacking his strength is kind of funny.) The fact is that any Democrat's heroic war record functions mostly as superficial innoculation against charges of sissiness during campaigns, and it's the reason you see so many more Republican chickenhawks than anti-war Dems in public office these days. To make it up the ladder in Democratic circles, a sterling war record was a huge asset while it was obviously irrelevant to the Republicans. It's pretty clear why that is.

It's kind of related to that old saying of David Halberstam's about Nixon being able to go to China because only Nixon wouldn't be red baited by Nixon. Ever since the 60's only Republicans are considered worthy of wartime leadership because only Republicans won't be called pussies by Republicans. That is the reality of our current political state. As we've seen, no matter how brave and heroic, no matter the extent of the sacrifice, you can be tarred as unworthy of the office of commander in chief if you are a Democrat. Going after Kerry's credibility as a wartime leader is a no brainer. Rove isn't showing any special tactical genius just by doing that --- any GOP strategist would have found a way to take advantage of that existing CW.

What is interesting about Rove is that his way of dealing with his own candidates' even more glaring deficiencies is to build a Kerry straw man in Bush's exact image and then set it afire. I don't know if it will work, or even if he's aware that he's doing it, projection being epidemic in GOP circles. But, it's disarming and confusing and it makes it difficult to effectively counter attack. You end up with some defensive version of "I know you are but what am I" which doesn't really advance your position.

Peaked Too Early

Americans increasingly believe President Bush's re-election campaign is behind the ads attacking Democrat John Kerry's Vietnam experience, a poll found.

Almost half in a poll taken this week say they think the president's campaign is behind the ads that try to undercut Kerry's medals for heroism while just over a third think the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is an independent group, the National Annenberg Election Survey found.

The Swift boat ads, which ran in three swing states earlier this month, challenged Kerry's wartime service in Vietnam for which he received five medals.

The public's belief that Kerry did not earn his medals grew to 30 percent when the attack ads got widespread publicity on cable news networks. But that number has dropped to 24 percent now.

It was a good story to fill the dog days but it would have been much more effective to hit later, giving Kerry little time to build a response.

The coup de gras:

On Monday and Tuesday when the Kerry campaign was making the accusation Bush was involved, 42 percent said the Bush campaign was behind them and 41 percent said they were truly independent.

After Ginsberg resigned from the campaign on Wednesday, 50 percent said in polling the next two nights that the Bush campaign was connected to the ads and 34 percent said it was not.


I've been out of the loop for a couple of days so I didn't get a chance to read this until now. Has there ever been a bigger case of burying the lead than to breathlessly repeat the stale spin that Bush doesn't think Kerry lied about his war record and he's against 527's for four paragraphs, until finally telling us that Bush "acknowledged for the first time that he made a 'miscalculation of what the conditions would be' in postwar Iraq?"

Uh, the Preznit acknowledging that he fucked up Iraq is called actual news in case they've forgotten what that looks like.

But he insisted that the 17-month-long insurgency that has upended the administration's plans for the country was the unintended by-product of a "swift victory'' against Saddam Hussein's military, which fled and then disappeared into the cities, enabling them to mount a rebellion against the American forces far faster than Mr. Bush and his aides had anticipated.

He insisted that his strategy had been "flexible enough'' to respond, and said that even now "we're adjusting to our conditions'' in places like Najaf, where American forces have been battling one of the most militant of the Shiite groups opposing the American-installed government.

Mr. Bush deflected efforts to inquire further into what went wrong with the occupation, suggesting that such questions should be left to historians, and insisting, as his father used to, that he would resist going "on the couch'' to rethink decisions.

I think Junior just made a tactical error. Kerry and every other Democrat appearing in the media should wrap that statement around his neck. This is a trap if they want to spring it.

The fact that they had him admit his error in judgment for the first time suggests to me that they've decided he may need some cover on Iraq. But, I think Bush hates to admit he made a mistake and he will hate even more being reminded that he did it. It's just not in character for him at all. I would bet money that he fought saying it and having the Democrats and the press throw it in his face could make him question whoever gave him that advice --- Karen or Karl most likely. It is good to sow discontent in that little circle.

But, the bigger advantage is that he's now simultaneously admitted that he screwed up big time on the single most important issue a president ever faces, while also saying that he has no intention of trying to figure out what went wrong. That is the worst of all possible worlds. It's best not to have to admit screwing up something as important as war planning but if you do you simply have to make the case that learned from the experience and you won't do it again. He didn't do that. Iraq is a massive failure and the president has just opened the door to his own culpability on that.

Kerry should go for the jugular --- this argument is on his turf. Bush isn't talking about the decision to go to war anymore, he's talking about his execution of that war and the decisions he made all by his lonesome. These mistakes are at the heart of Kerry's criticism of Bush on the war.

The contrast is stark. John Kerry believes in planning for contingencies and evaluating what works and what doesn't. George Bush admits he is a poor planner and wants to leave it to historians to figure out where he went wrong. But it will be too late by then. People are dying today. We need new leadership.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Nick of Time

Ron Brownstein analyzes the new LA Times poll as saying that Kerry has been "nicked" by the swiftboat controversy and now leads Kerry 49-46:

But with the controversy attracting intense media attention, especially on talk radio and cable television, the ads have achieved extraordinary visibility among voters. Forty-eight percent of those polled said they had seen the ad accusing Kerry of lying to win his medals; an additional 20 percent said they had heard about it. Similarly, 44 percent said they had seen the ad criticizing Kerry's Senate testimony; another 17 percent said they had heard about it.

At the same time, just 18 percent of those surveyed said they "believe that Kerry misrepresented his war record and does not deserve his war medals," while 58 percent said Kerry "fought honorably and does deserve" the medals.

Attitudes on that question divided sharply along party lines. As many Republicans said they believed Kerry was lying as believe he fought honorably. By nearly 10-1, Democrats said Kerry served honorably.Independents sided with Kerry in the dispute by more than 5-1.

When voters were asked whether Kerry's protest against the war when he returned from Vietnam would influence their vote, 20 percent said it made them more likely to support him, while 26 percent said it reduced the chance they would back him and 52 percent said it made no difference.But if Kerry showed relatively few bruises on these questions directly measuring reactions to the veterans' charges against him, indirect measures suggested he has suffered more damage.

Asked how Kerry's overall military experience would affect their vote, just 23 percent said it made them more likely to vote for him, while 21 percent said it made them less likely; the remaining 53 percent said it would make no difference. That has to be a disappointment for the Kerry camp after a Democratic convention last month that placed Kerry's Vietnam service at the top of the marquee.

I'm not sure how those figures add up to the fact that Kerry's slight slippage is attributable to the Swiftboat liars, but I'll take Brownstein's word for it.

Where he's definitely wrong, I think, is in thinking that Kerry's camp is disappointed that voters feel his Vietnam service makes no difference after he placed it at the top of the convention marquee. I don't think they ever expected it to be a decisive factor in the election. I'm quite sure that it was calculated to inoculate him as much as possible against this swiftboat attack. Imagine if the swiftees had come out with this and the public hadn't been given the full star spangled banner routine with the stolid shipmates and Cleland and Rassman standing up there with him and proclaiming him a hero. If people didn't have that clearly in their minds, the swiftboat smear would have taken hold much better than it has.

If this is all the damage two full weeks of smearing has done, then I'd say they've been as successful at fending it off as you could hope for in this closely divided electorate. Smears can be deadly. Nicks heal quickly.

Frankly, I think the $70 million spent convincing the public that Kerry is a flip-flopping frenchman is what's really sunk into the subconscious of the electorate. In every one of these polls (and every political conversation I have) this comes up. "He's all over the place"--- "he doesn't stand for anything." I think it's become a pretty solid perception and it would be helpful to counter it more effectively.

They have half heartedly come out with the "stubborn" line, but I don't think that's the right word. There is a positive spin to stubborn -- "dogged determination" or "resolute" --- that makes it a bad attack line. I think better phrase is "refuses to admit his mistakes," or "the buck stops nowhere." Play the footage from the press conference showing him unable to think of any errors he might have made. The neanderthals will go nuts,of course, and say it's dirty politics to show the man speaking his own words, but when people see him bobble that question they see a very weak man who cannot admit that presidents sometimes need to change course. According to that poll, most people believe that a course change is required, even many of those who want to vote for him.


I just heard CNN frame "Inside Politics" as "Is Kerry getting mileage out of the controversy?"

Update: I am enjoying watching the Republicans argue among themselves about the platform on gay marriage, particularly the Log Cabin guy calling the Family Research Council guy insulting. That Bush sure is a uniter not a divider.

BTW: How did I miss all these ads that said Bush was poisoning pregnant women? I don't know what they are babbling about, but I've heard it several times today. Why do you suppose the cable news networks failed to give those who were accusing him of this crime hundreds of hours of free media? How odd.

I have to say this is kind of risky. I didn't know that Bush was poisoning pregnant women until today. Geez, he really is low, isn't he?

That's What I'm Talking About

This is creative and the press loves it. Max Cleland, disabled veteran and former US Senator is greeted by some lowly functionary in Crawford because Bush is too much of a pussy to talk to him himself.

Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton would have used the moment to show himself as a regular guy with respect and humor.

Bush hid. As usual.

He's Not Just A Pretty Face

...he's got great taste, too.

As the lines between showbiz and politics keep getting blurrier and blurrier, even Turner Classic Movies is weighing in, signing Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards to tape an introduction to a screening of "Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb."

Because TCM is a cable network, it didn't have to give equal time to Sen. Edwards' rival Vice President Dick Cheney .

The Edwards-hosted presentation of "Dr. Strangelove" (1964), directed by Stanley Kubrick, lands on TCM at 10 p.m . Oct. 7. It's the first of four specials called "Party, Politics & the Movies," an umbrella series encompassing movies introduced by politicians at 10 every Thursday night during the rest of October.

On Oct. 14, Sen. John McCain makes some pointed remarks about contemporary America in his intro to another Kubrick movie "Paths of Glory" (1957). The "lesson" McCain takes from the movie is that a country like the U.S. has "an incredible obligation" to protect the lives of American soldiers. "The cause has to be just," he said. "The end has to be in sight. And there has to be a clear-cut strategy for that victory."

An unabashed Robin Williams fan, Sen. Joe Biden will host the Oct. 21 showing of "Dead Poets Society" (1989). The movie's celebration of independent thinkers is to Biden a metaphor for what's best in America.

On Oct. 28, Sen. Orrin Hatch takes on "To Kill a Mockingbird" (1962), calling it "a mobilizing film" against racial prejudice and injustice.

Edwards likes the apocalyptic black comedy "Dr. Strangelove" because it drives home the thesis that, as his intro puts it, putting nuclear power and "this potential holocaust in the hands of human beings, no matter who they are, is an extraordinarily dangerous thing."

And Joe Biden proves once again that he is a lightweight.

Story Lines

Amy Sullivan on Political Animal writes:

An article that appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer just two weeks ago included this bit about Ginsberg: "Ben Ginsberg, a legal adviser to the Bush campaign, specifically condemned the dual roles played by Democrats Harold Ickes and Bill Richardson, who had official roles at the convention and also within prominent friendly 527s. 'They're over the coordination line,' Ginsberg said of Ickes and Richardson. 'The whole notion of cutting off links between public officeholders and soft-money groups just got exploded.'"

Ginsberg is a made man and Ginsberg has now resigned from the Bush campaign. The fact that he resigned makes me think that the Bushies are getting a little bit spooked at the furious revelations coming out day by day on the Not-So-Swift lies and their campaign ties.

The convention is getting very close. I'm not sure they anticipated that the Liars were lying quite so baldy and that the press would make anything of the web of connections. (Ginsberg on the record just two weeks ago leads me to believe they thought their flank was covered on this.) The positive message they need to convey at the convention could be stepped on badly if the mediawhores decide to flog this angle while they are sitting there in madison Square Garden with every prominent Republican in the country.

I don't think Bush wants to leave his convention over the labor day week-end still talking about 527's.

Which leads me to Rick Perlstein's latest article in the Village Voice in which he says:

History never truly repeats itself. Prognostication is inherently unreliable. But what history can provide is a set of guidelines to wisdom—guidelines many protesters refuse even to consider. Not all protesters. But enough protesters. All it takes is a few people to begin a chain reaction that could lead to disaster.

Like many, Lew Koch suspects the spark might come from someone working for the Republicans.

The Republicans have already shown that they are willing to engage in unprecedented smears and dirty tricks in this cycle. I think it is highly likely that they have some french looking infiltrators --- provocateurs --- ready to help Bush get out his story line about being "mainstream" while Kerry and the Democrats are all a bunch of smelly hippie radicals who want to tear down the state. This is the '68 Retro Tour election, after all.

It would be really nice if people on our side could think strategically about this instead of looking at politics as some sort of emotional outlet, but I'm not holding my breath. As Perlstein notes:

Rae Valentine is even right, in a cosmic sense, when she says that "people understand that the so-called chaos of streets being shut down by protesters or even a window being broken is nothing compared to the day-to-day chaos and destruction of people being able to afford housing, or health care. That's where the real violence—in the system—lies."

But she is not right in the sense that matters: the political sense. "I think people understand," she says. Linger on that formulation. It is only inane arrogance that gives someone the confidence to pronounce that, magically, "people will understand." They might not understand at all. Instead, what they might understand is: "Bush is better than anarchy in the streets." It ain't fair. But if it all goes down as unplanned, there'll be a whole lot more unfairness coming down the pike in the next four years.

One of the unfortunate things about some of the most passionate and idealistic people on the left is that they aren't really interested in politics --- they are on a sort of spiritual mission that actually conflicts with politics. I admire their committment, but if it is irrational, it helps the worst elements of the political system thrive.

I'm all for protesting as a tactic if it's organized to make a political point. As emotional catharsis or an exercise of tribal identity it only hurts the ball club. I'm hoping that the NYC protest story is one entertaining and pointed "Billionaires For Bush" style political theatre, not anarchy in the streets.

If the worst happens, it should be noted, however, that one of the reasons that the 1968 convention anarchy was helpful to Nixon was that there had been a succession of real riots in various cities. There had been huge protests in the streets and on campus. There was tangible social upheaval in the country that made the confrontation with police at a political convention all the more dramatic. Nothing like that kind of civil unrest exists today (yet) so the backdrop that made the convention protests such a powerful image for Nixon to exploit as the "law and order" candidate isn't there.

The best Bush can hope for is to make it a matter of "values." I don't know how much punch that really has, but it is true that the media loves to go all Claude Rains on us whenever there's the tiniest hint of resistance to the bourgeois values that everybody pretends to hold (while they watch porn and pop prescription drugs.) If violence breaks out or someone does something too edgy you can bet that we'll be treated to another huge dose of phony sanctimony from the millionaire celebrity press corpse.

They Just Lie.

Message to the media. Read this from Seeing The Forest. "They just lie" is the assumption from which you must begin when one of these "stories" starts to percolate. And you will find that by making that correct assumption you can have a good story, too. Lying on tape is a good story. If you think really hard you may remember that a few years back that you got quite a bit of mileage out of several along that line.

John O'Neil's dirty trick against John Kerry has been exposed by one of the White House tapes featuring him talking to Richard Nixon. These are the same tapes that brought down Richard Nixon for dirty tricks thirty years ago.

Press Corpse --- this is delicious, in case you haven't noticed. It is beautiful symbolism. It is perfect symmetry. It is to make you believe in God.

If you can't run with this, you have no business being scandal mongers. Remember, it's all about you, It's all about your ratings, your Q, your salary. Run little mediawhores, run. This one is just sitting there like a big juicy fig waiting for you to bite into it.

Group puts final blame on top Defense officials, but its chairman says 'America's enemies' would benefit if Rumsfeld resigned.

The panel said the failures generally were caused by officers' deciding to adopt interrogation practices used at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and taking them much further than they should have, especially at overcrowded Abu Ghraib, where the Army was never fully in control.

"There was chaos at Abu Ghraib," Schlesinger said at a news conference at the Pentagon that was called to release the report, one of several investigations launched after photographs of prisoner abuse surfaced last spring, stunning the world.

Though Schlesinger said the interrogators and prison guards were "directly responsible" for the abuse, the report, for the first time, directly blames senior Defense Department management for problems at Abu Ghraib.

The panel faulted top generals, including Sanchez, for misinterpreting higher orders and issuing a series of contradictory and confusing interrogation policies. And it criticized Rumsfeld for failing to adequately assemble legal and military experts to set interrogation parameters early in the Iraq occupation.

It also traced confusion over interrogation policies to a 2002 memo issued by President Bush that said Geneva Convention protections did not apply to Taliban and Al Qaeda suspects in custody. The panel said the memo led Sanchez to believe that "additional, tougher measures were warranted" in Iraq.

In addition, the investigators criticized senior military leaders for failing to anticipate the insurgency in Iraq after Saddam Hussein was toppled. When the resistance accelerated in the summer of 2003 and the prison population soared, commanders did little to adequately train or beef up security and intelligence operations at Abu Ghraib.

Rather, Schlesinger said, senior civilian and military leaders based their planning on what happened after the 1991 Persian Gulf War, when Kuwait was liberated from Iraq and no prolonged resistance followed.

"They did look at history books," Schlesinger said. "Unfortunately, it was the wrong history."

The abuse scandal, Schlesinger noted, has had a "chilling effect on interrogation operations." U.S. agencies are getting far less intelligence because interrogators are fearful about the consequences of pushing detainees to talk, he said.

But he stopped well short of calling for Rumsfeld's removal, saying it "would be a boon to all of America's enemies, and consequently I think it would be a misfortune if it were to take place." Schlesinger said that although commanders were not "focused" on detention operations, "we do not think it was a sufficient error to call for senior resignations."

That's an interesting interpretation of the old "we don't give in to terrorists" trope. In this case we can't fire an obviously incompetent official because our enemies would supposedly be pleased.

Meanwhile all this blather is seen by a billion Muslims as total crap:

Bush said the United States will move forward as other democracies have when mistakes are made. "Those mistakes will be investigated, and people will be brought to justice," he said. "We're an open society. We're a society that is willing to investigate, fully investigate, in this case, what took place in that prison."

The president said that the United States will punish those found guilty of abuse. "That stands in stark contrast to life under Saddam Hussein," he said. "His trained torturers were never brought to justice under his regime. There were no investigations about mistreatment of people. There will be investigations. People will be brought to justice."

All crap.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Jacuzzi Cases

Man, Junior must be fuming that yet another one of those hated 527's is coming online with $10 million for more of those ads he'd really like to see stopped:

Group plans anti-Edwards ads

WASHINGTON (CBS.MW) -- A business-backed group plans to join the campaign fray in coming weeks by running ads in key swing states that are expected to attack Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards for his pre-Senate career as a trial lawyer.

The new group, called "The November Fund," is co-chaired by Craig Fuller, who served as chief of staff to the president's father, George H.W. Bush, when he was vice president, and Bill Brock, a former Republican senator.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a key sponsor of The November Fund, which is organized as a so-called 527 group. Such groups are prohibited by law from coordinating activities with presidential campaign staffs or political parties.

The New York Times reported the Chamber and other groups plan to spend $10 million on ads attacking trial lawyers, including Edwards.

John Kerry's selection of Edwards as his running mate on the Democratic ticket enraged some business leaders who have identified abusive lawsuits as a top priority for legislative reform.

"The impact of the trial bar's influence on the legal, legislative, regulatory and economic decisions of an administration is impossible to calculate," said Chamber President Tom Donohue, in a written statement announcing the formation of The November Fund.

Edwards has never disavowed the battles with businesses that were hallmarks of career as a trial lawyer in North Carolina. The candidate, who proudly describes himself as the "son of a mill worker," says he became a lawyer in order to stand up for ordinary people against powerful interests -- a theme that has echoed through his campaigns for public office.

Yes, the Chamber is non-partisan in the same the way the swift boat liars are independent. I'm sure Bush will be right out there condemning all vague "shadowy groups" again while Karl pulls all ten million dollars worth of strings from behind the curtain.

Maybe the trial lawyers need to get a little 527 of their own up and run a few ads featuring some of Edwards' clients -- the ones in the wheelchairs or missing body parts due to corporate cravenness.

Tricky Timing

I urge everyone to read this Liberal Oasis piece on smears. Smears are the most difficult tactic to combat in any campaign and it has been made even harder by the scandal junkies of cable TV and talk radio. There is no formula.

Fighting Smears

Maureen Dowd, like many backseat campaign managers, has never had to defend against a smear campaign.

Addressing a smear is one of the hardest, trickiest, most delicate things in politics.

Condemn it too early, you raise its profile and spread it places where it hadn't been heard yet, and may never had been heard.

Wait too long, and it becomes perceived truth.

And there's no textbook timeframe how long to wait, because every smear's trajectory and potency is different.

Managing the timing is art, not science.

Those like Maureen Dowd -- who said on Sunday that Kerry seemed to be "caught off guard" by the Swift Boat Liar attack, because he waited to respond -- don't know what they're talking about.

Kerry surely knew this was coming.

Similar attacks began in February of this year. And he has successfully fought off such attacks in past campaigns, with the help of fellow vets.

Kerry was on guard. He simply was patient, trying to sense if the smear was gaining traction.

And he wanted to stick to his post-convention plan, touring battleground states, driving his messages from his acceptance speech, completing his introduction to the public.

Read the rest, it's great.

I would just add that I think the "Kerry waitied too long" CW that's forming is a media driven excuse that lets them off the hook. They know that they are responsible for allowing these assholes to be taken seriously at all and instead of taking responsibility for failing at their job they are blaming the victim. It's an old story with these guys. "Oh he should have fought back a week earlier." Well, if the press were in the business of journalism instead of bloodsport entertainment, they would have investigated these guys before they gave them hours and hours of airtime to spread their filthy little psychodrama all of over airwaves. The people who waited too long were the journalists.

Don't fall for the hype. I heard all these talking heads today going on and on about how this has hurt Kerry and yet they have no evidence to back that up, other than their own guilt.

It reminds me of an earlier time when every single pundit idiot in washington predicted for month after month after month that Clinton was going down. They were just positive of it. "Any day now," they said, "the American people are going to reject this deplorable behavior." The screeched at the highest decibels on every cable show 24/7. Each new revelation was the smoking gun that was going to end his presidency. The 1998 election was supposed to be a deathblow.

And month after month after month more than 60% of the American people continued to support Clinton and the '98 election was a blow out for the Democrats.

Don't believe anything these people say about what "the American people" think. They are celebrities who have as much contact and understanding of everyday Americans as Madonna does. Wait for real data. We'll know soon enough.

Profiles In Courage

If anyone is wondering why Tweety has turned back into Bush's bitch, here's why:

You might notice something missing from Hardball With Chris Matthews soon: Republicans. " Hardball may seem more like badminton during the Republican National Convention," threatens a GOP insider. What's up? The GOP thinks Matthews has gone over to Sen. John Kerry 's side and is too critical of the Bush campaign's editing of a Hardball interview with Kerry posted on the party's negative site, www.kerryoniraq.com. As payback, they've stopped urging Republicans to appear on the show. Hardball executive producer Tammy Haddad dismisses charges Matthews is biased: "We beat everybody up." So far, nobody from the White House has told her of the show's being blackballed.

Yeah. Uh huh. That must be why he's claiming now that Kerry said "all Americans are Lt. Calley's" in his Senate testimony in '72 and it would explain why tonight he suddenly feels that Kerry should follow the president's lead and condemn all the 527 ads. He got manly for a minute or two and challenged little LuLu but then he got a spanking and turned into a good boy again.

Everybody Look What's Goin' Down

The clash between Vietnam veterans over Sen. John Kerry and critics of his war record heated up several degrees Monday as a group of vets called on a Clackamas County deputy prosecutor to resign.

"He's hurt a lot, a lot of people," Don Stewart, one of the organizers of a rally on the Main Street steps of the county courthouse, said of Alfred French. "It opens up a lot of wounds. . . . This is personal."

Stewart of Oregon City and Don Kirsch of Canby drew about 45 people to a rally to criticize French, a senior deputy district attorney who said in an affidavit that Kerry lied about his service record. French later admitted his sworn statements were based on the accounts of others.

French's comments have been used in anti-Kerry ads by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a group of Vietnam veterans who have said the Democratic presidential candidate lied about or exaggerated his actions during Swift boat river duty in 1969.


During the rally, Stewart read a letter he and Kirsch wrote in which they tell French he should resign because he has lost the trust of county residents.

"We question your fitness to serve as an enforcer of the law after swearing to facts in a legal affidavit that you do not know to be true," they wrote.


Kirsch said French has a right to criticize Kerry "as a concerned veteran" but should not have signed a sworn statement based on secondhand information. "He's told lies and hearsay evidence," Kirsch said.

French did not return a telephone message asking for comment.

Thanks to Hesiod for keeping us informed and enlightened even from self-imposed exile.


I haven't completely absorbed the implications of this article yet (thanks to Davis X Machina for the tip) but it is fascinating and everyone should read it. This guy has the most original view of the Republican mystique I've ever read and something about it tells me he is right on the money. Frank Wilhoit, if you're out there, this one's for you:
This is America, not Denmark. In this country, tens of millions of people choose to watch FoxNews not simply because Americans are credulous idiots or at the behest of some right-wing corporate cabal, but because average Americans respect viciousness. They are attracted to viciousness for a lot of reasons. In part, it reminds them of their bosses, whom they secretly adore. Americans hate themselves for the way they behave in public, always smiling and nodding their heads with accompanying really's and uh-huhs to show that they're listening to the other person, never having the guts to say what they really feel. So they vicariously scream and bully others into submission through right-wing surrogate-brutes. Spending time watching Sean Hannity is enough for your average American white male to feel less cowardly than he really is.

The left won't accept this awful truth about the American soul, a beast that they believe they can fix "if only the people knew the Truth."

But what if the Truth is that Americans don't want to know the Truth? What if Americans consciously choose lies over truth when given the chance—and not even very interesting lies, but rather the blandest, dumbest and meanest lies? What if Americans are not a likeable people? The left's wires short-circuit when confronted with this terrible possibility; the right, on the other hand, warmly embraces Middle America's rank soul and exploits it to their full advantage. The Republicans know Americans better than the left. They know that it's not so much Goering's famous "bigger lie" that works here, but the dumber the lie, the more they want to hear it repeated.

And this leads to another truth that the left still has trouble understanding: Millions of Americans, particularly white males, don't vote for what's in their so-called best interests. Thomas Frank recently attacked this riddle in his new book What's the Matter with Kansas? but he fails to answer his own question. He can't, in fact, because his is a flawed premise. Frank, who is at his best when he's just vicious, still clings to the comforting theory that Middle Americans are being duped by an evil corporate-political machine that subtly but masterfully manipulates the psychological levers of cultural backlash, implying that if average Americans were left to their own devices, they would somehow make entirely rational, enlightened choices and elect sensible New Deal Democrats every time. This puts Frank in a bind he never quite gets out of. Like all lefties, he is incapable of taking his ruthless analysis beyond a certain point.

The reason is simple. The underlying major premise of humanist-leftist ideology states that people are intrinsically sympathetic. If people are defiantly mean and craven, the humanist-left structure falters. "Why the fuck should I bother fighting for Middle Americans," they ask, "if they're just as loathsome, in their own petty way, as their exploiters, with whom they actively collaborate?"

Rather than grapple with that dilemma, the left pretends it doesn't exist. This is why they will forever struggle to understand the one overriding mystery of why so many working- and middle-class white males vote against their own best interests.

I CAN TELL YOU WHY. They do so out of spite.

I urge you to read the whole thing. It is the most entertaining piece of political analysis I've read in quite a long time. And, really, what other explanation can there be for Rush Limbaugh?