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Saturday, July 31, 2004

Poll Fucked

Damn it. Reuters is using that incorrect Newsweek poll and I'm sure others are too, just in time for the Sabbath gasbags to inscribe "baby bounce" in granite:

"A Newsweek poll released on Saturday showed Kerry gained a four-point bounce from last week's Boston convention where he was formally nominated. "

Donkey Rising explains the problem with the poll:

...as their story sheepishly admits, half of their poll was conducted on Thursday night, before Kerry had delivered his acceptance speech! Moreover, their results differ on the two nights, with Kerry leading by 2 points in the pre-acceptance speech data and by 10 points in the post-acceptance speech data.

What possible excuse can there be for presenting these data as measuring Kerry's bounce from the convention, when the effect of the most important event of the convention isn't included in half the data? Perhaps there is one, but I can't think of it.

And that's not all that's wrong with their bounce measure. To make their sin even more egregious, the previous poll they use as a point of comparison is way too long ago (July 8-9) to be a real before/after comparison. What if the race was closer before the convention than it was on July 8-9? Then using July 8-9 as a point of comparison would further contribute to understating Kerry's bounce from the convention.

And in fact that appears to be the case. In the Gallup poll, Kerry was leading 51-44 on July 8-11 but only 49-45 on July 19-21. So using July 8-9 as the comparison period probably knocks several more points off Kerry's bounce.

I'm assuming that the Kerry campaign is blastfaxing the whores like crazy with the problems in this poll. if they're not, they're stupid. Once these things gel in the minds of the kewl kid chatterers it's almost impossible to get them to revise it.

Product Liability

One of the secrets of conservative America is how often it has welcomed Republican defeats.

That's no surprise. You have to be either a fool or a patriot to feel the duty to govern after a Republican has been in power. They come in to office, reward themselves and their rich friends, totally fuck up the country and then leave the mess for the Democrats to clean up. Then they use their time out of office assassinating the characters of the Democrats for fun and profit preparing the way for them to get back into office and fuck it all up again. These people are not interested in governing in a democratic system, which takes negotiation, compromise and patience. They are about power which requires far less complexity.

This merry-go-round reflects an aspect of the American character that works to its own disadvantage in more ways than one. We have no sense of the past except that which has been created by mythmakers and screenwriters. We simply do not remember what really happened even a few short years ago. Unlike the Europeans and the Chinese, for instance, who behave as if slights from the 14th century happened five minutes ago, we are oblivious to our own political past.

Think about this. The American people decisively repudiated George Bush Sr in 1992. He got only 37% of the vote. Seven years later the Republican party is actively courting his namesake for president without any sense whatsoever that his association with a man widely regarded as a failure just a few short years before could be a problem. It was actually seen as a strength. The marketing mavens of the GOP understood very well that the brand name was all that mattered. The product failure of a few short years before had long been forgotten.

I suppose that this would be expected in a country that prides itself on offering people the chance to reinvent themselves, but I think it might just be helpful to re-frame this as a matter of corporate liability. The GOP gets away with murder over and over again, leaving chaos in its wake and forcing the taxpayers to clean up mess after toxic mess --- savings and loan bailouts, record deficits, crumbling infrastructure, foreign wars and international threats. Their product is defective. They need to be held accountable.

Sensible Cowards

Atrios (who it's good to have back blogging in force) points out something that can't be repeated enough. With regard to the new faux moderate pundits on the right he says:

...pretending to support Kerry while doing little but bashing him, or supporting Kerry with the caveat that "we may all die if he's elected!!!" is mostly a way of preserving your street cred on both sides...

We know this because we've lived it. It's not nearly as prevalent this year as it has been before, but for years there was a veritable cottage industry out there of "liberal" writers who made an excellent living disparaging Democrats and often voting (with crocodile tears in their eyes) for Bush Sr., Dole and Junior. And there were many more who found it very convenient to jump on the conservative bandwagon whenever the DC zeitgeist went in that direction.This, as much as anything else, is what legitimized the modern GOP's scorched earth tactics. And, more than anything else it legitimized the presidency of George W. Bush. For instance, the liberal Richard Cohen, who saw where the wind was blowing back in November 2000 and wrote:

Given the present bitterness, given the angry irresponsible charges being hurled by both camps, the nation will be in dire need of a conciliator, a likable guy who will make things better and not worse. That man is not Al Gore. That man is George W. Bush."

I believe that it is that type of "sensible" punditry on the left that has validated for many the Republican propaganda that Democrats are weak and easily led. Here you have one of the leading voices of the left who consistently gets rolled by Republicans and then comes up rubbing his head months or years later asking "whuh happened?"

One of the perverse advantages of tagging the media in general as liberal, when they are actually easily duped by right wing spin, is that people consequently lose more respect for liberals than conservatives when that right wing spin is exposed. People expect politicians to be slimy. Journalism is supposed to expose it and when it doesn't people feel betrayed by the institution that let them down --- the media. Which they subconsciously associate with the word "liberal."

As Atrios pointed out in an earlier post, when Richard Cohen laments the lack of "leadership" that led him to agitate for the Iraq war, he seems to have no idea that he is one of the leaders. Indeed, to much of the country, with no single political voice to turn to, these writers became the most important voices of the left. It is another reason why it's so frustrating to see people discounting the real courage that it takes to throw yourself into the right wing meat grinder as a Democratic politician when it's the liberal pundits who ostensibly speak for them who are the cowards. They never had to face any angry, misinformed voters, they never had to have their lives laid open and picked over by the likes of David Bossie and Barbara Comstock. They didn't have to deal with Tom DeLay and James Inhofe or smile for 14 hours a day trying to raise enough money to compete with some multi-million dollar corporation in a suit. The worst thing that happens to them is that somebody calls them "shrill." And yet from their cushy perches atop the political hierarchy, they crumble like little old ladies at the first sign of GOP intimidation and eagerly adopt the "sensible" path that says these bullies should be given what they want.

Jon Stewart said it well in his show last night in which he admonished people not to listen to the pundits and the spinners (or even himself) but to make up their own minds. It's difficult to do. And, in a better world we'd be able to employ these well-connected writers to demystify the process and help us get to the truth. But, the reality is that many of them are actually participants, either knowingly or as useful idiots, and there are many more who are simply performers in the Political Show.

It is good politics for Democrats to separate the media in the minds of average voters from the political process, because as long as people hear the words "liberal media" (and the GOP will never stop saying it) they will associate liberalism with an institution that can no longer be respected. We have enough to do without having to carry the burden of the media's credibility problems on top of everything else.

Friday, July 30, 2004

Cognitive Dissidents

Buzzflash has a copy of the flyer urging Florida Republicans to cast an absentee ballot because:

The liberal Democrats have already begun their attacks and the new electronic voting machines do not have a paper ballot to verify your vote in case of a recount. Make sure your vote counts order your ansentee ballot today. Just sign the request form below and drop it in the mail. Don't be fooled by imitations. This is the official Republican Party absentee ballot request form.

This is post modern politics at its best. Up is down, black is white. We will tell you what is real. This is an example of the Republicans using the Democrats' own repetitive rallying cries against them. ("Political hate speech" is another good example.) It's brilliant because many people are apparently so goddamned stupid that they don't even have a second of cognitive dissonence when they see something like this. You can't really blame the GOP. It works.

I'm very glad that the Democrats have begun to fight back using some of these same techniques. Kerry and Edwards did it using the "Hope/Help is on the way" riff which was stolen directly from Cheney's convention speech in 2000. I thought it was weird. But, I've since realized that most people in the audience just felt a soothing sense of familiarily, kind of like when they hear old advertising jingles from their childhood. The jingle remains long after everybody's forgotten what it was selling in the first place.

Damn, I'm starting to pray that somebody out there is keeping track of reality because this is getting mighty difficult to follow.

Oppo Nerds

Michael Crowley in TNR has an interesting look at the GOP spin operation in Boston:

Example A was the headquarters Republicans installed a few blocks from the FleetCenter to coordinate their response to the Democrats. At center was a so-called war room--a dozen or so computer terminals arranged around a pair of TV sets, at which a team of young GOP staffers pulled up research on Democrats and skimmed the Drudge Report as they watched the convention. For maximum partisan effect, the office's walls had been festooned with blown-up quotes of Kerry saying various foolish or purportedly revealing things ("I'm a liberal and proud of it"), images of a recent Boston Herald front-page headline declaring John Kerry and John Edwards "left of ted," and, by Tuesday morning, multiple images of Kerry in that absurd blue nasa space suit. (Republicans seemed to consider this a defining moment in the campaign. Several staffers promptly made this photo their computer desktop image, and the office distributed a flyer juxtaposing the Kerry photo with the infamously goofy image of a tank-riding Michael Dukakis.)

The decor made the office feel more like a movie set than a place where actual politics was practiced. Indeed, the war room's main function seemed to be to attract reporters. During my two visits there, at least a half-dozen news organizations passed through, including a CNN team and a New York Times photographer. "Campbell Brown was over to shoot a package," bragged Galen, who takes credit for setting up the first opposition party office at a convention, back in 1984.


In the end, though, it's not clear just how much damage these GOP commandos managed to inflict. Yes, the GOP's surrogates blanketed television and radio nationwide--Iverson bragged to me that they intended to reach every "targeted" swing-state media market in the country by the end of the convention--but Republicans can always get themselves on television and radio to provide a GOP response to the speeches. Few mainstream journalists, however, bought the premise that Democrats were conducting an "extreme makeover" in the FleetCenter or that John Kerry is a hateful divider in league with Michael Moore. Ultimately, the GOP "war room" amounted to a cheap gimmick. But, for some, that seemed like enough. After a standing-room-only press briefing at GOP headquarters Wednesday morning, I ran into an excited Galen, still wearing his old gray sneakers. "Downstairs, we've got a guy with a sign that says, kerry response this way," he said gleefully. "So we've got them responding to our response!" He dashed back to his office to grab a camera. "I've got to get a picture of it," he said. I suggested that this back-and-forth was starting to feel like a game. He smiled and said, "It is!"

It's fascinating how they've put themselves on exhibit. I guess everybody's a star these days. But, it makes me wonder if there isn't another war room somewhere doing the actual oppo smear work.

Either way, this article somewhat misses the point about how this stuff works. Somethimes they can get lucky and get something into the media bloodstream right away that is irresistable and everybody can't stop talking about. But, mostly this crap is done through mindless repetition and filtration through the right wing media until it becomes a sort of soothing conventional wisdom. Easy on the ears. "That's what people think." They didn't need to make anything in particular "stick." All they are trying to do is keep the drumbeat.

They don't necessarily plan to take Kerry out with a one-two punch. It's a long drawn out series of accumulated jabs. If they can get a mediawhore like Jeff Greenfield to parrot their talking points verbatim that's just icing on the cake. Their real mission is to implant doubt.

Sacre Bleu!

The Carpetbagger Report brings to our attention the latest from our old friend Trent Lott as he cruises 90 miles an hour down the high road:

U.S. Sen. Trent Lott today told an enthusiastic Neshoba County Fair crowd that Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry is "a French-speaking socialist from Boston, Massaschusetts, who is more liberal than Ted Kennedy."

Well hell, that's a little redundant. All French speakers are socialists and all socialists speak French, everybody knows that. One can understand why Monsieur DeLay finds it necessary to distance himself from his embarrassing socialist forebearers.

Carpetbagger comments:

This is what political discourse among experienced GOP officials has come to. Kerry is a "French-speaking socialist." The only thing more disturbing about Lott's attack is that it's considered fairly normal in Republican circles and hasn't generated any real attention.

I can't help but wonder about yet another double standard. If a Democratic senator were to call Bush a "barely-literate fascist," would conservatives and the mainstream media just yawn and dismiss it as politics-as-usual?

And just to add some context to Lott's comment, it's not as if he got caught up in a moment and just blurted it out accidentally.

It was a line that Lott said he'd been working on for a while, and it produced loud applause from hundreds of Mississippians gathered at Founders' Square, the centerpiece of the historic fair.

We should have some pity. It's tough for those good ole boys down there. Trent finally learned that he can't use the N word anymore. And Bush won't let him go after the Mexicans. How's a fine son-o-the-south, CCC member supposed to fire up his base anymore?

He might want to think twice about saying some of this Frenchie stuff too far west, though. Next door in Louisiana they happen to have quite a few 'o them French speakers who might not cotton to French bashing.

I tell you, political correctness is what's killing this country.

Democrats are Cowards and Deviants

Notes on the Atrocities has the first news of the post speech right wing radio slime attack.

As one would expect, Limbaugh is obsessed with the hamster story. I have little doubt that he's giving a full account of the "high heels and hamster" snuff flick he "accidentally" downloaded last week-end. He's always got interesting information like that to share with his deeply religious audience.

Run For Your Lives!

Cheney said terrorists are as determined to destroy America as the "Axis powers" of Germany, Italy and Japan during World War II. Borrowing a quote from the 9-11 Commission's report on the terrorist attacks of Sept. 2001, the vice president said the terrorists are "sophisticated, patient, disciplined and lethal."

Jesus H. Christ. We really are one step away from proclaiming that terrorists are actually aliens from another planet replete with x-ray vision and the ability to fly.

As Juan Cole points out:

Although it may be true that al-Qaeda is as determined to destroy the US as the Axis Powers were in World War II, this observation is a Himalayan exaggeration if it is meant to suggest a parallel. Al-Qaeda is a few thousand fanatics mainly distributed in a handful of countries. If Zacharias Moussaoui and Richard Reid are any indication, a lot of them are one step away from from collecting old soda cans on the street in their grocery carts while mumbling about the radios the government implanted in their asses.

So while their determination may be impressive (or just creepy), they are not comparable to the might of three industrialized dictatorships with populations in the tens of millions. Some 13 million men served in the German army (Heer) alone between 1935 and 1945. (And WW II killed 55 million persons, not 3 thousand).

No shit. Islamic fundamentalism is a threat, but it is not an existential threat. And it is in no way comparable to World War II on any level.

You know, if these macho GOP pricks had really wanted to save the world from an existential threat you'd think they would have volunteered for the the hot war we fought in the midst of the cold war, wouldn't you? It's seems that only in their flaccid middle age that they got inspired to bloodlust and glory.

This theme is going to escalate through the fall and I would bet money that they will not hesitate to wag the dog. They have learned the valuable lesson that the media will jump on the jingo-wagon for at least a month after anything they do in the name of the GWOT. They also know that it doesn't matter what anyone says after November. Once they win, they win.

Howard Dean said yesterday on CNN that he still believed that this campaign was going to be the dirtiest in history because Bush was going to find himself behind in september and that meant the gloves would come off. I think he's right but I also think they are going to run on this fear track at the same time. They'll attempt to trivialize Kerry to make him look insubstantial while simultaneously escalating the fear mongering to prop up Crusader Codpiece. It's going to get ugly.

What VRWC?

So, it turns out that Sandy Berger didn't actually, you know, commit treason after all. Not that this is news. Steve Buscemi had many important political things to say these last two days and everyone is sooo hungover. Still, it would be nice if some of the papers, wire services and TV networks just mentioned that the entire case constructed by the right wing against Sandy Berger was a complete crock of shit.

Here's what Google news comes up with on the socks scandal:

Sandy Berger in trouble? Send in the media!
Town Hall, DC - Jul 28, 2004
... Consider the way the media treats the missing paper scandal involving former national security advisor Sandy Berger. In preparing ...

Sandy Berger: Setting The Record Straight
American Daily, OH - Jul 27, 2004
... And now, Sandy Berger, former President Clinton’s national security advisor, is under investigation for stealing top secret documents from the National ...

New York Post, NY - Jul 29, 2004
July 29, 2004 -- We cannot afford to let the Sandy Berger affair be swept aside in the coming months ("Secrets in His Socks," Editorial, July 21). ...

Sandy Berger Has The Media On His Side
American Daily, OH - Jul 27, 2004
... you still believed the news media was fair and unbiased in their coverage of news-worthy events, the coverage (or lack thereof) that Sandy Berger has received ...

Sandy Berger's most likely explanation for 'docs in his socks'
The Union Leader, NH - Jul 26, 2004
... explanation is the most likely one, particularly given the facts involved," Bill Clinton said in defense of former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger. ...

Sandy Berger's Smoking Gun Is Hidden in the 9/11 Report
Insight on the News, DC - Jul 27, 2004
The documents slipped out of the National Archives by Clinton National Security chief Sandy Berger included a draft in which Clinton antiterror chief Richard ...

Sandy Berger: A Case for Accountability
Washington Post, DC - Jul 23, 2004
... Did Sandy Berger violate the rules regarding the protection of classified information entrusted to him, and if he did, will he be held accountable for his ...

Sandy Berger, America's Newest Hero
Useless-Knowledge.com - Jul 22, 2004
I’ma little surprised the media hasn’t picked up on this. Sandy Berger was performing a service in the nations interest, he was testing security. ...

Who’s Behind the Timing of the Sandy Berger Investigation?
Aljazeerah.info - Jul 23, 2004
... I deal with classified documents every single day. We know better, and Sandy Berger knew better,” Saxby Chambliss, R-Georgia, told reporters. ...

What was in Sandy Berger’s Underwear?
Men's News Daily, CA - Jul 22, 2004
... with glee, as Democrats fall all over themselves, trying to diminish the fact that Bill Clinton’s former national security adviser, Sandy Berger, was caught ...

VRWC assholes and Aljazeerah.

Family In Need

Ridge tells colleagues he may retire:

Ridge, 58, has explained to colleagues that he needs to earn money to comfortably put his two children, Tommy Jr. and Lesley, through college, officials said. Both are now teenagers. Ridge earns $175,700 a year as a Cabinet secretary.

Maybe Mrs Ridge could get a job and clip some coupons or perhaps they could go on a budget.

I know it's tough to get by in these terrible times and I do feel for the Ridge family. But, is it really difficult to send your kids through school on just 175K a year these days? Hey, maybe he should require them to, you know, take out a loan or something. Or they could do what the Governator says all those kids who can't afford the state university in California anymore should do --- do two years at community college to save money.

I know it's class warfare to imply that the Republicans are out of touch with ordinary people's problems, but when cabinet officials complain that $175,000 a year is chicken feed and campaign operatives are telling people that if they don't like their jobs they should go on Prozac, you can see why people might get the wrong impression.

Nit Pickling The Times

In an otherwise good article about Kerry's speech in the NY Times Adam Nagourney edits one quote in a very bizarre fashion:

"In this campaign, we welcome people of faith: America is not us and them," he said. "I think of what Ron Reagan said of his father a few weeks ago, and I want to say this to you tonight: I don't wear my religion on my sleeve.

"But faith has given me values and hope to live by, from Vietnam to this day, from Sunday to Sunday,'' he said. "I don't want to claim that God is on our side.''

That's it. He leaves out the next line, "As Abraham Lincoln told us, I want to pray humbly that we are on God's side."

Without the follow-up, the line "I don't want to claim that God is on our side" sounds a little strange just hanging out there, don't you think?

I Gotcher Iconoclasm For Ya, Right Here

It is quite shocking that in his speech tonight Kerry didn't so much as mention our strategic situation with Egypt or explain the full ramifications of outsourcing, to be sure, but this seems a bit harsh. Gawd knows he should have at least produced a good long laundry list of arcane foreign policy goals to make the soaring oratory go down a little bit easier. But, hey, they can't all be riveting AEI seminars.

Seriously, I think that Matt simply doesn't like this type of political speech which is meant to engage the emotions not the intellect. Indeed, I was very worried that Kerry was going to do exactly what Matt wishes he had done. A State of the Union speech or a speech before the Army War College or something like that is the proper venue for addressing specific and detailed policy issues. A convention acceptance speech is like an inauguration speech. It's about inspiration not specifics.

That Kerry is being rapped for not being dry and wonkish enough is very good news for his electoral prospects.

Thursday, July 29, 2004


Robert George, conservative pundit for the NY Post, just said on Larry King that unless Junior gets his message together this speech may have been the acceptance speech of the next president of the United States. And the reason is that the speech is likely to appeal to swing voters. I feel strongly that this is correct --- and perhaps it is even more correct, although George won't admit it, that it may appeal to a fair number of moderate Republicans.

Ron Reagan's new article in Esquire (thanks Susie) explains why:

It may have been the guy in the hood teetering on the stool, electrodes clamped to his genitals. Or smirking Lynndie England and her leash. Maybe it was the smarmy memos tapped out by soft-fingered lawyers itching to justify such barbarism. The grudging, lunatic retreat of the neocons from their long-standing assertion that Saddam was in cahoots with Osama didn't hurt. Even the Enron audiotapes and their celebration of craven sociopathy likely played a part. As a result of all these displays and countless smaller ones, you could feel, a couple of months back, as summer spread across the country, the ground shifting beneath your feet. Not unlike that scene in The Day After Tomorrow, then in theaters, in which the giant ice shelf splits asunder, this was more a paradigm shift than anything strictly tectonic. No cataclysmic ice age, admittedly, yet something was in the air, and people were inhaling deeply. I began to get calls from friends whose parents had always voted Republican, "but not this time." There was the staid Zbigniew Brzezinski on the staid NewsHour with Jim Lehrer sneering at the "Orwellian language" flowing out of the Pentagon. Word spread through the usual channels that old hands from the days of Bush the Elder were quietly (but not too quietly) appalled by his son's misadventure in Iraq. Suddenly, everywhere you went, a surprising number of folks seemed to have had just about enough of what the Bush administration was dishing out. A fresh age appeared on the horizon, accompanied by the sound of scales falling from people's eyes. It felt something like a demonstration of that highest of American prerogatives and the most deeply cherished American freedom: dissent.

Oddly, even my father's funeral contributed. Throughout that long, stately, overtelevised week in early June, items would appear in the newspaper discussing the Republicans' eagerness to capitalize (subtly, tastefully) on the outpouring of affection for my father and turn it to Bush's advantage for the fall election. The familiar "Heir to Reagan" puffballs were reinflated and loosed over the proceedings like (subtle, tasteful) Mylar balloons. Predictably, this backfired. People were treated to a side-by-side comparison—Ronald W. Reagan versus George W. Bush—and it's no surprise who suffered for it. Misty-eyed with nostalgia, people set aside old political gripes for a few days and remembered what friend and foe always conceded to Ronald Reagan: He was damned impressive in the role of leader of the free world. A sign in the crowd, spotted during the slow roll to the Capitol rotunda, seemed to sum up the mood—a portrait of my father and the words NOW THERE WAS A PRESIDENT.

The comparison underscored something important. And the guy on the stool, Lynndie, and her grinning cohorts, they brought the word: The Bush administration can't be trusted. The parade of Bush officials before various commissions and committees—Paul Wolfowitz, who couldn't quite remember how many young Americans had been sacrificed on the altar of his ideology; John Ashcroft, lip quivering as, for a delicious, fleeting moment, it looked as if Senator Joe Biden might just come over the table at him—these were a continuing reminder. The Enron creeps, too—a reminder of how certain environments and particular habits of mind can erode common decency. People noticed. A tipping point had been reached. The issue of credibility was back on the table. The L-word was in circulation. Not the tired old bromide liberal. That's so 1988. No, this time something much more potent: liar.

I have no statistics and no data to support the idea that there are moderate republicans out there who are ready to jump, but like Ron Reagan, I have seen a vast amount of anecdotal evidence in my own life.

An investment banker friend of mine who reports that formerly rabid GOP colleagues will not vote for Bush again. He's perceived by these macho masters of the universe as a loser.

Veteran friends of my father who haven't voted for a Democrat since Truman cannot vote for Bush. His arrogance on the world stage is offensive to them.

Libertarian relatives who have never voted much but who are afraid of the Bush's overly warm embrace of the religious right and are talking to their friends about voting for Kerry.

An active Republican neighbor who is disturbed by the fact that there turned out to be no WMD in Iraq and expressed a very unusual desire to hear Kerry speak tonight.

I don't know if there are any significant numbers of these people out there, but I felt the same shift in the zeitgeist when all the accumulated weight of "mission acomplished" and "whoops no WMD" and "Abu Ghraib" and "hair on fire" all seemed to suddenly weigh down the Bush juggernaut and wake up all those people in the middle who had been floating along with the left-over 9/11 conventional wisdom.

Kerry's speech tonight spoke directly to those people, people who have serious concerns about whether a Democrat can adequately handle a national security crisis but who also see that things are not going well under Bush. Those people may have tuned in to see a Democrat speak tonight and saw a president instead.

John Kerry For President!

I think he absolutely nailed it. If you didn't know John Kerry before tonight, the impression you got was of a tough, fighting Democrat who is taking the battle right to George W. Bush. He pulled no punches and he gave no quarter. And I think he tapped into something that people of all political persuasion are experiencing --- the deeply felt need to feel a sense of pride in this country again.

And it sure sounded to me like he told everybody to play nice all week so that he could go for the jugular. This is the fighting spirit that people saw in Iowa and New Hampshire and I think the entire country saw it tonight. I loved it and I think Kerry's got exactly the right idea of how to run this campaign.

The bad news is that the total assholes of the media gave him exactly 5 seconds before they brought in the GOP shills to trash him -- Scarborough on MSNBC and Ed Gillespie on CNN. And Woodruff and Greenfield just blatantly started waving GOP talking points pointing out the shocking and disturbing fact that Kerry didn't give a detailed run down of his senate career. They didn't even try to hide it. Scum.


I'm a big fan of Wes Clark and I greatly enjoyed his speech. And it appeared on C-Span that the delegates liked him too. He will be part of the Kerry administration I have little doubt. His message tonight was simply that Democrats are patriots too, and we won't let anybody say otherwise. He made the case that Kerry is a leader and a fighter. I think that's effective politics. (In fact, he seemed to have channeled almost the exact words I wrote earlier in the day, weirdly. I guess I've always been on that guy's wavelength.)

Naturally, CNN navel gazed through it and didn't show it, but MSNBC did --- followed by some good initial reviews by the whores until they realized that they were being much too easy on him and they remembered the script called for him to be called half crazy and uninformed. Luckily, they could move quickly to Sharpton and discuss whether the campaign was mad at him for last night's speech and then rip him to shreds. (Whew. That was close.)

They're Comin' Ta Git Ya!

Fear of Death Wins Minds and Votes, Study Finds:

President Bush may be tapping into solid human psychology when he invokes the Sept. 11 attacks while campaigning for the next election, U.S. researchers said on Thursday.

Talking about death can raise people's need for psychological security, the researchers report in studies to be published in the December issue of the journal Psychological Science and the September issue of the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.


For their first study, Solomon, Greenberg and colleagues asked students to think about either their own death or a neutral topic.

They then read the campaign statements of three hypothetical candidates for governor, each with a different leadership style. One was charismatic, said Solomon.

"That was a person who declared our country to be great and the people in it to be special," Solomon, who worked on the study, said in a telephone interview.

The others were task-oriented -- focusing on the job to be done -- or relationship-oriented -- with a "let's get it done together" style, Solomon said.

The students who thought about death were much more likely to choose the charismatic leader, they found. Only four out of about 100 chose that imaginary leader when thinking about exams, but 30 did after thinking about death.

Greenberg, Solomon and colleagues then decided to test the idea further and set up four separate studies at different universities.

"In one we asked half the people to think about the September 11 attacks, or to think about watching TV," Solomon said. "What we found was staggering."

When asked to think about television, the 100 or so volunteers did not approve of Bush or his policies in Iraq. But when asked to think about Sept. 11 first and then asked about their attitudes to Bush, another 100 volunteers had very different reactions.

"They had a very strong approval of President Bush and his policy in Iraq," Solomon said.

Solomon, a social psychologist who specializes in terrorism, said it was very rare for a person's opinions to differ so strongly depending on the situation.

Another study focused directly on Bush and his Democratic challenger, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry.

The volunteers were aged from 18 into their 50s and described themselves as ranging from liberal to deeply conservative. No matter what a person's political conviction, thinking about death made them tend to favor Bush, Solomon said. Otherwise, they preferred Kerry.

Interesting. Regardless of the scientific accuracy of the study, it seems clear that the Republicans will ramp up the fear factor. If nothing else fear tends to stifle change, which has it's own fear factor --- the unknown. People tend to stick with the familiar in times of stress.

Look for the presstarts to subtly take up the theme for them. Scary reports are all over the media here in southern California about some nutball who poisoned some baby food. He supposedly used Ricin. A bioweapon. Like the terrorists got from Saddam. What would we do if terrorists put Ricin in our diet cokes? It could happen. News at eleven.

We can't run from this. Republicans are going to be flogging the "dangerous world" theme over and over again. I say we use that to our advantage. I firmly believe that Kerry can make the case that Bush doesn't know what he's doing on national security--- he failed to act on 9/11 and he overeacted on Iraq. He is a failure. He's made us less safe.

Thanks to the Donkey for the link.


This article in The Guardian discusses all the people we have "disappeared" in the GWOT. It's a very interesting article and reminds us of the stakes in this election.

Under military order No 1, issued by President Bush in November 2001, the president gave himself the right, in defiance of national and interna tional law, to detain indefinitely any non-US citizen anywhere in the world. Many ended up in Guantánamo where at least some of their names were discovered. Others simply vanished. They became in the US euphemism, "ghost prisoners", an unrecorded host held in secret, their detention denied, hidden from the Red Cross, legal or family access barred, their fate in the hands of unaccountable and unnamed US personnel.

Perhaps Kerry would make the same decision, but I have to assume that he's savvy enough, if not moral enough, to understand that these things can never be kept a secret. Imagine if you will the Republican congressional and senate hearings on this matter if President Kerry ordered such a thing and it became known. They went apeshit over Elian Gonzales, fergawdsake.

The article reminded me of perhaps the most sickening line ever uttered in an American presidential speech and one which should go down in infamy if there is any justice in this world:

In his state of the union address in February 2003, he said: "More than 3,000 suspected terrorists have been arrested in many countries. Many others have met a different fate. Put it this way, they're no longer a problem to the United States and our friends and allies."

Notice that even he used the word "suspected." His movie script tough guy lines may sound cute to some but when you actually look at that statement, and realize that he gave it in a national address before the US congress, he sounds like a sociopath.

Good thing this politics thing doesn't matter. Did Teresa say anything kooky today?

One-Two Punch

I just love the good cop/ bad cop schtick that Carlson and Novak are playing on Crossfire. They really should take this show on the road.


Novack: There are many charges that John Kerry has falsified his military records and falsified his medals. Shouldn't he release his records to prove that this is not true? All he has to do is sign form XSXX and he can put all these rumors to rest.

Carville/Begala: !!!!%%##@$##@!!!!

Carlson: See, doesn't this prove just how unseemly all this talk of Vietnam is -- a war that happened decades ago and is completely irrelevant to anything people care about today?

First you spew some wild and unsubstantiated charges and then come back with the soothing bromide that Vietnam doesn't really matter, thus creating the impression that Kerry is even worse than Bush about lying about his record while simultaneously using that same accusation as the rationale for ignoring Kerry's real record as a war hero.

Very slick.

One thought about this constant refrain I'm hearing today from GOP whores about the irrelevance of Kerry's Vietnam service. Woodruff practically grabbed Max Cleland by the throat and demanded that he tell her why in Gawd's name we should even give a second thought to this boring Vietnam crapola.

Might I suggest that people say that when a man runs for president his past is his resume. Kerry's Vietnam experience is a demonstration of his courage, his judgment, his leadership and his coolness under pressure. Those facets of his character were clear when he was a young naval officer and they were present when he was a federal prosecutor and they are present in the US Senate. These are the traits a man needs to lead this country in times of great challenge both here and at home.

That's what the whores need to hear. It's obvious, I know, but they have been given their talking points and they won't shut up until you shut them up.

Warrior Nation

Ruy Teixeira posts some interesting observations by Frank Newport of Gallup which seem to indicate that Kerry should concentrate on the economy instead of terrorism:

The public's rating of the economy's direction is significantly worse in states that are considered to be Democratic or battleground states than in states considered to be safe for the Republicans. In other words, the economy has a high probability of being of the most importance in precisely the states Kerry must win in order to become president.

As noted, independent voters are more likely than Republicans to say the economy is the top problem they will consider in their presidential vote.

There is evidence from data analysis from three key showdown states that voters' perceptions of the economy in their state is related to their propensity to vote for Kerry.

Texeira endorses the idea that Kerry should run the fall campaign on the economy and maybe he's right. My feeling, however, is that the issue of who should be commander in chief in an era of terrorism, which will be endlessly and repetitively flogged by the GOP, is actually a proxy for the concept of "leadership" and that kind of "leadership" is something that people, particularly undecideds and mushy swingsters, are likely to see as dispositive.

I have no doubt that most people when asked what issue they "care about" the most say they the economy or jobs or health care. But, voting is a more complicated equation than where politicians stand on the issues no matter how much people in focus groups claim otherwise. (Frank Luntz certainly knows this.) And swing voters in particular are looking for certain personal characteristics because if they had any kind of political philosophy they would choose a party and vote for that party's candidate. (Most independents actually vote consistently for one party.) In America 2004, the warrior king will beat the policy wonk. That's the zeitgeist.

I'm reminded of the 2002 election in which the polls all stated that people really wanted to talk about kitchen table issues. Then Bush launched his "triumph of the will" tour and engaged the emotion of people with a lot of pomp and pageantry. We came close, but no cigar. I'd hate to see that happen again.

I think this is a gladiator fight not a civil debate. We should battle Bush on his own turf this time out.

Straight Eye For The Queer Dem Guy

Jeffrey Daubner at the TAPPED convention blog ferrets out the first reports of how the RNC is deftly planning to spin the convention and convey, in yet another new way that the Democrats are weak and sissified:

C-SPAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE BRIEFING, 1:50 P.M.: The RNC sure puts on an effective press conference. Rudy Giuliani, Ed Gillespie, and former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld fire away on the DNC and tout the upcoming Republican National Convention. The room is packed with supporters cued to explode at Giuliani’s line, “I don’t need Michael Moore to tell me about September 11.”

You can really see how well the media’s conventional wisdom plays into their talking points; the meme that the DNC has been all about putting Bush-bashing aside and presenting a moderate, unified Democratic Party is just a short step away from the RNC spin that the Democratic Party is “running away" from its record.” Giuliani even has a well-scripted and well-delivered response to the question of what makes the Republican convention less of a “makeover” than the Democratic convention: “I haven’t had a makeover. I’ll be the same as I’ve always been and so will all the speakers.”

And on the bottom of the screen, C-SPAN runs the message, “For more information: www.demsextrememakeover.com.” Not the Bush-Cheney and Kerry-Edwards Web sites; not the RNC’s anti-Kerry Web site and the DNC’s convention Web site; just the RNC’s attack site. Even through C-SPAN, they put together a very slick package.

Their methods are always very slick and their message is always consistent and it's always delivered with the requisite derisive tone. Everything plays into the subliminal theme that Kerry and the Democratic party are effeminate cowards.

He Doesn't Even Know What A Racist, Elitist Pig He Is

Salon.com Politics:

Following Edwards, and as a prelude to nominating Kerry, the multiracial hip-hop group Black Eyed Peas came out to perform their hit, "Let's Get It Started." Flipping channels to try and catch the performance, I found that the only network carrying it uninterrupted was Fox News. And just as I was getting suspicious about why Fox News was giving a hip-hop group time that could have been handed over to their pundits, the song ended and Fox anchor Brit Hume came back and said, "The Black Eyed Peas with their rendition of a song that's popular in the swing states, especially the refrain 'Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,' which the Kerry campaign believes will have particular resonance.

Spin Bitches

In yet another fine report from Eric Boehlert in Salon he notes, as I did last night, that Wolf Blitzer immediately cut to GOP spin after Edwards' speech.

One other note about CNN's at-times head-scratching coverage last night. Following Edwards' acceptance speech, Blitzer, in what may have been a convention first, immediately turned to partisan representatives from the opposing party for a reaction; Bush campaign advisor Ralph Reed and former Bush Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke.

We'll be watching closely during the Republican gathering in New York City to see if following Vice President Dick Cheney's speech, CNN immediately seeks out Kerry advisor Mark Mellman and former Clinton spokesman Joe Lockhart for their analysis.

Atrios mentioned tracking disparities in spin opportunities earlier in the week. Maybe before the GOP convention we could prevail upon Uggabugga to do one of his great charts so we can keep track of this stuff.

This is becoming a favorite new trick. Fox did it during the Democratic primary debates they hosted (and even cut off the last of the debate itself to fit in Bill Bennett's trashing before the end of the hour.) I have no idea if Reed and Clarke were previously booked for the slot or if they themselves arranged to be there at the appropriate moment. But, the fact remains that the first interview and reaction (and it went on for some time) that was shown on CNN after Edwards' speech last night was from a highly critical Republican operative. If they do this again tonight I think we should make it our cause to demand that Democrats be given the same opportunity to immediately trash Cheney and Bush's speeches in NYC before anybody has had a chance to even catch their breath. Very often, people stay tuned in for just a few moments after an event like that. Those moments can be critical.

Compassionate Conservatism

If anyone wonders if the "Republicans don't give a shit about Homeland Security" line is political cant, Kevin at Catch notices that the right is now openly trashing firefighters and police now. Interesting tactic. He quotes the ever irrelevant Michelle Malkin:

First Responder Fetishists. In her convention remarks on Monday night, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton said the first homeland security priority in response to the 9/11 report was the "need to fully equip and train . . . our first responders in the event of a terrorist attack." Eager to suck up to men and women in uniform, John Kerry has proposed adding 100,000 first responders to the ranks of firefighters and emergency medical personnel nationwide. As I have said before, there is no question that our brave firefighters, cops and emergency personnel need increased training and support -- but dialing 911 is not the solution to stopping another 9/11.

Lucianne's drunken mistake says:

And while I'm at it, I cannot stand this talk about funding "first-responders" as a defense against terrorism. Obviously, there's good reason to have an adequate infrastructure and all that. But it's not a defense in the war on terrorism. To me it's like telling your kid to defend himself from bullies on the way to school by giving him extra bandaids to carry with him.

They're right, of course. Funding first responders is not a defense against terrorism. It's a defense against thousands of people dying unnecessarily in a terrorist attack.

To hell with that pussified nonsense. The more people who die in a big blue city terrorist attack the better. Dead bodies make good GOP politics. I think they've proven that.

If The Shoe Fits

According to Tom Shales, "the networks have got to look for a better convention story than the hoary old bore about how conventions don't matter any more. It makes them sound like shills for the corporate front offices, who hate to lose an hour of profit-making pap even in the middle of summer."


Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Empowering Muslim Grrrls

I take it that Barbara Ehrenreich is using a rhetorical device when she suggests that Kerry and Edwards adopt this line rather than the "manly" veteran image they're conveying, but some of the ideas within her piece are correct on the merits and contain some smart politics.

I think adding "human rights for women" into the foreign policy and terrorism debate is smart. Bush and his merry band certainly thought it was a good idea in selling Afghanistan. Unfortunately, they have made things worse for the women in Iraq in many ways, while only marginally improving things in Afghanistan (in the areas in which the religious zealotry of the Taliban has really been routed.)

This is an issue that most people can agree that we could possibly affect positively if done respectfully and it is also one which all but the most zealous fundamentalists in the US can agree upon regardless of political ideology. It has the added virtue of being one real, although complicated, approach to dealing with Islamic terrorism.

Nice Work If You Can Get It

According to Jonathan Chait there is actually a type of journalism in which you don't have to leave your desk and go out amongst the human race --- my least favorite thing to do. He and Franklin Foer call it "ass-welt reporting." It consists of "sitting behind a desk, mining the papers for interesting factual nuggets, reading political commentary from every perspective, poring through books and reports, and using the Nexis database to compile enormous stacks of newspaper stories." He says, "It means you've sat in your chair for so long reading books and documents that you've worn a welt the shape of your backside into your chair."

And you get paid, too. Sweet.

Actually, his article is a very interesting take on what I would say is true of all conventions and trade shows. If you aren't a good networker or a star they are exhausting and dead boring. I've been to my share and I can tell you they're not for the shy and retiring.

Of course, you can always just get shitfaced.

Via the Political Animal

Message Machinery

Matt Stoller has an excellent post up on The Blogging of the President about the media role at the convention. This is the kind of inside look at "how thing work" that I've been waiting to read. He talks to Sean Hannity:

"Why are you here, Sean Hannity?"
"To annoy you."
"Seriously, why are you here?"
"Because this is newsworthy.... It's what we do, cover stuff like this."

Later in the conversation, I asked him if any news will be made at the Convention. He gestured to himself and said, "The best part of the Convention is right here. This is uncontrolled and spontaneous." And that's the thing. These guys see themselves as newsmakers.

Well, they are bigger celebrities than pretty much anybody there, aren't they? (And, please nobody tell me that is meaningless because it just isn't.)

Matt goes on to describe how Ed Gillespie managed to use the Democratic media infrastructure today to efficiently get their message out. It's almost funny. But, in the end, he has an insight that I think is very, very astute:

...these guys know why they are here, and no one else except the Kerry campaign does. This is about message for them. They aren't part of the media, they are part of the Bush reelection campaign. And as a result, they are looking at this Convention just like the Kerry campaign is - as an opportunity to generate and propagate prepackaged message.

I'm becoming much less interested in the question about journalists versus bloggers for precisely this reason. I'm not convinced there's any journalism going on here. This is about fighting over message - meanwhile there's a conversation out there, somewhere.

There is absolutely no journalism going on there. (And, frankly, there's not much blogging going on either. Wherever the conversation is it isn't taking place in the blogosphere.) What we are watching from out here is a fight to get competing messages out to the American people by hook or by crook.

It's about media manipulation and marketing and the Republicans are very, very good at it. Their biggest problem is that they are selling an extremely defective product. If they win it will be a true testament to their message machine.

Traitors and Spinners

Please shoot me if I ever, ever forget how loathesome Joe Lieberman really is. The TAPPED convention blog fills us in on his latest reprehensible, deplorable GOP ass-kissing:

FOX NEWS, 9:27 P.M.: Which is the bigger disgrace: Joe Lieberman's recent decision to join the reconstituted Committee on the Present Danger, or Joe Lieberman's just-finished performance on Hannity and Colmes? Bad-mouthing the convention delegates, brushing off Florida 2000 as water under the bridge, criticizing Al Gore specifically for his post 9-11 speeches and Democrats in general for their criticisms of Bush ('I've felt more comfortable here, where it's all scripted, then I have been with what's been said leading up to the convention') -- he was a gift that kept on giving, for segment after segment. Hannity loved him.

It could actually be worse, though. On CNN they have Ralph Reed on immediately spinning the speech before the Democrats have a chance to do it from their perspective ... and, of course, it's now 11pm in the east and people are tuning out. I just hate this he said/she said format. Although I don't know that it's any improvement having Chris Matthews and Howard Fineman spewing pre-fab conventional wisdom.

Once again, it's time to turn the television off.

Copy Cats

Does anyone think it was weird for Edwards to use the call and response "Hope Is On The Way" when four years ago the Cheney's signature chant was "Help Is On The Way?"

Maybe they did it just to bug him.

Sharpie's Speech

Can someone explain to me why it is so hard for the major anchors to get basic facts right? Tom Brokaw just gave a big dissertation about how the campaign has to be careful that Sharpton not be perceived the way Buchanan was for his aggressive speech in San Diego when he ran against Bob Dole in 1996.

Gosh, if he does it really shouldn't be a problem because Buchanan's speech was actually in Houston in 1992 when he ran against Bush Sr.

The fact is that Buchanan's speech was just one of many red meat speeches in prime time in 1992. And, one of the reasons why Buchanan's speech was taken so seriously is because he had almost WON the New Hampshire primary that year and represented an ascendant movement within the GOP at the time. I don't know if Sharpton even won five percent of the vote anywhere he ran.

People understand who Sharpton is. He's a red meat speaker but he represents nothing more than entertainment. He has no influence in the party.

Update: Embarrassing mistakes which I shall not reveal corrected in the above.

Convention Stringer Report

Who needs to go to the convention when you have actual local Democratic activists who are willing to go for you and write it up from the comfort of their own home, (thus avoiding all that scrambling for diet coke and wireless access?)

I am very pleased that Samela, prolific blog and forum commenter and extremely smart person, agreed to write up her impressions for me today of an invitation-only meeting on terrorism. I remain comvinced that this issue is really the only issue on which this election will be won or lost and I have been very curious as to how the Kerry campaign can hone their message going into the stretch as well as how they will aproach this difficult problem once in office. Bush will have left us with a terrible, intractable problem that goes far beyond holding hearings about how screwed up the CIA is.

Here is Samela's report. It's quite interesting. (And she got a real, live scoop too.)

As promised, a recap of the panel "On the Status of National Security and the War on Terror" we were able to attend this morning at Suffolk University Law School.This was the kind of deeply substantive discussion that doesn't hit the convention floor, nor alas even the general media ... though it definitely should. It was at once sobering and hopeful--hopeful that is, in the reassurance that Kerry's advisors and (perhaps to a lesser extent)Democratic members of the Armed Services committees really "get it." Despite the enormous problems a Kerry administration will face in these areas, the starkly different approach they will  take can only ameliorate the situation.

The panel was moderated by Massachusetts Rep. Marty Meehan who is the ranking Democrat on the House subcomittee on Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities. Also from the House were old-timers John Murtha, Rep. of Pennsylvania, who is ranking Democrat on the Defense Appropriations Subcomittee (and by way of interest, the first Vietnam Vet to have been elected to congress); and Ike Skelton, Rep. from Missouri, who is ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee. From the military side were Wesley Clark and 3-star Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy.

Each panelist gave a brief opening statement. Murtha stressed two things: how the Bush administration had submitted a budget that (for political reasons) contained absolutely no money for personnel and equipment needs. They'd been borrowing from various agencies because they didn't want to ask, and the House had to pass $25 billion in appropriations for the most basic needs. His other point, a la Michael Moore, was that working-class people are fighting this war, and that it is a REAL war.

Clark hit on three points that I suspect will crop up in his Thursday speech to the convention. First was the "totally misguided" strategy the Bush admin. has been using for the "war" on terror--namely, the use of the military as a primary tool in this effort and the conviction that you have to go after states. The "right" strategy would be to focus on protection at home first and on working with other nations to get a legal definition of terrorism and a legal international framework in which to pursue it. Second, he blasted Rumsfeld's idea in 2001 of a military transformation. All the things had already been done by the Clinton administration, according to Clark; the "real" issue for military transformation, he claimed, was (and is) to create both the organizational structure and doctrine for peace building (both preventatively and after military actions). Finally, he spoke about how the administration has overstreched the volunteer force concept, which is at huge risk.

Ike Skelton stressed that there are two wars, and we damned well shouldn't confuse them: the terrorist threat and unconventional warfare, which has now spread throughout the world after failed Bush strategy; and the war in Iraq, which he thankfully called "a war of choice." He explained how he'd sent Bush two letters in March 2003 warning of the aftermath, but was assured by the Pentagon not to worry. He gave some historical perspective on how the British handled guerilla warfare in Malaysia and how we tried to do it in Vietnam, but I kind of lost him at this point.

Kennedy was a real breath of fresh air, and clearly a truly progressive thinker. She first spoke about how one flaw in government we can fix with Kerry is how we come to decisions. Usually this process is crisis-driven.We need a much more sophisticated process that is more "granular" and shaded. Echoing Clark a bit, she spoke of the RAMP (Relevance of American Military Report), which clearly suggested we need some kind of "hand off" after military action, whether to the State Department or other agencies. The military is neither resourced nor trained to do these things, and often the military solution is not the appropriate first step. Finally, she explained how we understand hardware very well but not what Joseph Nye called the "soft elements of power"--abstract ways of mapping out the world (like, say, how receptive other countries are to our ideas) instead of counting weapons systems. She also, thankfully, said she felt it was unhelpful to use the "war on X" language,and that we needed to develop new vocabulary. She also stressed that we need to expand the notion of national security to include education, health care, the economy (both ours and the "bad guys'"), etc. Oh ... and she said we should invite a greater range of voices, not just the boardrooms of the defense contractors. This is a beautiful woman (both intellectually and physically), and I am so glad she is one of Kerry's military advisors.

A reporter from the Boston Globe asked an infuriating question about how the Democrats could counter this perception that the Bush administration was stronger on NS. Even more distressing was the response from the Congressmen on the panel. Murtha suggested the American public understands this president has lost trust, while Skelton, focusing again on how the preponderance of deaths are coming from towns under 20,000, said the American people know who is paying the price. Clark seemed to suggest we need to be a bit more overt in pointing out the incompetence of the Bush administration in matters of NS, as opposed to the competence a Kerry administration would bring. The generals were both more political, it would seem, than the Congressmen.

Next question was about a plan for Iraq on November 3, when Kerry was elected. Murtha said Egyptian generals told him we need to pull more troops out of cities, one by one, and let the Iraqis take over completely while we protect perimeter lines, logistics, etc. Clark said we have to go beyond this, because the problem is not just Iraq. He explained how Bush created a dynamic of conflict in the whole region, not just Iraq. The Syrians and Iranians, having been threatened by us, now have a vested interest in our NOT succeeding, because they know if we do they're
next (with Bush). He said we must talk to governments in the whole region, and that it was imperative to return to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Meehan said Kerry was going to immediately convene a world summit with international leaders. Kennedy talked about "microcredit," a concept I don't fully understand, but I think involves economic development funding to an entrepreneurial class in Iraq for developing community-based projects.

Clark returned to the notion of needing a full-fledged agency for preventing conflicts, a subject he discussed at some length, and which apparently has been the upshot of our initial experience in Haiti.

The last question was from a physician who had been redeployed to Kuwait, at age 58! It was about the Reserves and the strain on this system. This opened a pretty hot and heavy discussion of the draft, which Murtha thought was coming come hell or high water. Which Clark said, more cautiously, we had to have plans for, but "Plan A" should be increasing active duty size by 40,000 and putting more money into recruitment, which is apparently an exact science.

Kennedy was most intriguing. She suggested two things we should think about. First, women apparently are treated differently than men when requesting training assignments. A male wishing to be a military police is assigned for school immediately. Women are delayed for six months, which usually means we lose them. If we really seriously want to include women, we need to consider current practices and attitudes. Second, the needs we currently have in personnel are identical to the number of gay and lesbian personnel who have been discharged recently. Do the math. And these people were often highly trained, some speaking Arabic or
having intelligence skills.

That's all! Summary: the Generals seemed to be more out-of-the-box thinkers and more politically inclined than the Congressmen, who were fairly territorial about their little corners of committees. That said, Murtha and Skelton, who are pretty conservative guys I think, have clearly been converted, and truly see the dangers and mistakes the Bush administration has wreaked. Oh, and Murtha said passing the Patriot Act was the worst thing he'd done in his life, tho I think
it was an excuse for wanting to "go slow" on implementing the 9/11 Commission's recommendations.

There were about 200 people at this event, all pretty much the dark suit and tie crowd. I believe this was invitation only, and some seemed to be delegates, some
may have been local hi-tech security company executives--a subject, thankfully, little broached (necessary as these firms are).

Very interesting, I think. A few points stand out to me.

Everybody acknowledges that a draft is on the table although Clark thinks troop levels can be raised with a more sophisticated type of recruitment. I really thought this was a political argument not a real position. It's big deal if it's being seriously considered.

The shortage of troops exactly correlate to the numbers of gays and lesbians drummed out of the military. Very intriguing talking point.

General Claudia Kennedy sounds like an excellent prospect to run for office.

But the big news is that Marty Meehan says that Kerry will immediately call for a world summit if he's elected.

Remember folks, you heard it here first.


Much Too Foreign

If anyone is interested in reading the official pork-rinds 'n Dr Pepper response to Teresa, Lord Saletan is channelling Karl Rove for money over on Slate.

Geez. Even Chris Matthews gave Teresa a "European actress" accolade. But then, Lord Saletan is really jest a good ole boy from Texas pretending to be a member of the aristocracy, kinda like the "authentic" George W. Bush is a blue blooded WASP pretending to be a shit-kickin' cowboy. These post-modern politics sure are confusing.

As Compared To Junior's favorite, "Itsy Bitsy Spider"

Eric Boehlert claims that one of the following will be Kerry's theme song tomorrow night:

Thunder Road, Bruce Springsteen
Waitin' on a Sunny Day, Springsteen
Travelin' Band, Credence Clearwater Revival
Hey Ya! Outkast
Beautiful Day, U2
No Surrender, Springsteen
Johnny B. Goode, Chuck Berry
I Won't Back Down,Tom Petty
Simply the Best, Tina Turner
Closer to Free, BoDeans
Young Americans, David Bowie

C'Mon. It's gotta be "No Surrender."

First Woman Prez

Jenny Greenleaf, who's blogging the convention for The The American Street has an interesting post up today reporting on the Revolutionary Women meetings of yesterday. At a panel discussion on women in the political media featuring Eleanor Clift, Renee Loth from the Boston Globe, and Helen Thomas there was a discussion of when there would be a woman president.

Clift said that women don't have the powerbase or the money right now and Renee Loth quoted Frank Luntz as saying that the first woman president would have to be a "sister-mister" --- a woman holding more traditionally male beliefs. I translate that to mean Republican and I fear that Luntz is right.

The problem for women presidential candidates in America is national security. After all, even Democratic war heroes have a hard time getting past the "soft" image on this and the Republicans work it to perfection. If there are national security issues on the table a Democratic woman would have to fight not only the normal cultural stereotypes but a vicious onslaught from the Republicans with a plethora of hints and innuendo about being "shrill, hysterical, unbalanced" etc. A Republican woman, on the other hand, would be blessedly free of such character assassination because the Democrats would never stoop that low.

Once the barrier is broken, however, I think all that falls away and a woman of either party can run on her own terms. But, sadly, considering the much greater talent available on the Democratic side, I do think our first woman president is likely to be a fairly conservative Republican.

On the other hand, if it fails to happen in the next 20 years then I think that formulation may very well be wrong. I don't sense that young people hold as many stereotypical views of gender as those of forty and over, so if it's 2022, this entire argument may very well seem completely archaic. I hope so, anyway.

The Conservative Convention

Andrew Sullivan apparently hasn't been listening to Democrats much in the last few years. I suppose it's not surprising. It's so much more entertaining to listen to Republicans and the media talk about Democrats than to actually listen to them. And it's rare to hear Democrats give speeches unfiltered by the yammering of pundits and stooges who tell you what you are supposed to think about it before it's even delivered.

But, for at least a decade --- and certainly in this election cycle --- Democratic rhetoric has been hitting all the themes you are hearing at this convention. Sullivan notes self-reliance, opportunity, hard work, an immigrant's dream, the same standards for all of us --- and seems surprised that Democrats would say such things. (I would add tolerance, fairness, and compassion, among others.) Perhaps he never heard the phrases "...those who work hard and play by the rules," or "our families have values. But our government doesn’t." How about, "it’s time for a new approach that trusts people to make the most of their own lives and gives them the chance to do so."

Some politicians do it better than others, to be sure. Those lines above are from Clinton and Edwards. Obama was very skillful at it also, as Sullivan notes. But, the themes are not new; they've been the staple of Democratic appeals since the early 90's. It's been many a year (if ever) since Democrats were standing on a stage anywhere shouting "bring down the state!"

Sullivan's ongoing theme is that this Democratic convention is actually "conservative." He seems to be preparing for the inevitable "I didn't leave my party, it left me" rationale so perhaps it makes him feel better to think this. But, he is, of course, using the wrong word. This convention isn't "conservative."

It is mainstream.

RIP Blogspot

It appears that the glory days of blogging are over. It is now the domain of those who are paid to write and the rest of us mooks are no longer relevant.

Ah well. It was fun while it lasted.

I knew I should have gone to that damned convention...

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Thank You Jesus

The great Neal Pollack is blogging the convention. Well sort of. He's across the state line somewhere holed up in a motel. But, he's got the stories and he's got the feel and he's got the inside track.

This, my friends, is convention blogging at its best:

Greetings From BAHS-TON
Boston. City of Light. The Big Easy. Hog Butcher to the World. At last, then, it's come to this. I suppose you could say, technically, that I'm not in Boston. Or in Massachusetts, for that matter. The Democratic National Committee, which, I want to interject, has been nothing but accommodating toward my fellow bloggers and me, couldn't get me a hotel room closer than Connecticut. But I'm staying right on the state line, close enough to smell the Democratic process, and my credentials allow me to cross into the Granite State whenever I want. So what are my thoughts on the convention thus far? Pretty minimal. My laminates instruct that I'm only supposed to watch the first 15 minutes of every televised hour on MSNBC. But I can say that I'm very impressed by Barack Obama, the senatorial candidate from Illinois. For many years now, I've been saying to myself that the Democrats need a strong black leader who isn't really black. Obama strikes me as our Colin Powell, without the military record or the history of lying to the United Nations. Hang on. I'm getting an Instant Message from a friend of mine blogging live from the convention floor. Max Cleland just wheeled by! Incredible. [10:52 a.m. ET, July 26, 2004]

There's more. He saw Wonkette, too. And he's asking the big questions, like why in the world isn't Michael Moore getting more attention?

Will She Play In Peoria

Dear Gawd.

On Matthews right now, Andrea Mitchell is defending Teresa saying that women can relate to her statement that she dreams of the day when women are not called opinionated but are called smart and well informed like men are. Joe Scarborough says that it won't play in Peoria and that many people who know and love John Kerry are "horrified" by Teresa. Mitchell says that's why there's a gender gap. Willie Brown says people are looking for a breath of fresh air. Fineman(of course) splits the difference and says she's been a great philanthropist but that she's "too complicated" for many people.

Look for the Scarborough line tomorrow: she's an enigma, wrapped in a riddle. A freak. Stay-at-home moms hate her. The Dems will come back with "you go girl."

On CNN Aaron Brown is recapping the day with the view that Democrats are afraid to deal with the issue of Iraq and Teresa is strange but kinda sexy (in a European actress sort of way.)

On Fox (I'm guessing) they are still burning Hillary in effigy.

It's time to turn off the television.

Da Man!

Well now. I just felt the hair on the back of my neck stand right on end. Obama is the real thing. His speech was moving, articulate and exciting. He looks great, he sounds great --- he is great. The Republicans needn't bother finding a replacement for their swinging millionaire. We have seen the new face of the Democratic party. If his political skills are as good as his rhetorical skills he is an automatic contender for president someday.

Makes me proud to be a Democrat.

Oh, and his wife is beautiful, too.  Bring up their two little girls and I'll probably start blubbering.  

Can They Eke Out A Win With This Tired Junk?

Go for Wedge Issues, Gingrich Tells Lawmakers

One GOP lawmaker told The Hill that Gingrich encouraged Republicans to pick issues such as school prayer, strengthening work requirements for welfare recipients and barring the United Nations from monitoring U.S. elections, which all polled at higher than an 80 percent rating.

“There’s a consensus developing among activists that new issues are emerging where [the polling] is decidedly with us,” the lawmaker said. “We can show a contrast.”

Gingrich spelled out his views at a meeting last week organized by House GOP Conference Chairwoman Deborah Pryce (R-Ohio), the fourth-ranking member of the GOP House leadership.

Lawmakers who attended Wednesday’s session expressed excitement about Gingrich’s policy proposals and political tactics.

Rep. Phil English, a Republican who represents Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge’s old district in northwestern Pennsylvania, said: “It is extremely useful in depicting Kerry’s position on the political spectrum to raise issues like welfare reform where he’s been on the far-left extreme.”

He added, “We have a very good wedge issue. … It’s worth asking why he is part of a rear-guard action blocking the permanency of welfare reform. Is he not out of touch with cultural issues of the rest of the country?”

Luckily, they have William Schneider on CNN today warning everybody that there's some "bad news" about Kerry.

SCHNEIDER: The other polls that we've seen nationally, all of them show Kerry slightly ahead, all within the margin of error. This is the first poll we've seen in some time that shows Bush even slightly ahead. Again, within the margin of error. This could be bad news for John Kerry. The first bad news, because it seems to suggest that all that money that Bush has spent on negative advertising, some of those points are sinking in and voters are paying attention to Kerry, knowing that he's going to get the nomination, and beginning to say, wait a minute, is this guy really a flip-flopper, is he really a Massachusetts liberal? This could be bad news.

WOODRUFF: We'll continue to see the other polls that come out. We always look at a collection of them and see what they mirror...

SCHNEIDER: This is an outliner right now, but the question is, will this be the beginning of bad news?

Gosh, what's he talking about? Is there some bad news about Kerry? Is he a flip-flopping liberal who loves cross dressing welfare queens? There's must be something wrong...

The Right Man To Head The Party Redux

"This is not a roomful of Democratic party regulars," Dean opened, and the crowd roared its agreement. So he introduced them to Will Rogers' standard party punchline, 'I'm not a member of any organized political party, I'm a Democrat.' But Dean didn't play it for laughs. 'Everybody always laughs at that, but we'll laugh ourselves right out of existence,' he warned, if Democrats and progressives don't do the serious work of organizing a base.

"It's not enough to vote, I want you to run for office," he told the crowd. 'If you can't run for office, if you're a single mother, give three hours a week to someone else's campaign. Cough up five, 10, 25 dollars.' He stopped short of former campaign manager Joe Trippi's call for John Kerry to abandon the public financing system and rely on a small-donor Internet base, but he did say "the best campaign finance reform is raising money from small donors. That's how we take this country back."


In his second speech, Dean whipped the crowd into a cheering frenzy by noting that "Bill Clinton was the only guy to balance the budget. If it takes a liberal to balance the budget, well then we need a liberal in the White House, because you can't trust this government with your money." And it was hard not to marvel at this lefty crowd cheering over a balanced budget.

But Dean also respected the group's desire to build its own infrastructure, not merely become foot soldiers for the Kerry-Edwards ticket. He lauded both men, and asked the crowd to "put your heart and soul into electing them," but he also insisted they do more than work for the top of the ticket. "We have to undo 20 years of neglecting the Democratic party infrastructure," he said.

I truly believe that if Howard Dean can be persuaded to take over the chairmanship of the Democratic Party he could change everything. He is really a wholesale politician and as such can actually make the party be more responsive to the grassroots, but even more importantly in my book, he can begin the necessary liberal education project that can change the way this country thinks about politics.

If politicians can win as liberals they will run as liberals. We have some serious work to do to make that possible and it's going to take more than just saying words that we liberals all like to hear. If Dean can persuade people to run for office at the local level and the state level and begin to change the cultural identification so many Americans feel toward conservative "values based" politics then he will have more long term influence than he would have had as president.


Here's a thought experiment. If Michael Moore had just been dumped by USA Today for writing the words hirsute, somewhat fragrant, red-state pie wagons they call "women" at the Republican National Convention" and was replaced by Al Franken who was all over television as a "commentator," do you think the Republicans would insist that the mediawhores ask him about it every single time he appeared? Would they demand that he denounce and disavow Moore's comments and require him to apologize constantly?

Yeah. I thought so.

Stale Re-Runs

I am starting to get the strong feeling that the Republicans have run out of steam. They seem to be reduced to reaching for smear campaigns from the past -- Teresa as Hitlery, JFK as Dukakis. Not a lot of creative character assassination going on here and that's their stock in trade. Do you suppose they've just run out of ideas on how to destroy a Democrats' record and personal history?

This is weak:

GOP Aims to Pull a 'Dukakis' on Kerry:

The GOP effort to pull a 'Dukakis' on Kerry is shifting into high gear.
In 1988, Republicans were able to turn Michael Dukakis from a Democratic presidential front-runner into a caricature soundly beaten by President Bush (news - web sites)'s father.

Key elements of that transformation were a constant drumbeat of criticism of Dukakis' alleged 'liberal record' as governor of Massachusetts and a photo of Dukakis riding in a tank while wearing a helmet. At the time, Republican strategists for Bush's father compared the governor in the tank helmet to 'Rocky the Flying Squirrel.'
Asked the significance of the photo of Kerry in the anti-contamination suit, Republican chairman Ed Gillespie smiled broadly and said, 'We just thought it was a great photo.'


"We had Michael Moore in the presidential box, someone who said Americans are stupid," Coleman said. "Michael Moore sits with President Jimmy Carter in his box. Is that the foreign policy coming out of this convention? Does that demonstrate the party's commitment to make tough decisions?"

While Republicans praised Clinton's speech Monday night, they turned on the Democrats Tuesday and claimed they were making false statements about the Bush White House record. The Republicans said Democrats are exaggerating the threats to Social Security (news - web sites), Medicare and a federal program that put extra police on the streets.

"You can say these things with a smile on your face, sound like you have a positive message," said Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams, adding that statements distorting Bush's record are "still a falsehood."

Republicans say Clinton's successful Monday night speech will make things harder for Kerry on Thursday when he accepts the nomination.

"It's going to be difficult for Kerry to wrest control of these folks from the thrall of Bill Clinton (news - web sites)," said veteran GOP strategist Rich Galen.

Big Ben
Who knew that Ben Affleck was actually articulate and politically savvy? I think a political star may be being born.  The whores are having orgasms --- and I'm talking about the straight guys on Chris Matthews' show. (It isn't a pretty picture.)

Affleck said that like GWB he's benefitting from the soft bigotry of low expectations.  But, he's actually very good.

A  member of the audience asked him what he thought of the F9/11 "My Pet Goat" footage and he said that he thought Bush reacted with horror just as he did when he saw what happened.  But, the footage was disturbing because you would certainly expect your leaders to spring into action when they heard such news. Very nice.


Bad Babes

Sam Rosenfeld at the American Prospect online notices the developing controvery that Spite Grrrl Kit Sellye is flogging about remarks Teresa Heinz Kerry made over thirty years ago. This, of course, is on top of the shocking, shocking treatment of that poor editorial writer who has been stalking her for years.

Then earlier, I heard Lil' Tuckie Carlson reveal the stunning news that Tom Vilsack's wife Christie made some disturbing remarks a decade ago.

Needless to say, it's clear that the Mighty Wurlitzer has cranked up the noise to expose those icky, nasty Democratic women. Schneider on CNN did a comparison between the good lil' woman Laura and the bad bitch Hillary. Apparently, the wives of politicians are not supposed to be political. (To which Abigail Adams rose from the grave and told Schneider to "shove it.")

I'm guessing there's been some polling that showed people don't know quite what to think of Teresa and so they've trotted out the standard Hitlery script.

Doesn't anyone ever get tired of hearing the same old shit?


Florida Memories

I have to say that I like all the attention being given to the 2000 election debacle. CNN is showing a lot of footage (even inappropriately during Gore's speech last night) and I think that helps people remember that Junior got in on a hummer in his baby brother's state. This is good.

And, I'm sure it's driving the wingnuts crazy. They hate being reminded that the only way they can win presidential elections anymore is by cheating. (Not that it will stop them from doing what they have to do, of course.)



Rhetorical Magician

Sidney Blumenthal does a nice job of deconstructing Clinton's speech and I think gets to the heart of why it worked. Clinton has a natural instinct for framing an argument.

By means of rhetorical alchemy, Clinton transformed himself into no less than Bush: Like Bush, he pointed out that he was a dodger of military service in Vietnam and a rich man gaining lucrative tax benefits instead of sacrificing along with everyone else during a war. Clinton played on Clinton hatred by turning it on its head, a magic act performed with deadpan delivery. The audience was in on the joke from the beginning.

Clinton disdained the very idea of personal attack through a humorous aside: 'And you might remember that when I was in office, on occasion, the Republicans were kind of mean to me. But as soon as I got out and made money, I became part of the most important group in the world to them. It was amazing. I never thought I'd be so well cared for by the president and the Republicans in Congress.' By making himself his own straw man, Clinton could ridicule at will. The greater the self-deprecation, the deeper the stiletto thrust in Bush.

I would be very interested in hearing Clinton's thoughts on political rhetoric. He's awfully good at it -- and reading the moment in which it's delivered -- and yet I've never heard him speak at any length about it. Maybe it's not something he can actually explain. But, nonetheless, aspiring politicians should definitely study what he does. He's the best in my lifetime.

And speaking of Clinton, No More Mr Nice Blog helpfully spares me the necessity of writing this post (which I had put off and am now glad I did.) When I read Gary Wills' generally good review of My Life, I too was astounded by his assertion that had Gore taken office following Clinton's impeachment and conviction that he would have had a honeymoon and transformed the debate in the liberal direction because that's what happened to Lyndon Johnson.

Hah! Maybe on the moon, but here on planet earth, Republicans don't give honeymoons anymore --- they go for the jugular. Where does this wide eyed credulity come from?

NMMNB correctly asks:

Is Wills nuts?

Look, you don't have to believe that the Republicans would have tried to impeach Gore if they'd succeeded in driving Clinton from office -- although Wills's NYRB colleague Elizabeth Drew, unlike Wills a full-time Washington reporter, insisted at the time that that was the case. You just have to look at the GOP's behavior throughout the Clinton presidency, starting long before the Republicans attained a majority in both Houses of Congress. Alan Ehrenhalt nailed it in a 1998 op-ed:

It was on Election Night 1992, not very far into the evening, that the Senate minority leader, Bob Dole, hinted at the way his party planned to conduct itself in the months ahead: it would filibuster any significant legislation the new Democratic President proposed, forcing him to obtain 60 votes for Senate passage.

...it worked. Little that the President proposed became law in the two years that he operated with Democratic majorities. There was no health care reform, no economic stimulus package.... the procedural consequences turned out to be grave: Congressional Republicans were tempted by success into even more dangerous constitutional mischief.

In the fall of 1995, emboldened by new majorities in both the House and the Senate, they forced the closure of the Federal Government. For all the millions of words that have been written about this event then and since, the reality of it has rarely been portrayed in succinct terms. This was not a political showdown -- it was an attempted constitutional coup....

And on and on into the serial fishing expeditions that led to Clinton's impeachment.

I don't know what is wrong with Gary Wills that he still hasn't figured it out, but I certainly hope that most Democrats have. The Republican party does not play by any rules. It is foolish to ever think otherwise.