Readers ponder the fallout of the final debate.

Readers ponder the fallout of the final debate.

Readers ponder the fallout of the final debate.

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Oct. 14 2004 1:04 PM

Tempe Fate

Readers ponder the fallout of the final debate.

What happened in Tempe?  

Where's the Threshold? Here, HLS_2003 asks, "Bush improved, but is it a win?"

Frankly, Bush is plain better on domestic issues than national security issues. This is because, although Bush could tell a reasonable story about the Iraq invasion ... Bush generally doesn't tell this story, and in fact can't tell it without deviating from his "official script." This is unfortunate, and due in large part to his inability to admit his original mistakes. Regardless, at this point, national security = Iraq and Iraq = Bush confusion. And when Bush looks confused, boy, he really looks confused. On domestic policies, on the other hand, Bush has stayed pretty consistent, and he has better data to work with. Bush's "ownership society" push in his convention acceptance speech seemed to resonate pretty well with voters, and is a real plus in terms of unifying his overall approach. He does well to keep hitting that. Kerry's Social Security answer will hurt him, I'm thinking, because it indicates that he has no new ideas, and hasn't even recycled the old ones very convincingly (Hillarycare II included). Call me crazy, but I think Bush's best bet is to stay focused on domestic issues for as much of the remaining campaign as possible. I thought it worked well for him in this debate, and I expect it will continue that way. You don't ignore the War on Terror, of course, but I think its usefulness as a campaign issue is beginning to wane.

Bottom line: to my eye, Bush went up—way up—from debate #2. A "win" or "loss" depends on your debate 2 starting benchmark. I had Bush losing big in debate #2, so I would call this a tie. But from where I was standing both the style and substance were surprisingly improved for Bush, and Kerry a bit weaker.

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Is HLS correct?  Has home-court advantage flipped in this campaign, with Kerry stronger on Iraq and Bush making strides domestically? Discuss it with HLS here.

Why Bush Lost: From Thrasymachus here:

The strangest thing about this debate, bar none, was the way Bush answered any and all questions he hadn't been prepped for by talking about education. The strangest moment came when he answered a question about the advisability of raising the minimum wage with a disjointed, staggering discourse about Pell grants and the "fundamental right of all Americans to read." (Good to know; he should try it sometime). That's going to cost him dear. ...

my crystal ball predicts that he's really, truly, deeply going to come to regret denying the "I don't think much about Osama" quote. The news networks had the video of him saying exactly what he said he didn't say ready to roll by the end of the debate, and it's anything but flattering. Coming soon to a swing state broadcast outlet near you.

Bush Did OK: That's GeoffsPneuma's take here. Geoff has an interesting perspective on "Kerry's contesting the Catholic vote":

Kerry's contesting the Catholic vote. And quite frankly, I don't think Bush OR Rove have fully appreciated the difference between a traditionalist Catholic and a traditionalist evangelical Protestant. Bush's rhetoric seems custom-designed to alienate conservative Catholics. We'll know in less than a month whether I'm right on that, but my guess is that Kerry is going to crush Bush in the Catholic vote. Most Catholics know how difficult it is to square the religious positions of the Catholic Church with the civic obligations of an American citizen. Bush is unwarrantedly disdainful of that kind of "nuance." I can't say what a WASP in Atlanta will hear in that debate ... but I suspect a Catholic in Atlanta is going to have second thoughts about Bush.

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Breaking It Down with Locdog: The morning after, locdog takes a look at the internals and analyzes some of the finer points. In the final locdog analysis:

i think that while kerry won the debate, he also lost the election. look, kerry isn't going to defeat bush on iraq, terror, or national security. he just isn't. every poll i know of gives some combination of these three as the key issues in this election, followed by the economy, healthcare, education, etc. kerry's strength lies in what for this election will be secondary issues, which means he needed to be able to win on things like the economy by a lot more than five points. he needed to not only dominate bush on these issues, but to shift the entire focus of the campaigns to the domestic front, where (theoretically) he could put bush on the defensive. that's a tall order, one that perhaps no democrat but bill clinton could have pulled off. kerry is no bill clinton.

Take Me Out to the Ballgame: Overnight ratings haven't been broken down by gender, but MarySz offers up an interesting point in Ballot Box Fray:

"Debating coaches from Harvard or Yale will say that Kerry won, but the average working men are all going to look at the screen and say I relate more to that George Bush guy."—Joe Scarborough. MSBNC.

Bad news Joe,—all the working men were watching the ball game last night. This debate was intended to woo women voters. Are average working women going to look at the screen and say they relate more to Bush?

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Consistency vs. Agility: One of the ways Kerry has been able to beat the flip-flop rap in recent weeks has been his steady, almost programmatically consistent performance in the three debates. The_Bell, here:

What surprised me was how very much Kerry did the same thing over the course of these three debates. Obviously the polls have reflected that this has helped him define himself better than his reputation for long, affected speeches. If Republicans want to paint him as inconsistent, he certainly did not show it during these debates. However, much like his criticisms of the President, I think that dedication to consistency sometimes cost Kerry in flexibility to respond more effectively and directly to various Bush charges, misstatements, weaknesses, and other openings.

"Burn-Out Ohio": Apparently, the Cleveland Plain Dealer agrees with Publius' suggestion

Mary, Mary? Quite Contrary: Much has been made this morning about John Kerry's mentioning Mary Cheney in his response to the "is homosexuality a choice" question (the mere posing of the question is offensive in the eyes of Fraywatch, but he'll reserve that critique for the queer theorists in his well-appointed salon). Kerry did not out Cheney. Unlike Alan Keyes, he did not call into question Mary Cheney's moral character. The only thing Kerry sought to do was humanize an issue which is being discussed in alarmingly abstract terms. In fact, the vice president has alluded to his daughter on numerous occasions in public statements and appearances.

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So what about Kerry's remarks so offended the Cheney clan? Had the president, when speaking about immigration, referenced Teresa Heinz Kerry's experience in a positive or neutral light, would that have been inappropriate? Is Mary Cheney's homosexuality some sort of affliction? A verboten family tragedy like the death of John Edwards' son? The only "cheap and tawdry political trick" performed Wednesday night was the one turned by the Cheney parental units. It was they who used their daughter's sexuality as a weapon against John Kerry's sympathetic (and very general) remark. If only Dick and Lynne were so indignant when their daughter was legitimately under attack by an administration willing to write gays and lesbians out of the nation's founding document. Selective indignation has never been so crass … KA9:55 a.m.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Doing the Math: In response to a pair of articles by Jordan Ellenberg and Steven E. Landsburg on the probability that your vote in a presidential election means anything, VNk is "still bothered" by Landsburg's argument, and frames the decision to vote as a moral imperative of sorts:

suppose 100% of the electorate decides their vote doesn't matter. Then no one votes, and there's no election.

Is this a credible hypothesis? Well, it doesn't seem likely. But it intuitively suggests that there's some point at which the aggregate of single irrelevant votes makes an individual vote irrelevant. Does anyone see what I'm driving at? There's a paradox in that for Landsburg's numbers to work out, large numbers of "other voters" have to have previously disregarded the irrelevance of their act of voting. If they had been rational about it, they wouldn't have shown up, either, and your vote would be decisive. But if they sus that out, and decide to show up, they immediately render your vote (and their own) meaningless.

Hence, I thought the Landsburg piece was satirical. But if Slate itself has to respond, maybe I was wrong?

Other fraysters offer up the mandate argument—that margin of victory measures a victorious candidate's legitimacy. Check out BeingFrank here and GratuitousPython here.

Auros-4 writes that

Both arguments on this subject have ignored the problem that if we suppose that the "value" of a vote that is only virtually certain not to change the election is actually equivalent to zero, then we are left with the conundrum that the value of 537 votes is also zero—0*537 = 0. Obviously Al Gore would beg to differ.

Whence my statement that the value of a vote depends on the margin of victory. In an election that is decided by one votes, your vote was immensely valuable; in an election that is decided by two votes, your vote is still immensely valuable—though it's only worth half as much as in the one-vote case … the fact is, your vote is never completely without value, no matter how slim your chances are.

And A_R can tell you "why marginal utility analysis is always wrong."

Bathroom Humor: Here, historyguy speculates whether Jordan Ellenberg authored the "most unfortunate sentence in Slate ever."

King Biscuit Time: Fans of Ad Report Card are having a lot of fun with Seth Stevenson's ARC of the new Morning After BK spot. So far as waking up next to the plastic-headed Burger King, SpaceCadet groans:

I already believe fast food is a tawdry, nasty pleasure and I don't need intimations of "furry" sexual deviancy to add to that belief.

Here, GP is a little more generous, and bows to the nostalgic element in the spot:

Guy goes out one night, gets fully kreutzened and wakes up in bed with a some dude in a plastic king costume—hey, it happens. But then he has a tasty BK breakfast in bed, and pretty soon it's all kinda cool in an I'm-secure-in-my-masculinity sort of way. ...

Keep in mind that the plastic king doing magic tricks was part of BK's old kids campaign. All those kids are grown up now and right in the adult target demographic.

This spot is brilliant.

MatthewGarth gets loose with this tour de force on "the Red Sox of fast food":

the basic premise of BK advertising for the last decade has been flame-broiling. No one, and I mean no one, ever gave a fuck about flame-broiling. ...

Now, though, BK wants to move away from the nightmare that is its natural-gassy palette profile and into something far less, um, product driven. So it puts an enormous King Friday the XIIIth in a dude's bed. Even that is okay (it would have been better if it had stayed gay-ish to the end, but whatevs). But all the guy has is a big nasty breakfast sandwich. (I'll deal with the formal twitchiness below.) If you are trying to get past your desperation, looking kingly might be a way to go. "We're in charge, here." "We've got what you want." But then, and this is perhaps the most amazing part, they can't just give you what you need in the morning (a good cup of coffee, fried pseudopotatoes, and the handheldheartattack), they have to double the sandwich.

Just as the Medusa's head full of snakes symbolized castration, so BK's double croissan'wich symbolizes it's corporate inadequacy in the face of McDonald's McMuffin. It's overcompensation. And what makes it clearly overcompensatory is the absence of the rest of the breakfast. "What, no coffee? Some bullshit king you are! Now I know why the Burger Queen left you, Mr. Promise-the-world-but-fail-in-the-details. It's not the size of the sandwich, it's the size of the thought." Underneath that outsized plastic head is The Subservient Chicken, the corporate ego of a little boy who just wants you to love him. But since he knows you won't, he'd rather have your hatred instead.

Come to think of it, the resemblance between Johnny Damon and The Burger King is frightening.

I Knew Franklin Raines ...: The Fray's own Fritz_Gerlich "debated Franklin Raines in high school" while growing up in Seattle. For FG's last impression, click here.

Fun With Games: TheQuietMan has his own psychoanalytic theories on Dodger outfield Milton Bradley. 

In Memorium: MsZilla on the passing of Chrisopher Reeves hereKA 10:45 a.m.

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Saturday, October 9, 2004

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The public and punditry have gradually reached a consensus Saturday that last night's debate offered no clear winner. Some of the more popular refrains from readers include the following:

▪ Kerry left a lot of money on the table—or runners on base, if you care to extend William Saletan's metaphor.

▪ Bush looked considerably more confident than he did in Miami—which isn't saying much.

▪ Given the speed at which developments from Iraq and the economy are hitting the news cycle—coupled with the fact that Round 3 is a mere 96 hours away—last night's debate won't have much staying power in the collective consciousness of the electorate.

Having said that, here are some more pointed reviews from Fray regulars:

Blow-by-Blow: Fraywatch thanks The_Bell for his whip-smart "breakdown, question by question."

Advantage Kerry: From amike, here:

I spent a little less time worrying about what Kerry didn't say and more about thinking about what he did say. My impression was that he did one whole lot better than George Bush.

Two things I especially liked: The line about Missouri being the third largest country in the coalition. Anyone who thinks about that analogy will realize that the coalition of the bribed is hardly a gathering of giants. Second, It was obvious to me listening to everything but not seeing, that Kerry was very good at picking up on the emotional content of the questioners words, responding to that with an empathy which one could hear clearly. Judged by this criteria, I think his response to the questions on abortion or stem cell research were not bad at all. He didn't nuance them so much as he gave them an appropriate emotional weight. Had I been the person asking the question, I would have felt that I had been taken seriously and that I had been respected, regardless whether I had been agreed with…

Advantage Bush: From locdog, here:

Bush ... made the case for optimism. this is what i have done. this is why it's working. yes there are problems but we're moving in the right direction. he said "hard work" once that i counted and spoke with shining eyes about the virtues of liberty several times. what was different about bush here was that he seemed more willing to go after kerry, and when the talk turned to domestic issues, he was on a 60/40 attack/defend footing. i think it worked. bush injected kerry's record into the debate (and, more importantly the subsequent news cycles), and that can only help him.

The Expectation Game: BettytheCrow, here, on why "Republicans all across the nation are heaving huge sighs of relief":

Their guy's head didn't explode, he mostly spoke in more or less complete sentences and the closest he came to that St. Vitus's dance routine from last week was a persistent tic in his left eye and some tooth grinding. ...

I'd think it's reasonable to assume that anyone who really is undecided by this point doesn't have a real good grasp of the issues anyway, so the content of Bush's episodes wasn't as important as that he appeared to be alert and responsive.

Kerry did pretty well but could have done much better. I suppose it's a bit difficult to focus in such a target rich environment. He probably felt like a lion stalking a herd of zebras: where does one stop and another begin?

More Nuance: Here, fozzy discusses "the most illustrative exchange" of the evening:

Kerry explained why he voted against various abortion bills ("partial birth", etc.). Kerry said that the bills had contained no exception clauses, nor "ways out" in cases such as direct physical threat to the mother's life, or rape, incest, etc.

Kerry agreed in general principle with Bush on the bills, but pointed out that there were exceptions to the general rule and that "it isn't always black and white."

Bush responded by calling Kerry a 'flip flopper' (though in more words) and seemed incredulous that anyone could suggest an issue be more complicated than "good" and "bad". Kerry tried to explain his complicated view of presidential power and legislating morality. Bush shrugged off the very concept of "complicated".

Black and white? Lots of grey? That seems to be the choice in this campaign.

Lost Opportunities: From BettytheCrow here:

Kerry could have made much more of his energy program. Earlier this year, George Bush brought up the notion of a mission to Mars in a miserably unsuccessful attempt to bathe himself in some Apollo glow; Kerry would have done well to cast his drive for energy independence in the same light.

And Kerry would have done well to pound more on the theme of Republican criticism of the Bush administration's Iraq policy. When senior Republicans such as Dick Lugar, Chuck Hagel and John McCain level the sort of withering criticism they have against the lynchpin of their own incumbent's campaign, that's worth pounding on. And on. And on. When Paul Bremer says "we never had enough troops on the ground," that's worth mentioning. Kerry did a better job of bringing those criticisms out than he did in the first debate, but not enough of one.

The Diesel Revolution: GeoffsPneuma on Bush and the environment:

The environment question. First, assume you care about the environment. Not that you're brilliant, but just that you care. Do you get the impression the President knows what he's talking about when he says he's going to develop "hydrogen-generated cars?" What the hell is a hydrogen-generated car? Hydrogen powered? I've heard of that. But hydrogen generated? Are you awake? But wait. It gets better. He's going to increase wet lands by three million. Three million what? Don't ask. Bush certainly didn't bother to say. OK. But maybe you're not an environmentalist. Maybe you're one of these NASCAR dads or something. The very first thing he chose to emphasize is that we've cut emissions in off-road diesel vehicles by 90%. Now, do you have an off-road vehicle? Does it run on diesel? Maybe I'm missing something obvious, but I'm pretty sure not too many off-road vehicles run on diesel. Is there anyone in America who cares about off-roading that thinks off-road diesel omissions are a significant source of pollution? How common are such vehicles? My guess is that anyone with a familiarity with these things will know "not very." About the only person who knows what an off-road diesel vehicle is going to be in agriculture and construction. And I don't think they're going to be thrilled by the President's proposal. Though I will note he strategically used the word "steward" in relation to the environment. So, point with evangelicals, deftly executed.

For more on "off-road diesels," check out ewolf's response hereKA 11:00 a.m.

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Wednesday, October 6, 2004

Hello Cleveland: Who won the VP debate? GeoffsPneuma awards a " point to Cheney":

Though I don't think the asymmetry was nearly so stark as in last week's debate, this evening's performance strikes me as a pretty decisive "victory" on Cheney's part. ...

According to Geoff, Edwards missed a golden opportunity in the debate's first half:

For the life of me, I can't understand why Democrats don't hit the Republican myth of Afghan democracy with the inconvenient facts that Karzai has defined multiple voting in the upcoming election as the epitome of democracy, rather than its antithesis, or observing that the vaunted 10 million registered voters outnumbers by several million any plausible estimate of the number of actual voters in the country. Edwards allowed Cheney to thrash him on the question of Iraqi casualties in the Iraqi conflict—insisting that it was a mark of disrespect to exclude them from the 90% American figure in their coalition casualty count—and missed the softball observation that several active Iraqi police and military divisions have had desertion rates as high as 70-80%. How hard could it have been to agree that many Iraqis have made many great sacrifices to aid the United States, but that we haven't done an adequate job of making sure that we're arming our allies and not our enemies?

Who was more likeable? Surprisingly ...

I thought Cheney had moderately more class. Asked to defend Bush's policy on the FDMA, he offered a really concise explanation for how he could square his position (a federalist) with his support for the Administration (the President sets policy, and I follow even when I disagree). Since the question was posed as one which specifically referenced Cheney's gay daughter, it put Edwards in an awkward response, and his kind of confused rambling praise of Cheney's private family life was embarrassing but again understandable. But Cheney's response was perfect. "Mr. Vice President, you have 90 seconds." "I want to thank Senator Edwards for his kind words about my family." "That's it?" "Yes." His refusal to advance the logic of Bush's proposals, which he had already noted his disagreement with (but support of) was both pointed and principled, and I thought his defusing of an awkward and potentially terrible situation was surprisingly graceful.

What about locdog? Here's how he sized up "arguably the most meaningless high-profile event in [A]merican politics":

Cheney won. didn't win big, didn't dominate, but he won. it was the craggy old man vs. the breck girl, and the breck girl got her fanny tanned on more than one occasion.

it occurred to me at one point in the debate that cheney was doing well because he was playing to his strengths. say what you will about the vice president, he is a serious-minded individual and that came across last evening. it then occurred to me that cheney wasn't playing to anything, not his strengths, his rival, or even his president. cheney was simply being cheney…

if john edwards was as successful a trial lawyer as everyone says he was, this country is flat out screwed. was it just me, or did anyone else get the impression that edwards was auditioning for the lead on barney and friends? when you say "four" do you really need to hold up four fingers to make yourself understood? he had fourth grade material to begin with and even then he acted like he was trying to teach it to second graders. whole juries bought this crap? i was insulted by the stupidity--not edwards', who strikes me as quite sharp, but the implied idiocy on my part as a viewer. don't even get me started on his cloying attempted humor.

ClaudeScales on " where Edwards blew it (despite winning)":

Edwards should have extemporaneously scrapped his scripted, somewhat mawkish "kitchen table" closing statement, and instead gone after Cheney for the points Edwards had previously made that Cheney left unanswered: (1) why U.S. troops were not used at Tora Bora (Bush similarly ignored this point when it was raised by Kerry in last week's debate); (2) why so little is being done to secure our borders against the importation of WMD via sea or air cargo (Bush's lame response to this was, in effect, "Where will we get the money?"); and (3) Halliburton's misdeeds on Cheney's watch (to which Cheney's response was to change the subject). Edwards could have quickly pointed out the absence of any effective response to these issues, then went on to make the economic points without the, I think, ineffective "empty chair" remark.

Publius cautions William Saletan (" Runners Advance: Edwards keeps the Democrats' rally going") that " Cheerleading could give you a heart attack":

Will Saletan simply ADORES John Edwards, having touted him last winter as the best candidate the Dems could nominate. ... Will, you're backsliding again. This piece is bold-faced cheerleading that reveals either total self-delusion or cynical manipulation.

Given that Cheney has such high negatives to start (many people who like Bush and might vote for him really don't like Cheney, big time), he had a tough row to hoe in "winning" any debate in the minds of people polled. Yet, he did not seem either overly defensive or overly aggressive. He took some hard shots, as did Edwards, and steadily drummed away at the one theme he needed to ensure would dominate the debate itself and the coverage: John Kerry may be talking tough today but he doesn't mean it; W does. ...

On balance, I think it was a wash, but I could easily see why someone, even a neutral analyst, would give the edge to Edwards or to Cheney. The notion that represented a huge win by Edwards is reminiscent of your "Bush is Toast" column.

Perhaps the more egregious failure to apply anything resembling dispassionate analysis to this debate, Will, was your opening wide-eyed enthusiasm for Edwards obvious-to-you-only superiority to Kerry. If the Bush-Kerry debate proved anything, it proved that John Kerry was the best choice among the Dems, serious, smart, poised, knowledgeable, fast on his feet, and above all persuasive. Next to Kerry, Edwards looks like the fluffball lightweight he is.

How about a Frankenstein ticket?

Cheney and Edwards make a sort of balanced ticket, since Cheney's mouth droops palsy-like on the left, while Edwards' mouth unnervingly arches up on the right. Creepy.

Whoever the victor, Demosthenes2 feels as if the burden is shifting. Though D2 tallies the VP debate as "close to a draw as you'll see":

it is the Bush administration that is defending itself on positions and its record for the first time, really, in this campaign. The first Presidential debate started that trend with Bush's exasperated performance. Last night Edwards accomplished the two most important objectives he had: 1) Keep the administration on the defensive and make them defend their term and their decisions. 2) Rattle him enough so that Cheney plays into the caricature already prevalent of Cheney being a self serving man who is just plain unpleasant in his self serving ways.

Edwards accomplished both of those tasks last night and that's what keeps the momentum of the Kerry reinvigoration alive as a result of last night's debate.

Joe_JP is frustrated with " spin out of control." In response to Fred Kaplan's criqtique of Edwards'foreign policy credentials, JJP writes:

This is why I don't like these things. Cheney lies, Edwards doesn't (in Kaplan's view) do a good enough job countering, and I have to read a column on Edwards. Clearly, no one really cares about these lies. They have been denounced over and over again and he still keeps it up. Whomever still accepts them wants to be lied to. But, hey, Edwards didn't do a good enough job.

Meanwhile, Mussina gave up two runs, while
the Yanks kept on hitting into double plays. Spin: Mussina didn't do a good enough job counteracting his team's failure to get timely hits. Shoot, it's almost like he was the goat of the game.

Anyone care to offer Fraywatch an explanation as to why there hasn't been a coherent question on energy policy posed to any of the four candidates? ...  KA9:40 a.m.

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Monday, October 4, 2004

The Belated Bounce: "It's not the conventions anymore; it's this kind of moment," says the president of the news division in Jim Brooks' Broadcast News. For John Kerry, whose July convention yielded nothing in the polls, Thursday's debate was that moment. What does it say about the respective candidates that President Bush received his most substantial bounce following the Republican National Convention, but Kerry's followed the first nationally televised debate? Better question: What does it say about this year's electorate? 

Global Test: Kerry opponents continue to hammer the senator on the soundbite. Take a peek at britbear's post in Ballot Box Fray:

When will Kerry know that he's convinced America? When he polls Ohio? Leaders make decisions—and in our system, we elect a leader to do so. Even Bill Clinton knew (or learned this). He did not have America on his side for Kosovo, or Bosnia. Nor did he have a UN resolution nor the approval of Russia. When he did go in, the French compromised our intelligence and tipped off our enemies.

Along the same lines, Publius skeptically examines the "Kerry doctrine" here:

[W]e should assume that Kerry knew he would at some point in the debate address Bush's "doctrine" of preemption and had a carefully constructed, well-practiced answer. Thus, his use of the phrase "global test" was deliberate. Why?

For two related reasons, First, Kerry's vague but insistent theme of getting the allies more involved could not survive the simple assertion that he, like Bush, believes preemptive US action has its place. Second, his answer first endorses the "doctrine" of preemption, albeit by placing it (somewhat inaccurately) in an historical context to separate it from Bush. Still, to concede at all that there are circumstances when the US must strike preemptively and the President must be prepared to make such decisions reduces his disagreement with Bush to mere second-guessing what the guy with the job has done.

What's needed then is a way to distinguish his preemptive doctrine from Bush's. At the same time, since he has the support of virtually the entire antiwar left, Kerry can't afford (or thinks he can't) to alienate them by appearing to affirm Bush's assumption of authority.

Thus is born what might be called the New Kerry "Preemption with Global Test Doctrine." He dresses up his "test" as domestic, as well as global, but that does not change the meaning of his words vis- à-vis the globe: he wants a "global test" that "can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons."

... and needles William Saletan here:

Notice that Saletan thrashes a straw man when he turns the murky phrase "legitimate reasons" into something more solid in the way of demonstrable facts or "reality." In reality, as he well knows, what this or that foreign government views as "legitimate" will be driven entirely by their own interests and needs, not by facts.

Fraywatch was under the impression that Christopher Hitchens had cornered Slate's market in strawmen. 

In BOTF, gary1 links us up to a curious excerpt that delineates the vote for authorization of the use of force from unequivocal support of the invasion.  

From other BOTF veterans: TheAList charts SNL's track record at picking the president, and Oscar-1-2 declares that the days of presidential coattails are over. 

Lost in Translation: Not enough Arabic speakers, despite steady government funding? In Culturebox Fray, fozzy offers some explanations:

It may be true that government funding of ME studies and languages has not provided a landslide of qualified linguists. It is important, however, to ask the counterfactual: How bad would it be *without* these programs? Sadly, like most "liberal arts," area studies and languages are relatively under-appreciated in today's world—and that is not just academia's fault. Engineering and business are where the money is found (both for colleges and graduates) and students and success tend to follow.

The LCTL (less commonly taught languages) would almost certainly be *dead and gone* if not for government funding. Having said that, there are compounding problems. One is that the government jobs often demand "fluency"—which is hard enough to get in hard languages. This is often compounded by a lack of overseas opportunities. With few exceptions, students will not get fluent in a language without living in that nation/culture… Another note is that the US wants *US citizens* who are fluent in foreign languages. This points out a contradiction in most ME programs. They are not designed to produce "translators" (though some do come out of the programs) but scholars.

Don't tell it to Fraywatch—he could never master the jussive case despite two years of college Arabic and abruptly changed his major from Middle Eastern Languages & Cultures (MELAC) to history. Instead, talk to anarchosyndicalist, here, who "attended  the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA, for a year back in the 70s." Or take to BradtheDad's thread. Brad and his wife each received a Department of Education Foreign Language and Areas Studies Scholarship with the understanding that they

were going to study a so-called hard language (Japanese in my case, Hindi in my wife's) and that you were going to work in education or the government. The oversight was non-existent and no one followed up with me to guide us on any career choices. It was totally hands-off.

Did the government get its money's worth with us? Absolutely not.

Scold Brad in Japanese here.

Ask Ender: Here, at your own risk, that is…

dear ender Advice on fray manners and morals.

Please send your questions for publication to aka_alias@msn.com. (Questions may be edited.)

Faced with a fray dilemma? Trust me. Not sure how to respond? Trust me. Why is that fray monkey on your back and how the hell do you get it to dismount? Trust me. I have the answers to those and any other fraycentric questions you could possibly have. Trust me. From how to win an argument to how to make a fresh start, I have the experience, I have the credentials (albeit imaginary), but most importantly, I really—really care. Trust me.

Send your questions anonymously, pretend to be yourself—or someone you're not (I have no way of checking), and of course, when in doubt include URL's.

Yours truthfully,
Ender
aka_alias@msn.com.

For the first installment of "Dear Ender" questions and answers, click hereKA3:00 p.m.