How is John Kerry's office like a subway?

How is John Kerry's office like a subway?

How is John Kerry's office like a subway?

A mostly political Weblog.
Feb. 2 2004 2:12 AM

Why the Long Face?

Kerry caught in damage-control lie.

How is John Kerry's office like a subway? A: You have to put in coins to open gates! Newsweek's Isikoff catches the Democratic frontrunner in a damage control lie about not meeting notorious campaign contributior Johnny Chung (remember him?) weeks before Chung funneled him thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions. Kerry's office even acted to open doors for Chung at the SEC--something Kerry later told the Boston Herald was "totally coincidental." ...

According to Isikoff, who got hold of a handwritten note Kerry wrote Chung mentioning the prefundraiser meeting,

A Kerry spokesman acknowledged that the senator may have met with Chung prior to the fund-raiser, but not in his Senate office. [Emphasis added.]


Well all right then! But of course Kerry had denied meeting with Chung at all prior to the fundraiser. In January, 1998, the Boston Herald reported:

"The first time I met him [Chung] was there [at the Beverly Hill fund-raiser]," Kerry said.

Bonus tidbit: Kerry had apparently called the Herald, rather than vice-versa, to impart this bit of disinformation ... If Howard Dean can't mount an anti-Washington attack based on this sort of cash-for-access game, he needs another new campaign manager. ... 

More Kerry Kabuki:  Isikoff also notes that while Kerry ostentatiously refuses PAC money, he conveniently and quietly broke his pledge to limit far larger soft money contributions:

Though he has shunned PAC donations, which are limited to $5,000 apiece, the senator in 2001 formed a fund-raising group called the Citizen Soldier Fund, which brought in more than $1.2 million in unregulated "soft money." Kerry pledged he would limit individual donations to $10,000. But in late 2002, just before new federal laws banning soft money took effect, Kerry quietly lifted the ceiling and took all the cash he could get. In the month before the election, the fund raised nearly $879,000—including $27,500 from wireless telecom firms such as T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon. That same month, Kerry cosponsored a bill to overturn a judge's ruling and permit the wireless firms to bid on billions of dollars' worth of wireless airwaves. Kerry aide Cutter says it's a "stretch" to draw any connection between the two events. [Emphasis added]


This incident--featuring a moralistic Kerry pledge that's only a pledge until he needs to break it--will be familiar to supporters of former Massachusetts governor William Weld, who struck a historic goo-goo pact with Kerry limiting the personal funds each candidate could put into their 1996 Senate race, only to see Kerry break it  at the end of the campaign when he needed money. ...

P.S.: Patti Davis to the contrary notwithstanding, the Kerry botox story is not a frivolous bit of gossip but a perfectly legitimate synecdoche for this type of Kerry behavior. There is a phony, clean facade, and the reality behind the phony facade. ...

Note to Jonathan Alter: This character problem is not  "aloofness."  Aloofness is what people who don't want to acknowledge Kerry's character problem say is Kerry's character problem.

P.P.S.: Campaigning in North Dakota, Kerry dismissed the Chung issue as "old news" that had been "thoroughly vetted." But of course Newsweek's discovery of the note proving that Kerry lied to the press during that vetting process was new news. .... 11:25 P.M..


New Republic is hosting a very informative debate  on John Kerry, with Dan Kennedy arguing for him and Jon Keller arguing against. I won't bias you by giving you my opinion. ...  Psst.: It's a slaughter! Here's a sample:

[Kerry] demonstrated less-than-inspiring follow-through after his critical remarks regarding affirmative action and public education. (Never mind the larger question of whether he was on target.) ... I cannot defend his attempts to have it both ways on his vote in favor of the Iraq war resolution. ... Kerry's inattention to local matters and his failure to court local officials are both well known ... The man has a tin ear, and I doubt that's going to change. [Emphasis added]

But that's what Kerry's defender has to say! Here's a paragraph from his critic:

Your litany of Kerry's "impressive" resumé is unintentionally revealing. His spirited defense of the Sierra Club's environmental agenda, while arguably commendable, hardly represents courageous risk-taking in the pro-green context of Massachusetts and national Democratic politics. Outside of the environment, his legislative record is virtually non-existent. Instead, he's been a glorified DA, overseeing well-publicized investigations that have led to few if any constructive changes in the drug war, corporate corruption, or clandestine military operations. All of the major Democratic battles of Kerry's day--health care reform, tax reform, civil rights, minimum-wage increases--have been fought primarily by others, most notably by his Bay State colleague, Ted Kennedy.

Most of the minor battles are fought by Ted, too. ...


There's a palpable will to self-deceiveamong Democrats eager to rationalize away Kerry's flaws. (Jon Alter, this means you, but not only you.) This understandable impulse--"denial" may be the technical term-is highly dangerous at this point in the presidential race, when it's not too late to nominate an alternative. It's similar to the will to rationalize away Gennifer Flowers' story as "tabloid" trash in 1992--a bit of willful self-deception that came back to haunt the Democrats six years later.

Maybe it was worth it for Clinton, who (as Keller notes) had creativity and guts. Clinton picked an issue--welfare--on which to defy Democratic orthodoxy. He said he'd reform the welfare system and he did. Kerry picked an issue--affirmative action--on which to defy party orthodoxy. He surrendered when the first shot was fired. Courageous soldiers do not always make courageous politicians. ... 11:12 P.M.

The Atlantic's Jack Beatty on why the Democrats are on the verge of making a big mistake. ... P.S.: Beatty says "Kerry--haggard, a knight of the woeful countenance, lacks vitality." Not any more! ... 2:19 P.M.

Robo-revenge? It looks as if Dean has gingerly volunteered to be the anti-Kerry kamikaze. Tonight's salvo--attacking Kerry on a well-known weak spot, his embarrassingly thin record of legislative accomplishment--was a promising start. ... Dean got to something about Kerry--the "for show" aspect of his career, which really does dovetail with the "make believe" culture of Washington in which bills are introduced with the purpose of letting their sponsors brag about them and not with the purpose of actually passing them. Maybe there's substance to this insider-v. outsider theme after all. (That's a different question from whether or not it will appeal to Democrats in 2004).... P.S.: Do you think there might be some salutary bad blood between Dean and Kerry--with Dean resenting, along with many of his supporters, what they perceive as Kerry's hardball ground tactics in Iowa and New Hampshire? ... P.P.S.:WaPo's Broder, famous for his governor jones, was a pushover for Dean's I've-run-a-state-and-you-haven't pitch. ... P.P.P.S.: In his defense, Kerry said:

Well, one of the things that you need to know as a president is how things work in Congress if you want to get things done.



And one of the things that happens in Congress is, you can in fact write a bill, but if you're smart about it, you can get your bill passed on someone else's bill and it doesn't carry your name.


Ah, so Kerry was a backroom legislative genius, he just kept all his achievements hidden! That's so like him! ... 'I was 'opin' you wouldn't ask me that one, guv'nor: An example would make his claim more plausible. ... Next: Kerry claims to have secretly ghostwritten Joe Klein's novels! ... P.P.P.P.S: I would agree with many observers that Edwards' performance was way too namby-pamby--but it's not crazy, on "Iowa" grounds, for Edwards to sit back and let Dean take the heat for going after Kerry. (Are voters in all states as scared of negativity as Iowans, though?) ...

Note to Ed Gillespie: Don't your attacks portraying Kerry as a consistent "liberal"  (as opposed to, say, an inconsistent straddler for whom every vote is a play-it-safe vote) actually help him. Please butt out of the Democrats' primary. We're trying to have some damaging internecine warfare here! I thought it was Terry McAuliffe who wanted to pick an early winner. ... 11:16 P.M.

This isn't a big deal, but what's worse: a) Kerry lying when he says he's "never even heard of" botox, or b) Kerry telling the truth when he says he's never even heard of botox ? ... Talk about living in a bubble!  [Don't worry--he's obviously lying-ed. Stop defending him!] ... Update: Several emailers suggest Kerry was saying he'd "never even heard of" the rumors, not botox. That's not how I read the quote--for one thing, if he was referring to the plural "rumors" he'd been asked about, wouldn't he have said he'd never heard "them," or "that," or "this"--not "it"? ... kf Drills Down!: Here's a NEXIS transcript of the interchange, as played on CNBC:

Unidentified Man: Can you categorically deny the reports that you have used Botox or other kind of cosmetic surgery or cosmetic enhancements to your appearance? Can you categorically deny that this morning?

Senator JOHN KERRY (Democratic Presidential Candidate): Absolutely. I've never even heard of it.

Unidentified Man: Stephanie Cutter, one of your spokespersons, has been denying this for the last week.

Sen. KERRY: I've never even heard of it. Never heard of it.

Unidentified Man: All right.

Obviously, my emailers interpreted Kerry's words the same way as the "unidentified man" who was actually doing the questioning. But what does he know! I'm actually not sure he heard it right. ... 10:38 P.M.

Get the list! Neel's mission? ... 4:58 P.M.

Psst: President Bush got 86% of the vote in the Republican primary. Isn't that not so good? Update: USA Today (print edition) has an explanation--Democrats who voted in the Republican primary in the last election, drawn by John McCain, only to find themselves automatically registered as Republicans this time. Various emailers note that Reagan also got only 86% in 1984. ...4:45 A.M.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004 

Senator Kerry has started to boast about his role in welfare reform as the race shifts to the more conservative Southern states. When asked recently by CBS News' Bob Scheiffer how he would defend himself against the charge that he was too liberal, Kerry answered:

Oh, very easily. The American people are looking for more than labels. They want leadership. As they say in the South, Bob, 'That dog won't hunt,' and it's not going to hunt. I have led the fight for deficit reduction in 1985 with Fritz Hollings and Senator Gramm of Texas. I led the--the fight to put 100,000 police officers in the streets of America to make our justice system work and make communities safe. I have fought hard for responsible welfare reform. I voted for welfare reform ... [Emphasis added.]

I'm in the process of looking up Senator Kerry's role in the Clinton-era welfare reform. Why do I have to look it up? Because Senator Kerry was not a player in the Clinton-era welfare reform! This is the one issue I followed very closely, and I don't remember Kerry having an impact (or even trying to have an impact) one way or another. If this is what "fought hard" means then he should have a very peaceful presidency. ...

But even non-impactful senators cast votes. How did Kerry vote? He did vote for the 1996 reform bill on final passage, but in the Kabuki procedures of the Senate, the final passage vote is often for show, and that was the case with welfare reform. The final vote allowed senators who needed to be seen as supportive of the bill--especially senators up for reelection like Kerry--to go on record as voting for it. The actual crucial votes that determined the legislation's fate and shape came earlier, when the spotlight was off--votes on amendments designed to gut the bill, toughen the bill, or substitute an entirely new bill.  I do know that Kerrry voted for both major Democratic substitutes to the GOP-supported bill that finally passed--the Daschle substitute and the nominally-bipartisan Biden-Specter substitute--as well as for a defeated Breaux proposal  that would have created a non-cash voucher scheme to replace cash welfare when the cash was cut off.. ... What I haven't done yet is read up on the text of those amendments to refresh my memory about just how wimpy they were. Would they have gutted the reform? ... Substance tk! ... 12:55 A.M.

How does alleged Kerry campaign genius Michael Whouley afford those $1,500 suits? He couldn't be another lobbyist for some of the special interests that stand in the way, could he? ... (It was only months ago that everyone in the campaign was turning out to be Jewish. Now they're all turning out to be special-interest lobbyists.) ... Or do Kerry cronies by definition lobby only for special interests that don't stand in the way? ... 9:02 P.M.

Why is Lieberman staying in the race? Maybe he realizes there is one, final kamikaze-like service he can perform for his country--namely, to be the expendable candidate who goes negative on Kerry. ... It's not as if some of the DLC-types who are sympathetic to Lieberman also have ties to Edwards. ... Oh, wait! ... [If Lieberman wouldn't be Al Gore's attack dog in the 2000 race, why would he be John Edwards'?--ed Because in 2000 he could plausibly think he had a future as a presidential candidate to safeguard.] ... P.S.: Wasn't Bob Shrum's 1988 candidate, Richard Gephardt, destroyed on Super Tuesday by a simple "flip-flop" ad? Think of the "flip-flop" ad you could produce on Kerry! The only challenge would be fitting all the flip-flops into a 30 second spot. ... Kerry may even have flip-flopped on his face! ... 8:42 P.M.

Dean's Durability: There are reports that Howard Dean is having money troubles.  Will this cause him to drop out? His camp argues that he's still raising millions on the Web. Commentators scoff that this might not continue now that Dean has lost Iowa and New Hampshire. But there is reason to think the commentators are at least half-wrong.

Typically, after all, there are at least two different groups of donors to a presidential campaign: a) idealistic supporters who want to win or send a message; and b) cynical, self-interested business donors, who want to "invest" in a winning candidate early to buy "access" later. When a candidate starts losing primaries, potential donors in groupb) see no reason to buy access to a presidency that will never exist. Fundraising from this source shuts down, often with fatal consequences to the campaign. If Kerry had lost Iowa and New Hampshire, that would have happened to him.

But Dean, thanks to his now-overdenigrated Internet presence, has access to many thousands of donors in group a) who've yet to "max out" on their contributions. Some may not want to waste their money in a losing cause, true--but for others it will still be a cause worth funding as long as there is some hope of having an impact. (One big benefit to Dean's oddly premature talk of a brokered convention is that it keeps this hope alive, creating a durable rationale for donating to Dean. Even if Dean does so badly that he clearly can't win, his supporters might still want him to have as many delegates as possible, if only for bargaining purposes.) ...

In short, there's good reason to think that Dean might be able to keep raising money under circumstances that would force a more conventional candidate to drop out. Maybe this is obvious. ...

P.S.: Slogan reportedly spotted on the Dean blog:

Dated Dean. Married Kerry...woke up with Bush.

8:20 P.M.

A meme Dean should start: He's grown over the course of the campaign! He used to be brash, impulsive Dean of the Scream. Now he's mature and seasoned. His hiring of veteran D.C. player Roy Neel is only the most recent indication ... etc. etc. ...Take it away, D. Broder! ... Or D. Von Drehle! ... 6:36 P.M.

We Don't Want No New Ideas! Alert kf reader R.A.G. sends an email that I think gets at something important that distinguishes this year's Democratic presidential race from recent campaigns that have been characterized by the search for "new" Democratic ideas:

My mother is a retired and widowed resident of Manchester, a die-hard Dem, and a post-Iowa Kerry supporter after flirting with Clark through most of last year.

I asked her why she didn't like Edwards --can't be an anti-Southern bias; she voted for Clinton (over Tsongas) 12 years ago in the primary.  She also went to two of Edwards' rallies and admitted that he's an impressive speaker.

Her answer, to paraphrase, was that after 8 years of Clinton she didn't want talk of a bunch of new ideas or great challenges for the future.  All she wanted was a solid Dem to protect her Social Security and Medicare, and to keep the country out of war.

This dovetails with Jeff Greenfield's point about Democrats not wanting a Deanian revolution in their party. (Update: With new Deanie CEO-lobbyist Roy Neel they aren't going to get one anyway.) ... There is less of a reformist impulse in the current Democratic campaign than at any time in the modern history of the country! ... O.K.. Would you believe than in all my time in public life? ... P.S.: Even Dean's "insurgency" consists mainly of reasserting old Democratic committments (to health care, etc.), no? ....P.P.S.:  R.A.G. also notes a problem with the straight ahead, defensive, fight-back, we-don-t-need-no-new-ideas message: "I don't think it's good enough to win." ... 6:28 P.M.

Kerry trying to have it both ways, Example No. 243: Sending out letters taking both sides in the Gulf War I debate. ...6:09 P.M.

Beltway 1, Blog 0: Who cares what Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi said at the Holiday Inn Monday! He's been replaced by ... a Washington insider and fat cat lobbyist for special interests! (Roy Neel, the new Dean "CEO," was president of the United States Telephone Association, which represents the Baby Bells) ... ABC's Marc Ambinder reports. ... P.S.: I assume this means Dean realizes the "outsider vs. Washington insider" message won't sell and that his best shot is simply to be a stable, appealing alternative to Kerry, post-Turkey-Shoot. But that is just (wishful) speculation. ... 4:48 P.M.

John Podhoretz's blast at the press for hyping Dean and Edwards is disturbingly persuasive .... But the press also hyped Kerry. So whatever happens, it was right once. ... 3:33 A.M.

Electability? TNR's Noam Scheiber argues Kerry can't take a punch. ... (And Hardcore Chris throws a good one--at TNR.) ... 3:20 A.M.

Deanies dance. Did you know that? Some in the handsome yuppie crowd at the Kerry victory rally tapped their feet as various rock rousers (e.g., Bruce Springsteen's "No Surrender") were played over the P.A. system. But the gnomish bearded Deanies across town actually swing their partners in response to far crunchier musical selections (e.g. Natalie Merchant). These people are scary. ... At least they don't blog! ...P.S.: Some of the Deanies I talked to were seething with anger at the media, with some justification. Here's a  video of the "Scream" speech taken P.O.V. the crowd  that's being passed around among Dean supporters. Assuming it's not doctored, it's very revealing. Even if the audio is doctored (you can hardly hear the scream at all) the video is still revealing. Dean looks perfectly normal.  ... 1:49 A.M.

Kausfiles questions the conventional wisdom! Why does a Democratic candidate have to win a primary somewhere. sometime to be viable? With the proportional allocation of delegates, it's possible to actually win the nomination without ever winning a primary. All you have to do is finish second in a lot of contests and accumulate delegates while the other candidates perform inconsistently. (That result wouldn't be undemocratic--sometimes Everybody's Second Choice is in fact the candidate who should win. Such a plodding-but-widely-acceptable candidate might also be the strongest opponent for Bush.) ... Why would someone who has a perfectly legitimate shot at winning be expected to drop out? The test should be delegate count, no?... 1:40 A.M.

Does Dean want Kerry to win South Carolina? I think so, perverse as it sounds. a) Dean's strategy, as outlined in the Holiday Inn bar Monday  night by Joe Trippi, requires a one-on-one matchup against Kerry, which the Dean camp thinks it can win on insider-vs-outsider grounds--and if that fails (which it probably will) on general Buyer's Remorse grounds. b) If Kerry loses South Carolina, that slows his momentum a bit. But if Kerry wins South Carolina, Edwards' candidacy is dead dead dead, effectively leavng the two-man race Dean desperately needs. It would be such a strategic boost for Dean that I think he should immediatly dispatch hundreds of his orange-hatted just-tell-me-what-to-do volunteers down South to work for ... Edwards! If they do for him what they did for Dean in Iowa (i.e. alienate voters) Kerry will sweep to victory. ... Of course, if it helps Dean for Kerry to win South Carolina that might mean it helps Kerry for Kerry to lose South Carolina (to Edwards)! That would keep Edwards in the race, preventing a single Stop Kerry candidacy. And Edwards, locked into his "positive" image, is unlikely to rip Kerry up the way Dean might. ... Update: Ellis takes exactly the opposite view, arguing that Kerrry must kill Edwards off now. But he dismisses Dean as "finished," which seems a little premature. ...[Why will Dean's insider v. outsider pitch against Kerry fail?--ed. Because, as Jeff Greenfield said on Imus this morning, there's little indication that Democratic primary voters feel a pressing need to reform or revolutionize their party. They'll happily take an insider who can win. Two references in two days--you're not becoming one of those annoying Imus people are you?-ed. It won't happen again.] 1:27 A.M.

It was fun, in the early reports, to hear reporters, following the pre-vote story line (and obvious press preference) in trying to subtly portray the N.H. results as an encouraging showing for the talented young John Edwards and a disastrous night for the hapless Wesley Clark, even though both of them got more or less exactly the same number of votes. ... The script was later adjust to accommodate the reality that the numbers were not cooperating....12:58 A.M.

Let the Turkey Shoot Begin! Reporters dread the idea of spending the next six months covering Kerry (the expression "Shoot me now" was heard when his picture came on the screen). The only way out--the only way to make the race interesting--is to present voters with a ... fuller picture of the New Hampshire winner. ... CeCi Connolly, our nation turns its lonely eyes to you!  Doesn't Kerry remind you of ... Al Gore? I think he does! ... And why do I feel the Democrats are due for the ugliest case of Buyer's Remorse in the modern history of the country! ... P.S.: Entry forms are still available for the Kerry Withdrawal Contest. ... 12:51 A.M.

The N.H. exit poll numbers I saw before the polls closed yesterday were basically on target. Only one news organization had numbers that were wildly off--even showing Dean eking out a one-point victory. Is it another triumph of opinion research for my home town paper? ... 12:36 A.M.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004 

Whouley and the Blow J__: Be sure to catch Paul Farhi's credulous puffer on Kerry organizer Michael Whouley ("Consultant Works His Magic on Kerry"). Among the passages allegedly documenting Whouley's brilliance is this one:

During the 2000 primaries, Whouley helped Gore beat back Bill Bradley's strong challenge in Iowa and New Hampshire, in part by some quick thinking. With exit polls showing Gore down by 4 percentage points on primary day in New Hampshire, Whouley quickly dispatched Gore staffers to knock on doors, helping the vice president to a narrow victory. [Emphasis added]

Alert kf reader E.S. responds:

[H]aving campaign staffers contact voters on election day — that's a genius strategy?  I can't believe nobody ever thought of that before.  How did Whouley let that strategy slip out into the public?  I'd think he'd want to keep it in reserve, or maybe the Republicans will steal it in 2004.

2:49 P.M.

Exit Polls Go Home: Can we really be sure that the National Election Pool's Is-Dean-A-Madman? exit poll question doesn't influence voting just because it's asked of voters as they leave the polls?  Does nobody overhear the NEP interviewer talking? Do people leaving the polls not run into friends in the parking lot, or go home and talk to their spouses and relatives who haven't voted yet? ... It looks as if the NEP is picking up, in terms of arrogance and irresponsibility, where the late, hated VNS left off. ... In this case, they asked a question (apparently prompted by the Dean Scream) that must have seemed wildly relevant four days ago but now seems like the detritus of an ancient media blevy! ... The NEP's question couldn't not have had some anti-Dean effect by artificially prolonging the Scream controversy. Maybe it was a small effect, but it's hard to believe it was neutral or positive for Dean. ... 1:23 P.M.

Pundit Alert: Please remember that for all their vaunted volatility and unpredictable anti-authoritarian don't-tell-us-who'll-win maverickness, New Hampshire Democrats voted 36-20 for Michael Dukakis in 1988. They're not always a fun crowd! ... 1:01 P.M.

F____t the South--Update: Ponnuru and Maguire's posse note that it's not so easy for Democratic presidential candidates to write off the South, with six 2004 Senate races in the region. ...Obvious answer: Dems are writing them off too! ... 12:24 P.M.

Update: It Really Is Crack and the Payback's a B___h:  Here is that final Zogby N.H. poll  describing a huge Kerry Miracle Surge, undetected by others, that just happens to bring Zogby into line with other polls. ... 10:43 A.M.

Monday, January 26, 2004 

Election Eve Holiday Inn Report:1) Zogby is said to have withdrawn from his outlying "Dean is close" position and published new numbers showing a bigger Kerry lead, more in line with other polls. Typical reaction: 'What a clown!' But I can find no confirmation of the new Zogby numbers on the Web. (I assume the rumor is true. People claim to have talked to Z himself); 2) Everybody now thinks Kerry will win; 3) Common sentiment:Wouldn't it be great if everybody was wrong and Zogby's now-inoperative view was right! [Update: The  last ARG numbers show some tightening, with the final day's numbers not un-close.] 4) Either way, Dean isn't getting out; nor is Edwards; 5) Some people actually believe in Joementum, thanks to independent voters. Having worked for a low-polling conservative Dem here in '84, I don't; 6) Typical conversation:'Can you figure out why Kerry's winning? I don't quite understand it. ... It can't be that the voters really like him, or else he never would have lost his big N.H. lead in the first place.' ...He's [insert romantic analogy of choice] the stable, unexciting guy you go back to after an affair just to get through Prom Week!7) Campaign dynamic: Race throws up frontrunner; frontrunner attacked and trashed in press; frontrunner fades and is replaced by new frontrunner; lather and repeat. 8) New Hampshire primary less popular among press than four years ago, Iowa more. Who cares if the caucuses are unrepresentative and pull the party way to the left? We want Starbucks! P.S.: Though the Democratic special interests (e.g. unions) did get kind of killed in Iowa this year, didn't they? Maybe that's the biggest story of the election so far. (Jon Alter made this point on Imus this A.M.)... 11:59 P.M.

Here's the Ur-Doonesbury  on Kerry. ... From 1971, but still relevant! ... [link via Instapundit]1:33 P.M.

Why Didn't Kerry Speak Out? John C. Bonifaz, author of a just-published anti-Bush book, emails with what seems to be a sophisticated and potentially highly-damaging criticism of Kerry's finally-settled "But He Promised!" stump rationalization for his pro-war vote.

In case you have missed it, Kerry explains his vote this way:

I voted to give the authority to the president to use force under a set of promises by the president as to how he would do it: build a legitimate international coalition, exhaust the remedies of the United Nations, and go to war as a last resort. He broke every single one of those promises.

And that's why I'm the best candidate to run against him and beat him, because I knew we had to hold Saddam Hussein accountable but I knew how to do it the right way. President Bush did it the wrong way.

Never mind what it says about Kerry's judgment that he trusted  the vague promises made by a president he now claims is so unfit for office. (You'd think before such a momentous decision Kerry would have met with Bush in private, to obtain the assurances Bonesman-to-Bonesman--or maybe even gotten them in writing.) It turns out that in his Senate floor speech before the Iraq vote, Kerry noted the "promises" and anticipated their possible breaking. But, Bonifaz argues, in Kerry's "but he promised" rationalization he

did not reveal what he himself promised on the floor of the United States Senate when he announced his support for that October Resolution.  "In giving the President this authority," the senator said, "I expect him to fulfill the commitments he has made to the American people in recent days – to work with the United Nations Security Council to adopt a new resolution setting out tough and immediate inspection requirements, and to act with our allies at our side if we have to disarm Saddam Hussein by force." 

"If he fails to do so," Senator Kerry continued, "I will be the first to speak out."

Bonifaz goes on:

Senator Kerry broke that promise ... In the crucial days after the president withdrew his efforts to gain United Nations support for his war and before the president launched his invasion, Senator Kerry remained silent.  The president had, indeed, failed to build an international coalition, and yet the senator did not speak out.

Maybe I'm missing something but this seems to me a devastating criticism of Kerry's rationalization, if you are an anti-war voter. If the "promises" were so important... . P.S.: Why didn't Kerry speak up? The obvious answer: Because the "promises" theory all along was tactical--the creation of a possible a__-covering excuse for Kerry's pro-war vote should the war go wrong. When Bush was breaking these "promises" popular support for the war was strong, and it looked as if it might cost Kerry votes to speak out. Duh! ... If you stop taking the rationalizations seriously and look at Kerry's behavior as that of a pol trying to play it safe and have it both ways, it all falls into place. Occam's Razor! ... P.P.S.: Bonifaz's book is Warrior King: The Case for Impeaching George W. Bush (NationBooks--NY, January 2004) ... P.P.P.S: Emphasis added throughout. ... 1:05 P.M.

Kerry to South: Drop Dead! Jake Tapper reports a Modified Kinsley Gaffe by the New Hampshire front-runner--Kerry accidentally saying what isn't necessarily true but what many Democratic politicos and journalists have talked themselves into actually thinking (i.e., that they don't need the South to win because they can win in the Rustbelt). ... Update: Anti-Kerry Bushie John Ellis actually  agrees that the Dems don't need the South. ...  12:12 P.M.

#2, With an Asterisk! The Mystery Pollster emails to draw attention to an asterisk at the bottom of the latest Zogby tracking poll, the one that sensationally shows Howard Dean within striking distance, trailing Kerry 31-28. Apparently today Zogby "factored in Leaners to reflect how Undecideds might break."  Is this change in methodology the only reason for the jump in Dean's numbers? It's impossible to tell. Zogby says that without factoring in the Leaners, "the percentage of Undecideds is 13%," unchanged from the day before. So maybe actual support for the candidates is also unchanged. We don't know. ... P.S.: The Mystery Pollster asks

[H]as Zobgy been probing leaners (and withholding the results) all along, or did he just start last Friday?  Why the change?  ... [I]s he playing with his methodology in order to show results consistent with "his judgment of 'what is happening on the ground'" (to quote the Morin-Deane piece)?  

Actually, it seems to me this last fudge factor is the main basis for giving some weight to Zogby's numbers. Presumably he doesn't want to embarrass himself by getting the race wildly wrong. He wouldn't say Dean is getting close unless something in his polling--perhaps a surge in the number of Leaners going for Dean compared with his earlier, unpublished Leaner numbers--indicated it might actually be happeneing. ... On the other hand, Zogby's getting a lot of publicity for his Dean-is-close call.  That might be worth the risk of some post-N.H. embarrassment. And he's been wrong before, as the Morin-Deane piece notes. ... 11:41 A.M.

More kf-ellisblog synergy: Ellis summarizes a dynamic that was definitely going on yesterday, but that I failed to comprehend cleanly--much less articulate cleanly--when I was attempting a brief TV pundit gig today:

Might [Dean] capture second place? The veteran scribes would be very cross if he did, since they have already written (in their heads) the Dean obit and the South Carolina set-ups (either Kerry vs. Edwards or Kerry vs. Clark).  Alas, the [polls] are now showing a bit of bounce-back for Dean. He might just get second, if these polls are accurate.

The Rule of Two would thus require the scribes to frame the race as Kerry vs. Dean. But they've long since decided that Dean is a goner. Cognitive dissonance crisis grips the Sheraton Wayfarer.

Ellis is so totally wrong, however, to mention the Wayfarer. The Wayfarer scene is dead this year. Instead, the media people and campaign aides seem to be going to the bar at the Manchester Holiday Inn. ... There's the sort of on-the-spot detail that only Microsoft's expense account can deliver!... (As Walter Shapiro joked in a stand-up comedy show Sunday night, in what other city would people brag that they were staying at the Holiday Inn?) ... 2:07 A.M.

More investigative schmoozing at a bar* in Manchester: 1) Gephardt is expected to endorse Kerry, but when? 2) Assuming Kerry wins N.H., will he even contest South Carolina--where a Kerry win would knock out Edwards--or will he concede it and concentrate on winning in Missouri and other states on Feb. 3?  3) Does it help Kerry if the negative stories about him dribble out over the next two days--which would spread out their impact and effectively cauterize the wounds with a big election victory? Wouldn't it be more damaging if anti-Kerry hit men held their fire in N.H. and then all the negative press came down on Kerry between Jan 27 and Feb. 3--the way all the anti-Dean criticism fell on him at once? 4) Who are the people in Hollywood who can still raise big hard money in $2,000 increments? Answer: Studio heads! Why? Because they can apply ... subtle pressure to those who work for them. .... Confession: One of these was only overheard at the bar because I was listening to myself. Guess it's obvious which one. ...[*the prestigious Holiday Inn bar?--ed I must protect my sources.]  12:57 A.M.

Sunday, January 25, 2004 

Example of a way-too-right-wing anti-Kerry site. Anyone motivated by a mention of "Hanoi Jane" isn't going to consider voting for Kerry anyway. Some good photos, though. ... I say stick with the "he-threw-some-other-guys'-medals-over-the-wall" character attack. Of course, Kerry sympathizers have a plausible rationalization for that behavior, news of which comes as a shock to anyone who followed Kerry's anti-war protest at the time. Kerry sympathizers have a plausible rationalization for his discordant Iraq war votes too. And the affirmative action cave. And the we-thought-he-was-Irish thing. They have many, many plausible rationalizations. Rationalizing Kerry's opportunistic behavior--crafting the tortured paragraph, smoothing it out, road testing it, indoctrinating sympathetic reporters--is the new Democratic growth industry. ... At least supporting Clinton only required one major suspension of common sense (on sex). ...11:53 P.M.

Feiler himself emails to note that almost 50% of New Hampshire voters told the CNN/Gallup poll they'd seen the Dean Scream tape 6 or more times. This confirms the basic mechanism of Feiler's Faster Thesis--the swift saturation of the voters with each moment's information. The Thesis will be further confirmed if (as some polls suggest) Dean can bounce back before Tuesday--i.e. if voters show they can process this damning information in a couple of days, recover quickly and move on to the next twist in the story in record time. ... If only the FFT had been around when Ed Muskie cried. ... P.S.: Turns out Jeff Greenfield already make this point on CNN ... 11:43 P.M.

The ugly truth about John Kerry and hockey! ... 3:32 P.M.

Someone hire this kid: Hardcore Chris' daily secret forbidden ARG number has a Dean bounce-back to second place. (But see PolySigh's critique.) ... Zogby's daily crack for Saturday has Dean only three points behind Kerry. ... Weekend polling is always iffy, however, quite apart from the dangers of taking daily small-sample results too seriously. ... 1:07 A.M.

Kerryphobia Korner: He's on His Side! Many emailers have told me I should lay out more rigorously my reasons for opposing John Kerry. I'll try to do that during the coming post-New Hampshire "Turkey Shoot." For those who can't wait, here's a) a link to John Ellis' item on Kerry's "pathetic" '90s attempted rethinking of affirmative action, and b) Todd's Treasure Trove of Kerry Kontradictions, in today's New York Times, and c) a link to a medium-sized kf rant  about the senator, from a year ago. Actually, here's most of it:

It's been barely two months since Kerry declared for president, and he's already 1) zig-zagged opportunistically on the Iraq war issue and 2) zig-zagged opportunistically on the dividend taxation issue. (Kerry called for "ending the double taxation of dividends" in his major December economic speech and then denounced President Bush's plan, which ends the double taxation of dividends, for creating "unaffordable new tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans.") Now -- amazingly and all-too-predictably -- Kerry has started rhapsodizing about the Jewish roots he's been ignoring for decades, according to Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby:

''I am so excited,'' he told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee during a dinner last week at Congregation B'nai Israel of Palm Beach. ''A light has literally turned on within me -- like an epiphany -- and I am proud to share this special measure of connection with you.''

But didn't Kerry only recently discover his Jewish roots? No! As Jacoby points out, he's known about his Jewish grandmother for 15 years, yet he "rarely spoke about it in public." Nor does he seem to have been especially eager, over the past few decades, to uncover the fact that he has no Irish heritage at all, despite his surname. ...

Jacoby also takes a stab at winning the fiercely-contested Kerry Mystery Challenge with this one-sentence description of Kerry's fatal flaw:

His reactions are relevant only because they seem to fit his career-long pattern of equivocation and calculation -- trying whenever possible to have it both ways, always maneuvering to leave himself an out.

Not bad! But I think Kerry's problem isn't simple, run-of-the-mill calculating opportunism. It's more comically transparent calculating opportunism, of which his Jewish "epiphany" is a good illustration.  In other words, his opportunistic zig-zagging is so instantaneous and shameless -- changing week-to-week in the case of Iraq -- that it becomes counterproductive, losing Kerry the benefit the opportunism is supposed to gain. Why suddenly turn Jewish just when half the press corps is ready to pounce on any indication of convenient chameleonism? How dumb is that? It's calculation, but also incompetent calculation -- not what you look for in a president. ... Now the press has three recent examples of Kerry flip-flops. And every reporter knows if you have three examples you have a trend. ...

P.S.: I forgot. He tactically zig-zagged on the death penalty too. That's four. ...

I recommend Ryan Lizza's August 7, 2000 New Republic piece on Kerry's suitability to be Gore's VP pick (at a time when Kerry was the "most shamelessly self-promoting potential veep"). Lizza actually told me  he thought he was going to write a pro-Kerry piece, until he started calling around in Massachusetts. (Dirty little secret: They don't really like Kerry there! But the Mass. Democratic pols are all in New Hampshire this weekend punching their ticket with him in case he wins). Lizza's piece is subscription only, unfortunately. ...

P.S.: Jon Keller's February, 2002 Boston Magazine article also looks highly promising. The words "opportunistic hypocrite" are used. There is also this thumbnail description:

thin-skinned panderer who poses as a courageous, post-partisan freethinker on issues such as education and campaign finance reform, but bails out when the going gets tough.

See, it's not just me!

P.P.S.: Unlike many fellow Democrats, I don't worry so much that a blatantly flawed figure like Kerry will lose to President Bush. I worry more he won't lose. ...

P.P.P.S.: See also Brooks Jacoby, Kurtz, Vennochi, Coulter and Beinart! [If half of those links worked, this might be useful--ed. I know, I know. But it's late. If you are really an opposition researcher you'll track them down.]... 11:49 P.M.

He's on Your Side ... No, wait ...: If none of Kerry's opponents makes a good negative ad against him based on the information in this Jonathan Cohn article, then the Iowans will have won! ... On the stump this week, Kerry portentously attacked special interests and complained that retirement accounts have been "decimated" by the "scandals of Enron and Worldcom," but Cohn makes it clear that an overbroad law that Kerry supported limiting the ability of investors to sue over fraudulent accounting practices contributed to the Enron and Worldcom scandals. The law was backed by a variety of monied special interests and was passed over President Clinton's veto. ... You think there is enough hypocrisy there to work with? ... Update: Prof. Bainbridge disagrees, citing some studies that say the lawsuit-limiting bill Kerry supported has resulted in fewer settlements but bigger settlements. But that hardly answers the question, which is whether those who did the fudging at Enron et. al. thought they would be held accountable for the particular transgressions they were committing.  Big judgments in clear-cut cases of fraud (even if perfectly foreseen) might not deter easily-concealed gray-area fudging.  ... 12:39 P.M.



Drudge Report--80 % true. Close enough! Instapundit--All-powerful hit king. Joshua Marshall--Escapee from American Prospect. Salon--Better click fast! Andrew Sullivan--He asks, he tells. He sells! Washington Monthly--Includes Charlie Peters' proto-blog. the drink. Virginia Postrel--Friend of the future! Peggy Noonan--Gold in every column. Matt Miller--Savvy rad-centrism. WaPo--Waking from post-Bradlee snooze. Calmer Times--Registration required.  NY Observer--Read it before the good writers are all hired away. New Republic--Left on welfare, right on warfare!  Jim Pinkerton--Quality ideas come from quantity ideas. Tom Tomorrow--Everyone's favorite leftish cartoonists' blog.  Ann "Too Far" Coulter--Sometimes it's just far enough. Bull Moose--National Greatness Central. John Ellis--Forget that Florida business! The cuz knows politics, and he has, ah, sources. "The Note"--How the pros start their day. Romenesko's MediaNews--O.K. they actually start it here. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities--Money Liberal Central.. Steve Chapman--Ornery-but-lovable libertarian. Rich Galen--Sophisticated GOP insider. Man Without Qualities--Seems to know a lot about white collar crime. Hmmm. horror stories. Eugene Volokh--Smart, packin' prof, and not Instapundit! Eve Tushnet--Queer, Catholic, conservative and not Andrew Sullivan! WSJ's Best of the Web--James Taranto's excellent obsessions. Walter Shapiro--Politics and (don't laugh) neoliberal humor! Eric Alterman--Born to blog. Joe Conason--Bush-bashing, free most days. Lloyd Grove--Don't let him write about you. Arianna--A hybrid vehicle. populists. Take on the News--TomPaine's blog.  B-Log--Blog of spirituality!  Hit & Run--Reason gone wild! Daniel Weintraub--Beeblogger and Davis Recall Central. Nonzero--Bob Wright explains it all. [More tk.]