Mo' Straw: Edwards is ahead of Bush in at least one Southern state where Kerry isn't, according to Survey USA. Granted, it's Edwards' own state of North Carolina. But North Carolina's electoral votes--which Al Gore did not get--count too. ... P.S.: North Carolina in fact has 15 electoral votes. Not chopped liver! Only eight states have more. Democrats are currently saying they plan to break the 2000 Electoral College near-tie by holding their blue states and snatching Ohio (with 20 votes). Snatching North Carolina (with Edwards) seems a plausible alternative strategy ... 6:00 P.M.
kf believes in 'just far enough:' How revealing was Michael Eisner's letter to Michael Ovitz telling him he "exaggerated the truth too far "? 5:49 P.M.
The CW in the press rooms at last night's debate was that Kerry either won or did well enough to preserve his lead. He certainly had some good moments (his discussion of Haiti, for example) and many of his answers avoided reflecting his appreciation that life is not simple. But he had some bad moments too--most obviously, Ron Brownstein reducing him to evasion on whether he'd vote for the Defense of Marriage Act. (Brownstein also nailed him for wanting to water down standards in the No Child Left Behind Act, but unless there are more Washington Monthly readers in the audience than I imagine it didn't cost Kerry many votes). ... My main impression was of how pissed Kerry still is that Edwards needled him for his long answer in that Wisconsin debate. In last night's discussion, Edwards had just done him the huge favor of essentially defending both of their pro-war votes when Kerry couldn't resist making fun of Edwards' non-brevity. ("Let me return a favor from the last debate to John ...") How small and thin-skinned was that? Kerry's body language and facial gestures suggested he loathes [loathes?-ed Would you believe "is highly annoyed by"?] Edwards.
And Edwards has a way of doing well in debates he doesn't do well in--because voters discovering him for the first time like him. As L.A. Weekly'sMarc Cooper said, if you were a man from Mars who looked at the debate not knowing anything about the candidates or issues but just deciding who was most appealing, would you rank Kerry first? No. You'd rank him last. Kucinich and Sharpton might well be the Man from Mars winners, as performers--Kucinich was flush with that Hawaiian serotonin--with Edwards a close third. ...
The real winner, however, was Larry King. He's not such a wuss after all! ... P.S.: The LAT's Janet Clayton gets points for relentlessly ending Edwards' relative free ride on his pro-war vote. ... 2:35 A.M.
Thursday, February 26, 2004
Edwards is also now very close to catching Kerry in Maryland, according to this ARG poll. Kerry's lead is only 7 points. ... 2:45 P.M.
Here's an example of a distinction I was trying to draw earlier, between a pander that respects its target audience and a pander that treats the audience as morons. Edwards and Kerry were both asked by the NYT editorial board about "the politically risky step of eliminating protections for the American sugar and cotton industry." Neither of them wanted to offend the sugar and cotton growers, but both would like to appeal to the anti-protectionist Times editors.
Edwards' response: "I think I'll stick where I am on that."
Kerry's response: "That is one of those issues that will be under review [in the first 120 days of his presidency]."
Edwards gives a straightforward answer that acknowledges the political calculation involved and forthrightly stiffs the Times ed board. Kerry seems to expect the NYT editors and free-trading voters--as well as the opposing growers--to somehow be fooled an ambiguous promise of "review." [It's because he appreciates that life is not simple-ed. Sorry, I forgot!] ... 2:23 P.M.
He's not a straddling positioner, he's just deep! Gail Collins' soon-to-be-infamous sentence--
What his critics see as an inability to take strong, clear positions seems to us to reflect his appreciation that life is not simple.
is ridiculed here and here . ... P.S.: I accept that Kerry's smarter in private--I once interviewed him as part of a small group of reporters and don't remember coming away thinking "This guy's a phony." Unfortunately the public only gets to see the pompous pandescender. And a president needs the ability to move the public. ... P.P.S.: I don't remember thinking "This guy's really smart" either. ... P.P.P.S.: Byron York halfway succeeds in depicting Kerry as creepily stuck in 1969. But I give Kerry points for toking on an imaginary joint at a campaign event. Edgy! ... It's certainly the riskiest thing I've heard of him doing. ... 11:17 A.M.
Wednesday, February 25, 2004
1) See Straw; 2) Grasp: Am I wrong or is Edwards gaining very fast on Kerry in Georgia, if you read a lot into the two polls on this page? ... A week ago, Edwards was 31 points behind. Now, a second poll says he's only 8 points behind (45/37) with another week to go. ... Maybe Kerry's how-dare-you-criticize-me debate with Sen. Chambliss didn't go over very well . ... Where's Georgia's Hardcore Chris when we need him? Update: He's here. Excerpt:
It's sad to say but everyone's eyes are on the AJC to see who they endorse. Key newspaper endorsements in Wisconsin helped Edwards turn a 30 point gap into a strong second place showing. In Georgia he's already within striking distance and if things go his way I think he'll be able to win on Tuesday ...
More-Kerry "hemorrhaged support over the two days the poll was conducted": Zogby confirms Edwards' Georgia surge--if anyone still believes Zogby. ... 3:54 P.M.
The Kucinich Tsunami! 981 votes in Hawaii got him 6 delegates and second place. The Nation's John Nichols (voice of "progressives [who] get up in the morning and go about the work of fighting racism and homophobia") is quite excited and all over the story. ... 3:41 P.M.
Kerry Electrifies Ohio Crowd: "Polite Applause at Points!" From the Boston Globe:
Later, Kerry led a question-and-answer forum with workers at a Youngstown manufacturing plant, where the senator drew polite applause at points but also some lengthy silences. He answered seven questions over 27 minutes; three of his answers lasted more than five minutes apiece. [Emphasis added.]
[Link via Viking Pundit] 1:09 P.M.
Where's Gardner? How hard could it be for someone to find former Gunner's Mate Stephen M. Gardner, the one member of John Kerry's swift boat crew who isn't part of Kerry's band of supporters and "has lost touch with the others," according to the NYT? If he's alive he might have an interesting perspective to offer. ... 20 seconds on Google: How about this guy? He quotes Joni Mitchell! Puts him in the right generation. ... Buried lede: The NYT's John Kifner reports that
Adm. Elmo R. Zumwalt Jr., who devised the swift boat operation, said officers on the boats had a 75 percent chance of being killed by enemy fire.
This is almost certainly wrong, as Thomas Maguire notes. (Kerry was brave, "not suicidal.") The factlet Kifner botched seems to be:
"Zumwalt, who died in 2000, calculated in his autobiography that these men under his command had a 75 percent chance of being killed or wounded during a typical year." (Boston Globe, June 16, 2003) [Emphasis added.]
More:Musil has some useful thoughts on the touchy subject of what Kerry's military records might or might not reveal. ... 1:56 A.M.
Do not leave your dogma in the karma unattended! Can Bush and Kerry get around the (unconstitutional!) 'Stand By Your Ad' requirement simply by having their running mates appear and utter the required approval? Polipundit speculates. ... S.B.Y.A. might be a problem for Bush, no? It could discourage the sort of traditionally nasty anti-flip-flop spot that would be expected to really damage Kerry. But I don't quite see where it helps Bush to have Cheney utter the magic words of approval. a) Cheney's not very popular--why remind voters about him while making him even less popular? b) Cheney would probably look meaner doing it than Bush; and c) it would seem weird to have the #2 guy take responsibility, as if he was running the show!. ... But here's a plan: Have Cheney appear in a really vicious set of negative ads. Then (once Kerry's eviscerated) have Cheney leave the ticket! Away goes all the bad karma. Replace Cheney with a sunny optimist! ...
Update: Alert reader J.G. suggests that, since voters are technically picking "electors" who are pledged to vote for Bush or his opponent, perhaps one of these little-known electors (chosen for his or her tv-friendly voice) could do the S.B.Y.A. "approval" honors. ... Finding loopholes in unconstitutional laws is no vice! Will this work, Prof. Hasen? ...
More: Hasen doesn't think the "elector" trick will fly because the law "requires that the 'candidate' whose committee is paying for the ad must make the statement." Hmmm. What if you set up a separate committe for each elector? ... Polipundit is confident Cheney could pull it off, and writes a script for him that seems to solve some of the obvious problems (such as (c) above). ... 1:36 A.M.
Tuesday, February 24, 2004
Next: 50 Cent is Nat King Cole! Do you think Janet Jackson was "a perfect match" with Lena Horne? ... 8:32 P.M.
Kerry on the Fence: Has Kerry actually flip-flopped on the issue of Israel's security barrier? Or is it just a straddle? Here's the Jerusalem Post story. You make the call.
Summary: In October, Kerry told the Arab American Institute:
We don't need another barrier to peace. Provocative and counterproductive measures only harm Israelis' security over the long term, increase the hardships to the Palestinian people, and make the process of negotiating an eventual settlement that much harder.
Now, with the New York primary coming up, Kerry proclaims "Israel's security fence is a legitimate act of self defense, No nation can stand by ..." etc. etc.--though Kerry says "President Bush is rightly discussing with Israel the exact route of the fence to minimize the hardship."
The J. Post story has some pro-Kerry spin about how these statements are perfectly consistent. (Who knew that when Kerry said "We don' t need another barrier to peace" he was actually approving the security barrier!) But even if the positions are logically compatible, wouldn't it be more admirable and constructive to tell the Arabs that a barrier is legitimate and tell the Jews that the route of the fence is wrong? Or tell both audiences both parts?
The predictability of Kerry's flip-flopping gives him an odd sort of meta-consistency. You could set your watch by this guy! And I do think Kerry'spandering flips, of which this is an example, are comparatively benign. In an all out panderflip, after all, a politician is telling a group of voters "You're the boss." He's treating them with respect. Too often Kerry practices a different, more fraudulent, kind of pander--e.g. ostentatiously declining limited PAC contributions while loading up on unlimited "soft" money--that treats voters as imbeciles who are easily fooled. ... 8:02 P.M.
Kerry's War Records II: Byron York notes that Kerry has already shared a good chunk of those records with favored sources (e.g., Douglas Brinkley). York also smells a trap--the press and GOP demands Kerry's records, thinking there is something embarrassing there. When Kerry reluctantly complies, it turns out there's nothing embarrassing, and Kerry gets yet another dose of good publicity about his 'Nam service. ... Still, if I were a Republican, or John Edwards, I'd take that chance. It's not as if by the end of February, much less October, anyone in America won't have heard the positive side of Kerry's service. At some point an extra dose of good publicity will have declining marginal benefits for Kerry. ... 12:52 P.M.
Bush Boosts Kerry II: Bush's headline-making endorsement of a constitutional amendment against gay marriage is, of course, another way to boost Kerry (Bush's preferred opponent) by keeping John Edwards out of the news for one more crucial day. ... Why did Bush have to make his gay marriage announcement today, as opposed to next Wednesday? ... If he wanted to run against Edwards, don't you think he'd have waited and given Edwards the space to make his pitch? ... 12:41 P.M.
Kerry's past support for policies he now condemns is complicating his run for the White House, strategists from both parties say, and could prove problematic ....
Ya think? ... P.S.: It looks as if Bush is smart enough to try to define Kerry as a flip-flopping opportunist rather than as Dukakis II. This is very bad news for the Democrats (because Kerry ... er ... is a flip-flopping opportunist). [But he was in Vietnam-ed. Well allright then!] ... 2:39 A.M.
E-mailer Marathon Dave has a good suggestion for the Edwards campaign: Instead of essentially admitting that they are "cherry-picking" states that might be receptive to Edwards' economic message ...
[w]hy are they not saying something like "We are campaigning hard all over the country, in every state except Sen. Kerry's home state of Massachusetts, and its New England neighbors that are dominated by Boston media." This has the ... advantage of reminding everyone that Kerry is from Massachusetts, in New England, home of Boston, and thus unelectable ...
It's probably too late to switch rationales. Maybe Dave should email Edwards' campaign directly next time! ... 1:21 A.M.
Kerry Has Only One Weapons System: When I worked at The New Republic, Joshua Muravchik was known as 'Josh Apparatchik' because his articles so reliably promoted the neocon party line. But his Sunday Washington Post piece does give Kerry a rather formidable gauntlet to run:
The litany of weapons systems that Kerry opposed included conventional as well as nuclear equipment: the B-1 bomber, the B-2, the F-15, the F-14A, the F-14D, the AH-64 Apache helicopter, the AV-8B Harrier jet, the Patriot missile, the Aegis air-defense cruiser and the Trident missile. And he sought to reduce procurement of the M1 Abrams tank, the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, the Tomahawk cruise missile and the F-16 jet.
Many of those are flawed or cost-ineffective weapons. But all of them? [Update: See Fred Kaplan's discussion the highly suspect Republican use of Kerrry's votes on across-the-board defense spending bills to imply opposition to individual weapons systems. It's not clear if those GOP talking points are Muravchik's only source. Even Kaplan concedes there are "probably" Kerry defense votes that are "embarrassing in retrospect."] ... Meanwhile, RealClearPolitics' T. Bevan notes that Kerry's annoyingly early deployment of what Ellis calls his "Vietnam heat shield" (to counter Muravchik-like attacks) may be more than simply the reflexive reaction of a man who has only one play in his playbook. As with the earlier Bush AWOL story, Kerry's move may have been as much a primary election maneuver (i.e. to beat Edwards) as a general election maneuver (i.e. to beat Bush).
Edwards only has eight days left to find a way to win somewhere and Kerry sucked up much of the media oxygen this past weekend with his public tête à tête with Bush.
Note to Bevan: Oxygen-sucking was 2000's cliche! [And 'playbook'?-ed. Timeless.] ... P.S.: Note also that by engaging Kerry on defense and other issues, the Republicans are effectively shutting out Edwards and guaranteeing that they will face the candidate they are less scared of. ... Update: Here's what happened when Kerry attempted to actually rebut the substance of the GOP weapons-system charges, according to WaPo:
"I never voted for one of those, I don't think, so I very quickly came to that conclusion when I was in the United States Senate in 1985 and 1986."
Kerry immediately amended that statement, saying he had opposed former president Ronald Reagan's missile defense system, anti-satellite weaponry and the MX missile. "I think I've tried to do things that made sense for the long-term defense of our country," he said. That touched off a flurry of documents from the Republican National Committee and the Bush campaign citing votes Kerry made against a number of those weapons systems, and a response from the Kerry campaign asserting that he had sought to cut fat from the Pentagon budget but had supported a strong defense throughout out his career.
Maybe Kerry should stick to "HowdareyouIwasinVietnam." 12:58 A.M.
The ground is shifting under fatally conflicted L.A-based NYT correspondent Bernard Weinraub (he's married to Amy Pascal, who runs Sony Pictures). Los Angeles Magazine's RJ Smith captures his mealy-mouthed explanations of the situation:
"I haven't been covering the Industry since I got married," Weinraub told me. But that's not true. A Nexis search shows numerous Industry pieces in the years immediately following his marriage; he has written profiles of actors and directors, aggressively covered the talent agencies, and reported on the studios competing for Oscars. (In the last six months there have been pieces on the MPAA's new screener policy, a Jack Valenti feature, and a story on Wesley Clark's courtship of Hollywood.)
Weinraub's other, bigger problem is new NYT hire Sharon Waxman, who is showing what an energetic and unconflicted reporter can do on the Hollywood beat, and making Weinraub look very weak by comparison. ... When Weinraub moves on that will leave Howie Kurtz--who works for and reports on CNN and its competitors--as probably the most conspicuous unaddressed walking conflict in Big Journalism. The Post makes exception-riddled, Weinraub-like excuses for him too! ... [Link via Romenesko] 12:24 A.M.
Monday, February 23, 2004
How did the Bush campaign already spend $39 million? Part II: Prof. Hasen has some partial answers. Other plausible suggestions from kf readers: pre-bought media time, "infrastructure in 50 states," "the mother of all fundraising expenses. These would include the fundraising consultants, travel, catering and most of all, direct mail prospecting that raised the $150 million." ... I'm still hoping for some washrooms with gold-leaf faucets. ... P.S.: The kf Mystery Pollster suggests that any reader or reporter with enough time and energy can get a rough answer by copying and pasting about 200 pages from opensecrets.org, starting here. ... Take it away, anybody. ... Update: Less than two hours later, Polipundit has already done the work, or his macro has. ... 11:38 P.M.
Who is George Meagher? He's an independent! He's a Republican! He's the new Greg Packer , the indispensable, universal New York Times man-on-the-street source for this political season. (Why is he so useful? He's newly anti- Bush!) ... If only Meagher had lost his job to outsourcing, Elisabeth Rosenthal would never have to do another interview again! ... See Instapundit, though the 'wingers at Free Republic started it. ... Update: A NYT correction treats the symptom, ignores the underlying disease. ... 8:32 P.M.
'We're geniuses to have gotten the turkey this far!' Adam Nagourney reports a view of Kerry's "electability" from some very well-informed sources:
This turn in the campaign has given some Kerry advisers pause, they said, both because they have long viewed Mr. Edwards as their strongest barrier to the nomination and because of what several described as Mr. Kerry's own limitations as a candidate, underlined by the memory of the near-collapse of his campaign last fall. [Emphasis added.]
Some evidence to back up John Ellis' claim that Kerry's own aides "think he's a stiff!" 2:54 A.M.
No Bias Left Behind! Compare the New York Times' account of a Utah meeting in which federal officials sought to calm fears about the No Child Left Behind Act ("Bush Education Officials Find New Law a Tough Sell") to the account in the local paper ("No Child Left Behind Comes Into Focus"). Predictably, the Times missed this part of the story:
Afterwards, some parents and minority advocates said they didn't want things to change too much. The law forces schools to confront weaknesses, said Karen Duffy, a University of Utah researcher who studies education issues for American Indians.
American Indians have long lagged behind their classmates, she said, and the school system has failed to solve the problem.
"This law is about the only hope they have," she said.
Sunday, February 22, 2004
From the London Sunday Times:
Kerry has not authorised the release of his war records - a strange omission, say his political foes, given the ferocity with which his supporters have demanded to see every last document of Bush's military service in the Texas Air National Guard.
I give Kerry points for his Vietnam service. But since it (along with some plug-n-play Shrum rhetoric) is almost the entirety of his campaign for president, can it really be true that he hasn't authorized release of his military records? Does he think this is a defensible position? ... Hello, Edwards! Get somebody to demand the release, like tomorrow, before Kerry wises up and realizes he can't say "no" (i.e. while there's still a chance he'll initially stonewall, thus dragging out the story in the days before the March 2 primaries.) ... Update: The full Sunday Times story, which costs money, contains the following paragraph that the Australian's free version, linked to above, does not:
Kerry declined a request from The Boston Globe to authorise the release of military records that could reveal more about his injuries and treatment. The Sunday Times submitted a similar request and was told the records might be released in future.
Still, worth a shot for Edwards. Kerry could hesitate. ... 9:43 P.M.
From the N.Y. Daily News:
President Bush's reelection campaign began February with $104 million in the bank after raising $12.9 million last month.
Including money already spent, Bush had reached his $150 million fund-raising goal.
Forget Howard Dean.Can the Bush campaign really have already spent $46 million? What on earth have they spent it on? ... And will potential futures donors be confident their money will be spent wisely? ... Update:kf reader M.W. argues that much of the $150 million probably reflects pledges that have yet to be fulfilled, rather then money already spent. He says, "Some accounting lessons are in order here." ... How dare he challenge me. I was in Vietnam! [No you weren't--ed.] We'll have to resort to the Web, then. According to this useful and seemingly authoritative chart, the Bush campaign has already spent $39 million, not $46 million. Still. That seems like a lot to have already blown, given that it's February and Bush hasn't been fighting an active primary battle. Are the Bushies running a gold-plated operation?... 9:27 P.M.
From Slate's "In Other Magazines":
Some stats from SI's 40th anniversary swimsuit issue: 36 shots of women in swimsuits; 15 of women wearing only part of their suits and positioned strategically next to inner tubes, barns, etc.; ... 11 interviews with members of the "swimsuit hall of fame" ... and one cover model, Veronica Varekova, who says the person she'd most like to meet is Charlie Rose.
That can be arranged! ... Update: They move fast. She was on Friday's show. ... 9:21 P.M.
'How dare you question me. I was in Vietnam!':
1) GOP Senator Saxby Chambliss criticizes Sen. Kerry's "32-year history of voting to cut defense programs and cut defense systems."
2) Kerry responds:``I don't know what it is about what these Republicans who didn't serve in any war have against those of us who are Democrats who did."
If Kerry's response to every substantive GOP charge about his record as a Senator is going to be 'I served in Vietnam,' it'll be a long campaign. [You mean "long"="tedious" or "long"="losing"?-ed Both! Expand pls--ed.a) It will get old very quickly; b) It's not a rational response to a question about his defense voting record. "I support a robust defense but not wasted spending that leads to crippling GOP budget deficits" would be a rational response.]... 9:13 A.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! David Corn--Trustworthy reporting from the left. Washington Monthly--Includes Charlie Peters' proto-blog. Lucianne.com--Stirs 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. Overlawyered.com--Daily 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. TomPaine.com--Web-lib 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.]