What about releasing Kerry's military records?

A mostly political Weblog.
Feb. 23 2004 1:53 AM

Release Kerry's Military Records?

Plus--How could the Bush campaign have already spent $39 million? 

'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"). Somehow the Times missed this part:

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.

12:42 A.M.

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.

Friday, February 20, 2004 

If the Democratic candidates aren't taking shots at each other, somebody has to fill the void:

"Frankly, sharing a media market with Chuck Schumer is like sharing a banana with a monkey. Take a little bite of it, and he will throw his own feces at you." --Sen. Schumer's colleague, Sen. John Corzine (D-N.J.), joking at the Washington Press Club Foundation Dinner.

Schumer was reportedly "irked".  Even better! 2:48 P.M.

Psst! Isn't the celebrated, goo-goo "Stand by Your Ad" provision of the McCain-Feingold law, the one that's had such an impact discouraging negative spots in the current campaign, transparently ... you know ... unconstitutional? The provision requires candidates to appear personally and say they approve any TV ad. Since when can the government dictate what candidates must say when? It's not as if the government is declaring that you can't get public financing unless you say this. It's not declaring you can't get discounted TV time unless you say this. It's not giving candidates anything in exchange. It's just decreeing that they have to say it--even in a perfectly legal ad bought for full price with small donations ("hard money") from idealistic individual supporters. Could the government get away with a rule like this for printed speech--say, requiring that the Federalist Papers feature a color photograph of "Publius"? I certainly hope not. (We'd finally find out who "Atrios" is, but it wouldn't be worth it.)

Prof. Hasen agrees  that the new rule is "compelled speech" that violates the First Amendment, but notes that Justice Rehnquist seems to have upheld the provision with a few conclusory words in the recent McConnell case. I tend to think Rehquist's pathetic paragraph leaves the particulars of the provision--as opposed to the general idea of making campaigns disclose and ad's source--open to challenge. After all, how does requiring that the candidate himself or herself appear--as opposed to just requiring that funding be disclosed by someone, somehow--shed the "'light of publicity" on campaign financing"? ...

Forget whether or not "money equals speech"--this seems like the Court's outrageous anti-freedom holding. There's no question, after all, that what's being abridged here is speech--the right to say what you want about politics. ... P.S.: As Hasen notes, the provision was explicitly designed to protect politicians from negative ads. And it's helped turn the Democratic primary race into an uninformative blandwagon in which voters know much less, at this stage, about the characters of the two leading candidates than in previous multicandidate primaries (e.g. Mondale and Hart in 1984, Dukakis and Jackson in 1988, Clinton and Tsongas in 1992). ...  2:43 P.M.

"Anywhere, anytime": Edwards has now taken Ellisblog's advice and made a formal proposal for a series of debates. The trick: They aren't one-on-one debates. Edwards seems to be calling Kerry's bluff--Kerry's campaign having said he'd be happy to debate "anywhere, anytime" as long as Kucinich and Sharpton are included. Not unclever of Edwards, no? ... 12:34 P.M.

Thursday, February 19, 2004 

Kerry gets a Mulligan from CBS, whose producer gives him a second chance to nail a too-long sound bite. Does Bush get do-overs? It's bias I tell you! ... Actually, of course, it's the institutional needs of CBS--they have to have something to go on the news. The old strategy for a candidate was to say only one usable thing every day, and then the nets would have to go with that. Kerry may be pioneering a new strategy of giving the networks nothingusable, thus reducing them to utter desperation, after which they will probably give him free expert wording tips and accept a soundbite of twice they length they had originally planned. ... [Thanks to alert reader t.] 11:29 P.M.

Beating up on ... Edwards?Hey! Ellis says Edwards has asked for two too few debates. In fact, Edwards seems to have asked for debates in every locale he's visited-- not just Georgia, but also New York. What he hasn't done is frame the challenge as a formal debate proposal Kerry would look bad refusing (as opposed to ad hoc pandering that Kerry can more easily ignore). Charitable explanation: Edwards was waiting to see whether the L.A. Times and CNN would hand him his one-on-one debate on a silver platter by excluding Sharpton and Kucinich. ... P.S.: Walter Olson finds holes in Edwards' Democratic cloth coat. ... 10:54 P.M.

Kool Kids for Edwards: Two good Noam Scheiber items. 1) He argues  Edwards should go negative on Kerry--in a slag-off Edwards wins due to his comparative sunniness advantage. (I know all about this advantage from the disadvantaged side. In debates on welfare, Charles Murray used to get away with saying the nastiest things--and people in the audience would say "what a nice fellow." When I'd say something half as nasty, people would go "what an a------e." Murray-like talent is real and not to be pooh-poohed.) Also, voters may not mind it if Edwards shows a little toughness. The main worry about him is that he's a lightweight and not tough enough to fight a war on terror, right?  P.S.: I suspect Edwards may be waiting to Kerry to go negative first, though--which might be even better for Edwards.  2) In a much-linked item, Scheiber draws a hard-to-phrase, invidious conclusion from exit polls showing that "sophisticated" Democrats voted for Edwards while ill-informed and clueless ... sorry, I mean "less sophisticated" voters supported Kerry. That will change, Scheiber speculates:

It's a phenomenon that's actually very similar to what goes on in the stock market. Less sophisticated investors just pick the stocks whose prices they've heard are going up. More sophisticated investors actually do some research about the companies they plan to invest in. Up until yesterday, Kerry was that tech stock that the girlfriend of the cousin of the guy down the street said was a can't-miss opportunity, while Edwards was the unheralded stock of a company with a little-known but solid product.

Affluent and well-educated voters--the "sophisticates" here--can be bad political investors. Many were for Adlai Stevenson over JFK in 1960, right? But in this case, where the egghead/nonegghead social divide wouldn't seem to naturally favor one candidate or the other, I think there's something to Scheiber's analysis. ... 3:52 P.M.

The blogging Deanies, as predicted, do not seem eager to support Kerry. Or Edwards, for that matter. Powerline has a selection of bitter vows of non-support  from the Dean blog. Of course, that's the way we McCarthy supporters felt about Hubert Humphrey in 1968. In the end, we came home and Humphrey pulled it out. ... [Fact checker?--ed. What do they know about Humphrey in the newBangalore research center? I say run with it.] ... The Deans all look prettier at closing time: Wonkette worries how Deanists will now 'hook up.' ...3:30 P.M.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004 

Spinning for Kerry II: I was worried that I'd misheard NBC's Tim Russert condescendingly dismissing John Edwards' candidacy last night. I hadn't. Here is what Russert said (from NEXIS) even before the polls closed:

Look for John Edwards to focus on Ohio, Georgia and upstate New York. He cannot win enough delegates to become the nominee but he can become a strong second, is his hope, which will position himself perhaps for vice president or to run for the nomination in a future cycle.

Such a nice young man. We have a pleasant future all figured out for you. ... P.S.: Russert's Beltway decree was repeated in the West Coast edition of the news, after the polls closed. ...12:48 P.M.

Maybe Kerry is winning!12:28 P.M.

Good Safire column except that his main thesis--that Dean ex-chair Steven Grossman was tacitly working for Edwards against Kerry--is insane. ... 4:42 A.M.

"Once he starts losing, he's a loser." John Ellis makes several powerful points  about the Kerry campaign. Especially #3! ... Update: More bubble-bursting signs. ...P.S.: Will Kerry try to seize on Edwards' mild debate criticism as an "attack" and thus an excuse for self-defense in the form of the negative anti-Edwards ad campaign Ellis thinks is necessary (as part of a "Kill Edwards Off Now" strategy).  ... 4:18 A.M.

Have you noticed that practically every time CNN's Carlos Watson opens his mouth he says something interesting? ... 3:33 A.M.

Who's the Kerry Thug? There have now been at least three instances of unidentified Kerry aides giving arrogant, thuggish blind quotes at reasonably crucial points in the nominating process:

1. "We can take Howard Dean out whenever we want to," said one Kerry adviser. "Why do it now?" (Newsweek, July 14 issue.)

2. "This is not the Dukakis campaign," the adviser said. "We're not going to take it. And if they're going to come at us with stuff, whatever that stuff may be, if it goes to a place where the '88 campaign did, then everything is on the table. Everything." (NYT, Feb 5, 2004)

3. "I don't see this as a two-person race because we're running against someone who has won one state," a senior Kerry adviser said. "This whole idea that you sort of cherry-pick the states you are going to compete in — that's a vanity game, it's not a real game." (NYT, today)

All three show-off quotes were arguably counterproductive: 1) Will Kerry be glad he annoyed Dean last year if Dean now endorses Edwards? 2) "Everything is on the table" was immediately used by the Bush camp to depict Democrats as ready to smear; and 3) Kerry has to debate Edwards at least one more time. Why anger him too? If Kerry was irritated by Edwards' tweaking at the last debate, he'll be apoplectic if Edwards now decides to really cut him up. ...

My question is: Are all the anonymous, macho Kerry advisers the same person? They can't all be such goons, can they? (Don't answer that.) If it's only one "adviser," who is it? It doesn't sound like the Shrum I know. And Lehane had left the Kerry campaign by quotes 2 and 3. That leaves ... well, nominees will be accepted. I suspect most working campaign reporters have a pretty good idea who it is. ... P.S.: Maybe it's the same Democratic aide who anonymously boasted that an incoming President Clinton would "roll" Senator Moynihan--a quote that badly damaged Clinton's chances of passing his health insurance plan. ... No, actually. I think I know who that was. ...2:02 A.M.

Rooftop Report has been delegate counting and concludes that "it looks like the possibility of [Edwards] winning isn't all that ridiculous." The key fact isn't the March 2, Super Tuesday calculations --even in the unlikely event that Edwards were to win 60/40 on March 2 he'd still be slightly behind Kerry in delegates--but March 9. The four big March 9 states are all in the "Saath," as Edwards would say. If Edwards hangs on March 2 he might clean up a week later. ... 12:45 A.M.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004 

Bad Spin Alert: The pro-Kerry line is that he won Wisconsin convincingly among Democrats--it was the Independents and cross-over Republicans who went heavily for Edwards. The NYT's Adam Nagourney bites:

Mr. Kerry's advisers noted ... that in Wisconsin, any registered voter is permitted to vote in the Democratic primary; 10 percent of the electorate here on Tuesday said they were Republicans, and 40 percent of them voted for Mr. Edwards, suggesting that the results here should not be seen as an indication of any general dissatisfaction among Democrats with Mr. Kerry.

Doesn't Edwards' appeal to potential swing Republicans and Independents make him more, you know ... what's the word ... electable? Is it really good news for Kerry that he doesn't travel well beyond the base? Update: Will Saletan elaborates, with charts! ...10:13 P.M.

Conason defends himself  and finally lets his readers know he did some "sheet sniffing and keyhole peeping" himself back in 1992. He also now admits that he lent his name to a cover charge of adultery against the first President Bush that was not quite supported by his reporting. He blames his editors, Kurt Andersen and Susan Morrison, and "Spy style:"

If I have any qualms about the Bush story, they're the same ones that I felt at the time. The headline -- "He cheats on his wife" -- oversold what we were publishing, as I told Andersen and Morrison. They disagreed. And the Spy style tended to preface allegations with the word "alleged" less diligently than other publications.

You decide. But 1) Should Conason now be lecturing people on "journalistic standards"? 2) Is it conceivable that he'd have let his editors make such an attack on a mainstream Democratic candidate--even if the Democrats had attacked their Republican opponent on a sex issue first? No. 3) The lesson of 1992 wasn't that sex shouldn't be dredged up. It's that voters need to know about philandering. Clinton's philandering in fact heavily impacted both his terms in office. First, his wife had the goods on him, which encouraged him to defer to her in giving her health care plan priority over welfare reform and defending it past the moment of compromise--the biggest mistakes of his first four years, mistakes that led directly to GOP control of the Congress. Second, because Clinton got away on the philandering charge in 1992 (thanks to all the Democrats  covering for him) he was encouraged to think he could get away with it in office, even in front of a federal judge, with the obvious disastrous results for his second term.

One point on which I was unfair to Conason: I actually don't think he'd be the first to raise a sex issue in a campaign. Only the second. (And only against a Republican, of course.) He's not the "perfect hack." Just a hack! ... P.S.: Thanks also for the link to Somerby's  cracked riff  on "pale, unloved thighs." ... P.P.S.: If Conason had offered to fax me his hard-to-get 1992 Spy piece, I'd have said yes! Then I would have realized my fax doesn't work. ...  9:38 P.M. link

Is Kerry about to go negative on Edwards? Ellis speculates. ... Meanwhile, the mysterious editor of The Scrum reappears to argue Kerry stepped over an invisible line by timing his speech to push his opponent off the air. ... It does show Kerry's scared, doesn't it? (Remember, he's a dirty hockey player!) ... P.S.: If Kerry's already "irritated" at Edwards' mild debate jibes, maybe he regrets allowing his aides to go around telling reporters that Edwards wouldn't help the ticket as Kerry's running mate. If Edwards has no shot at #2, why shouldn't he come after Kerry? ... 8:56 P.M.

Spinning for Kerry--Tim Russert Decides It All For You: Former Moynihan aide Tim Russert on NBC Nightly News after John Edwards' jarringly strong finish in Wisconsin:

"He cannot win enough delegates to be the nominee."

How the hell does Russert know this? Mathematically, (as Joe Trippi points out) Edwards has a perfectly decent chance of being the nominee, or at least of producing a split convention. Kerry might collapse once he's not perceived as inevitable and electable. Who knows? ... We are, we're told, entering a period in which "free media"--press coverage--is all important. Is it Russert's job to deliver not only a pre-packaged story line but to prearrange the ultimate result?  ... He's not supposed to be gratuitously (and condescendingly) belittling Edwards' showing. He's supposed to be gratuitously  hyping Edwards' showing. Jeez. Talk about out of step! ...

P.S.:WaPo's Balz says an Edwards victory would be "unprecedented and extraordinary difficult." I think that's still a bit too pessimistic, but it's better than "cannot." ...

P.P.S.: Balz also reports that

several Democratic sources said Kerry was irritated by Edwards's criticisms of him in Sunday's Wisconsin debate.

Edwards was a wuss in that debate! He got off one mildly cutting zinger. How vain, thin-skinned and entitled is Kerry? ... 

P.P.P.S.: According to Balz, ex-Gore/Clark aide Ron Klain says Edwards benefitted from

" ...  Dean and Kerry splitting voters to the left and him having voters on the right to himself."

The more Dean is a diminished force, the more likely many of his liberal voters will move to Kerry, rather than Edwards, Klain predicted.

This seems highly suspect. First, you'd think the breakdown would be more Kerry/anti-Kerry than left/right. Under this theory Dean voters are unlikely to go to Kerry. In fact, as Dean faded in Wisconsin, Edwards surged and Kerry even dropped a bit, right?  Second, it's hard to peg Edwards--who attacks NAFTA and spouts populist compassion--as the candidate of the "right." ...  The upshot: It's still in Kerry's interest to have Dean stay in the race. Maybe Kerry should send Steve Grossman back to help the Vermont governor. (By the way, why would anybody ever hire Grossman again after the way he stabbed Dean in the back before the Wisconsin vote?) ... Balz's story suggests why Klain has compiled a record of success that rivals Chris Lehane's! But why is Balz quoting him--unless Balz agrees? ... 7:04 P.M.

RealClearPolitics' Dean pre-mortem  focuses on a) the jockeying to get the McGuffin--Dean's email list, and b) Dean's effect in pushing Kerry and Edwards to the left in potentially damaging ways:

Without Howard Dean, there is simply no way John Kerry or John Edwards would have voted against funding the troops in Iraq. None.

I think that's right, although I'm less convinced than RCP that Kerry or Edwards won't be able to explain that vote away in November. ... 2:49 P.M.

Ellisblog has some responsible cautionary words  for overexcited Wisconsin-exit-poll watchers. ... 2:21 P.M.

kf cherry-picks the Kerry-kickers: Here's the key paragraph in Dan Balz's latest Bush vs. Kerry analysis:

"I think the Republicans are ready to fit him into a box, and it's not just the box of Massachusetts liberal," said one Democratic strategist. "I think the box they're trying to fit him in is the Washington veteran politician who says one thing and does another. And they'll make Bush a guy making tough decisions who is plainspoken. That's the contrast they're trying to draw. I have concerns." [Emphasis added.]

This non-anti-Dukakis attack would have one particularly insidious, potentially damaging aspect: It would be accurate. ... Are Republicans that smart? They give no indication of it (see the quotes in Balz's piece). But they have a while to figure things out. ... 2:14 A.M.

Monday, February 16, 2004 

Media to voters: We want Dean gone tomorrow. Capice? We've been doing our part. Now you do yours. ... P.S.: If you let him beat Edwards for second that will screw it all up. We've already written the story and everything. ... 8:59 P.M.

WaPo's Glenn Frankel: "Lying to Don Imus is not a federal offense." Has Frankel read all the Patriot Act? ... P.S.: Frankel said the Post wouldn't run a Kerry-sex story even if it had photographic proof. He's right. I mean, who cares about philandering? It's not as if, say, we'd had a recent president whose philandering enmeshed him in a web of lies that led to his impeachment and squandered much of the promise of his term in office! ...Update: The good parts of the Frankel quote seem to have been disappeared from the BBC article linked to above. I don't know why. I've e-mailed Frankel. Trust me--they were there before! ... More: Ed Driscoll noticed the same thing. And here's Rush Limbaugh's marked-up copy of the original story. ...[Driscoll link via Instapundit12:26 P.M.

I recommend Chris Suellentrop on a) the reappearance of the old, windbag Kerry at last night's debate and b) the danger of Edwards "torching his centrist reputation with his antitrade rhetoric."  Key graf, cherrypicked by obsessively anti-Kerry kf interns:

How bad was Kerry's night? It wasn't disastrous, but it's as bad as I've seen him. He sounded like the meandering, orotund Kerry of last summer. His answers to questions about diversity and gay marriage were muddled incoherence, and he claimed that it wasn't his fault that the Bush administration has abused the Patriot Act, the No Child Left Behind Act, and the congressional Iraq war resolution. But if you vote for broadly written laws that are abused by the administration in power when you passed them, aren't you at least partly to blame for the consequences? You wouldn't let your 6-year-old drive the family car and then blame him for the accident. And you can be certain that if the Patriot Act, No Child Left Behind, and the war were popular with Democratic voters, Kerry would be taking credit for them.

Emphasis added! 8:17 A.M.

Sullivan notes the excellent WaPo editorial on Kerry's meandering views on Iraq. The Post is too civil to point out the obvious (that all Kerry's votes are easily explained by crude political self-interest) but the editors do add in the dizzying complication of his middle (1998) position:

In 1998, when President Clinton was considering military steps against Iraq, he strenuously argued for action, with or without allies.

So Kerry's position was really flip-flop-straddle-flip rather than merely flip-straddle-flip. ... I'm confident Bob Shrum will make sense of it all for us. .... 12:59 A.M.

Sunday, February 15, 2004 

AWOL Skipper--Page A16, Below the Fold: The NYT's David Barstow has a good short summary of the current Bush-AWOL evidence. Doesn't sound as if Barstow thinks there is a whole lot there now that someone--Mr. Calhoun--has finally come forward to say he saw Bush show up (to read "flight manuals and pilot safety magazines") in Alabama. ...

P.S.: I got a lot of critical e-mail (and blog-back!) when I suggested the AWOL issue was being brought to a boil too soon to help Democrats--that it would be better for them to bring it up later. Comes now WaPo's John Harris  reporting that "Kerry aides" complained to DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe when he pushed the AWOL idea because

they were worried that the party chairman had raised the charge too early--preventing Kerry from making more effective use of a potent issue later this year if he is the Democratic nominee.

Ha! ... Now the story is almost tapped out and its only February. By November it will probably have an anti-Bush valence approaching zero. But it has helped boost Kerry over Edwards and Dean right now in the primaries, which may have been McAuliffe's goal.  [Then why did Kerry aides complain?--ed. I don't know. It might be Kabuki--they want to seem to have complained. As was noted in tonight's Wisconsin debate, Kerry himself could have publicly tried to shut down the AWOL frenzy. He did the opposite.] 11:15 P.M.

Forget Fonda. Check out Kerry's original chin. ... Contraindications: Although a rare occurrence, men who have this chin for more than four hours should seek immediate medical attention. ... 10:59 P.M.

What the Republicans really think:  From Sunday's NYT--

And [former National Republican Congressional Committee chair] Representative Tom Davis of Virginia said the White House should sit back and wait until Mr. Kerry had the nomination wrapped up, and not risk helping Senator John Edwards of North Carolina snatch it away from him, since Mr. Bush should be better off running against Mr. Kerry.

On the other hand, I'm beginning to think my candidate, Edwards--while clearly a bigger threat to Bush than Kerry--does not have perfect pitch. The NYT's non-lib, John Tierney, effectively mocks Edwards' imaginary example of a 10-year old girl who prays "tomorrow will not be as cold as today, because she doesn't have the coat to keep her warm." (Second-hand coats "typically sell for about $5 in thrift shops," Tierney notes.) Like "surveys" of hunger and malnutrition, stories of children without coats appeal to sentimental paleolibs, even though--as Edwards surely knows--the problem of U.S. poverty is not, by and large, a problem of this sort of abject material want. Poor housing, yes. Poor schools, yes. Bad neighborhoods with bad services, yes. Never-formed families, yes. Restricted contacts, horizons and opportunities, yes. No coats, no. ...

And am I the only one who finds Edwards' award-winning spiel--about unemployed workers with "that vacant look, 'What do I do now?'" because "this is what they have done their entire lives and they know nothing else"--a bit condescending? Are these people or sheep? I mean, most Americans these days know there is a risk of unemployment and recession as the economy stumbles forward and that they need to be prepared to switch jobs. This isn't 1955. Shouldn't Edwards be "optimistic" enough to convince voters that these difficulties can be surmounted even as he pledges to help if he's president? ... Does Edwards, as a former plaintiff's lawyer, spend too much time finding victims? (Don't blame him. It's what he's done his entire life and he knows nothing else!) ... 10:50 P.M.

Saturday, February 14, 2004 

The Perfect Hack:

The always provocative Spy takes the plunge - some might say right into the sewer of sleaze and unnamed sources.

The cover story of its July/August issue discusses George Bush's supposed infidelities and publishes the name of longtime aide Jennifer A. Fitzgerald, around whom rumors have long circulated. The piece by Joe Conason also details other supposed liaisons, including a 1980 relationship with ''Ms. X,'' then a 30-ish news agency employee.

--"Slinging Sex on Bush's Campaign," U.S.A. Today, June 17, 1992

Is American politics suddenly returning to the bad old days, when Washington journalism became frenzied with sheet sniffing and keyhole peeping? ...

Once again, Drudge has raised questions -- but they may not be the ones he seeks to raise. The first is about journalistic standards. The second is the identity of his anonymous sources. Journalists must ask themselves why the rumor of a private peccadillo deserves their attention and resources in the 2004 campaign.

--Joe Conason, Salon, Feb. 13, 2004

8:20 P.M.

All eyes on Time ... Update: OK, doesn't look like there's anything there. ... All eyes on ABC News, then! ... Reading The Note could be like reading Pravda ...  7:32 P.M.

"That Bush and his Ideals. They Are Too Strong for Us!" Isn't NYT columnist David Brooks courting major embarrassment by swallowing the purported Zarqawi memo hook, line, and sinker? I certainly hope the memo--which recounts in detail how a brilliant U.S. strategy is suffocating radical Islamic terrorists--is legit. But, as with earlier, now-discredited finds, the language seems more than a bit too convenient--especially the passages lamenting American steadfastness and warning about Zarqawi's inability to terrrorize once a new Iraqi government takes over:

"The Americans will continue to control from their bases, but the sons of this land will be the authority ... This is the democracy. We will have no pretexts." [Emphasis added.]

Do you think a real Zarqawi would credit the invasion with establishing anything like "democracy"? I'd expect something more along the lines of "the infidels and their blasphemous puppets." ....P.S.: You knew William Safire would promote the Zarqawi document--Safire famously has the soul of a New York P.R. man. From Brooks you expect more. ... P.P.S.: On the other hand, as someone who has not only courted but actually achieved  major embarrassment recently, I can assure Brooks it's not so bad. ... Update: Here's the full text. You make the call! [Link via Sullivan, who covers himself but treats it as authentic.] 5:06 P.M.

Let's Go There! Answer to John Ellis' hypothetical: Well, it would depend if she had proof, no? ... And the example of Powell is at least partly inapposite: As an executive-branch leader he's a known commodity. Kerry is a pig in a poke to most Democrats and has held no national executive branch office. His most effective sales pitch is 'I'm electable.' Any bit of information that might suggest his future behavior in office or diminish his "electability" is significant. ... P.S.: Democrats more or less had to turn themselves into pretzels defending President Clinton in 1998. But Democrats are not stuck with Kerry. They have time to switch horses before the convention. Defeat and Move On!  ... Suggested further change in Ellis' hypothetical to eliminate another variable: Suppose Powell were white. ... 12:26 A.M.

Friday, February 13, 2004 

Kerry announces wrong Middle East envoys by mistake: Senator Kerry has apparently backed down from his announcement in December that he might appoint Jimmy Carter or James Baker as Middle East envoy. According to the Forward,

New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said Kerry told him that he never intended to name the men in the speech, and that Kerry had blamed the insertion of the names on a staff mistake. ...

In a conference call with reporters last Friday, Silver said, "I spoke to him about that very issue, saying that was not something that was going to be very popular in the Jewish community. John Kerry assured me that neither Jimmy Carter nor Baker would be his choice.

11:26 A.M.

Thursday, February 12, 2004 

Save That Page! O.K., write your own snide, cynical link  then....  11:02 P.M.

People don't like him because he's a leader! That's it! Wonkette has somehow become Kerrysex Central while maintaining a suitable ironic distance. ...She also makes fun of David Welna of NPR's sycophantic "born leader" explanation for Kerry's wasted Senate years:

This is a John Kerry I'd never known before: affable, funny, relaxed. Most striking of all, he is not so self-absorbed. Presidential candidate Kerry is, as Tom Wolfe might put it, a man in full -- rather than full of himself, as he seemed in the halls of Congress. ...

So what gives with this transformation? ... [H]ere's my theory: Kerry has, for better or worse, the natural temperament of a leader, a loner in charge. That's his manner whether he's in charge of a gunboat, a movement of anti-war veterans, or, if things keep going his way, of the nation that brought you the Electoral College....

It's not, I admit, a completely implausible theory--although it's competing with the more powerful "good in a crisis, bad the rest of the time" explanation for Kerry's erratic leadership performance. Kerry could have become a leader in the U.S. Senate, after all. Nobody was stopping him, and he was there for 19 years. ... P.S.: There's an even simpler explanation for Kerry's new "affable, funny" demeanor: serotonin. It's evolution's way of trying to equip us all to be leaders (and, not coincidentally, to take advantage of the reproductive possibilities high-status positions offered in the millenia before Drudge--which explains the other Kerry items on Wonkette). ... Everyone is a "born leader," in this serotonin sense--whether we are good at leading or not. I'd be "affable" too if I'd just won a string of primaries. ... 9:25 P.M.

I tend to favor Rationales #6 and #8. ... Kerry's running as a "character" and "electability" candidate. Democratic primary voters are entitled to know virtually everything about him (if true), whether or not it affects his "issue" positions, and whether or not Democratic primary voters even think it's relevant--as long as some substantial group of voters might think it relevant, thereby affecting his alleged ability to beat Bush. ... Live by electability, die by electability. ... Absent a compelling policy distinction, which Kerry does not offer, why would Democrats want to risk going through a Clinton-like ordeal again?  Democrats suppressed widely-believed intimations of trouble in 1992, and wound up with a president who wasted half his second term on a sex scandal. ... P.S.: I haven't dared look at Sullivan's site yet--he isn't going on about Kerry's right to privacy is he? [ A bit. Mainly he's rediscovered the Communication Stream of Conspiracy Commerce-ed And come up with Rationale #12: "It's an outrageous invasion of privacy. Why, look at what they're saying about Senator Kerry now!" Why not #11?-ed  Wonkette has #11.] ... 8:49 P.M.

Kerry advisor: "Everything is on the table. Everything." Heh. All kf has to add to the current intensified speculation as to Kerry's electability is the following excerpt (from NEXIS) of a suggestive-but-not-even-close-to-definitive item from the 1998 Boston Herald, to which I was steered a few weeks ago by a skeptical and unaligned feminist Democrat. Note that the period in question is after Sen. Kerry's marriage to Teresa but before Arnold Schwarzenegger demonstrated just how much personal piggishness you can now get away with if voters really want to elect you:


September 2, 1998 Wednesday FIRST EDITION


SECTION: NEWS; Pg. 008

LENGTH: 811 words

HEADLINE: Inside Track; Job seeker is model constituent

BYLINE: By GAYLE FEE & LAURA RAPOSA

BODY:
Question of the day: Who was the statuesque blonde strutting out of Sen. John Kerry's palatial Louisburg Square manse late Monday night when Kerry's wife, heiress Teresa Heinz, was on Nantucket?

We are told she is [name omitted] a 22-year-old Harvard student and former model who, Kerry's people claim, was dropping off a resume.

Our spies on the Square say the stunning Southern gal, dressed in oh-so-chic black, arrived at Kerry's townhouse around 11:15 p.m. and left just before the clock struck 12.

[snip]

Which leads us to ask: In the age of Monica Lewinsky, is it smart for a senator with presidential aspirations to be entertaining attractive women when the wife is away?

"He was very kind to me. He offered to pass my resume along," [the student] told the Track.

The Georgetown grad said she was not at Kerry's home at midnight - more like 10:45 p.m. - and that she would have dropped off the resume earlier except that it was locked in her brother's apartment.

Both [the student] and Kerry's people insist the encounter was completely innocent. They said the senator met [the student] on Nantucket earlier this summer, then again last weekend. ...

11:23 A.M.

Do voters know that Kerry opposed the Vietnam War in 1966 before he went to fight there?  Here are two grafs from Samuel Z. Goldhaber's 1970 Harvard Crimson article:

At Yale, Kerry was chairman of the Political Union and later, as Commencement speaker, urged the United States to withdraw from Vietnam and to scale down foreign military operations. And this was way back in 1966.

When he approached his draft board for permission to study for a year in Paris, the draft board refused and Kerry decided to enlist in the Navy.

Ann Coulter might say "No wonder we lost."  I can't make up my mind if Kerry's prior view makes his service more noble--he opposed the war but did his duty anyway--or hypocritical and self-preserving--he went and killed people in a cause he didn't think justified the killing. If Kerry opposed the war maybe he should have resisted it. It would also have taken some guts, after all, to go to jail.

Novelist Roger L. Simon made the latter argument on his blog in late  January, citing the following comment from "Catherine," a reader of his:

"Don't give a speech condemning the war, as John Kerry did, and *then* go off to Vietnam to shoot people. If you think it's wrong to go off to Vietnam & shoot people, then that's your position. Stick with it.

*And* if you do decide to go off to Vietnam and shoot people, don't then come back to call your fellow soldiers war criminals."

The Simon argument has the virtue of yielding a Unified Kerry Theory, in which Kerry's Vietnam Service is of a piece, in terms of self-contradictory opportunism, with his Iraq War positioning. I'm not ready to embrace it--I give Kerry points for serving, even if he didn't think he was doing anyone any good, on "if I don't serve who will go in my place" grounds. And even  hypocritically commanding a boat in the Mekong Delta can reveal genuine courage and leadership qualities.

The Kerry problem is more that these qualities haven't been much displayed in the decades since, when he has been a distinctly non-courageous, positioning, play-it-safe  politician. Did he take so many risks in Vietnam he that was determined never to take another risk again? ...  1:40 A.M.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004 

Obvious CW-ish point: John Edwards now has to decide if he will beat up on John Kerry in advance of the big March 2 primary. It's hard to see how he can possibly win the nomination otherwise. Given the breakdown in the Feiler Faster principle, it doesn't look as if the media is going to do the job on Kerry in time.  Edwards would probably like Howard Dean to do the Kerry-bashing for him while he reaps the beneftis, and some of that may happen. But Dean isn't getting much of a hearing these days. In effect, Edwards must choose whether he wants to be president or vice-president. ... 12:06 P.M.

Shrum v. Ickes: Their rivalry has now become a big deal. ... One of them decides what Kerry's deepest beliefs are! The other will control $100 million in independent anti-Bush advertising and is resisting Shrum's cookie-cutter Gore-rerun populism. ... Ickes has become a powerful interest that stands in Shrum's way! ... John Ellis is all over the story, and correctly asks if the NYT will report it or suppress it. ... P.S.: The job of negotiating an Ickes-Shrum truce is obviously Bill Clinton's, although it could be tricky if Clinton, as mediator, gets accused of "coordinating" Ickes' allegedly "independent" ad campaign with Shrum's official campaign. But presumably Clinton can,without violating campaign finance laws, at least tell Ickes to shut up.(Clinton may well already have done that.) ...P.P.S.: The New York Observer's Ben Smith started this. ... P.P.P.S.: I claim to have foreseen the Ickes vs. campaign tension--but I thought it would be between Ickes and the Dean campaign. ... The pro-McCain-Feingold implication stands, however--Kerry may not "owe" contributors to Ickes' fund the way he "owes" contributors to his own campaign. (Indeed, he may resent Ickes' backers if Ickes keeps sniping at his "populist" strategy.) So even if big contributors have found a way around McCain-Feingold's soft-money restrictions, the corrupting consequences are not the same. ... 11:31 A.M.

The Curse of Overspin:  Alert reader K.M. notes the Occam's Razor-like principle that explains the entire 2004 campaign:

Kerry + Lehane = Kerry in trouble!

Clark + no Lehane = Frontrunner!

Kerry - Lehane = The nominee!

Clark + Lehane = Loser who drops out.

There is no discordant data! Results this clean are rarely achieved even in a laboratory setting. ....This man Lehane is a genius. ... 12:06 A.M.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004 

Bubble Boy: At this point in the 1992 campaign, Democratic voters  had known for a month about Bill Clinton's most glaring character defect--his philandering. They may have denied it or rationalized it, but they knew about the charge, and they voted for Clinton anyway. This year, I'm constantly struck by the number of otherwise informed Democrats who are totally unaware of basic Kerry vulnerabilites--who are surprised, for example, to learn that he threw someone else's medals over a wall in his famous anti-Vietnam protest. ... When Clinton's early Gennifer Flowers troubles didn't stop him, he was inoculated on the womanizing issue for the remainder of the campaign. Kerry is so not inoculated. The antiseptic primary has left the Democrats not knowing whether their likely nominee has a healthy immune system or none at all. ... [Wouldn't the Feiler Faster Thesis have predicted that voters would be informed about Kerry and process that info in a shorter period of time?-ed. Yes. It's not working this year. Why? I'm not sure. The lack of negative campaigning after Iowa has obviously been a factor. Maybe the political information machine runs on conflict and fear. Without them, voters have little incentive to keep learning.] ...11:34 P.M.

The Torch Did It! Or was it ....: Remember when Democratic campaign ads were actually nasty? Those were great old days, weren't they? The list of people who funded the nostalgically negative anti-Dean ads a few weeks ago--the one's featuring Osama's picture--has apparently been released. The shocker: disgraced former N.J. senator Bob Torricelli gave $50,000 to that Stop Dean effort. ... Needless to say, the legality of Torricelli's contribution is "fuzzy," according to a Federal Election Commission spokesperson. ... Most of the ad's backers were Gephardt supporters. But Torricelli is now raising money for, yes, John Kerry.  Yet another inducement for the Deaniacs to slog on (though that probably perversely helps Kerry by splitting the ABK vote).  ... Update: BushOut.TV notes that another Kerry connection to the ads--through the Skadden Arps law firm. ... 11:08 P.M.

Monday, February 9, 2004 

Jake Tapper has another pay-and-play Kerry special interest story in which there is absolutely no quid pro quo. ... Alas, it took this particular special interest more than a year after Kerry did it a favor to organize a fundraiser for him, rendering the scandal potential limited. ... But Tapper also has a very clear explanation, at the end of his piece, of why Kerry's ostentatious refusal to take PAC money is another phony bit of posturing. (Kerry accepts "bundled" contributions from CEOs, a much more lucrative policy. There's no dollar limit to bundling--in this case, a high-tech CEO funneled Kerry more than $100,000 by gathering smaller individual donations. PAC donations, in contrast, are limited to $5,000. Who needs them?) ... 11:32 P.M.

Media to Voters: We're trying to eliminate General Clark tomorrow, OK? Please cooperate this time. .... 10:50 P.M.

More dirty Kerry tricks at the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club of Washington, D.C.!. ... 10:48 P.M.

The AWOL Mystery: Why are Democrats bringing up the Bush/National Guard/AWOL issue now? Sure, the press is playing along and it's having an impact--but by November, when the Dems need it, it will seem like very old news. If you want to win the election, the time to start a media AWOL frenzy is in August or September, no?  Yet commentators continue to look for the anti-Bush logic in the Democratic strategy. Tim Russert was just on Hardball saying the AWOL issue is a "warning shot" from the Kerry camp telling Bush he shouldn't accuse Kerry of being weak on defense.

Huh? Maybe I don't understand the Bonesman's Code in which Kerry communicates with Bush--and there have been other ominous Kerry camp warnings about putting  "everything ... on the table", etc.--but is there any chance Bush won't accuse Kerry of being weak on defense? No. And how would Bush be dissuaded by a "warning" that Kerry might raise the AWOL issue when Kerry's already raising the AWOL issue--and by doing so is diminishing, not enhancing its November effectiveness? It doesn't make sense ...

That is, it doesn't make sense unless you view the AWOL issue as a primary election strategy, not a general election strategy. Its purpose is not to boost the Democrats (in November), but to boost Kerry (now). By getting the press talking about the chest-full-of-medals vs. slothful Guardsman issue, Kerry has helped convince Democratic primary voters that Bush is beatable--reinforcing the  blindered Democratic focus on winning--and conferred on himself the  Aura of Electability that is his only real selling point. Equally important, he's taking up valuable media time that might otherwise be spent scrutinizing him and inducing buyer's remorse--and which his rivals, especially Edwards, might otherwise use to get their messages out.

It's quite brilliant, really--until you realize that it sacrifices Democratic interests in the fall for Kerry's interests today. ... P.S.:  Sure there are plenty of Democrats not necessarily affiliated with Kerry who are eager to raise questions about Bush's National Guard service. But Kerry has clearly been  stoking the story. ...  P.P.S.: Clark, who also has a chest full of medals, would benefit from the same strategy were he the frontrunner. But he's not. ... 6:30 P.M.

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Links

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.]

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