Will Zarqawi and Bin Laden split their 2004 vote?

Will Zarqawi and Bin Laden split their 2004 vote?

Will Zarqawi and Bin Laden split their 2004 vote?

A mostly political Weblog.
June 21 2004 5:18 AM

Rock the Vote: Zarqawi vs. Osama

A split in top terrorists' 2004 picks?

The Full Gelb:  Q.: In a wedding announcement, should the bride's father's resume be detailed at greater length than the bride's or bridegroom's? Just asking. ... A.: Yes, when the father is

a former foreign affairs columnist for The New York Times, and also a former deputy editorial page editor, editor of the Op-Ed page and national security and diplomatic correspondent for the paper.

And when

Before joining The Times, he served in the Defense Department and the State Department.


And of course when:

The bride's father is the president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

I was just wondering the other day--was Les Gelb ever deputy editorial page editor? Now I know! ... 2:51 A.M.

Faster Iraq Watch: The U.N. and its electoral-assistance director, Carina Perelli, have become an obstacle to Faster Elections, worries WaPo's Jim Hoagland. Perelli has even suggested postponing elections beyond January, which seems like a really bad idea. P.S.: There is a Shiite (faster) vs. Sunni (slower) undercurrent to all this, Hoagland says. ... 1:44 A.M.


One day this item will be right: Rumors about Fidel Castro's illness are back, fueled by what appears to be a consolidation of power in the hands of brother Raul. ... Meanwhile, even staunchly Democratic Cuba-watchers are outraged by Senator Kerry's dissing of the Solidarity-like Varela Project--they're shocked to learn Kerry actually said what David Brooks said he said. Brooks' column failed to note that President Bush's right-wing Cuban exile advisers also scorn Varela (and its leader, Oswaldo Paya, who might be the exiles' competitor in post-Castro Cuba). But that doesn't excuse Kerry. ... 1:36 A.M.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

It turns out sprinter Marion Jones, being investigated by the U.S. anti-doping agency, is really a victim of ... the Republicans! How long before she hires Chris Lehane? ... 11:07 P.M.

Dem Panic Revival Attempt--The "Generic Gap": I know the Rasmussen robo-poll is considered something less than the gold standard. I've tried to stop paying obsessive attention to its daily ups and downs--not that there've been any. The robots have been splitting the electorate 46-46 between Bush and Kerry for the past three weeks  with near-mechanical consistency. Yet I couldn't help noticing that in this period, the poll for generic Congressional party preference has shown a Democratic advantage  of anywhere from two to (most recently) eight percent. Forget about whether these numbers accurately reflect the state of the electorate and just compare them with each other. These are the same people being polled on both questions (as I understand it). They're asked which party they want in Congress and by a non-trivial margin they say Democratic. They're asked whom they want to win the Presidency, Kerry or Bush, and they can't make up their minds! Doesn't this at least suggest that Kerry is a weak Democratic candidate, failing to capitalize on support for his party that's out there, ready to be tapped? ... [But he's a good closer-ed. So was Hubert Humphrey.] ...   10:39 P.M.


The Fourth Campaign 2004 Debate: Zarqawi vs. Bin Laden? Amir Taheri argues that terrorists in Iraq will ramp up the violence before our November election in order to demoralize Americans and drain support for Bush's Iraq project. "In other words, they are dreaming of a 'Spanish scenario'" that would involve "preventing the reelection of President Bush." Sounds plausible.

Meanwhile, the alleged senior U.S. intelligence official who writes as "Anonymous" argues that Bush "is taking the U.S. in exactly the direction Bin Laden wants, towards all-out confrontation with Islam under the banner of spreading democracy," according to The Guardian. "Anonymous"

thinks it quite possible that another devastating strike against the US could come during the election campaign, not with the intention of changing the administration, as was the case in the Madrid bombing, but of keeping the same one in place.

That sounds plausible too!


Can the terrorists both want Bush defeated and want Bush reelected? Sure, if they're different groups of terrorists. The Zarqawi terrorist faction in Iraq presumably would like Bush replaced, since Bush is less likely than Kerry to withdraw from Iraq--or, more precisely, if U.S. voters are sick of Iraqi violence and want to withdraw they're more likely to vote for Kerry than Bush, so Bush's defeat would be entailed in Zarqawi's plan. Meanwhile, the Al Qaeda organization might place less emphasis on Iraq and more emphasis on a wider war against the West, in which Bush's tendency to lump all terrorists together as enemies in a titanic struggle over values could be just what Bin Laden thinks he wants. ... Implications: a) If, as has been speculated, Zarqawi is split from Osama Bin Laden--"because he disagrees with him on something," as Donald Rumsfeld put it last week--maybe this is the something they disagree on. They can't decide whom to support in the 2004 campaign! b) The prospect ahead of us might not be just competing ad campaigns for the U.S. presidency but competing terror campaigns for the U.S. presidency, with anti-Bush bombs going off in Baghdad and pro-Bush bombs going off in New York.. ... P.S.: Could terrorists be undecided swing voters? In theory, I don't see why not. True, it takes a long time to plan a terror attack--at least that's what the 9/11 Commission report suggests. But presumably terrorists could set an attack in motion and leave an opening that allowed it to be called off at the last minute. In practice, of course, terrorists are ultimately likely to "vote" one way or another--they will want to screw around with our elections for the same reason Bill Clinton says he preyed on Monica Lewinsky. ... 1:35 A.M.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Uh-oh. Eric Umansky (of Slate's "Today's Papers") now has a blog--and Josh Marshall  has a formidable competitor for his natural ecological niche. According to kf's Vulgar Darwinist Laws of Journalism, they will soon get into a big fight. ... 5:18 P.M.

Not Anonymous Long: Joe Klein managed to maintain his cover as "Anonymous" for six months after the publication of his novel, Primary Colors. The "senior U.S. intelligence official" who wrote "Imperial Hubris" and goes under the same uninventive cover name can't possibly expect to remain anonymous for more than 6 hours. The name must be mainly a marketing ploy. ... P.S.: I'm very sympathetic to the book's thesis--that Bush has played into Osama's hands, at least in crucial respects. But any author who says, "For my money, the game was over at Tora Bora," is highly suspect. a) Tora Bora was a screw-up, a missed opportunity-- but why was the "game over"? b) Who talks like that except someone trying to pose as a CIA tough guy? And would you trust such a person, even if he "has been centrally involved in the hunt for Bin Laden," according to the Guardian. ... Caution--Brit Alert: I'm assuming "Anonymous" actually said those precise words, and actually was "centrally involved." I note that the Guardian is a British publication, if you know what I mean. ... Update: "Anonymous" also has a long, worthwhile interview with guest-blogger Spencer Ackerman at Josh Marshall's TalkingPointsMemo. Anonymous doesn't sound like a CIA tough-guy poseur there. On the other hand, he uses the (hack) phrase "walk a very fine line"--a phrase also quoted by The Guardian. This suggests the Guardian was quoting him accurately. ... 4:35 P.M.


Today's 'Oh My God, We've Nominated a Turkey' Moment: Taranto notes  that the Washington Times  reports a ham-handed and offensive attempted Kerry pander to an African-American audience. Bill Clinton (along with more or less every other politician in America) is way too smart to say anything like this:

   Talking about education yesterday, Mr. Kerry also told the largely black crowd at the day care center that there are more blacks in prison than in college.
    "That's unacceptable," he said. "But it's not their fault."
    Rather than the inmates, the former Boston prosecutor blamed poverty, poor schools, a dearth of after-school programs and "all of us as adults not doing what we need to do."

I think Kerry's tired and needs another vacation, don't you? [ Yep-ed. Longer!] ... [Thanks to The MinuteMan2:18 A.M.

"Israel Isn't the Issue":

Nor did Bush evince the slightest indication of agreeing with the idea that we had been attacked by Osama bin Laden because we were too friendly to Israel. To those who held on to this idea for dear life, it made no difference that bin Laden himself had given it the lie by treating the issue of the Palestinians as relatively unimportant (which did not prevent those same Palestinians from dancing in the streets on September 11, along with millions of other Arabs in other countries who regarded him as a great hero). [Emph. added.]

--Norman Podhoretz, "In Praise of the Bush Doctrine," Commentary, Sept 1, 2002. See also " Israel Isn't the Issue," Wall Street Journal, Sept. 20, 2001.

Bin Ladin had been pressuring KSM for months to advance the attack date. According to KSM, Bin Ladin had even asked that the attacks occur as early as mid-2000, after Israeli opposition party leader Ariel Sharon caused an outcry in the Middle East by visiting a sensitive and contested holy site in Jerusalem that is sacred to both Muslims and Jews.  Although Bin Ladin recognized that Atta and the other pilots had only just arrived in the United States to begin their flight training, the al Qaeda leader wanted to punish the United States for supporting Israel. ...[snip]

Bin Ladin, on the other hand, reportedly argued that attacks against the United States needed to be carried out immediately to support the insurgency in the Israeli occupied territories and to protest the presence of U.S. military forces in Saudi Arabia. ...

--9/11 Commission. Staff Statement No. 16.

1:51 A.M.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Rather's Heir: Vice-President Cheney is angry with the New York Times for its treatment of the 9/11 Commission report, but CBS' John Roberts beat them to it with what seemed to me a textbook-quality tendentious anti-Bush interpretation the night before. Especially these passages:

ROBERTS: It is one of President Bush's last surviving justifications for war in Iraq, and today, it took a devastating hit when the 9-11 Commission declared there was no collaborative relationship between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. ... [snip]

ROBERTS: Those repeated associations left the majority of Americans believing Saddam was involved in 9/11, but the commission today put the nail in that connection, or for that matter, any other al-Qaida acts of terror against America, declaring, 'There is no credible evidence that Iraq and al-Qaida cooperated on attacks against the United States.'** The report is yet another blow to the president's credibility as he struggles to find the exit door in Iraq and opens him up to new criticism on the wisdom of taking on Saddam with al-Qaida's leadership still at large. [Emph. added]

Roberts' first sentence alone is fairly egregious. Whatever you think of the Iraq War, there are several justifications that survive even an extreme interpretation of the 9/11 Commission report on Saddam and Al Qaeda. For one, the human rights justification; For another, the idea that the status quo in the Middle East wasn't working in our favor, and we needed to set up a new, more democratic dynamic. For a third, the idea that Saddam may not have had stockpiles of WMDs, but he acted as if he did, in violation of U.N. demands, and we had to call his bluff and find out. I'm not sure these arguments added up to a prudential case for war, but haven't they long since surpassed the disputed Saddam/Osama connection as the Bush administration's surviving justifications? Over to you, Brent Bozell. ... **P.S.: I listened to a lot of press coverage and didn't hear much about that key qualifying phrase--"on attacks against the United States."  Update: Several e-mailers note that the Commission report, two sentences earlier, says any Bin Laden/Iraq contacts "do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship"--without any qualifier regarding the object of the collaboration. That would explain the press coverage, although if there is a distinction between "collaboration" and "cooperation," the qualifier remains vaguely troubling. For example, if al Qaeda agreed to refrain from subverting Saddam's regime--as Richard Miniter claims--that might be deemed a form of "cooperation" but not "collaboration." More: Note that Lee Hamilton, in his now-famous statement professing "trouble understanding the flak,"  denies a "cooperative or a corroborative" relationship but remembers to add the qualifier "with regard to the attacks on the United Sates." Smells like a pre-planned talking point to me. ... 1:17 A.M.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Waning wax: If, as ABC's Note suggests, the "whole ball of wax" in the election so far is whether views of Bush will rebound after the bad news from Iraq, then this Pew poll  suggests the rebound may come sooner than the NYT's anonymous Bush aides fretted. ...P.S.: Like many others, I'm expecting a discernable Bush bounce-back in the polls. Rasmussen's robots, however, have not been cooperating. ... Spin-flip ahead: How long before anonymous Democrats stop talking about how the Iraq disaster is good for them (because it means Kerry doesn't need a message to win), and start talking about how the absence of an Iraq disaster is good for them (because voters' interest will return to domestic issues)?  And they may be right! If you still believe in the Feiler Faster Thesis--and some of us still do, with an irrational tenacity--the Iraq news may be getting better too quickly for Bush. Voters now have a whole summer to forget about Iraq entirely, which (according to Pew) is something they're already doing with alarming speed. It's tomorrow's CW today![CYA, pls--ed To be sure, the news from Iraq, and al Qaeda, could change at any time. Void where prohibited. Persons who experience this CW for more than 4 hours should seek immediate medical attention.] .... 11:45 P.M.

Q.: If you were a mischievous Bush person and wanted to make some trouble for John Kerry, what would you do? A.:Start a rumor that Kerry has picked John Edwards as his running mate. That will ratchet up the current press buzz that Edwards is the inevitable, obvious choice, due to his charismatic brilliance as a campaigner. Then, if Kerry doesn't want to choose Edwards, he will a) be faced with annoying unwanted pressure and b) look like a vain man who doesn't want to be upstaged. If Edwards is the pick, then a) the pre-emptive rumor will blow the big surprise of Kerry's announcement and b) Kerry will look like he's been stampeded. It's win win! And it won't be a hard rumor to start. ... 6:23 P.M.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Ward Connerly's anti-affirmative group now says it will postpone until 2006 its effort to put an anti-preference proposal on the ballot in Michigan. A January poll for the Detroit News had the proposal favored by a 64/23 margin, but a lower court decision (reversed by an intermediate court) held up signature gathering. The group would have to get 317,000 signatures by July 6 to make the November, 2004 ballot. Unasked question: Was Connerly encouraged to postpone his drive by the Bush campaign? ... 1:49 P.M.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Honk if you think Teresa Heinz Kerry really became a Democrat because she was outraged at the GOP treatment of Max Cleland. ... I'm not hearing anything! ... As if Mrs. Heinz Kerry (until recently Mrs. Heinz) wasn't going to switch her registration at some point before her Democratic husband ran for President? Did she change her name because of Cleland too? ... 7:10 P.M.

David Brooks writes that "the current political polarization is inflamed or even driven by the civil war within the educated class"  between professionals (mostly "knowledge workers") and managers.

a) Brooks acts as if this conflict is something new--"political scientists now find it useful to distinguish"--but it's at least as old as the Eisenhower-Stevenson campaign half a century ago. Barbara Ehrenreich, among many others, limns the conflict in her excellent book Fear of Falling;

b) What's new is that "knowledge" professionals have gotten richer and more powerful, as the role of knowledge in the economy has become more important (as indicated by the increasing economic return on education). In other words, the recent development isn't that the "aristocracy of mind" is in conflict with the "aristocracy of money." It's that the aristocracy of mind increasingly is the aristocracy of money. Ehrenreich's knowledge workers were middle class and insecure, hence the title of her book. Today's knowledge workers are rich or near-rich, sitting on million-dollar homes, and all-too sure of themselves.

c) In part for this reason, it seems to me the cultural divide between Brooks' two elites has been shrinking, not growing. Even corporate managers want to be hip and edgy--wasn't that the point of Brooks' most famous coinage ("bobos" or "Bourgeois bohemians")? Do you think corporate vice-presidents at, say, Exxon, are more or less tolerant of homosexuality than 30 years ago? I'd say unquestionably more. 

d) As computerization eliminates more layers of management, the old-style pro-GOP managerial class can be expected to shrink further in numbers, no?

e) Brooks writes:

Which talents should we admire most? Which path to wisdom is right? Which sort of person deserves the highest status?

That's the kind of stuff that really gets people riled up.

Does that passage ring true to you? Not to me. In a relatively socially-egalitarian society with multiple status ladders, deciding "who deserves the highest status" doesn't seem all that up-riling. (According to Plotz, Brooks' book makes this very point.) I'd say that roughly zero of my elite friends seem to spend a lot of time worrying whether movie stars have too much money relative to businessmen relative to university professors. Do yours?... Now, "Will I go to Hell?" and "Will you take away my gun?" "Is my child in danger?"and "Who you calling stupid?"--people do tend to get riled up about those concerns, but they aren't abnormally (or even normally) prevalent among the elite.

f)The real cultural conflict of the future, then, is more likely to be between the unified rich-and-educated bobo elite and the less-educated less rich non-elite. This has not happened with full-force yet. ...

[Why do you think politics has become more polarized and nasty then?--ed Well, the increasing confidence and aggressive values-pushing of the unified, socially-liberal educated elite is certainly part of it. The rest of the list includes:

1) Narcissism of small differences. Everyone's a democratic capitalist now. We're fighting over whether the top tax rate should be 20% or 35%. The only way to make that relatively mild difference compelling is to make it personal;

2) Gerrymandering!

3) Technologies like direct mail, cable TV and the Web that enable identification, organization and mobilization of smaller, more intense, ideologically "pure" groups;

4) Pursuit of social change through constitutional rulings by unelected courts--which, as Prof. Robert Nagel argues, is always enraging to the losing side, which is unable to bargain politically for half-satisfaction and which gets told not only that it has lost but that it is wrong, un-American and dumb;

5) Democratic liberal interests groups (e.g. unions, affirmative action recipients) trying to cling to their special little deals despite the collapse of New Deal liberalism as an underlying consensus ideology;

6) Breakdown of the personal-private barrier, concurrent with an increase in the value placed on candor and openness--so Clinton's philandering required a degree of deeply aggravating public lying (and lying about the lying) that FDR, Ike, JFK, and LBJ's activities did not.

7) Chris Lehane.

It's overdetermined! ... P.S.: I like Brooks' column! I don't mean to be  piling on. And I don't think Kinsley's review of his book was especially nasty. ... 6:25 P.M.

U.S.News' egregiously press-agented "Washington Whispers" column reports that the White House is making big plans for Bush's second term, including "a total rewrite of the increasingly complicated tax code, possibly junking it in favor of a European-style value-added tax or a flat tax."

"These are big ideas, Reagan-sized ideas," says a key adviser.

I don't know about you, but the prospect of big ideas from Bush in his second term is not especially appealing, in and of itself. It seems like we're having enough trouble digesting the big ideas of his first term, which have left us with an unfinished war and a large budget deficit. ... P.S.: Talking about a "total rewrite of the tax code," though, is a good way to provoke congressional campaign contributions from Washington lobbyists worried that their corporate clients' interests might not be protected in the "junking" process. After all, "energy bill" only scares energy companies. "Total tax rewrite" scares everybody.  ... 4:21 P.M.

For kf readers understandably dissatisfied with the previous item, here's another state ballot initiative with the potential to affect the presidential race, and a lot more. An ambitious and apparently wealthy educator, Jorge Klor de Alva, is sponsoring an initiative to change the method for awarding electors in Colorado from winner-take-all to a proportional system. If Bush won 55 percent of the vote, for example, he'd get 55 percent of the electors, not 100 percent. Proponents of the measure claim it would take effect in time for the 2004 election, which might allow Kerry to break off a few electors even if he loses the state. ... If this proportional system spread, it would radically alter the peculiar mechanism of the Electoral College. But it might--depending on how it was written--make it too easy for third parties to gain a balance of power by grabbing a few electors, producing three- or four-way bargaining in the Electoral College. (If you could start a minor party that might get, say, 15 percent of the national vote, or 30 percent of the vote in a few states, you'd be almost crazy not to start that party under this scheme.) This would not be the same system, then, as simple direct national election of a president by majority vote. It would create a unique, bigger third-party problem. ... 

You go first: As The Denver Post report suggests, there is arguably little incentive for a small battleground state like Colorado to be the first to switch away from winner-take all--candidates would stop paying attention to Colorado and focus on the remaining winner-take-all prizes. ...

P.S.: Isn't The Note supposed to pick up on all these presidentially significant state ballot drives? Or has the ABC crew become locked in its cocoon of glamorous Michael Moore movie premieres and symposia, reliant on self-promoting emails from reporters to cover the rest of the country? This would never happen at kausfiles. ...

ME/NE Mo? The other alternative elector-appointing system is the Maine/Nebraska plan, which gives electors to the winner of each Congressional and Senate district. (See this old George Will column.) Republicans would presumably benefit in the short run from the ME/NE rule--they control the majority of House districts, after all. ... ME/NE advantages: Candidates would be encouraged to campaign in both urban and rural areas--something that probably wouldn't happen with direct popular election. And the third party problem would be kept under control, since a minor party would have to actually win a congressional district to get an elector. The problem with ME/NE: Congressional districts are now so gerrymandered that there won't be many toss-up battlegrounds. ... The Maine/Nebraska system would at least create huge pressure to do something about the nation's scandalous gerrymandering problem. ... [Thanks to very alert kf reader E.C. for pointing out the hideous error in an earlier version of this item.] 

Update: Reader R.S.R. notes that neither the proposed Colorado proportional system nor the ME/NE system eliminate a major defect of the Electoral College--the excessive voting power it gives to small states (which get 3 electors no matter how few people they have). ...  12:59 P.M.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Ward of the States: The Ward Connerly petition drive to end racial preferences in Michigan is back on again, at least temporarily. A state appeals court has reversed a lower court's ruling that petitions to get an anti-preference measure on the ballot were improperly worded. At the time of the earlier decision in March, the NYT's Greg Winter credulously quoted affirmative action supporters hyping its effect:

The several plaintiffs in the case, including the Michigan Black Legislative Caucus, called the decision a near death blow to their opponents, because it essentially renders all the petitions, and the signatures they carry, invalid.

[Emphasis on absurd legal braggadocio added.] ... I'm not sure if this earlier Times report was biased or simply part of a long tradition of journalists overestimating the importance of lower court decisions. Yesterday's decision is a lower court decision too. The real decision will presumably be made by the Michigan Supreme Court.  ... If the issue does get on the ballot, it will almost certainly have an effect on the presidential race in this swing state, though I'm not sure what effect that would be. (In 2000, the Bush forces tried successfully to keep Connerly off the ballot in Florida. They wanted to avoid having to take a position on his proposal--a position that threatened to lose them the soft swing "compassion" vote while mobilizing opponents.)

[If the issue doesn't get on the ballot this year, doesn't it mean that this was the rare case when a lower court ruling actually was important, because it delayed the signature-gathering until it was too late, just as the Michigan Black Legislative Caucus might have predicted?--ed You know everything, don't you.] 6:14 P.M.

When Kerry Took the Philippines ... for Reagan! I'm deeply suspicious of the following U.S. News "Washington Whispers" item, which seems to almost comically grab at anything that might inflate Kerry's affinity with Ronald Reagan:

Kerry, Reagan: not what you think. On the big story of Ronald Reagan, President Bush has nothing on John Kerry. That's because Kerry actually worked with Reagan when he was a rookie senator, even getting tagged by the Gipper to do elections monitoring in the Philippines. Then there's Teresa Heinz Kerry, previously married to a Senate Republican. She recalls Reagan helping Senate wives on the issue of Soviet Jewry and thinks Nancy Reagan was the model for first ladies. Insiders say that's why Kerry--who's read every Reagan bio--took charge after Reagan's death, stopping all presidential campaign events. "Reagan fascinated Kerry," says a pal. Kerry thinks there are Reagan traits Democrats should adopt. "Kerry sees in Reagan," says his friend, "the qualities too many Democrats have been foolishly embarrassed by: a toughness, confidence, and discipline Kerry would like to see emulated." And get this--Kerry can still quote Reagan's 1964 speech for Barry Goldwater and fondly recalls his meetings with Reagan because they were among the last, says his friend, where opposing sides could "reach across the aisle."

An elections-monitoring delegation to the Philippines! Clearly Kerry and Reagan worked very closely together. It's amazing this relationship took so long to come to light... Update: It turns out P.J. O'Rourke has written an account of Kerry 'working with Reagan' in the Philippines. O'Rourke is a Republican, of course, but a) he was there and b) he wrote about it at the time (1986), which was long before Kerry was close to higher office. The delegation was in fact headed by GOP Sen. Richard Lugar. But Kerry did play a role: O'Rourke reports that in the crunch Kerry--try not to be shocked by this--straddled gutlessly! Specifically, when Filipino vote-tallyers protested the fraudulent count and needed senatorial protection against Marcos goons,

"all Kerry did was walk around like a male model in a concerned and thoughtful pose."

He didn't even talk to the terrified women vote-tallyers. ... If someone in the Kerry camp really did try to turn this embarrassing episode into an actual selling point, it seems pathetic. Isn't the point of being a decorated Swift boat captain that you're supposed to be able to size up a situation and take bold, decisive action?  The best you can say is that Kerry was practicing Kissingerian realpolitik then (Marcos = stability) and hasn't flip-flopped on that position when it comes to Iraq. ... P.S.: O'Rourke says Democrat Joe ("Kurt Andersen made me do it") Conason was there too! Maybe Conason can mount a credible Kerry defense. Maybe not. ... Meanwhile, the NYT's Elisabeth Bumiller works overtime to come up with three trivial differences between Reagan and Bush--1) Reagan liked cameras 2) Bush likes the details of politics 3) Reagan made a show of socializing with Washingtonians while the Bushes have "kept largely to themselves." Clearly, Reagan and Bush have nothing in common. ... Meanwhile, the high comedy of NPR announcers trying to pretend they didn't despise Reagan--or trying to pretend they had to pretend they didn't despise Reagan to please their audience, as if their audience didn't despise Reagan too--reached its logical end when All Things Considered covered the Reagan ceremonies from the sanctuary of the FDR memorial. ...  6:00 P.M.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Does Even John Kerry Deserve Jodi Wilgoren? Jodi Wilgoren's Sunday front page NYT piece  goes beneath the surface to uncover the

"many facets of Mr. Kerry's style and personality that [are] all but invisible to most voters in this era of stage-managed politics, where authentic insights into the people who would be president are precious few." [Emph. added]

There's a self-puffing, expectations-raising billboard graf! And what does Wilgoren come up with after her "observations on the campaign trail over several months, combined with interviews with politicians and aides who spend time by his side"? Kerry polishes his speeches. He talks a lot on the phone. He went to an aide's wedding! Wow! That's journalistic gold. ... P.S.: If these are "authentic insights," I'll take the "one dimensional portraits of Mr. Kerry as war hero or waffler proffered by the two sides' television advertisements" any day. One dimension is better than, you know, zero dimensions! Knowing whether Kerry waffles is a lot more illuminating than knowing he talks on the phone. The question Wilgoren's piece raises: Is Kerry really this flat and charmless or is Wilgoren just this weak a profiler? My guess: Even Kerry isn't as deadly as Wilgoren unintentionally makes him out to be. ... P.P.S.: I forgot--Kerry also bowled an orange down the aisle of his campaign plane! Gee, no candidate's ever done that before. When a reporter resorts to describing the "orange bowling" ritual that's been going on since at least the Hart campaign of 1984, it's a sure sign of desperation. ...P.P.P.S.: Wilgoren quotes Kerry's ex-speechwriter Andrei Cherny to the effect that Kerry's "read all these books by people whose names I can't pronounce." I don't believe it. Name one. [You don't think he's read them or you think Cherny can pronounce them?--ed Either way! Cherny's statement reeks of boss-hyping B.S. and false-prole modesty. For that matter, Wilgoren doesn't tell us any of the "multisyllabic uppercrust" phrasings she says Kerry uses, or any of the "pop culture" he's "up on," or any of the "unfamiliar words" a campaign intern had to look up (as his "main responsibility"--another "authentic" detail that reeks of B.S.). Doesn't the NYT have an editor with the power to write "Example, pls"?]

Update: Several e-mailers have noted that Wilgoren's report of Kerry's obsessive speech-polishing ("deeply involved in tiny details on policy ... spends hours fiddling with speech drafts ... 'He's not satisfied until he's achieved a level of perfection he's willing to call his own'") is rather at odds with the candidate's explanation that "overzealous speechwriters" were responsible for his now-inconvenient "Benedict Arnold CEO" rhetoric, or that aides had erroneously included the names of James Baker and Jimmy Carter as possible Middle East envoys in a major speech last December. You'd think Wilgoren herself might point this out. [She has to get back on a plane with the guy--ed. So she can get all those colorful insider details!] 11:51 P.M.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

The Kerry "Wave of Excitement"  Gathers Momentum! Here's the national co-chair of John Kerry's Latino Steering Committee, L.A. City Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa, practically overcome with passion for the presumptive nominee, as reported by BoifromTroy:

"After all, let's face it. Is anyone excited about electing John Kerry or do you really want to defeat George Bush?" [Emph. added]

Boi is some sort of local Republican committeeperson, but he's also, in my experience, an honest man. As is Villaraigosa!... 5:49 P.M.

Friday, June 11, 2004

It's a  Jo Moore Weekand it's a Friday! What better time to let AP's Ron Fournier learn the news that John McCain has "personally rejected  John Kerry overtures to join the Democratic presidential ticket"? ... Sorry, Iggy! ... P.S.: Oh well. Didn't Adam Nagourney helpfully explain to us that the Kerry people didn't really want McCain anyway? ... P.P.S.: This story looks mighty Jo Moorish too. ...2:03 P.M.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

The LAT Does It Again: Matthew Dowd, Bush's pollster, blasted the latest LAT poll (showing Kerry up 7) as a "mess." Specifically, he noted in an email sent to NBC  and ABC that

Bush is leading independents by three, ahead among Republicans by a larger margin than Kerry is ahead among Dems, and we are down by seven. Outrageous.  And it gets worse. They have Dems leading generic congressional ballot by 19. this means this poll is too Democratic by 10 to 12 points.

Who's right? Ask Governor Gray Davis! O.K, that's a cheap shot. But  LAT-watchers have been skeptical of the Times Poll ever since it alone showed Davis closing to a virtual dead heat  in the recent California gubernatorial recall--a report that virtually everyone else (including rival campaigns and the rival Field Poll) scoffed at. I've been told, however, that Times polling director Susan Pinkus is a straight shooter, so I did the irresponsible thing and postponed sniping while I called her up. [Don't let this happen again--ed] Here's what I learned:

--The party breakdown in the LAT poll was 38 % Democratic, 25% Republican, 24% Independent. That's about the same as the 38/19/26 breakdown of a year ago, but it's a big increase in Democrats since March of this year, when they were only 33 percent of the sample. Pinkus argues her latest numbers are not that different from a recent ABC poll that she said showed Democrats with a 37/27 percent edge. And she says her overall horse-race result isn't much different from the latest Gallup poll, which had Kerry up 6 in a three-way race. (That was among "likely" voters. The Times surveyed "registered" voters--and Gallup only had Kerry up by 3 in that broader group.)

--On the gigantic Democratic generic Congressional-preference lead in her survey, Pinkus said, "I don't know what's happening with that. If that's true, it's huge. ... I've seen it 5 or 6 points, but never 19, it's true." She said she stood by her poll, however. (Earlier she had noted that one out of 20 polls will be wrong, given the accepted margins of error.)

--Other commentators (such as  RCP's T. Bevan) have hung their critique on Bush's much better showing in the Times' separate, more intense look at three battleground states. Can Bush really be losing nationally by 6 points and still be winning Missouri by 11 points? Seems unlikely. One possible explanation: The Times apparently used a different telephoning outfit to conduct the state-by-state polls than it used for the national poll. Might not something in the different survey techniques of the two firms have skewed the results in two directions? "I don't know. I can't answer that. That's a legitimate question," said Pinkus. If there is a difference in the results of the two survey techniques--even using the exact same questions--then which technique is more accurate? Maybe the Times' technique really does skew results to the left, no? (That would explain a lot!) Or its subcontractor's technique might skew results to the right. It could be something very simple. If--speaking hypothetically--all the Times' phone surveyors were Latinas with exacting NPR-style Spanish accents, those surveyed might try to please them by appealing to their assumed Democratic leanings. They might get a different result than would a survey conducted by men with thick Southern accents and gruff manners. One group would get it wrong.

P.S.: Note that the generic Congressional result was also much more "normal"-- and much less pro-Democratic (6-8 points instead of 19)--in the three "battleground" states surveyed by the subcontractor. Why would Missouri, Wisconsin and Ohio all happen to be almost equally less pro-Democratic than the nation as a whole? Or is the difference really a difference in the techniques of the subcontractor that did the "battleground" state surveys? 

Does Pinkus plan to post the LAT's methodological numbers, as requested by ABC's Note? "Not at this time ... I guess I could but I haven't thought about it." She points out that she has given ABC a response to Dowd's charges. (Check The Note tomorrow.)

People who know more about polling than I do should feel free to pick apart these numbers and email me with any especially juicy points. ...

Bonus Buried Lede: Matthew Dowd argues that the LAT's 19 point Dem advantage in "generic" Congressional preference is "10 to 12 points" off.   Doesn't this mean that the Democrats are winning by 7 to 9 points? There's your hed! "KEY BUSH STRATEGIST SAYS DEMS HAVE BIG CONGRESSIONAL LEAD." [Thanks to an alert kf reader who happens to be a national pollster.] 7:53 P.M.

John McLoughlin, the Port Authority cop who was one of the last three people pulled out alive from the World Trade Center, retired yesterday. He and a fellow officer were saved after their cries for help were heard, not by a uniformed rescuer, but by an ex-Marine accountant, Dave Karnes, who drove to the site from Connecticut in his convertible Porsche and walked out onto the steaming pile when it had been deemed too unsafe for the official rescuers. It's still the best true 9/11 story I've heard. ... P.S.: Does Clint Eastwood have a better role to play? Send the finder's fee to Graydon Carter! ... Update: Here's an Army Reserve medic  who drove in from Philadelphia and helped save McLoughlin after Karnes found him. The screenplay practically writes itself. ...1:44 A.M.



Drudge Report--80 % true. Close enough! Instapundit--All-powerful hit king. Joshua Marshall--He reports! And decides!  Wonkette--Makes Jack Shafer feel guilty.  Salon--Survives! kf gloating on hold. 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--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. Eduwonk--Busting the education "blob." Nonzero--Bob Wright explains it all. [More tk