Is Kerry toast? No, he's Yost!

A mostly political Weblog.
July 23 2004 3:37 PM

Is Kerry Toast? No, he's Yost!

Plus--'Ask not' not, please.

Soxblog notes a strange bit of timing on the NYT op-ed page, which today ran Caroline Alexander's piece on the importance of maintaining archival documents--a piece that laments the loss of Bush's military pay records but bizarrely doesn't mention the Democrats' current document-disappearance scandal. Whatever Sandy Berger was up to, it was not archival maintenance. ... Update: Drudge  is now reporting that the Bush records have been found, which either makes the NYT'stiming much better or much worse than I'd thought. ... 11:02 A.M.

Ortez? Ortez? Didn't they get him in a trade for Brandini? ESPN's Peter Gammons:

So who puts the bug in candidates' ears about seeming what they are not? John Kerry last week professed to be a big fan of "Manny Ortez," then re-emphasized the phoofery by correcting it to "David Ortez." No, that was Dave (Baby) Cortez and "The Happy Organ." A few years back Kerry went on a Boston station with Eddie Andelman and said "my favorite Red Sox player of all time is The Walking Man, Eddie Yost," who never played for the Red Sox.

Update: Yost was, however, a Red Sox coach for several years. ... Kf seems to be late to this seething controversy--for a page full of Kerry defense, click here.  Note especially poster Social Scientist's comment:

Eddie Yost was a mediocre hitter who became an All-Star by letting the opposing pitcher screw up: he often led the league in walks, was near the top in on-base percentage. Boring, seemingly passive, reliable, effective.. 

Right. Maybe Kerry's being candid, not phony. What does it say that he admires a player who got on base not by hitting but by walking? Hmmm. So a) Kerry survives in Vietnam in large part by making his boat a small target. b) His standard political technique is to avoid clear, assailable stands. c) His 2004 strategy is remarkably passive, dependent almost entirely on voter satisfaction with the incumbent. Seemingly, he wants to get to the White House Yost-style, by a base on balls! The obvious question: Is someone who attains the presidency by getting a walk in any position to achieve much, either domestically or internationally? The answer isn't necessarily no. (Gerald Ford wasn't wholly ineffective.) And note how Kerry's passive, Yostish approach dovetails with the "return to normalcy" theme  suggested by Peggy Noonan. If you want a break from Bush--if you think he's been swinging a bit too hard for the fences--an Eddie Yost might seem like just the man to send to the plate. ...  10:52 A.M.

The Panic Line: On the PBS NewsHour a month ago Mark Shields said of Kerry:

If he comes out of the convention, I would say given these numbers right now less than six or seven points ahead, I would be frankly surprised and I think then [David Brooks'] argument would start to say maybe he can't make the sale.

It's Dem-booster Shields setting these expectations, remember, not Bush strategist Matthew Dowd. ... If Kerry's big speech leaves him only four points ahead, with the GOP's half of the inning still to come, do we have permission to panic?... P.S.: 'Ask Not' Not!   Noonan's advice regarding that speech seems sound, especially the idea of striking a plain, conversational, non-orotund tone (instead of the "proto-New Frontier sound that is the rhetorical default position for lost Democrats"). She doesn't think Kerry and speechwriter Bob Shrum will be able to resist JFK-ing it up, though. I tend to agree. Taking her advice would require Kerry to toss overboard a lifelong self-conception. ... But then I thought Kerry was too vain to pick Edwards. Who says there's no suspense left in the coming week? ... P.P.S.: This is my story and I'm stickin' to it. RCP's McIntyre gives voice to the Panickers' uncocooned, emperor-no-clothes bottom line:

"I see a lack of appreciation among Democrats and the press for just how unappealing a candidate they are about to nominate."

Thanks, Iowa! 2:41 A.M.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Kerry was so soporific and frozen-featured in his Tom Brokaw interview last night (Wednesday) that while he was talking the network resorted to running moving photographs of a 9/11 poster, a candle, a child in a field of flags, a U.S. soldier on patrol, a flag-draped coffin, etc.--instead of the traditional head shot of the candidate answering the anchor's questions. ... Maybe next time they can show film of John Edwards on the stump or sneak in an update of the box scores. ... P.S.: Does Kerry just seem like a man trying very hard to avoid saying anything? ... 6:12 P.M.

Tom Maguire has a complicated but seemingly promising theory of the Berger leak that I don't quite follow. Maybe you will do better. (Query: Do we know that the earlier "after action" report of Clinton's 1998 cruise missile strike against Bin Laden is actually missing? If so, isn't that the lede, and not merely a way to explain how the Berger investigation might have leaked?) 5:50 P.M.

We're told that Kerry didn't know about the criminal probe of Sandy Berger's document-handling. (See, e.g., Kerry's NBC interview, quoted here, and today's WaPo account, citing "Berger allies.") That puts us in Roger L. Simon's Box #2: Bill Clinton knew about it. Kerry didn't. So why didn't Clinton warn Kerry? ... One possible answer that doesn't involve Hillary: Berger took the docs so he could review them before briefing Clinton, which is potentially embarrassing to Clinton. He, too, was hoping the probe would somehow stay secret. ... 2:33 A.M.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

John Wayne Allawi? Accounts of the sensational allegation regarding Iraqi interim prime minister Iyad Allawi--that he personally executed several terrorist prisoners--tend to focus on whether the story is true despite his office's strong denial of it. But the converse could also be the case: the story is false, but (as the original Sydney Morning Herald report hints) Allawi in fact would like Iraqis to think it's true, because it implies that he's a strong figure who shouldn't be messed with when it comes to restoring security. ... P.S.: In general, could Iraq be in a situation in which (as a Marxist might argue) the transitional methods necessary to establish the rule of law are themselves inconsistent with the rule of law? See: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. ... 1:07 P.M.

If the Socks Don't Fit, Must We Acquit? The core of the Berger scandal--was he guilty of a crime and should he be charged?--may not ultimately be that interesting. But there are second-order ramifications. Josh Marshall, Roger "el" Simon and The Note all point up one--if Berger has known for months that he was being investigated, why did he hang around as a Kerry adviser and expose his candidate to potential embarrassment? ... And if, as I suspect, Berger took the various drafts home simply because it's a lot easier to pore over them at home rather than at the National Archives, that may be understandable and ultimately excusable. But it would also mean Berger has tied himself up in ...er, veracity problems by saying he only took the documents "inadvertently." ... P.S.: The WSJ ed board has called for the "release [of] all the drafts of the review Mr. Berger took from the room." But wait a minute. The reason it was wrong for Berger to take the "review" documents is that they contained sensitive, classified information. If the drafts can now be actually released publicly without damaging national security, then why was it so terrible for Berger to take them home? The WSJ is making Berger's case for him. ... 11:57 A.M.

That was fast:

Here is a criticism I have spoken of but not written of regarding President Bush. When you are president and you are doing hard things in history like making war, and you are doing it in the jingle-jangle of the modern media environment, you have a kind of moral responsibility to make it clear that you hate war, really hate it, and love peace. This would seem obvious, but is not. ... Mr. Bush has not made it clear, or has not repeated often enough, that he hopes for peace, yearns for peace, loves it. He seems part of the very drama he has been forced to wage, and seems sometimes to enjoy it.

--Peggy Noonan's column of July 15, 2004

"Nobody wants to be the war president. I want to be the peace president."

--President Bush, speech of July 20, 2004

Now if we could just get Noonan to recommend balancing the budget.. ... [link via Marshall ] 1:59 A.M.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

A-16: Even cynical New York Times-bashers must be astonished that that is where the paper ran the news of the Sandy Berger criminal investigation. ... I guess they wouldn't want to bump that late-breaking piece on untucked shirttails from the front page. ... Note: In the Times' New York edition, I'm told, the Berger revelation appeared on page A-17. In the "National Edition" I hold in my hands it made A-16. ... P.S.:  Below the fold! ...P.P.S:  Way below ... Update: Yes, the story broke late in the day. But USA Today managed to get it on the front page. If the prestigious Times didn't want to rip up its Page A-1 layout--and that nice Mischa Barton pic--simply for, you know, news, it could easily have bumped one of its six front-page "teasers" and thereby alerted readers to the story inside. (Suggested less-than-riveting bumpee: "The Republican governors of the four most populous states have agreed to lobby Congress ....") And yes, I think that if an equivalent Republican--say, Richard Daman--had been caught smuggling secret docs, Mischa's pixels would have been toast! ... 4:06 P.M.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Nagourney Watch: You have to love theclumsy, a__-saving, offends-all-sides, don't-make-me-take-a-position quality of that  "perhaps disingenuously"  in the first graf ... 12:43 A.M.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

John Edwards, opiate of the Dems: Rare Rasmussen bounce (for Kerry)  nearly all gone. ... But the Edwards pick may have had one more durable effect--ending, or at least postponing, widespread Dem pessimism, a.k.a. Panic. The percentage of Democrats who now think Kerry will win is way up. ... Is Edwards like a narcotic--calming the Dems during the convention period, only to have them wake up later, when it's too late, to the grim pain of the unappealing personality who heads the ticket? Just a thought! ... P.S.: Alert reader Bob S. notes that while everyone was focused on Edwards' bounciness, the Republicans made a giant gain in  Rasmussen's generic Congressional preference poll, completely wiping out in one week what had been a nine-point Democratic advantage. Maybe the debate on the constitutional anti-gay-marriage amendment wasn't such a political loser for the GOPs after all. ... 11:15 A.M.

Guess It Really Was A Nagourney Problem: Richard Stevenson appears instead of Adam "Caterpillar" Nagourney in the NYT writing credits for the latest Times/CBS Poll. Have Nagourney's superiors realized how awful his last effort was? ... Whatever the reason for his absence, it's not the same without him. There's no cocooning pro-Democratic spin! Just a sensible account of a poll with some good news and not-so-good news for the Dems. Even the headline ("No Poll Boost From Edwards") is unspun--at least not in a pro-Dem direction. This can't go on. ...It didn't. The Web headline has now been changed to "Public Likes Edwards, But Race is Still Close." The hed in the print edition is the even more morale-boosting "Public Warms to Edwards; Race Still Close." Shift change at the copy desk? Or orders from Moscow? You make the call. ...  2:13 A.M.

Friday, July 16, 2004

The Wall Street Journal quotes amedia lawyer, Jack M. Weiss, saying that Dr. Steven Hatfill, who is suing New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, will

have a "hard time" proving that the columns said or even implied that Mr. Hatfill was guilty [in the 2001 anthrax attacks].

Weiss must not have been reading the same Kristof columns I read. ... Weiss also says Hatfill has to show

the Times published the columns knowing or suspecting that they falsely accused him of being guilty.

Maybe there's been some new development in libel law* [see Update], but doesn't Hatfill only have to show that the Times acted with "reckless disregard" for the truth or falsity of the charge? ... I think the Journal--and Editor & Publisher--are helping the Times whistle past the graveyard on this one. ... P.S.: Is Hatfill even a "public figure," the trigger for these more permissive libel rules?

*Update: Jack M. Weiss emails to say I am indeed wrong about current libel law:

Although the literal formulation of the actual malice standard encompasses either knowing falsity or "reckless disregard" of the truth, the Supreme Court, and numerous other federal and state courts, over the course of nearly forty years repeatedly have interpreted "reckless disregard" to require that plaintiff show, by clear and convincing evidence, that "the defendant in fact entertained serious doubts as to the truth of his publication." St. Amant v. Thompson, 390 U.S. 727, 730 (1968). This is a subjective standard, not an objective standard of "recklessness" or gross negligence, as might be suggested by a quick reading of the term "reckless disregard", and by your published comment. Contrary to your comment, I am therefore entirely correct in stating that, if Hatfill is a public figure, he will have to show--by clear and convincing evidence, no less-- that the Times and/or Mr. Kristof published knowing of or "suspecting" (my shorthand for "in fact entertaining serious doubts as to") the falsity of what Mr. Kristof wrote.

If Hatfill does have to show "serious" subjective doubts on Kristof's part, than Weiss was in fact right and I was under a misapprehension. (If any First Amendment types out there disagree with Weiss, please let me know at Mickey_Kaus@msn.com.)

But a) If Hatfill can use as evidence of Kristof's subjective doubts the objective circumstances of what he did--i.e. whether an ordinary man would have surely had doubts, given the reporter's (reckless? diligent?) behavior--then the two rules (actual subjective doubts vs. reckless behavior) might amount to the same thing; b) If Hatfill can't use the objective circumstances as evidence, then a "serious doubts" requirement would seem wacky, even if as Weiss says it's the law of the land. It would reward reporters for being so zealous or stupid that they do not entertain doubts even if they are hurling what reasonable people would think are reckless charges; and c) Given that it's at least unclear if Hatfill is a "public figure" who qualifies for this protection, I still think the Times is massively exposed here. ... 10:31 A.M.

Petrelis Files has an interesting list of journalists who've contributed to political candidates. ... Jann Wenner gave $2,000 to Al Sharpton! ... David Talbot of Salon is only down for $500 to Dean. Cheapskate. ... Manohla Dargis, new NYT movie critic, gave Dean just as much. But Vanity Fair'sElise O'Shaughnessy maxed out! ... And Rupert Murdoch maxed out ... for Kerry. That must be how he got that big Gephardt scoop! ...  P.S.: Also, Petrelis says

President George Bush didn't receive a single donation from any outlet or reporter in my search. 

P.S.: I gave to Kerry at least partly in the hope that I'd be attacked for this gross violation of journalistic ethics. No such luck. ... Yoo hoo, Poynter people. Over here. ... Update:  Murdoch maxed out for Kerry in 2001, not in the current presidential cycle (in which Murdoch gave to Bush). ...  3:09 A.M.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Kerry Fever Update:  Still time for Dems to panic ...

June WaPo poll:  Bush down four.

July WaPo poll: Tied.

That's with the alleged Edwards Bounce. ... Note: The July poll was a WaPo poll, not (as indicated in an earlier version of this item) a WaPo/ABC poll. Are the two polls comparable? The Post's story itself compares them--albeit in paragraph #7. ... 4:38 P.M.

There's a bit of Reich in every Ehrenreich!  Barbara Ehrenreich writes:

... I have been endeavoring to calculate just how many blue-collar men a T.A.N.F. [welfare] recipient needs to marry to lift her family out of poverty.

The answer turns out to be approximately 2.3, which is, strangely enough, illegal.

I can't tell if Ehrenreich is joking about the "2.3" or if she's up to her old tricks (as when she wrote in 1986, with Frances Fox Piven, that long-term recipients were only a "tiny minority" of welfare mothers, when in fact they were nearly two-thirds of those on the rolls at any one time). If she's serious, how exactly did she calculate that 2.3 figure? ....Some numbers: The 2004 government poverty line for a family of four is about $18,850. For a family of three it's about $15,500. (The exact amount depends on whether you're using the Census or HHS  line.) ... Even at the current minimum wage, a full-time worker earns $10,700 a year and an Earned Income Tax Credit of $2,500 (three person family) to $4,200 (four person family).  Add in $3,000-4,000 of food stamps and subsidized Medicaid or CHIP health care for the children, and you're well above the poverty line even with a single breadwinner and a stay-at-home mom. ... Is Ehrenreich saying the poverty threshold is set too low? Fine--I'd have trouble living on it even without a family--but then she should tell us what idiosyncratic definition of "poverty" she's using. Is she assuming the "blue collar" man can't find even minimum-wage work? If so, again, why not make this assumption clear? ... Or is Ehrenreich, in the fashion of some left-wing organizers, simply ignoring the programs (especially the Earned Income Tax Credit) liberals have struggled to put in place to help low-income earners? ... P.S.: I doubt it's intuitively obvious to most Americans that the families of women married to typical blue-collar workers live in poverty. (Most blue collar workers make more than the minimum wage, and most wives work too.) The burden would seem to be on Ehrenreich to explain her startling stat. ... 2:35 P.M.

"...what a waste the year had been": The unexpectedly entertaining Eduwonk praises Samuel Freedman's Page 21 NYT coverage of Brooklyn Latino parents opposing the bilingual programs imposed on their children, which Mayor Bloomberg campaigned against but then preserved:

The grievances of Bushwick's parents point at an overlooked truth. The foes of bilingual education, at least as practiced in New York, are not Eurocentric nativists but Spanish-speaking immigrants who struggled to reach the United States and struggle still at low-wage jobs to stay here so that their children can acquire and rise with an American education, very much including fluency in English.

If Latino parents don't want bilingual ed, and it doesn't work, who keeps it in place? A Brooklyn activist (quoted by Freedman) says "And it's intensively guarded by the local politicians and the teachers' union." ... No doubt the 2004 Democratic party platform will take a strong stand against this powerful interest that stands in the wayof the working-class Latino parents Freedman describes ... P.S.: Just off the top of your head, which education system would you think helps build "One America"--a system that teaches different students in different languages or a system that teaches all students in a common language? ... 11:08 A.M.

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Links

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--You'll never have to read another mind-numbing education story again. Nonzero--Bob Wright explains it all. [More tk

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