Clintonism breaks out in Swifty fight.

A mostly political Weblog.
Aug. 23 2004 3:04 AM

Clintonism Breaks Out

The Kerry eyewitnesses' fuzzy phrasing ...

D'Vera Cohn buries ledes in mass grave! Yes, it's possible the decline in unwed births in D.C. was mainly caused by an exodus of young black women. The District is a small place and normal city-suburb flows can produce big demographic shifts. But look at the good news Cohn buries:

The Korenman study concluded that a small part of the District's reduction in unwed births was due to fewer women choosing to have babies out of wedlock -- mainly teenagers and women older than 35.

Reducing teen single motherhood is not chopped liver! Also:

The study .. .[snip] also looked at the two other big bonus winners, Alabama and Michigan, and concluded that demographic change completely explained the decline in Alabama's unwed births, but not Michigan's.

Michigan is not chopped liver either! And the teen birth trend is not just local:

Nationally, one in three babies is born to an unmarried mother, and the rising national rate leveled off in the mid-1990s. But births to unmarried teenagers are still dropping, nationally and in the District, a trend experts say is especially important because those babies are most at risk of poverty, behavior problems and other ills.

Compensatory emphasis added. 11:54 A.M.

Fudging Breaks Out: Alert reader A.F. notes close reading reveals that the pro-Kerry eyewitness account of Pat Runyon--like the pro-Kerry eyewitness account of William Rood--contains some seemingly clever wording. In Runyon's case, it fudges the issue of whether Kerry was actually under fire in the incident for which he won his first Purple Heart:

Runyon said Kerry was wounded after one vessel tried to avoid an inspection.

"Lt. Kerry said, 'I'm going to pop a flare, and when I do, I want that engine started,' " Runyon said. But the outboard would not crank. Meanwhile, the sampan's crew steered it to the riverbank, and people started running on the shore. Runyon said shooting broke out.

Somehow, Kerry's weapon stopped firing. Runyon thinks he ran out of ammunition. He said Kerry bent down to pick up another gun and got hit in the arm.

"It wasn't a serious wound," Runyon said, and Kerry was able to start shooting again. When the firefight was over, Runyon said Kerry told him all he felt was a "burning sensation." [Emph. added]

"Shooting broke out"? Shooting by the people on the riverbank, or shooting only by Kerry and his crew? The story leaves the impression there was a two-sided firefight, but it doesn't quite say that, does it? ... Again, the ambiguity may be inadvertent. Or not! ... P.S.: According to the Swifties, the Boston Globe'sKerry book has Runyon saying "I can't say for sure that we got return fire or how [Kerry] got nicked." [Why not check the Globe book yourself?--ed I'm in Richfield, Utah and it's the middle of the night is why. I'm sure they have a fine local bookstore but not a 24-hour bookstore.] 11:18.A.M.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

I actually think the "web of connections" between Kerry and the Dem 527s is a lot denser than this. Where's Chris Lehane, for example? But it's a start. ... 8:01 P.M.

William Rood's eyewitness account of the Silver Star incident has now been published. It's quite convincing, and the Swifty response (in the Tribune, at least) is weak. ... P.S.: But we could do without the "purple martins." They make the whole piece seem speech-written (and therefore suspect). ... 5:43 P.M.

Friday, August 20, 2004

kf Alert: Watch out for a big Sunday paper** pro-Kerry eyewitness hit (on the Silver Star incident--that's the one with the beached boat and the fleeing VC) ... Timed to vindicate Kerry right before the Republican convention. ... P.S.: Even more reason to have a press conference! ... **Update:Chicago Tribune, where the eyewitness works.... More: But Michael Dobbs' big Sunday WaPo account  of the Bronze Star incident (that's the one where Kerry fished Rassmann out of the water) is mixed. It's considerably more sympathetic to Kerry critic Thurlow than Dobbs' Friday anti-Thurlow hit piece and not very sympathetic to Kerry's pet historian, Douglas Brinkley. On the other hand, the Post found a non-Band-of-Brothers eyewitness who says the boats did come under fire. [But see this very useful Fray post on the other, hotly-contested Bronze-Star issue: injury conflation!] ... The impression is forming: Kerry behaved honorably and capably in battle, but he was a hero in the write ups! [Update: That may be unfair, at least for the Silver Star incident, if William Rood's now-published account is accurate. Kerry comes off as innovative and brave--worthy of commendation. But see this. And on second read Rood doesn't quite say turning the boats into the enemy fire was Kerry's idea, does he? He only says Kerry "had talked to Droz and me beforehand about not responding the way the boats usually did to an ambush." Maybe this ambiguity is unintentional. Or maybe Rood's piece is very carefully written.]

The WaPo piece also features this graf:

Although Kerry campaign officials insist that they have published Kerry's full military records on their Web site (with the exception of medical records shown briefly to reporters earlier this year), they have not permitted independent access to his original Navy records. A Freedom of Information Act request by The Post for Kerry's records produced six pages of information. A spokesman for the Navy Personnel Command, Mike McClellan, said he was not authorized to release the full file, which consists of at least a hundred pages.

Bring them on! ... 6:13 P.M.

Here's the sort of calm factual rebuttal--as opposed to, say,  conspiracy-minded, process-oriented base-pleasing paranoia about a "web of connections"!--that might actually do Kerry some good against the Swifties. ... P.S.: I agree with RCP in that I don't quite see how--as Kerry's campaign manager boasted--the recent Kerry push-back "marks the end" of the Swifties, let alone turns the story into a positive for Kerry. ... Doesn't Kerry now need to hold a big, Ferraro-like press conference? People will pay attention. If he handles it well, the Swifties' story will be dead and he'll jump 5 points in the polls. If he doesn't handle it well... hmm ... what's Senator Lautenberg doing next month anyway? ... 12:55 P.M.

I don't understand how even Iraqi forces  are going to clear out Sadr from the holy shrine in Najaf without a propaganda disaster if the place is wired with explosives, as some TV reports have it. ... How do you say "Waco" in Arabic? 3:39 A.M.

Kf'sLong-OverduePush-Back!This has undoubtedly been blogged, but I couldn't help noticing that what The Note called Michael Kranish's  " long-overdue, point-by-point push-back from the Kerry campaign" on the charge that he didn't take his Swift boat into Cambodia during Christmas of 1968 containedno evidence of any sort--beyond the Kerry campaign's own assertions--that Kerry was ever in Cambodia. Instead,Kranish gave us the testimony of three Swift boat crewmen.

1) One, who supports Kerry, says "they were 'very.. very close' to Cambodia" but "did not think they entered Cambodia."

2) A second, who opposes Kerry, says they were nowhere near Cambodia.

3) A third said they got close but didn't go into Cambodia and "could not recall dropping off special forces in Cambodia or going inside Cambodia with Kerry." [Emph. added.]

If this is Kerry's mighty, mighty "push-back," I'd hate to see what a Kerry retreat would look like. Yet Kranish's account was bizarrely portrayed by The Note as a pro-Kerry turning point. ...

P.S.: The idea that Kerry was actually in Cambodia over Christmas when he said he was has apparently long been abandoned by the Kerry campaign. ...

P.P.S.: Like many of my friends, I wasn't paying much attention to the Swifties until Kerry went postal  on them. (Hmm. Was that a smart move? What happened to the rope-a-dope strategy?) I don't know which side is right. I don't know that I'd even hold it against Kerry if he did exaggerate a bit to get the three Purple Hearts that let him leave Vietnam. I do know that if freedom of speech means anything it means that a group of citizens can get together to bring up this sort of charge against a presidential candidate, subject to the laws of libel. But read this New York Times editorial and see if you can avoid concluding that the Times doesn't think the Swift Boat Veterans ad should be stopped because it might be financed with corporate or union money in violation of the spirit of McCain-Feingold. The Times doesn't even really think it should be stopped because it was financed by a rich individual Republican (something that's clearly perfectly legal under McCain-Feingold  as long as the group running the ads is not incorporated). The Times thinks the ad should be stopped because you just shouldn't be able to make such "outlandish" independent charges in a campaign. They're against the speech, not the financing. They seem to be saying: If only the "snoozing watchdog" F.E.C. would show some guts we wouldn't have to deal with this nastiness! ... Like Kerry, they're trying to come up with a "process" reason that avoids the inconveniently messy issue of truth. But their process reason--an attack on unpleasant "independent" criticism per se--seems particularly dangerous. (The Swifties also wrote a book--does the Times want to suppress that too?) ...

P.P.P.S.: How would the press have reacted if the Bush campaign had called on the distributor of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 to "withdraw"  the film. [Thanks to reader H.] ...

P.P.P.P.S.: Respectable big-time journalist friends who met with the anti-Kerry vets recently found them a lot more credible than expected. Sorry, Note! 3:21 A.M.

If Kerry could mobilize a counterattack on the Swifties as rapidly and effectively as the ed-choice community has mounted a counterattack on the NYT for its union-made anti-charter hit, there'd be no reason for Democratic  "angst."   Eduwonk has all the linking you need  on the charter-stats story (and, more important, none that you don't). ... 2:22 A.M.

She Goetz You Ink: Why would any politician get their hair styled by Isabelle Goetz of the Cristophe salon? I'm sure she gives a good cut. But sooner or later, if you get famous enough, you'll probably wind up in Lloyd Grove's column. Three years ago Hillary Clinton was the subject of an unflattering Grove inside-the-salon report; this week it was John Kerry's turn. You'd think Cristophe and Goetz would have uncovered Grove's source by now [and told them ...?-ed How about 'Keep up the good work'?] 1:45 A.M..

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Panic is not just the name of an ex-prime minister of Yugoslavia! ... 4:29 P.M.

In the watery borders ... How could a fair reporter write this story  and not mention the word "seared"? ... 4:16 A.M.

Times Crusade II--Anti-SUV: Isn't the key factor in those comparative highway safety statistics--one only barely hinted at by the New York Times' Danny Hakim--the sociological difference between the drivers of different types and makes of vehicles? Malcolm Gladwell uncharacteristically ignored this factor in his overrated anti-SUV piece ** earlier this year. ... For example, are "vans" the safest category, in terms of occupant deaths-per-mile, because the vehicles are safe or because vans (especially minivans) are mainly driven by cautious, milquetoasty moms? Is the Toyota 4-Runner relatively unsafe because it tends to roll over--or do 4-Runner drivers roll over so often because they tend to be aggressive young jerks? ...

**--Gladwell also dramatically proved, through intrepid, hands-on reporting, that a Porsche Boxster sports car handles better than a Chevy TrailBlazer SUV! ....

Update: Here's a study that--if I read it right-- tries to correct for variables like negligence, age of driver, speeding, etc. It concludes that pickup trucks, not SUVs, are the problem. SUVs do kill more third parties (e.g. other drivers, pedestrians) but they save the lives of those in the SUVs, and the second factor outweighs the first by over a thousand lives a year. (See page 26 of the Adobe Acrobat version of the full study.) This is completely in accord with the hoary consumer folk wisdom ('I won't die, the other guy will') that Gladwell sets out to debunk. [Thanks to alert reader J.H.]  P.S.: But note that it's a little unfair to correct for speeding, since (as the study's author notes) SUVs may give drivers the false impression that they aren't speeding when they are. ... Further study: The paper behind this abstract seems to come to a different conclusion.  ... 3:17 A.M.

Times Crusade I--Anti-NCLB: I was naturally suspicious of the NYT's front-page shot at charter schools--which trumpets data fed the paper by the American Federation of Teachers--but I didn't spot an obvious hole. The Times even seemed to have conservative ed-expert Chester Finn on the defensive. ... Eduwonk to the rescue. The fair-and-balancedAndy Rotherham points out that when you control for race, "it turns out there is no statistically significant difference between charter schools and other public schools." That's a big deal because the charter schools in the survey have almost twice as many black students as the public schools surveyed--some 61% of the charter schools were in the "central city."  The executive summary of the AFT's own report notes

because minority student achievement is generally low, it is therefore important to ask whether or not charters' disproportionate enrollment of black (but not Hispanic) students explains the lower achievement of charter schools relative to regular public schools.

The AFT's bizarre answer is that "The [survey] results suggest it does not." Huh? In the very next sentence the AFT admits that the differences between the two types of schools, when you control for race, "were not statistically significant." Doesn't that mean race does, in fact, explain the lower achievement of charter schools? A casual reader might conclude that the AFT's summary**--and its pitch to the NYT--were tendentious! Rotherham asks

[How] long can the AFT continue to trade on the notion that all this is more in sorrow than anger? They just don't like charter schools, they're not reluctantly concluding that they don't work, they're fervently hoping and working to ensure that's the case.

Yes, 'even the AFT' thinks charter schools don't work. ...

P.S.: The Times actually highlights the comparative test scores for each racial category in a chart that says flatly: "In almost every racial... category, fourth graders attending charter schools are ouperformed by their peers in traditional public schools." The chart gives as its source the AFT. But the AFT's own analysis declares that in the racial categories the math results presented in the Times' chart were "small and statistically insignificant. In reading, the gaps were even narrower." Why break out this "insignificant" difference in a chart and pretend it's significant?

** The executive summary of the AFT's paper--clearly written with spin in mind--also quite deceptively hides the fact that the differences in reading scores between central city charter and central city public schools were "small and statistically insignificant."

P.P.S.: I can't quite believe that former AFT head Albert Shanker--who, pace Mr. Allen, was one of the two or three smartest and most no-B.S. public figures I've ever seen in action--would tolerate this sort of deception if he were still alive. And if he had a nuclear weapon ...

P.P.P.S.: The NYT 's Diana Jean Schemo further pleased her source by failing to note that charter schools in California and Arizona charter schools beat their public school competitors--albeit by a slim margin--in reading. (This is the pro-charter Center for Education Reform's worthy entry in the race to debunk the Times). Colorado charters do a bit better than their rivals in math. ... Update: See also this very useful, annoyed Chicago Trib editorial. 1:34 A.M.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Richard Holbrooke instinctively  hits on the winning political response to Bush's troop redeployment: "I know that the Germans are very unhappy about these withdrawals." ... Note: Sometimes you really need to let Bob Shrum vet your sound bites. ...  3:53 P.M.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Jeff Jarvis suggests that  the scandal isn't so much that Gov. Jim McGreevey may have put his male lover in New Jersey's $110,000-a-year homeland security adviser job, it's that New Jersey has a $110,000-a-year homeland security adviser job! ... P.S.: A few days ago, when I linked to Jim Pinkerton's piece  lamenting the "creation of a permanent, self-perpetuating AIDS bureaucracy" I got the following e-mail from reader A.L.:

Your apparent agreement with the comments of Pinkerton in his op-ed in the LA Times, concerning the creation of a self-sustaining Aids bureaucracy, seems a bit odd considering that this disease is on track to become the single biggest global cause of death each year.  Would you consider homeland security and the intelligence services part of a self-sustaining terror bureaucracy, with no interest in ending terrorism because it justifies their funding? 

The answer is yes, it's a problem, potentially a big one--especially if 50 different governors create their own terror mini-bureaucracies that then lobby for continued federal subsidies, stage their own publicity-seeking busts and muddle up the chain of command. ... 9:01 P.M.

Honesty Doesn't Pay II--Matthew Dowd on Line 2: John Ellis--political maven, blogger, and Bush cousin-- makes the mistake of setting expectations  for a GOP convention bounce at a number greater than zero.

Isn't President Bush leading in the Gallup Poll now? Isn't it likely that President Bush's lead in the Gallup Poll will increase somewhat following the Republican National Convention and the 9/11 anniversary? If President Bush is up by, say, six in the Gallup Poll after Labor Day, won't he be the favorite to win in November? [Emph. added.]

Note: Bush is currently up by 2 in the contrarian Gallup survey, so Ellis is really talking about a bump of 4 points. ... 8:17 P.M.

Honesty Doesn't Pay I--Today's Kerry Uh-oh Moment: From ABC's Noted Now  ...

But the exotic nature of some of the sports he plays (say, kite-surfing in Nantucket) and the great lengths he goes in order to play them (say, flying from Idaho to Oregon to windsurf), can have the unintended effect of making him seem out of touch with the hard-pressed middle class whose cares he says have been his concern.

As his plane was flying from Oregon to Idaho on Saturday, Kerry defended his taste in sports, saying, "The guys who do it are all local guys -- plumbers, construction workers."

Asked if these regular folks fly from one state to another, the husband of the condiment heiress downplayed the cost, saying, "What? 250 bucks for a ticket?"

Luckily for Kerry, the moment was not on camera. But it was the kind of moment -- if captured on camera -- that could undo months of work. (Think of George H.W. Bush looking perplexed at a super-market scanner in 1992). [Emph. added]

It's Kerry's race to lose! And he's racing as fast as he can. ... P.S.: He's right, of course--ordinary Americans pay $250 bucks to go windsurfing all the time. Which of the "Two Americas" are they in, again? ... 8:14 P.M.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Update--Maybe they read The NoteThe Iowa Electronic Market has now caught up with the CW  and favors Kerry. ... Correction: Not so fast! ... 12:19 P.M.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Prognostication Throwdown--CW vs. Markets: Alert reader R.H. notes that we now have an interesting test case pitting the judgment of non-expert profit-seeking crowds against the judgment of professional elites. As reported in ABC's The Note, the Conventional Wisdom (CW) of political reporters holds that it's now "John Kerry's contest to lose."   This isn't stupid, insular CW--like the 1980 Washington belief that Ronald Reagan would get chewed up once he hit the big leagues. It's well-informed, irony-capable CW, by non-hacks like Mark Halperin and Charlie Cook who really do know more than the rest of us. ... At the same time, take a look the Iowa Electronic Market, where non-expert non-insiders can bet real money on the campaign. Bush is still favored. ...One of these institutions--the market or the CW's "Gang of 500"--is wrong. ... My money is with the market, but not out of any principle that says markets are always right and experts always wrong. I just think Halperin's "Gang" is still influenced--if only subconsciously--by sympathy for the Democrats and (more important) for those Democratic operatives who are their sources. Correct for that and it's probably not Kerry's contest to lose after all. ... P.S.: See also RCP's not-quite-convincing rebuttal to Halperin and Cook. ... P.P.S.: On the other hand, I admit I scoffed when Halperin & Co. declared, a few long months ago, that things wouldn't change in the presidential race until the Democratic convention. Due to a complex and unpredictable array of geopolitical circumstances, Halperin turned out to be right. Of course, the convention didn't change anything either. ... 1:16 P.M.

John Ellis makes a rare blog appearance to offer some rudimentary speculation on what the real McGreevey story is (e.g. not the first-day story, and not the N.J. governor's "life of tortured identity"). ... 12:26 P.M.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

It seems silly to give John Kerry advice after the CW, announced yesterday by The Note, has congealed around the idea that "this is now John Kerry's contest to lose." Even some avowed Kerry supporters believe he is up to that challenge, however. Here are two ideas that might help him avoid the fate of Michael Dukakis (who, just between you and me, was actually a far more charismatic candidate than Kerry is):

1) Fly! Hendrik Hertzberg recently noted that most voters probably don't even know Kerry is a pilot. Why not show them? Kerry could fly his campaign plane (or a press "zoo" plane) to a campaign rally--or land some other plane in front of reporters. Voters aren't crazy to worry whether Kerry is steady and trustworthy. Well, pilots must be steady and trustworthy, at least on one level. They are almost by definition leaders. It would beat snowboarding. (If Kerry crashes he can always blame the Secret Service!)

2) Return to Normalcy, Deluxe Edition: I've noted Peggy Noonan's idea  that Americans yearn for a respite from all of President Bush's hectic history-making. My friend E.L. adds the suggestion that a pledge to return to a normal style of life could be cast as a manifestation of strength. We've been living in fear, after all, jangled by constant terror alerts and disquieting warnings. Victory over terror would involve not going around in a perpetual state of worry, right? Protecting us would mean allowing us to in fact return to normalcy emotionally. There's a plausible argument that Bush, who depends on the memory of 9/11 and fear of another 9/11 as the core of his political appeal, isn't likely to let us return to that normal state. He promises four more years of conflict and yellow alerts. Kerry a) doesn't have this political need and b) has a better chance at calming down the world, post-Iraq, so normalcy becomes at least conceivable. Add in vigorous pursuit of Al Qaeda and Kerry can reasonably pledge that, while we can never go back to the world before 9/11, we can go back to a world in which a peaceful state of mind--the pursuit of happiness--isn't continually preempted by alarm about potential attacks. [Update: Slogan suggestion from reader M.F.: "When I'm president we won't live in fear. Bin Laden will."] Bonus pro-Kerry angle: Credibility. Kerry can argue that when he is president, we won't have to worry whether a terror alert is real or political. He'd presumably have less to gain politically--constant alerts might even be a distraction from his domestic program. There'd be no reason for him to issue a warning unless it was really necessary. (This would be true, anyway, until his domestic program bogged down in Congress and he sought vindication in the national security arena.  But it will take months to get to that point! ...) Bonus bonus angle: Pre-election progress in unraveling Al Qaeda (such as the recent arrests) only plays into the "RTN" theme by making normalcy seem within reach.

3:01 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