Kerry's race to lose!

Kerry's race to lose!

Kerry's race to lose!

A mostly political Weblog.
Aug. 16 2004 4:13 AM

Kerry's Race to Lose!

Plus--the real McGreevey scandal.

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.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Discussing the weak July job numbers on the Labor Department's "establishment" survey, a New York Sun editorial Monday argued:

Even an avowed Kerry voter, Slate's Mickey Kaus, wrote over the weekend that that flaw in the establishment survey is "glaring" and "troubling."  [Emphasis added]


Wow, that was easy. Attend one measly Democratic fundraiser and you get to pull off the old "even an avowed Kerry voter" scam! It took the New Republic decades of hard work and ideological treason to achieve its sought-after "Even the Liberal" status (as in "even the liberal New Republic favors invading tk"). ... This was clearly the most effective $300 I've spent in years. ... 1:28 A.M.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Not so fast, Senor Schumer! I've been asking myself: Why isn't the mainstream press making a bigger fuss about the possibility that by leaking the news of Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan's capture, someone in the Bush administration did incalculable damage to the effort to roll up Al Qaeda? Khan had apparently been "turned" and was acting as a double agent. The Brits and the Pakistanis seem to be mad at the leak-- and certainly the leak of Khan's name seems vastly more important than the outing of the CIA's Valerie Plame, who was not endangered because she was not operating as a covert agent, or Sen. Richard Shelby's possible 2002 leak of a six-month-old Al Qaeda message. .... If the administration did give out the name for political reasons (i.e., to justify its terror alerts)--something that many suggest--that would and should be a huge, potentially election-tipping scandal.

But ... maybe we (and especially Reuters) are getting carried away here. Take a closer look at the sourcing in the original New York Times piece disclosing Khan's name, which was written by Douglas Jehl and David Rohde. They cite a "senior United States official" for details on the documentary evidence found after the capture of a suspect, but this "United States official" is pointedly not cited as having given the name of the suspect. Instead, a few paragraphs further down, the Times reporters tell us:

The American officials would say only that the Qaeda figure whose capture had led to the discovery of the documentary evidence had been captured with the help of the C.I.A. Though Pakistan announced the arrest last week of a Qaeda member, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Tanzanian wanted in connection with the bombings of American embassies in East Africa in 1998, the American officials suggested that he had not been the source of the new threat information.

An account provided by a Pakistani intelligence official made clear that the crucial capture in recent weeks had been that of Mr. Khan, who is also known as Abu Talha. The intelligence official provided information describing Mr. Khan as having assisted in evaluating potential American and Western targets for terrorist attacks, and as being representative of a ''new Al Qaeda.'' [Emphasis added]

The story seems to be almost explicitly pointing to Pakistani sources--not American officials--as the ones who first gave out Khan's name. (The American source is then cited as neither confirming nor denying the name the reporters ask him about.)

As both the Globe and Juan Cole note, the transcript of the background briefing given by U.S. officials on August 1 does not contain Khan's name. What evidence is there, then, that Bush administration officials, as opposed to Pakistanis, were the negligent parties here? Well, there's Condi Rice's oafish interview with Wolf Blitzer, in which she seems to be saying that the Administration gave out Khan's name on background. But her office now denies this is what she meant, and it's possible she was just being exceptionally clumsy. There's also the Reuters report, cited earlier, which says that "Pakistani sources" blame U.S. officials. But couldn't the Pakistanis be trying to divert the blame to the Americans? More important, note that even these Pakistani sources, according to Reuters, say that the Bush administration "confirmed" Khan's name, not that the Bushies are the ones who leaked it in the first place. It seems entirely possible that once Khan's name was out in Monday's NYT-- and Khan had been moved to a safe house--Bush administration officials felt there was no point in sticking with their refusal to confirm his name. (That scenario jibes with  this earlier Reuters report.)

It's also possible that even confirming the name after it was out was a horrible mistake that gave the al Qaeda suspects an unnecessary head start. And it's possible that the Bushies gave out so many details about the captive that he was easy to identify. Maybe Jehl and Rohde were disguising their sources, deflecting blame from the U.S. administration. I'll be quite willing to condemn the Bushies if in fact they outed Khan--even if it wasn't intentional, it would at least be grossly negligent, and someone (maybe Bush) would deserve to be fired for it. But the surface evidence from the original source--the Times' piece--points to a Pakistani official, not a Bush official, as the culprit. ... Paranoid kicker: It's not as if there aren't officials who sympathize with radical Islamic fundamentalism in the Pakistani intelligence service. ...

[Note: If someone was smart enough to preserve a free, permanent "Userland" link to the original August 2 Jehl/Rohde piece, I'd love to have it so I can post it. Update: Done. Thanks to Robert Tagorda for the link.] 

Update: See also John Marzan's similar comments on Vodkapundit's site. [v. Insta]

Update 2: Why didn't the administration ask the NYT not to publish the Khan's name on national security grounds? (One possible answer is that they did. Another possible answer is that they didn't because they were happy to get the news out for political reasons--which would make them culpable.)

Update 3: Alert reader J.R. sees a deeper game, suggesting that the Bushies may not have minded that the Times published Khan's name:

Having served in Military Intelligence, I am never one to ascribed clever thinking to our intelligence services. However, I did read that Khan became suspect by Al Qaeda after the first few arrests based on his information.  Hence, his value as a double agent was diminished. 

On the other hand, having of much of Al Qaeda suddenly suspecting all the instruction and information they have received over the past few months after they read the New York Times last week: priceless.  Esp. when the threat level is high and attacks are suspected to be in the final planning stages.

This could have been the best and only way to quickly disrupt plans that we did not have enough information on to disrupt directly.

So, it may have been dbeliberate.  Even it were deliberate, most parties involved would not know that, and the finger pointing and backstabbing in trying to apportion blame make it all the more realistic.

Fingerpointing and backstabbing--We Do Our Share! ... Howard Dean, Under Deep Cover: But wouldn't Al Qaeda know with some precision the date on which Khan was "turned" (and hence the date his emails became suspect)? Or have our background briefings--and Howard Dean's why'd-Bush-wait-three-weeks accusations!--cannily moved up Khan's arrest date to cast suspicion on all the emails since early July? 5:07 P.M.

Gourevitch-Skipper: I've punished myself for lax posting by forcing myself to read Philip Gourevitch's rambling, tedious 8,000-worder  on Kerry's foreign policy. It's disappointingly credulous on one of two levels--either Gourevitch thinks the contradictory voting history he describes, and the familiar, false-bold exclusive Kerry quotes he displays ("I think we can do better. I know we can do better. I absolutely know we can do better"), amount to a coherent foreign policy, or else he thinks his readers will. ... Except when discussing Kerry's vote against the $87 billion Iraq funding  bill, Gourevitch fails to consider the possibility that Kerry's erratic positions (against Gulf War I, for military action in Kosovo, Haiti, and Liberia) are almost purely tactical--designed to help him run for President--rather than sincerely thought-out. ...

The piece contains a couple of nuggets, though. One is the section on Kerry's father's views, which were highly hostile to claims of American exceptionalism. Another is the excellent, now-famous blind quote from a Kerry "adviser" about Kerry's $87-billion vote:

"Off the record, he did it because of Howard Dean. On the record, he has an elaborate explanation."

And there is also this passage:

No other Vietnam War hero has ever been nominated for President, nor has any other former antiwar leader, and, while Kerry presents himself as a unifying figure, he embodies a conflict that is still surprisingly raw. "He'll often thrash around in the night," the filmmaker George Butler, who is one of Kerry's oldest friends, told me. "He smashed up a lamp in my house in New Hampshire, in the bedroom where he was staying. Most Vietnam veterans go through this." [Emph. added]

Yikes! And are the flashbacks worse at night or in the day, Senator? ... P.S.: Gourevitch also highlights a mystery, namely: Kerry's notes from Vietnam were well-written. So why doesn't he compose similarly well-written speeches? ... You say others write his addresses for him? Don't be silly. Kerry stays up late night after night "crafting" his own speeches.* It says so right here in Gourevitch's piece. ... With friends like George Butler ... With his loose talk of Kerry thrashing around at night, how good a friend could filmmaker Butler be? Suggested answer: As good a friend to Kerry as he was to Arnold Schwarzenegger! Butler, who made "Pumping Iron," later circulated a book proposal in which he described Schwarzenegger as a  "flagrant, outspoken admirer of Hitler," according to the New York Times. ...

*In longhand, on yellow pads, of course, though Gourevitch omits those details. ...12:41. A.M.

Monday, August 9, 2004

Matt Welch rightly directs attention to Tom Tomorrow's comprehensive Dem convention analysis. ... 11:39 A.M.

Alert reader T.G. emails with another plausible reason for the steady rise in jobs in the government's "household" survey (which includes the self-employed) but not the  "establishment" survey (which doesn't).

[I]t isn't just that we have so many more free-lancers in our economy, it is also that during the internet bubble, big bucks offers for most any warm body were drawing down the "normal" pool of self employed [as they were hired by establishments]; now we are merely returning to the norm.

The first graph in this paper certainly suggests that something unusual happened at the height of the internet bubble in 1999. ... P.S.: I think T.G.'s point is not that there is some huge boom now going on in the self-employment sector (which doesn't feel like what is happening). It's that the payroll job growth of the late '90s was not quite as good as it seemed: The payrolls weren't always adding new net jobs. They were also sucking people from the self-employment sector (in which they weren't counted in the payroll survey even if they were working) into the corporate sector (in which they were counted). For the past few years those people have been moving back from (counted) payrolls into (uncounted) self-employment. Even though they may still be working, this has had the effect of lowering the payroll number and making it look worse than it actually is.  ... 12:28 P.M.

Journalist Murray Sayle reputedly said there were only three kinds of pieces: 1) 'We name the guilty man'; 2) 'Arrow points to defective part'; and 3) 'Everything you knew about X is wrong.' Jim Pinkerton hits at least two of the three in this op-ed on the distressing lack of progress in fighting AIDs.  Pinkerton says drug companies have cut back on AIDS research 

because they no longer see profits ahead. The drug companies are being pressured into basically giving away their existing anti-AIDS meds in Third World countries ...  [snip] If a pharmaceutical company were to come up with an AIDS-smiting "silver bullet," Magic Johnson would gladly pay the sticker price, while everyone else would demand it free. If you're Pfizer, it's hard to make money that way.


there's a new twist: The creation of a permanent, self-perpetuating AIDS bureaucracy that has a vested interest in maintaining the disease but little interest in curing it. [Emph. added]

Does John Kerry's published AIDS plan address either of these problems? You make the call--but it looks to me as if it would exacerbate both of them. ... 11:48 A.M

Shorter Terror-Alert Story Line:

Old Anti-Bush Spin: Why are you warning us about these threats now?

New Anti-Bush Spin: Why are you telling us why you are warning us about these threats now?

Old Anti-Bush Spin: Why did you wait three weeks before issuing the alert?

New Anti-Bush Spin: Why didn't you wait longer?

If Bush did blow part of the Al Qaeda investigation by prematurely revealing the name of a Pakistani computer engineer who'd been "turned" and was operating as a double agent, that's a serious screw-up. (Juan Cole is all over this angle.) But how many of those who will jump on Bush for any misguided revelation are the same people (e.g. Howard Dean, WaPo) who a week ago were the very ones pressuring him to reveal more about why he'd issued an "alert" about a three year old plot to blow up financial institutions--insinuating he was doing it for political reasons? ... Even shorter spin sum-up: How dare you be cowed by us! ... 11:53 P.M.

Friday, August 6, 2004

Did I Mention That Benedict Arnold Had Some Fine Qualities? Discriminations catches the Kerry campaign erasing from its Web site the primary-campaign denunciations of "Benedict Arnold CEOS" that don't fit Kerry's new, narrower, business-friendly definition of "Benedict Arnold." (The term doesn't apply, we're told, to U.S. firms that ship American jobs overseas to take advantage of cheap foreign labor. Who knew?)... P.S.: Will it be that easy to erase Kerry's convention promise not to cut Social Security benefits? 8:36 P.M.

This John Crudele column from Thursday's N.Y. Post is now looking mighty prescient. It also offers a relatively benign, statistical explanation for the weak July job growth numbers released today. ... Update: Alert reader C.G. notes that the "Net Birth/Death Adjustment," the statistical factor Crudele cites, subtracted 91,000 jobs from the published total for July, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Web site. Even if you add back in all those jobs, the net job total is still only 123,000--substantially less than Wall Street's expectations. ... P.S.: Note also that the "birth/death" adjustment added 182,000 jobs to last month's total. Without it, the BLS would have reported a net job loss of more than 100,000 for June. ... Still, given the importance attached to the monthly jobs number, it's disturbing that it contains such a large fudge factor. Even the BLS concedes the "birth/death" adjustment is imprecise--"the most problematic part of the estimation process." ... P.P.S.: The other glaring flaw in the BLS "payroll" survey, from which the net job number is generated, is that (as the BLS puts it) "Data exclude proprietors, self-employed ... farm workers, and domestic workers." The exclusion of the self-employed seems particularly troubling, given the economy's apparent increased reliance on freelancers and consultants, etc. (For additional criticism of the payroll survey, see this Heritage paper.) ... P.P.P.S.: The point isn't that the weak July number should be ignored. But a) maybe we should pay a bit more attention to the smaller--but seemingly more comprehensive--government survey of households, which has been delivering relatively good news (629,000 jobs  in July); and b) maybe we should treat the monthly fluctuations in the BLS payroll survey a bit more like we treat daily fluctuations in the Rasmussen poll and a bit less like the word of God. 8:24 A.M.

Thursday, August 5, 2004

You tell her! Valuable voter feedback for Kerry's campaign from deep within the comments section of Ruy Teixeira's Donkey Rising:

I attended the Kerry rally in downtown GR MI 8/2. A huge noon time crowd, nearly 10,000, in this very conservative GOP area. The size was beyond everyone's expectations.

The rally was held on a 2 acre+ concrete plaza, on a very hot day with the temp on that surface nearly 100 degrees. We had to wait hours for the festivities to begin because of the security checks prior to entrance.

Finally the Kerry entourage arrived; but before the candidate spoke, up stepped Theresa. Instead of expressing a few words of gratitude to the long suffering crowd and making a short intro speech for her husband, we were treated to a too long, and may I say self indulgent discourse.

There on the stage was our wonderful gov., [Jennifer] Granholm, who was permitted to say nothing. None of the down ticket people were allowed a word either; although in that heat they may not have been welcomed by the crowd.

Theresa took all of the air out of the rally. People started to leave before Sen. Kerry finished. They had to go back to work, find water or start back to home through heavy traffic. We don't need this. I expressed my feelings to the campaign thru Kerry's blog, but I don't have any hope that anyone will listen.

Sooner or later the media will start reporting on these instances and then the Bush people will climb on the criticism wagon having been given permission by the media.

Kerry's people need to get a clue and play more to the comfort of his supporters during these hot weather weeks of the campaign. They and he also need to realize that although we like and admire Theresa, we go to these events to hear the Sen. speak.

Posted by GR Joe at August 4, 2004 12:50 PM  [Emphasis added]

Time to send Teresa on a long global fact-finding mission? I would say the role of women in developing countries urgently needs hands-on investigation.  With her African background, Teresa's the perfect person for the job. ... [Thanks to alert reader T.] 12:20 A.M.

Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Is Kerry so smart? Soxblog raises a touchy issue. 1:50 P.M.

Das Bounce II: Donkey Rising's Ruy Teixeira spends rather too much time explaining away the disappointing (for Kerry) post-convention horse-race polls. 1) AsTeixeira notes, Kerry's beating Bush on the issues (and on various leadership qualities) yet he still hasn't taken a clear lead among likely voters. Tell us why is this good newsfor Kerry again? 2) On the biggest issues--Iraq and the economy--the trend seems likely to be in Bush's favor. If that happens, won't the horse-race results follow that trend? 3) The convention news was grim for Kerry not because it failed to shore up his base (it did!) or because the voters don't agree with him on the issues (they do!) or because he didn't "set himself up for a successful fall campaign" (he did!). The problem is that it is Kerry who has to wage that "successful fall campaign"--and what the convention may have told us is that voters, despite agreeing with the Dems on all sorts of matrixes, don't find Kerry personally appealing even when they see him give a good speech. At least not appealing enough to vote for him. That bodes ill for Democrats this fall, no matter how well Kerry has "set himself up." ... Put another way...:  My colleague Will "The Toaster" Saletan argues that the good news suggested by the polls is that "it's Kerry's race to lose." But the bad news suggested by the polls is that he will do exactly that. (Saletan seems to feel the only way Kerry can go down is if the Bush campaign attacks him. That assumes Kerry can't hurt himself all by himself.) ... Yet another way to put it: highly-informed kf reader emails:

Seems like the Dem interpretation of the bump polls is saying, "The voters got all these other questions right.  They just got the vote wrong, but they'll come around on that."  What tune do you use when whistling past the graveyard?

Update: Robert Musil  adds a good point  ...

One big problem with "issues and internals" is that there are so many of them, and they deploy themselves like guests at a cocktail party at which the pundit speaks only to his friends. For example, does any sensible person think Kerry-Edwards would score well on an "issues and internals" poll question that probes who would best keep the nation's courts from imposing gay marriage a la Massachusetts? Of course, that question is not driving this election - yet over 70% of voters in the "battlefield state" of Missouri just voted for a constitutional amendment to keep that from happening. Why don't Messrs. Saletan and Teixeira spend time chatting up that issue at their "issues and internals" cocktail parties posing as pundit columns?

[Emphasis both added and removed!] ... More: John Tabin snipes at Saletan here. ... 3:10 A.M.

Franks: Kerry Was Right About 'Nam! Fox's Sean Hannity didn't look too happy today when now-retired Gen. Tommy Franks backed up John Kerry's old claims of atrocitiesin Vietnam.... After Hannity had detailed Kerry's charges--which included stories of beheadings and the shooting of innocent civilians--Franks agreed with them. The "things Kerry said are undeniable," the general told his surprised host, explaining that "things didn't go right" in Vietnam. ... P.S.:  I don't thinkFranks was simply refusing to criticize Kerry--he criticized Kerry elsewhere in the same interview (while praising President Bush). The best explanation for why he said it is that it's what he actually thinks. And he was in a good position to know the truth. ... [Quotes are from my notes; will update when the transcript come up in NEXIS] ..

Update: The transcript on NEXIS has Franks saying "I wouldn't say that the things that Senator Kerry said are undeniable about activities in Vietnam." I don't remember an "n't" after the word "would." I think the NEXIS transcript is wrong, though I don't have video against which to check. Certainly the reported "wouldn't" is inconsistent with Franks tone earlier in the interview, the first time Hannity tries to get him to denounce Kerry on the Viet atrocities issue (by playing a tape of Kerry's old anti-war testimony).

HANNITY: What does that mean to you?

FRANKS: I think we had a lot of problems in Vietnam. One was the lack of leadership of young people like in -- in John Kerry's position. He was a young officer over there, and I'm not sure that -- that activities like that didn't take place. In fact, quite the contrary. I'm sure that they did take place. ...

At which point Hannity cuts him off with another question. ...

More update: The Hannity/Franks video is available online here (click on "Part 3" of "The General Speaks"). It's ambiguous! Here's my transcript, which does differ from the one in NEXIS:

HANNITY: I mean, raped, murdered, all these things. But he never told names. Does that anger you? I mean, this is the guy now that is the leading candidate for the Democrats.

FRANKS: I don't know. I -- um, I think Vietnam was uh-- I think Vietnam was, uh, was a bad time. I think that what I've learned in my life, Sean, is that it's a heck of a lot easier to protest than it is to step up and, uh, take responsibility for the actions, um, of a unit or for -- or for your ... your own actions.

And so, um, I don't -- I don't like what I saw, uh, but at the same time, I would -- I wouldn't say that ... [pause] the things that Senator Kerry said are undeniable about activities in Vietnam. I ...I ... I'm ... I think that .. I think that things didn't go right in -- in Vietnam. And so...

HANNITY: How do you feel when he came back, he's throwing medals and ribbons and saying that about his fellow soldiers?

It all depends on whether Franks was trying to start a new sentence after the pause. It's a longish pause! You, the reader, make the call. ... My take: The context--especially the "but at the same time" and the emphatic way Franks says "things didn't go right"--tends to support my interpretation. I still think he was backing Kerry up, even to the point of saying the atrocities were "undeniable." The more I replay it the more I agree with myself! ... P.S.: Someone maybe could ask Franks what he meant. He seems like a straight-shooter who wouldn't change his answer. ... 2:19 A.M.

Tuesday, August 3, 2004

Oricelli-Tay? Kerry's convention speech was as good a performance as we can expect from him. I thought it would give him a boost--and it did on some internal polling questions such as "Which candidate is better at handling issue X." But on the horse-race result, where convention bounces are measured, the results are a bit disappointing. A rough survey:

Rasmussen: 3 point bounce, max, already gone.

Newsweek: 4 point gain for Kerry, but that's since a poll taken 3 weeks before the convention. Compared with his standing right before the convention, Kerry could have gotten a bigger bounce than that, or a smaller bounce. Newsweek's poll seems more or less useless, bounce-wise.

CBS: 2 point bounce since mid July if you include Nader in the race--1 point bounce if you don't.

Gallup-USA Today: A 4-5 point loss for Kerry. This result apparently holds up even in Gallup's extended polling  through Sunday.

ABC-WaPo: 8 point gain for Kerry among registered voters; 6 points among "likely" voters. But note that ABC is comparing its post-convention numbers with a pre-convention poll that was a bit of an outlier in that it was unusually pro-Bush.  If that earlier poll was off, and Kerry wasn't 2 points behind Bush going into the convention, then the convention provided less boost to him than even the "slight bounce" ABC reports--which itself had diminished by Sunday.

In short, a small gain, and one that appears to be dissipating rapidly. ... If even Kerry's best didn't help him much, what's a Democrat to do? ... Hint: Rhymes with "Titanic." ... 3:31 A.M.

Sunday, August 1, 2004

Republicans for "Rebranding": John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge give five reasons many conservatives secretly welcome the prospect of Bush's defeat. Most interesting are #3, promoting White House/Congress gridlock (as a means of reducing government spending), and #2, the need to rebrand the U.S. after Iraq:

The second reason conservatives might cheer a Bush defeat is to achieve a foreign-policy victory. The Bush foreign-policy team hardly lacks experience, but its reputation has been tainted -- by infighting, by bungling in Iraq and by the rows with Europe. For better or worse, many conservatives may conclude that Kerry, who has accepted most of the main tenets of Bush's policy of preemption, stands a better chance than Bush of increasing international involvement in Iraq, of winning support for Washington's general war on terror and even of forcing reform at the United Nations. After all, could Jacques, Gerhard and the rest of those limp-wristed continentals say no to a man who speaks fluent French and German and has just rid the world of the Toxic Texan?

[Note: I've restored a clause to that last line (the bit about the "Toxic Texan") that appeared in the Trenton Times, which I hold in my hand, but not in the Minneapolis StarTribune, which has the only Web version I could find. Update: The Wilmington News Journal posted it, and they had the good sense to not edit out  the most persuasive bit.] ...4:58 P.M.

I clearly charmed Atrios at that blogger party in Boston! Here he graciously welcomeskf into the Kerry coalition. ... P.S.: It's always hard to distinguish those with genuinely ambivalent or heterodox or nuanced or muddled views from those who are just positioning (e.g., to "preserve their street cred on both sides"). But I wouldn't think this is a distinction Kerry supporters, of all people, would want to encourage. 4:43 P.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. 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. 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. 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