Your terror-alert story line so far ...

Your terror-alert story line so far ...

Your terror-alert story line so far ...

A mostly political Weblog.
Aug. 9 2004 4:08 AM

Terror-Alert Spin Sum-up

Plus--'I meant Benedict Arnold in a good way'

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.


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.

Friday, July 30, 2004

Good, air-clearing Iggy Post column on the rush to embrace the 9/11 commission's highly questionable recommendations. Ignatius raises the same objection to the cabinet-level intelligence "czar" raised by Sen. Levin and kf's alert e-mailer. ("The White House politicized the intelligence process, so let's create a new intelligence czar in the White House and give him control over domestic spying, too," he writes, sarcastically.) Ignatius busts Kerry at length for his stagey 100% embrace of the commission:

[T]here's something dispiriting about the knee-jerk endorsement of the commission's proposals. The ink was barely dry on the 567-page report when Kerry gave it his blanket endorsement. Hoping to bind himself even more tightly to the commission's image of national unity, Kerry then proposed extending its life by 18 months. ... [snip]

The country needs a president who will take control of anti-terrorism policy, sift good proposals from bad and steer a steady course away from the maelstrom in which the United States finds itself.

Sadly, Kerry's me-too approach to the Sept. 11 commission is of a piece with his bland flag-waving on foreign policy in general. America is a nation at war. Yet we have no sense, even after Kerry has been nominated, of just what policies he would pursue in Iraq and the Middle East. There's a three-alarm blaze outside and he's telling us he supports the fire department.

As a loyal Kerry supporter I urge you don't read the whole thing. It will only promote disunity and despair. Best not to know too much. We should do whatever the "9/11 families" want! That's the ticket. ... 1:30 P.M.

Who Stole Teresa's Cookies? Teresa Heinz Kerry doesn't just blame her aides for her less-than-triumphant cookie recipe. She takes it a step further, blaming sabotage by her aides!

Somebody at my office gave that recipe out and, in fact, I think somebody really made it on purpose to give a nasty recipe.

Discriminations senses a trend. ... P.S.: Typically, the NYT spins it for Kerry!

Mrs. Heinz Kerry is reputedly a good cook, and good cooks are usually upset when their names are associated with inferior recipes.

But do they usually claim treachery? [They probably do-ed. Good point.] ... P.P.S.: But why would the Kerry organization think this cookie-pointing paranoia by Mrs. H-K was useful press for their campaign? It seems likely they didn't think that. But how would they stop her? ... 12:31 P.M.

kf Locked Out! More damn color: I arrived at the Fleet Center about 8:30 to find a crowd of about 200 gathered at the foot of the escalators. The police were refusing to let anyone up into the arena. "But I have an assigned seat" screamed locked-out politicos. Actual delegates complained loudly into their cell phones. ("I had to circulate petitions to get here.") After about fifteen minutes, during which the crowd swelled to about 500, a deputy fire chief appeared on the stairs and announced, in a thick Boston accent, "There's no more room. It's a fie-yah hazard." Everyone was told to leave. We were also told that once we left we couldn't come back. Naturally, nobody left. Another official appeared and said the building was "locked down." Again nobody left, reasoning that perhaps the cops were just trying to scare away enough weaklings to whittle the crowd down to a size small enough to allow in.

Suddenly a phalanx of reporters entered  and marched toward the cops in a battering ram formation. This was the "traveling press"--reporters and photographers (including David Hume Kennerly) who follow Kerry around the country. They had podium passes! A platoon of black-clad riot police marched in to block their way. The photographers snapped pictures of the cops in an attempt to intimidate them. Negotiations dragged on until suddenly the press pack turned and marched to a bank of elevators--having apparently talked the authorities into letting them in through the garage. Meanwhile, the SWAT teams cleared the lobby, pushing the remaining frustrated reporters and delegates outside. Alan Colmes arrived, with his producer. He was trapped outside too, and had a show to do! The cops recognized him and let him in, leading to booing and grumbling in the crowd about favoritism toward Fox. A locked-out dog puppet--I assume it was Triumph the Insult Comic Dog--yelled "Go do your duty, Colmes, and get the crap kicked out of you by Hannity!" 

The prevailing theory: Too many people used the "courier" method to sneak extra friends into the hall. I never did get in.  Newsweek very kindly let me and several other locked-outs watch the speech on their TV in the media tent ...

Update: The Boston Herald's version of the Triumph quote is funnier and at least as accurate--go with that one!  4:28 A.M.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Blogging! Kerry Speech--Updated Pre-Party Edition: Some quick blogging points before I go off to various post-speech parties. 1) Good enough! No JFK2! (Kennedy's name wasn't even mentioned, I think. Update: Mentioned only once.) Substantive, non-cheap Bush-bashing! Populism muted-to-nonexistent! Above all, Kerry seemed less pompous, like a guy you could conceivably live with for four years; 2) Also fits with Eddie Yost strategy--didn't say much, presented a small target. At least three of four Pillars of Victory are intact; 3) Smart move to have a passage spotlighting his possible cabinet--took the focus off his own hard-to-like persona, made him potential benignly dull father figure presiding over an interesting administration; 4) Line most likely to come back and haunt: "I will not cut benefits." 5) Man, stem cell research must test well. .... I predict a measurable bounce, if anybody was watching. ... The most encouraging implications of the speech may be that a) Kerry's aides know their candidate's inherent limitations and are willing to correct for them rather than correct them--by not having him try to actually excite the crowd, for example; and b) Kerry's either aware of his limitations himself--or else he's willing to check his ego and listen to his staff's recommendations. Either way, it's encouraging. Kerry didn't try to make us love him or be inspired by him. He was just "reporting for duty." He unexpectedly jettisoned a lifelong JFK obsession. And he didn't (with a few exceptions*) treat his audience as dumb enough to be satisfied with meaningless bromides. ... This can't last. Time for Faster Elections! Can we hold this one next week? ...

*An exception to the no-meaninglessness norm was Kerry's favorite fudge, "America never goes to war because we want to; we only go to war because we have to." The whole issue, after all, is deciding when we "have" to. 11:59 P.M.

Bloggers of color: A loyal West Coast reader has requested more convention color. If you insist: 1) My first TV interview was at the rooftop set of CNN. To get there I had to walk about a mile around portable black security fencing to the back of the Fleet Center, then meet an escort. Two checks of my laptop bag before I got to the actual building whose roof was where CNN had set up shop. To get in, my escort needed an escort. At each floor there was a guy in fatigues with a nasty-looking gun--and occasionally, when you caught a glimpse down an alley or corridor, it was like that scene in Wayne's World in which Mike Myers opens a random door to see dozens of black clad commandos practicing James Bond stunts. Impressive, but I doubt any of this could stop a half-skilled bomber. ... 2) Traffic is light. The minority CW position--that the majority CW warnings about gridlock would scare away residents and produce the opposite of gridlock--have been vindicated. Many popular restaurants, such as Durgin Park, are nearly empty. ... 3) Sidney Blumenthal and the spectacularly-well-dressed former mayor of Rome eating breakfast at the heavy-donor-heavy Four Seasons. ... 4) Blogging is finally getting the respect it deserves. The DNC has set aside a group of seats especially for bloggers--on the prestigious "Mohegan Sun" level of the arena--and equipped them with wireless internet access. A steady stream of journalists visits this blogging area to do "bloggers at the convention" stories. Many bloggers spend so much time giving interviews about blogging that they have little time left to blog.* ...When we get tense from posting (or interviewing about posting) we can retire to the special Bloggers' Spa under section 332 and enjoy a soothing steam bath and massage. Then, when the convention proceedings are over, a fleet of Internet-equipped Infinitis stands ready to ferry us to celebrity-studded parties, where merely mentioning "I'm a blogger" will get you quickly past the velvet rope and into a special VIP section. I'm so sick of talking about digital copyright issues with Ben Affleck that if I see him again I think I'll run the other way.  ... And the women! Don't get me started. My technique: I don't let on that I'm a blogger at first! Why make it too easy?...

O.K. I got a bit carried away on #4. But bloggers have never gotten so much respect--unless they're official Democratic bloggers and they stop following the party line by blogging that they "don't get the big deal" about Barack Obama. Then they get canned. ... If the RNC did that ... 5:23 P.M.

Even USA Today's joke-killing 'we-canned-your-ass' fact-checker likes Ann Coulter's latest convention column, pronouncing it "95% acceptable." ... Psst, buddy: Sometimes you have to publish the OK pieces in order to get the really good pieces!  ... P.S.: Coulter snipe at Kerry and his wife that Kinsley could have made: "A couple of sponges on another man's wealth might want to steer clear of using the word 'earn' so much."... P.P.S.: Coulter also gets at an obvious point I've failed to make--

The only "issues" Democrats dare discuss publicly are the things everyone can agree on: They are for "jobs," a good economy and the middle class. None of their blather ever touches on any issue on which Democrats and Republicans could possibly disagree.

That was certainly one reason Obama's speech was so effective. ... Since Bill Clinton's opening-day speech,* I haven't even heard, from the podium, any denunciations of Bush's tax-cut-for-the-rich. Have you? If Democrats don't think Bush's stimulus inefficiently wasted billions on upper income tax relief, what exactly do they think? ... Right, I forgot! This is the Eddie Yost candidacy. Say as little as possible and hope for a walk. They're down with the plan! ...[*--Thanks to alert reader S.P.for reminding me about Clinton.]  2:45 P.M.

Apocaclips Now ... or Never: If Kerry, while serving in Vietnam, shot two hours of video, why haven't we seen it before now? It must be really awful! All I've seen so far are the same shots over and over again--mainly of Kerry lumbering along a riverbank in combat gear. Perhaps tonight's 9-minute James Moll film will include some of it, but from the N.Y. Observer's account  it doesn't seem like it will. ... P.S.: It's possible the Kerry campaign is planning a surprise, and we'll get some dramatic new "Clinton-with-Kennedy" style shot. But that would mean Kerry's been saving it 35 years for tonight.  How likely is it that he had great, campaign-boosting war-zone images and didn't unload them in his close Senate race with William Weld? That would demonstrate truly impressive ambition and calculation. ... P.P.S.: Or maybe Kerry's just a man of his word! He told now-editor of the New York Times Bill Keller  in 2002

'I have no intention of using it' for campaign purposes.

P.P.P.S.: Hilariously, when objecting to a Keller column, Kerry's staffers argued that it was a "cheap shot" to say "that he belabors his war record." [Link via this TimesWatch item ] ... Update: Keller saw 40 minutes of fast-forwarded film. He found it "not self-aggrandizing"--

silent, washed-out-color footage of mangrove-choked rivers, sleepy villages and sailors skinny-dipping -- disturbingly interrupted on occasion by a Vietcong corpse or one of Mr. Kerry's crewmen torching a thatched hut during a search-and-destroy mission. 

Somehow I don't think the hut-torching scene will make it into the final cut. ... They gave us Moll when we needed Coppola! ... .2:12 P.M.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Blogging! The dial-up connection in the Fleet media filing room unexpectedly works, so I might as well blog. (Mickey'sAssignment Desk--Attention, editors: Blog is short for Web log, or online diary. It turns out there are people "blogging" from the Democratic convention! You should assign a reporter to check out this new phenomenon.)  Reaction to Edwards' speech:

1) Did he forget to shave? I saw beard poking through, making him look slightly snake-like but also tougher. Maybe that was the idea..

2) Like many great performers, he's reached the stage where his tricks and mannerisms have become self-conscious and exaggerated--he's added a layer of parody and smug confidence on top of them (including an annoying 'that-line-will-work' smirk at inappropriate times) that makes them less effective. I saw the same thing happen to Steve Earle and Bruce Springsteen.

3) The "We will destroy you" message to Al Qaeda was not wildly intimidating;

4) But the win-Iraq-with-allies section was highly effective, I thought, as was the section about the reservist's wife. These ultimately made the speech a success;

5) I disagree with my colleague Will Saletan's suggestion that Edwards "two Americas" rap is divisive. The key to its appeal, it seems to me, is precisely that, in contrast to the branded populism of Kerry aide Robert Shrum's, it's not divisive.

In Shrum's version, which Kerry spouted at times earlier this year, we need the Democrats to fight greedy rich interests that 'stand in your way.' There are two Americas, all right--one is bad and one is good, and the bad America seems to be getting rich at the expense of the good America.

Edwards' speech, in contrast, didn't ask his audience to resent or vilify or "fight" anyone except a narrowly defined class of "lobbyists" for HMOs and drug companies. There are two Americas, all right--but we're not supposed to think the rich America is evil or greedy, much less think that its riches come at our expense. Edwards' dual Americas don't stand in opposition to each other. The split is just happening, and we need to do something about it.

The Edwards iteration of populism is not only non-divisive, it's also more consistent with the ideal of social equality ("never look down on anybody") and everyone's stated goal of "One America." In Shrum's hard dichotomy, it's hard to believe the omnipresent "powerful interests" could ever be part of a common country. Edwards' version also happens to be a fairly accurate description of what is actually happening in American society, where money inequality-- especially the boom at the top--is being produced by deep structural forces (e.g. trade and the growing returns to skills, smarts, and talents) not by powerful interests that can be fought and beaten. This is why Edwards' populism works and Shrum's doesn't, I'd argue. We'll see whose version Kerry embraces tomorrow. [He'll straddle!--ed. Always a safe bet. But he might do neither.] ...

11:29 P.M.

It's alive! The "timeout" meme lives  (in a non-antiterrorist context, fortunately). ... 12:33 P.M.

OK,  how about 1.5 Americas? Then Obama is happy and Edwards is happy. Email from Tom Maguire:

The Times, CNN, and the convention LOVED Obama's "One America" speech.

So now what - does John Edwards come on as a rebuttal speaker?

Saletan  jumps on the conflict too. ...12:20 P.M.

If the new Ritz hotel on Avery St. in Boston is outre, what's a dorm room at Northeastern University? Just a hypothetical question. ... And if USA Today didn't want an Ann Coulter column why did they, um, assign a column to Ann Coulter? I'd have published it. ... Update: And I hope I'm never subjected to this USAT joke-killer's hostile 'fact-checking.' ... 1:20 A.M.

Based on an actual conversation!

Passenger: "Fleet Center, please."

Boston cab driver (an immigrant): "You like John Kerry, eh?"

Passenger: "Well, I'm a Democrat but I don't really like Kerry that much."

Cab driver: "I hear that all day. All day. 'I don't like Kerry.' Why you pick him if you don't like him?"

12:47 A.M.

An emailer told me yesterday  that  she smuggled 20 friends into a Democratic convention in the 80s by shuttling back and forth to the outside using only 2 press passes. My first thought (having now experienced Boston's post-9/11 security) was: Those were the days! ...Then I realized that her trick is still possible. The security checks at the Fleet Center are focused almost entirely on checking for weapons, not checking the identity of pass-holders. My i.d. hasn't been checked once, and my pass isn't linked to any specific person. That means someone--perhaps a bad someone--could in theory cadge two low-level "perimeter" press passes and smuggle dozens of compatriots into the convention hall. ... I think something like this was the plot of reporter David Corn's novel, Deep Background. ... How much havoc could you wreak with dozens of people, even if they had no weapons when they entered? ... 12:09 A.M.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Panic Point No. 49: Consumer confidence is at a two-year high. ... Pollsters tell me this number is highly significant in determining voting behavior. ... 11:25 P.M.

kf Celebrates Diversity: Referring to the 9/11 Commission, Kerry today announced, 

"I would have immediately said to the commission, yes, we're going to implement those recommendations."

Presumably this means he'd implement the commission's marquee recommendation--for a cabinet-level czar who consolidates the management of the government's various intelligence shops. (Kerry's endorsed the idea before.) But, as an alert kf reader emails:

Doesn't [this] seem like a terrible idea in light of the pre-Iraq intelligence fiasco? The problem was a lack of diversity of views from the intelligence community (combined with a failure to get what diversity there was onto the president's desk). Obviously, one enemy of diversity would be a desire of intelligence folks to cater to the ideology of the president. And if one guy who is appointed by the president has the power to fire [or make life miserable for] the heads of all government intelligence agencies, the intelligence community will become one giant catering service. Seems to me the goal should be (a) preserve or even enhance the autonomy of different intelligence shops; (b) institutionalize the presentation of their disagreements to the president.

Good point! Senator Carl Levin, one of the leading spokesmen for the Democrats on these issues, has expressed similar reservations about the "czar" idea. Is Kerry saying Levin is one of those whose "going slow is something that America can't afford"? ... Update: Kerry's czar would apparently have the power to fire the heads of intelligence agencies--Kerry's July 16 speech explicitly called for the new Director of National Intelligence to have "authority over ... personnel ...." 5:39 P.M.

Hedoesn't look like Sidney Blumenthal ... but that's merely one type of evidence. ... Blumenthal is, after all, a well-known master of diguise! [via Luskin ] 4:15 P.M.

Whoops! Did the 9/11 Commission help Bush? Maybe the new ABC/WaPo poll is aberrantly anti-Kerry--the way the   ABC/WaPo poll of June 17-20 now seems aberrantly pro-Kerry. Or maybe it's ... finally ... Time to Panic! The answer remains to be seen! But do you think that NPR and the rest of the organized press would have made such a huge fuss about the 9/11 Commission report if they'd known the result would be this:

An improving economy and the handover of authority in Iraq are among the likely factors influencing these [more favorable voter assessments of Bush]. So, too, is the attention focused on terrorism by the release of the Sept. 11 commission report last week. The nation's response to 9/11 has been Bush's finest hour in public approval; focus on it accrues to his advantage.

P.S.: Does this mean the Dem convention's focus (so far) on foreign policy and Iraq is similarly ineffective? And Kerry maybe shouldn't have waved around a copy of the 9/11 report when weaving his latest hopeful spin to the NYT's designated spinnee. ... Tomorrow's CW Today: Why is Kerry talking so much about 9/11? It's what his opponent wants to talk about! He should change the subject! ... P.P.S.: ABC/WaPo has Bush virtually tied with Kerry on the issue of health care. I don't quite believe it. ... 2:14 A.M.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Kf Convention Curtain-Raiser! To recap, the four Pillars of Victory for Kerry seem to be ...

1. "Pedro Martinez": It's not a question of bashing-Bush versus 'sketching Kerry's positive vision for America.' Kerry's positive vision isn't anything that's going to galvanize the electorate. It's a question of bashing Bush versus thanking him for his service while making clear why we now need to bring in a relief pitcher. (Alternative metaphor: "Gold watch.") Importantly, swing voters can agree with this argument even if they thought the war in Iraq was a good idea--it still might be in the national interest, with Saddam gone, to retire the architect of his demise and bring in a new CEO to "rebrand" America's global presence without retreating. (See Sullivan for a suggestion on the non-retreat front). 

2. Return to 'Return to Normalcy': Peggy Noonan's insight, which is that Americans crave a respite from Bush's frenetic history-making, doesn't mean we can go back to happier pre-9/11 days. Everyone knows we can't. But we can take a break from the abnormal, over-leverage- and over-heated presidential decision making process that led us into Iraq and to the brink of a violent, generations-long global "clash of civilizations." At this point, Kerry's over-deliberativeness may be just what's called for.

3. "Eddie Yost": Will Kerry try to present himself as a dynamic leader who is more appealing than Bush? Why, for heaven's sake? a) Kerry's not a dynamic leader or an appealing personality. b) He doesn't have to beat Bush on positives; he can beat him on negatives (dissatisfaction with the president's performance). The trick, as Dick Morris argues, is for Kerry to keep his own negatives down by presenting a "small target." That means drawing as little attention to himself as possible--becoming a minimally acceptable alternative without offering voters too much to disagree with. Boredom is Kerry's friend. (Here's where his positive vision for America comes in!) Distractions--Clinton's book tour, the Laci trial and Jacko and Kobe--are Kerry's friends too. Above all, Kerry must not try too strenuously to let the American people come to know him better. That could be counterproductive. ... Eddie Yost, whom Kerry named his favorite Boston Red Sock, famously got on base not by trying to smash base hits but by waiting patiently while until the opposing pitcher threw four balls. We now know, from Billy Beane and Michael Lewis, that this strategy may be boring--but it wins ball games.

4. No New JFKs:  At the first convention in John F. Kennedy's home town, with Kennedy-camper Bob Shrum as his speechwriter, the temptation for Kerry to channel the 35th president must be nearly overwhelming. It's a bad idea. That's not because Kerry's aides need to "let Kerry be Kerry" so he'll be "comfortable in [his] own skin."The real Kerry, the comfortable Kerry, is pompous JFK-emulator, as Walter Shapiro notes. But the comparison with Kennedyism, stylistically, emphasizes Kerry's shortcomings in a particularly harsh way. Plus the more Kerry emulates Kennedyism in substance (especially Bobby Kennedyism) the more he suggests he's failed to learn the valuable anti-liberal lessons of Clintonism. A less grandiose, more conversational, and quieter--see Point 2-- tone seems a better bet for Kerry. (This is another Noonan recommendation.) Don't worry, he'll still be boring. See Point 3.

*-Has there ever been a more overrated virtue than being "comfortable in your own skin"? Think of all the great things achieved by people who were uncomfortable in their own skins. 6:06 P.M.

Wacky (but possibly true) blog speculation of the day: Bush plans to pardon the Plame leaker in exchange for a Democratic investigatee to be named later. ... Actually, to be named "Sandy Berger"! .... 4:49 P.M.

Schmoozalist's Notebook: 1) Why no tribute to the late Senators Moynihan and Mansfield at the Kerry convention? I heard several Democratic Washington hands ask this question the first 6 hours I was in Boston. The lack of a tribute seems inexcusable--especially since Moynihan was cheated of the attention he craved by the unlucky timing of his death (in the run-up to Iraq). Already he seems to have fallen out of memory (try entering his name in the search function here). ... Moynihan was right about a lot of things and wrong about a lot of things--usually the same things--but he thought for himself and vigorously served his country and the Democrats for many decades in a stunning variety of capacities. Is this a party in which you can't get respect unless you're its candidate for president? No wonder so many people run. ... Of course, Moynihan also worked for Richard Nixon. Maybe the Republicans will honor him. ... 2) How out of touch are network news people who think lost viewers will return because 'they want a gatekeeper.' ... 3) Kerry spending hours working on his big speech. Uh-oh! ...  4:30 P.M.

Old Kerry Nickname---"Live Shot." New Kerry nickname-- "Rink Turn.": ESPN quotes one Stanley Resor, identified as "a neurology professor at Columbia who was one of Kerry's teammates at St. Paul's School in New Hampshire":

"He wasn't a very good athlete," he says. "I mean, he wasn't a star athlete. But if you were cool [and] you were at least well-coordinated, you could pass yourself as semi-decent at whatever you played.

"He was the kind of guy ... you know what a 'rink turn' is? When the puck starts going the other way, you're supposed to jam on the brakes and sprint back. If you're lazy, you don't stop and start; you do a rink turn. And John was the kind of guy that would do rink turns. But he'd sort of look cool doing it. And he was a good stick handler, and a good passer -- when he wanted to pass."

3:27 P.M.

Friday, July 22, 2004

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.



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