Dan vs. the Pajama People

A mostly political Weblog.
Sept. 11 2004 6:39 PM

Dan vs. the Pajama People

It's not nice to mock the blogosphere ...

Bloggers Making Phone Calls (We can do that?): Trouble with that Boston Globe forgery-knockdown piece. ... Instapundit remains a good clearing house for the right-blogosphere's efforts in the developing CBS Monkeyfishing story. (The CBSers willl pay for that "pajama" crack.)  ... P.S.: Sorry for all the ongoing kf font difficulties. I should have used a Selectric! 2:53 P.M.

Update (to previous item): Marc Ambinder of ABC responds to my claim that ABC's The Note insinuated that, because the Web response to the CBS docs was so fast, pro-Bushies might have leaked them. 

I did not insinuate that Mr. Buckhead knew about the documents beforehand, given that CBS posted them as they went on the air at 8pm ET and 8pm PT. 

So if there's a web-based conspiracy theory based on the peculiarities of the Free Republic's posting system,  I certainly did not intend to start it! 

My point was the obverse: the blogosophere is agile, quick, and zooms the news cycle along quite quickly.  

Fair enough. But here's what's still up on The Note right now: 

IF — IF these end up being forgeries, one of the interesting subplots will be the timing and method by which they were exposed.

We always favor looking at the content and substance over WHO is offering up the information, but in the war that will ensue about WHO gave CBS the potentially phony documents, it is interesting to Note that the right (Drudge, Fox, right-leaning blogs, others) led the way in pointing out the questions we have all been asking — and they were onto the questions, with remarkable detail, relatively soon after the documents were made public.  [Boldface added]

Insinuationor harmless praise of right-wing bloggers? You the reader, make the call!  ... P.S.: NPR and Media Matters say insinuation! ... P.P.S.: Of course, Ambinder probably didn't write those two paragraphs. kf awaits emails from all the Note's authors! ... 2:54 P.M. Galapagos Island Time

Patterico shoots down a promising pro-Kerry Web conspiracy theory--namely that the potential forgery of the CBS Bush guard documents was spotted so quickly on the Web that the person who spotted it ("Buckhead," poster #47 at Free Republic) must have been tipped off in advance. That would suggest that any forgery was planted, presumably by pro-Bush forces. But it seems this whole theory, promoted in this morning's ABC News Note, was based on a misreading of time stamps by ABC. In reality, Buckhead had a couple of hours to come up with his post--something he confirms in an email to Patterico. ... ABC has corrected its mistake (without withdrawing the now seemingly groundless insinuation). NPR hasn't corrected the error, according to Patterico, and David Brock's Media Matters still posts it. ... P.S.:Media Matters might want to decide if a) the documents are authentic, as argued at the top of their Web page or b) the documents are forgeries planted by Republicans, as argued at the bottom of their Web page. Lawyers are allowed to plead in the alternative, but a) and b) can't both be true, and the evidence for each of those propositions is also evidence against the other one. 1:10 A.M. Pacific Time (that's 4:10 to you, Ambinder)

Da Ali B Show: Famed charmingly naive mass emailer Ali Karim Bey writes:

As you may know, I have been predicting a victory for
John F. Kerry (aka, JFK) since Fall 2002. I think I
can smell the victory now. The Bush bounce will
disappear by end of Sept. Then media will see "The
Real Bounce" (aka JFK is closing).

Maybe AKB is really a pseudonym for Ruy Teixeira, who has been very, very busy explaining away the avalanche of polls showing Bush pulling a bit ahead.  First, he criticizes the Gallup poll's 7-point "likely voter" Bush lead, preferring the registered voter tables where Bush leads only by two. Then, when subsequent polls (CBS, ABC) indicate a big Bush lead among registered voters, he asks "Why would September 6-8 [CBS, ABC] be a better period for Bush than September 3-5 [Gallup], right after the convention?" Er, maybe because Kerry "seemed to be reeling in retreat," as distinguished nonpartisan analyst Sidney Blumenthal put it.  ... Teixeira's argument comes perilously close to "How can this poll be right? It shows Bush gaining!" This is how we build the cocoon. ... P.S.: The scholars at CrushKerry  immediately pointed out that the Newsweek and Time polls showed Kerry further behind than he really is. Has Teixeira made a similar admission against his side recently? ... 1:25 A.M.

Here's an attempt by an anti-Kerryite to give a fair summary of the case against Kerry's Vietnam self-portrayal, weeding out the bogus charges. A place to start if you want to figure out what's left of the Swifty attack (and what questions Kerry might face on the issue should he ever again hold a press conference). ... 1:11 A.M.

The Liberal Spin on Ivan! Kyoto Treaty has new appeal to Floridians. (It's not a crazy argument. Something for the new Department of Calmness!) ... 1:05 A.M.

Thursday, September 9, 2004

"Department of Wellness"! Spirit-crushing foolishness from my candidate, John Kerry. The nation is trying to figure out how to fight global terrorism and he's talking about having "not just a Department of Health and Human Services, but a Department of Wellness." How about a Department of F***ing Perspective? If Bush is smart he'll be ridiculing Kerry about this for the rest of the month. ...Thanks, Iowa! P.S.: Was this harmless "Kerrymeandering" or the more ominous "Kerrypandering"? ... [Coinage by Saletan and alert kf reader D.R.] 2:14 A.M.

The Los Angeles Times editorial page--under new management!-- fails to go along with the current Democratic attempt to get all outraged at Dick Cheney's comment that "if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we'll get hit again." 

The war on terrorism is the central issue in the campaign, and both parties' candidates have various points to make about it. But the issue boils down to one question: Which candidate would do the best job, as president, of making sure that we don't "get hit again." That is what people really care about.

Sens. Kerry and John Edwards have been criticizing President Bush's performance on terrorism since 9/11 and promising to do a better job at it if given the chance. In doing so, they surely mean to suggest that the risk of another terrorist attack will be greater if Bush and Cheney win the election. A vote for George W. Bush, in other words, is a vote for more terrorism. Or if Kerry and Edwards don't mean that, it's hard to know what they do mean.

Compare and contrast with the huffy fatuities of Gail Collins' New York Times  ed page, which declares that Cheney had "stepped across a line" by discussing "the danger" of getting hit--but then feels free to charge that "[t]he danger might be a bit less if the current administration had chosen to spend less on tax cuts for the wealthy and more on protecting our ports." Why can the Times say the administration has increased the danger but Cheney can't make his arguments that the administration has reduced the danger? Isn't that what a discussion of the actual major issue of the campaign looks like?... P.S.: In this increased/decreased argument, I tend to side with Kerry and Edwards--we've now angered enough people around the world that our chances of getting hit will probably be higher if Bush is reelected than if Kerry wins. But it's not an argument in which only Kerry's side is allowed to participate. ... 1:12 A.M.

Wednesday, September 8, 2004

Two major print stories (yesterday, LAT  , today NYT) on the possibility that elections might not be held in Fallujah and some other Iraqi towns describe it as yet another lose-lose-setback for U.S. goals. Excluding Sunni areas will "detract from the international legitimacy of the critical votes," says the LA Times. On the other hand,delaying the elections would anger the Shiite majority. But isn't there also a positive, virtuous circle dynamic opened up by the possibility of holding elections only in safe areas, namely that it gives the people in the unsafe areas a strong incentive to get pacified if they want to have a say in the national government? This sort of dynamic was, in fact, the key to proposals for "rolling elections" made earlier this year by my colleague Robert Wright:

The example of democracy—and real sovereignty—in the mainly Shiite and Kurdish parts of Iraq could inspire Sunni support for elections and thus reduce support for insurgents, perhaps carrying it below the insurgency's subsistence level. (Why keep fighting American soldiers once the Shiites have shown that you can just tell them to get lost?) Here the much-feared rivalry among Iraq's ethnicities could become an asset, creating a competitive impetus toward orderly self-government. In fact, the Sunnis' envy of their neighbors' newfound freedom might acquire a productive undercurrent of anxiety as they watched the Shiite region build its militia. A further incentive for Sunni Arabs to join the larger Iraq via elections would be the fact that Iraq's oil lies largely outside the Sunni triangle: Act now, or risk going forever without a chunk of oil revenues.

True, it's not as simple as "if you want your vote to count, you'd better throw the insurgents out"--Wright seems to have been assuming more of a de facto partition in the country than the Allawi government is now contemplating. People in the insurgent-dominated Sunni areas would have to be convinced that any new nationwide government, elected without their participation, would be here to stay, and that they'd gain by joining in holding elections themselves (as opposed to fighting on and negotiating later). ... The point is that the threat of piecemeal elections can be highly useful, pointing the country's ethnic pressures in a good direction. ... P.S.: If fair elections were held in Shiite and Kurdish areas, plus wherever else they could be held, why would they not have "legitimacy"? They would have legitimacy as expressing the will of the areas in which they were held, no? ... 11:17 A.M.

Attention, Electoral College map-makers: You might want to start factoring in this guy. ... 9:13 A.M.

Tuesday, September 7, 2004

Coincidence!

NYT's Nagourney before Bush pulls ahead: Nothing changes in this campaign!

NYT's Nagourney after Bush pulls ahead: "If there is any lesson about this election ...[snip] it is that dynamics and public opinion change fast."

P.S.:Patterico has an elaborate, paranoid and not-implausible chart of the LAT's similarly self-contradicting pro-Kerry choreography. ... 3:11 P.M.

I dissent from the latest campaign CW that Kerry must talk about the economy, health care, etc. for the next two months rather than Iraq and the War on Terror--and that every day spent talking about Iraq and terror is somehow a bad day for him. (See., e.g., today's Note). 1) The issues of Iraq and the WOT are intellectually unavoidable. They're the most important things at stake in the election; 2) Because they are intellectual unavoidable, trying to avoid them (in order to focus on the economy) calls Kerry's judgment into question; 3) They're going to come up anyway, as they did yesterday; 4) The economy's not in such bad shape--by which I mean not that the statistics are OK, but that the ordinary lives of Americans aren't in such bad shape, despite the wishfully downbeat reporting of a cocooning anti-Bush press; 5) Whatever shape the economy is in, it's something the voters know about. Kerry can't convince them the economy is better than they know it is or worse than they know it is. But the argument against Bush's terror strategy is one that they might not have heard;  6) To the extent voters' economic lives are worse, many of them realize at some level that there is little Kerry can do to, e.g., stop the forces of globalization and technology that are changing the economic game; .. P.S.: I agree Kerry should also talk about health care, stem cells, etc.. I just don't see where--barring some Iraq disaster that makes the case for him--he avoids a frontal assault on Bush's terror strategy. If you agree with Bush on terror, are you really going to vote for Kerry in order to reduce your Medicare bill? ...[What about Churchill and Attlee?--ed. Churchill lost after WWII was essentially over.] ...  P.P.S.: ABC's Teddy Davis makes at least point #3 at the end of his latest  campaign dispatch, and also memorably reports:

There is no way to know where Kerry will ultimately end up on Iraq.

Only time will tell! ... Update: Taranto argues that the Kerry-should-go-domestic CW is quite intentionally a strategy to allow Kerry to "lose with dignity," thereby protecting downballot Dems. ... 12:43 P.M.

Monday, September 6, 2004

Eduwonk on the latest in the NYT's campaign to leave no disingenuous anti-NCLB story behind. ... 7:27 P.M.

kf unburies the lede from deep within Frederic U. Dicker's N.Y. Post column today:

Meanwhile, senior New York Democrats have privately been told to expect a "significant" shakeup in the Kerry campaign sometime soon. [Emph. added]

5:23 P.M.

Hey, we can panic again! The highly-anticipated Gallup-USA Today-CNN  post-convention Labor Day poll shows  Bush with a 52-45-1 lead and a 5-point convention-week bounce in a three-way race. ... kf's earlier report that Gallup would show only a one-point lead and a two-point bounce (in a two-way race) appears to be of questionable epistemological status. A full investigation is underway. ... Update: Everybody's right! An  in-depth probe  reveals that Bush leads by 7 among "likely voters" but by only 1 among all "registered voters" in a two-way race.  ... In a three-way race, Bush's "registered" margin is two, not one, and his "likely" margin remains 7 points.  Got it? ... I'd say the 4-5 point shift among "likely voters" is a bounce, not a non-bounce, but make your own call. Here's Gallup's 'small bounce' line, which oddly emphasizes the Bush convention-week rise but not the simultaneous Kerry fall. ... P.S.: If you go by "likelies," John Ellis' contra-CW mid-August suggestion that Bush would be "up by, say, six in the Gallup Poll after Labor Day" now looks eerily prescient! ...   1:27 P.M.

Here's pollster Scott Rasmussen's non-subscription, sensible-sounding explanation of why he thinks the Time and Newsweek polls roughly double the size of Bush's still-substantial convention bounce. ... 12:51 P.M.

Reality 1, Nagourney 0: Was this really the best weekend for the NYT's Adam Nagourney to write a "Week in Review" lead  based on the premise that none of the campaign's "Big Moments"--such as conventions--has "proved to be very big at all"?  By Sunday, when Nagourney's piece ran, it sure looked as if the actual news of the week was that Bush had a big moment that really was big--maybe not as big as the Newsweek and Time polls sugggest, but big enough  to at least temporarily change the trajectory of the race.  ...

P.S.: Nagourney's groping here for a Neutral Story Line, a smart yet seemingly even-handed take on the campaign that doesn't favor one side or the other and thus expose the reporter to charges of bias. The ideal Neutral Story Line is durable in that it can withstand assault by any number of actual events. Classic NSLs are "Is This Any Way to Elect A President?" and "Oh, What a Dirty Campaign!" ... The problem, of course, is that usually the most important thing to be said about a campaign isn't neutral--one side is cleaning the other's clock, for example, or one side is playing a lot dirtier than the other side. In this case, Bush did have a big moment, so Nagourney's "Big Moments Don't Matter" Neutral Story Line in practice skewed the news in an anti-Bush direction. ...

P.P.S.: Nagourney (writing with David Halbfinger) redeemed himself with a dishy Kerry "slow-motion shake-up" story today. Was that Kerry "senior aide" joking when he or she said:

 "I think our negative frame should be that George Bush is a liar. He misled the country on Iraq. And then everything else that he lies about, bring it back to that."

If that's how Kerry's old, non-Clintonian staffers seriously think, it would explain a lot about the inefficacy (so far) of Kerry's attacks. Most voters like Bush (and, more important, want to like Bush). It's easier to convince them to retire this likable person than it is to convince them he's evil!  Note to Kerry campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill: Could you fire that "senior aide"? Unless, of course, it's you. ...

P.P.P.S.: The proposed new Clintonian Kerry campaign message--"If you want a new direction ..."--sounds good to me! But then most campaign messages sound good to me, which is why I'm not a campaign strategist. ...

P.P.P.P.S.: Today Nagourney and Halbfinger approvingly quote Dem commentator Paul Begala to the effect that

Mr. Bush had succeeded over the past month in transforming the race from a referendum on an incumbent president to a referendum on Mr. Kerry.

"It was an enormous shift," Mr. Begala said last night.

This of course completely contradicts Nagourney's thesis of ... yesterday, which was precisely that over the past month nothing enormous had happened at all. .. 12:06 P.M.

Sunday, September 5, 2004

OK, We'll Panic Later! Crushkerry.com-- blogging against interest--warns against putting too much faith in that Newsweek poll showing an 11 point Bush lead. Scott Rasmussen says the same about the similar Time poll. .. .Both polls oversampled Republican voters, the argument goes--which would mean that the actual Bush lead is much smaller than 11 percent. ... Update: Minuteman piles on--and he offers the obvious explanation: "proper Reps were at home watching their convention and answering the phone when pollsters called, while proper Dems were off doing" whatever Dems do during the GOP convention. [If that's right, shouldn't the Newsweek poll have shown a big Kerry edge during the Dem convention?--ed It did!]... 2:14 A.M.

Saturday, September 4, 2004

Doesn't Bush's seemingly substantial post-convention bounce give the lie to the theory--which has infected Bush's own campaign--that there are no swing voters left (so the best bet is to turn out your "base" voters)? Obviously there are plenty of swing voters because Bush just swung 'em! ... 5:03 P.M.

Friday, September 3, 2004

Can we panic now? 52-41. [Thanks to Dr. M ] .. Update: All you cocoon-enforcers who've been emailing me about how the 52-41 Time poll is an outlier can stop now. Newsweek has replicated the finding. Time and Newsweek can't both be wrong, can they? Don't answer that. Update: Actually, the answer is they might both be wrong. ... More: An appropriately panicked Susan Estrich suggests some lines of negative Dem counterattack. They don't seem out of bounds to me. They do seem ineffective. Bush isn't running on his Vietnam service record. ... But Estrich does bury some juicy charges about Lee Atwater's role in planting nasty negative stories about Dukakis in 1988. ... 3:43 P.M.

Bush speech:

1) Another State of the Union laundry list, at least in the first half. We'll just all have to reconcile ourselves to the unfortunate popularity of SOTU-style speeches. Voters must like them for some reason, the way TV viewers like stories about the weather.

2) Good theft of Clintonesque lifelong learning theme;

3) Good theft of Shrumian populist cliche ("And government must take your side");

4) Emphasis on portable everything (health, pension, training) alarmingly coherent; almost makes it seem as if Bush has a second-term domestic agenda!

5) He only says he'll "keep the promise of Social Security for our older workers." [Emph. added.] Younger workers are on notice;

6) Question: Will the increase in training money come in the form of vouchers? That would fit with the portability and ownership themes but runs afoul of the powerful job training/community college lobby. Bush does not seem to be rocking that boat--he doesn't mention vouchers.

7) The speech seems self-confident, yet there are remarkably few sharp edges that might bother moderate voters (e.g. no stem cells, no U.N.-bashing);

8) Between the "we saw a threat" rationale for invading Iraq and the messianic democracy-spreading rationale, this wasn't a good day for the traditional concept of sovereignty;

9) Bush has sacrificed any "return to normalcy" appeal. It's "transformational" history-making from here on out for him.

Overall, the speech was highly effective if not memorable. The one possible upside for Democrats: If Bush now pulls ahead in the polls Dems may substitute a clear-eyed panic for their previous media-fed belief that this is necessarily a close race--abandoning as well all the bogus comforting spin ("Wbrong track" internals will save us! Hispanics will save us! 527s will save us! Cheney's unpopularity will save us! Joe Lockhart will save us! etc.).

That's the way the cocoon crumbles. Better now than on Election Day. 4:27 A.M.

Thursday, September 2, 2004

Fresh Zell--It's a World War II thang:

In 1940, Wendell Wilkie was the Republican nominee. And there is no better example of someone repealing their "private plans" than this good man.

He gave Roosevelt the critical support he needed for a peacetime draft, an unpopular idea at the time. 

MILLER: And he made it clear that he would rather lose the election than make national security a partisan campaign issue.

[snip] ...

Where are such statesmen today? Where is the bipartisanship in this country when we need it most?

Today, at the same time young Americans are dying in the sands of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan, our nation is being torn apart and made weaker because of the Democrats' manic obsession to bring down our commander in chief.

I like Zell Miller, and even more I like the idea of Zell Miller. But are baby-boomers who lived through Vietnam likely to find this principle appealing--that Presidents can commit our troops to a war and then attack any criticism as unpatriotic national weakening? When do the people get to weigh in? ... I do think Democrats have engaged in gratuitous morale-weakening partisanship-- Hillary's smarmy, sneering, talking-pointed visit to Iraq, for one. But surely an election is the time when it's most appropriate to criticize a war. ... In other words, Miller's appeal was generationally as well as ideologically limited, and I suspect gave off more heat than bounce. ... Update: My colleague Will Saletan has a similar, if more heated, reaction to Miller's speech. ... 2:52 P.M.

Yikes: The previously unbounceable robots are jumping like fleas! ... Note to Democrats: Do not--repeat, not--panic. Everything is under control! We have them right where we want them. It's Kerry's contest to lose, remember! ... Update: Josh Marshall argues that at a time when Democratic electoral hopes are dying in the swamps of Florida and the hills of Pennsylvania, our party is being torn apart and made weaker because of unnamed Democratic insiders manic obsession to bring down Kerry's campaign team! Like Zell Miller, he counsels "shut up." ...12:15 P.M.

The emergency Kerry 'We're-Not-in-A-Crisis' crisis meeting for the press was a bit of a bust, I'm told.* Lots of Kerry cooks--including Lockhart, Cahill, Devine, Mellman, Cutter, Sosnik. No clear leader. Everyone had to get their say--illustrative of the problem, according to some reporters in attendance. Most of the presentation concerned horse-race spin, not the much-rumored Shakeup, which may or may not be a mirage. [Update: Here's the only slightly skeptical Cox account.]

*kausfiles was not allowed in. Illustrative of Kerry's stodgy and troubling ignorance of new media! (Hey, isn't that allegedly what got him into trouble with the Swiftys in the first place?**)

**From WaPo:

[O]ne aide said Kerry privately conceded that he, like most of his top staff, miscalculated the impact of the attacks by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and the influence of 24-hour cable news in shaping public opinion, and thought the controversy would blow over. One Kerry friend said the candidate focuses on more traditional news outlets and lacks a sophisticated understanding of modern media. "You would think he would have recognized this five years ago," the friend said.

10:59 A.M.

Wednesday, September 1, 2004

Watch out, Dan! ... You Too, Mr. President!

"And nothing makes this Marine madder than someone calling American troops occupiers rather than liberators."

--Zell Miller, keynote address, RNC

"The second thing we see over and over is that the Iraqi people do not like the liberation (sic), which is understandable. Nobody likes to be occupied."

--Dan Senor, Senior Adviser, Coalition Provisional Authority, January, 14, 2004

P.S.: Doesn't President Bush himself use the word "occupier"? Nexising .... Update: Yes, he does. In his April 14 press conference, for example, he said:

Finally, the attitude of the Iraqis toward the American people: it's an interesting question. They're really pleased we got rid of Saddam Hussein. And you can understand why. This is a guy who's a torturer, a killer, a maimer. There's mass graves. I mean he was a horrible individual that really shocked the country in many ways, shocked it into kind of a fear of making decisions toward liberty. That's what we've seen recently. Some citizens are fearful of stepping up. And they were happy -- they're not happy they're occupied. I wouldn't be happy if I were occupied either.

In general, my impression is that the period after our invasion of Iraq and before the handoff of sovereignty was and is routinely  referred to as "the occupation" by our military and civilian personnel in Iraq. Who runs an "occupation" if not "occupiers"? ... 10:24 P.M.

Firefighters for Kerry: The perception that the Kerry campaign is in crisis has become something of a crisis for the Kerry campaign.TNR's Ryan Lizza breaks the news that Kerry's

campaign high command will descend on New York tomorrow morning to meet with the press and no doubt try to quell the firestorm of chatter sweeping the convention hall about the staff being in disarray.

Everyone seems to be coming except Bob Shrum, which may or may not mean anything. It's at 8:A.M. ... 8:36 P.M.

He's a good closer! In Massachusetts! For Kerry, the race is at worst very close, and there's plenty of time. I'd be more confident of his ability to pull himself out of his rut, though, if I could think of any instance when he's aggressively campaigned over a sustained period before an electorate that wasn't overwhelmingly Democratic and actually moved the needle significantly in his direction. I can't. If anyone out there can, please let me know. ... 2:07 P.M.

Greg Packer Alert: The media's "designated man on the street for all articles ever written" is quoted saying he wants to volunteer for the GOP convention. ... That should do it. He's through at the Times! ... 1:53 P.M.

"Sources say major changes could come at the campaign's highest level." That's the juiciest sentence in CNN's Kerry Shake-Up story. Not much else there, though. Except this:

Several campaign officials and advisers say they recognize the need to have an "adult" traveling with the candidate -- as one put it, "someone who can tell him to shut up ..."

The staff's fault, again! ... 3:20 A.M.

Is it so smart for the Bush campaign to use the "Four More Years" slogan? Four years is a long time. The last four years haven't been so terrific. Does Bush really want to focus the public's mind on his own performance? After all, if it were "One More Year," Bush would probably be a lock--the public wouldn't have to take a chance on Kerry, but it could still get rid of Bush in 12 months. "Four more years" is a closer question. Clever Bush strategists would be trying to shorten our time horizon. ... 3:17 A.M.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Howard Fineman on the possible Kerryshake:

I don't have room and time to tease out all the layers, but my sense is that it is a move by former Clinton and longtime Boston types against the alliance of Mary Beth Cahill — the campaign manager — and Kerry's current crop of consultants.

Is Howard blogging on his Blackberry again? Otherwise maybe he'd have the room and time! We want all the layers teased out, buddy. ... 5:40 P.M.

Is it true what NEXIS tells me--that nobody has had the wit to use the obvious hed, "RUDY CAN'T FAIL"? It would have worked before or after his speech! ... Update: NEXIS doesn't have everything! Turns out Yglesias pulled the trigger on this hed earlier today. ... And Gillespie used it last night. ... 4:06 P.M.

The Kerry shake-up so far: Joe Lockhart will save them? I don't think so. ...4:03 P.M.

Walking Back the CW: There are more than 20 campaign stories in today's NYT--but nothing on the most interesting developing story, namely the potential turmoil in the Kerry campaign. We are forced to turn to the unproven-but-intriguing Washington Prowler, which suggests that Kerry was done in by ... ABC's The Note, which now-famously declared three weeks ago that it was Kerry's "contest to lose."

"This has been just a brutal two weeks for him," says another Kerry adviser. "He had people telling him the Swift Boat ads weren't going to take because the media was going to ignore them. There are senior people around Kerry who were buying into all the press clippings that this was our campaign to lose. ..." [Emph. added]

Meanwhile, the estimable Charlie Cook, in his latest e-mailed convention dispatch, writes

It really is pretty amazing how fast the conventional wisdom can change. Three weeks ago, most political insiders in both parties gave Sen. John Kerry a slight edge over President Bush ...

Was it the CW, Charlie--or was it you? ABC's "contest to lose" blooper was explicitly based on Cook's incumbents-never-win-the-undecideds analysis. Today Cook declares

[I]n the absence of some major external event or a monumental screwup by Bush or Kerry in this fall's presidential debates, neither candidate is likely to build a significant, sustainable lead.

Why do we think that this CW is any more true than the "contest to lose" CW? Isn't it possible that, in the teeth of media resistance, Bush will build a small-but-significant lead (absent some huge setback on Iraq or the economy)? ... Update: At least WSJ's Al Hunt is on the Kerry Shake-Up case. He's short on names and dances around the 'Whither-Shrum' issue, but he does have Kerry "said to be 'bouncing off the walls' in frustration." The CW diagnosis of Kerry's problem, according to Hunt?

Leading Democrats describe a command structure often frozen -- or at least tempered -- by too many chefs, a too-heavy reliance on polls or focus groups and an aversion to risks. As a result, the message often is muddled and the reaction to hard-hitting attacks from Republicans often is slow and unconvincing. [Emphasis added.]

Two questions: 1) Message? What message? That's the problem! Vietnam was, for Kerry, the substitute for a message;  2) Why, exactly, would a quicker and harder-hitting reaction to the Swifty attacks have helped Kerry? Mightn't it have made the attacks an even bigger deal? [Update: Bill Carrick agrees! ] Even today, Kerry's answers on a) Cambodia and b) the first Purple Heart are less than 100% satisfactory. Yes, a full-Ferraro press conference might put the Swifty issue to rest, but the Kerry camp is obviously unwilling to risk that. ... 12:25 P.M.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Thanks, Iowa--Part XVIII: Zogby has polled undecided voters. They don't like Bush's performance in office (disapproving by a 77-23 margin). But then they were asked "Do you or don't you like John Kerry as a person?" The results? Dislike--52%. Like--16%. It's almost as if uninformed Iowa voters in a front-loaded primary system anointed the one candidate who might through sheer force of his own unappealing personality lose the race to a vulnerable incumbent! Only time will tell. ... Update: That's a Zogby Interactive poll of "panels of likely voters who have agreed to take part in online surveys." Never mind! ... 7:04 P.M.

Where's Teresa? The Kerry campaign seems to have successfully put a lid on her, no? ... P.S.:kf demands more reporting on what the Note calls the "dissension" in the "wobbling" Kerry campaign. What kf hears--i.e. this is the rumor, not necessarily the truth--is that Kerry aides Shrum and Cahill are being blamed for the slow reaction to the Swifties. The candidate, it's said, wanted to fight back but was restrained. (How odd if Kerry ended up blaming his staff!) Underlying the anti-Shrumism is the dissatisfaction of some Kerry advisers with from the "battleground" strategy of peeling off a few key Bush states rather than attempting a big, general shift of public opinion. ... P.S.: The Note is on to something when it suggests that the story this week could be on the Kerry side of the campaign, not the Bush side. ... P.P.S.: But I dissent from the Note's suggestion that those now-dead "Dump Cheney" rumors were an obsession of "conspiracy-minded Democrats." I've heard of the plots from too many Republican sources. The logic was simple: With Cheney on the ticket, it's a contest. With McCain on the ticket, it isn't. ... 6:46 P.M.

If President Bush were to tell the Swift Boat Veterans, "Those are great ads. Please run more of them," he'd immediately be accused by the Kerry campaign (and maybe the Federal Elections Commission) of illegal "coordination" with an allegedly independent political group. ... Now suppose Bush did what Kerry and David Broder want him to do and told the Swifties "Those are terrible ads. I call on you to stop running them." Why isn't that also illegal coordination? Coordination involves telling someone when to start and also when to stop, no? [I'm indebted to alert kf reader S.K. for this point.] ...

Does this mean Broder's idea that

candidates ought to be judged by their willingness to tell their supporters when they have crossed the line

is untenable, because it in effects asks the candidates to start coordinating illegally? I'd like to think not--the only way to allow free speech by independent citizens while limiting the role of big money in politics seems to be to preserve some rule against "coordination" of the independent citizens by the official, regulated campaigns. But it will probably have to be a rule loose enough to allow candidates to publicly approve or condemn particular independent ads--in other words, loose enough to allow some de facto, long distance coordination. The hope, I suppose, is that it will always be clumsy, imprecise coordination, because the candidates still wouldn't control who shows what ads initially--and even in public the candidates couldn't get too specific (e.g., "I like that ad but I'd pull it from the Denver market and run it in Orlando instead"). ... 12:06 A.M.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Return to Abnormalcy: Just when it seemed as if Bush, not Kerry, might become the calming "return to normalcy" candidate, he goes and gets quoted in Time saying "I'm the guy making history." In context it's undoubtedly far less boastful than that sounds--but still ... Voters may think, 'We've had enough history for a while, Mr. President. We're still having trouble digesting the history we thought we'd already made.' ... 11:12 P.M.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Road Trip Report, 8/04--Drive-by journalism in its purest form: Kausfiles drives from L.A. to New York so you don't have to! Executive Summary of major findings:

It's getting smaller: I started late and still spent only three nights on the road, one less than usual. I'm not sure why. I didn't go illegally fast. True, they've improved the roads and raised the speed limits to 70 or 75 across the plains.

Crappiest Interstate Experience: Missouri, the perennial winner. Choppy, narrow highway flanked by tacky commerical billboards. Some of them--e.g. "Got Bra Problems?" or "Yucko's Poop Scoop Service"--may have been subtle, NEA-funded performance art.

Distressing evidence of the Coarsening of American Culture I:  Even big Interstate highways are no longer decent, family-friendly places, thanks to the proliferation of giant lighted signs advertising the "Adult" and "XXX" bookstores along the side of the road in several Heartland states. "Mom, what does three X-es mean?"

Distressing evidence of the Coarsening of American Culture II: Country music, traditionally thought to be on the right-wing side of the culture war, has begun to incorporate hip hop elements--or, rather, to self-consciously and somewhat pathetically ape the corrosive, materialistic playa' machismo of the imagined ghetto while pretending to maintain an adversarial stance. Sample lyric from "Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy", currently #11 on Billboard's Country chart:

Well I don't give a dang about nothing
I'm singing and Bling-Blanging
While the girls are drinking
Long necks down!
And I wouldn't trade ol' Leroy
or my Chevrolet for your Escalade ... [snip]

I'm a thorough-bred
that's what she said
in the back of my truck bed

Please. ... I guess it all comes down to which General Motors SUV you drive, and whether you show off the bling-bling or the bling-blang. (How did Anne Kornblut miss that?)

It's a lousy song too.

Strangest architectural encounter: A prison along I-70 in Greenville, Illinois featuring all the cheap, hack post-modern cues now associated with upscale shopping centers--red and beige brick stripings, triangular pediments, etc. It looked like a Best Buy surrounded by barbed wire--Bed, Shower & Beyond.

Favorite exit name: Little Point.

Kansas in August is not as corny as you'd think!

Bill O'Reilly Award for Least Convincing Claim of Persecution by Snobs: To John Michael Montgomery, whose otherwise effective country hit "Letters From Home," told in the voice of a U.S. soldier in Iraq who's received a letter from his parents, contains these lines:

I hold it up and show my buddies,
Like we ain't scared and our boots ain't muddy, and they all laugh,
Like there's something funny bout' the way I talk,
When I say: "Mama sends her best y'all."

Hello? Aren't Southerners a plurality of the U.S. Army? Isn't it shot through with Southern military culture? I don't think they make fun of people who say "y'all"!

Most Disappointing Sign: Any of the ones around Colby, Kansas advertising "Post Rock Country." After 1000 miles of heavy metal, oldies and Nashville schlock, I was ready for post rock country. But the signs were only publicizing a form of stone once used to make fenceposts.

Best music station:  Tie between KRCC in Colorado Springs ("Late Evening Freeform") and WOUB in Athens, Ohio ("Crossing Boundaries"). Both were much better, music-wise, than L.A.'s vaunted KCRW--perhaps because they are less influenced by record-industry people.

Trend I most need explained to me: Airsoft guns. They shoot plastic pellets, not BBs, right? Who buys them? Adults? Children? What damage can they do? Are they somehow an artifact of gun control laws? Don't the people who use them risk getting shot by cops who think they are regular guns? Instapundit will know ...

P.S.: Rob Long, who claims to have also driven across the country, nevertheless says he doesn't know who Lee Ann Womack is. I guess he didn't listen to my mix CD after all. ... Update: Long now claims in an email that he listened to the CD "somewhere in the watery border between Missouri and Kansas." ... 

6:42 P.M.

Rancor Away! Monday Morning Kerrybacking: Alert reader J.D. (not his real name) emails with what seems to me a useful point about the impact of the Swifty fuss on Kerry's potential, implicit,  "return to normalcy" message:

Whether people believe the Swift Boat stuff or not, the anger that veterans have toward Kerry, the muddled history of his combat experience, and the bitterness of the arguments are giving people an impression that four years of Kerry would be four years of rancor and never-ending debates about his wartime (and post-wartime) activities. That ain't normalcy, and people are starting to shy away from that prospect. [Emph. added]

If there's truth to this, then Kerry's optimum strategy was not to fight back at the Swifties (i.e., calling them liars and trying to suppress their ads) but to somehow, yes, calm the waters--defusing the story by saying something like: "Those were turbulent times and they are entitled to express their opinions. We all did things we're proud of and things we may regret. I don't want to reopen those wounds." ... P.S.: In general, a combative, "bring it on" Kerry tone--toward the Swiftys or anyone else, including Bush--may undermine the best thing Kerry's got going for him, which is the national desire for a respite from tumult and rancor, including a) US vs. Muslim rancor; b) partisan post-Florida rancor; and c) trans-partisan post-Vietnam rancor. ... Why not float above it? Be the change! ... The Feiler Faster Thesis says it's not too late! ...P.P.S.: In other words, what Robin Toner's stale Week piece calls

The rough lessons of 1988 took hold: Respond, hit back, leave no charge unanswered

might be completely wrong for 2004. ... P.P.P.S.: Toner writes as if the combative Kerry response has been effective! ...6:01 P.M.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Corrections and Camrys: Malcolm Gladwell e-mails:

Apparently you think that in my SUV article in the New Yorker I ignored the issue of how "the sociological difference between the drivers of different types and makes of vehicles" affects auto safety. Really? I thought that was one of the main points of the article. The really critical question of whether one car is safer than another, I wrote, "depends on who's behind the wheel." I talked about how a Porsche Boxster is a very safe car with my mother driving, and a very unsafe car with me driving. I talked about how drunks and teenagers represent a hugely disproportionate share of traffic fatalities, not because of the cars they drive but because they are drunks and teenagers. Kausfiles writes, in a rebuke to my "over-rated" article, that minivans aren't safe because they are vans, but because they are "mainly driven by cautious, milquetoasty moms." Here is an actual quote from my article: "Drivers of minivans, Wenzel and Ross's statistics tell us, die at a fraction of the rate of drivers of pickup trucks. That's clearly because minivans are family cars, and parents with children in the back seat are less likely to get into accidents." Is it asking too much to ask you to actually read an article before criticizing it?

I shouldn't have said Gladwell ignored the sociological issue. He didn't, and I apologize for the mistake. But he mentions it only after he's elaborately deployed a chart that shows varying death rates for different brands of cars and SUVs--a chart that plays a crucial role in persuading readers of his thesis that consumers are not making a "rational calculation" when they conclude SUVs are safer:

In a head-on crash, an Explorer or a Suburban would crush a Jetta or a Camry. But, clearly, the drivers of Camrys and Jettas are finding a way to avoid head-on crashes with Explorers and Suburbans. The benefits of being nimble--of being in an automobile that's capable of staying out of trouble--are in many cases greater than the benefits of being big. [Emphasis added.]

The problem is that the sociological differences Gladwell later notes--e.g., drivers of minivans are more cautious than drivers of SUVs, so minivans do better in the statistics for reasons having nothing to do with their design--completely undermines the power of his big chart and the conclusion about nimble Camrys. Maybe the SUVs have high death rates because more reckless people tend to drive SUVs, and if the same reckless people drove passenger cars those cars would have even higher death rates than the SUVs do. We don't know. Maybe the variations between brands are not variations in vehicle design but variations in the type of driver they attract. Camrys could have low death rates not because they are so nimble but because they are the most boring cars on the planet and are bought by boring, safe people! If the statistics in the big chart took into account such driver characteristics, it could well turn out that SUVs really are safer after all, because the benefits of passive safety (all that metal) outweigh the nimbleness benefits touted by Gladwell.

Not only does Gladwell fail to follow up on the implications of his minivan point for his own chart, he draws an opposite, bizarre conclusion.

"Is the Boxster safer than the TrailBlazer? It depends on who's behind the wheel. In the hands of, say, my very respectable and prudent middle-aged mother, the Boxster is by far the safer car."

Really? If the Boxster is safer when driven by Gladwell's mom than when driven by Gladwell, it doesn't follow that a TrailBlazer wouldn't be safer still. The evidence Gladwell offers that it isn't is his chart--which, again, isn't much evidence at all precisely because doesn't take into account which cars cautious people like his mom tend to drive.

That's what I should have said.

[What about rollovers?-ed. Rollovers account for only a fifth of auto deaths. How a car protects you in a collision seems more important.] 3:27 A.M.

kf Bias Exposed: I didn't believe the thesis that base-voter turnout is more important than swing-voter seduction when Nagourney pushed it almost a year ago. But now that Brownstein's pushing it, I do! ... 1:09 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