Grave doubts at CBS ...

A mostly political Weblog.
Sept. 20 2004 3:14 AM

Grave Doubts!

But whose grave?

Scapegoat-watch: Bushie John Ellis has some savvy, paranoid  advice for Mary Mapes. ... 2:44 P.M.

A Hatfill of Errors! Nicholas Kristof gets credit for assessing the Swifty charges one by one rather then dismissing them, cocoon-style--but he makes at least one medium-sized error and a huge, presumably unintentional howler. Plus he's guilty of what certainly seems like intentionally sleazy wording (designed to exclude mention of one Kerry subordinate who has trashed him). ... See briefs filed by the firm of Fisk, Fisk, Fisk  & Fisk. ... Still: Between Kristof and Beldar, I'd say we've asymptotically approached the truth enough for there to be not a whole lot of interesting argument left. Two of Kerry's Purple Hearts are shaky and he's guilty of (at least) hype--but he also demonstrated real bravery. His service would be a sure net positive if he hadn't a) overdone it and b) used it as a crutch, a substitute for appealing political substance. ... 11:55 P.M.

Unconfirmed Rumor Dept.: It all depends on what the meaning of "fall on his sword" is, I guess. ...Update:Mayflower Hill's scoop seems confirmed by this NYT story, which looks like a leak designed to pressure Dan Rather into coming off his ludicrous assertions of faith in the almost-certainly-forged Bush Guard documents. Meanwhile, CBS executive producer Josh Howard deflects blame onto producer Mary Mapes, onto the White House--onto anyone but himself and the Queen of the Space Unicorns. But it was Howard who as late as last Tuesday, long after ample evidence of the forgeries had accumulated, told the NYT:

"Everything I've seen makes me completely confident in the documents, in the reporting, in the story, in what we've done." [Emphasis added]

"Everything I've seen"? If that's what he saw, he wasn't looking. What do you have to do to lose your job at CBS?  Tomorrow's NYT follow-up: CBS News officials reveal they now have "grave doubts" about the authenticity of Piltdown Man and Pamela Anderson's breasts. ... 11:14 P.M.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Degradation Spreads to Nagourney: The  9/17 ABC Note  said it was "degrading" for USAT's Susan Page to be "forced to write up the Gallup poll/joke 'showing' the president with a mythical 13-point lead" among likely voters--and an 8 point lead among registered voters--when the real margin was "5-6 points." Will the Note's Mark Halperin say the same thing about his buddy Adam Nagourney being 'forced' to write up the NYT/CBS poll showing Bush with an identical 8 point lead among registered voters (and a 9 point lead among likelies). [Nagourney certainly doesn't seem like he's enjoying himself in this piece--ed It's painful to watch. But (with coauthor Janet Elder) he does his best to keep hope alive. He comically bills the story as "Kerry faces substantial obstacles" instead of, say, "Bush is ahead." And before he gets to the actual, cocoon-threatening results, he leads his second graph with the reassuring assertion that

Americans continue to think that the nation is heading in the wrong direction

while failing to mention that, according to his poll, the right track/wrong track numbers have been heading in Bush's direction--the gap between them narrowed from 16 points to 10 points in the past month. Click on Times sidebar for these and other results. ... But see this CBS poll, which for some reason isn't listed in today's NYT chart and suggests that the wrong-track gap increased slightly (from 8 to 10) over the past week.] ... P.S.: The N.Y. Times headline for November 3: BUSH RE-ELECTED DESPITE UNEASE VOICED IN SURVEY ... Update: Musil  beat me to the Note-sniping. He also links to this  usefully paranoid Pew-bash. More: Maguire disagrees, claims "Spiderman" Nagourney is gently, gently unspinning the cocoon. ...  3:03 A.M.

A Boston Globe editorial says the issue is "news judgment at CBS"--but somehow overlooks the Globe's own embarrassing role in spinning the apparent forgeries,  Bill Adams notes. ...2:19 A.M.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Why is it significant that retired Col. Walter Staudt denies he sought favorable treatment for George W. Bush when the latter was in the Texas Air National Guard? Not so much because it undermines CBS' story--it does, but Staudt's a Bush supporter which inevitably undercuts his impact. The big thing, it seems to me, is that Staudt is alive. That is, he's alive, was cast in an unfavorable light by CBS' almost-certainly-bogus documents, and can sue for libel.  We may yet get to answer the fascinating questions about the meaning "reckless disregard for the truth" that Rich Lowry alludes to. ... A Staudt suit could change the dynamics of Danron in ways I undoubtedly don't fully comprehend. But here's a first stab: a) It would probably put the lawyers in charge at CBS. No more wimpy deference to Rather's wounded-bull ego. b) It might discourage CBS from sacking Rather--in libel suits, the general rule (I'm told) is that you don't fire the reporter involved for fear he'll start cooperating with the plaintiff, detailing your shoddy reporting and fact-checking methods, etc. Instead, you hold the miscreant close. c) It might help Bush by giving him another day's publicity on the story but d) hurt him by (i) giving Rather an excuse for clamming up ("my lawyers instruct me ..."), (ii) rallying the press and other First Amendment types around CBS, and, (iii) in general making the whole epic disaster seem like just another Westmorelandish private lawsuit--suitable for Court TV but not CNN. ... 11:37 P.M.

kf, Bulwark of Explanatory Power: One obvious possible way to half-reconcile the divergent polls, suggested by Rasmussen's robo-survey: Wednesday 9/15, when the probable Danron forgery began to sink in, was a gruesome day for Kerry. The Harris poll (Kerry up 1) stopped Monday. The Pew poll (Kerry down 1) stopped on Tuesday. Gallup (Kerry down 14) includes Kerry's bleak Wednesday. ...P.S.: But he's a good loser! [Don't you mean 'closer'?-ed. Right. Damn key is stuck.] ... P.P.S.: Thanks to alert reader A.C. ... Update: Gallup's David Moore  backs what is essentially this theory. ... Update: Simpler Explanation! 9/15 was the first night of Rosh Hashanah, and the polls on that day were missing still-relatively-Democratic Jewish voters. [Thanks to alert reader J.P.]... 3:16 A.M.

"Long A Republican Bulwark, A Growing Arizona Is In Play": The Los Angeles Times declares Arizona "in play"  on Thursday's front page. It's not until page A20 that Maria La Ganga's readers find out Bush is ahead by 16 points! ...  Patterico busts them. ... Can't they let Kinsley edit the news pages too? ... P.S.: Does anybody except bad headline writers actually use the word "bulwark"? 2:36 A.M.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Mary Mapes, the producer of the report and a well-respected, veteran journalist whose credibility has never been questioned, has been following this story for more than five years

and

has a vast and detailed knowledge of the issues surrounding Bush's service in the Guard and of the individuals involved in the story [emphasis added]

then why had CBS apparently not interviewed Lt. Col. Killian's secretary, Ms. Knox, before they ran with the (probably bogus) Killian memo story last week? Alert kf reader D.B. wants to know! ... Update: Turns out Bill Adams made this pointand the point in the item below, at length, on Wednesday. Another question: Assuming kf's speculation below about the ratings-boosting effect of the forgery controversy is wrong, how long will CBS president Les Moonves sit around and watch the flailing Dan Rather, Andrew Heyward and Josh ("Everything I've seen makes me completely confident in the documents") Howard destroy his company's brand? ...  5:19 P.M.

Mr. X emails again:

So...CBS now says that the documents may not be authentic, but puts on a 86 year old woman to establish that the "substance" of the documents is accurate because she remembers typing docs like these. So, heres the question: If CBS didnt have any docs, but had a 86 year old woman going on air saying that more than 30 years ago she remembers her boss being upset with Bush not showing up for a physica; and typing docs to that effect, how strong a story would that be? Not very, I suspect for the obvious reasons: her age, passage of time and inevitable fogginess over what exactly Killian's complaint was, how strongly he felt about it and inevitable confusion over the grabbiest point o fthe docs: that Bush disobeyed a direct order. [Emphasis added, typos preserved]

Also, as CBS somehow forgot to point out last night, she's a strong Bush opponent (in the Dallas Morning News she called Bush "unfit for office" and "selected not elected"). [He wasn't selected?-ed. I'm just saying her political stance is something you'd want to know when assessing her credibility. I agree she seemed quite believable, judging solely from what we saw on camera.] ... 5:03 P.M.

'If I've lost my mind, I'd like to break that story': I thought this was funny. So sue me. 4:38 P.M.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Judging from tonight's televised non-retraction by CBS news chief Andrew ("This is going to hold up  ") Heyward, it looks as if CBS will continue to twist slowly, slowly in the wind. ... Here's the interesting possibility, brought to my attention in an email by blogger Steve Smith (who may also have guessed right with his "grand hypothesis"): Does this ongoing story hurt Bush in the polls even if it focuses on forgery and possible CBS malpractice?After all, it keeps the subject of Bush and the Guard in the news, which might not help the president. Without the forgery issue the whole story might have disappeared days ago. ... Maybe that's why Rather has seemingly insanely dug in his heels: He knows that by dragging out his and CBS's agony he's also dragging out Bush's agony. ... It's also good for ratings. [Update: Maybe not ] People haven't paid this much attention to Dan Rather in years. ... Certainly tonight's CBS Evening News broadcast, which managed to lovingly rehash the charges against Bush (and hype "60 II") in the process of fudging the key forgery issue, fit this strategy. ... P.S.: Maybe left-wing bloggers will be playing smart politics if they now initiate a noisy, cannibalistic orgy of recrimination! The Daily KOS could start things off by demanding Rather's head.He's worth sacrificing to keep the story alive.... [Thanks to reader M.H. for "Gotterdannerung"] ... P.P.S.: Several emailers note that Heyward's statement says the memos are "accurate," not that they are "authentic."  That's significant, but along with  Josh Marshall I very much doubt that CBS will be able to avoid an apology by taking a "fake but accurate" line. Also, as  Ellisblog points out, CBS may have a powerful, undiscussed reason for trying to avoid ever explicitly acknowledging the first half--"fake"--of that formulation: Unless they keep at least a flicker of hope for the memo's authenticity alive, they won't have a good excuse for refusing to reveal their source. ... 6:40 P.M.

Thoughtful kf contribution to our global dialogue: Did CBS actually have all six of the documents that USAT obtained but choose to disclose only four? If so why? Opinion-ridden speculation here  ... Update: CBS's defensive memo admits the network had all six documents. Hmmm. ... 4:27 P.M.

Pinch on blogs: "While some of these individuals are making a serious and thoughtful contribution to our global dialogue, too many simply contribute to the sense that we're in the midst of an opinion-ridden free-for-all." Can't have that! [Emphasis added] ... P.S.:kf management pledges to continue to instill its core journalistic value of mocking Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. whenever possible. ... 4:17 P.M.

I Coulda Had MO:RCP's John McIntyre argues Kerry is probably regretting his pick of Edwards over Gephardt. ... 3:49 P.M.

New CBS slogan: "Fake But Accurate" Like the best fiction, CBS News is truer than reality! ... Except, of course, that if Bush disobeyed a direct order to take a physical (what the 'fake-but-accurate' memos purport to document) it would be a degree worse than simply not showing up for an exam. ... 10:42 A.M.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

I'm sure I'm not the first to note that (if this transcript is accurate) the Monday edition of Dan Rather's Daily Defense of the CBS Bush doc story contained some wafflier, setting-it-up-for-the-letdown, language:

"What is in the '60 minutes' report CBS news believes to be true and believes to be authentic." [emphasis added]

Of course, as emailer S.R. notes, the White House's reaction in USATwasn't very strong either:

White House spokesman Dan Bartlett declined to offer an opinion Sunday and said, "We have not conducted an independent analysis of the documents." He said he showed Bush copies of the memos and the president "had no specific recollection of any of the documents I showed him." [emphasis added]

That's not quite the same as "There was no political pressure exerted and I never disobeyed an order so these documents can't possibly be authentic" is it? 2:35 A.M.

Here's how the brave Rather/CBS front in the hot docs mess might unravel: As Washington Monthly's Kevin Drum noted, USA Today obtained the Bush guard docs on its own and published a story last Thursday that treated them as authentic.  (The story even included two new bonus docs.)  But on Monday 9/13 deep within the paper (page A11) USA Today ran a multiple-reporter story that suddenly treated the docs with anything but respect--it said they "purport to show" problems with Bush's performance, and were "ostensibly written" by Lt. Col. Killian. "Purport" and "ostensibly" aren't words you use when you have great confidence in documents you proclaimed legit a few days earlier. A sidebar quoted USAT Executive Editor John Hillkirk, saying the paper was now "pursuing [questions of authenticity] aggressively." I'll let kf e-mailer Mr. X take it from there:

usa today is the ball to watch on this one. my understanding is that the paper is extremely nervous-- because of the  jack kelly fiasco-- and could well be the first to come right out and say what they have already implicity ("ostensibly") said: we were had. these docs are bogus, or at a minimum, we can no longer stand by the docs we reported to you about last week. If that happens, then the pressure on rather and cbs intensifies significantly...leading to what? a rather apology to the president in the last few weeks of a presidential campaign? [link and emphasis added]

P.S.: Rather is obviously planning to retire at some point relatively soon. Do you think getting back at the Bushes for his humiliating 1988 on-camera putdown by George H.W. Bush might be one last thing he wanted to do before he stepped down? Might this have warped his journalistic judgment a wee bit? [What about USAT's judgment?--ed. They say they "relied in part on the fact that the White House did not challenge the memos' authenticity" after CBS broadcast its initial story. In other words, without Rather's decision it's not at all clear that USAT would have run with the docs.] 1:05 A.M.

Blogger David Feige compares the recent post-presidential political giving of former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and discovers it's no contest. Bush outspent Clinton 5-1. Indeed, Clinton's three contributions (all to Arkansas pols) are so pathetic I think the list must somehow be incomplete. ... 1:03 A.M.

Monday, September 13, 2004

A big reason Washington investigative reporters are suspicious of the CBS Bush-Guard docs is-- as Timothy Noah argues--we've been given no clear idea where they came from.  Who stored them since 1972, why, and where? Answering those questions is normally part of verifying and explaining a document's authenticity. But it's worse than that. Newsweek has pointed to Bill Burkett, a "disgruntled former Guard officer," as a "principal source" for CBS. But Burkett has been interviewed by other journalists on the Bush-background beat, at length, as recently as a few months ago. And he wasn't then offering any hot Guard docs (though he clearly had the motive to do so). If some mystery person only recently gave the docs to Burkett, who was it? [What are you wearing?-ed Cutoffs!]... 11:53 P.M.

Jon Alter argues persuasively that the "debate over the debates" helps Bush: a) By apparently trying to duck a third debate, Bush lowers expectations about his debating skills far more effectively than if his aides simply (and ludicrously) talked up Kerry as "Cicero;" b) The "debate about debates" is a hardy perennial Neutral Story Line, taking up media space that otherwise might be spent talking about Iraq. ... 12:36 P.M.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

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)

Friday, September 10, 2004

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.

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Links

Drudge Report--80 % true. Close enough! Instapundit--All-powerful hit king. Joshua Marshall--He reports! And decides!  Wonkette--Makes Jack Shafer feel guilty.  Salon--Survives! kf gloating on hold. Andrew Sullivan--He asks, he tells. He sells! David Corn--Trustworthy reporting from the left.  Washington Monthly--Includes Charlie Peters' proto-blog. Lucianne.com--Stirs the drink. Virginia Postrel--Friend of the future! Peggy Noonan--Gold in every column. Matt Miller--Savvy rad-centrism. WaPo--Waking from post-Bradlee snooze. Calmer Times--Registration required.  NY Observer--Read it before the good writers are all hired away. New Republic--Left on welfare, right on warfare!  Jim Pinkerton--Quality ideas come from quantity ideas. Tom Tomorrow--Everyone's favorite leftish cartoonists' blog.  Ann "Too Far" Coulter--Sometimes it's just far enough. Bull Moose--National Greatness Central. John Ellis--Forget that Florida business! The cuz knows politics, and he has, ah, sources. "The Note"--How the pros start their day. Romenesko--O.K. they actually start it here. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities--Money Liberal Central.. Steve Chapman--Ornery-but-lovable libertarian. Rich Galen--Sophisticated GOP insider. Man Without Qualities--Seems to know a lot about white collar crime. Hmmm. Overlawyered.com--Daily horror stories. Eugene Volokh--Smart, packin' prof, and not Instapundit! Eve Tushnet--Queer, Catholic, conservative and not Andrew Sullivan! WSJ's Best of the Web--James Taranto's excellent obsessions. Walter Shapiro--Politics and (don't laugh) neoliberal humor! Eric Alterman--Born to blog. Joe Conason--Bush-bashing, free most days. Lloyd Grove--Don't let him write about you. Arianna--A hybrid vehicle. TomPaine.com--Web-lib populists. Take on the News--TomPaine's blog.  B-Log--Blog of spirituality!  Hit & Run--Reason gone wild! Daniel Weintraub--Beeblogger and Davis Recall Central. Eduwonk--You'll never have to read another mind-numbing education story again. Nonzero--Bob Wright explains it all. [More tk

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