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Oct. 8 2004 5:48 PM

They're All Flip-Floppers

The New Republic says Kerry's indecisiveness is ordinary.

New Republic

New Republic, Oct. 18
The cover story by Jonathan Chait argues that John Kerry is no more of a flip-flopper than any ordinary politician. "Republicans, saddled with unpopular stances of their own" following the post-Cold War and post-Clinton political realignment, "suddenly had little choice but to run on character." In recent years, Republicans "have a more sophisticated understanding of how narratives about candidates are established" and "have access to a partisan media network," giving them more success in caricaturing their opponents... This article reports that the working-class background of Democratic Senate candidate Ken Salazar has appealed to socially conservative, rural Coloradans. It could catapult him to victory in this Republican state, and into Washington "as a new Democratic rock star." ... The editors argue Kerry could win points by pledging to send troops to Sudan, and hammering home the fact that "it is Bush ... who is now presiding over 6,000 to 10,000 Darfurian deaths each month."—D.K.

Economist

Economist, Oct. 7 There are hints of a "proper debate" on serious issues in the presidential contest. Bush came off as a "petulant dauphin" in the first debate, letting Kerry back in the presidential race. On Iraq, the current administration has exaggerated the evidence of WMD and failed to plan for the aftermath of the war. Sadly, Kerry's plan to organize a multilateral force in Iraq is merely "delusional talk." ... A special report declares Afghanistan "not quite the shining success George Bush has called it." The upcoming democratic election is probably not up to Western standards; tribal leaders have been known to decree "that anyone who does not vote for Mr. Karzai will have his house burnt down." ... This article introduces a section describing the policy differences between the two candidates, finding the contrast to be extreme. "Mr. Bush wants to continue a radical transformation at home and abroad. Mr. Kerry is offering a pause for reflection and consolidation."—D.K.

New York Times Magazine

New York Times Magazine, Oct. 10
A profile of John Kerry attempts to define his foreign policy stance but concludes that, although his views "might be the beginning of a compelling vision," the senator is too subtle to provide the "bold and cohesive construct ... that people will understand and relate to." The article highlights Kerry's nuanced approach effectively. While Bush pinpoints specific states like Iraq and North Korea as enemies in the war on terror, Kerry views the enemy more broadly—a group connected by ideology, not geography. Bush believes in "forced democracy" in Iraq, while Kerry wants to "nurture the process," he says. … Can chocolate benefit your health? Mars Inc. thinks so, and plans to launch "flavanol-rich cocoa" products. Though the products won't pledge to "lower blood pressure," accompanying studies will cite such "possible, significant, health benefits." Some scientists back the products, but one nutrition expert calls it "marketing, pure and simple."—J.H.P.

The New Yorker
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The New Yorker, Oct. 11 The United States has a potential energy crisis on its hands, says one article, but neither Bush's nor Kerry's plan for "energy independence" could be called a panacea. Says oil expert Robert Mabro, "The two candidates, with due respect, are lying to the people, or they don't know what they are talking about." The article discusses how the war in Iraq "represented one way to deal with the oil-dependency dilemma," but says instead of resolving the issue, "the Bush Administration has unwittingly helped to create what its National Energy Policy was designed to avoid: rising oil prices that threaten to derail the economic recovery."... Another piece paints a bleak portrait of the AIDS epidemic in Russia. Many believe AIDS can be transmitted by mosquitoes and kissing, yet Putin is uncommitted to education and awareness. Peter Piot of the U.N. AIDS program says, "No country with this important an AIDS problem has done so little ... It's my biggest nightmare."—J.H.P.

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Weekly Standard, Oct. 11"It's very likely that the more we try to Iraqify the military and police operations in the Sunni triangle, the worse the insurrection will become," says the cover story. Instead, the author advocates moving in the U.S. Marines with force to gain control of the situation: "Bin Ladenism grew by preaching the gospel of American weakness, not strength."... Another piece outlines why Kerry's response to Republican attacks has damaged his campaign rather than helped it, noting that Kerry lost ground in the polls after he challenged Swiftie allegations, not when they arose. Once Kerry began defending himself, "Observers saw a man who was thin-skinned, vain, whining, and panicked, and did not seem to like what they noticed."... The editorial enumerates how, despite Kerry's allusions to the contrary, the Iraqi and Vietnam wars differ. Among reasons cited, "We control most of the country," and "a strong and able Iraqi government fights alongside us."—J.H.P.

Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News & World Report

Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News & World Report, Oct. 11
Judging the debate
: Newsweek devotes its cover story to last week's presidential debate. The piece adds little to the conventional wisdom about Kerry's victory in the 90-minute contest, but it does offer poll numbers that help quantify the debate's effect on the race. Most significant, Bush's 49-43 lead has evaporated; Kerry is now up 47-45 in the magazine's poll. Perhaps just as important, however, Kerry's favorable-unfavorable rating rose as well, from 48-44 to 52-40.... Time offers a tepid debate fact check along with a more solid look at female voters. Unfortunately, the piece partially buys into the "security moms" myth, which the New Republic and the Washington Post have both solidly debunked.... U.S. News offers its own debate wrapup and an unoriginal piece about Bush and Kerry's attempts to reach beyond their elite roots and win the support of blue-collar voters. The piece treads familiar ground but does make the often-overlooked point that Bush's childhood was more privileged than Kerry's in many ways.

Election in Afghanistan: Time offers an excellent survey of Afghanistan's electoral landscape ahead of Saturday's presidential election. The country has more problems than President Bush lets on in his stump speech. More than 1,000 U.S. troops are flying into the country to provide extra security for an election severely threatened by resurgent al-Qaida and Taliban fighters. Meanwhile, the United States is so worried Hamid Karzai will be forced into a runoff that it is allegedly working behind the scenes to oust rival candidates and deliver votes ...U.S. News paints its own gloomy picture of the election. The magazine argues that Afghanistan has yet to embrace democratic culture; tribal leaders will control and deliver most votes. ...Newsweek turns its attention from Afghanistan to Iraq and explains why Donald Rumsfeld's idea that elections may not be held in all of the country is a virtual guarantee for conflict.

Cleaning up the Street: Newsweek profiles William Donaldson, the man Bush appointed nearly two years ago to take over the troubled SEC. Despite his range of experience in business and government, Donaldson seems to be foundering. His ambitious attempts at regulation and reform have fallen short, and rumors abound that he will be out of job no matter what happens in next month's presidential election. Another piece argues that despite Google's vow to run a different kind of a company with a different kind of IPO, the Internet search leader is adopting many of the questionable practices that plagued the tech sector at the height of the '90s bubble. ...U.S. News catches up with Garth Drabinsky, the former Broadway producer who's reinvented himself as an evangelical film mogul. The change is not a spiritual one. He's in Canada, on the run from the SEC and the U.S. attorney's office in New York.—A.B.D.

Alexander Dryer works for The New Yorker in Washington, D.C.

David Kenner is a former Slate intern.

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