Saturday, October 16


Compare these two anecdotes about Bush's attitude towards Sharon. The first is from remarks by Brent Scowcroft:

Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to President George H.W. Bush, was highly critical of the current president's handling of foreign policy in an interview published this week, saying that the current President Bush is "mesmerized" by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, that Iraq is a "failing venture" and that the administration's unilateralist approach has harmed relations between Europe and the United States..."Sharon just has him wrapped around his little finger," Scowcroft told the Financial Times. "I think the president is mesmerized."

The second is from Ron Suskind's profile of Bush in Sunday's NYTimes Magazine:

As I reported in ''The Price of Loyalty,'' at the Bush administration's first National Security Council meeting, Bush asked if anyone had ever met Ariel Sharon. Some were uncertain if it was a joke. It wasn't: Bush launched into a riff about briefly meeting Sharon two years before, how he wouldn't ''go by past reputations when it comes to Sharon. . . . I'm going to take him at face value,'' and how the United States should pull out of the Arab-Israeli conflict because ''I don't see much we can do over there at this point.'' Colin Powell, for one, seemed startled. This would reverse 30 years of policy -- since the Nixon administration -- of American engagement. Such a move would unleash Sharon, Powell countered, and tear the delicate fabric of the Mideast in ways that might be irreparable. Bush brushed aside Powell's concerns impatiently. ''Sometimes a show of force by one side can really clarify things.''

Two on-the-record sources confirm: Bush is in Sharon's pocket. So much for the roadmap to peace.


Ron Suskind examines Bush in a NY Times Magazine profile quite unlike that published about John Kerry last Sunday. The theme of Suskind's piece is the faith of Furious George, its sources and applications in his life and presidency, and its consequences for policy.

It's an interesting and unsettling read, though there's no new meat for the already well-informed. For those who don't get the Christian faith and are inclined to think that Bush's version is representative, I'll leave you with the closing graph of the article:

''Faith can cut in so many ways,'' he [Wallis] said. ''If you're penitent and not triumphal, it can move us to repentance and accountability and help us reach for something higher than ourselves. That can be a powerful thing, a thing that moves us beyond politics as usual, like Martin Luther King did. But when it's designed to certify our righteousness -- that can be a dangerous thing. Then it pushes self-criticism aside. There's no reflection.

''Where people often get lost is on this very point,'' he said after a moment of thought. ''Real faith, you see, leads us to deeper reflection and not -- not ever -- to the thing we as humans so very much want.''

And what is that?

''Easy certainty.''


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This was not funny, but it makes me an even bigger Jon Stewart fan. Give the guy credit for guts. "Jon Stewart Bitchslaps CNN's 'Crossfire' Show":

In what could well be the strangest and most refreshing media moment of the election season, "The Daily Show" host Jon Stewart turned up on a live broadcast of CNN's "Crossfire" Friday and accused the mainstream media — and his hosts in particular — of being soft and failing to do their duty as journalists to keep politicians and the political process honest.

Reaching well outside his usual youthful "Daily Show" demo, Stewart took to "Crossfire" to promote his new book, "America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction" (see "Jon Stewart Writes A History Textbook That — At Last! — Features Nudity"), but instead of pushing the tome, Stewart used his time to verbally slap the network and the media for being "dishonest" and "doing a disservice" to the American public. After co-host Tucker Carlson suggested that Stewart went easy on Senator John Kerry when the candidate was a guest on "The Daily Show," Stewart unloaded on "Crossfire," calling hosts Carlson and Paul Begala "partisan hacks" and chiding them for not raising the level of discourse on their show beyond sloganeering.

"What you do is not honest. What you do is partisan hackery," Stewart said. "You have a responsibility to the public discourse, and you fail miserably.

"I watch your show every day, and it kills me. It's so painful to watch," Stewart added as it became apparent that the comedian was not joking. He went on to hammer the network, and the media in general, for its coverage of the presidential debates. Stewart said it was a disservice to viewers to immediately seek reaction from campaign insiders and presidential cheerleaders following the debates, noting that the debates' famed "Spin Alley" should be called "Deception Lane."

"The thing is, we need your help," Stewart said. "Right now, you're helping the politicians and the corporations and we're left out there to mow our lawns."

While the audience seemed to be behind Stewart, Begala and Carlson were both taken aback. The hosts tried to feed Stewart set-up lines hoping to draw him into a more light-hearted shtick, but Stewart stayed on point and hammered away at the show, the hosts, and the state of political journalism. Carlson grew increasingly frustrated, at first noting that the segment wasn't "funny," and later verbally sparring with the comedian.

"You're not very much fun," Carlson said. "Do you like lecture people like this, or do you come over to their house and sit and lecture them; they're not doing the right thing, that they're missing their opportunities, evading their responsibilities?"

"If I think they are," Stewart retorted.

The conversation reached its most heated moment when Carlson said to Stewart, "I do think you're more fun on your show," to which Stewart replied, "You're as big a dick on your show as you are on any show."

"That went great," Stewart could be heard sarcastically saying as the show went off the air (a transcript of the show is available on

In an era when the media is increasingly fragmented and viewers can surround themselves with programming that falls right in line with their own views, be they on the right or the left, Stewart's blast seemed especially on point. It seems fitting that the tirade came on a day when much of the media attention focused on the presidential race was directed at the mention of Vice President Dick Cheney's daughter during the last presidential debate, as opposed to the issues addressed at that debate.


Via TBogg, this moving and unsettling (are ANY of us "settled" these days?) polemic that begs an entire reading:

But if this is not the worst year yet to be an American, it's the worst year by far to be one of those hag-ridden wretches who comment on the American scene. The columnist who trades in snide one-liners flounders like a stupid comic with a tired audience; TV comedians and talk-show hosts who try to treat 2004 like any zany election year have become grotesque, almost loathsome. Our most serious, responsible newspaper columnists are so stunned by the disaster in Iraq that they've begun to quote poetry by Rupert Brooke and Wilfred Owen. They lower their voices; they sound like Army chaplains delivering eulogies over ranks of flag-draped coffins, under a hard rain from an iron sky.

Yeats' "blood-dimmed tide is loosed." The war news has already deteriorated from bad to tragic to pre-apocalyptic, which leaves no suitable category for these excruciating reports on the sexual torture of Iraqi prisoners. Fingers, be still. In less than a year, the morale of the occupying forces has sunk so low that murder, suicide, rape and sexual harassment have become alarming statistics, and now the warriors of democracy -- the emissaries of civilization -- stand accused of every crime this side of cannibalism. Osama bin Laden has always anathematized America's culture, as well as its geopolitical influence. To him these atrocities are a sign of Allah's certain favor, a great moral victory, a vindication of his deepest anger and darkest crimes.

Where does it go from here? The nightmare misadventure in Iraq is over, beyond the reach of any reasonable argument, though many more body bags will be filled. In Washington, chicken hawks will still be squawking about "digging in" and winning, but Vietnam proved conclusively that no modern war of occupation will ever be won. (Vietnam clip) Every occupation is doomed. The only way you "win" a war of occupation is the old-fashioned way, the way Rome finally defeated the Carthaginians: kill all the fighters, enslave everyone else, raze the cities and sow the fields with salt.
All it takes to make a Bush conservative is a few slogans from talk radio and pickup truck bumpers, a sneer at "liberals" and maybe a name-dropping nod to Edmund Burke or John Locke, whom most of them have never read. Sheep and sheep only could be herded by a ludicrous but not harmless cretin like Rush Limbaugh, who has just compared the sexual abuse of Iraqi prisoners to "a college fraternity prank" (and who once called Chelsea Clinton "the family dog" -- you don't have to worry about shame when you have no brain).

I don't think it's accurate to describe America as polarized between Democrats and Republicans, or between liberals and conservatives. It's polarized between the people who believe George Bush and the people who do not. Thanks to some contested ballots in a state governed by the president's brother, a once-proud country has been delivered into the hands of liars, thugs, bullies, fanatics and thieves. The world pities or despises us, even as it fears us. What this election will test is the power of money and media to fool us, to obscure the truth and alter the obvious, to hide a great crime against the public trust under a blood-soaked flag. The most lavishly funded, most cynical, most sophisticated political campaign in human history will be out trolling for fools. I pray to God it doesn't catch you.


I confess I'm as nervous as a cat these days about my job. We have a new CEO who's not comfortable working with women (I believe that a natural shyness is at least part of this), and although I admire his intelligence and business acumen greatly and have had a generally warm feeling towards him for the 16 years we've been acquainted, new CEO's have a way of wanting their own people around them. I well remember when I breeched the six-figure salary mark and my teenaged-at-the-time son (you guessed it, Silmarill) asked me, "Well Mom, are you going to vote Republican now?" He was pleased (and, I think, proud) when I responded adamantly in the negative. If I were in the over-$200,000-per-year bracket that John Kerry plans to roll back the Bush tax reductions on, it wouldn't change my fervent support for Kerry. The fact is, I can taste that bracket -- and as a woman, it's not just the money involved, it's the recognition of my value that beckons so tantalizingly. But I am even more aware of the transitory nature of employment in this business environment, and when corporate profits are less than expected, the soft disciplines such as marketing and public relations are usually the first to see their budgets, and personnel, disappear.

So I identify with every worker out there in that The Sage and I have five almost-grown children, some of whom still need some financial assistance from us, a home we love, retirement dreams for the future, and fears that something will happen that will prevent us from realizing or enjoying any of those. Like most of the middle class, we have, for the most part, followed the approved succession of life events: doing well in school, bringing honor to our parents; adhering to our faith and enlarging upon our understanding of it; competing and succeeding in publicly accepted arenas such as athletics, academics and even beauty pageants; marrying someone of approved social credentials (not for that reason, though!); giving birth to beautiful, smart, independent, popular children (though more than the agreed-upon acceptable number -- five IS so excessive!); devoted to an evangelical Protestant church for many years; charismatically disarming our conservative friends and neighbors with our liberal politics; working hard in our jobs to support our family despite the normal stresses and disappointments, sharing with one another our joys and sharing our worries; and staying close to our large extended family, from whom we receive, and to whom we give, unremitting love and support, through all of life's tribulations. And over and through it all, our constant and unwavering faith in the God who has borne us through triumphs and failures and given us love and deliverance, has brought us through.

We're an average American family. We've faced it all in our extended highly-religious family: birth defects, AIDS, homosexuality, divorce, coma and life-and-death decisions, drug abuse and rehab, children rejecting our Christian faith, fatal and near-fatal childhood diseases, military call-ups, cancer, job losses, alcoholism, wealth, depression, estrangement from loved ones, loss of wealth, imprisonment of a loved one, heart attacks, lawsuits, abandonment, bankruptcy, infidelity, intolerance smothered by caring, struggles to find sources of college tuition money, strokes, you name it. A large Southern family, no matter its pedigree, usually has enough stories to fuel a mini-series with no need to embellish. Mine, I'm proud to say, though imperfect seems to keep learning and growing in love. At some point, even the proudest family has to say, "Where do we get off judging others when we've confronted the same challenges in our own lives?"

So here we are. We watch the debates to see if either candidate will say something that actually touches our lives, that offers hope for improvement. We're thrilled when John Kerry seems to understand what we're going through, and we're disgusted but not surprised that Furious George doesn't. We have five young adult children who are of draft age should one be reinstituted, although we expect that our oldest son's cerebral palsy will provide him with an exemption. That still leaves us with four in peril, and it doesn't exempt his wife, mother of their 14-month-old son and pregnant with their second child. Our lives, as are the lives of most Americans, are complicated, and the presidency can have real consequences upon our collective future.

Another four years of Bush-Cheney is unthinkable. But we do think about it. And we surf the Internet for information about emigration, just in case.

I favor Mexico, so we won't be so far from those family that remain in the U.S.. The Sage is intrigued by New Zealand, which isn't encouraging immigrants. Too bad. Australia is. But what's so different between Bush and Howard? Not interested. We'll keep looking.


One point made by Bush in the last debate has triggered an ongoing fury among out-of-work or threatened-with-unemployment IT workers and advertising professionals -- Bush's oft-repeated contention that community college retraining will position the unemployed for new opportunities.

For the three unemployed advertising/marketing/information technology professionals I spoke with afterwards, this was an insult and an indication of just how unacquainted with the real world of America business our "CEO president" really is. One, a research-and-analysis expert with a Ph.D. in behavioral science and long-time marketing executive told me, "Exactly how is community college supposed to advance my employablity when I'm already a recognized expert in the field? Is the president suggesting that I switch from a 25-year career to a job as a pest control technician?" He's trying desperately to find a TEACHING job in a community college.

Another, a $90,000-per-year network manager (not excessive, merely a competitive salary in terms of our overall IT personnel budget) in our very large IT department, told me despite his M.S. in computer science, he's scared to death we'll cut back like other companies and leave him with a mortgage he can't pay; he'd gladly take a pay cut (as long as it's not too large) to keep his position and prevent him from being unemployed for a year or more like so many of his colleagues outside the company whose jobs have been exported to overseas operations. But he was outraged that the president suggested community college as his only solution to the outsourcing of American technical/professional jobs. "I encourage our company to take advantage of community college outreaches to the business community to help them develop curricula that would make their students employable by us -- that is, to establish classes that teach pest-control techniques, mortgage loan origination processes, basic accounting procedures, home construction. I don't suggest that community colleges could take the place of universities and graduate school programs that develop engineers, diplomats and law enforcement experts, mathematicians, inventors, science researchers and urban planners. If I lose my job and can't find a comparable one, am I supposed to return to my youth and community college and retrain as a daycare helper?"


This is the first and last time I will comment on the flack about Kerry mentioning Mary Cheney during the last debate. I knew at the time it would kindle a firestorm and was not happy about it. But not because I believed it was "out of bounds." I winced because I knew it would cause the same kind of distracting hullaballoo that it has. If Kerry was "over the line," why haven't gay activists spoken out about it? The answer is, because they agree that "outed" gays are people fundamentally like you and me; ironically, that's just the point Kerry was trying to make. Andrew Sullivan, an openly gay conservative writer and pundit, has written some of the best stuff about this issue. His latest offering:

Gary Bauer has long denied he's anti-gay, or catering to anti-gay prejudice. But this morning he came clean, in referring to Kerry's mentioning Mary Cheney's lesbianism:

"I think it is part of a strategy to suppress traditional-values voters, to knock 1 or 2 percent off in some rural areas by causing people to turn on the president."

Think about that for a minute. Bauer believes that his core supporters would be likely to "turn" on the president just because the vice-president's daughter is a lesbian. Notice that there's no indication of homosexual "acts", just a revulsion at Mary Cheney's simple identity as a lesbian. This is their base. This is why they're worried. Some of the subtler arguments I've heard overnight say the following: it's not that homosexuality is wrong; it's just that many people believe that and Kerry therefore exploited their homophobia to gain a point. I don't buy it, but let's assume the worst in Kerry's motives for the sake of argument. What these emailers are saying is that Kerry should hedge what he says in order to cater to the homophobia of Bush's base. Why on earth should he? The truth here is obvious: Bush and Cheney are closet tolerants. They have no problem with gay people personally; but they use hostility to gay people for political purposes, even if it means attacking members of their own families. What they are currently objecting to is the fact that their hypocrisy has been exposed. To which the only answer is: if you don't want to be exposed as a hypocrite, don't be one.


I should have posted on this before, since it made me gag during the debate (more so for Bush than for Kerry). In response to Bob Schieffer's final question, "What have you learned from the strong women in your life?" both candidates marginalized women and identified us not as players, but as help-meets. Furious George spoke about his love for the women in his life and not much more, while Kerry cited advice from his dying mother and gave examples of how his smart women affect his life. In neither case did a candidate actually say, "They've taught me that women are as smart as or smarter than men, and that I ignore their counsel to my peril. I will lead America to a new appreciation of the importance of taking advantage of all our human assets and away from the age-old discrimination that says women can't be as effective as men in managing, directing and heading business, national policy and world affairs."

Of course, Condi Rice, Agricultural Secretary Ann Veneman and Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao prove that women can be as unthinking, partisan, myopic and knee-jerk-loyal as any crazed Republican man. That's a real step forward (NOT) for female equality.


Republican law-and-order fanatics are killing people to prove a point. Can you imagine Christopher Reeve in a similar position? A 27-year-old quadriplegic (paralyzed from the neck down) is sentenced to 10 days in jail for a first-offense marijuana possession and then dies because he's denied the medical equipment and medicine he needs to stay alive?

And let's get real here. How does someone who's paralyzed from the neck down acquire, possess, or use marijuana without the help of someone else? How does he become the offender? Is marijuana so scary to the hyper-righteous, as opposed to chronic misuse of OxyContin (unlike marijuana, which is less troubling to an individual than alcohol, a truly dangerous addictive drug)?

These people have no pity or heart. They're ideologues, dangerous to you, dangerous to me, and dangerous to our (American) historically acclaimed sense of goodness and compassion. They zero in on the helpless and powerless and ignore or excuse the chronic drug use of illegal drugs by the rich and powerful. How can Christians countenance this?


WaPo has lots of data on the presidential race. For instance, as of 8/30/04, Kerry-Edwards had about $25 million more cash-on-hand than Bush-Cheney, but the senate/congressional committees favored the Republicans by about $54 million:

Presidential Money Race (8/1/04 - 8/31/04)
Cash on Hand (8/31/04) $36.9 million
Total Contributions $18.5 million
Total Disbursements $14.2 million
Cash on Hand (8/31/04) $62.0 million
Federal Funds $74.6 million
Total Disbursements $10.3 million
Note: The Bush-Cheney '04 campaign received federal funds shortly after President Bush accepted the Republican presidential nomination on Sept. 2 and is prohibited from spending money raised before then. Sen. Kerry accepted the Democratic nomination July 29 and his campaign was then limited to spending only federal funds.

Republican National Committee $93,577,251
National Republican Congressional Committee $25,587,757
National Republican Senatorial Committee $22,488,596
TOTAL $141,653,604
Democratic National Committee $55,671,864
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee $20,848,852
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee $10,584,957
TOTAL $87,105,673

There's lots more interesting stuff. Stay tuned.


Frank Rich has an op-ed in the NY Times about Republican press management. Although I take exception to his early-in-the-piece references to William Safire as an ex-Nixonite that should be heeded and Judith Miller as a victim of Patrick Fitzgerald, it's worth a read:

The path of the Bush White House as it has moved from Agnew-style press baiting to outright assault has also followed its antecedent. The Nixon administration's first legal attack on the press, a year before the Watergate break-in, was its attempt to stop The Times and The Washington Post from publishing the Pentagon Papers, the leaked internal Defense Department history of our failure in Vietnam. Though 9/11 prompted Ari Fleischer's first effort to warn the media to "watch what they say," it's failure in Iraq that has pushed the Bush administration over the edge. It was when Operation Iraqi Freedom was bogged down early on that it spun the fictional saga of Jessica Lynch. It's when the percentage of Americans who felt it was worth going to war in Iraq fell to 50 percent in the Sept. 2003 Gallup poll, down from 73 that April, that identically worded letters "signed" by different soldiers mysteriously materialized in 11 American newspapers, testifying that security for Iraq's citizens had been "largely restored." (As David Greenberg writes in his invaluable "Nixon's Shadow," phony letters to news outlets were also a favorite Nixon tactic.) The legal harassment of the press, like the Republican party's Web-driven efforts to discredit specific journalists even at non-CBS networks, has escalated in direct ratio to the war's decline in support.

"What you're seeing on your TV screens," the president said when minimizing the Iraq insurgency in May, are "the desperate tactics of a hateful few." Maybe that's the sunny news that can be found on a Sinclair station. Now, with our election less than three weeks away, the bad news coming out of Iraq everywhere else is a torrent. Reporters at virtually every news organization describe a downward spiral so dangerous that they can't venture anywhere in Iraq without risking their lives. Last weekend marines spoke openly and by name to Steve Fainaru of The Washington Post about the quagmire they're witnessing firsthand and its irrelevance to battling Al Qaeda, whose 9/11 attack motivated many of them to enlist in the first place. "Every day you read the articles in the States where it's like, 'Oh, it's getting better and better," said Lance Cpl. Jonathan Snyder of Gettysburg, Pa. "But when you're here, you know it's worse every day." Another marine, Lance Cpl. Alexander Jones of Ball Ground, Ga., told Mr. Fainaru: "We're basically proving out that the government is wrong. We're catching them in a lie." Asked if he was concerned that he and his buddies might be punished for speaking out, Cpl. Brandon Autin of New Iberia, La., responded: "What are they going to do - send us to Iraq?"

What "they" can do is try to intimidate, harass, discredit and prosecute news organizations that report stories like this. If history is any guide, and the hubris of re-election is tossed into the mix, that harrowing drama can go on for a long time before we get to the feel-good final act of "All the President's Men."


Yesterday at 8:00 a.m. the administration assistants on our executive floor threw a "Bosses' Day" breakfast in our enormous Board Room for the "bosses." I made the politically incorrect observation that to be perfectly correct, there is only one boss who isn't somebody else's "employee," and that's the new CEO, who wasn't there because he was vacationing at one of his resort homes. And even he has to answer to the Board of Directors and the shareholders, so he has multiple bosses himself. The rest of us bosses, while somebody works for us, also work for somebody else. My objective was to muddy the class distinction: we're all in this together, helping each other help someone else, with the end result being better teamwork making a better company. I always do this and it usually goes over big at these events because we have a historical culture at our company of valuing all our people assets.

Yesterday, though, being the day after the debate, there was a kind of holding-their-breath hush that I wasn't used to when I first started speaking and then a relieved chattering when I finished. It turns out the other execs were afraid I was going to deliver a political speech for Kerry! After all, it wasn't so long ago that every executive in the room except me and one other female executive (we're few and far between) left work early on a Friday to go home, don their tuxes and pick up their wives for a $2,000-per-plate dinner for Furious George. And they all know, from the Kerry button perpetually on my collar, the Kerry-Edwards bumper stickers on my car and on my office door, and the Dubya doll on the conference table in my office (he repeats 40 stupid quotes from Furious George at the touch of a button), a gift from my two Republican daughters last Christmas (they know what I like!) just what my political predelictions are. (As if they needed clues after eight years of my pro-Clinton lectures.) They were relieved, it turned out, because they couldn't defend Bush, and frankly, they didn't want to. Other than to agree that Bush did better in the last debate than in the others, they had nothing positive to say about him.

More and more I find that businesspeople who traditionally vote for Republicans are unhappy with Bush but adamantly refuse to support a Democrat. All I can hope is that that will translate into lower voter turnout. And as Martha says, "That's a good thing."


This is an encouraging development. An organization plans to use exit polls in five closely contested states in November to measure whether there have been impediments to voting.

Votewatch, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, plans to conduct exit polls in selected states to monitor election procedures and record impediments to voting, including voting equipment flaws, confusion over ballots and perceived discrimination by polling officials.

Steven Hertzberg, a San Francisco systems engineer who founded Votewatch, said he planned to use volunteers supplied by civic groups like Common Cause, among other recruits, and that they would be trained and supervised by polling professionals.

From its exit polling, Votewatch hopes to go beyond anecdotal indicators and get a measure of how many people encountered which kind of problems, Mr. Hertzberg said.

The group has also decided to ask people whom they voted for, or meant to vote for, to assess whether one candidate's backers are more affected by irregularities. But Fritz Scheuren, president of the American Statistical Association and a principal adviser to Votewatch, said it was important to note that "we are not competing with the networks, and we don't want to appear to be."

In any event, its backers say, Votewatch won't be projecting who will win or lose in November - only the incidence of voting problems that might affect the outcome.


I told my mother and younger sister, fans(?) of Bill O'Lielly, long ago that one day the man's overweening ego would do him in:

Ever since Wednesday, when O'Reilly sued a former producer for allegedly trying to blackmail him and was countersued for sexual harassment, "The O'Reilly Factor" has ceased being a yap-fest and become a nightly spectacle of self-destruction, a chance to watch a powerful obsessive pour kerosene on the bonfire of his own ego.

O'Reilly's bosses have ordered him to stop talking about the case, but that would require him to quit behaving as if the entire world revolves around O'Reilly, and we all know that's not possible.

Friday, October 15


Don't worry about the polls.

Kerry Up by 1 in WP/ABC Tracking Poll

Today's WP/ABC tracking poll has Kerry up by 1 among RVs. (I explain my preference for the WP RV data in this post.). But the LV data are not much different: a dead heat.

Scripps Survey Research Center: Kerry Leads by 5%

John Kerry leads George Bush 50-45 percent of nation-wide RV's according to a poll conducted 10/3-13 by the Scripps Survey Research Center at Ohio University.


Oh how I hope this is true:

Voter dissatisfaction indicates it won't be close
Bogus polls mask landslide in the making

Conventional wisdom suggests this year's presidential election will be close. Practically every poll taken has the race within the margin of error.

At the risk of looking like a fool, I am prepared to respectfully disagree with conventional wisdom to offer the following contrarian perspective: The election will not be close.


U.S. Orders Freeze on Zarqawi Network Assets.

The United States on Friday ordered a freeze on assets of the militant group led by Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, which has claimed responsibility for a series of bombings, kidnappings and beheadings in Iraq.

Oh goodie, after a year of "bombings, kidnappings, and beheadings," the U.S. is finally freezing his assets. Great timing, and perfectly in line with their priorities: business and opportunities for profit first, war on terror when it suits us politically.

Maybe someone should have told them how John Kerry busted the "terrorists' favorite bank." Heaven forbid we should learn from success.

My own company wouldn't hire these guys to be warehouse workers, much less strategists. Incompetence. Keep hitting that theme. BushCo really has no defense against it.


Well, this guy is not exactly a raving liberal, is he? So if he finally gets it, isn't there hope for a change on November 2? So many people (including Cohen) have invented a man that doesn't exist, but still goes by the name of George W. Bush. And to be honest, as a long-time Texas resident, I have heard enough anecdotes and experienced myself on a first-hand basis the charisma of Bush II so as to understand, though not ascribe to, the initial desire to see him after the 9/11 disaster as that "regular guy" leader who'd stand up to the terrorists and say, "F*** you!" It is a fantasy beloved by millions of shallow people. But I can't help exulting (since I've been so confused as to why the mainstream media and punditocracy doesn't get the real Furious George) when one of them finally sees the light:

For honor and money, I've wagered on George Bush, not because I wanted him to win but rather because I thought he would. Now I'm changing my mind. It's not the tightening polls that have done it -- I knew that would happen -- but rather something I could not have predicted. The president is missing.

The president I have in mind is the funny, good-natured regular guy I once saw on the campaign trail -- a man of surprisingly quick wit and just plain likeability. I contrasted this man to John Kerry, who is as light and as funny as a mud wall, and I thought, "There goes the election."

Where it has mattered most -- the three debates -- Bush has been wooden, ill at ease and downright spooky. He makes bad jokes, cackles at them in the manner of a cinematic serial killer and has lacked the warmth that he not only once had but that I thought would compensate for a disastrous presidency and give him a second -- God help us -- term. In short, he could take over the Bates Motel in an instant.
Historians may someday say that the beginning of the end for Bush came last April when Time magazine's John Dickerson asked the president at a televised news conference, "What would your biggest mistake be . . . and what lessons have you learned from it?" Bush, who said the question took him by surprise, said he could not come up with one.

Essentially the same question was asked by Linda Grabel, an ordinary voter, at the St. Louis debate. This time, it could not have been a surprise. But this time, too, Bush could offer not a single substantive example. Aside from making "some mistakes in appointing people," everything had gone swimmingly.

This was a preposterous, dishonest answer. It was either the response of someone who is vastly deluded or sticking to a political strategy conceived by people who do not value truth. Either way, it harkens back to that "learning curve" Stewart mentioned and it demolishes Bush's pose as a regular guy, someone approachable -- someone you could like. It is not possible to like someone who cannot admit a mistake. Iraq is the crazy aunt in the attic that Bush will not acknowledge. When she throws the furniture, Bush says you're just hearing things. Yeah, sure.

Had Bush admitted that things went wrong with Iraq, he could have been himself. But he was out there three times telling us what we know is not true. This was Kerry's problem when he was defending his vote in favor of a war that he never, in his gut, thought was a good idea. When he finally was able to say how he really felt, his campaign took off. The man settled into his own skin. He had the better argument. The camera picked it up.

Bush, though, has been hobbled by artifice. The natural has been turned into just another synthetic pol. His only good moments came when he talked about his faith and his family, tapping into a wellspring of emotional truth. Other than that, he was only rarely the politician he used to be -- crushed, not empowered by incumbency. If I could, I'd wager differently. The man I bet on no longer exists.


Via Corrente, we should expect more of this:

A 17-member Army Reserve platoon with troops from Jackson and around the Southeast deployed to Iraq is under arrest for refusing a "suicide mission" to deliver fuel, the troops' relatives said Thursday.

The soldiers refused an order on Wednesday to go to Taji, Iraq — north of Baghdad — because their vehicles were considered "deadlined" or extremely unsafe, said Patricia McCook of Jackson, wife of Sgt. Larry O. McCook.

And then there'll be fragging of officers, and then there'll be an "Iraq War Veterans Against the War." This is surreal. It's all happening again. And it's because some people don't learn from history; they only want to refight it. That's as silly as the film (I don't remember the name) in which Kurt Russell and Robin Williams, as late-thirty-something businessmen, decide to replay the game they lost as high school football players. People whose whole lifelong identity is tied up with the one-big-thing that happened (or, in too many cases, such as that of Furious George, DIDN'T HAPPEN) in their lives, usually in their youth, are really sad. I think you'd have to put the whole Swift Boat Vets as well as most of BushCo in that category.

UPDATE: The reservists have been released from detention, but could be reprimanded or even court-martialed.


Three schoolteachers were threatened with arrest and ejected from a Bush rally in Oregon for wearing T-shirts with the slogan, "Protect Our Civil Liberties."

"We chose this phrase specifically because we didn't think it would be offensive or degrading or obscene," said Tania Tong, 34, a special education teacher.

The women got past the first and second checkpoints and were allowed into the Jackson County fairgrounds, but were asked to leave and then escorted out of the event by campaign officials who allegedly told them their T-shirts were "obscene."

I never thought I'd see the day when protecting our civil liberties was considered obscene in the United States of America.


William Saletan examines the two candidates' positions on the "truth standard":

Two weeks ago, when President Bush accused John Kerry of subjecting American national security decisions to a "global test," I reviewed Kerry's words and found that Bush had misunderstood them. The test, as Kerry defined it, had two parts. First, it was a test of evidence, not moral opinion. Second, since evidence is a universal standard, Americans were among the people administering the test. In other words, the test was simply the measurement of the president's and vice president's assertions—about weapons of mass destruction, for example, or about the relationship between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida—against reality.

Bush rejected this test. "The president's job is not to take an international poll," he said at the time. "Our national security decisions will be made in the Oval Office, not in foreign capitals." By reserving all decisions for the Oval Office—not for the American public—and by dismissing demands for evidence as an "international poll," Bush was refusing to measure his claims and decisions against the truth. Or so I argued.

I don't have to argue the point anymore, because last night, Bush confirmed it. Here's what he said at a rally in Oregon, according to a White House transcript:

Once again, last night, with a straight face, the senator said—well, shall we say, refined his answer on his proposed global test. That's the test he would administer before defending America. After trying to say it really wasn't a test at all, last night he once again defended his approach, saying, I think it makes sense. (Laughter.) The senator now says we'd have to pass some international truth standard. The truth is we should never turn America's national security decisions over to international bodies or leaders of other countries. (Applause.)

You heard that right. The president explicitly refuses "to pass some international truth standard." Because evidence is the fundamental test applied in France as well as in the United States, Bush thinks he shouldn't have to back up his claims or decisions with evidence.

He couldn't really be saying that, could he?

Again, let's look at the words to which Bush was responding. In Wednesday's debate, when Bush ridiculed the "global test," Kerry repeated his definition of the test. "I will never turn the security of the United States over to any nation. No nation will ever have a veto over us," said Kerry. "But I think it makes sense—I think most Americans in their guts know—that we ought to pass a sort of truth standard. That's how you gain legitimacy with your own countrypeople, and that's how you gain legitimacy in the world."

This is the second time Kerry has defined the test. Each time, he has made clear that it's a test of evidence, not opinion, and that Americans, "your own countrypeople," are the first people to whom the evidence must be shown.

When Bush replied last night that he refuses to pass this "truth standard," there's really no other way to interpret his position. He's saying that he doesn't have to show you any evidence, because evidence is the sort of thing a Frenchman would ask for.

I know I've been hard on the president lately. I'd like to say something nice about him. I'd like to be "fair and balanced." But my first responsibility as a reporter is to the truth. When one candidate tells half the truth, and the other says the truth doesn't matter, it becomes irresponsible for me or any other journalist not to report that by that standard—the standard of respecting the truth standard—one candidate is head and shoulders above the other.


From today's WSJ on-line:

In the 2000 presidential race, debates were where George W. Bush seized the momentum. In 2004, debates are where it escaped him.
In any case, it increasingly appears the debates this year are the most significant ones since the 1980 Jimmy Carter-Ronald Reagan encounter. More than that, they may have reversed a trend that began with the spread of cable television in the 1990s in which public attention was declining.
The preliminary verdict of the effect of this year's debates, echoed publicly by Democratic strategists and privately by Republicans, is clear: After entering the two-week debate season with a national lead, Mr. Bush is locked in a dead heat, with momentum favoring Mr. Kerry. That partly is because Mr. Kerry helped himself with a smooth and confident effort.
Andrew Kohut, a veteran pollster who heads the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, agrees that "it would be too early" to conclude that Mr. Kerry has taken control of the race. But, he adds, "the bottom line of these debates: Kerry changed the impression that he was the candidate who could not put one foot in front of another....The stature gap between the two seemed much smaller."

That is evident in several surveys showing that Mr. Bush's lead -- pegged by his strategists to be as high as six percentage points before the first debate on Sept. 30 -- has vanished. An ABC News tracking poll released yesterday, in which Messrs. Kerry and Bush were tied at 48% among likely voters, showed that the Democrat's personal favorability ratings are now at parity with the president's after he lagged behind badly before the debates.

Those improvements in personal impressions of Mr. Kerry are reflected even in the spin offered by leaders of the two political parties. After a numbing campaign season of political advertisements, said Democratic Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe: "This was the time when voters got to look at John Kerry and decide, 'He could be commander in chief.' That's more important than anything else."


Another endorsement for Kerry, in a state where it can help:

BASED ON HIS RECORD, President George W. Bush has not earned re-election. He has mishandled the war on terrorism, shut his eyes to disagreeable facts, left the next generation in hock and presided over a sharp loss in jobs, health insurance and prosperity for millions of Americans.

Sen. John F. Kerry, D-Mass., understands that Mr. Bush took a wrong turn by transforming the war on terrorism into an invasion of Iraq. He understands the importance of working with our traditional allies and the world community to fight terrorism. And he wants to step up efforts to address real nuclear threats by disposing of nuclear materials in Russia and dealing directly with North Korea and Iran.

Mr. Kerry would reverse the tax cuts for the very wealthy and use the money to improve health care and help middle-class families pay for college. His strong environmental record offers the prospect of a president whose environmentalism extends beyond cynical slogans such as "Clear Skies" and "Healthy Forests."

In the troubled election of 2000, Mr. Bush ran as a compassionate conservative who wanted to create a "lockbox" for Social Security and unite the nation, while conducting a humble foreign policy that eschewed nation-building. He pried open the lockbox, conducted an arrogant foreign policy, tried to grow a democracy in burning sand and left the nation more divided than at any time since Vietnam.
America needs a leader who sees the world as it is, who knows how to rebuild international alliances, who focuses on threats to homeland security, who runs the government for the benefit of all Americans. By virtue of his knowledge of world affairs, his life story of national service and his moderate values, John Kerry is that leader.


An ABC News' Nightline producer went to Vietnam and talked to one group we haven't heard from about Kerry's war record: the Vietnamese.

Here's what John O'Neill, the officer who took over command of Kerry's swift boat after Kerry left Vietnam and co-author of Unfit to Command as well as chief organizer for the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth, said about the incident for which Kerry received his most significant award, the Silver Star:

"In the Silver Star incident, John Kerry's citation reflects that he charged into a numerically superior force, and into intense fire," O'Neill told ABC News in an August 2004 interview. "But the actual facts are that there was a single kid there who had fired a rocket, who popped up, and John Kerry with his gunboat, with or without a number of troops, depending on who you talk to, plopped in front of the kid. The kid was wounded in the legs by machine gun fire, and as he ran off, John Kerry jumped off the boat and shot the kid in the back."

Here's what the citation for Kerry's Silver Star said:

When the boats approached the hamlet, "a B-40 rocket exploded close aboard PCF 94" -- Kerry's boat. He "personally led a landing party ashore in pursuit of the enemy," the citation says, before commending Kerry's "extraordinary daring and personal courage" for "attacking a numerically superior force in the face of intense fire."

And here's what the Vietnamese villagers who were there that day say:

Villagers say this is what they saw:

"Firing from over here. Firing from over there. Firing from the boat," Vo Thi Vi told "Nightline."

She was only a couple hundred yards away when a Swift boat turned and approached the shore, she said, adding that the boat was unleashing a barrage of gunfire as it approached.

"I ran," she recalled, "Running fast. ... And the Americans came from down there, yelling 'Attack, Attack!' And we ran."

Her husband, Tam, said the man who fired the B-40 rocket was hit in this barrage of gunfire. Then, he said, "he ran about 18 meters before he died, falling dead."

Was the man killed by Kerry or by fire from the Swift boat? It was the heat of battle, Tam said, and he doesn't know exactly how the man with the rocket launcher died. But he knows the man's name -- Ba Thanh. He was one of the 12 reinforcements sent to the village by provincial headquarters, and after he died, the firefight continued, according to Tam.

"When the firing started, Ba Thanh was killed," Tam said. "And I led Ba Thanh's comrades, the whole unit, to fight back. And we ran around the back and fought the Americans from behind. We worked with the city soldiers to fire on the American boats."

According to the after-action report, after beaching the Swift boat, Kerry "chased VC inland, behind hooch, and shot him while he fled, capturing one B-40 rocket launcher, with round in chamber."

None of the villagers seems to be able to say for a fact that they saw an American chase the man who fired the B-40 into the woods and shoot him. Nobody seems to remember that. But they have no problem remembering Ba Thanh, the man who has been dismissed by Kerry's detractors as "a lone, wounded, fleeing, young Vietcong in a loincloth." (The description comes from "Unfit for Command," by Swift boat veteran John O'Neill.)

"No, this is not correct," Nguyen Thi Tuoi, 77, told ABC News. "He wore a black pajama. He was strong. He was big and strong. He was about 26 or 27."

Tuoi said she didn't see Ba Thanh get shot either, but she and her husband say they were the first to find his body. They say they found him a good distance from his bunker, though she could not confirm that Kerry -- or anyone else -- had pursued him into the bush.

Her husband, Nguyen Van Ty, in his 80s, had a slightly different account of how Ba Thanh died.

"I didn't see anything because I was hiding from the bullets and the bombs," he said. "It was very fierce and there was shooting everywhere and the leaves were being shredded to pieces. I was afraid to stay up there. I had to hide. And then, when it was over, I saw Ba Thanh was dead. He may have been shot in the chest when he stood up."

He also said the Swift boats were coming under attack from the Viet Cong fighters on shore. "We tried to shoot at the boat," he said, "but we didn't hit anything."

Kerry's citation says he "uncovered an enemy rest and supply area, which was destroyed," but according to the villagers, the Americans missed the military supplies. In fact, Vo Ti Vi said, just a few weeks after the attack, the Viet Cong raided a U.S. base stealing weapons and ammunition. The weapons remain in Nha Vi all these years later, she says, buried under her garden.

Back in Tran Thoi, villager Nguyen Van Khoai said that about six months ago he was visited by an American who described himself as a Swift boat veteran and told him another American from the Swift boats was running for president of the United States. Nguyen said the man was accompanied by a cameraman.

"They say he didn't do anything to deserve the medal," Nguyen said. "The other day, they came and asked me the questions and I said that the recognition for the medal is up to the U.S.A."

He said that, after they met, the Swift Boat veteran and the cameraman turned around and went back down the river. "Nightline" has not been able to identify the men.

So the Swifties knew their story was bogus, but that won't stop them from airing two new ads. They've got a $10 million war chest now. Hopefully, America will believe what they saw for themselves of John Kerry in the debate and not swallow this tired continuation of a discredited smear.


Paul Krugman lends his considerable prestige to the protest against Republican vote fraud.

Thursday, October 14


American patriots are speaking out:

Although I am a longtime Republican, it is time to make a statement, and it is this: Vote for Kerry-Edwards, I implore you, on Nov. 2.

Elmer L. Andersen was Minnesota's governor from 1961 to 1963.


Oh, William Saletan of Slate is snarky about the debate:

Let's start with body language. Kerry's was excellent. He has improved on this score in every debate. I don't know why it took him 20 years in office and two years on the presidential campaign trail to look into the camera. Maybe that guy with the tax question in the second debate got him over the hump. Whatever the reason, Kerry is now doing it in the debates and in his ads, and he turns out to be damned good at it. Tonight he explained in simple terms the good things he would do and the bad things he wouldn't. "Medicare belongs to you," he told the viewer. "I don't force you to do anything. ... You choose your doctor." I caught him shaking his head just once. Another time, he grinned inappropriately when Bush was talking about abortion. The rest of his performance was flawless. His answers were crisp. His smiles recalled the good-natured confidence of Ronald Reagan.

Half an hour into the debate, as Kerry spoke about respecting gay people, a look of sincere attention passed across Bush's face. I remember that look, because it was the only time I saw it. The rest of the night, Bush labored unconvincingly to look as though he was listening. He seemed to be trying to rectify his listless, annoyed performance in the first debate. Eventually, he confirmed that his wife had told him "to stand up straight and not scowl." But tonight he overcompensated, as Al Gore did after getting bad reviews in the first debate of 2000. Bush blinked, bubbled, giggled, and blurted at odd moments. He grinned strangely as he talked about tax increases, entrenched special interests, defeat in Iraq, and contaminated flu vaccines. He held his chin up and tried to smile each time Kerry rebuked him, but the expression on his face was that of a fraternity pledge struggling to look like he was having a good time in the midst of a spanking. The picture of the senior and junior Bonesmen cried out for the caption: "Thank you, Sir, may I have another?"


Whoa. This is downright scary. I know, I say that a lot. It's a Southern thing. But it really is. As I said to a co-worker this morning, Bush is clearly deteriorating, and to think, he's still going to be president at least for another almost-three months.

All you who believe, pray.

Great. Now the Saudis are blaming the U.S. and the war in Iraq for the increase in terror.

It's tempting fate to ask if anything else can go wrong, so I won't. Pray for peace November 1.


Via Smirking Chimp, the irrepressible Arianna Huffington explains why Bush is still in the race.


Huge mistakes. This will die. Mary Beth Cahill's "Mary Cheney is fair game" was a disaster. She should never appear in public. But there's some hypocrisy going on here that deserves some notice. I think Kerry was trying to say in response to the question (don't forget the context) "Is homosexuality a choice?",

Look, everyone knows or has a family member who has wrestled with this thing. Most people want to conform. But some realize at some point, many after a horrendous struggle, that they just aren't made heterosexual. Others, who love them, endure an intense journey of discovery of their own, which sometimes reorders their lives in unimagined ways. Even the Vice President's daughter would tell you, I think, that she is just trying to be what she was born to be.

I think that's what Kerry was trying to say. He is so smart, I just don't believe he'd think he was "outing" Mary Cheney, who is very generally known as a lesbian.

But I do think the Cheneys' (Lynne and Dick) reaction to that statement is, if not a very calculated political counter-move, then by default an overreaction prompted by a very defensive, though painfully and obviously loving, (but perhaps they think deservedly?) attitude that expects heaps of shame and pity heaped upon their family.

I was not happy when Kerry called out Mary Cheney's name last night because I expected this kind of reaction. Now that I've heard it, I suspect the best response would be none further. Let it expire with no further accelerant.


WaPo has a pretty good fact-check of last night's debate.


I just returned from an all-day location scouting expedition for a film project I'm working on. Turned on the Internet to find out what's been going on in the world today. As is my custom, I started with the NY Times and saw an intriguing headline for Tom Friedman's column: "Addicted to 9/11."He finally gets it. I don't want you to miss it, so I'm posting the entire thing:

I don't know whether to laugh or cry when I hear the president and vice president slamming John Kerry for saying that he hopes America can eventually get back to a place where "terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance." The idea that President Bush and Mr. Cheney would declare such a statement to be proof that Mr. Kerry is unfit to lead actually says more about them than Mr. Kerry. Excuse me, I don't know about you, but I dream of going back to the days when terrorism was just a nuisance in our lives.

If I have a choice, I prefer not to live the rest of my life with the difference between a good day and bad day being whether Homeland Security tells me it is "code red" or "code orange" outside. To get inside the Washington office of the International Monetary Fund the other day, I had to show my ID, wait for an escort and fill out a one-page form about myself and my visit. I told my host: "Look, I don't want a loan. I just want an interview." Somewhere along the way we've gone over the top and lost our balance.

That's why Mr. Kerry was actually touching something many Americans are worried about - that this war on terrorism is transforming us and our society, when it was supposed to be about uprooting the terrorists and transforming their societies.

The Bush team's responses to Mr. Kerry's musings are revealing because they go to the very heart of how much this administration has become addicted to 9/11. The president has exploited the terrorism issue for political ends - trying to make it into another wedge issue like abortion, guns or gay rights - to rally the Republican base and push his own political agenda. But it is precisely this exploitation of 9/11 that has gotten him and the country off-track, because it has not only created a wedge between Republicans and Democrats, it's also created a wedge between America and the rest of the world, between America and its own historical identity, and between the president and common sense.

By exploiting the emotions around 9/11, Mr. Bush took a far-right agenda on taxes, the environment and social issues - for which he had no electoral mandate - and drove it into a 9/12 world. In doing so, Mr. Bush made himself the most divisive and polarizing president in modern history.

By using 9/11 to justify launching a war in Iraq without U.N. support, Mr. Bush also created a huge wedge between America and the rest of the world. I sympathize with the president when he says he would never have gotten a U.N. consensus for a strategy of trying to get at the roots of terrorism by reshaping the Arab-Muslim regimes that foster it - starting with Iraq.

But in politicizing 9/11, Mr. Bush drove a wedge between himself and common sense when it came to implementing his Iraq strategy. After failing to find any W.M.D. in Iraq, he became so dependent on justifying the Iraq war as the response to 9/11 - a campaign to bring freedom and democracy to the Arab-Muslim world - that he refused to see reality in Iraq. The president seemed to be saying to himself, "Something so good and right as getting rid of Saddam can't possibly be going so wrong." Long after it was obvious to anyone who visited Iraq that we never had enough troops there to establish order, Mr. Bush simply ignored reality. When pressed on Iraq, he sought cover behind 9/11 and how it required "tough decisions" - as if the tough decision to go to war in Iraq, in the name of 9/11, should make him immune to criticism over how he conducted the war.

Lastly, politicizing 9/11 put a wedge between us and our history. The Bush team has turned this country into "The United States of Fighting Terrorism." "Bush only seems able to express our anger, not our hopes," said the Mideast expert Stephen P. Cohen. "His whole focus is on an America whose role in the world is to negate the negation of the terrorists. But America has always been about the affirmation of something positive. That is missing today. Beyond Afghanistan, they've been much better at destruction than construction."

I wish Mr. Kerry were better able to articulate how America is going to get its groove back. But the point he was raising about wanting to put terrorism back into perspective is correct. I want a president who can one day restore Sept. 11th to its rightful place on the calendar: as the day after Sept. 10th and before Sept. 12th. I do not want it to become a day that defines us. Because ultimately Sept. 11th is about them - the bad guys - not about us. We're about the Fourth of July.

Amen. Stylin too.

Debate pictures

The most shocking moment of the debate came when Bush claimed Jesus was there to endorse his candidacy and if you couldn't see him you were going to hell.

Dude, shut your mouth. You're only making it worse.

Maybe it isn't fair to shoot a deer in headlights, but in this case I'm glad Kerry made an exception.


Boy, they're really replaying that Bush gaffe about not ever saying that he wasn't concerned about bin Laden, "that's kind of one of those ex-agg-er-ashuns." Silmarill made the same observation after the first debate. It's worth a read.

Wednesday, October 13

Lovely, watching Ann Coulter up against Jesse Jackson on Larry King. Ann doesn't care what the polls say, this was Bush's best debate and Kerry's worst. She's never looked so sour and desperate. She has nothing substantive to say. Example: Ann says anyone who believes affirmative action is for anyone except blacks is RACIST. Women don't need affirmative action, we're the majority! Jackson replies, "If you're the majority, then why did we have to pass a Constitutional amendment to give you the vote?"

"There is no joy in Mudville, mighty Casey has struck out."

MSNBC alters background

MSNBC is blurring the background posters out behind the panel. The yellow sign that reads, "Bush Policies not equal to Jesus teachings," in black is being paid special attention. The MSNBC technical team have blurred the yellow background of the poster over the black letters, basically making them dissapear. It's so obvious.


Gen. Wesley Clark just kicked Hannity butt in a shouting match. Hannity usually wins his debates by refusing to quit speaking after asking a question, constant interruptions, and over the din repeating over and over the same point until it breaks through the unconscious and registers. In this case, however, Wes Clark did exactly the same thing but with a more melodious tone (Hannity's is of the shrill type) so that it was his message that got through. If you're familiar with Hannity's shows, you'd have loved it.

Bill Schneider just said Kerry won decisively, as big as he did in the first debate, which he described as a "blowout." Said he appeared more presidential than the president, but cautioned that winning the debates doesn't guarantee the election. Nonetheless, he said John Kerry was the clear winner of this series of debates.

Ladies and gentlemen, you've just seen the next President of the United States.


Gallup just announced that Kerry won the debate 52-39%.


Kerry looks like he's ready to fight, Bush's smile is strained

Will we ever be safe again?

JFK: The measure should be, are we as safe as we ought to be? *(Bush is ready for first blood.)* I pledge I will do it as FDR, Truman and Kennedy did.

FURIOUS GEORGE: We can be safe if we stay on the offense. Kill, kill, kill. *(Here goes the "nuisance, prostitution and illegal gambling" gambit.)* Kerry voted against Homeland Security bill, I supported it.

JFK: Bush said he's not worried about Osama Bin Laden. We can be safer if we focus on the real war on terror.

FURIOUS GEORGE: I never said that. That's an exaggeration.

Flu vaccine shortage?

FURIOUS GEORGE: Vaccine was contaminated, so we took the right action and didn't allow contaminated medication to come in. We're working with Canada. My call to our fellow Americans, if you're young or healthy, don't get a flu shot this year. Help us prioritize. *(He's run out of things to say, can't fill his time, oh my God, is he blaming this on trial lawyers?)*

JFK: Underscores how the healthcare system in America isn't working for us, and it's gotten worse under P. Bush. Statistics. *(Amazing performance, he's citing state-by-state statistics. The people in Ohio must be saying, "Oh my gosh, he knows so much about our state! He's our man!")*

FURIOUS GEORGE: Remind people listening tonight that a plan is not a litany of complaints and not something you can't pay for. If every family in America signed up for the Senate/Congress plan, it'd cost us $5 trillion.

JFK: We're not giving this away for nothing. People will buy into it.

You said you wouldn't raise taxes on people making under $200,000 per year, but costs are going up. How can any president keep that pledge without running us deeper into debt?

JFK: I'll tell you exactly, by reinstating the "pay as you go" rules. P. Bush is only president to lose jobs, see family incomes go down, etc. I'm going to reverse that. We're going to restore the fiscal discipline of the 90s. Everything I've proposed, I've shown how to pay for. We start by rolling back GWB's tax cut for those above $200,000 income. That bill passed yesterday, $143 billion of giveaways.

FURIOUS GEORGE: His rhetoric doesn't match his record. He voted to raise taxes 98 times. He voted against tax cuts 200 times. His idea of pay-go, means you pay and he goes ahead and spends. His plan will bankrupt us. There's a tax gap. And guess who usually ends up filling the tax gap? The middle class.

What would you say to someone in this country who has lost his job to someone overseas who is being paid a fraction of his pay?

FURIOUS GEORGE: I'd say here's some help for you to go get some education. Best way to keep jobs here in America is to make sure our education system works. I went to Washington to solve problems. There was a problem in education. So we raised the standards and measure early to solve problems. Education is the way to keep jobs. I've got four more years. I've got more to do. *(He's foaming at the mouth now, there's something distinct at the corner of his mouth, and he's dying to wipe it off.)* Community college. Community college.*(It sounds like Bush is saying only the uneducated are unemployed or have their jobs threatened. I know a few Ph.D.'s and advanced-degree computer engineers who wouldn't appreciate the aspersion.)*

JFK: Pres diverted from jobs to education. Being lectured by him on fiscal responsibility is a little like Tony Soprano lecturing me on law and order. The jobs we're getting are paying less. He's cut training, education, Pell Grants, won't extend unemployment benefits. I will help workers to transition in every respect.

Is it fair to blame the administration entirely for the jobs situation?

JFK: I don't blame him entirely. I blame him for not doing everything he COULD do. I'll create a fair playing field. I'll change tax structure so companies aren't incentivized to send jobs overseas. We'll provide fair trade playing field. This pres didn't stand up for Boeing, but I talked about it for months. He didn't take on China for their currency manipulation. There have been markets shut to us that should have been opened. Plus we need to restore fiscal discipline.

FURIOUS GEORGE: Let me start on the Pell Grants. We've increased Pell Grants by a million students. That's a fact. He talks to the workers? Let me talk to the workers. You've got more money in your pocket because of our tax relief.

JFK: Anybody can play with these votes, everybody knows that. I broke with my party to balance the budget. I've voted for tax cuts 600 times. Pell Grant numbers have gone up because more people have less money. More qualify, but they don't get the promised $5,100.

FURIOUS GEORGE: Ted Kennedy is the more conservative Senator from Massachusetts.

Do you believe homosexuality is a choice?

FURIOUS GEORGE: I don't know. I just don't know. It's important to treat everyone with tolerance and respect. I believe in the sanctity of marriage, and it's important that we keep it between a man and a woman. I proposed a Constitutional Amendment. I'm deeply concerned that justices are making decisions that should be left to the people of the United States. It's not in our nation's interest.

JFK: We're all God's children, Bob, and I think if you were to talk to Cheney's daughter, she would tell you that she's just being who she was born to be. *(I didn't like him mentioning Mary Cheney.)*It's not a choice. I've met people who have struggled with this for years, people who were in a marriage because they were trying to conform, and I've met wives who supported their husbands until they finally broke loose to let them live as they needed to. I agree with the pres that marriage is between a man and a woman. But it's not right to discriminate, so I'm for partnership agreements. They're proving today in every state that this can be managed satisfactorily.

Bishop said it would be a sin for Catholics to vote for you because you're pro-choice. How do you respond?

JFK: I'm Catholic, I grew up respecting those views, but I don't agree with them. I can't legislate to another American citizen an article of faith that they don't believe. I believe it's between a woman and her doctor. I will defend the right of Roe v. Wade. With respect to religion, I was an altar boy. Throughout my life, this has mattered to me. Like JFK, I'm not running to be a Catholic President, I'm running to be a president who happens to be Catholic. Quoted James, "faith without works is dead."

FURIOUS GEORGE: I believe the ideal world is one in which every child is welcomed to life. I understand that there are great differences on abortion, but I believe reasonable people can come together to enact just laws. For instance, partial birth abortion. Kerry voted against that ban. As we promote life and promote a culture of life, we can promote adoption. That's a great alternative to abortion. All of us ought to be involved in activities that provide an alternative to abortion.

Who bears responsibility for rising healthcare costs?

FURIOUS GEORGE: Gosh, I sure hope it's not the administration (heh heh). Consumers are not involved in the decision-making process. No market forces involved in healthcare. I like health saving accounts. Medical liability reform. Defensive practice of medicine costs government, consumers. Also, information technology isn't used. We're in the horse days. We need better medical records. Move generic drugs through the market.

JFK: This administration has stood in the way of common-sense efforts that would have reduced healthcare costs. He blocked you from importing drugs from Canada. He kept Medicare from negotiating for lower drug prices. Medicare belongs to you, you pay for it, but the pres made it illegal to go out and bargain for better prices. Result: $179 billion windfall to drug companies. That's part of your high prices. Then there's the uninsured. The rest of us pick up their tab. That's more increase.

FURIOUS GEORGE: He has no record in the Senate in Medicare reform. I was deeply concerned about our seniors choosing between drugs and food.

JFK: I have co-sponsored bills and parts of bills, but I was one of the original authors of the early childcare and healthcare initiative we enacted in the nineties. So the pres is wrong.

Where are you going to get the money for your healthcare plan?

JFK: Everybody says the pres has distorted my plan. You choose between what I offer or what you have today. I don't think a lot of people are going to want to do that. Here's what we do. Government take over catastrophic coverage, incentivize states to cover the needy, you can buy into the Congressional plan, we give you broader competition. We'll allow people 55+ to buy into Medicare early. Small businesses get subsidized so they can offer insurance to their employees. Early detection.

FURIOUS GEORGE: I'm not so sure it's credible to quote news sources...well...oh, never mind. Kerry's plan wouldn't work. If you raise Medicare, why would employers offer private insurance? Government-run health will lead to poor quality health, rationing, less choice. *Can anyone tell that I'm listening to my puppet-master on the other end of this wire?*

JFK: He says government-run healthcare leads to poor quality. Maybe that's why the VA and Medicare patients are complaining, since he's underfunded them. For once and for all,

FURIOUS GEORGE: We're expanding veteran healthcare, AND HE KNOWS THAT.

Where do you get the money to keep Social Security going?

FURIOUS GEORGE: Seniors, you'll continue to get your checks. They spread a rumor in the 2000 campaign that if I was elected seniors would lose their checks. I called together a task team, including Pat Moynihan. I think younger workers should put their money into a personal investment account so they get better returns. This is a difficult issue, but I'm willing to take it on. I warn citizens that the cost of doing nothing is costly.

JFK: That's an invitation to disaster. The CBO said very clearly that if you were to adopt the pres's plan, there'd be a $2 trillion hole in the Social Security funds. They said there'd have to be a cut in benefits from 20-40%. Where does that transitional money come from? The pres is driving the largest deficits in history. I have a record of financial responsibility. We're going to protect Social Security, I will not privatize it, we will not cut the benefits.

At this point I got tired and caught up in the rhetoric. Long pause...Final thoughts...

Kerry displayed so much knowledge, and without sounding pedantic! Perhaps because he connected it so fluidly to real human problems and challenges. Warm, showed humanity, good talking about his wife, daughters and mother. Good on the faith question. A masture of the gesture, he uses his hands like a ballet dancer. Showed real humor, not just in his jokes but in his enjoyment of them. Closing statement magnificent. Hit all the right points, was inspirational, hopeful, confident. Presidential in the best sense of the word. A President to be proud of. Just beautiful.

Bush had his best debate. But his posture was aggressive, once again hunched over the lectern and often slapping it over and over to emphasize a point. His attempts at humor fell flat. His smile looked forced. He did very well with quite a few questions but always, he seemed impatient at having to justify himself. His MO was attack, attack, attack. It really did sometimes seem that his pauses were timed to receive new "instructions." Bush's closing statement hit a flat note after Kerry's uplifting prose. It was a downer.

Kerry the clear winner. In all respects.
Our next President of the United States.

UPDATE: I want to get this down so I'll never forget it. I got so caught up in this rhetoric and passion that I couldn't get it posted. But thanks to First Draft, we have this from Kerry:

"Faith is why I fight against poverty, to clean up the environment, it's why I fight for equality and justice. All those things come out of that fundamental faith. God's work must truly be our own. That's the test of public service." And when this man is elected, schoolchildren will learn that passage by heart.

UPDATE: Howard Fineman just reminded me of another magical Kerry moment. When JFK thanked Furious George for his service to the country in the days just after 9/11 and then proceeded to talk about what we needed to do in the future, it was both gentlemanly and a masterful way of announcing that his services were no longer required. Genius.

UPDATE: I keep remembering other great moments. First, when Kerry addressed the assault weapons ban expiration and his experience as a prosecutor and running one of the 10 largest district attorney's offices in the nation. His keeping-our-policemen-safe argument for gun control was effective. Man, he looked so commanding and inspired such confidence. It was a rush.

The Sage: "The difference between a puppet and a president is the difference between a string and a wire."

Rumor has it, the bulge in Bush's back is where the puppet master inserts his hand.


The Sage just had a great idea for those Democrats whose voter registrations were trashed by Voter's Choice if their registration is not recognized at the polls. He thinks they should as a class sue the Republican National Convention for denying them due process in denying them their right to vote.

It would be interesting to establish just how much a vote is worth to the Republicans in nice round dollars, the only currency they recognize.

Oh, how I love Paul Begala (and it's not because he's a Texan). His quick wit is a joy to behold. Just now on CNN pre-debate coverage, speaking of the economy, he said, Remember how my old boss Bill Clinton balanced the budget, got rid of the deficit and created this surplus in the trillions of dollars that George Bush inherited and then Bush blew it and ran up new historic deficits. And that really surprised me, because I thought he was good at inheriting things.



Demagogue today:

Thanks for the Support, Suckers

Via the Carpetbagger, I see that Bush is going to be in Las Vegas at the same time as the AARP is holding its "Life @ 50" national event. And though Bush has been invited to address the event, he has declined.

Considering that the AARP's endorsement of his Medicare bill was a key factor in getting it passed and that passage of this bill is one of the major accomplishments that he highlights on his campaign web page, during the debates, and during his stump speeches, you'd think he'd attend to thank them and bask in their adulation.

But apparently not.

Hmmm ... I wonder if that fact that most Seniors are confused and unhappy with Bush's one major domestic policy success had anything to do with his decision not to attend the event?

"Ed Coyle, executive director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, said public opinion polling shows the law is unpopular among older Americans. 'No presidential candidate wants to risk being booed off stage by thousands of seniors. This drug benefit is not the victory for seniors the president plugs it to be and the president and his handlers know that to be true,' said Coyle, a critic of the law."

I guess that answers that question.


Paula Zahn has a poll asking, "What do you think was behind the bulge on President Bush's jacket during the debates?"

Go vote now! It's running 80%+ for an electronic device.


I'm bumping this up since I've posted so much today --

To help you prepare for the post-debate spin wars tonight, here are links to a number of on-line polls:

Fox News
Los Angeles Times
Detroit News
Wall Street Journal
Orlando Sentinel
Philadelphia Inquirer
Dallas Morning News
Atlanta Journal-Constitution

I'll be on the lookout for others and add them to the list, but this is a start.


I'm starting to let myself get excited. Total strangers at work today have come up to me to ask about my Kerry-Edwards pin and want to discuss the presidential race, Democrats who are afraid to admit it (we're in Dallas, after all), independents who backed Bush in 2000 and want to vote for Kerry but need someone to assure them they're making the right decision, and people who usually vote Republican but are ready for a drastic change from "more of the same." They've expressed doubts about the war in Iraq, fears for their healthcare and jobs, despair over the cost of college tuition for their children. And they also want to know that their vote won't be in vain -- every single one of them was surprised when I said Kerry would win, but also rather excited at the prospect.

I'm not for one minute suggesting that John Kerry stands the least chance of carrying Texas. But I think people will be surprised to find the Bush margin of victory less than expected.


Found on Sinclair and the Public Airwaves: A History of Abuse -- the whole thing is a .pdf and can be downloaded from the site, but here's the summary:

Key Findings. This report presents a compendium of Sinclair Broadcast Group’s worst excesses, including:

• Replacement of local news coverage with prerecorded, ‘centralized’ programming. Entire segments of‘local’ news are actually produced at Sinclair’s “News Central” in suburban Maryland and then rebroadcast at local affiliates across the country. The practice, designed as a cost-cutting measure, has resulted in the loss of local voices across the country, less resources for genuine local reporting, and staff cuts.

• Use of privileged access to the public airwaves to promote its own agenda. Sinclair has a record of using its access to scarce public airwaves to support Republican viewpoints at the cost of serving the public interest. Sinclair’s near-exclusive support for the GOP has coincided with consistent Republican leadership support for media regulatory policies that would bolster Sinclair’s bottomline, largely by allowing the purchase of additional local television stations in markets which Sinclair has approached (or surpassed) present ownership limits.

• Engaging in ethically and legally questionable practices in order to expand market holdings. Sinclair's drive to expand its media empire is enabled by the maintenance of an outdated regulatory loophole, the “UHF Discount”, which is no longer sound policy. Additionally, Sinclair maintains a suspicious relationship with another company, Cunningham Broadcast, which enables Sinclair to control the programming of more stations than is presently permissible in several markets.


DailyKOS is closely following and updating reports of Republican voter fraud and suppression of Democratic votes and registrations.


I think Eleanor Clift gets it just about right in this Newsweekarticle about Furious George's "scorched-earth strategy" for the remainder of the campaign:

The Duelfer report, Bremer’s words and Rumsfeld’s confession may take some time to sink in with voters. It’s like a bad marriage, says Wilson. You have to first come to grips with the fact that you’re in a bad relationship. Then you have to decide to do something about it—and finally you have to muster the courage to go out with somebody new. The country has a lot invested in Bush as protector in chief. Admitting that confidence was misplaced is hard, and that’s what makes this such a close race. 

I've said it before, and I've said it often. Personal attacks upon Furious George infuriate soft supporters; they have been so emotionally invested in Bush these past three years that even as they consider a change, they resent hearing him called "dumb" and "lazy" -- I heard a caller just this morning on talk radio saying, "When they say that, it's like they're calling ME dumb because I supported him in 2000." Kerry's been playing it just right when he criticizes the little dog: he says it "pains him to say," "I regret to say," just as a statesman should. He rarely displays pleasure at Bush's mistakes -- after all, they have a negative impact upon us citizens, and a politician should never be glad about that. Bush is making a big mistake in continuing to mock Kerry gleefully even as Kerry is proving himself to be tough, resolute and PRESIDENTIAL. FuGee (yes! Skippy! I have just invented that shorthand for Furious George) looks like a playground bully as he taunts Kerry mercilessly. It's not a pretty sight. I just hope he continues to do so in the debate tonight. Let America see just once more the difference between a sober, deliberate, caring man who is, like so many of us, conflicted on some issues but has stood by his positions once taken; and a spoiled frat boy who needs someone else to feed him his answers.


This morning on Ancarlo Mornings (KLIF-Dallas), Darrell Ancarlo framed the campaign for his listeners in the following way: Forget the candidates. Vote for the kind of America you want.

Okay. So if you want an America that goes blasting into any country it can when it feels vulnerable, vote for Bush.

If you want an America where foreign policy is dictated by political advantage, vote for Bush.

If you want an America that rewards the rich, richly, and where the middle class bears an inordinate share of the burden of the costs of running the government (including the military), vote for Bush.

If you want an America where we are isolated because the world community fears and despises us, vote for Bush.

If you want an America where we're the only advanced country without universal health care, vote for Bush.

If you want an America where the social safety net is the next target for elimination, vote for Bush.

If you want an America where we execute kids, vote for Bush.

If you want an America where our children and grandchildren pay for our excesses today, vote for Bush.

If you want an America where the Geneva Conventions are dismissed and our military and intelligence personnel encouraged to abuse and even kill prisoners of war, thus endangering our own troops, vote for Bush.

If you want an era of unending war, vote for Bush.

If you want an America where the government tells you who to love and how, vote for Bush.

If you want an America where business and industries write legislation and the very policy that regulates them, vote for Bush.

If you want an America where a single religious faith has such influence over policy it can determine the course of action the government takes, vote for Bush.

If you want an America where wealth and connections secure even more privileges and advantages, vote for Bush.

If you want an America where the color of your skin and your national origin make you automatically suspect to police and intelligence agencies, regardless of your citizenship, vote for Bush.

If you want an America where law enforcement can invade your reading habits, your home, and your business records without notice to you and without establishing probable cause, vote for Bush.

If you want an America where desperate women are once again driven to back-alley illegal abortionists, vote for Bush.

If you want an America where the Supreme Court rules according to their political and religious affiliations rather than by strict interpretation of the Constitution, vote for Bush.

If you want an America where we'd rather spend money on prisons and punishment than on education and rehabilitation, vote for Bush.

If you want an America where business profits are more valued than clean air and water, vote for Bush.

If you want an America where business and government morph into what Eisenhower warned as "the military-industrial complex," vote for Bush.

If you want an America where citizens are punished for expressing beliefs contrary to the government's, vote for Bush.

If you want an America where the government operates in secrecy and lies to the citizenry, vote for Bush.

You get the idea.


Robert Kuttner of The Boston Globe has a great piece today (by my liberal lights):

To the extent that he evades difficult questions, Kerry looks weaker across the board. Just being resolute wins voter respect, even from those who may disagree with him on the issues.

One thing the conservatives have done brilliantly is to make progressive Democrats feel embarrassed about their own first principles. The federal government has been turned into the enemy (except when George W. Bush wants to promote fantastical expeditions by the armed forces at the direction of the Defense Department, a branch of the government that is somehow seen as uniquely competent).

For instance, when Bush claimed in the St. Louis debate that Kerry wanted a "government program" for health insurance, I was waiting for Senator Kerry to respond, "Mr. Bush, 40 million seniors have secure health coverage -- the only health plan where you can still freely chose your own doctor and hospital, the only one where they don't discriminate against people with histories of serious illnesses. It's called Medicare. In case you forgot, Medicare is a government program. Are you against that?

"We Democrats enacted it because the private sector didn't want to insure seniors. The Republicans didn't give us much help. And you, Mr. Bush, get your insurance through a government program, as do I and every other member of Congress. I want every American to have insurance coverage as secure as the government coverage we get. Anything wrong with that?"
I'd like to hear Kerry say: "Let me tell you about my kind of liberal. It's a leader who keeps America militarily and economically strong while winning the world's respect -- the legacy of FDR, Harry Truman, and JFK. It's a leader who opens up opportunity and provides security through great liberal programs like Social Security, Medicare, and college aid. It's leadership like Bill Clinton's, to clean up Republican fiscal messes and to provide 20 million new jobs. It's leadership like Martin Luther King's, fighting for civil rights. That's a label I don't run from. I wear it proudly."

I'd like Kerry to tackle the issue of abortion and the courts more steadfastly. "Mr. President, based on the far-right lower-court judges you've appointed so far, you and I both know that you will appoint judges likely to overturn Roe v. Wade. I want the fewest possible abortions, but I defend a woman's right to choose. I'm not sure that you do."
As in the Iowa caucuses that effectively won him the Democratic nomination, John Kerry is at last winning by running as if he had nothing to lose. More, please.


Tracking polls: Rasmussen has Bush 48, Kerry 46; Reuters/Zogby: Bush 45, Kerry 45, Nader 2.


Matthew Yglesias says it's "unlikely that a Kerry administration would, in fact, substantially increase federal education spending on top of the large increases we've already seen in the Bush years. Realistically, in a time of war and deficits the far more important question for federal candidates has to do with what kind of education policy shifts they favor that don't require big changes in spending levels."

In response, see my previous post, John Kerry's quietly radical school reform plan, and follow the link to the
Washington Monthly