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Politics 2004 Archives

April 10, 2008
POLITICS: NY Judge Largely Depoliticizes Dan Rather's Lawsuit Against CBS

Allahpundit and HuffPo take differing looks at Manhattan state court trial judge Justice Ira Gammerman's decision (the text of which is here) dismissing some parts of Dan Rather's complaint against CBS. Note that under NY state procedure, the decision on a motion to dismiss a complaint (i.e., without hearing the evidence) is immediately appealable, and given the amount of money and ego involved it would not surprise me if one or both sides appealed.

As an economic matter, the decision is mainly a victory for Rather; Justice Gammerman allows him to seek substantial breach of contract damages for CBS "benching" him after March 2005, under a contractual provision the court reads as essentially allowing liquidated damages designed to cover that purpose, by requiring CBS to then immediately pay Rather his salary due through November 2006.

More significantly, in terms of the evidence that can be introduced (and, presumably, the remaining source of his punitive damages claims), the decision also allows Rather to argue that (1) CBS owed Rather a fiduciary duty and breached it (the decision is unclear as to whether the breach is the decision to bench Rather or a broader theory involving making him retract and apologize for the Rathergate story) and (2) Viacom, CBS' parent, improperly and tortiously interfered with Rather's contract with CBS by forcing its subsidiary to bench and fire him. The judge held that it was a factual issue whether Viacom acted in its own economic interests by sacking Rather, which under NY law is a defense to a tortious interference claim.

The more politically explosive parts of the suit - dealing directly with Rather's claim that he was defrauded and effectively defamed by CBS making him apologize for the story when he really didn't want to - were thrown out on statute of limitations grounds and for failure to show damages, so really neither side can claim any vindication on the merits.

The net result of this is that, while Rather gets to pursue the money he feels is owed to him, it may be difficult for him to get a Bush-hating Manhattan jury to rule on his claim that the story was true after all. But whether he can get the court to hear evidence on that point depends in large part on the contours of the remaining claims, and whether he ends up surviving summary judgment (CBS is vowing to get a later ruling that there's insufficient evidence to send these claims to a jury) on any claim that goes beyond "after they benched me they didn't give me enough to do" to "they shouldn't have benched me because I was right." As much money as is involved in the former, it's only the latter that anyone will care about.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:10 PM | Politics 2004 • | Politics 2008 | TrackBack (0)
May 30, 2007
POLITICS: Kerry Campaign Busted Spending Limit - On Customized Jets


Dignity. Integrity. Duty.

Aw, heck, why not just blow it all on fancy airplanes?

Sen. John Kerry broke spending limits by nearly $1.4 million during his 2004 presidential bid, including some funds spent on customizing his campaign jets, a Federal Election Commission draft audit concludes.

The FEC could rule that Kerry's campaign must reimburse the government. Because his general election campaign was taxpayer funded, Kerry would have to pay back the U.S. Treasury.

Much of the disputed money was spent on customizing jets used by Democratic presidential nominee Kerry and his running mate John Edwards, according to auditors.

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:26 PM | Politics 2004 • | Politics 2007 • | Politics 2008 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
February 10, 2005
POLITICS: Unhealthy Fixation

Tuesday's fun with the "chicken hawk" argument was, at first blush, about yet another of the stupid arguments you encounter (from Left and from Right) in political debates, an ad hominem that feels good to toss around but makes no logical sense. But this argument is much more than that: it's political hemlock that the Left/liberals/Democrats can't seem to stop imbibing, with catastrophic consequences in the 2004 election. You would hope that they've learned something from that. Let me count the ways:

1. The Wesley Clark Boomlet: One of the problems the Democrats faced, once Howard Dean flamed out, was the absence of meaningful alternatives to John Kerry that anti-Kerry voters could rally around. One reason for that was the time wasted in the fall of 2003 fawning over Wesley Clark, whose only qualification for running was his military experience. The willingness of Democratic pundits, bloggers and (for a time) voters to swoon over Clark's military pedigree was a bad early sign of their confusion of military experience with good ideas on foreign policy. Significantly, some of the biggest Clark boosters in the blogosphere, like Kevin Drum and Mark Kleiman, were the same people who went ga-ga over the "AWOL Bush" story. Coincidence? I think not. They convinced themselves that you could defeat Bush in a foreign policy debate by comparing Clark's distinguished service record to Bush's.

2. The Rise of Michael Moore: Moore had been on the political scene for some time, with his books and movies. But you may recall that his first direct insertion into the campaign came in January 2004 when he endorsed (who else) Wesley Clark and, in the process of his endorsement, called President Bush a "deserter." In retrospect, that was the best opportunity then and there for somebody to smack down Moore and keep the debate focused on things that happened less than 30 years ago. Nobody did; to the contrary, Moore kick-started a blog and media frenzy over the previously dormant AWOL story, setting off, among other things, comments from DNC Chair Terry McAuliffe on the subject. This created a monster, as Moore quickly learned that he could say whatever he wanted and still be embraced by the party's leadership.

3. The Kerry Nomination: Of course, the biggest debacle of all was the decision to nominate John Kerry. I believe, and I doubt too many people would disagree with me on this one, that Kerry would never have won the nomination had it not been for the widespread perception that he could take advantage of the distinction between his own combat record and Bush's military service record. That calculation wound up overcoming a wealth of reasons, well known to many Democrats, why Kerry could be a terrible candidate.

Now, Kerry did have a decent resume at first glance (two decades in the Senate) and did have his strengths as a candidate, notably his startling aggressiveness as a debater. And he didn't get blown out in November. But he did lose a lot of ground Al Gore had held, and as more than a few people pointed out during the primaries as well as later on, he was a sort of Frankenstein's monster of bad candidate traits: in a Senate divided between work horses and show horses, Kerry is a show horse who doesn't show well, a faux populist who's bad with people, an orator who gives deadly dull speeches, a guy who's all image and no substance . . . and his image is as a guy who's dull, condescending, mean, arrogant, and insincere. A glass-jawed bully who picks fights and boasts "bring it on," yet whines when attacked back. He's basically spent thirty years living off youthful exploits that he himself denounced, hiding behind medals he pretended to throw away. And, of course, there was his famous inability to take a clear position and stick to it.

All of this was well known to Democrats. But they overlooked it all in their obsession with proving that Bush was a chicken hawk and Kerry a noble war hero.

4. The Convention: You know the story: the Democratic Convention produced almost no bounce in the polls, and turned out to be a missed opportunity to lay out a coherent message. Why? Does the phrase "reporting for duty" ring a bell? Yet another blind alley, as the Democrats stressed over and over the contrast in Kerry's and Bush's service records at the expense of talking about a winning strategy in the war on terror or even laying out a stronger and more detailed critique of Bush's.

5. The Swift Boat Vets: We knew all along that Kerry would take some heat from Vietnam veterans over his conduct after the war. But nobody had really expected Kerry to suffer such damage from attacks on his service itself. There's no question that those attacks were motivated and given more visibility by the extent to which Kerry sought to play the "I served and you didn't" card.

6. Rathergate: The final way Bush's critics went astray over their obsession with hunting chicken hawks was the fiasco of the 60 Minutes hack job on Bush's National Guard service. Once again, the zeal of Bush critics who had pursued this story for five years overbore their judgment about the credibility of their sources, and led to a humiliating reversal that symbolized, for many voters, the media's mania to get Bush by any means necessary. Worse for the Democrats, the report coincided to a high degree of coordination with attack ads rolled out by McAuliffe. (And I'm leaving out here the roles of Tom Harkin and Max Cleland)

Could Bush have been beaten in 2004? It's a debate that can rage on through political history, but those of us who lived through it, on either side of the fence, certainly thought it was at least possible, and at any rate a stronger race against him might have salvaged some of the down-ticket disasters for the Dems.

Most of us who supported Bush recognized that Kerry's service record compared to Bush's was a positive for Kerry. If the Democrats had left it at that, it would have helped them. But at every turn, the obsession of Bush's critics with the "chicken hawk" argument - the idea that Bush's lack of combat service wasn't just one factor but a disabling fatal flaw for a wartime president - overbore their better judgment about sticking to the issues and the record, and wound up turning a positive into a series of disasters. Will they ever learn? Stay tuned.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:27 AM | Politics 2004 • | Politics 2005 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
December 31, 2004
BLOG: Turning Over A New Leaf

As I've done in the past, I'm creating brand-new categories for the new year. You'll now go to Baseball 2005 for new baseball entries, Politics 2005 for new politics entries, War 2005 for new war entries, and Law 2005 for new law entries (the Law category hadn't needed an overhaul last year). I'll shortly be updating the link to baseball-only posts at the top of the page as well to send you to Baseball 2005.

Happy New Year!

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:18 PM | Baseball 2004 • | Baseball 2005 • | Blog 2002-05 • | Law 2002-04 • | Law 2005 • | Politics 2004 • | Politics 2005 • | War 2004 • | War 2005 | TrackBack (0)
December 27, 2004
POLITICS: How It's Done

This Powerline item is a classic fisking (link via Instapundit).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:22 PM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
December 15, 2004
POLITICS: Answering Josh Marshall's Call

(Also posted in The Corner after I emailed this to Jonah Goldberg - Welcome, Corner readers!).

For all of Josh Marshall's huffing and puffing about the effort to expose how Joe Wilson got picked for the Niger trip, it's worth taking a little trip in the Wayback Machine to what Marshall had to say on July 8, 2003, less than a week before Bob Novak's now-infamous column identifying Wilson's wife, CIA officer Valerie Plame, as the person who picked Wilson:

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:50 PM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
December 13, 2004

The Mad Hibernian's post on Friday on Michael Crichton's new book questioning "global warming" and similar environmental dogmas (which followed on this powerful speech by Crichton last year denouncing global warming theories) prompted some interesting comments and links. Now, I'm no expert on the subject myself, but I did think it was worth repeating here something I said in the comments to that post. I'm very skeptical of hearing "global warming" discussed as if it is a single concept, like "the earth is round." Basically, "global warming," as I understand its popular meaning, is really three different concepts:

1. The earth has, for some period of time, been getting warmer.

2. This past warming trend is not a random or cyclical phenomenon but is a trend that will continue into the future unless interrupted by human intervention.

3. The past trend and its continuation into the future are the results of specifically identifiable human activities, i.e., carbon emissions.

It is entirely possible to believe #1 without believing #2 and #3, or even to believe #1 and #2 without believing #3. Beware of anyone who tries to use evidence supporting just one of those propositions to convince you of all three.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:30 AM | Enemies of Science • | Politics 2004 • | Science | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: 2004 Bedfellow Awards

Well, as promised back in late October, it's time to award the 2004 Bedfellow Awards. The Bedfellow Awards are named in honor of the comic strip "Bloom County," in which Senator Bedfellow was defeated on the strength of an election-day headline, "WARNING: VOTING FOR BEDFELLOW MAY CAUSE HERPES". Although the award gives special points for attacks that are false and/or unfair, the simplest definition of a Bedfellow Award nominee is a news story that (1) comes out shortly before the election, and (2) has a much larger impact on the election than it would have if it had come out earlier.

I solicited nominations, although I didn't get a whole lot of them. You can see some of the nominees here and a very early candidate here as well as in the post linked above and its trackbacks. Let's run through the awards:

1. Overall Winner: Osama bin Laden

Political experts will debate endlessly which candidate it helped and whether it had much of an impact one way or another (Kerry says it cost him the election), but there's no question that the big, knock-everything-else-off-the-front-page surprise story of the campaign's last weekend was the emergence of OBL himself from his gopher hole with a video message aimed directly at the American people and obviously timed deliberately to influence the election. (I'll leave aside here as well the debate over whether he was actually trying to help Kerry or just to show he could influence an American election as his minions had in Spain). The story, once out there, was a legitimate story, which is why I'm giving the award to bin Laden himself rather than the news media or the candidates, who had no choice but to react to it.

2. Anti-Bush Winner: The Al-Qaqaa Explosives Story

This was a favorite nominee, and it would have been an even more outsized story if CBS had succeeded, as planned, in sitting on the story until the Sunday before the election (instead, because the NY Times broke the story a week earlier, 60 Minutes had to settle for a story attacking the Bush Administration over the sufficiency of equipment for the troops in Iraq). The explosives story got more heat and less light than it would have earlier in the campaign because there was so little time to get to the bottom of the thing.

3. Anti-Kerry Winner: The Dishonorable Discharge

On November 1, the New York Sun's Thomas Lipscomb finally broke through Kerry's long stonewall on the circumstances of his discharge from the military, but the day-before-the-election timing wound up making the story a late hit. Of course, unlike late hits against Bush, this one got ignored and buried.

4. Senate Race Winner: The Kentucky Senate Race

Nasty, nasty, nasty, full of allegations of whispering campaigns, the most late-hit-filled and under-the-radar campaign of the year turned out to be the Kentucky Senate race, with Democrat Dan Mongiardo openly challenging the mental competence of Republican righty Jim Bunning, and Bunning accused of a whispering campaign to convince voters that Mongiardo was gay.

I didn't get enough nominations or pay close enough attention to pick a House winner, but the latest of the late hits had to be the attack on Louisiana Republican Billy Tauzin III for a citation for trespassing and illegal hunting of nutria, a kind of rodent.

Anyway, there were plenty of candidates from this year's presidential elections. Feel free to suggest additional honorable mentions in the comments and trackbacks.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:20 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
December 10, 2004
WAR/POLITICS: 12/10/04 Links

*Great, great column by Tom Friedman on the radicalization of Iraqis under sanctions. Friedman often infuriates; he's right about diagnosing problems but responds by suggesting daft solutions. This one's more on the diagnosis side. (Link via Geraghty).

*A fine primer on Ukrainian history from a Ukrainian friend of LT Smash. If you've studied Russian history, as I did in college, some of this will be familiar, but there were also things here that were new to me or that I'd long forgotten.

*You'll want to head over to Soxblog, where pseudonymous blogger James Frederick Dwight (you really shouldn't need to think too hard on the origin of his pseudonym) is tearing apart a sloppy New Yorker piece comparing hospitals and clinics that treat cystic fibrosis (start here and scroll up for followup posts, including his discussion of my initial reaction to the piece, which was that it sounds like something drafted by the plaintiffs' bar).

*Yes, the Onion's Iraq Alert System just killed me. (Link via Simmons' Intern).

*Victor Cha, a Georgetown professor who advocates a "hawk
engagement" strategy regarding North Korea, will assume the post of Director for Asian Affairs at the National Security Council.

*You can look at this chart here and argue, as these Berkeley professors do, that the results on this graph show that the 2004 vote in Broward and Palm Beach counties were a suspicious outlier, but isn't the far more logical inference that the 2000 count in Broward and Palm Beach is the suspicious outlier? Gee, does anyone remember any controversy over the vote-counting methods used in Broward and Palm Beach in 2000? I wonder if the results would look less anomolous if you used the Election Day 2000 counts in those two counties rather than the figures that were generated a month later.

*The Gift That Keeps On Giving, Part LXVIII.

*Ann Althouse on Nancy Pelosi's horrible facelift/plastic surgery.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:12 AM | Politics 2004 • | War 2004 | TrackBack (1)
December 7, 2004
POLITICS: Whither CBS News?

Jim Geraghty maps out the possibilities for CBS News after the final report comes out on Rathergate:

CBS could go one of three routes from this point. One, they could try to clean up their act, stop behaving as if their job is to drive President Bush from office, cover viewpoints beyond the left, and attempt to break up the groupthink that has calcified their news judgment.

Two, they could define themselves as the left-of-center news channel, and aim for the blue state audience. Instead of trying to prevent bias, they could embrace it, and make it part of their brand identity. "CBS News: The channel that progressives prefer."

Three, they could define themselves as the tabloid news channel, rushing things to air without checking, and intentionally eroding their standards for accuracy in the name of being first. They could be one part supermarket checkout line tabloid, one part Drudge, one part Wonkette, one part British Fleet Street scandal sheet.

The third is obviously somewhat tongue in cheek, especially for a deep-pocketed broadcast network. I agree that CBS can and should make a clear decision as to which way the Evening News goes: try to build a new reputation for evenhandedness, or embrace the Left the way FOX has embraced the Right. On the other hand, the departure of Rather, who after all brought this story on himself in his capacity as a 60 Minutes II correspondent rather than as Evening News anchor, offers a third way: start splitting the brand, letting 60 Minutes and 60 Minutes II go their way as crusading liberal newsmagazines, while attempting to play it straight on the Evening News. This can work in the newspaper business - the Wall Street Journal has had success with both a highly ideological opinion page (which hires its own reporters) and a news section with a high reputation for evenhandedness and balance. Would it work in TV? If CBS tries to rebrand itself as a network that distinguishes between a balanced newscast and an openly left-wing newsmagazine, of course, the network would have to decide which side of the line they want to dominate the morning show, the coverage of big events like the conventions (where FOX, for example, has prospered by stacking its panels with conservative commentators who draw in right-leaning viewers). Splitting the two sides makes some sense: while the Evening News has floundered in the ratings, 60 Minutes remains healthy and can profit by enlarging its reputation as a vocal critic of all things Bush (although they might do well to stop shilling books sold by Viacom).

I've also got an outside-the-box suggestion for Rather's replacement: CNN Headline News anchor, technology reporter and former Tech TV anchor Erica Hill. Hill would bring a number of advantages to the anchor position. First, and most obviously, she's drop-dead gorgeous, better-looking than most of the actresses on CBS' prime-time schedule, let alone in the news business. That never hurts in the ratings department, and before you gripe about looks as a job qualification, remind me again why Brian Williams is succeeding Tom Brokaw, and why John Roberts has been mentioned as a replacement for Rather: first and foremost because they are big, good-looking guys with reassuring voices. Let's not pretend otherwise.

But there are other women on TV who could look good reading the news; what's additionally noteworthy about Hill is her background as a tech reporter. If you've seen her reports on CNN, she clearly comes off as someone who understands and enjoys new technologies and, frankly, spends a lot of time on the internet; she's been reporting for months on the influence of blogs and the internet on campaigns. That's precisely the fresh perspective towards newsgathering that CBS badly needs. I don't know how smart she is - her bio says she's a summa cum laude graduate of BU, which is nothing to sneeze at - but she comes off as intelligent on the air, which is important.

Granted, there would be internal resistance at CBS to bringing in someone with minimal experience (she can't be more than 30 years old, and looks younger than that), although again, the CNN bio does say she anchored the now-defunct Tech TV's on-air coverage all day on September 11, which is a real baptism of fire for any anchor. And maybe shaking things up would be a good in itself, sending a message that the way things have always been is part of the problem and bringing in someone not so set in her ways that she can't take the program in new directions. In any event, part of CBS' problem, even above and beyond bias, is age: Rather and Bob Schieffer and Mike Wallace . . . these guys are fossils, and whatever their other virtues they can't be expected to connect with younger viewers or change with the times. Maybe CBS, with an older-skewing audience, is happy with that dynamic, but it's unsustainable long-term. A young, fresh-faced anchor would change all that. With Brokaw leaving, there will be a window of opportunity for a new anchor to capture market share if CBS can make a splash. Erica Hill in Dan Rather's chair would make a splash.

UPDATE: You can catch a flavor of Hill's style with her online "Hot Wired" columns at CNN.com here (from January, discussing campaign blogs), here (marveling that she could survive a few days without internet access) and here (discussing procrastinating online).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:04 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
December 6, 2004
POLITICS: Anti-Family Zealots

And the Democrats wonder why they lost even normally Democrat-friendly states like New Mexico:

Democratic legislators too often seem hostile to suburban concerns, and indifferent to the aspirations of those who would like to buy a home and a small green place to call their own. In Albuquerque, for example, planners working for the local Democratic regime advocated banning backyards, an essential part of the middle-class family lifestyle. One even told a local developer that his having four children made him "immoral." A small--and probably extreme--example? Undoubtedly. But it speaks to a stereotype that Democrats have been battling for years now: that they disdain suburbia and the families who live there. It is long past time for Democrats to start undoing that perception.

Oh, and to repeat a point we Republicans keep making: you take the people who abort their children, and we'll take the families with four kids, and we'll see in a generation which of us has more voters.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:01 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
November 30, 2004
LAW/POLITICS: Self-Evident Idiocy

One last spleen-venting legal case for the day:

A California teacher who teaches his fifth-grade students with the aid of primary source documents like the Declaration of Independence has been ordered by school administrators to stop using such artifacts of American history because the material contains references to God.

I heard about this one during the significant amount of time I spent stuck in traffic on I-95 over the holiday weekend, while flipping past Sean Hannitys radio show. Not considering that the most reliable source and more than a little skeptical, I decided to check it out and, lo and behold, The Smoking Gun had the documentation, including the teachers complaint.

Politically, this is an example of Democrats needing to better police their fringes. I cant imagine that the mainstream of that party is really opposed to the Declaration of Independence or shares such absolutist hostility to religion, but the cumulative effect of stories like this, fairly or unfairly, pushes a lot of otherwise undecided people into the Republican camp. Its hard to get anyone to trust their children to people who think the ideas of people like Thomas Jefferson and John Adams are unfit for public schools.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:15 PM | Law 2002-04 • | Politics 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
RELIGION/POLITICS: Getting Tolerance Wrong

This Nicholas Kristof column in last Wednesday's NY Times, denouncing the "Left Behind" series of novels popular among evangeical Christians, rather perfectly captures a misunderstanding of religious tolerance that is found too often on the Left, and one I've dealt with before. Here's Kristof:

The "Left Behind" series, the best-selling novels for adults in the U.S., enthusiastically depict Jesus returning to slaughter everyone who is not a born-again Christian. The world's Hindus, Muslims, Jews and agnostics, along with many Catholics and Unitarians, are heaved into everlasting fire: "Jesus merely raised one hand a few inches and . . . they tumbled in, howling and screeching."

Gosh, what an uplifting scene!

If Saudi Arabians wrote an Islamic version of this series, we would furiously demand that sensible Muslims repudiate such hatemongering. We should hold ourselves to the same standard.


I accept that [the authors] are sincere. (They base their conclusions on John 3.) But I've sat down in Pakistani and Iraqi mosques with Muslim fundamentalists, and they offered the same defense: they're just applying God's word.

. . . [I]f I praise the good work of evangelicals - like their superb relief efforts in Darfur - I'll also condemn what I perceive as bigotry.

See, here's the problem. Kristof isn't just asking the authors of these books to allow for people of other faiths to practice their own faiths in peace; he's demanding that the authors change what they themselves actually believe to be the Word of God. That's not a plea for religious tolerance; it is, in fact, religious intolerance, as Kristof is saying that the beliefs of these Christians are so offensive to him that they must be branded as "bigotry" and driven from public expression.

Let me put this another way to explain why the comparison to radical Muslims is so offensive. I have no problem with people who believe that God is going to send me to Hell for being a Catholic. They believe their thing, and I believe mine. I have a major problem with people who think that they, rather than God Himself, should send me there. It is right and proper and necessary to denounce religious extremists who are unable to accept the peaceable coexistence of people of different religions, who call for earthly violence and political opression against those of different faiths. But to demand that people give up the tenet of their faith - a central one in many faiths - that says that they are following the one and only path to salvation, that's what Stephen Carter has referred to as demanding that people treat "God as a hobby" rather than taking faith seriously. While it may in some circumstances be rude to say it, I wouldn't want to live in a country where people could not feel free to profess that theirs is the only true faith; such a country would be one in which no one really believed in anything at all.

The "Left Behind" guys aren't asking that anyone be harmed in the here and now; they are content to wait for Jesus to take care of that. By failing to distinguish between the two, Kristof shows that he still views religious beliefs as something that can be bent to the needs of human society rather than the other way around. Which is to say, not religion at all.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:31 AM | Politics 2004 • | Religion | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
November 28, 2004
POLITICS: 11/28/04 Links

*Patterico has a tremendous idea: Senate Republicans should introduce a non-binding resolution of support for each of the filibustered judicial nominees, so as to put on the record the fact that they would be confirmed if granted a floor vote. Would the Democrats filibuster this as well, so as to prevent the public from finding this out? (Link via Bashman).

*If you liked my marginal vote analyses, Patrick Ruffini has a map that captures a lot of the same type of stuff in graphic form. I take it that some of the swing towards the Democrats in Montana may have been aided by the victory of the Democratic gubernatorial candidate there.

*Speaking of cool charts, check out this piece with its charts of blog activity during the campaign.

*This "Email of the Day" to Andrew Sullivan pretty well captures the Democrats' image problems.

*Two more from Ruffini, who's on a roll: first, this:

President Bush carried 97 of the nation's 100 fastest-growing counties, most of them "exurban" communities that are rapidly transforming farmland into subdivisions and shopping malls on the periphery of major metropolitan areas.

The counties with the most population loss (from people picking up and leaving) voted for Kerry 68.6% to 30.4%.

Mmmmm, 2010 census. And Ruffini also has a link to this must-read analysis over at Kos' place:

A top Kerry staffer (one of five who had been with Kerry from the very start of his primary campaign and who claimed he talked with Kerry almost daily on the phone) told me: "To be blunt, this is a fat-cat top-down campaign. The campaign staff doesn't really get grassroots." Those were his exact words (I wrote them down because I was startled he would admit this--I haven't told ANYONE this quote because I didn't want it to get into GOP hands prior to the election). He did think a grassroots strategy was crucial, but he may have been among the very few Kerry staffers there at the time to think that way; he and one other staffer were pushing to get me hired and create a real grassroots strategy. He called me daily with updates. On the fourth day, he apologized that Mary Beth Cahill was concerned I could be a "Republican mole." He told her I had been a volunteer with the Dean campaign and that he trusted me based on our phone conversations, but that didn't prove anything to her. She couldn't imagine hiring someone who lived in California that she'd never met. Instead, she hired a former Emily's List staffer with experience sending direct mail to big donors, whom Mary Beth had worked with previously.

This, of course, echoes many of the things the GOP side was saying before the election. Did McCain-Feingold actually succeed in hamstringing Kerry? Then again, the turnout and exit poll numbers do suggest that Kerry's side didn't do so badly in turning out the Democratic base and swinging Nader voters; where they lost was in high GOP turnout and, perhaps most of all, the defection of something like 10% of the people who voted for Gore in 2000. You win them back with the message and the candidate, not by digging deeper at the roots. Plus, the Republicans have an advantage: new GOP voters tend to stay put in their homes with their children, whereas the Democrats' newly registered voters are often transients - college students, new immigrants - and even if you can still find them four years later, they may start to lean more Republican as they set some roots down, which means the Dems need to reinvent the wheel every four years with their register-young-voters push.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:58 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
November 24, 2004
POLITICS: Unilateralism Watch

Dan Drezner notes another diplomatic triumph for the Bush Administration, as James Baker hammers out an agreement with Russia, France, Germany and others to forgive 80% of Iraq's debts.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:32 AM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
November 23, 2004
POLITICS: The Tragedy of Multiple Viewpoints

I had to laugh at this exchange on CNNs Sunday Late Edition between Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) and Wolf Blitzer:

SANCHEZ: I believe that we made mistakes. The media certainly is not in our hands any longer, and, in particular, radio talk shows where that is completely in the opposition's hands, and they use it effectively against us.

BLITZER: But, Loretta, when you say the media -- when you say the media is not in your hands, are you saying that ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN are hostile to Democrats?

SANCHEZ: No, that's not what I said. I'm saying that -- if you would let me finish -- that the majority of people are now receiving a lot of their information out of radio. And the radio isn't in the hands of the Democrats anymore.

Many years ago, the Republicans made a very effective play. They sat down. They made a strategy. They decided they were going to put big thinktanks around, that they were going to fund them. They decided that they would buy radio, that they would use that to talk to people. And people drive in their cars, they're listening to the radio all the time. They're getting a lot of information that way.

You know, networks are losing -- you know, they're getting less and less viewership.

The transcript doesnt quite do justice to how depressed Sanchez sounded when she said the media is not in our hands any longer. But the interview did make me want to learn more about this sinister, so-called radio device and how the government can curb its pernicious influence.

Seriously, though, isnt it overstating the case - and more than a little rude to Al Franken, who was on the very same panel for a Democrat to say that radio is completely in the oppositions hands. Comments like these would also seem to belie Sanchezs claims.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:17 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: A Little Perspective for Kevin Drum

Drum notes a program at Santa Clara University to give preferential treatment to male students and huffs:

I'm hopeful that the principled folks over at National Review will condemn this practice. And please: not just a desultory acknowledgment or two to prove you care. I expect a stream of outraged posts and crosstalk at least equal to the recent torrents about Arlen Specter, the lack of conservatives among humanities faculties, and the shocking tolerance of liberalism at the University of Chicago.

I'm counting on you, Cornerites. The eyes of the blogosphere are on you.

Well, if Drum wants us conservatives to say that preferences for less-qualified male students in university admissions are bad, he can relax; obviously, this kind of discrimination is not justified. But, in the Kleiman style, he wants instead to paint conservatives as hypocrites for not dropping what they are doing and writing what Drum tells us to write.

But he can't be serious; this is one isolated and possibly unique feature of one not terribly prominent university. To say that it is deserving of the same attention as the chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee - a matter that affects the court system and legal reform issues as a whole - is unserious at best and disingenuous at worst. Even to compare this to conservatives' principled opposition to racial preferences misses the fact that the latter are pervasive, perhaps universal, in higher education admissions. That doesn't make one more or less wrong than the other, but it certainly suggests why the emphasis falls naturally on the more prevalent program. A little perspective would go a long way.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:25 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
November 21, 2004
POLITICS: Is It Ever Enough?

Ricky West reminds us, graphically, that a major focus of George W. Bush's budget-busting spending increases compared to Clinton has been in education spending, an area where he's been criticized relentlessly for not spending enough.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:40 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Subliminable

You know, some jokes just never get old.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:31 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
November 19, 2004
POLITICS/WAR: Links 11/19/04

*Real subtle, that Zarqawi:

In video shot by an embedded CNN cameraman, soldiers walked through an imposing building with concrete columns and with a large sign in Arabic on the wall reading "Al Qaida Organization" and "There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger."

Inside the building, U.S. soldiers found documents, old computers, notebooks, photographs and copies of the Quran.

*Jay G has an amusingly profanity-laden tirade (you were warned!) about critics of Hardee's new super-fatburger.

*While what he did may well have been wrong, I'm loath to sit in judgment of the Marine who shot what appears to be a wounded and non-threatening sniper in Fallujah. I believe very, very strongly that a man who wears the uniform is entitled to the benefit of every doubt. But Dale Franks explains why sometimes soldiers have to be punished for reasons that have nothing to do with justice and everything to do with discipline.

*David Frum lays out options for blockading Iran and has some helpful history of the words "Palestine" and "Philistine".

*NZ Bear reminds us that we still need a loyal opposition.

*Kevin Drum notes that the exit polls always overestimate support for the Democrats.

*What are these "morals" you speak of?

*Caroline Glick of the Jerusalem Post on the centrality of corruption to Arafatistan. Jeff Jacoby, of course, had the definitive Arafat post-mortem:

In a better world, the PLO chief would have met his end on a gallows, hanged for mass murder much as the Nazi chiefs were hanged at Nuremberg.

*How the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign made better use of email than the Democrats.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:36 AM | Politics 2004 • | War 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
November 18, 2004
POLITICS: The Democrats' Dilemma - Part II: Personnel

Part II of a three-part series on what the Democrats need to do from here; Part I, on Communications, is here, and Part III, on Policy, will follow.

1. Governors and State Legislatures

Obviously, the Democrats need to start by rebuilding their hold on governorships, which they lost in the mid-1990s. Republicans presently hold the governor's mansions in the nation's four largest states - California, Texas, New York, and Florida, although New York may be due to swing back their way when Eliot Spitzer runs in 2006, with George Pataki probably wisely choosing not to run again. Republicans have also captured several natural Democratic strongholds - Massachusetts (which hasn't elected a Democratic governor since Dukakis), Maryland, Hawaii, even Vermont. The near-abandonment of the South has left the Dems in a serious bind there as well, although the cyclical nature of governorships, particularly due to the lure of corruption in state government, means that they take one from time to time.

As far as developing presidential candidates, I'll get to that later when I'm handicapping the 2008 race, but they are just at the wrong part of the cycle, with few governors in office long enough and one of their biggest media stars (Jennifer Granholm in Michigan) ineligible to run because she's Canadian-born. It didn't help when Gray Davis was humbled by the California voters, Jim McGreevey stepped down amidst a multitude of scandals, Roy Barnes lost in Georgia, and even smaller-time governors like Gary Locke felt the need to quit and go home. The process of building up governors to run for president or Senate means having someone be successful and popular enough to get re-elected. Even Granholm may face a tough re-election battle in Michigan.

The picture at the state legislature level is much stronger, as the Dems gained a lot of seats this year in seveal states, both red and blue. If they can consolidate those gains, it will be particularly important when another round of redistricting arises after the 2010 census, which seems likely to send still more congressional seats and electoral votes out of the blue states and into the red states.

2. Carville for DNC Chair

I take it he doesn't want the job, and there seem to be too many other people focused on their own self-interest (and on stopping the Hillary juggernaut) for anyone to persuade him, but much as I loathe James Carville, he's exactly what the Democrats need in a party chair - he's a regular-guy type, knows the South, doesn't fall into the trap of believing his own BS, and understands how you craft a message to win elections. You can always have a McAuliffe type as your #2 to work the fundraising - Mercer Reynolds, for example, raised vast sums of money for Bush this year and I'd never even heard of the guy until last week. The party chair winds up on TV a lot, and Carville is good with TV.

More thoughts on the DNC/consultant side: The Dems badly need a new batch of consultants who have cut their teeth in states outside the Northeast and West Coast. They need to permanently banish Bob Shrum and his grim populist message from the party - not just from presidential races, because half the problem is that all their presidential candidates have been groomed from the start by Shrum. Ditto for humorless types like Tad Devine and Chris Lehane who don't know when to stop spinning. On the other hand, Donna Brazile is one of the more sensible types and an expert on turnout among African-Americans, and needs to get a larger role. And as with accepting the loss of Shrum's good record with Senate campaigns, the party needs to cut bait with Terry McAuliffe even if it means losing some of his golden fundraising touch; the guy is a disaster in every other way (McAuliffe was one of the fools whose obsession with Bush's National Guard record led to so many bad decisions this year, from Rathergate to the overdone stress on Kerry's combat record), and his fundraising skills are partly offset by the scandals he engenders.

3. More Chuck Schumer

In developing presidential candidates, the Democrats need to present the face of moderation, bring along people who have the personal touch. Congressional leadership is a different game. That's why, if it was my party, I'd have wanted Schumer rather than the soft-spoken Harry Reid to head the Senate Democrats. Schumer will never be president; as a liberal Jewish lawyer from Brooklyn with an accent to match, he's too NY to be president in the way that Phil Gramm was too Texas and, frankly, Kerry was too Massachusetts (truth be told, in an ordinary year Kerry would never have won the nomination). But Schumer brings to bear a number of advantages that would make him ideal as a party leader in Congress. He's insanely hard-working. He's exceptionally PR savvy; I've noted before his habit of doing a press conference on a consumer-protection issue every Sunday, guaranteeing him a block of time on the Sunday evening local news once a week to the point that the local networks know they can give their consumer reporters the night off. He's actually relatively sane on national security and law enforcement issues. He's tough as nails. And, unlike guys like Daschle and Gephardt, Schumer doesn't talk down to people and doesn't sound like he's reading made-up focus-grouped talking points he doesn't believe in.

4. Say Goodbye To Hollywood

Hollywood stars tend to lean very far to the Left, and tend to spout off their political opinions without being asked and whether they know anything about the subject or not. The Democratic Party can't change this fact. They also give a lot of money to Democrats. The Dems shouldn't want to change this fact. But what the party can and should do is stop being star-struck and just stop making public appearances with Hollywood types. It's one of the tendencies that makes so many people identify the Democrats with the values-free zone that is Hollywood and with unserious dilettante leftism. Take their money? Sure. But don't telegraph to the American people that you take Ben Affleck's opinions seriously.

Of all the celebs who worked with the Kerry campaign and supporting 527s this year, only two seemed like they might help: Bruce Springsteen, because he's a fairly serious guy with an older fan base including a lot of blue-collar types (although as I noted some time ago, Bruce's fans tend by the nature of his music to be more conservative), and Puff the Magic Diddy, because he would help get young urban African-Americans registered to vote. It's not clear even that these two were any help, although it may be that Bruce's appearances in Wisconsin were part of the major Kerry operation that delivered the state by a hair.

5. No More Moore

For many of the same reasons, the Democrats need to walk away from Michael Moore. Yes, his movies and books are beloved by a segment of the Democratic base. But having Moore appear in public with Democratic candidates like Wesley Clark and appear at the Democratic Convention (they couldn't really stop him from appearing at the GOP convention) led to far too close a public association with a shameless and deeply dishonest huckster. And worse yet is allowing Moore's favorite hobby-horses to become Democratic talking points and ad campaigns.

Don't like that advice? Think the GOP has people it should distance itself from? Well, to some extent yes - but as a matter of practical electoral politics, the Democrats lost. They are the ones who disregard such advice at their peril.

6. No More Sharpton

In the current political environment, racial division helps the Democrats. The 2000 NAACP James Byrd ad, promising that a Bush Administration would set off a wave of lynchings, was highly effective. The Bush camp was probably politically wise to give no reason for this election to be racially polarized, even to the point of compromising its principles by signalling to the Supreme Court in the Michigan affirmative action case that it would not attack racial preferences.

More astonishingly, Republicans even held their fire when Al Sharpton, the David Duke of the Democratic party, spoke at the convention in prime time; if there had been a similar speech at the GOP convention, you would have heard nothing else for months. But don't think voters didn't notice: as I noted before, Bush won white voters by a 17-point margin, and while Sharpton may not have been much of a factor in that, the Democrats simply have to suck up the short-term cost of annoying Sharpton if they want, in the long term, to win back the confidence of non-Jewish white voters and stem erosion of voters from two groups Sharpton has targeted with particular bile: Jews and Asian-Americans.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:22 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (10) | TrackBack (2)
November 17, 2004
POLITICS: Objectivity, the Foreign Press and the Missing European Center

Jim Geraghty, back from vacationing in Italy (and still in need of a new title), has some interesting thoughts on the international press. He starts by surveying various options for someone in Europe looking for more objective coverage of the U.S. This caught my eye:

The International edition of USA Today: Making the domestic version of that newspaper look like War and Peace. Three paragraphs and then we punt. I cant complain about their news coverage skewing one way or another because there was rarely enough to form an opinion about. I do love the sports section, though.

Here at home, Im a fan of USA Today, because I feel like its aspirations to be a national paper and its famous brevity combine to make it one of Americas more objective publications. USA Today is generally scorned by readers of more hefty papers like The New York Times, but, unlike that paper, it really is a pretty good bellwether for the country. (Of course, brevity does not guarantee objectivity. Down here in DC, commuters are treated to the free Washington Post Express paper, which manages to cram an incredible amount of spin into just a few brief paragraphs every day.)

In fact, Ive long wondered: what it is the most objective news source in the country?

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:38 PM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (1)
November 16, 2004
POLITICS: Games of State

President Bush just introduced Condoleeza Rice as the new Secretary of State.

One question: Rices former deputy Stephen Hadley is taking over as the new National Security Advisor. Since one of the main jobs of that position is to coordinate between the often-contentious State and Defense Departments, wont it be hard for Hadley to take sides against his former boss? While the conventional wisdom is that Rice replacing Powell will move the Bush Administrations foreign policy to the right, Im wondering if the interaction between Bush, Rice and Hadley will move the balance of power in Washington towards Foggy Bottom. Which may actually be a good thing, assuming and it is a big assumption - that that Department has the Presidents best interests in mind.

On the other hand, Rumsfeld might increasingly run rings around those two less experienced figures. We shall see.

More thoughts on all of this here, here and here.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:01 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Exiting The Democrats

You have to take the national exit polls with a grain of salt, but it appears that this poll weights out to the correct result, and if so, a few things jump off the page:

1. Bush won white voters 58-41. He won white males by 25 points and white women by 11. Now, I know white people aren't exactly a cohesive group, and that there's something vaguely distasteful, even, about speaking of a "white vote". But if you're not even competitive with a demographic that constitutes 77% of the electorate, you got problems. Similarly, 81% of the electorate consists of Christians, and while the poll doesn't combine Protestant and Catholic, if my (rusty) algebra is correct, Christians voted for Bush by a margin of 57-42. At the cross-section of the two majority groups, 61% of the electorate is white Christians, and they broke 63-36 for Bush. Again, you can't afford to lose by that kind of margin with a majority voting bloc.

2. 49% of voters trusted Bush and not Kerry to fight terrorism, and those voters broke for Bush 97-3, such a decisive margin as to suggest that this issue was a deal-breaker for nearly half of all voters. In short, all else aside, Kerry was about 99% defeated just by the lack of voter trust in him as a war leader. This is supported by the fact that voters who trusted both candidates on terrorism broke for Kerry 75-24, while voters who trusted both candidates on the economy broke for Bush 61-38.

November 15, 2004
POLITICS: The Democrats' Dilemma - Part I: Communications

Since everyone and his brother is giving advice to Democrats, I might as well put in my own two cents as to the features of the Democratic Party that (1) might, possibly, be subject to change and (2) could help the Democrats in the long run if they were changed. I realize a lot of this will read as a criticism of Democratic candidates, but these really are some of the things I've found frustrating about Democratic campaigns, and I suspect that they are also things that turn off voters who are open to persuasion by Democrats; take this for what it's worth. I'll break down my analysis into three parts: Communications, Personnel, and Policy. Let's start with the Communications issue:

1. Obfuscation is a defensive tactic, not a strategy:

Republicans from the mid-1960s down through today have tried to brand Democratic candidates as "liberals," as a way of summarizing attacks on a broad range of positions on crime, defense, taxes, spending, social issues, etc. GOP consultant Arthur Finkelstein became particularly well-known for this tactic, which can be very effective. There are basically four ways to respond to this tactic: (a) defend liberal positions on the merits; (b) pretend that the positions are not really liberal; (c) nominate candidates who do not take liberal positions; or (d) be evasive about the candidate's positions.

Following the spectacular failure of (a) in the 1984 presidential election (when Mondale openly advocated raising taxes, among other positions) and (b) in the 1988 presidential election (when Dukakis proclaimed "competence, not ideology" was at issue), the Democrats have had to choose between (c) and (d). While Bill Clinton had sporadic success with (c) (notably on crime and trade issues), the party's presidential and Senate candidates, at least - Clinton included - have increasingly leaned towards (d).

John Kerry is perhaps the pinnacle of this strategy, a man who got burned by the liberal label in his unsuccessful 1972 House race, and has spent the rest of his career dodging the label. He does so in two ways. One is to salt his record with votes that he can use to defend himself against charges of liberalism - which would be a convincing strategy if he actually took consistent positions on those issues, rather than a vote here or there, usually accompanied by his other tactic, weaselly disclaimers that leave you guessing as to where he actually stands. I dealt with this issue here and here. As I've noted, the Republicans have a time-tested counterattack when a Democrat does things like this to avoid taking clear and identifiable positions: call him a flip-flopper.

With each of the last three Democratic presidential candidates there has been endless speculation as to what they believe on a whole battery of issues, and while Clinton was able to eke out victories with this tactic, politicians without his unusual talents have had a much rougher go.

Now, let me make one thing clear: all politicians fudge, straddle, and flip-flop from time to time to create confusion in the public mind as to where they stand on issues. This is a useful tactic for a candidate who does not want to offend potential supporters on a particular issue, and I'm not suggesting that Democrats should avoid it altogether. But here we come to the Democrats' weakness: mistaking a useful tactic for a strategy. You can obfuscate some of your positions so as to emphasize others, and you can obfuscate on small issues so as to emphasize big ones. But once voters start to catch on to the idea that you are playing hide-the-ball on multiple major major issues, you are toast. The place of the Iraq War in the War on Terror was the most central issue at stake in this year's campaign, and nobody but maybe John Kerry himself believed that he had a single, clear and coherent position on the issue. That may have been, under the circumstances, a necessary compromise to keep his base from splitting in half, but it was death in Kerry's efforts to broaden his appeal beyond Bush-haters to people who wanted a leader they could depend on to know where he stands. And the problem hasn't been limited to presidential candidates either, as red-state Senate Democrats like Tom Daschle and Mary Landrieu have struggled to balance their moderate images at home with their fealty to liberal causes in Washington.

If the Dems are going to try to become a majority party, they need candidates who will get out there and lead on issues rather than fudging and trying to be all things to all people. It will require courage, discipline, avoidance of panic at temporary setbacks and the willingness to suffer bad press and risk losing some elections. Of course, this presupposes that their positions are actually capable of attracting popular support. But if the Democratic party has lost faith that its ideas can attract popular support, then this entire conversation is pointless. Isn't it worth a try?

2. Biography is not a substitute for policy:

This is a second and related example of the Democrats taking a tried-and-true campaign tactic and trying to pass it off as a strategy, and another one in which Kerry represents a nadir. Again, all candidates use their biography when possible to shore up both the strong and weak points in their images. But what we've seen increasingly from Democrats is efforts to use biography as a shield to cover the candidate's policy positions. Get asked about gun control? Don't talk about the issue - go hunting! Get asked about war? Talk about your service record!

Leave aside for now the debate over whether the tendency to do this is just a feature of recent Democratic candidates and consultants or whether it's driven by the party's devotion to identity politics. As a practical matter, there are two problems with this approach. First, voters aren't stupid; a dove with medals is still a dove, and a hunter who favors gun control is still in favor of gun control. Second, nobody has enough biography to cover every issue, and the need to have something personal to say on issue after issue is one of the roots of the exaggerations and resume-padding that got Gore and Kerry into so much trouble. Look at Bush and Cheney for a comparison: Bush's bio story is well-known, but he rarely tries to connect it to a particular policy debate, and Cheney only reluctantly talks about himself at all despite having a genuinely impressive up-by-the-bootstraps story.

3. Forget Vietnam:

This goes with the issue above - voters just keep on rejecting combat veterans who aren't right on policy. And I won't rehash the whole Kerry Vietnam story here. But it goes deeper: the constant references to Afghanistan and then Iraq as "quagmires," Ted Kennedy calling Iraq "George Bush's Vietnam" - don't Democratic politicians and their allies in the media realize how sick Americans are of hearing about Vietnam, and how dated their worldview sounds? If there's one rhetorical crutch the Dems need to drop, it's Vietnam.

4. Voters want to be spoken to as adults:

This one is mostly a matter of speaking style, although it's also an issue of substance: too many Democratic politicians (prime offenders include Gore, Gephardt and Hillary Clinton) talk to audiences like they are five years old. With the exception of Lamar Alexander I can't think of a Republican who does this. Again, Cheney is a good model to imitate on this point (not that anyone has to go to his extreme) - you can tell when he gives a speech that he's talking to you exactly as he would speak to a room full of senior advisers. That's respect, and even if voters don't put it into words, we appreciate it.

5. Don't believe what you read in the papers:

The Kerry campaign spent much of the year reacting to newspaper headlines and stories on broadcast networks. On a few occasions, they got burned by believing that anything reported there would be backed up by evidence and widely digested and believed. In fact, a lot of the rage on the Left at the notion of ignorant voters is an inability to comprehend that some people out there don't watch 60 Minutes and don't believe everything they read in the NY Times. Much as Democrats may wish to deny the idea of liberal media bias, eventually they have to accept that they can't just sit back and expect that the media will do their jobs for them and still produce a credible product.

6. Explain programs in terms of incentives:

Government programs are complicated; that's just the way they are. When Democrats propose changes to programs or new programs, they often wind up choosing one of three ways to talk about them: either they oversimplify and just tell us what they intend the program to accomplish without explaining how it will work, or they talk up how much more money they will spend, or they start reeling off complex, wonkish details that put everyone to sleep.

In fact, one reason that I suspect that domestic policy was the dog that didn't bark in this campaign was that John Kerry was never able to explain any of his policy proposals in a way that allowed people to understand them and compare them to President Bush's.

Democrats should look at how Bush explains his proposals and take a lesson. With programs like private Social Security accounts and Health Savings Accounts, what Bush focuses on is how the incentives in the program work in favor of the citizen. People instinctively understand, for example, that a shift to private ownership of funds will give them more control. Of course, one might argue that plans to, for example, impose direct or indirect price controls on medical drugs can not be explained in terms of incentives without revealing their fundamental flaws.

7. People don't like being called bigots:

The same-sex marriage flap is only the most recent manifestation of the tendency of pundits, bloggers, entertainers and the like on the Left - and to some extent politicians as well, notably John Kerry in his speech against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 - to refer to their opponents as driven solely by "bigotry and ignorance." This position is especially sharp with regard to same-sex marriage, since the pro-same-sex-marriage argument depends on the idea that there is no rational basis grounded in anything but irrational bigotry for anyone to want to treat traditional opposite-sex marriage any differently from same-sex unions. The problem, of course, is that - even leaving aside the rights and wrongs of the debate for the moment - people tend to get defensive when their lifelong beliefs, especially their deeply-held religious beliefs, are branded as irrational superstition and bigotry. It's not a strategy for winning hearts, minds, or votes, as the overwhelming rejection of same-sex marriage at the polls even in liberal Oregon showed.

8. Bloggers and pundits matter too:

On some of these points, notably the last one, I'm thinking as much about liberal bloggers, newspaper columnists, TV and radio personalities, and the like as I am about Democratic politicians. But one thing conservatives and Republicans have learned, sometimes to our grief, is that people look at the Right as a single entity, and tend to have trouble remembering what arguments they heard from President Bush and which ones they heard from Rush Limbaugh or Pat Robertson.

Put another way: for a lot of people, their most regular exposure to liberal ideas comes from the New York Times editorial page, or from Atrios, or from The Daily Show, or from CBS News. If those organs constantly blare the same theme - Bush is a liar and a draft dodger! - people will identify it with the voice of the Left. That doesn't mean people should feel totally inhibited, especially on blogs, but if commentators on the Left think that the recent spate of "Jesusland" bashing, especially from the Times columnists, has no impact on the public's view of Democrats, they are sadly mistaken. And, bloggers: remember, you may not have a huge audience, but your readers include people in Democratic Party circles, both in Washington and at the grass roots, as well as people in the media. You do have an influence on the debate, and don't think that you can push anger and bile all day and pound the table for agendas that are not likely to fly with voters, and then wonder why the candidates you support can't convincingly portray themselves as level-headed moderates, or why your party has a bad reputation on religious issues when you sneer constantly at people of faith. You want to shape opinion? You got it. Use it wisely.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:53 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)
November 11, 2004
POLITICS: Not a Bad W-L Record

In contrast to Kos, who as I and others have noted backed 15 Congressional candidates and they all lost, the Club for Growth had a pretty decent 19-14 record in Senate and House general election races this year, a record that looks better when you look at some of the longshots they backed (not that Kos didn't back a few longshots, but you'd think in 15 races he'd get one right).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:09 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
LAW/POLITICS: McConnell for Chief Justice

The more I think about it, the more I have to agree with Stuart Buck that, if Chief Justice Rehnquist is the first Supreme Court Justice to step down, Michael McConnell would be the best choice to replace him. As Buck pointed out in an email, this People for the American Way brief against McConnell actually summarizes pretty well why pro-life conservatives should want him on the bench. McConnell is one of the most distinguished scholars in the federal judiciary, having for many years been a leading scholar and court advocate on Establishment Clause issues. He is well-regarded as well in academia as a man of even and judicious temperment, which is one reason why his nomination for the bench in 2001 attracted the broad support of even liberal academics like Laurence Tribe and Cass Sunstein. This is one reason why Senate Democrats, having seen how badly the filibuster issue hurt them in many elections in 2002 (as it did again this year), moved swiftly to drop the filibuster against McConnell, and he was approved by the Senate by voice vote on November 15, 2002. That issue will loom again for 2006, as five Democratic Senators face re-election in states Bush carried in 2004 (although two of those, Robert Byrd and Jeff Bingaman, are likely to be immune to public pressure). Surely, recognizing that a filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee will be an unusually divisive and unpopular move - it's only been done once, in the case of Abe Fortas' elevation to Chief Justice, and then only on allegations of improprieties that eventually forced Fortas' resignation from the bench - the Dems may quietly be looking for an excuse not to filibuster the replacement for the conservative Rehnquist but instead save their fire for nominations to replace the moderate Sandra Day O'Connor or liberals John Paul Stevens or Ruth Bader Ginsburg, especially if the nomination comes up right on the heels of the election. McConnell would give them a good reason not to fight, and present major obstacles to having one.

Others who agree that McConnell would be a good choice:

*Michael Rappaport

*Eugene Volokh

*Stephen Bainbridge

*John Hinderaker (although the Deacon has his own suggestions)

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:32 AM | Law 2002-04 • | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
November 7, 2004
POLITICS: Where Bush's Swing Voters Came From

In this post, I examined the national popular vote and concluded that, comparing of the increased number of Bush voters from 2000 (about 8.66 million) and the increased number of Kerry voters as compared to Gore voters in 2000 (about 4.56 million), one of two things had happened - either:

1. Bush had won the votes of 65.5% of "new voters," defined as people who - regardless of whether they had voted in past elections - didn't vote for either Bush or Gore in 2000; or

2. Bush had won less than 65.5% of such voters but had stolen away so many Gore voters (even over and above Nader voters who switched to Kerry) that he could approximate the same effect.

As more poll data comes in, I'm more convinced now by some of the commenters to the prior post who argued that it was more the latter than the former, and that the Gore voter switch is particularly pronounced when you consider the likelihood that most of Nader's voters from 2000 went over to Kerry. (I heard someone on TV claim that exit polls showed Bush won 10% of Gore voters). This is a conclusion that should cause ABC's The Note great embarrassment for its now-famous declaration, back on August 11, that "we still can't find a single American who voted for Al Gore in 2000 who is planning to vote for George Bush in 2004."

I calculated the 65.5% "marginal votes" figure by applying the following formula to the national popular vote:

((Bush 2004 votes) - (Bush 2000 votes))/(((Kerry 2004 votes) - (Gore 2000 votes)) + ((Bush 2004 votes) - (Bush 2000 votes)))

As noted, Bush won an additional 8.66 million Republican votes, whereas Kerry won something on the order of 4.56 million additional Democratic votes. I computed these figures by ignoring third-party candidates, figuring that people Kerry won over who had voted Nader last time are, in many ways, equivalent to bringing new people into the process, and by comparing the official FEC tabulations from 2000 and the latest running tallies so far. I would caution that the 2004 figures are still moving targets; returns are coming in daily. The 65.5% figure, for example, is down to 64.5% as of Friday, and may go up or down as more absentee and provisional ballots are tabulated in various states.

Anyway, I thought I'd take a state-by-state look to see where it was, precisely, that all of those 8.66 million new Bush voters came from. The numbers that follow were computed Friday, November 5, following the call of Iowa, the last contested state, for President Bush. It's a particularly interesting question for me, as a New York City Republican listening to my fellow New Yorkers rage at what they saw as the provincialism of the red-staters who gave Bush his victory (See here and here for examples): where was it that all these extra Bush votes came from? What state led the charge to Bush?

New York

That's right, New York. The single largest percentage of marginal voters swinging to Bush came among the benighted, provincial, knuckle-draggin', Bible-thumpin', troglodytes of the Empire State itself. New York was one of only three states in the Union (along with Rhode Island and Alabama) to see an increase in Bush votes and a decrease in Kerry votes as compared to Gore, and the only one in which the decrease was significant. Bush gained nearly 400,000 additional votes in New York while Kerry lost more than 120,000 - a swing of nearly half a million votes. That swing, by the way, all but eliminated Gore's 540,000 advantage in the national popular vote all by itself. Before New Yorkers fume at Bush voters in the South and the Great Plains states they should look around at their neighbors and ask themselves how many of them have been strangely quiet about this election.

It wasn't just New York, of course; the fourth-largest marginal swing was New Jersey, and Bush won over 80% of the marginal votes in Connecticut. Can you say, "September 11"? And, come to think of it - when you combine those states with the nearly 1 million new Bush votes in Florida - there may have been another factor at work in 2000, much noted in the media at the time and much ignored in the media this time: Joe-mentum. Without the presence of the first Jew on a national ticket, Kerry may not have had the same oomph in states with a large Jewish population ("Where have you gone, Joe Lieberman, your party turns its lonely eyes to you . . . ") Of course, these are basically Democratic states, so Bush still didn't win them. But he won over a lot of people here in the past four years, and that showed in the final tallies.

I list the states in order of the percentage of the marginal vote won by Bush:

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November 6, 2004
POLITICS: The Insincerest Form Of Criticism

Instapundit links to a post-election item from one of the Daily Kos contributors containing this charming bit:

Marching order #1, therefore, is this: No matter whom you talk to outside our circles, begin to perpetuate the (false, exaggerated) notion that George Bush's victory was built not merely on values issues, but gay marriage specifically. If you feel a need to broaden it slightly, try depicting the GOP as a majority party synonymous with gay-haters, warmongers and country-clubbers. Because I, for one, am tired of hearing whiny complaints from conservatives that, not only do I not have values, but that I fail to properly respect the values of people who are all too happy to buy into, no less perpetuate, inaccurate caricatures of the 54+ million Americans who voted Tuesday for John Kerry.

Criticizing the GOP ain't gonna build us a new national majority. But the process is brick by brick, or perhaps, brickbat by brickbat. We didn't decide the rules of engagement, but that's what they are and so we may as well start firing away.

I have heard this attitude many times, and it always seems to come from the Left. Not from everyone, mind you, but the people it does come from . . . let's back up a bit here: we all know that many people on the Right and on the Left regard some or all of the other side as liars, cheaters, etc. in their conduct of elections and political debate. Leaving aside for the sake of argument who's right about this and in what ways, it can be very frustrating to fight against people you regard as fighting dirty and cheating.

I've read or been party to plenty of bitter wallows after election defeats, from widespread debacles in 1989, 1990, 1992, 1996 and 1998 to more localized issues like Hillary Clinton's senate win in 2000. I've seen plenty of examples of conservatives looking for ways to stop lies, election fraud and other sorts of wrongdoing by Democrats. I've seen conservatives willing to hoist Democrats by their own petards, most notably with the Independent Counsel statute and with he-said-she-said sexual harrassment claims (Paula Jones as revenge for Anita Hill). And yes, I've seen conservatives argue points that were just not true.

But I have never seen anybody on the Right argue that we ought to knowingly spread untruths or create false impressions to win political arguments. What's disturbing about a lot of the reactions from people in the Left's fever swamps and sometimes even in more mainstream venues is the notion that Democrats ought to imitate precisely those facets of Republican tactics that they profess to find offensive. What's particularly damaging is the desire to imitate the GOP without really understanding why Republicans do the things we do and why they are effective, which is how you get what amounts to cargo-cult operations like Media Matters, which purports to be a complement to conservative outlets that decry media bias but instead spends most of its time just taking potshots at conservative pundits.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:49 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS/WAR/LAW: 11/6/04 Links

*Now, They Tell Us: the lead story on the NY Times website yesterday was one that veterans of the 1992 election will find familiar: the discovery, all of a sudden, that the jobs picture is better than it was painted in the run-up to the election. I'm watching carefully for signs of economic revisionism where Democrats and Bush Administration critics who just a few days ago were comparing this economy to the Great Depression start arguing that Bush was hard to beat because economic times are good.

*Kos just topped the "screw 'em" classic, by openly hoping for America's defeat in Iraq:

The big silver lining, and it's significant, is that Kerry won't be tarred for cleaning up Bush's mess. Had Kerry gotten us out of Iraq, he would've been blamed for "losing the war". Now Bush will ineptly lose it for himself.

Kos is taken firmly to task for this by Greg Djejerian:

[S]uch flippant treatment of a major national security issue is also very small; and the American people have smelled this smallness out. That's part of the reason a somewhat embattled American president, with a less than ideal economy and with a tough war on his hands, was handily re-elected (I believe not since FDR has a President been re-elected while simultaneously gaining seats for his party in both Houses of Congress). Americans like to dream of big projects and goals--and the Democratic party is failing them in this--content instead to lazily carp from the sidelines. Worse, some of that party's activists, it too often appears, would wish for some important, declared national objectives to be scuttled. Trust me, that wasn't a winning strategy in the past, it isn't one right now, and it won't be one in the future.

Kos is undoubtedly particularly peeved at the failure of his personal ambition to become a power player in the Democratic party, as all 15 of the House and Senate candidates he backed lost. The list, here, is particularly funny now due to the misspellings and egregious cheap shots, like claiming Jim Bunning's mental health was deteriorating. (Link via Blogs for Bush)

*Speaking of Blogs for Bush, the site will continue in a new format, although it's unclear to me how its function will differ from that of RedState.

*Catch Mark Steyn in something close to full gloat mode here and here. I liked this one:

Michael Mooronification damages everyone who gets it.

Look at the recently resurrected Osama bin Laden. Three years ago he was Mr Jihad, demanding the restoration of the caliphate, the return of Andalucia, the conversion of every infidel to Islam, the imposition of sharia and an end to fornication, homosexuality and alcoholic beverages. In his latest video he sounds like some elderly Berkeley sociology student making lame jokes about Halliburton and Bush reading My Pet Goat.

*Speaking of gloating, while I might divide the group differently, I endorse the general sentiment of John Derbyshire as to the people who deserve to be gloated at and those who don't.

*From November 2: Best Jimmy Breslin column ever.

*Lileks on New Yorkers who are aghast at the supposed ignorance of the red states that voted for Bush:

It's a big country. Please take this in the spirit it's offered: we watch the news that comes from New York, read the magazines that come from New York, see the shows that come from New York. It's entirely possible we know you better than you know us. Nu?

*Tim Blair links to some classic inside stuff from the Bush and Kerry camps. The guy who comes off in this as the real political brains isn't Karl Rove but Bush himself - note that Bush figured out before Rove did that Howard Dean was toast in the primaries. Of course, this is consistent with the theory that Bush's expertise is knowing people, and he knew Dean personally.

*Stuart Buck thinks - and I agree with him - that Justices Rehnquist and O'Connor would have retired before the election if it were not for the legitimacy questions that people raised after Bush v. Gore.

*Where credit is due: Wretchard notes that "[t]he French may have performed a valuable service by admitting Arafat to a military hospital in Europe which will reduce the risk of imputing his death to Jewish poisoning, a rumor that has already made the rounds in the Middle East."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:35 AM | Law 2002-04 • | Politics 2004 • | War 2004 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
November 5, 2004
POLITICS: Unsolicited Advice to Democrats

Looking at Slate yesterday, it was unsurprising to see a characteristically Democratic why do they hate us debate ongoing among its liberal writers. Two things struck me about this. On one hand, things arent quite as bad for the Democrats as a lot of us are assuming. A few more votes in a few of the swing states and we might be talking right now about whats wrong with the Republican Party. However, on the other hand, this election did turn out to be, in the end, a profound disaster for the Democrats and, as someone who definitely leans Republican, even I am a little bit concerned about the degree to which one party currently has control of our government. So what should the Democrats do? At risk of being greeted with hostility, here is some unsolicited, yet sincere, advice for the minority party for the years leading up to 2008:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:23 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)
November 4, 2004
POLITICS: Marginal Votes For Bush

Here's something I think is really, really interesting, as long as you understand that the methodology isn't so much science as a rough way of measuring the impact of something that might be more accurately measured if you had accurate exit polls. Turnout was up across the country, such that Bush got more votes everywhere than he did in 2000, and Kerry got more votes everywhere than Gore did in 2000 (except California in each case, as far as I can tell, although there may be a bunch of absentee ballots yet to count).

The conventional wisdom was that increased turnout would help Democrats. If this were true, one would expect that, at least in contested states, the marginal voters would break for Kerry - i.e., that when you subtract out the 2000 returns from each side, what's left should lean Kerry. This would be true unless Bush moved so many Gore voters to his column (above and beyond the number of 2000 Bush voters who abandoned him) to negate the benefits of new Kerry-leaning voters. (My own suspicion is that, in general, the people who voted last time and switched sides were close to a wash, although they likely broke for Bush in some places like NJ where he lost decisively last time but closed the gap significantly).

But if you run the calculations of marginal votes, what you get is Bush majorities in the marginal numbers in a lot of places. In some states by big margins - in Connecticut, for example, Bush wins about 88% of the marginal vote. Ohio was an exception, but Bush takes 48% there, enough to hold a state he won by a few points last time. Of course, in New Hampshire, which he lost, he drops to 43%.

I'll run a state-by-state table of these later on when we're closer to having final tallies (including absentees) to provide a good comparison. But let's at least run the table on the national popular vote. Here's the equation I used:

((Bush 2004 votes) - (Bush 2000 votes))/(((Kerry 2004 votes) - (Gore 2000 votes)) + ((Bush 2004 votes) - (Bush 2000 votes)))

For these purposes, I ignored third-party candidates, since people Kerry won over who had voted Nader last time are, in many ways, equivalent to bringing new people into the process. Looking at the official FEC tabulations from 2000 and the latest tallies so far, I get the following:

Bush 2000Bush 2004Bush +Gore 2000Kerry 2004Kerry +Bush Share of Increase

When you put the numbers in that context, you see that Bush was actually hugely more successful at the margins in his combination of bringing new voters to the polls and convincing more people to switch to him than away from him. Remember that next time you hear that high turnout always and everywhere favors the Democrats.

POLITICS: Paint The Map Red

Will Collier has the county-by-county map.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:20 AM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Believe The Polls

By now you've heard a lot about how the partial exit polls that leaked out during the day on Election Day across the internet were skewed to an almost absurd pro-Kerry extent, and you've seen how pro-Democrat pollster John Zogby's final results were the same way just before the election (he projected more than 300 electoral votes for Kerry).

But the state-by-state polls actually weren't all that far off if you knew how to read them. Personally, I was relying on two reliable sources down the stretch: Daly Thoughts and RealClearPolitics, both of which came out with the same Election Day prediction of 296 electoral votes for Bush. Assuming that nothing overturns Bush's lead in Iowa, which looks like the last state not definitively called, Dales and RCP will have each gotten 49 of 50 states right, missing only Wisconsin, which Kerry held on to by the narrowest of margins.

In fact, RCP's national poll average showed a fairly steady lead for Bush throughout the fall, so anyone who put their faith in the RCP guys knew what was likely to happen. Media reports to the contrary were mostly based on cherry-picking pro-Kerry polls and/or on the assumption that new voter turnout would moot all the old polling models. Dales in particular should be explaining over the next few weeks why that was a bad idea (Kaus got in the best cheap shot yet: "Bush 51, Kerry 48: Pollster Ruy Teixeira demands that these raw numbers be weighted to reflect party I.D.!")

Mark Steyn often argues that liberal media bias is a Republican's best friend, as Election Day is the only time that Democrats are forced out of the self-serving illusions given them by the media and compelled to face reality. On this one, he seems to have been right; the evidence was there in the polls, but people who were reading Zogby and the various media outlets that trumpeted a late Kerry surge missed it. Glad I was reading guys who could tell me the score.

POLITICS: The Message

We'll see more from exit polls and the like, although one of the ironies of this election is that the exit polls were so wrong about the result, yet they will still be used to break out who voted for who and why. Makes you wonder.

Anyway, here's my best guess on the message of this election as it pertains to the issues (more later on the candidates and the campaigns):

1. The War on Terror: Polls regularly showed that people are split on the war in Iraq, with many Americans having misgivings on the reasons for going there and our progress in winning the war. Ultimately, nothing succeeds like success; I'm confident that in time, we'll have enough tangible progress to get more public acceptance.

But Democratic hopes that unease about the war would sink Bush turned out to be largely unfounded. Even if people weren't so sure they supported the Iraq war, it was clear throughout the campaign that they trusted Bush and his team to carry the broader war through to victory, or at least as far as they could get in four more years. To some people, that may sound irrational: if you don't trust Bush on Iraq, why trust him at all? But most people, I think, understand that the president knows more than they do about any particular foreign controversy; they are perfectly capable of doubting the Iraq war based on what they know, and yet resting comfortably with the more general sense that Bush has proven himself to be a guy who's not going to take potential threats sitting down.

One of the criticisms that has sometimes been made by Democrats is that Bush politicized the war. If they mean simply that Bush sought political profit from his leadership in wartime and his handling of the time of crisis after September 11, well, that's politics; do these people not remember Oklahoma City, or the 1944 election for that matter? But that's not it; what really rankles is not that Bush scored political points off of having handled some uncontroversial things well. What rankles is that Bush found electoral advantages in 2002 and 2004 from the Democrats' own differences of opinion with his policies. As if it was noble of Democrats to attack the president's policies at all turns in the harshest of possible terms and seek to undermine them in Congress, and yet somehow improper for the president to point out these differences to the American people and ask them to decide which side of these various controversies they trusted.

This is the great dilemma for Democrats. Democrats have a set of beliefs about domestic politics (more later on this), and many of them feel cheated in some sense that foreign policy swamped those issues in the campaign. But at the same time, a large segment of Democrats remain harshly critical of the president's foreign policies. A Tony Blair/Joe Lieberman-type Democrat who doesn't put daylight between himself and Republicans on foreign policy and national security issues would make it nearly impossible to politicize those issues and remove deep divisions in our politics. If Democrats are going to bemoan the prominence of national security in our politics, they need to decide: are they willing to go along with Republican policies and attitudes that are popular, at least in broad outline, with the public? If they are, the security issue can be neutralized. If not, then they will have to accept the natural consequences of their own ideas.

2. The Economy: Some Republicans will argue that the president's economic policies have been blessed by the electorate. I'm not sure I'd go that far. Polls seemed to indicate, again, a generally divided view, with Kerry sometimes having advantages on the economy. But it is clear that voters found Bush's economic management at least sufficiently unobjectionable that bread-and-butter issues didn't overwhelm the rest of his message, even in hard-hit places like Ohio and Michigan (Bush did better in Michigan than in 2004). And, of course, there's no question that Bush's fealty to his tax cut pledges helped him hold his base, and that - as in 2004 - a number of House and Senate races went Republican after being fought on economic issues.

3. Social Issues and the Courts: Here, I believe there is a mandate, if one that Republicans need to interpret carefully. Republicans up and down the ticket did exceptionally well with rural and other socially conservative voters, and Karl Rove's prediction that he could bring out millions of evangelical Christian voters who didn't vote in 2000 proved prophetic. Polls regularly showed that voters preferred Bush over Kerry in picking judges, and it's now already conventional wisdom that the same-sex marriage issue played disastrously for Democrats in the heartland. With the Senate now up to 55 Republicans, Bush will be amply justified in appointing conservative judges and in pushing to get through the appellate judges who are already stalled. If Bush is really devious, he could respond to the next Supreme Court vacancy by appointing Miguel Estrada and daring Democrats to complain about his lack of judicial experience after they spent years keeping him off the bench.

But the posture of the same-sex marriage issue should also serve as a reminder: America is a progressive country and a conservative country, and politicians forget one of the two parts of that formula at their peril. Progressive, in the sense that there is a broad, general acceptance of social change. People may fight about particular changes in our society and grumble and groan about the decay of everything, but at a fundamental level, the public is willing to accept that attitudes about race, gender roles, sexual behavior and the like do change over time, and the society changes accordingly. Certainly, efforts to use government to forcibly hold back such changes in attitude almost always result in political setbacks. Bill Bennett had this to say yesterday:

President Bush now has a mandate to affect policy that will promote a more decent society, through both politics and law. His supporters want that, and have given him a mandate in their popular and electoral votes to see to it. Now is the time to begin our long, national cultural renewal . . .

With all due respect to Bennett - much as I'm sure he and I agree on many values issues - that's not going to work. But if it's important to recognize the progressive nature of social change, it's at least equally important to recognize the conservative impulse as well: people who may be willing to be persuaded to change their minds about things - or who may give way in time to people with different opinions - may not be so enthused about court decisions that take away from the people the development of that process and tie it up in a constitutional straitjacket. In some cases, that straitjacket can actually reverse the direction of the progressive impulse (as any social change can be reversed over time if attitudes change); pro-lifers are optimistic that, if anything, the absolutism of pro-abortion groups like NARAL and their allies in the courts have succeeded in provoking a general trend towards more rather than less disapproval of abortion. If such a trend grows visibly over time, eventually there will not be popular support for candidates like Kerry who swear to appoint judges with a pro-Roe v. Wade litmus test. This election could wind up being seen in retrospect as such a turning point, as Bush (like Reagan) got a larger share of the popular vote than avowedly pro-abortion candidates like Kerry, Gore, Clinton, Dukakis and Mondale ever did.

People like Kevin Drum keep telling us that times are a-changing and eventually, issues that favor conservatives will go away. But this dichotomy will never go away, no matter what the particular issue. Liberals are forever trying to use the courts to short-cut or entirely avoid the process of persuading people on social issues, and that will continue to be a self-defeating tendency no matter what the specific issue at hand. As long as conservatives focus their energies on appointing judges who will leave most such issues in the hands of the people and don't try to make major social changes of their own before their time, social issues will remain a bulwark of conservatism.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:42 AM | Politics 2004 • | Poll and Election Analysis | TrackBack (0)
November 3, 2004
POLITICS: Kerry Concedes

It is being reported that Senator Kerry has conceded to President Bush and that both men agreed on the need to reunite the country.

Kerry reportedly will be speaking at 1 PM in Boston. Bush will probably speak later today.

UPDATE: It is very interesting, and quite heartening, to hear how much respect Bush and Kerry apparently have for one another. I got the sense in 2000 that Bush and Gore really could not stand one another, something subsequent events have only seemed to reinforce.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Jim Geraghty has a classy salute to Tom Daschle that I completely endorse.

FINAL UPDATE: My take on todays speeches: I thought Edwards was trying to rally Democratic spirits, but came off all wrong, a little too partisan for the occasion. Kerry was very good, striking just the right tone and doing his best to heal the bitterness of a too-long campaign. Like Gore at the very end in 2000, I'm not a fan of the guy, but it was hard not to feel for him and his supporters (well, most of them). Cheney was Cheney, with a deadpan crack about having delivered Wyoming for the ticket. Bush seemed very gracious and relieved. The President proceeded to give a very nice speech about looking forward, serving all Americans and about what he hopes to accomplish. In all, a peaceful and honorable democratic transition all around.

If youre depressed, Daniel Drezner has some encouraging words for moderates who voted for Kerry.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:29 AM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: 2004: The Morning After

I stayed up until Edwards spoke at 2:30 (after being announced as "the next vice president of the United States"), so I'm just too spent this morning to do the full what-it-all-means post, or even to fully absorb the meaning of Kerry's refusal so far to concede. My gut tells me that Kerry's refusal to call it last night was only fair, given the traumatic 2000 experience for his party and given how close this one was in the Electoral College, although it's rather sad to see the tradition of Election Night concession speeches fade away. But I would hope he buries the hatchet by the end of today; fishing for an extra 500 votes when you have a popular vote plurality at your back is one thing, but going to war for 146,000 votes is quite another, and with Bush having won a decisive majority of the national popular vote, I suspect the public would run out of patience for a fight that lasts more than another day or so. The Democrats never got closure on the last election because the leader of their party never looked them in the eye and said, "we lost fair and square, it's over" the way the loser of every election had before. Kerry surely must be able to appreciate, particularly with the passions that election and the war have stirred up, why it will be crucially important to the peace of the nation going forward to do that soon.

My feeling this morning is mostly one of overwhelming relief. We got through the election without a terrorist attack, meaning the last thing Al Qaeda might have been holding back something for has passed. Not that they are done, but there was no other reason to wait other than lack of capacity to strike. And the election went well. The Commander-in-Chief will stay at the helm, and we will have the opportunity to carry his strategy through for another four years. The Senate will be more Republican, as we steel for a likely Supreme Court battle and maybe several.

For historical perspective, not only has Bush won a majority of the popular vote for the first time since 1988, but his 51% of the vote is larger than any Democrat has won, other than FDR (who did it four times) and LBJ in 1964, since the Republican party ran its first national election in 1856 (Jimmy Carter in 1976 is the only other Democrat to muster a majority in that period, and then it was 50% in the wake of Watergate). The Republican party remains a majority party at the national level, having won popular majorities now 7 times to the Democrats' two since 1945. It is, of course, particularly satisfying, on an emotional level, to see Bush win a larger share of the vote than Clinton ever did.

On the coverage last night, I was flipping channels continuously. CBS was actually the fastest network to call states early, but only FOX and NBC called Ohio for Bush, and at last check nobody was willing to say 270; it's safe to say that some of the networks just couldn't quite bring themselves to call a winner until the other side had conceded defeat. I do think FOX had the best coverage, for two reasons. First, FOX had the best ticker, packing in useful information on popular vote totals along with the percentages and share reporting for all the major races. Some of the others left out the raw numbers. Second, FOX had the incomparable Michael Barone, whose encyclopedic understanding of every battleground state down to the precinct level gave FOX viewers a decisive informational advantage in digesting the returns from hotly contested states like Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida.

Furthest-out line of the night, besides some of Dan Rather's Ratherisms, had to be Joe Scarborough discussing why statewide and nationwide elected officials like hurricanes in Florida.

Anyway, I'm tired and I need to get back to work. I'll be back on my usual early-morning blogging schedule wrapping up the election the next two days, and then I'll be resuming baseball coverage next week. I'll also be taking down some of the election-related bells and whistles on the site over the next several days.

November 2, 2004
POLITICS: It Stays Early Late Around Here

I'm done blogging for the night, having done little enough anyway. I may even try to go to bed if it looks like this will drag on all night.

Still no blue states red and no red states blue. And the networks are quivering in fear of calling Florida, which looks very solid for Bush. The bad news is that it looks at the moment like Bush may need to hold Ohio because he's not gaining ground in any blue state, plus Nevada is tight and NH a slight Kerry lead, eroding further Bush's margin for error.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:42 PM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: It's A Trap!

An amusing but almost certainly daft Rove-is-a-genius theory.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:31 PM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Holding Pattern

Very little blood drawn yet, in the sense of either side losing anything they'd had much realistic hope of winning. The calls so far that are at all interesting:

R: Win WV, Win Senate races for Tom Coburn, Jim DeMint, Mitch Daniels wins IN gov, defeat Amendment 36 in CO.

D: Win NJ.

Like I said, not a lott of blood drawn as of 9:53 pm. And Isakson and Obama won.

UPDATE (10:17 pm): NBC calling Arkansas for Bush. Another mild heartburn extinguished.

But everything I'm hearing seems to augur well for Bush in Florida, and Florida is the key state. (This sounds particularly good for Bush in FL).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:51 PM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Kerry Cavalry Not Coming?

At almost 8pm, everyone on both sides is dying of anxiety right now. But this one sounds good for Bush:

AP also found that 18-24 year olds broke for Kerry by +15 ... but didn't turn out in any greater numbers this year than in 2000. So much for Rock the Vote.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:59 PM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Sites I'm Watching

Command Post 2004 page

NRO Kerry Spot

NRO Battlegrounders


Jay Cost


And checking in on a few others, but those are the ones to watch.

Will I be in the right-wing coccoon to some extent? Well, Election Day is one day you want the news - even and especially the bad news - from your friends. Besides, there's always the TV.

UPDATE: I'd pass along some of the cautions you'll see elsewhere: I'm trying not to get too excited about anecdotal reports about turnout, fragmentary exit polls, and the like. And that particularly includes voter fraud and similar shenanigans - while my two biggest concerns about this election have been litigation and fraud, I'm hoping as much as possible to keep from thinking about them. Remember that initial reports of any kind of fraud or irregularities coming out on Election Day are likely to be wrong, much the way that initial reports from a war zone (or anywhere else where there's a lot of people, a lot of fast-moving activity and news reports rely on eyewitnesses and hearsay) tend to get a lot of the details wrong. There should hopefully be enough diligent people on hand to record the facts almost anywhere things get dicey.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:29 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

I voted absentee and took the day off because I had planned on volunteering for the Bush campaign, but I never got a response back despite several attempts; I'm not sure if that means the campaign has enough lawyers, or what. Anyway, I'm home much of the day, although I've been running errands and dealing with work stuff anyway so far. But I'll be chasing the same fragmentary bits of information as everyone else and I'll post as I get the chance.

Two links to start off:

*Rasmussen's final tracking poll showed Bush surging to over 50% for what is, I believe, the first time all year. No time like today!

*The Brothers Judd on Kurds in Iraq keeping their fingers crossed for a Bush victory.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:20 PM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Go to Hell, Bin Laden

My vote is in.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:27 AM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Most Precious Freedom

A few weeks back, discussing Afghanistans first democratic election in its history, I trotted out a favorite quote from Churchill. In honor of todays election at home, it seems appropriate to bring it out again:

At the bottom of all the tributes paid to democracy is the little man, walking into the little booth, with a little pencil, making a little cross on a little bit of paper.

For the slightly more cynical, here is another:

Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.

I believe that America is the greatest country in the world, not because Americans are inherently any better than others, but because we were blessed with the very best constitutional foundation in the world. Today, from Afghanistan to Indonesia to Ukraine to Iraq, democracy is, with our help, increasingly on the rise and the sphere of representative governments continues to expand every year. We should be thankful to live in a country that not just practices democracy, but is willing to sacrifice to promote and defend it.

Whatever the outcome of todays election, I sincerely hope that never changes.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:34 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
November 1, 2004
POLITICS: The Optimists' Club

Latest from the most credible of the GOP optimists:

Jay Cost's final predictions.

Jim Geraghty's conversations with his highly-placed Republican insider and the insider's mentor.

I can't tell you what these are worth, but their arguments have been a principal source of my optimism. Are they spinning, or deluding themselves? We'll know soon enough.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:28 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Well, I've put my faith all year in Dales as the best of the poll-watchers. Now, it's put up or shut up time. He's currently showing states solidly behind the two candidates at 222-186 for Bush, 276-238 for Bush - game, set, match - if the candidates each take the states where they are leading only by a little, and just two states (Ohio and Hawaii) too close to call. Electoral-vote.com has Kerry 298, Bush 231, coming to different conclusions (all in Kerry's favor) on Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, Iowa, New Mexico, and Hawaii, with the sole call more in the Bush direction being New Hampshire, listed with New Mexico as the only tossups.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:28 PM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Strong Incumbents, Strong Challengers

Looking at the RealClearPolitics 3-way polling averages, 11 out of 12 have Bush with between 47 and 51% of the vote, and 8 of 12 have Kerry with between 47 and 49% of the vote. The latest Rasmussen tracking polls are consistent as well, showing Bush leading 47.9-47.1, 48.1-47.1, and 48.8-47.4 over the past three days (the most recent listed last). Which means, essentially, that we have both an incumbent and a challenger who have a fairly solid base of support entering the last two days of the campaign. I think most of us will agree that it is highly likely that Bush will poll at least 47% on Election Day, and equally highly likely that Kerry will poll at least 46% and probably at least 47% - thus, at least a decently close election remains likely, although we could still have a decisive popular-vote majority and/or an Electoral College landslide.

Recognizing the limits of historical analogies, what can we determine from this? I decided to take a look at the final election results for elections dating back to 1824, when they started keeping records of the popular vote. There have been 25 elections in that period in which an incumbent has stood for re-election; 16 have been re-elected, 9 have been voted out of office.

Strong Incumbents, Weak Incumbents
Obviously, a strong incumbent - if we define a "strong" candidate as one who finishes with at least 47% of the vote - is likely to be re-elected. How likely? All 16 who were re-elected had at least 47%, while only two incumbents who polled at least 47% were voted out, those being Ford in 1976 with 48% of the vote and Grover Cleveland in 1888, who won the popular vote with 48.6% and was voted down (if you want to quibble with my line-drawing - and I had to draw it somewhere - the one incumbent in the 46% range, Martin van Buren at 46.8% in 1840, went down to defeat). The only three presidents to be re-elected with below 50% were Harry Truman in 1948 (49.4%), Woodrow Wilson in 1916 (49.2%) and Bill Clinton in 1996 (49.2%).

What's interesting - and, in fact, what shows the limitations of historical analogies - is how few incumbents have lost races without a complete collapse in their support. Besides Ford, the other four incumbents to lose since 1900 got completely abandoned at the polls: Carter in 1980 got 41%, Hoover in 1928 got 39.6%, Bush Sr. in 1992 got 37.4%, and Taft in 1912 got 23.2% and finished third. Besides Cleveland and van Buren, the other two 19th century incumbents to lose also showed weakly, in both cases against candidates who beat them in the popular vote four years earlier: Benjamin Harrison drew just 43% in his 1892 rematch with Cleveland, and John Quincy Adams drew just 43.6% in his 1828 rematch with Andrew Jackson.

The average margin of victory for successful incumbents? 54.9 to 41.1 overall and 54.9 to 40.9 since 1900. The average margin of victory for successful challengers? 49.5 to 41.2 overall, and 48.5 to 37.8 since 1900.

Strong Challengers, Weak Challengers
The flip side is when, as this year, we have a strong challenger: six candidates have drawn at least 47% of the popular vote against an incumbent president, and all of them have won. Of those, only one drew less than 50% of the vote: Benjamin Harrison in 1888 with 47.8%.

Strong Incumbents, Strong Challengers
You can see where this is heading. In the five presidential elections in which an incumbent and a challenger were separated by 5 points or less, the incumbent won two (Truman in 1948 and Wilson in 1916); the challenger won three, Carter defeating Ford in 1976 and the two Cleveland-Harrison matches in 1888 and 1892; or, that's a two-to-one advantage since 1900. Not much you can learn there either way. For what it's worth, the average outcome was 47.6% for the incumbent and 47% for the challenger, or 48.9% for the incumbent and 47% for the challenger since 1900.

If you look at matchups of a strong challenger against a strong incumbent, there's only two historical precedents, both of them bad for the incumbent: 1888 and 1976.

Well, it should be pretty clear from all this that the history isn't all that enlightening; there's really only five campaigns out of 25, and maybe really only two, that give us any examples to study. But I do think the history is a useful caution about reading too much into the study of, for example, how late-deciding voters make their minds up. The fact is, the 1976 campaign is the only one in the last 50 years to look anything like this one, and the polling data from 1976 don't exactly support the notion that voters facing a choice between a strong incumbent and a strong challenger will swarm to the challenger at the end, as Ford's strength came from a late surge after never pulling better than 45% until the final poll of the election, when he pulled briefly ahead at 49-48 with a momentary surge that quickly subsided (link via this analysis). And Ford, you may recall, was a bit of a unique incumbent: he had never been on a national ticket before, and was running on a record of the first election after Watergate and the fall of South Vietnam.

In other words: tomorrow, history leaves us on our own. It's our job to make it.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:00 PM | Politics 2004 • | Poll and Election Analysis | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Virtues of Not Voting

Will Collier passes on a wise lecture from Jeff Greenfield on why you shouldn't vote if you really can't make up your mind.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:07 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Tom Daschle's Neighborhood

How popular is Bush in South Dakota, the state where Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle is fighting for his political life after four years of efforts to undermine and denounce Bush at every turn? Popular enough that Democratic Representative Stephanie Herseth felt the need to pledge that if the Electoral College ends in a 269-269 tie, she would vote to re-elect Bush.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:27 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Drum Declares Victory

Leave aside the fact that Kevin Drum is obviously living in a different universe from people like Steyn when it comes to the election; that, after all, will be settled at the polls in the next 36 hours. But this post, arguing that this election - win or lose - spells the death of movement conservatism, is just daft. First of all, the idea that Republicans are on the brink of agreeing that it's a good idea to raise taxes is . . . well, I can't even find a principle so central to the Democratic party to compare it to. A Republican Party that believes in higher taxes would be, in short order, a recipe for a one-party state.

It's true, as Drum has said in the past, that Republicans' failure to even try a large-scale attack on government spending shows the difficulty of a frontal assault on spending, although I think it's equally true that the war and Bush's personality have as much to do with that as anything, and I'm on record saying the GOP will be looking for a spending hawk to nominate in 2008 no matter what happens here.

It's particularly hilarious to hear Drum claim that this election is being held in "the most favorable environment imaginable for a conservative tough guy." Well, if Drum is prepared to agree that the economy is booming and the Iraq War is going seamlessly - heck, even I wouldn't go quite that far on either score, and I'm pretty optimistic on both counts - I'll believe him. Talk about reversing your own spin when it's convenient to do so.

As I've said before, if Kerry wins - even if, as I suspect is his only realistic path to victory, he wins by keeping it close enough to be decided by fraud and/or litigation - it will be seen, and rightly so, mainly as a decisive popular rejection of the Iraq War. This is doubly true if - as I also think is likely even in a Kerry-wins scenario - Kerry wins in spite of Bush getting a very impressive turnout by his base and a more-than-respectable share of non-first-time independent voters, each of which would suggest that the appeal of the Republican message as a whole remains in the general 50/50 neighborhood.

My own predictions, for what they're worth, later today.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:22 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Putting His Chips Down

Mark Steyn's latest Spectator column is vintage Steyn, albeit a bit less laugh-out-loud than usual (and I like the new Spectator layout, for what it's worth, although you can't see it in the printer-friendly format). Steyn concludes by assuring his British audience that if he's wrong they can get a new analyst of the American scene:

My sense is that the 2002 model is still operative, and that the Democrats and the media, talking to each other in their mutually self-deluding cocoon, have overplayed the Bush-bashing. Next Tuesday the President will win the states he won last time, plus Iowa, Wisconsin, New Mexico and Maines Second Congressional District to put him up to 301 electoral votes. Minnesota? Why not? Nudge him up to 311 electoral votes. Oh, and what the hell, give him Hawaii: thats 315. The Republicans will make a net gain of two seats in the Senate, one of which will bring with it the scalp of the Democrats leader, Tom Daschle. . . . Look for a handful of Republican House gains, too. And Democrats tearing their hair out or John Kerrys and John Edwardss hair, if they can penetrate the styling gel.

The above prediction needs to be able to withstand Democrat fraud, which Im nervous about. If Tuesday goes off as smoothly as the Afghan election, well be very lucky.

Usually after making wild predictions I confidently toss my job on the line and say, if they dont pan out, Im outta here. Ive done that a couple of times this campaign season over Wes Clark (remember him?) but it almost goes without saying in these circumstances. Were America to elect John Kerry president, it would be seen around the world as a repudiation not just of Bush and of Iraq but of the broader war. It would be a declaration by the people of American unexceptionalism that they are a slightly butcher Belgium; they would be signing on to the wisdom of conventional transnationalism. Having failed to read correctly the mood of my own backyard, I could hardly continue to pass myself off as a plausible interpreter of the great geopolitical forces at play. Obviously that doesnt bother a lot of chaps in this line of work Sir Simon Jenkins, Robert Mister Robert Fisk, etc., and no doubt I could breeze through the next four years doing ketchup riffs on Teresa Heinz Kerry, but I feel a period of sober reflection far from the scene would be appropriate. My faith in the persuasive powers of journalism would be shattered; maybe it would be time to try something else organising coups in Africa, like the alleged Sir Mark Thatcher is alleged to have allegedly done; maybe abseiling down the walls of the Presidential palace and garroting the guards personally.

But I dont think it will come to that. This is the 9/11 election, a choice between pushing on or retreating to the polite fictions of September 10. I bet on reality.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:05 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Final Pre-Election Kerry War Position Update

Greyhawk, who I believe is still blogging from the front in Iraq, has the details, and a memorable empty throne (via Lileks, who has some as-always-worth-reading thoughts of his own on how Kerry plans to find bin Laden).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:55 PM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Why I Voted For George W. Bush

As I mentioned, I voted absentee already, and proudly cast my ballot for George W. Bush. If you've been reading this site the past 2+ years, you already know why, and I have neither time nor space here to go through all the reasons. So, I'll just summarize the top three. For a compare and contrast, you can look back at why I voted for McCain over Bush in 2000.

1. The War on Terror: By far the overarching issue in this election is the war. Put simply, Kerry could get me killed. Having been targeted for murder once before on September 11, and given that I still work a few blocks from Times Square, that's something I take rather seriously.

I've written too much about Bush, his leadership and his strategy to recount here, but let's just say this: from the time that he grabbed that bullhorn at Ground Zero to vow that we would be heard from, Bush has gotten it. My philosophy in the war on terror is aptly summarized by the Churchill quote I use as a tagline to the site; the full quote:

Germany must be beaten; Germany must feel that she is beaten. No compromise with the main purpose, no peace till victory, no pact with unrepentant wrong.

Does Bush apply a similar philosophy to the war on terror? I believe he does, and his willingness to absorb endless abuse and wavering support from the public and from some of our allies is, in a wartime leader, a sign of the kind of constancy we desperately need. Bush knows what he wants to do, and he will not be deterred until it is done.

Which brings us to the contrast with his opponent. Can you even begin to picture Kerry insisting that the war on terror does not end until our enemies feel that they are beaten, that it ends only on our terms and at a time of our choosing, that we will not and should not believe we have peace until we have victory? I can't. Not with Kerry's history, not with how he has conducted himself in this campaign. And, of course, Kerry's long history of shifting course with the winds, too well known and extensive to be worth rehashing here, does not inspire confidence in his ability to stay single-mindedly focused on a coherent strategy in the face of obstacles, setbacks and criticism. (For more on Bush's and Kerry's differences as leaders, see here and here).

Even aside from the issue of the two candidates' fundamental differences in philosophy and temperment, there is the question of strategy, which is why this election - which frankly everyone recognizes is a referendum on that strategy - is so critical. Kerry has tried, at every opportunity, to attack Bush on tactics. But even if you agree with some of Kerry's tactical criticisms (which I discussed here), the larger issue is that Kerry rejects the overall strategy of the Bush Administration in fighting the war on terror (including the place of the Iraq war in that strategy), and has not advanced a credible alternative strategy or even convinced me that he would have one other than a return to the do-not-enough policies of the Clinton era. Consider the major strategic doctrines of this administration - each of which I wholeheartedly endorse (see Steven den Beste for more on the grand strategy; the Bush Administration thus far has stuck rather closely by the detailed vision surmised by den Beste) - and how little faith Kerry has in them:

A. The United States is pursuing a "forward strategy of freedom" by which it seeks to encourage reform and/or directly undermine or overthrow undemocratic regimes and replace them with more democratic regimes. Kerry went out of his way in the debates and at the Democratic Convention to avoid saying anything complementary about democracy promotion as a key weapon against tyranny; instead, just as in his dealings with Communist regimes in the 1970s-1980s (think: Daniel Ortega) and his statements about Arafat and Aristede in more recent years, Kerry has shown a disturbing degree of deference to existing regimes that are recognized as legitimate by the international community, no matter how little their legitimacy derives from the consent of their people and no matter how hostile they are to the United States, its allies and its interests. When he does talk about democracy, Kerry says things like this:

"We must support human rights groups, independent media, and labor unions dedicated to building a democratic culture from the grassroots up."

Labor unions???? In countries with huge pools of unemployed young men and no skilled labor? And that's how you propose to topple the region's tyrants? By getting them to join the AFL-CIO? Independent media and human rights groups do have a role to play, assuming they don't get co-opted into carping mostly about the tyrant's enemies (as so many did with Saddam), but most of the region's regimes need stronger medicine than that.

B. States that sponsor, harbor, or encourage terrorists are as culpable as the terrorists and will be treated as enemies; states with past connections to terrorists must be either with us or against us. Kerry, again, seems more concerned with making sure that we are on the sides of our allies than the other way around, and is profoundly allergic to incurring the anger of allies if it is necessary to get people to do what we want. (See here on why I think Kerry is saying he would not have gone to war with Iraq).

C. The United States reserves the right to launch a pre-emptive strike against our enemies when we believe they represent a serious and developing threat to our security, whether or not we have established that the threat is imminent. (As announced, I don't think this doctrine extends to threats to our interests, but more narrowly to direct threats to our physical security). Kerry, as I have discussed, takes a narrower view of when and how we can respond to threats.

(For more on Kerry's overall foreign policy outlook, see here, here, here, here, here, here and here).

On whether Kerry can effectively rally the nation to finish the job in Iraq no matter what the obstacles, just ask yourself: you work for a big company, and a new guy gets appointed CEO after a protracted power struggle. Do you really want to get assigned to a project that the new CEO, all the way through his climb up the ladder, has savaged as a diversion, a waste of money, and precisely the opposite of the direction the company should be going in?

I didn't think so.

Finally, and of grossly underestimated significance in this election season, there's the signal a Kerry victory would send to the world. As I noted recently, when you try to strip Kerry's message down to soundbites - which is how a president's message gets translated to the rest of the world - it can't be seen as anything but a message of retreat and retrenchment and a popular repudiation of Bush's aggressive defense of American interests. Kerry would need to labor long and hard, at great cost in life and treasure, to correct that impression even if he was totally dedicated to doing so. (More on Kerry's credibility and the message a Kerry victory would send here and here).

2. The Courts: I tend to focus my concerns, on the domestic side, first and foremost on those areas where the president's polices, once in place, are most difficult to change. Nothing has a longer-lasting impact than Supreme Court nominations. One reason for the rising temperature of the last three presidential and last five Senate election cycles is that activists on each side have, on each occasion, steeled for battle over the next Supreme Court nomination on a narrowly divided Court, and each time we've gone another two/four years with nothing happening. That can't hold forever, with a couple of Justices past 80 and several suffering major health problems.

As a practicing litigator, I see the many ways in which the composition of the courts affects the progress of litigation and its effects, direct and indirect, on society. And although it's not an ironclad rule, it's true in most cases that conservative judges, even when they err, wind up leaving things in a position that can be changed by the voters; liberal judges tend, when in doubt, to constititionalize more issues in a way that gradually narrows the scope of democratic accountability and control. That's an ominous development.

3. Social Security: The biggest long-term issue in the federal budget is entitlements. Bush took a step backward on that issue when he fulfilled his campaign promise to add a prescription drug benefit to Medicare. But in his second term, Bush will be looking for a domestic legacy, and he recognizes the importance of changing the fundamental operation of Social Security as the key to his long-range view of an "ownership society" in which individuals have ownership and control over more aspects of their lives. And Bush is a guy who gets things done. (More on the larger themes at stake here). I look forward to the debate on this issue after the election (see here for a key point on the transition-cost issue); if Kerry wins, of course, nothing will change in the way the government does business.

Conclusion: There are many other issues at stake here, and many reasons I have not discussed. But on the biggest of the big things - leadership, determination and strategy at war, the role of the courts in our society, and the long-term structure of the entitlement programs that consume the largest share of the federal budget - the choice of Bush over Kerry is clear. May the right man win; I cast my vote for him already, and hope you do too.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:05 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
FOOTBALL/POLITICS: From the Frozen Tundra of Lambert Field

Brett Favre has apparently joined the Bush camp. Not a big surprise, but that?s good news for Republicans in Wisconsin, since Favre is easily more popular there than either of the two candidates this year.

(By the way, if you don?t get the headline above, you're obviously not following the campaign obsessively enough! See here.)

UPDATE: There is now some doubt about that earlier report. Maybe someone in Wisconsin could confirm or deny?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:33 AM | Football • | Politics 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Why Others Are Supporting Bush

ELECTION EVE UPDATE: This is my final update to this post, which you may or may not find to be a useful resource. May the best man win.

Well, Ive more or less said my piece about who Im supporting this year, offering one of the least-coveted endorsements of the season here. The following are just a few of those who seem to agree...

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:30 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
October 31, 2004
POLITICS: Bullish on Bush

Jay Cost, who seems to be one of the most optimistic poll-readers these days, in an item posted yesterday:

Present Probability that Bush will win the Electoral College: 96.36% (This is the probability that Bush wins FL and IA and WI or OH. Thus, we can be 96.36% confident that Bush would receive a minimum of either 271 EVs or 281 EVs).


Right now the EV math is looking awfully tough for Kerry. He is definitely behind in FL, IA and, though I do not cover it here, NM. This gives Bush a minimum of 266 EVs. Plus, Bush is likely leading in OH and WI -- and I think Kerry will be unable to hold MN when all is said and done. The word on the ground is that BC04's organization in MN is a sight to behold. The big question on my mind right now is not whether Bush gets to 269, but whether he breaks 300 (which he would do if he carries FL, IA, NM, WI, OH and MN -- that would be 306).

Personally, I continue to believe that Florida, not Ohio, is the real key right now, because winning Florida gives Bush (or, to a lesser extent, Kerry) multiple ways to win, while losing Florida leaves Bush with almost no margin for error and Kerry with none.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:16 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: More Bedfellow Award Candidates

*Tonight's final pre-election broadcast of 60 Minutes weighs in, as you knew it would, with a last-ditch Kerry campaign commercial submission for the Bedfellow award with this Steve Kroft piece charging a lack of armor and equipment for soldiers in Iraq. Of course, the show ran late due to football, so it's debatable how many people caught the whole thing.

*More on bin Laden's effort to meddle in U.S. elections - should we read something into this MEMRI translation of one of his statements?

Your security is not in the hands of Kerry or Bush or al Qaeda. Your security is in your own hands, and any U.S. state that does not toy with our security automatically guarantees its own security.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:53 PM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Election Night Timeline

Here's a handy scorecard of the poll-closing times in each state on Tuesday night. The first states to close up the polls entirely start at 7pm EST and include two early indicators: New Hampshire and Virginia. Bush is going to win Virginia, but if it's close, that could be a bad indicator. New Hampshire has been fiercely contested; I expect Kerry to take it, but a Bush victory is certainly still possible. Bush taking New Hampshire would not be fatal but it would be a very bad sign for Kerry, as this is the swing state in which Kerry has spent the most time (other than perhaps Iowa) and the one most likely to be receptive to his New England persona.

At 7:30 we get North Carolina and West Virginia, two more Southern states that could be warnings of weakness for Bush but that Bush will win even if he's losing. And we get Ohio, although for a variety of reasons, if Ohio is as close as everyone thinks it will be, it could be a long time before the networks announce a winner. Recall that the networks appear to have absorbed the lessons of incorrectly calling Florida for Gore early on Election Night 2000 (before the polls closed in the most Republican parts of the state, in fact); any state that looks close won't get announced until they are sure.

8pm brings the witching hour for a huge swath of the country, including Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Again, if we're looking for knockout blows, look at MI and NJ; if Bush wins NJ, Kerry is toast in a big way, and if he wins MI, the math gets really ugly for Kerry. And frankly, the more I do the electoral math, the harder it is to see how Kerry can win a close one without Florida, because he then needs to win almost every other state that's even remotely contested. Shortly after 8, in other words, is the first point at which Election Night could for all intents and purposes be over if the networks have clear enough winners to start calling a bunch of states (Bush can win if he loses both Florida and Ohio, but it's hugely improbable).

After that, brace for the long haul, as Wisconsin, Minnesota and New Mexico don't check in until 9pm, Iowa at 10, and Hawaii at 11pm, and of course some states (like Oregon) aren't likely to be declared for weeks.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:02 AM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (1)
October 30, 2004
POLITICS: He Said It, Not Me

Josh Marshall, who ought to be an expert on this particular subject, on Democrats' reactions to the bin Laden tape:

[Emails Marshall received] struck me with what is one of the Democrats' greatest weaknesses: their vulnerability to getting knocked off stride by the rush of events, their tendency to fret that all is lost, almost to indulge in it, when the car hits a simple bump in the road.

(Emphasis in original). Note that Marshall has been down this road before. Which party do you trust to stick to its guns when times are hardest?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:44 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
October 29, 2004
POLITICS: Bedfellow Award Season

I have, in the past, threatened to hand out - but never got around to awarding - a "Bedfellow Award" for too-late-to-respond hits in the campaign season, especially (but not exclusively) false ones. The name comes from the comic strip "Bloom County," in which Senator Bedfellow was defeated on the strength of an election-day headline, "WARNING: VOTING FOR BEDFELLOW MAY CAUSE HERPES".

2002 had loads of candidates, including the flap over the Wellstone memorial service; the 2003 winner probably went to the LA Times sexual harrassment story on Schwarzenegger (the accuracy of which never seems to have been examined, although I don't doubt that there was a good deal of truth to it, given Arnold's reputation), although there may be something I'm forgetting; the Kerry-intern story was a good example from the primaries, although the rolling nature of primary elections gave him time to get the truth out before more damage was done.

The simplest definition of a Bedfellow Award nominee is a news story that (1) comes out shortly before the election, and (2) has a much larger impact on the election than it would have if it had come out earlier. Obviously, (2) is particularly true of stories that are false or misleading, since they tend to be easier to explain or debunk if they come out with adequate time to respond. If I get enough nominees, I'll hand out awards for the presidential race, a Senate race and maybe a House race, as well as an award for each party.

Anyway, we've got a battery of candidates so far in this year's presidential election (let alone the Senate and House races), and the late hits - some true, some false, some fair, some inserted by people outside the US political process - keep rolling in fast and furious:

*Will word come out that Kerry was not, initially, honorably discharged from the Navy?

*A new bin Laden video! (See here, link via McArdle, in which bin Laden seems to be relying on "Fahrenheit 9/11" for his talking points, and here, in which a very sad-looking bin Laden sounds like he's cribbing from DNC speeches for material, ripping the "inflexibility of the American-Israeli alliance" and accusing Bush of "misleading" the American people. Is it for real? Is it recent? Will there be enough time to tell the difference?

*Another example just from Instapundit's backup singers: Michael Totten links to this FOX News report saying maybe we really did protect and dispose of at least a big chunk of those missing explosives. The whole HMX/RDX story, of course, is a leading candidate for the award at the moment, but there's plenty of time for more.

Anyway, those are just the early entries; we'll get crazier stuff still as we go. Put your favorite candidates in the comments - and I'll update this post as we go - and I'll try to hand out awards after the election.

UPDATE: (And I've also added a little to the text above). From NRO Battlegrounders, word that a Pennsylvania judge has unsealed records from a Heinz family lawsuit over the death of Teresa Heinz Kerry's first husband, records that could potentially shed more light on the family's finances. There probably isn't much news in there, but if there is, there won't be time to give it context.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:35 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (3)

Saw David Kay being interviewed by Soledad O'Brien on CNN's American Morning this morning on the issue of accounting for Iraq's prewar stocks of heavy-duty conventional explosives HMX and RDX (a link to the transcript should be posted on this page later today). Specifically, they watched a newly-released (as of last night, I think; I confess that this story is unfolding too fast for me to have confidence that I've followed every twist in it). First off, agree with him or not - or agree with him only in part - you have to like David Kay; his bluntness stands in stark contrast to the doublespeak of most international bureaucrats, and he mostly doesn't seem to have a dog in the various fights he weighs in on (recall how his initial report cheered opponents of the war with his declaration that "we were nearly all wrong" about Saddam having WMD, and also cheered proponents of war with his insistence that Saddam was deceiving and evading inspections and that Iraq was even more dangerous, on the whole, than we thought).

Anyway, once again Kay's recollections and analysis of the video gives a little something to everyone. His points, in no particular order:

1. He (Kay) had argued during the 1990s for destroying this stuff, but Hans Blix gave in to the Iraqi regime's demand that they be allowed to keep it for civilian construction purposes.

2. The tape (apparently shot by US media in April 2003, if I heard correctly) clearly shows an unbroken IAEA seal on at least one bunker, indicating that there was still some quantity of the explosives there at the time US troops arrived.

3. To Kay's eye, it's clear that the tape shows the presence of HMX. Kay didn't talk about RDX. Since I, like most bloggers, had never heard of either one until four days ago, I'm still mulling the significance of this, but as I noted below, Wizbang has been looking into the RDX side of the ledger.

4. Kay believes that US troops would and should have recognized these as explosives but, not being professional weapons inspectors, would likely not have recognized them as stocks of HMX.

5. Kay thinks the troops, having located stocks of explosives, should have been responsible for guarding them.

6. Although he didn't discuss the logistics of moving 360 or 380 or whatever tons of the stuff, Kay cautioned that you would be surprised at the things that looters, moving without trucks, can cart away by hand. He noted having seen people literally dismantling and taking away buildings brick by brick.

7. Kay stressed that it's important to keep in perspective the fact that this was just a small percentage of the high explosives in Iraq; he asserted (and this surprised even me) that Iraq possessed approximately 2/3 the amount of explosives as the US military, a staggering quantity for a country the size of California that could barely feed its people.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:59 AM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Dogs Not Barking

Looking back over my recent take on the election, Im actually struck by some of the things I left out. Notably, the things were not paying attention to, especially in foreign affairs.

In 2000, Bush and Gore famously never debated the issue of terrorism. Today, the election has focused on the fight against al Qaeda, the insurgency in Iraq and, to a lesser degree, on Iran and North Korea, with a dash of Darfur thrown in. As some have noted, however, that leaves an awful lot of the world undiscussed. Might there not be big things we dont see coming or big areas that we are taking for granted because things are going fairly well?

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:55 AM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
October 28, 2004
POLITICS: Europeans for Bush

As you can see below, Ive paid some attention to whos been endorsing who, but I confess to being pretty shocked that Germanys largest, in fact Europes largest, newspaper has apparently endorsed President Bush. (Via Michael Totten).

Of course, it would be a little hypocritical for me to put too much stock in this, especially since the papers reasoning seems to be that Europeans should support Bush because it will keep them from having to do any heavy lifting in the War on Terror. But it is a nice reminder that world opinion is not as monolithic as some would have us believe. See here for another excellent example of that.

UPDATE (from the Crank): According to the left-wing Guardian, add Tony Blair, who of course won't come out and say it publicly, to the list of world leaders backing Bush:

The Prime Minister fretted to one close friend: 'Whenever Bush weakens in the polls, they start mucking about.'

Who are these 'they' whose 'mucking about' makes Tony Blair so anxious? They are Iran with its sponsorship of terrorism and its ambitions to go nuclear. They are Syria. They are the psychotic regime in North Korea along with the rest of the planet's rogue and risk states.

The mind of Mr Blair was summarised for me in vivid terms by someone who has an extremely good claim to know what is going on inside it: 'Tony thinks the world is a very dangerous and precarious place. Bush is the tough guy who keeps the bad guys under their rocks.'

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:11 PM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Cameroooooon

So, we know Kerry at least met with the ambassador for Cameroon during the run up to the Iraq war. I wonder what they talked about?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:24 PM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Exuberance of Debatable Rationality

Is Jim Geraghty's source in the Bush-Cheney campaign giving him (a) good grounds for optimism, (b) self-serving spin, (c) the results of coccooning self-delusion, (d) certainty about the unknowable based on small sample sizes or cherry-picked polls, or (e) a bit of each?

We won't know until Tuesday.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:38 PM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS/WAR: An RDX Disposal Question

Paul at Wizbang wants answers. For now, all he has is a potentially plausible working hypothesis: that by January 2003, all but 3 tons of the 141 tons of RDX at Al Qa'qaa was gone from that facility, and that IAEA inspectors knew this and withheld the fact from the UN Security Council during the pre-war debate. If you can help shed light on his analysis, drop by and lend a link or a comment.

I have to say, given that "there were no dangerous weapons in Iraq" was one of the points Kerry had decisively won in this year's political debate, he seems to have shot himself in the foot by placing so much emphasis on the eve of the election on the dangers posed by these conventional weapons that were in Saddam's hands before the war.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:52 PM | Politics 2004 • | War 2004 | TrackBack (0)
LAW/POLITICS: Chutzpah Award

Stuart Buck passes along word of an Alice-in-Wonderland decision to prevent the Ohio Secretary of State from investigating what may well be a substantial number of voter registrations - on the grounds that the individuals can't be notified of a hearing on the matter because they don't live at the addresses they used to register! (Coincidentally, the decision is by a Clinton appointee who is the wife of one of Ohio's leading plaintiffs' attorneys - what are the odds of that?)

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:56 PM | Law 2002-04 • | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL/POLITICS: Schilling for Bush

I'm going to offer a perhaps-unexpected (to new readers, at least) point here and say that now is not the time, and a puff-piece interview on Good Morning America was not the place, for Curt Schilling to stump for President Bush. The stakes in this election are indeed life and death, and of course I welcome Schilling's endorsement. But:

1. I've long been infuriated by entertainers who stick their politics into a venue (interviews, concerts, etc.) where I'm expecting to just be entertained, as opposed to presenting a political argument in a political context. That should go for conservatives in sports and entertainment just as much as liberals. There's a reason why, despite the baseball/politics mix on this site, I labor to keep the two types of content clearly marked.

2. Sox fans are celebrating right now, and, let's be frank, a lot of them are Democrats. Don't spoil that with politics, no matter the cause; just don't (more on that idea here).

Random links:

Commonwealth Conservative on why he loves baseball.

Tim Lambert on - for what it's worth now - home field advantages in the World Series.

The Red Sock of Courage.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:55 PM | Baseball 2004 • | Politics 2004 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: They Went Down To The Courthouse, And The Judge Put It All To Rest

Ann Althouse notes that there is really no way to stop a large number of Illinois Democrats from voting for Kerry in Wisconsin following a joint Springsteen performance/Kerry appearance that 60,000 people are expected to attend. Of course, this looks like a prime opportunity for Republicans, for once, to keep a close eye out for ballot fraud without getting accused of racism in the process, as Bruce's fan base is pretty white.

UPDATE: Althouse says not too many people went and voted after the rally anyway. Which is good news.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:01 AM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Another Endorsement

It's not exactly a surprise, but given the publicity machine that surrounds the handful of September 11 widows who have consistently agitated against President Bush, it's worth noting this open letter of support for Bush from a much longer list of families of people killed on September 11.

I'm sure that there are also plenty of other Bush supporters among those who, like me, were fortunate to survive the attacks.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:41 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
October 27, 2004
POLITICS: The Vet Vote

McQ notes a number of polls breaking down different voting blocs, with interesting commentary. One significant group:

A Rasmussen Reports survey shows that military veterans prefer George W. Bush over John Kerry by a 58% to 35% margin. Those with no military service favor Kerry by ten percentage points, 51% to 41%.

McQ notes one obvious reason for this:

Im pretty plugged into the vets community and Ive never, ever heard talk like Ive heard about John Kerry among veterans. Let me succintly characterize it by saying the comments could easily interchange "Fonda" for "Kerry" if you know what I mean. There are a great number of vets who are still angry about those two and intend to demonstrate that anger on Nov. 2nd.

The line you often hear quoted, from various sources, is about a Kerry defeat being the parade Vietnam vets never had. Of course, consider this in tandem with the 75% or so support that Bush appears to get from both active-duty military and from the Guard and Reserves, and the overall picture is not one of great love for Kerry by his fellow veterans and soldiers.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:45 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Um, About Those Late-Breaking Undecideds . . .

Rasmussen has the goods:

Among voters who made up their minds in the Spring of 2004 or sooner, Kerry is favored by a 51% to 48% margin. This obviously includes some who decided to vote for anybody-but-Bush since 36% of voters made up their mind before the Democratic nominee was selected.

The candidates are essentially tied among those who made up their minds during the summer. However, those who decided in the past month favor President Bush by a 57% to 38% margin.

Our sample included 136 Likely Voters who made up their mind over the last week. These voters also appear to be breaking in the President's direction but the small sample size prevents any definitive assessment.

There are very few undecided voters today. Those who have recently made their final decision are most likely firming up a choice for the candidate they have been leaning towards for some period of time.

At the moment, 93% of Bush voters are certain they won't change their mind and 89% of Kerry voters say the same. Our daily Presidential Tracking Poll shows that just 2% of voters remain undecided at this time (many of whom may not vote).

Also, Powerline links to a great column by Ralph Peters about the 2004 election and its impact on the ground game in Iraq.

UPDATE: Hugh Hewitt points to a 51-47 Bush lead among the most-likely voters of all: the 9% of all respondents to an ABC poll who say they have already voted by absentee ballot or early voting. I cast my own absentee ballot for Bush on Friday, to free myself up to volunteer on Election Day.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:05 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1)
POLITICS: Daily Must-Reads for 10/27/04

*Lileks on Andrew Sullivan's Kerry endorsement. The closing line, which Lileks has delivered by Tony Blair, is deadly.

*The Sultan of Snark on Ron Suskind: "If Suskind misreads his own facts wrong in order to (willfully? subconsciously?) pander to New York Times readers' fear of Christian fundamentalism, what other facts has he misread? And what kind of 'empiricist' is he?" I also liked the line about the "imperturbable" Andrew Sullivan.

*Ricky West has another video up, and reminds us of Clinton's magic coattails.

*Will Collier on heavy early-voting turnout in Georgia, nobody's idea of a battleground. High turnout in Georgia, of all places, tends to undercut the idea that it's Kerry's supporters who are fired up. Remember, you have a lot of people out there who support the war and have had to keep silent as the media has poured hot boiling scorn on the war effort for the past couple of years.

Either way, I predict that the loser of this election will get substantially more votes than any prior presidential candidate in history. And if Kerry wins, Bush would break with a long tradition of incumbents losing only if they have a severe split in their party, a major third party candidate and/or a catastrophic setback on the order of Watergate, the Great Depression or the one-two punch of stagflation and the Iranian hostage crisis.

*Jay Cost (link via NRO Battlegrounders) on why he thinks the Bush-Cheney campaign has a decisive advantage in the Ohio ground game that will show up on Election Day. I'm prepared to believe, among other things, that the GOP's get out the vote (GOTV) effort benefits from being an integrated organization as compared to the alphabet soup of "independent" groups working for the Dems, but I'm more skeptical about the idea that there's some enormous hidden advantage here that Karl Rove knows about and we don't.

Who controls the British pound? Who keeps the metric system down?
Karl Rove! Karl Rove!

Who leaves Atlantis off the maps? Who keeps the Martians under wraps?
Karl Rove! Karl Rove!

Who holds back the electric car? Who makes Steve Gutenberg a star?
Karl Rove! Karl Rove!

Who robs cavefish of their sight? Who rigs every Oscar night?
Karl Rove! Karl Rove!

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:13 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Getting The Job Done

The latest and apparently last theory that Kerry and his media allies have settled on is to attack Bush's execution of the War on Terror, including both the Iraq war and Afghanistan; the theme of the attacks has been that Bush is incompetent, which is taken now as received wisdom beyond challenge by fact. Go read Greg Djerejian's long essay on this point, and yesterday's shorter Wall Street Journal op-ed (for a similar analysis, see Dan Darling on the Washington Post's effort to argue that the Iraq war and anti-Iran hardliners undermined the al Qaeda manhunt). Both contribute to a few of the key points that need to be borne in mind in evaluating the Bush Administration's performance:

1. War is a difficult and complex endeavor, requiring the making of scores of decisions large and small. Many of those decisions are, by their very nature, made on the basis of severely incomplete information, fraught with uncertainty and likely to have lethal consequences if they go wrong - and often if they go right, as well. The military acronym SNAFU got that way for a reason. Bush, by leading the nation in wartime, is certain to make more mistakes, and with worse consequences, than any peacetime president.

2. The history of wars, in fact, is almost unbroken in the making of catastrophic misjudgments by even the best of wartime leaders. Certainly if you review the records of Lincoln, FDR and Churchill, three of the models of civilian leadership in war, they and their generals and civilian advisers made numerous errors that cost scores of lives, many of which in retrospect seem like obvious blunders. I'd like the critics who formerly supported Bush and have now abandoned him to at least admit that on the same grounds, they would have voted for Dewey in 1944 and McClellan in 1864.

3. More specifically to the issue at hand, in almost all cases, the decisions by Bush and his civilian and military advisers involved avoiding alternatives that had their own potential bad consequences, and the critics are judging these decisions in a vacuum. The decision to disband Saddam's army and undergo a thorough de-Ba'athification is a classic example, cited incessantly by critics on the Left. But what if Bush had kept that army together, and they had acted in the heavy-handed (to put it mildly) fashion to which the Ba'athists were accustomed, say, by firing on crowds of civilians? Isn't it an absolute certainty that all the same critics would be singing "meet the new boss, same as the old boss," accusing Bush's commitment to democracy as being a sham and a cover for a desire to set up friendly tyrants to keep the oil pumping, that we'd hear constantly about how we've alienated the Iraqi people by enabling their oppressors, how we showed misunderstanding of the country by leaving a minority Sunni power structure in place over the Shi'ite majority? Wouldn't we hear the very same things we hear now about Afghanistan, about using too few US troops and "outsourcing" the job, or the same civil-liberties concerns we hear when we turn over suspects for interrogation to countries without our restraint when it comes to torture? Don't insult our intelligence and try to deny it.

The same goes for many decisions. More troops? We'd hear that this is a heavy-handed US occupation. I mean, we heard something like that when Giuliani put more cops on the street in New York, let alone a foreign country. Like most conservatives, my preference would have been to go hard into Fallujauh in April. But even if the alternative decision to hold off until there could be significant Iraqi participation in the assault was wrong, it was not an illogical one, but rather a decision made with the patience and foresight to consider the long-range political consequences in Iraq of differing military approaches.

4. Many of the decisions at issue here, from specific ground commanders' decisions to secure particular sites to Tommy Franks' call on Tora Bora, were decisions principally made by people lower in the chain of command, many of them in the military. This is not to say that Bush, as the head of that chain of command, is not ultimately responsible to the voters for those decisions; he is. But it is to remind people that they are not second-guessing solely the judgments of a small coterie of the president and civilian advisers, but the entire chain of command. Tom Maguire makes this point explicitly with regard to Tora Bora:

[I]f the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff chose not to overrule his subordinate, why should Bush? This . . . actually strenghtens Bush's case - the issue was identified, alternatives were weighed, and a decision was made. We all wish the right guess had been made, but I, at least, am glad that the decision making team was aware of the issues and the alternatives.

If Kerry is campaigning on a promise to make the battlefield decisions and always make the right ones, good for him. Say Anything, John.

5. Much of the criticism has focused on the idea that Bush needs to admit more errors, and that Kerry would be better at recognizing and admitting mistakes. Djerejian zeroes in on an argument made by David Adesnik and Dan Drezner:

[P]eople like Drezner and Adesnik are asking: maybe Kerry's a gamble--but at least he's not a proven train wreck. While Adesnik think "accountability", in the main, is the issue that has gotten waverers on board for Kerry--the real core grievance appears to be best reflected, instead, in this Adesnik graf that Drezner approvingly links too:

As a professional researcher, I think I simply find it almost impossible to trust someone whose thought process is apparently so different from my own. In theory, I am sure that Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld all believe in evaluating the relevant data and adjusting their decisions to reflect reality. Thus, when I say that I object to the way that this administration makes decisions, I am saying that I do not believe that it has lived up to the intellectual standard it presumably accepts. [emphasis added]

Let's put all this in plainer English, OK? What Dan and David are saying, I think, is: When this Bush team effs up (and they have effed up a lot), are they able to (on a bare-bones constitutive level, say): a) even recognize they have effed up and b) then move to redress the eff up?

As an initial matter, admitting mistakes, especially in wartime, is overrated, particularly if that means (1) admitting a decision was wrong before you have all the information to reach a final conclusion about it, or (2) making a public self-analysis that gives useful information to the enemy. How often did Churchill, battling daily to keep up the fighting spirit of the British, go on the radio to say, "sorry folks, I blew it again and got a bunch of people killed"? I tend to think that Bush made a big mistake of this kind when he conceded the point last summer on the inclusion in the State of the Union Address of British charges that Saddam was trying to buy uranium in Africa; as it turned out, the Brits stood by their report, and Saddam really did send an envoy there to do precisely that.

The more important point in wartime is the ability to recognize what's not working and change tactics or, if appropriate, strategies. Djerejian cites several examples of Bush doing precisely that, most notably with the firing of Jay Garner but also extending to expanding the number of troops on the ground.

In any event, where, I would ask, is the evidence that Kerry is better at admitting mistakes than Bush? This is a guy who brought all sorts of political grief to himself by stubbornly refusing for three decades to admit that he was wrong to repeat false charges, under oath and on national televison, that smeared his comrades in Vietnam as guilty of pervasive war crimes. Has Kerry admitted he was wrong to oppose nearly every aspect of the foreign policy strategy that President Reagan pursused to great effect in the closing and victorious chapter of the Cold War? Has he admitted he was wrong to oppose the use of force to kick Saddam out of Kuwait in 1991? Maybe I missed something, but I don't even recall him admitting he was wrong for trying to slash the intelligence budget in the mid-1990s following the first World Trade Center bombing. Indeed, one of the most common threads throughout Kerry's behavior in this campaign has been his unwillingness to take any personal responsibility for mistakes, from blaming his speechwriters for things that come out of Kerry's own mouth to picayune things like blaming the Secret Service when he falls down on the slopes. As Jonah Goldberg notes, Kerry's "liberal hawk" backers may argue that the decades of bad judgment in Kerry's past are rendered inoperative by September 11, but Kerry's stubborn insistence that he hasn't changed in response to September 11, and that he had the right answers all along even when he wrote a book in 1997 that barely mentioned Islamic terrorism, gives the lie to the notion that Kerry is a model of self-reflection. Even the man's own supporters can't seriously defend the proposition - on which many of them heaped well-deserved scorn during the primary season - that Kerry has been consistent from the start on whether Saddam was a serious threat that justified a military response. Yet there Kerry stands, insisting to all the world what nobody believes, that he hasn't changed his position. Preferring Kerry to Bush because Bush won't admit mistakes is like preferring fresh water to salt water because salt water is wet.

In any event, will Kerry somehow change, grow in office, shed a lifetime of bad judgments and blanching at the use of American power, suddenly stop valuing diplomacy as an end and the status quo as the highest virtue? Just because Bush changed in office means nothing. First of all, Bush was a guy who had already proven his willingness to change and admit his problems when he quit drinking, had a religious awakening and basically overhauled his whole approach to life in his forties; Kerry can show no similar example of a willingness to change. And Kerry is now in his sixties, six years older than Bush in 2000, and while Bush may count September 11 as a life-changing event, Kerry had already had his, in Vietnam. Kerry's foreign policy world view was set decades ago, both by the example of his diplomat father and by Vietnam. The fact that Kerry has been malleable and vascillating over the years, clear a pattern though that may be, is no reason to think that he will suddenly re-examine his approach to accept the need for the United States to lead a continuing effort to overturn the corrupt, rotten and deadly status quo in the Arab and Muslim worlds.

6. The final charge is that Bush's errors would be forgiveable if he had done more, earlier, to explain the risks and burdens of war to the American people. Of course, this has nothing to do with the execution of the war, but political leadership is important, and in many ways it's much more the president's job than is the decision to use X number of troops to seal off a particular location. First off, the charge that Bush argued the war would be easy is refuted by virtually all his speeches, in which he said over and over and over again that we were in for a long haul, and there would be difficult times ahead. Of course, that has long since become obvious from events, and in any event we really were not in a position before the war to know precisely how it would all play out. But I will agree that he never gave a Churchillian "blood, toil, tears and sweat" speech specifically about Iraq, and that many hawks in and out of the administration underestimated in their public arguments the difficulties of a post-conquest insurgency (then again, many doves told us that we'd be bogged down with thousands of casualties taking Baghdad). Of course, the war itself, up to and through the fall of Baghdad, was as much of a "cakewalk" as a real life shooting war against a substantial enemy can ever be; the problem is simply that we didn't broadcast the coming insurgency (which, by the way, would have had the effect of greatly encouraging the insurgents).

In the end, that's what this argument is all about - not the difficulties of war, which are well-understood, but simply a political argument about the use of speeches to predict the unpredictable. Moreover, on that ground, again, there's no reason to think Kerry would be better; after all, Kerry is the guy who won't even admit to this day that his war vote was a vote for war. Kerry's the guy who wasn't able to predict that his campaign would have to prepare for attacks by people who'd been holding a grudge against him for 30 years.

No, Bush hasn't been a perfect war leader, but show me who was. He's had tough calls to make, and unlike Kerry he can't shift with the wind without consequence. Progress has been frustrating at times, because our overall enemy - the forces of terror and tyranny, of radical Islamism and fascist gangsterism - have recognized that an American victory in Iraq would be a defeat for them in the war on terror. You know that, I know that, they know that. But that just makes it all the more urgent to stick with a guy who believes in the mission, and who has proven that he will keep on trying new approaches until the job is finished, rather than looking for the door.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:30 AM | Politics 2004 • | War 2004 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
October 26, 2004
POLITICS: Fearmongering

OK, we've heard both sides say it over and over again, and I'm compelled to agree: both sides in the presidential campaign are appealing to fear. Of course, if your fears are rational, it may be a very logical thing to vote your fears. So, let's just get on with it:

Kerry and Edwards want you to believe that George W. Bush is plotting to bring back the draft, stop Social Security benefits from being paid to today's senior citizens, and turn firehoses on African-Americans who try to go vote. If you believe those things, you should vote for Kerry and Edwards.

Bush and Cheney want you to believe that Islamist terrorists are plotting to kill large numbers of Americans with terrorist attacks. If you believe that, you should vote for Bush and Cheney.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:50 PM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Irony Alert

In 1987, Dukakis staffer John Sasso sank the presidential aspirations of Joe Biden by distributing a videotape demonstrating that Biden had plaigarized parts of speeches. Dukakis fired Sasso for his troubles, although most observers today regard this as standard opposition research rather than a dirty trick.

Today's New York Sun reports that Sasso's candidate, John Kerry, stands accused of plaigarizing campaign materials and even parts of the 1997 book "The New War" that he used to burnish his image as a deep thinker, chunks of which bear strong resemblances to uncredited newspaper and magazine articles. Unlike in 1987, the charge is not likely to do much damage to Kerry - plaigarism scarcely seems to dent scholars these days, let alone politicians - and maybe it's of a piece with the by-now well-known fact that Kerry's idol, John F. Kennedy, had ghostwriters draft large sections of his award-winning book Profiles in Courage. But the irony should not be lost, at least.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:31 PM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Impractical Libertarians

Libertarian Jane Galt quotes Libertarian Party presidential candidate Michael Badnarik at length, on his theory that paying federal income taxes is not legally required, as proof that Badnarik is a fringe nut. If you vote for Badnarik, you are doing nothing to advance the cause of liberty.

If further proof were needed of the impracticality of doctrinaire libertarians, check out this revealing Reason Magazine symposium. Even Glenn Reynolds wasted his ballot in 2000 on Harry Browne. And Richard Epstein is voting for Badnarik!

The GOP has, in fact, committed sins against small-government libertarianism, some by wrongly buying in to big government and some by taking pro-law-enforcement and pro-life stances that I, as a conservative, approve of. But libertarian ideas are taken seriously in Republican circles, while they are scorned at every turn by the Democrats. And in the real world, if there is ever to be progress away from Big Government, it will require that the public accept fewer guaranteed entitlements and more individual decisionmaking. With his plans for private accounts in Social Security and Health Savings Accounts, Bush is far further out on the limb in favor of such progress than any presidential candidate since Goldwater. And whether Bush wins or loses, the GOP will be under pressure to nominate a spending hawk in the next campaign; that candidate's job will be much easier if Bush has laid the groundwork for changing an entitlement system that dwarfs the size of any discretionary spending. And yes, Bush wants conservative judges; but conservative judges will do no more on social issues than leave them to the people's elected representatives.

If libertarians can't support Bush, faults and all, they are simply not interested in testing their ideas outside a laboratory.

UPDATE: The Mad Hibernian points me to Dale Franks' endorsement of Bush as a counter-example of a libertarian (actually a neolibertarian, as the QandO guys call themselves) who understands the stakes:

It is utterly pointless and shortsighted to calculate about the future of the GOP when our primary concern right now is the threat of radical Islam. A retreat in the War on Terror that results in a decade of threats to American security like those that appeared in the 1970s could very well make domestic political calculations about the relative libertarian-ness of the GOP moot.


. . . [I]n an election like this one, facing the Islamist threat, I simply dont believe that any victory in this election can be taken as a referendum on domestic policy. It might say volumes about how the American people wish the War on Terror to be fought, but I doubt any case can be made that it would constitute a general expression of approval about, or predicts the future of, the L[ibertarian]/C[sonservative] idea in American politics.

In any event, Im far more concerned with keeping the USS America from slipping beneath the waves than I am about watching the GOP sink. Maybe, once the last terrorists head is stuck on pike, Ill be more concerned with the fate of the GOPs L/C direction.

Until then, I want a president that Im sure will pull the trigger, when it needs to be pulled. That president is George W. Bush.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:43 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: One for the Ladies

Mommypundit has advice for single women contemplating voting for Kerry. (Link via Irish Lass)

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:24 PM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Stakes

Brilliant column by political science professor Mathew Manweller (found in the comments at Jane Galt's place), on the stakes in this election:

America is at a once-in-a-generation crossroads, more than an election hangs in the balance. Down one path lies retreat, abdication and a reign of ambivalence. Down the other lies a nation that is aware of its past and accepts the daunting obligation its future demands. If we choose poorly, the consequences will echo through the next 50 years of history. If we, in a spasm of frustration, turn out the current occupant of the White House, the message to the world and ourselves will be two-fold.

First, we will reject the notion that America can do big things.

Once a nation that tamed a frontier, stood down the Nazis and stood upon the moon, we will announce to the world that bringing democracy to the Middle East is too big a task for us. But more significantly, we will signal to future presidents that as voters, we are unwilling to tackle difficult challenges, preferring caution to boldness, embracing the mediocrity that has characterized other civilizations. The defeat of President Bush will send a chilling message to future presidents who may need to make difficult, yet unpopular decisions. America has always been a nation that rises to the demands of history regardless of the costs or appeal. If we turn away from that legacy, we turn away from who we are.

Second, we inform every terrorist organization on the globe that the lesson of Somalia was well learned. In Somalia we showed terrorists that you don't need to defeat America on the battlefield when you can defeat them in the newsroom. They learned that a wounded America can become a defeated America.

Twenty-four-hour news stations and daily tracking polls will do the heavy lifting, turning a cut into a fatal blow. Except that Iraq is Somalia times 10. The election of John Kerry will serve notice to every terrorist in every cave that the soft underbelly of American power is the timidity of American voters. Terrorists will know that a steady stream of grizzly [sic] photos for CNN is all you need to break the will of the American people. Our own self-doubt will take it from there. Bin Laden will recognize that he can topple any American administration without setting foot on the homeland.

Read the whole thing. Jay Nordlinger makes the same point:

Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, and Michael Moore are not supporting Kerry because they think he'll continue the War on Terror certainly not because they think he'll do a better job of it. They are supporting him because they think he doesn't mean it. I bet they're right.

In my view, this election is not a contest to determine how we'll fight the War on Terror; it's a contest to determine whether we will fight it at all. And the decision made by the Americans will be fateful.

George W. Bush and his people think that our security requires wholesale changes in the Muslim world changes that we must abet. The other side which includes a portion of the Right believes that we can just hunker down, lashing out when some occasion demands. And if only Israel weren't so damn troublesome, perhaps the Arabs would be calmer.

I have never liked the terms "pro-war" and "anti-war," certainly the former. None of us is pro-war. It's just that some of us think that it's necessary to wage, while others do not. The Bush side thinks the war is a matter of self-defense; the other side thinks it's a matter of belligerence, or arrogance, or utopianism, or servitude to "Sharon," or something else bad.

As I have said before, I wish this election weren't so important. But I'm afraid it is. If the Americans elected John Kerry in, oh, 1992 or 1996, that would be one thing. If they elect him in 2004 that will tell us something disheartening.

A little story: Some time ago, England had what was called "the Metric Martyr." This was a fellow a grocer or a butcher, I forget which who sold his goods in imperial measures: pounds, ounces, etc. But because England is now beholden to Brussels, he was prosecuted for not using the metric system (hence, Metric Martyr).

I asked our senior editor David Pryce-Jones (a Brit), "How could the British people permit this? I mean, it's their system the imperial system, or the English system to begin with." David answered, "The British people wouldn't permit it. The question is whether they remain the British people."

(Nordlinger has some other godd stuff, including this gem from a reader: "Did you see that Fidel Castro took a fall? I wonder if Jimmy Carter broke his nose.")

Roger Simon has a related point about how the anti-Israel, anti-democracy pro-status-quo "Arabists" have found their home in Kerry's Democratic apparatus, as evidenced by Kerry's top foreign policy adviser, Richard Holbrooke, specifying that a Kerry administration would put the screws on three countries in the region: Syria, Saudi Arabia and Israel. Krauthammer, if you missed his latest must-read column, explains how and why Kerry would sell out Israel, which remains our most unpopular ally among the Europeans, the UN, the Arab dictators and others whom Kerry feels the need to please.

Call me naive, but I still have more faith in the voters than that. But I remain worried that the election will be close enough to be swayed by fraud and litigation, and that's bad news for Bush - and for the nation.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:05 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
October 25, 2004
POLITICS: Role Model

Stuart Buck thinks we should aspire to imitate the voting procedures in Afghanistan.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:14 PM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Explosive Charge

The NY Times - with the assistance, predictably, of 60 Minutes - is pushing a story about explosive stockpiles in Iraq that have been unaccounted for since the invasion. Why now? I'll leave that to the reader. But the relevant questions about what's missing from this story are asked by Captain Ed, Geraghty, the Minute Man, Henke, and John Cole.

UPDATE: Andrew McCarthy at NRO argues that the existence of the explosives in question constitute yet another example of Saddam's violations of UN resolutions, one UN inspectors apparently decided to let slide because Saddam's regime told them that the explosives could conceivably have non-military applications. And remember, this particular cache was just a small proportion of Saddam's explosives stockpiles, in addition to all the other problems with his regime. Oh, but "the sanctions were working," right?

ONE MORE UPDATE: Geraghty, who's been on this story all day, quotes NBC News Pentagon reporter Jim Miklaszewski saying that the NBC News crew embedded with the 101st Airborne during the war confirms that the missing explosives were already gone when the 101st Airborne arrived at the site on April 10, 2003, the day after the fall of Baghdad. More here from what appears to be a contemporaneous report of what some parts of the 101st (recall that a division is more than 10,000 troops) was tasked with that day:

U.S. Army soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division began an offensive to root out the Fedayeen paramilitary fighters loyal to Saddam Hussein from Hillah.

The troops encountered resistance almost immediately on entering the city. About 200 Fedayeen fighters on pick-up trucks counter-attacked with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. Several Iraqi tanks also fired rounds at U.S. tanks.

U.S. forces responded with tank fire, artillery, and air strikes. Scores of Iraqi troops were killed during the four-hour battle. Three U.S. soldiers were wounded.

A lieutenant colonel with the 101st Airborne, Rick Carlson, says his soldiers, conducting a building-to-building search of the city, discovered what he called a "gigantic" warehouse full of weapons and ordnance.

Other weapons were found inside schools. He says the soldiers searched school buildings because that is where U.S. troops in neighboring cities of Najaf and Karbala have uncovered large weapons caches:

"Every school that we have encountered in those three regions has been used as a weapons depot. So, whenever we have gone into a (militarily) built-up area, we go straight to a school."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:50 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Big Story: A Fabricated UN Meeting

Powerline points us to the much-hyped story of the weekend, a Washington Times piece by National Review's State Department correspondent, Joel Mowbray:

U.N. ambassadors from several nations are disputing assertions by Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry that he met for hours with all members of the U.N. Security Council just a week before voting in October 2002 to authorize the use of force in Iraq.

An investigation by The Washington Times reveals that while the candidate did talk for an unspecified period to at least a few members of the panel, no such meeting, as described by Mr. Kerry on a number of occasions over the past year, ever occurred.

This contradicts Kerry's assertion at the second presidential debate that he had such a meeting:

This president hasn't listened. I went to meet with the members of the Security Council in the week before we voted. I went to New York. I talked to all of them, to find out how serious they were about really holding Saddam Hussein accountable.

Kerry was even more emphatic in one of his big prepared foreign policy speeches:

Speaking before the Council on Foreign Relations in New York in December 2003, Mr. Kerry explained that he understood the "real readiness" of the United Nations to "take this seriously" because he met "with the entire Security Council, and we spent a couple of hours talking about what they saw as the path to a united front in order to be able to deal with Saddam Hussein."

Kerry is now backing down:

When reached for comment last week, an official with the Kerry campaign stood by the candidate's previous claims that he had met with the entire Security Council.

But after being told late yesterday of the results of The Times investigation, the Kerry campaign issued a statement that read in part, "It was a closed meeting and a private discussion."

A Kerry aide refused to identify who participated in the meeting.

The statement did not repeat Mr. Kerry's claims of a lengthy meeting with the entire 15-member Security Council, instead saying the candidate "met with a group of representatives of countries sitting on the Security Council."

Asked whether the international body had any records of Mr. Kerry sitting down with the whole council, a U.N. spokesman said that "our office does not have any record of this meeting."

Great work by the bloggers who got this story rolling and by Mowbray for putting it all together. What does it all mean? This is a lot bigger deal, at a minimum, than Dick Cheney forgetting that he'd ever run into John Edwards; the problem with some of Kerry's fabrications is that they tend to be complicated, self-important embellishments that are hard to square with a simple trick of memory. That's how Roger Simon, who compares this to the "Christmas in Cambodia" fairytale, views the story. Jason Steffens is less impressed with the electoral significance of yet another "Kerry made stuff up" story, as apparently are some of Simon's readers.

I doubt myself that this will be a game-breaker, but then, anything that puts Kerry on the defensive for even a day at this late stage can be a big momentum-suck, and this is a legitimate question, and one that Kerry would have to answer if we had a press corps that demanded answers from Kerry, which it often has not. Of course, the ultimate test is whether other news agencies will pick up this story - as they would if it were a claim that Bush had lied and ran on CBS or ABC or in the New York Times - or if this will get buried in the right-wing media ghetto. This morning's Drudge Report is not encouraging: there's a small headline, totally eclipsed by the blaring coverage of Bill Clinton's triumphant, press-oxygen-sucking return to the campaign. We know which story Big Media would rather cover; Matt Lauer last week was worshipfully comparing a Clinton return to Willis Reed hobbling onto the court in the 1970 NBA Finals (which is a humorous analogy because it puts Kerry in the Clyde Frazier role). Stay tuned.

UPDATE: INDC Journal has more, including links to other commentary. Bill also considers a possible justification:

A commenter brings up a reasonable point - Kerry "meant to communicate" that he only met with the permanent members of the Security Council, not "all of them," as he specified on two occasions. I don't believe that this interpretation completely invalidates the significance of Kerry's statements, but in any case, I've been told that verification regarding the permanent five is in the works. We'll see. I await further detail with everyone else.

Captain Ed finds this unhelpful and telling of Kerry's attitude towards our allies in Eastern Europe:

[T]he reality of his paltry and meaningless diplomacy also shows what a lightweight Kerry is on the world stage. He went to the UN to meet with diplomats about Iraq, and who did he choose? Singapore, Cameroon, and France: two countries that could have no earthly effect on enforcing the UN resolutions, and one that Saddam had bribed into submission. He didn't bother with Bulgaria, one of the nations that Bush convinced to support the liberation of Iraq and one with troops on the ground helping to support its democratization.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:56 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (2)
POLITICS: Why I'm Voting for Bush

Above all, we are at war. This will be the first Presidential election since the September 11, 2001 attacks, which nearly killed the primary author of this site and which claimed the lives of almost 3,000 innocent Americans whose only offense was going to work or getting on a plane in a free country. It is essential that we never forget that day and that we affirm our commitment to seeing the War on Terror through. President Bush is the best candidate to do so and offers the best plan to lead this country for the next four years.

I am not a blind supporter of the President. Were there a George Washington or Winston Churchill running against Bush, I?d be quite happy to vote to replace him. In fact, in 2000, I supported John McCain and that year, as John Kerry might say, I voted against Bush before I voted for him. But, over the last four years, I believe Bush has been an excellent wartime leader and that there is simply no credible alternative offered in this election.

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:00 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
October 24, 2004
POLITICS: Color Me Skeptical

A big, campaign-moving story needs no introduction. Thus, for all the Josh Marshall-style hype here, here and here about a Washington Times story breaking Monday "that the Kerry campaign will be forced to address regarding a previous criticism of Bush's foreign policy" and that constitutes "another chapter in the story of John Kerry making stuff up," I'm doubtful that whatever it is will move the needle much in the campign, especially since Big Media outlets often take several days to check into stories from the Washington Times.

The bloggers in question are pushing this story in part because they apparently did the research on the issue, which is one of numerous reasons to think it's not a game-breaker like the status or whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. But if everyone is playing the speculation game, the hint that Kerry will be forced to address the story suggests to me that it could be something about Cuba, which has obvious electoral significance.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:23 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Pretension Does Not Equal Intelligence

Amusing article from The New York Times, of all places, about the likelihood that the young President Bush had higher IQ and SAT scores than the young John Kerry (Via Instapundit). No wonder the Times is opposed to standardized tests!

I loved this line:

Linda Gottfredson, an I.Q. expert at the University of Delaware, called it a creditable analysis said she was not surprised at the results or that so many people had assumed that Mr. Kerry was smarter. "People will often be misled into thinking someone is brighter if he says something complicated they can't understand," Professor Gottfredson said.

Anyway, take that for what its worth - Ive always thought leadership and management ability trump raw intelligence as a measuring stick for the Oval Office - but Ive also long wondered how many of the people who take it as an article of faith that Bush is an idiot scored below what he did on the SATs.

UPDATE: Here is the Steve Sailer article, in case you are interested.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:20 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tom Maguire on why there doesn't need to be a draft:

In the late 80's, we had 2.2 million folks on active duty. Now it is down to about 1.4 million. The notion that we couldn't add several hundred thousand troops without a draft seems to be contradicted by our past experience.

As Maguire notes, this sort of higher math is apparently beyond the capacity of Paul Krugman. By contrast, Geraghty has numbers that explain why Kerry will win Pennsylvania:

The total number of eligible Philadelphia voters now stands at 1,066,222. That is close to the 2003 U.S. Census estimate for the number of people of voting age - 1,025,259 - living in the city.

This is repeated in several areas - like Milwaukee and St. Louis. In each place, of course, the fact that there are more registered voters than eligible people of voting age means that there is a high potential for voter fraud. In each case, this is occuring in a Democratic-dominated city in a state that otherwise seems primed for the GOP picking. I haven't followed the voter-fraud and election-related violence beats on this site the way Bill Hobbs or the Powerline guys (among others) have (see this for a good example), but it's a major concern. A lot of us Republicans are very worried about this election entirely because of the threat of fraud and/or litigation; the way the national and state polls are going, I can't see how Kerry supporters can be optimistic unless they are depending on fraud to carry the day.

After all, the internals on various polls consistently show that large majorities (1) recognize that the nation is at war and (2) trust Bush better to prosecute that war, while the same polls measure the candidates as about even on economic issues and place Bush decisively ahead on leadership and sharing the voter's values. Add in Bush's structural advantages in the Electoral College, the difficulty of Kerry replicating Gore's voter-turnout miracles among African-American voters and unionized voters, and the fact that the GOP totally overhauled its own get-out-the-vote drive after 2000 (to great effect in 2002), and all Democrats are really left with, besides the always-hoped-for surge of young liberals (recall how they didn't show for Howard Dean this year), is shenanigans at the polling places.

Yes, I know - many Dems will claim that this is overstated or whatnot. But, tell me: how can you be optimistic if you aren't banking on it?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:43 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Gonna Get Me A Shotgun

Am I the only one who read this item and thought of that classic Garret Morris SNL skit where he sings to his parole board, "gonna get me a shotgun, and kill all the whiteys I see . . ."

Probably not the association Kerry was looking for.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:26 AM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
October 23, 2004
POLITICS: Gets By Buckner

The fun never ends: an alert reader sends this link to a "Football Fans For Truth" item on John Kerry apparently having falsely claimed to have been at Shea Stadium for Game Six of the 1986 World Series, when he was apparently at a fundraiser in Boston that night (although he appears to have been at Game Seven two days later).

UPDATE: I should add a caution for new readers: not every story of a politician saying something that's not true is (1) hugely significant or (2) proof the guy is lying. People forget stuff and embellish their own memories all the time. I don't expect anybody to change their vote over this trivia; it's mostly just funny. Still, (a) if baseball were all that important to Kerry . . . well, I sure know where I was for Game Six, and I'd particularly remember if I'd been there or not, and (b) what this suggests is less that Kerry is some sort of liar as that he's a prototypical braggart, the guy who has to put himself at the center of things when he wasn't. The type, of course, is a familiar one and all too prevalent in politics.

SECOND UPDATE (10/26): Kerry campaign says he flew to the game after the fundraiser; Thomas Galvin runs the timeline on this and finds it unlikely. I can't speak to when the shuttle runs, but I can add a few points to Galvin's analysis that suggest that Kerry's account is not necessarily implausible:

1. Galvin discusses the game time; the game definitely ended after midnight; I vividly recall debating whether the 10th inning ended "before" the 9th and what the true end-of-game time was, because it was the night we set the clocks back (I know now you do that at 2am, not midnight).

2. Galvin includes 45 minutes for Kerry to get from from LaGuardia to Shea. You could walk there faster.

3. It's not odd for VIPs like Kerry to fly around just to catch part of a game (or to duck early out of a fundraising dinner), especially if he thought it would end with the Sox ending their streak of defeats.

So, it may be that Kerry is telling the truth here.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:31 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (1)
POLITICS: Classic Kerry

Kerry, on Tim Russert's Meet the Press, May 6, 2001:

[W]e have to be honest about the mistakes we made [in Vietnam]. We don't have legitimacy in the world, Tim, if we go to other countries, in Bosnia or China or anywhere else, and not say, "You know, we made some terrible mistakes."

And that honesty, that lack of a sense of honesty is part of what is driving people's anger toward the United States today. That's why we have the vote in the U.N. That's why people--our allies, too--are disturbed by this defense posture. You can't abrogate the ABM treaty and move forward on your own to build this defense in a way that threatens the perceptions of security people have. And if you build a defense system, Tim, that can do what they say at the outside, which is change mutual assured destruction, you have invited a potential adversary to build, build, build, to find a way around it. The lesson of the Cold War is, you do not make this planet safer by moving unilaterally into a place of new weapons. Every single advance in weaponry through the Cold War was matched by one side or the other, and that's why we put the ABM treaty in place, and that's why we need to proceed very cautiously and very thoughtfully.

First of all, this insistence on national apologies is very one-sided. Does China have "legitimacy in the world"? When does China apologize for anything?

More importantly - I know I harp on Kerry's past a lot, particularly his views of the Cold War, but a man who could not or would not take the unambiguously pro-American position whenever that conflict got difficult - and who, to this day, can not or will not admit his mistakes in opposing President Reagan's winning strategy at every turn - is never going to understand this war, in which we will often be called upon to make hard decisions. Who on earth thinks that the "lesson of the Cold War" is that we built too damn many weapons systems? Kerry has learned nothing.

All of this is based on the naively dovish theory that strengthening one's defenses is a provocative act, and its necessary corollary that one can make peace by remaining weaker. People on the left, like Kerry, have (retroactively, after all of their Doomsday Clock and "The Day After" talk of the 80s) fallen in love with "mutually assured destruction" as a peacekeeping deterrent. But MAD kept the peace because Russia was afraid we could destroy them if they attacked us; the fact that they could also destroy us was not in any way a good thing. The fact that Kerry still views strengthening our military as a dangerous thing is best demonstrated by his argument, repeated in two of the debates, that it's a bad thing that the US is developing "bunker-busting" nuclear weapons. From the first debate:

Right now the president is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to research bunker-busting nuclear weapons. The United States is pursuing a new set of nuclear weapons. It doesn't make sense.

You talk about mixed messages. We're telling other people, "You can't have nuclear weapons," but we're pursuing a new nuclear weapon that we might even contemplate using.

Not this president. I'm going to shut that program down, and we're going to make it clear to the world we're serious about containing nuclear proliferation.

Note that he doesn't even say he will do this through negotiatons - just a unilateral shutdown. The second debate:

[T]he president is moving to the creation of our own bunker- busting nuclear weapon. It's very hard to get other countries to give up their weapons when you're busy developing a new one.

This is Kerry going all wrong again, thinking that nations lead other nations by example. It's just not realistic, and it's a dangerous way to proceed in a dangerous world.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:50 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: A Modest Proposal

Memo to the Guardian: please stop printing columns openly calling for the assassination of the President of the United States. I would add some commentary here, but if youre not already disgusted after reading that, nothing I can say will make you feel that way.

For a less hate-filled take on our election from across the pond, see here.

UPDATE: Perhaps the Guardian is in an ill-tempered mood because of the unintended consequences of its letter-writing campaign to lecture the people of Ohio.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:39 PM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (5)
October 20, 2004
BASEBALL/POLITICS: World Series Election Trivia

There would indeed be a little bit of humor, in this election season, if we were to see an Astros-Red Sox World Series, Texas vs. Massachusetts. Here's a little quickie trivia (answers to follow later):

1. Who was the last team from a major party presidential candidate's home state to make the World Series in an election year?

2. Who was the last team from a successful major party presidential candidate's home state to win the World Series in an election year?

("Home state" here meaning the conventional view - the state where the candidate spent his adult life and won elective office, rather than, say, considering Bush from Connecticut and Kerry from Colorado, the states of their birth)

UPDATE: The first commenter gets it, so think of your answer before you check the comments.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:26 AM | Baseball 2004 • | Politics 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
October 19, 2004
POLITICS: Closing On the Stump

I was very favorably impressed with President Bush's speech in New Jersey yesterday, which really honed in on Kerry's biggest vulnerabilities on national security. I've got more on the speech over at RedState.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:11 AM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Flu The Coop

Kevin Drum reviews the various possibilities for why we are dependent on a single company with British-based facilities to make flue vaccines. (Link via Instapundit). Drum's answers are reasonable - he focuses on the burdens of FDA regulation as compared to British regulations - although I think he discounts the product liability lawsuit problem and the incentives it creates to have vaccines manufactured by an overseas subsidiary. In either case, the landscape Drum reviews - narrow profit margins squeezed by fluctuating demand, a demanding regulatory regime and serious litigation risks - is entirely irreconcilable with the picture of drug companies commonly painted by Democrats in general and the Kerry campaign in particular.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:09 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
October 17, 2004
RELIGION/POLITICS: The Candidates and the Church

With the election getting ever closer, Im uncomfortable with a lot of criticism of President Bushs or Senator Kerrys respective religious convictions (or lack thereof). It seems to me to be entirely possible that either man could be far more or far less devout than they outwardly appear or present themselves. Inquiring about the issue seems unduly speculative, presumptuous and even invasive. However, the actions and stated beliefs of each candidate are fair game.

In that vein, you may want to read Rich Lowrys column from Friday on Kerrys approach to issues of concern to Catholic voters, such as myself. Here is a key section:

Kerry's straddle is to have (nominally) socially conservative positions, so long as they won't actually serve any socially conservative ends. He opposes gay marriage, but won't do anything that might stop it from coming about. He thinks life begins at conception (or so he has said, at least once), but won't do anything to stop its destruction. He opposes partial-birth abortion, but votes against banning it, and supports parental notification, but votes against requiring it.

I think there can be little doubt that on issues of abortion, gay marriage, federal funding for stem-cell research and related family values issues, Bushs positions are far closer to the Catholic Church than are those of Kerry. This might explain, why, despite unsavory attempts by surrogates of John McCain to tar Bush as an anti-Catholic bigot during the 2000 primary season, Bush appears to have significant support among the Catholic community, even though it his opponent who is Catholic.

Three primary issues strike me as areas of potential divergence between Bush and Catholic voters: the death penalty, policy towards low-income individuals and the Iraq War. Its worth considering all three.

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:39 PM | Politics 2004 • | Religion | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Arrogant Interventionism?

Looks like The Great Diplomat needs to work on his diplomatic skills:

The commander of the UN peacekeepers in Haiti has linked a recent upsurge in violence there to comments made by the US presidential candidate, John Kerry.

Earlier this year Mr Kerry said that as president he would have sent American troops to protect Jean-Bertrand Aristide who was ousted from power in February.

The Brazilian UN general, Augusto Heleno, said Mr Kerry's comments had offered "hope" to Aristide supporters. Much of the recent unrest has centred on areas loyal to Mr Aristide.

More than 50 people have died over the past fortnight.

In fairness, blaming American politicians for chaos in Haiti is like blaming them for the sun being hot. There are far deeper problems to blame. Of course, were the situations reversed (i.e. were this Dole challenging Clinton in 1996), would the challenger be held to a higher standard?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:35 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
October 15, 2004
POLITICS: A Unified Mary Cheney Theory

Speculation abounds: why did both Edwards and Kerry bring up the fact that Dick Cheney has a lesbian daughter? Some think they were trying, clumsily, to get religious conservatives to feel disenchanted with the Bush-Cheney ticket. I'm doubtful that will work; if anything, conservative Christian voters who already like and agree with Bush and Cheney are more likely to see this as personal family business that shouldn't be used in a campaign.

But they may not be the target audience. Connsider: the Kerry campaign seems very worried that African-American voters, who by large margins (especially the majority of African-Americans who are regular churchgoers) are opposed to same-sex marriage, might be less motivated to show up and vote for Kerry on Election Day. This is compounded by the fact that Kerry, unlike Clinton and Gore, doesn't have much experience appealing to black voters and doesn't seem to have the same emotional rapport with them. This concern is almost certainly why you never hear Kerry compare the same-sex marriage fight to the civil rights movement (as Andrew Sullivan does on a daily basis), since African-Americans are understandably touchy about diluting the moral weight of their struggle for equal rights, and doubly so for a cause many of them don't sympathize with.

Perhaps bringing up the gay daughter won't work with people who are already fond of Bush and Cheney and likely to respond by circling the wagons around them. But it could be savvy politics in trying to neutralize the issue with a bloc of voters Kerry badly needs who are predisposed to dislike the Republican ticket. I don't know how this gambit played with African-Americans, but if you think about it logically, they seem like the most likely target audience.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:57 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (25) | TrackBack (5)
WAR/POLITICS: Showdown in Fallujah

The Big One is on in Iraq, as US forces are finally doing what, at least in retrospect, they should have done back in April, cordoning off Fallujah and opening a major offensive against the heart of the insurgency. I can't offer any insights on the military angle, but here's what's interesting: the Bush Administration was quite happy to leak word earlier this week that it had no intention of any major offensive actions in Iraq until after Election Day. The left, predictably, went nuts over this report (see Kevin Drum, Mark Kleiman, Matt Yglesias, Atrios, Brad DeLong, and, yes, even the Kerry campaign), claiming that Bush was putting politics over national security by not launching an offensive in mid-October. Which raises four possibilities:

1. Something changed between Monday and today. Unlikely, given the amount of preparation that goes into something like this.
2. The media stories were wrong and/or based on reports from people who knew nothing. Always a possibility.
3. This was a head-fake to throw off the enemy in Iraq.
4. This was a head-fake to throw off the Bush Administration's domestic political opponents so they'd demand that Bush go on the offensive, which would make it more difficult for them to immediately switch course and cry "October Surprise".

Without discounting the other possibilities, #4 sure sounds like typical Bush political strategy, with #3, of course, being an added bonus. And the usual suckers fell for it, for the same reasons they always do.

And maybe now we know why Bush wanted to talk to Kerry after the debate.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:36 AM | Politics 2004 • | War 2004 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (3)
October 13, 2004
POLITICS: The Closer Gets Rocked

Yes, even with two classic baseball games on, you knew I had to watch the last presidential debate. Now, I called the first debate a narrow Kerry victory and the second a clear but not decisive victory for Bush.

Maybe I've just let my biases cloud my judgment. But I really thought Bush cleaned Kerry's clock tonight, regularly outmaneuvering him, projecting superior charisma and humor and landing a number of body blows that Kerry really wasn't able to react to, while Kerry stepped in a bunch of holes on social policy that he really wasn't even forced into.

From the top:

Kerry always does this long throat-clearing opening that means nothing; Bush gets right to work.

Wow, Kerry's forehead is enormous.

X-raying cargo holds . . . Kerry is in reruns.

Reagan again! When will Bush smack him for embracing Reagan today after denouncing him in the 80s?

Bush is giddy when Schieffer and Kerry mention foreign policy, so he can talk about Afghanistan's elections.

Kerry voted against the Homeland Security bill? Even I didn't know that.

Kerry is becoming a big Tora Bore. Bush has obviously decided never to respond on this. But it draws the first Bush smirk of the night.

Flu season? Schieffer decides to make the night's second question about flu shots? Bush gives an answer that's good public health and bad politics . . . until he decides to blame John Edwards. Kerry sounds hoarse, decides to just blame Bush for everything. Wellness? Remember the Department of Wellness? I guess Bush won''t mention that.

Bush: A plan is not a litany of complaints. Good line.

Kerry: The Jobs Fairy is coming! Jobs for everyone!

McCain-Kerry, Kerry is slipping into Washingtonese again. Dingell-Norwood, anyone?

Bush is calling for the Fiscal Sanity Fairy. Nice try, George.

Bush again: "Here's some Trade Adjustment Assistance money" is not a winning slogan. Keep moving.

Kerry compares Bush to Tony Soprano. Classless move, doesn't accomplish anything.

Kerry says he supported a Reagan tax cut?

"Far left bank of the mainstream - makes Teddy Kennedy the conservative Senator from Massachusetts." Amazingly, Kerry essentially lets this stand with just some flapdoodle about Gramm-Rudman. It's all he's got.

My wife points out that Bush isn't always using his whole time. Yeah, but he says one thing and then stops. By the end of a Kerry answer, just try remembering what he was talking about at the beginning.

Homosexuality. Bush has an even-handed answer he obviously prepared. Slams decisions made by judges. Kerry jumps on Dick Cheney's daughter. Why that again? Kerry talks about gay people living in straight marriages. Did anyone not immediately think of Jim McGreevey? This is a train wreck for Kerry.

Rebuttals? There seem to be no rebuttals.

Abortion. Kerry says choice involves woman, doctor and God. Who's missing from this picture? "I will defend the right of Roe v Wade". Kerry should hope that polls well, because he's unambiguous on this point. Harks back to JFK - when abortion was illegal!

Kerry says 56 bills, not 5. Does that include commemoratives?

The jury will disregard Bush's potshot at the networks, when he starts to slam Kerry for relying on network reports and then drops the point. Point is made.

Rationing healthcare. Bush is doing the best he can on this. Also mentions health savings accounts. He'll lose this issue, but he's battling.

Social Security - better ground. Bush preempts the attacks by saying they said checks wouldn't come 4 years ago, and they came just the same. Problem in the trillions - status quo not an option. Bush promises to front-burner this issue - dare I hope he means it?

I missed - did Kerry say Greenspan supported the Bush tax cut? Why admit that?

Kerry may like saying "tTop experts in the country" but I doubt it warms the heart of swing voters.

[Phone rings. Miss some immigration stuff].

Kerry wants to speed up border crossings by fingerprinting everyone?

Minimum wage hike. Bush fudges rather than point out how this would harm small business.

Kerry on judges: "Yes, I'll have a litmus test."

[Phone rings again]


Bush drops the hammer on the 1991 Gulf War. Kerry fails to respond. Stop the fight!

Bush blames Tom DeLay on assault weapons ban expiring. Not a high point.

Affirmative action. Kerry goes for his base, to heck with people who don't like it. Both candidates agree to lie and pretend Bush is against quotas.

Bush says nice things about aetheists. Good answer on faith and prayer. Kerry's "faith without works" line will play well with Northeastern Catholics, not so well with Protestants.

The Daschle hug is defended! Kerry plays team!

More campaign finance reform? No!

Bush draws laugh from audience deprecating his English. Kerry says he married up, has to say it twice to get anyone but Schieffer to laugh.

Closings. No minds changed here, just closing the book.

UPDATE: Why do I think Bush won? On style, he was just more accessible, while Kerry seemed tired and hoarse. On substance, Bush wanted to define Kerry as a conventional liberal, and Kerry offered little resistance and helped Bush's case by giving a number of conventional liberal answers. Bush is much more at home with social issues, and he's less apt to fall into Beltway-speak on how programs work.

The voters, of course, will be the final judge. But Bush did about as well as I could have hoped, and in a number of cases Kerry gave worse answers than I would have expected. That's how I scored it.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:49 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Quick Links 10/13/04

*Take McQ's advice and put down your drink before you read this.

*It's not too late to read Jane Galt's hilarious blogging of the second debate ("K[e]rry: I was there when the budget was balanced! Me: I was there when the World Trade Center site was cleaned up! I claim full credit!" "Memo to Mr Kerry: Pro-life voters don't want you to respect them--they want you to not spend their tax dollars on abortions!")

*Smash on Kerry and the anniversary of the USS Cole bombing: "My problem with Kerry isnt that he sees Iraq as a diversion from the War on Terror, but rather that he sees the War on Terror as a diversion from his domestic agenda."

*Hitchens on Saddam's nuclear program ("Of course, we could always have left Iraq alone, and brought nearer the day when the charming Qusai could have called for Dr. Obeidi and said: 'That barrel of yours. It's time to dig it up.'")

*Matt Welch, who disdained the whole Swift Boat story, nonetheless rips the media for not diving into the merits of the story earlier.

*More on the Swift Vets' latest campaign, including the words of Medal of Honor winner Bud Day ("Shot down over North Vietnam in 1967, Maj. Day suffered numerous injuries, managed to escape from his prison, walked for two weeks through the jungle eating live frogs before he was recaptured." More here).

*A Boston Globe columnist casually accuses Bush of being a murderer (via Allah).

*Bill Frist rips John Edwards for giving false hope by saying "If we do the work that we can do in this country, the work that we will do when John Kerry is president, people like Christopher Reeve will get up out of that wheelchair and walk again" (Link via the Corner).

*Nader challenges Michael Moore to a debate.

*Mark Steyn thought Kerry sounded awful when he looked at the debate audience and declared that he, Bush and Charlie Gibson were the only ones in the hall who made $200,000:

[H]ow can you tell by looking at people that they earn under 200 grand? And, even if you can, is it such a great idea to let 'em know they look like working stiffs and chain-store schlubs? But, when you've married two heiresses, it's kinda hard to tell where the losers with mere six-figure incomes begin: it's like the 97-year-old who calls the guys in late-middle age "sonny". In America, quite a few fairly regular families earn 200 grand and an awful lot more families hope to be in that bracket one day. And, more importantly, the sheer condescension of assuming that the room divides into the colossi of the politico-media ruling class and everyone else sums up everything that's wrong with the modern Democratic Party.

I had the same reaction - when Kerry said that there was a guy over his shoulder, older guy in a decent suit, balding, grey hair and glasses - he certainly looked to me like the type who could easily be a doctor, lawyer, businessman type. There were a couple of others who, even just on appearance, could easily have been the same, and as Steyn points out that's still just picking by the stereotypes.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:12 AM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
October 12, 2004
WAR/POLITICS: The Right War, The Right Place, The Right Time PART IV

This is the final part of a four-part series on the Iraq War.

Part I looked at why America could not rest after the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan and why state sponsors of terror, such as Iraq, require our attention. Part II looked at why, in particular, North Korea and Iran should not have taken precedence over Saddam Husseins Iraq. Part III looked at why the decision to go to war in Iraq was necessary and justified. Those questions provide a necessary background to this analysis.

This part looks at what, roughly a year and a half on, America has gained and what it has lost from the Iraq War. Do the benefits outweigh the costs? The answer, attempting to look at the war from all angles, is yes.

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:00 AM | Politics 2004 • | War 2004 | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Fighting Against "Liars and Demons"

Jesse Jackson and John Kerry sound awfully worried and defensive about the potential for the same-sex marriage issue to pry off African-American voters from the Democratic ticket:

"How many of you someone from your family married somebody of the same sex?" Mr. Jackson asked of the congregation of about 500. After nobody raised a hand, he asked, "Then how did that get in the middle of the agenda?"

"If your issues are cancer and Medicare and education and jobs and Social Security and decent housing, then how did someone else put their agenda in the front of the line?" he asked.

Following him a few minutes later, Mr. Kerry urged his audience to try to ignore diversions from the issues Mr. Jackson had mentioned.

"All they're going to do is attack and attack and try and divert, and push some hot button that has nothing to do with the quality of your life on a daily basis," the senator from Massachusetts said.

And, I've heard of demonizing your opponents, but I always thought that was in a figurative sense:

[Kerry] appeared at yesterday's service with Mr. Jackson and Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee of Texas; Rep. Kendrick B. Meek of Florida; Mr. Meek's mother, former Rep. Carrie Meek; and the Rev. Al Sharpton, who campaigned against Mr. Kerry for the Democratic presidential nomination.

"He's fighting against liars and demons," Mrs. Meek said.

The article does not mention if Kerry disagreed with the characterization of Republicans as "demons." Then there's the usual hyperbole:

Mr. Kerry told the congregation he is taking steps to allay the grievance of many Florida blacks that their votes were not counted in 2000. "Never again will a million African-Americans be denied their right to exercise their vote in the United States of America," he said.

Why only a million? Why not a billion, or a trillion, if you're going to make up numbers out of thin air?

Oh, and don't forget all the hyperventilating we get from the Left over the idea that "Bush actually believes that God told him to become president." (But it's OK for a writer to knock that if "[s]ome of my best friends believe in God . . . "). Now, Kerry would never nod along at a suggestion like that, would he?

Pastor Gaston E. Smith at the Baptist church was trying to send a message to his congregation.

"For every Goliath, God has a David," he said. "For every Calvary's cross, God has a Christ Jesus. To bring our country out of despair, discouragement, despondency and disgust, God has a John Kerry."

Mr. Kerry mostly sat stolidly during the 20-minute sermon, nodding slightly. Mr. Smith said God can work His will through the election. "If he did it for Clinton, he can do it for you," he said.

But don't hold your breath waiting for the denunciations of this from Slate and its ilk.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:28 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
October 11, 2004
POLITICS: Dropping The "L" Bomb

So President Bush, in the second debate, goes out of his way to call Kerry a "liberal," to which Kerry's response is to grouse about "labels" rather than try to show how his record disproves the charge (which he can't; as Bob Novak has pointed out, this is the same Kerry who in July 1991 said "I'm a liberal, and proud of it").

The impact? Today's Rassmussen poll suggests that the charge didn't take long to stick:

During the second Presidential Debate, President Bush made several references to Senator Kerry as politically liberal. Kerry consistently responded that labels don't matter.

Whether or not labels matter, the President's message did have an impact on voter perceptions of both candidates.

Sixty-five percent (65%) of voters now see the President as politically conservative. That's up from 60% immediately following the first debate and similar to the numbers following the Republican National Convention. Sixty-one percent (61%) of conservatives now believe the President is one of them.

For John Kerry, 55% now see him as politically liberal. That's the highest its been all year. Following the first debate, 49% viewed the Senator as politically liberal. For most of the year, that figure was in the low-to-mid 40s.

Thirty-one percent percent (31%) of liberals now see the Democratic nominee as one of them. Most liberal voters (59%) still view the Senator as politically moderate.

That's just one debate. If Bush can hammer this theme in the second debate and in ads, he may quickly have Kerry wishing he could go back to debating Iraq.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:12 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Dumb Question

Bush and Cheney rip into Kerry for his remarks in that NY Times Magazine profile, drawing this response:

"I think you have to ask yourself, why are they so interested in attacking John Kerry?" the campaign's national chairwoman, Jeanne, Shaheen, told CNN's "American Morning."

"I think the answer is pretty clear it's because they don't want to talk about the issues that people are facing."

Um, maybe because Kerry is, you know, running against Bush?

It is, of course, a bad sign when a campaign does nothing but attack. But really, you have to be living in la-la land to think Bush hasn't campaigned on the basis of his own past record and future platform. Whining about being criticized for the candidate's own, rather lengthy and detailed remarks on the primary issue of the campaign is just weak and pathetic.

If anything, I almost feel bad for Kerry staffers trying to explain away this interview, which really can't be defended on the merits and shows staggeringly bad political judgment in addition to the bad strategic thinking on national security.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:14 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
WAR/POLITICS: The Right War, The Right Place, The Right Time PART III

This is the third part of a four-part series in praise of, and defense of, the Iraq War.

Part I looked at why America could not rest after the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan and why state sponsors of terror, such as Iraq, require our attention. Part II looked at why, in particular, North Korea and Iran should not have taken precedence over Saddam Husseins Iraq.

This part, the longest yet, details why America and its allies were right to take it upon themselves to enforce years of violated UN Resolutions by military force and, ultimately, to remove Saddam Hussein. In other words, this is the meat of the sandwich.

The hardest part of writing this is deciding where to start.

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:35 AM | Politics 2004 • | War 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Kerry At War, or, Rather, War At Kerry

Many people, starting as usual with Powerline, are piling on John Kerry's answers in this NY Times Magazine profile of his foreign policy views. Geraghty says that it "confirms every conservatives worst fears and suspicions about Kerrys views on how to fight terror." Eugene Volokh is appalled by Kerry's analogy of terrorism to illegal gambling and prostitution, our responses to which "are examples of practical surrender, or at least a cease-fire punctuated by occasional but largely half-hearted and ineffectual sorties." Maguire notes Kerry's hesitancy to talk even to the sympathetic ears at the Times, and points out, "if Kerry does not think he can communicate clearly with a Timesman, how can we take seriously his belief that he can sell his message to a cold, uncaring world?" Lileks, as usual, offers the most cutting critique of Kerry for saying that "[w]e have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance":

Mosquito bites are a nuisance. Cable outages are a nuisance. Someone shooting up a school in Montana or California or Maine on behalf of the brave martyrs of Fallujah isn't a nuisance. It's war.

But that's not the key phrase. This matters: We have to get back to the place we were.

But when we were there we were blind. When we were there we losing. When we were there we died. We have to get back to the place we were. We have to get back to 9/10? We have to get back to the place we were. So we can go through it all again? We have to get back to the place we were. And forget all weve learned and done? We have to get back to the place we were. No. I dont want to go back there.

There's more; read the whole thing.

The profile is an astonishing caricature of Kerry, and all the more frightening because it doesn't seem that the writer - this is the Times Magazine, after all - wants to do a hatchet job on Kerry. There's the elitism:

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:22 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
October 10, 2004
WAR/POLITICS: The Right War, The Right Place, The Right Time PART II

This is the second part of a four-part series on why the Iraq War, contrary to the position de jour of Senator John Kerry, was the right war in the right place at the right time (see Part I here). America acted both wisely and decisively in removing Saddam Hussein from power and is doing the only right thing in helping the Iraqi people get their country back on its feet.

Why, though, of North Korea, Iran and Iraq was a military response appropriate for the latter but not for the first two?

Lets look at them one at a time.

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:14 PM | Politics 2004 • | War 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Quick Links 10/10/04

*North Georgia's own Ricky West on Max Cleland and Jimmy Carter: "Thing is, the two Georgians most cited by the MSM (Cleland and Jimmy Carter) are so far outside of the pulse of Georgia, neither could win a state-wide election even if they were running against each other."

*Check out Jonah Goldberg with what has to be the angriest G-File ever, on Kerry's Iraq posturing. A sample:

[N]o one bothers to ask whether the Great Diplomat and Alliance Builder believes our oldest and truest allies Great Britain and Australia are lead by equally contemptible liars. Of course, they can't be liars they are merely part of the coalition of the bribed. In John Kerry's world, it's a defense to say your oldest friends aren't dishonest, they're merely whores.

And one more:

John Kerry said it so eloquently when he noted that George W. Bush has offered 23 rationales for the war. Heaven forbid the International Grandmaster of Nuance contemplate that there could be more than a single reason to do something so simple as go to war. Let's not even contemplate that the ticket that says this administration hasn't "leveled" with the American people should have to grasp that sometimes leveling with the public requires offering more than one dumbed-down reason to do something very difficult and important.

*This is a classic:

James Rappaport, who challenged Kerry in MA SEN: "He didn't attack me for my positions as anti-tax and pro-growth . . . He attacked me primarily personally." More Rappaport: "At one point he called me a chicken hawk because I was strong on defense but hadn't served in Vietnam. He forgot that I was sixteen when the war ended." ("Nightline," ABC, 9/27).

*In case you missed it a few weeks ago, here's your summit:

France said Monday that it would take part in a proposed international conference on Iraq only if the agenda included a possible U.S. troop withdrawal, thus complicating the planning for a meeting that has drawn mixed reactions.

Paris also wants representatives of Iraq's insurgent groups to be invited to a conference in October or November, a call that would seem difficult for the Bush administration to accept.

(Emphasis added). Kerry demands that we have a summit, and his proposed summit depends on the inclusion of people who want to negotiate with terrorists. But don't hold your breath waiting for Kerry to get called on this.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:46 AM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)

Make sure you check out Tim Blair for a well-deserved bout of "[h]urtful, savage, imbalanced and triumphalist ranting" at Saturday's election victory by Australian Prime Minister John Howard. Howard's opponent, Mark Latham, sounds like an an Aussie Howard Dean:

The real importance of tomorrow's election lies in the foreign policy changes that would be instituted under the Labor Government of Mark Latham. The man who once broke a taxi-driver's arm, and ran Liverpool's (a suburb of southern Sydney) municipal council into historic levels of debt and political chaos now has an opportunity to shape Australia's place in the world. The shape it would take can be speculated upon by the remarks Mr Latham has, in the past, made about the President of the United States. "The most incompetent and dangerous president in living memory" he declared about the American President who overthrew two tyrannical regimes in a single term. Latham then went on to label his Australian conservative opponents as a "conga-line of suckholes" for having originally supported the United States in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Like Senator John Kerry, Mr Latham has prevaricated and occasionally made complete reversals of policy on what Labor would do in Government. "All the troops home by Christmas" was the original clarion call. Then it became some of the troops. Their position hasn't been clarified for some weeks, and thanks to Labor's compliant fifth columnists -- the media -- it isn't likely to be placed under any scrutiny, any time soon. But the fetid stench of appeasement wafts through the air, and it is unmistakable.

Meanwhile, some irregularities but no widespread violence as Afghans went to the polls for the first time since the US liberated their country from the Taliban.

In both cases, of course, the elections represent a setback for John Kerry's campaign. Afghanistan is a clear triumph for the Bush Administration; we're hardly home free there, but the ability to conduct an election free of violence gives the lie to claims that the country has fallen apart, and gives hope for similar progress in Iraq. That's terrible news for Kerry.

In Australia, of course, Kerry's sister - the head of his campaign there - created a stir in mid-September when she basically told Autralians to side against the United States by voting Howard out of office:

JOHN Kerry's campaign has warned Australians that the Howard Government's support for the US in Iraq has made them a bigger target for international terrorists.

Diana Kerry, younger sister of the Democrat presidential candidate, told The Weekend Australian that the Bali bombing and the recent attack on the Australian embassy in Jakarta clearly showed the danger to Australians had increased.

"Australia has kept faith with the US and we are endangering the Australians now by this wanton disregard for international law and multilateral channels," she said, referring to the invasion of Iraq.

Asked if she believed the terrorist threat to Australians was now greater because of the support for Republican George W. Bush, Ms Kerry said: "The most recent attack was on the Australian embassy in Jakarta -- I would have to say that."

Ms Kerry, who taught school in Indonesia for 15 years until 2000, is heading a campaign called Americans Overseas for Kerry which aims to secure the votes of Americans abroad -- including the more than 100,000 living in Australia.

Howard's victory stands as a rebuke to the Kerrys and their ham-handed attempt to pry another ally out of the coalition. And, of course - of much greater importance - it preserves the role of our most faithful ally as a vigilant force against terrorism.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:25 AM | Politics 2004 • | War 2004 | TrackBack (0)
October 9, 2004
POLITICS: "John Edwards and I . . . "

The October issue of Catholic Digest carries extended interviews with both Bush and Kerry, although it's not entirely clear from the context whether these were sit-down interviews or were, as often seems to happen with these sorts of things, written answers submitted in response to written questions.

I didn't find anything all that enlightening in the answers, but there was one tic in Kerry's answers that seems oddly illuminating. Kerry was asked 13 questions - 5 on economic issues, one open-ended "why should a Catholic vote for you" question, 6 on religion or foreign policy, and one on the Latino vote.

In his answers to each of the questions on the economy, as well as in his answer to the open-ended question, Kerry worked Edwards' name into his answer, usually by opening a sentence with "John Edwards and I . . . " In none of the other answers did he mention his running mate. Presumably, Kerry thinks of Edwards as rubbing off some sort of positive air when dealing with bread-and-butter issues, but doesn't find the need to bring him into other areas.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:49 PM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
WAR/POLITICS: The Right War, The Right Place, The Right Time - PART I

The United States and its coalition partners were right to invade Iraq to depose and disarm Saddam Hussein and we are right to be staying to help the Iraqi people combat a ruthless insurgency and develop a stable, representative government. President Bush made the right strategic decision at the right time.

Why Iraq? This is the first of a very lengthy, four-part post on that question. (Like the Crank, Im sorry to be short-changing baseball - which I do love - but I feel that these are important issues and that this may be the very biggest.).

As we live in the continuing wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks, America has a responsibility to aggressively confront rogue regimes, allies of terror and repressive dictatorships wherever and whenever it can. Saddam Husseins Iraq emphatically fit all three categories.

I strongly disagree with the argument that state sponsors of terror are irrelevant to the Global War on Terrorism simply because the specific terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 were sub-state actors. Following the successful invasion of Afghanistan and the fall of the Taliban, the United States was right to broaden its sights and to act to head off gathering threats, correct festering wrongs and enforce long-ignored international resolutions. The approximately 3,000 victims of September 11th deserve no less.

The main question is where, post-Afghanistan, should the next front have been? Let's examine that.

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:01 AM | Politics 2004 • | War 2004 | TrackBack (0)
October 8, 2004

Well, that was an improvement. Bush was visibly livelier, faster on his feet, more in command. He didn't use every single line he needed, didn't uncork some of his most powerful weapons. But he hit Kerry, and hard, on several occasions.

Kerry was mostly the same as the first debate; as noted, he's a good debater. But tonight we saw even more clearly the real Kerry in his repeated determination to deny who he is, run from his record, duck the "liberal" label that so aptly fits him. If Kerry isn't as liberal as Ted Kennedy and Mike Dukakis . . . well, why can't he find examples of how?

Kerry on Saddam's threat:

I do believe Saddam Hussein was a threat. I always believed he was a threat. Believed it in 1998 when Clinton was president.

Kerry on Saddam's threat, same debate just a few minutes later:

I don't think you can just rely on U.N. sanctions, Randee. But you're absolutely correct, [Iran] is a threat, it's a huge threat.

And what's interesting is, it's a threat that has grown while the president has been preoccupied with Iraq, where there wasn't a threat.

Of course, for my perspective Bush's best answers were early on, on the war, although to be honest some of them don't seem as great, or at least as new, on paper. This was the home run:

Mr. President, my mother and sister traveled abroad this summer, and when they got back they talked to us about how shocked they were at the intensity of aggravation that other countries had with how we handled the Iraq situation. Diplomacy is obviously something that we really have to really work on. What is your plan to repair relations with other countries given the current situation?

BUSH: No, I appreciate that. I -- listen, I -- we've got a great country. I love our values. And I recognize I've made some decisions that have caused people to not understand the great values of our country. I remember when Ronald Reagan was the president; he stood on principle. Somebody called that stubborn. He stood on principle standing up to the Soviet Union, and we won that conflict. Yet at the same time, he was very -- we were very unpopular in Europe because of the decisions he made.

BUSH: I recognize that taking Saddam Hussein out was unpopular. But I made the decision because I thought it was in the right interests of our security. You know, I've made some decisions on Israel that's unpopular. I wouldn't deal with Arafat, because I felt like he had let the former president down, and I don't think he's the kind of person that can lead toward a Palestinian state. And people in Europe didn't like that decision. And that was unpopular, but it was the right thing to do. I believe Palestinians ought to have a state, but I know they need leadership that's committed to a democracy and freedom, leadership that would be willing to reject terrorism. I made a decision not to join the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which is where our troops could be brought to -- brought in front of a judge, an unaccounted judge.

BUSH: I don't think we ought to join that. That was unpopular. And so, what I'm telling you is, is that sometimes in this world you make unpopular decisions because you think they're right. We'll continue to reach out. Listen, there is 30 nations involved in Iraq, some 40 nations involved in Afghanistan. People love America. Sometimes they don't like the decisions made by America, but I don't think you want a president who tries to become popular and does the wrong thing. You don't want to join the International Criminal Court just because it's popular in certain capitals in Europe.

Even if indirectly, he did finally deal with the Tora Bora garbage, by talking at the end about military decisions being open to question. Of course, I was thrilled to hear him stress the leadership theme I was pressing for earlier today:

Now, he talks about Medicare. He's been in the United States Senate 20 years. Show me one accomplishment toward Medicare that he accomplished. I've been in Washington, D.C., three and a half years and led the Congress to reform Medicare so our seniors have got a modern health care system. That's what leadership is all about.

I know I'm biased. And it wasn't a knockout. But I certainly thought, especially after how Bush got clobbered in the press after the last debate, that this was a clear win.

UPDATES: And what was with Kerry talking about Red Sox fans living in a fantasy land? Didn't he see Ortiz' home run?

The transcript doesn't capture this moment, where Bush basically swatted Charlie Gibson aside to drop the hammer on Kerry:

KERRY: . . . We're going to build alliances. We're not going to go unilaterally. We're not going to go alone like this president did.

GIBSON: Mr. President, let's extend for a minute...

BUSH: Let me just -- I've got to answer this.

GIBSON: Exactly. And with Reservists being held on duty...


BUSH: Let me answer what he just said, about around the world.

GIBSON: Well, I want to get into the issue of the back-door draft...

BUSH: You tell Tony Blair we're going alone. Tell Tony Blair we're going alone. Tell Silvio Berlusconi we're going alone. Tell Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland we're going alone. There are 30 countries there. It denigrates an alliance to say we're going alone, to discount their sacrifices. You cannot lead an alliance if you say, you know, you're going alone. And people listen. They're sacrificing with us.

(The other time he tried to say "Berlusconi," Bush gave up half way through).

Why do we have another debate limited to the economy? Seems like we covered a lot of that tonight. The foreign policy stuff, I think we can say they've repeated themselves plenty by now. But there's a host of issues (social issues come to mind) that haven't been much ventilated.

Kerry, after Bush called him the most liberal Senator:

But look, what's really important, Charlie, is the president is just trying to scare everybody here with throwing labels around. I mean, "compassionate conservative," what does that mean? Cutting 500,000 kids from after-school programs, cutting 365,000 kids from health care, running up the biggest deficits in American history.

Mr. President, you're batting 0 for 2.

I mean, seriously -- labels don't mean anything. What means something is: Do you have a plan? And I want to talk about my plan some more -- I hope we can.

Say it with me: "competence, not ideology." I guarantee you the Bush camp is giddy tonight; maybe they're wrong, but it sure looked like a Bush win to me, and I suspect it did to them as well.

You will notice once again that in discussing our strategy in the war on terror, Kerry never mentions freedom or democracy and never refers to us fighting anyone but Al Qaeda.

Starting to see some reactions . . . I'd agree that it was a good sign that Kerry was mostly on the defensive.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:56 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
WAR/POLITICS: The Big Picture

Tonight's debate will do much to decide this election. The president also needs for it to help the country focus on something broader: a debate about the fundamental question of what kind of war we are now engaged in. That is the question that has divided our political system since at least the January 2002 State of the Union speech, when President Bush labeled Iraq, Iran and North Korea as an axis of evil. None of this is new ground for those of us who have followed these questions closely and debated them endlessly. But as the time of decision approaches, it is useful once again to go back to first principles on the issues that divide us.

Here's the bottom line:

Kerry: We are at war with Al Qaeda and the remnants of the Taliban because they attacked us; we are at war in Iraq because we attacked them.

Bush: We are at war with any and all international terror groups, whether or not they have previously attacked us, and we can win only when we have removed or fundamentally altered the regimes that support or harbor them.

That's the distinction. Let's explore. There are a number of different strains of thought among President Bushs critics on the Left, ranging from those whose disagreements focus principally on the mechanics of war-fighting to the Michael Moore/Ted Rall=type lefties who opposed the war in Afghanistan and would oppose basically anything that involves the exercise of American power. The latter group, of course, is beyond reason or argument.

The principal thrust of the argument advanced by many mainstream Democrats, however, and recently embraced by John Kerry, goes something like this:

1. The US may only go to war (a) to respond to an attack, (b) to interdict an imminent threat, or (c) with the sanction of the UN. In other words, we have the right to engage in direct self-defense ((a) or (b)), but the legitimacy of any mission that goes beyond direct self-defense depends on the agreement of collective bodies like the UN and, to a lesser extent, NATO.

2. The US was attacked by Al Qaeda on September 11.

3. Therefore, the US has the right to strike back at Al Qaeda, including nations that directly support Al Qaeda.

4. There is no evidence of direct involvement by Iraq in supporting Al Qaeda attacks on the US, and therefore any war against Iraq is not a part of any war of self-defense or retaliation in response to September 11, and is arguably a distraction from finishing that war.

5. There turned out to be no evidence that Iraq had sufficient WMD capabilities, let alone intent to use them, to establish an imminent threat to the US.

6. Therefore, we had no right to act against Iraq without international sanction.
The relevant international organizations had not reached a determination to attack Iraq. Absent an imminent threat or a connection to the war against Al Qaeda, we should not have gone to war until they did.

On one level or another, this has been the argument of critics like Howard Dean, Al Gore, and Bob Graham, and John Kerry has now embraced it by calling the Iraq war a "diversion". I think Ive been fair in setting out the syllogistic quality of this line of thought, which in its defense does have deep roots in Western thought about war. I actually agree with some of its underlying philosophy, although as Ill discuss below, the current situation demands the competing argument of the Bush Administration and its supporters that this approach is hopelessly insufficient to deal with the ongoing threat of international terrorism.

For all of John Kerrys past efforts to appeal to pro- and anti-war voters alike, there has long been copious evidence to suggest that this is what Kerry actually thinks. One of the clearest signs came back in June, when Kerry said this:

This administration took its eye off of al-Qaeda, took its eye off of the real war on terror in Afghanistan and northwest Pakistan and transferred it for reasons of its own to Iraq . . .

In short: we are at war with a single organization (Al Qaeda) and have gone and started a second, separate war in Iraq, without meeting necessary preconditions for doing so.

What Bush, his administration and its supporters (myself included) have consistently argued is that the old way of looking at these issues is wrong, for a number of reasons; I'll focus here on two.

1. "Al Qaeda" is not the only enemy. Yes, that's who attacked us. But the goal here isn't just to put them out of business but to end the terrorist threat to the U.S. once and for all. To my mind, we are at war with (a) any organized terrorist group that can reach across national borders or within the U.S.; (b) any state that sponsors, supports or gives aid and comfort to any such group. Even if you discount the evidence of Saddam's overtures to bin Laden, the fact that Saddam had a long history of actively supporting some terrorists and harboring others makes the ability to tie him to bin Laden almost academic; you can't well say you are at war with terrorist sponsors and leave Saddam in place. Remember, after all, that Al Qaeda itself is only a loose association of groups anyway, formed by a merger with the Egyptian group Islamic Jihad. It's sort of silly to have arguments over whether, say, Ansar al-Islam or Zarqawi were or are part of Al Qaeda; the similarity in rhetoric, tactics, goals and ideology makes them part of the same problem regardless of where the lines on their org charts point.

2. We can't win the war without broadening it. Because we are fighting a type of enemy, united by its ideas and tactics rather than as a single organism, we can't win just by rolling up body counts, capturing territory and choking of funds, although all of those are helpful. What we need to do is change the dynamics of the states that have fostered the problem, both by supporting such organizations and by encouraging the hatreds that breed terrorists.

The choice between Bush and Kerry is clear, it is fundamental, and it is essential to our security. It's a matter of life and death that we get it right.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:51 PM | Politics 2004 • | War 2004 | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: A Prediction

I just got an email from the RNC with an update of the "Kerry on Iraq" video (linked up top). I predict that, in tonight's debate, President Bush will send people to the website if Kerry tries to claim that his position has been consistent.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:52 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1)
POLITICS: The Leadership Gap

There's another thing Bush needs to drive home tonight, and it's a point he's more comfortable making. Here's something like what I'd like to hear:

You know, I've been listening in this campaign to Senator Kerry talk about foreign policy, domestic policy. And it's clear that we have some fundamental differences in philosophy. But leadership matters too. You can't tell people you're going to get things done better if you can't lead.

Dick Cheney and I know a few things about leadership. I've been the president through some tough times, I've been a governor, I've run companies, run a baseball team. Dick Cheney's been Vice President, he was Secretary of Defense during the first Gulf War and Panama, White House Chief of Staff, CEO of a big company. He was elected to a leadership position in Congress when he'd only been there two years. And in the last four years, we've gotten an awful lot done - kept our promises to cut taxes, reform education, pass a Medicare prescription drug bill, lead coalitions in two wars.

When have Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards ever been leaders like that? They've never been executives, never been governors or run a significant business. Their own Senate Democrat colleagues have never elected either one of them to a leadership position, not even trusted them to chair an important committee. They've never led the fight on a major piece of legislation. How are they gonna work with Republicans in Congress?

I've worked with allies around the world. I've worked with Democrats in Texas and in Congress. I know how to get enough people on board to get the job done. That's a proven record of leadership. Where's Senator Kerry's record? Where's Senator Edwards' record? Where's the leadership? When have they ever put people together to follow them anywhere?

You'll hear me talk tonight about my record. Like I said, I've got a record I'm proud of. I've been in Washington four years, and I've gotten a lot done. Senator Kerry's been in Washington twenty years, and he hasn't done a thing worth talking about. Any time he talks about an issue tonight, just ask yourself: where's the record? When has anything ever happened in Washington because John Kerry made it happen?

It's easy enough to criticize. My opponent looks at the wars we've had to fight and says, not enough troops, too many American troops, too many Afghan troops, too much money, not spending enough money to get the job done, not a big enough coalition. He says the coalition should be more like in 1991, but he voted against that war too, said it could still be bigger. Well, the president doesn't have the luxury to wait and see what happens and say, "too little," or "too much." The president has to lead. I've led, and you can judge me by my record. My opponent can't say the same.

There's a common thread throughout Bush's career, from his admittedly checkered business career, to his days as Texas Governor, to his presidential candidacy, to his domestic policy and his conduct of foreign affairs. Bush's expertise is in finding out how many people he needs on board to get a particular job done, and putting together a coalition that will do the job. He has a practical politician's understanding that you need to make concessions to win allies on any issue, so you don't bring along more than you need. And sometimes, you sacrifice some long-term good will to do it, from inflaming Jim Jeffords during the tax cut flap in 2001 to enlisting allies in Iraq (namely, Spain's Aznar government) who couldn't survive the poilitical pressures caused by going along. But in each case, Bush got what he needed.

Kerry's record couldn't be more opposite. Kerry's done nothing with respect to our allies this whole campaign - both the Iraqi allies and the countries that have sent troops - but scorn and insult them. There's a reason his Senate Democrat colleagues have never followed him anywhere, let alone cobbling together enough help from Senate Republicans to pass a bill. There's a reason the great majority of Kerry's peers in Vietnam, as well as the guy who spent the most time in his command on his boat, are willing to drop everything to run around the country opposing him. There's a reason almost nobody can find close Kerry friends among his peers anywhere he's been. Even Kerry's finest hours in the Senate were either lone-wolf investigations or tasks like the POW issue that nobody else wanted to get involved in. Kerry's not a coalition-builder, not a leader, not a guy who gets things done. And Bush, who is all those things, needs to point that out.

UPDATE: Linked this post to this week's Beltway Traffic Jam.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:25 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (2)
POLITICS: The Kryptonite Stays Home

As has been pointed out in numerous places, most of John Kerry's "plan" for Iraq involves claiming to do the same things Bush claims he's already doing. Yes, partisans on each side can argue over what's actually getting done and how much more could be (see here on the latest iteration of the Bush plan), although if Kerry thinks he can get more done faster and better just by pouring more resources into Iraq, he's underestimated how much more difficult he will have made the task of raising those resources after campaigning on a platform of "we should be spending that money at home instead" and "we shouldn't be opening firehouses in Baghdad and closing them at home."

The key to how Kerry tries to bridge that gap, of course, is by claiming he can obtain - and the president should have obtained - more foreign support, including the blessing of key players at the UN. But there is an enormous vulnerability there for Kerry: a skilled debater could expose the childish naivete behind Kerry's faith in the European and UN cavalry, especially after he was finally forced to concede that the French and Germans won't be sending troops. Likewise, the Duelfer report from the Iraq Survey Group report has revealed the extent to which the inspections process, the UN Oil-for-Food program and our "allies" in France, Russia and Germany were hopelessly compromised by corruption and bribery (see here, here, here, here and here for starters). Roger Simon explains why this is so fatal to Kerry, whose worldview simply can't survive contact with these scandals.

But I fear that Bush will never use them. The irony is that Kerry has this great reputation for diplomacy when all he does is defecate all over our allies, while Bush is supposed to be Mr. Ugly American, yet Bush is the one who often pulls his domestic political punches out of what can only be concern that his remarks will harm our ability to work with other countries. If Bush spent tonight working some riffs from Roger Simon and Mark Steyn and Ralph Peters about the French, the Germans, the Russians the UN - their military impotence, their corruption - he could leave Kerry's signature issue in a smoldering pile of ash. But then Bush would have to go back and work with Chirac, Putin, Schroder, and Annan, so instead he plays nice.

Sometimes being the only grownup in the room stinks.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:15 AM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (1)
POLITICS: Where Credit Is Due

You have to give the Kerry camp this: they've been very effective, albeit with the cooperation of the press, in spinning the results of the first two debates to be a smashing victory for Kerry and a draw for Edwards. This is where the arrival of the Clinton people comes up big. They can't and won't make a difference in improving the quality of Kerry's message, to the extent he even has any. But contentless spin, subject-changing and news cycle management are their expertise, and we've seen it in play.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:59 AM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)

Did top Kerry campaign staffer and former Ted Kennedy aide actually say that she never saw Edwards in the Senate either? Sure looks that way from this partial transcript (albeit without a link), but I suspect she just had a brain cramp and meant to say Cheney. Still pretty funny. Link via Wizbang.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:45 AM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Why "Flip-Flop"?

Some people have argued that then Bush campaign needs to get off calling Kerry a flip-flopper and go after his actual positions. Indeed, one Bush staffer told CrushKerry.com that the campaign is in the process of a long-planned October pivot to a "shock and awe"-style sudden-from-all-directions bombardment of Kerry's liberal record in the Senate. (Link via Geraghty). But then you hear something like this from Kerry:

The president and I have the same position, fundamentally, on gay marriage. We do. Same position.

This is a perfect example of why I always thought "flip-flop" was a necessary defensive tactic - you'd rather run against Kerry's ideas, but he's so good at denying what he stands for, by pointing to examples of him saying or doing the opposite ("that dog won't hunt, and let me tell you why . . ."), that it winds up being necessary to argue that he doesn't stand for anything at all, to force him to bear the burden of proving what his position is before you try to knock it down.

Jonah Goldberg:

My favorite part of the debate last night was when Edwards mentioned how he "agreed with John Kerry on Thursday night." You gotta love it that even John Edwards has to nail down the exact time and place that John Kerry said something he agreed with. You can't just say "I agree with John Kerry." That's like saying the globule in the lava lamp is oval. Wait a minute and that will seem ridiculous. So you've got to nail it down.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:29 AM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS/WAR: A Word About Credibility

One of the major themes of the first two debates has been America's credibility in the world at large, and the corresponding ability of the nation to get other nations to follow us. John Kerry and John Edwards insist that America has "misled" the world, as far as the reasons for war and the progress in Iraq. Bush and Cheney have responded that Kerry has sent "mixed signals" that undermine our credibility. Now, far be it from me to suggest that it doesn't matter, particularly on the home front, if the president tells the truth. (I also don't agree with Kerry and Edwards that this administration has been misleading about why we are in Iraq and how we're doing there, but that's another day's argument). But Bush and Cheney are, fundamentally, talking about an entirely different type of credibility - the type that really matters in international affairs.

Because, in the end, most of the countries on this earth, and most of the large masses of people, aren't real big on believing what foreign governments tell them, and with good reason. Most of us on some level - and diplomats and heads of state most of all - recognize that governments speak self-interestedly, and don't take what they say at face value. Or, at a minimum, they make their own minds up - the justifications for war in England are viewed as an issue of Tony Blair's credibility, in Australia an issue of John Howard's credibility, not so much Bush's.

But where a nation's credibility is critical is when you ask whether it is believed that a country keeps its promises - and its threats - acts reliably in its own interests, finishes the jobs it starts, and the like. Did the Soviet Union care if the United States saw "the light at the end of the tunnel" in Vietnam, or whether the explosion in the Gulf of Tonkin was just a pretext? Of course not. But the Soviets watched very carefully when they saw that America didn't stay to finish the war and didn't stand behind the South Vietnamese when the resulting peace treaty was violated by the renewed invasion from the North. And they watched equally carefully when Reagan started fighting to back up our interests, even in places like Grenada where the direct US interests were relatively minor. Because Reagan understood that our credibility in the Hobbesian world of international affairs depended upon not taking slights lightly. And every new president faces, fairly early, tests of his credibility - that is, in some sense, what the Chinese did to Bush in early 2001. There have been other tests, too - and don't think the world hasn't noticed that from Kyoto to the ABM treaty to the International Criminal Court, Bush has stood for one thing and one thing only: protecting US interests against agreements that failed to adequately protect them. Next time someone wants to make a deal with us, they will remember that. In short, credibility in international affairs isn't about telling the truth - it's about being clear where you stand and following through, so your allies know you will keep your promises and your enemies know you will back up your threats. Does anybody seriously think Kerry has that kind of credibility?

The real problem of US credibility in the Middle East - and yes, it's been a bipartisan one - is the widespread belief that we don't have the guts to stick it out through tough times and that we will abandon our allies on the ground to the same old despots. Think Somalia, or the abandonment of the Kurds and Shi'ites in 1991. In a way, that's one of the most compelling reasons, if an unstated one - but one that any world leader immediately understood - why we went to war with Saddam. The guy was flouting the terms of the cease-fire, calling into question the credibility of our willingness to enforce agreements with the US. He was thumbing his nose at the US in myriad ways (including his public cheerleading for the September 11 attacks, something nearly none of even our declared enemies dared to do), calling into question the credibility of our willingness to respond to slights, insults and threats.

And now, we have found ourselves in a daily struggle to win over the Iraqi people - and the biggest obstacle is the fear that we will once again cut and run and abandon them to the same old forces of evil, as we did in 1991, as we did in Somalia, as we did in South Vietnam. It is critically essential to our credibility - and to the security of the situation of our troops in the field - that there be no doubt that the US can not be deterred from finishing the job in Iraq, no matter how long it takes, what the obstacles or the costs are or what political pressures are brought to bear on the president by the Howard Deans of the world. Can John Kerry say he has that kind of credibility, the kind that led the Iranians to conclude that they didn't want to be holding US hostages even a minute into the new Reagan Administration? Bush and Cheney are dead right, and deadly serious, about the fact that Kerry does not. Everything in his record and history suggest a guy who is consumed by fear of the quagmire, who hemmed and hawed and finally opposed the first Gulf War, who has grown gloomy and panicked about this war whenever things have gone badly in the field or in his own political campaign. In fact, Kerry has even argued that we should have threatened war with Saddam - but not been ready to back that threat up the minute he failed to cooperate.

Credibility matters. Lack of it gets people killed. The kind of credibility that counts is not the credibility to persuade people in argument or admit mistakes. It's the credibility to say, "this we will do," or "this we will not stand for," and then prove that you will not yield in that determination. That's the credibility that Bush has, and Kerry does not.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:16 AM | Politics 2004 • | War 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (3)
October 7, 2004
POLITICS: Who Said It?

On catching bin Laden - January 20, 2002:

"The bottom line is that the closest we came was in Tora Bora. I do think some people have asked some questions about how that particular component of the mission sort of played out. But the fact is that it is a difficult place. He is elusive.

I think they are doing the maximum amount right now possible to try to track him down. And it is an extraordinarily hard thing for him to hide somewhere. I mean, over a period of time, I think, he is in trouble."

(Emphasis added). If you've been following this campaign, you can probably guess who.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:12 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Quick Links, 10/7/04

* From the Asia Times: why John Kerrys plan for dealing with North Korea is ill-conceived.

* Glenn Reynolds (who memorably stated last week that hed be delighted to live in a country where happily married gay couples had closets full of assault weapons) looks at some of the under-covered aspects of the Duelfer Report. Dont just listen to spin, though, take a look at the reports key findings yourself.

* It doesnt sound like Alexandra Pelosis new film is too flattering to Mr. Kerry. I actually enjoyed Journeys With George even though it was rather more cynical about our political process than I am.

* Finally, Bruce Springsteen and the Vote for Change tour of contested battleground states have now added a last minute trip to New Jersey. Draw your own conclusions.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:46 PM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Good News For The GOP

CBS Sportsline reports a massive increase in viewership for the vice presidential debate vs. four years ago:

Despite competition from the baseball playoffs, five times as many television viewers watched Tuesday's vice presidential debate between Dick Cheney and John Edwards, Nielsen Media Research said.

The 43.6 million viewers were up from the 29.1 million people who saw Cheney take on Democrat Joe Lieberman in 2000, and reflects the heightened interest in the race.

Fox was the only major network not to carry the Cheney-Edwards debate in the New York area. It was contractually required to show the AL Division Series Game 1 between the New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins, which had 8.5 million viewers.

Fox affiliates in other markets chose to carry the debate.

Of course, some folks would have you believe that John Edwards won or drew the debate, which may be the case if you watched with the sound off. But particularly given the way Cheney drilled the Kerry-Edwards team on Iraq, I'd score these ratings as excellent news for the Bush-Cheney ticket.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:22 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (1)
POLITICS/WAR: Failing the Test of History

With the Presidential campaign finally heading towards a climax and the baseball playoffs in full swing, I couldnt resist jumping back into the mix here, however temporarily.

Anyway, I noted with some satisfaction that President Bush finally went on the offensive about one of the most glaring weak points in John Kerrys various positions on Iraq: his vote against the 1991 Gulf War.

John Kerry and John Edwards have very disingenuously been holding up the Gulf War as a model of multilateral military engagement and cost-sharing. The problem is not that this isnt true it clearly is but that Kerry voted against the very war which his campaign now says forms the criteria by which he defines acceptable multilateralism (i.e. virtually the entire world on our side).

A rough history follows (I apologize for any errors, but am mainly going from memory). In 1991, Saddam Husseins Iraq was, for the second time, on the verge of developing nuclear weapons, yet, in an act of almost incomprehensible recklessness and stupidity, invaded neighboring Kuwait prior to attaining a nuclear capability. After some hesitation, the United States led by the first President Bush decided that the invasion could not stand and developed the largest international coalition in history, backed by, among many others, the U.N. Security Council, a number of Arab allies and the indispensable sine qua non of any successful military alliance: the French.

Yet, when the vote had come before the U.S. Congress, Kerry voted against taking military action.

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:47 AM | Politics 2004 • | War 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Yesterday's Bush Speech

Yesterday morning's speech by the president had some good stuff along with some typical stump speech filler, but also a few disappointments:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:25 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
October 6, 2004
POLITICS: Taken To School

Man, Dick Cheney's gonna be pulling chunks of John Edwards out of his stool for months after tonight's debate.

I had not, you may recall, planned on watching tonight's debate, or any of today's playoff games; I started an arbitration today, which had been projected to run the rest of the week. I won't go into details here except to say that it only took one day of hearings to bring the case to a successful conclusion, leaving me unexpectedly free, after hearing a few innings of the Yankees-Twins game, to catch the back end of the debate on radio and TV and then catch up on the rest on tape and transcript.

My impressions? Well, as I said at the time, I thought the first presidential debate was pretty good; Bush was solid but far too slow to respond to Kerry's attacks; Kerry was at the top of his game, albeit due to throwing out a lot of falsehoods.

Tonight's debate was even better (as debates often are when the candidates are sitting down) - these guys weren't afraid to mix it up, and frankly called each other liars quite often (Cheney: "Well, Gwen, it's hard to know where to start; there are so many inaccuracies there."). Now, some people really do think most of what Dick Cheney says is lies. You can't reach those people. But to anybody else, it had to be obvious that Cheney won this one, and the Kerry camp had to be hoping that a lot of people were watching the baseball game instead. Cheney was on top of just everything, very fast on his feet, he was calm, deliberate, and serious.

Edwards, meanwhile: well, to those of us who are practicing litigators, Edwards is a recognizable type - the lawyer who's great in front of juries, where he gets to control the narrative, but not so hot in front of judges, because he keeps trying to launch into an emotional closing argument instead of answering questions. Here's a perfect example:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:00 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (14) | TrackBack (1)
October 3, 2004
POLITICS: Did Kerry Cheat? [UPDATE: No]

Well, anyone who's done any kind of public speaking or argument can tell you that a guy who has prepared notes can whup a guy with no notes nine times out of ten, unless the guy without notes is (unlike George W. Bush) really a masterful extemporaneous speaker. Is it really possible that a Kerry operative told Drudge, in response to questions, "See you at the inauguration, Drudge"? That does sound like the Kerry people's type of self-justification, although it also sounds like the kind of unverifiable reporting one tends not to trust, coming from Drudge.

A colossal scandal? Not really. But pretty low-rent behavior and not the mark of a man with any honor, if you ask me. I just assumed watching the debates that Kerry had prepared notes - he certainly appeared to be using note cards - and was wondering why Bush didn't have better ones himself. I hadn't realized that the candidates had agreed to do without them.

UPDATE: The NY Post claims that the video shows that Kerry pulled out a pen. Apparently this was also in violation of the rules, although I could have sworn I saw Bush taking notes and I know I saw Kerry taking notes almost every time Bush was speaking. Clearly, bringing in a pen isn't a big deal. Bringing in prepared notes, when you've agreed with the other guy not to, is something of a bigger deal, although I'd tend to agree with a number of commentators who think that this isn't going to put a dent in Kerry either way, and we're best off leaving the issue. Frankly, I think the quality of the debate - which was actually pretty good - and its ability to inform the public would have been improved if the candidates had agreed to bring prepared notes, just as any competent lawyer will have prepared notes at an oral argument or a trial. How many decisions does a president make without the ability to consult notes or talk to advisors, anyway?

SECOND UPDATE: Bill has reviewed the evidence and retracted his accusation. End of story.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:43 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)
October 2, 2004
POLITICS: You Can Tell A Man By The Company He Keeps

In light of John Kerry's puzzling insistence on a go-it-alone approach to North Korea in Thursday night's debate, I thought I'd make a little list. Admittedly, I'm doing much of this from memory, but there seems to be a certain consistency . . .

1. The North Vietnamese, during the Vietnam War, compared Ho Chi Minh to George Washington, argued that their war was one of national liberation, accused US troops of regularly committing war crimes and atrocities, called on Nixon to end the war immediately, argued that the people of South Vietnam would be happy to accept communism, and generally argued that the US war in Vietnam was immoral from beginning to end. John Kerry, during the Vietnam War, compared Ho Chi Minh to George Washington, argued that the North's war was one of national liberation, accused US troops of regularly committing war crimes and atrocities, called on Nixon to end the war immediately, argued that the people of South Vietnam would be happy to accept communism, and generally argued that the US war in Vietnam was immoral from beginning to end.

2. The Soviet Union and its allies denounced the US invasion of Grenada in 1983. John Kerry denounced the US invasion of Grenada in 1983.

3. The Soviets, in the 1980s, denounced Ronald Reagan as a warmonger and a threat to peace for deploying missiles in Western Europe. John Kerry, in the 1980s, denounced Ronald Reagan as a warmonger and a threat to peace for deploying missiles in Western Europe.

4. Daniel Ortega, in the 1980s, denounced US support for the Nicaraguan contras and argued that the US should have peace talks with his regime. John Kerry, in the 1980s, denounced US support for the Nicaraguan contras and argued that the US should have peace talks with Ortega's regime.

5. Moammar Qaddafi argued that Reagan's bombing of Libya was unjustified and caused excessive civilian casualties. John Kerry argued that Reagan's bombing of Libya was unjustified and caused excessive civilian casualties.

6. Our adversaries during and since the Cold War have argued that we were reckless and irresponsible by pursuing missile defense. John Kerry has argued that we were reckless and irresponsible by pursuing missile defense.

7. Fidel Castro has, for decades, regularly denounced US sanctions against Cuba. John Kerry has, for decades, regularly denounced US sanctions against Cuba.

8. In 1991, Saddam Hussein wanted to draw out the process of the Western response in the hopes that it would bog down. John Kerry said we should have drawn out the process.

9. Yasser Arafat has denounced the security fence erected by Israel. John Kerry has denounced the security fence erected by Israel.

We can add four more from the debate alone:

10. In 2002-03, Saddam Hussein wanted to draw out the inspections process and make it more multilateral. John Kerry says we should have drawn out the inspections process and made it more multilateral.

11. Kim Jong-Il wanted to have bilateral talks rather than multilateral talks. John Kerry says we should have had bilateral talks rather than multilateral talks.

12. Osama bin Laden says we helped him by invading Iraq. John Kerry says we helped bin Laden by invading Iraq.

13. The Iranian mullahs oppose US sanctions against Iran, wish to enter into agreements with the US, and insist that there are plausible reasons why a poor but oil-rich country needs nuclear power. John Kerry opposes US sanctions against Iran, argues that we should enter into agreements with Iran, and insists that there are plausible reasons why a poor but oil-rich country needs nuclear power.

Does Kerry have company on some of these stances? Yes. Can he defend some by pointing to occasions (as with Israel and Cuba policy) where he's since taken the opposite position? Yes. Is he actually an unpatriotic America-hater? Of course not. But remember: Time and time and time again, America's enemies have argued against us - and Kerry has echoed their charges. I'd rather trust the national defense to someone who's not so quick to echo the words and strategies of our enemies.

(A partial list of sources: Kerry's stances on Grenada and Nicaragua, the first Gulf War, the Cold War and Grenada again, the security fence, the Cold War again, Libya, Nicaragua again, and Grenada again, and Cuba).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:42 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Debate Fables

Well, we know John Kerry wasn't at the Republican Convention in August (I was), but he shouldn't have claimed that the subways weren't running for the convention without checking with someone who was.

But what about some of Kerry's other claims? Lileks covers Kerry's claim that we should have used more allied troops in Iraq. Smash covers Kerry's claim that we should have used fewer allied troops in Afghanistan. And this National Review analysis debunks Kerry's claims about body armor.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:36 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
October 1, 2004
POLITICS: A Notable Absence

This has to be a first in a foreign policy debate:

Nothing about Castro

Nearly nothing about Mexico

Nothing about Haiti or Venezuela or Colombia

Viewers who tuned in to hear the candidates' views on America's role in the Western Hemisphere could be forgiven for concluding that neither of them has any views on America's role in the Western Hemisphere.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:06 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Commander

One more thing I should add that was impressive about the debate - even if we should all know better by now - was Bush's command of the facts. Bush is often regarded as a guy who grasps only as much as is written down in front of him, but last night he was on top of a broad array of issues, from the onset of the rainy season in Sudan to the upcoming summit in Japan. None of this should be a surprise, and as I said, Bush certainly wasn't in his element, but for voters who may have gone in expecting Bush to read "My Pet Goat" while he waited for Uncle Dick to bring him the answers to the questions, Bush's performance had to be reassuring.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:04 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (10) | TrackBack (1)
September 30, 2004
POLITICS: Happy Coattails

The happiest people from tonight's debate have to be down-ticket Democrats. John Kerry's strong performance may not move the needle much in the presidential debate, given Bush's refusal to be pushed around and his bouts of feisitiness. But if the debate didn't help Kerry much, it should be enough to finally arrest his catastrophic decline, and that will help other Democrats worried about a Mondale-sized disaster.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:25 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Debater and the Chief

If you had any doubt that John Kerry is a tough, aggressive debater - in fact, a man who's at his best in debate - tonight should have removed any doubt. Kerry put in a fine point-scoring performance, getting off his shots at President Bush, avoiding his trademark rambling and getting away, actually, with quite a lot of statements that the president should have called him on, from fairy tales about buying body armor on the internet to the fundamental illusion that Kerry can change the opinions of allies who haven't helped out in Iraq. Bush, partly because he's not a great debater and partly because he carries the burden of his office (can't scorn the French if you might someday have to work with them), was unable to dismember the fundamental falsehood at the heart of Kerry's "plan" for Iraq.

But Bush also did what was probably necessary: he stood on the podium as Leader of the Free World. He made clear over and over the importance of being consistent, not sending "mixed messages." Yes, like Kerry, he had a few points he repeated endlessly, but he had to.

Bush's strongest performances were on two points: calling Kerry on his stream of insults aimed at the allies who HAVE helped us in Iraq, and making Kerry look like an idiot on North Korea, where Kerry was left sputtering about the need to have bilateral rather than multilateral talks without giving any reason other than that's not what Bush is doing.

Bottom line: Kerry is a better debater, and it showed. He's faster on his feet. But when Bush sets his feet, he doesn't budge. The voters will decide which is a more important qualification to lead in wartime.


Bush talked a lot about freedom, liberty. Kerry hardly did, except in Russia, but he did bring more emphasis to winning than in the past.

I hope this debate doesn't change much in the election; I think it may not. Bush started badly but held his ground after that, while Kerry was consistent throughout.

This summarizes one exchange: Kerry: "He's a liar." Bush: "I don't take that personally."

I liked how Bush repeatedly stressed staying on the offensive.

It was tacky how Kerry said "the president invaded Iraq." No, the United States and its allies did.

Kerry said Bush didn't work with our allies like Reagan did. Reagan, rolling over in his grave: "oh, now you support my foreign policy."

People who ripped Zell can shut up after Kerry called our troops "occupiers".

Kerry dodged Jim Lehrer rolling out his "last man to die for a mistake" line after Kerry called the war a "mistake"

Bush's turning point was when he called Kerry's attack on Bush for turning own UN help "totally absurd." Also, Kerry stepped in it when he started talking about yet another UN resolution and when he used the phrase "passes the global test" for preemptive action, and when he griped about us developing bunker-busting nukes to take on North Korea. Ill give Reagan the last word: "now that's the Kerry I remember."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:35 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Kerry Kool-Aid Comes In Two Flavors

And you are required to drink both.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:13 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Quick Prediction

Lots of interesting issues to address for tonight's debate, but I'll just make a prediction on one. A key issue of tone for Kerry is whether to try to look presidential and be likeable, and thus temper his attacks on Bush in favor of trying to lay out his own vision, or whether to play to his natural strength as a debater - the strength that forged his reputation as a "good closer" - and go mercilessly on the attack, questioning Bush's truthfulness and trying to bait Bush.

My prediction: the latter. Several reasons: (1) Bob Dole, who shares some of Kerry's strengths and weaknesses as a presidential candidate, tried the former approach in 1996, to no effect (as Kerry's Clinton-era staffers will recall); (2) Kerry has been on the attack in recent speeches, to say nothing of his spokespeople; (3) Kerry's base wants it (to the point where some people have been pining for Howard Beale Dean lately), and may need to hear some of the old 1971 anti-war passion from Kerry to perk up morale and get out the down-ticket vote.

I'm not saying this is necessarily the wisest strategy. But it will feel good, and stands a chance of breaking the race's momentum (or, alternatively, burying Kerry entirely). I predict that Kerry decides that he's been too cautious for too long, throws caution to the wind, and turns his rhetorical boat into the fire, coming out swinging as the man Kerry obviously believes he really is.

Stay tuned. The fireworks could be fun to watch.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:47 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
September 28, 2004
POLITICS: Lowered Expectations

Karl Rove must dream, in the says leading up to the first debate, of stories like this:

New York's state Democratic Party chairman derided President Bush on Monday as "simple" and "that simplistic gentleman up there in the White House with his one- and two-syllable answers."

And remind me why someone who gets snookered this badly by the mere threat to pull out of one debate should be trusted to negotiate with Iranian mullahs and crazy Kim.

Then again, Dales warns that the history of pre-debate polls and their power to predict the general election result doesn't necessarily support the idea that the debates are as influential as everyone thinks.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:15 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
September 26, 2004
POLITICS: From My Blog To Jonathan Alter's Ear

Back on July 28, at the height of enthusiasm for the Kerry campaign, I noted this, from Josh Marshall's site, about a conversation Marshall had with Michael Moore at the Democratic convention:

I ask him what he makes of all of this. No attacks on the president. Not even any mention of the man's name. . . .

[A]s he breezes by he says, "Oh, Really? I liked it. You don't even have to say it. Everyone knows how bad it is."

Think what you will about Michael Moore or evening one of the convention, I think that sums up precisely what this event is all about and the dynamic on which it's operating. I've seen a slew of articles today arguing that the Democrats must energize their 'base' while not alienating the swing voters John Kerry needs to clinb from the mid-40s past 50%.

But this strikes me as a tired conventional wisdom that has little to do with what's actually happening here. . . .

Among Democrats, the rejection of this president is so total, exists on so many different levels, and is so fused into their understanding of all the major issues facing the country, that it doesn't even need to be explicitly evoked. . . . the primetime speeches were actually brimming with barbs, and rather jagged ones at that. They were just woven into the fabric of the speeches, fused into rough-sketched discussions of policy, or paeans to Kerry.

Perhaps it's a touchy analogy, but like voters who understood the code-words Republicans once (and often still do) used to flag hot-button racial issues they dared not voice openly, these Democrats could hear the most scathing attacks on President Bush rattling through the speeches they heard tonight.

My reaction:

Josh Marshall and Micheal Moore hit the nail on the head with regard to how the Democrats really feel about why this convention has been so vague and unspecific in its attacks on President Bush, to the point where I hardly think the name "Dick Cheney" or familiar hobby-horses like "Halliburton" or "Enron" or "Weapons of Mass Destruction" have been mentioned: they think it's so self-evident that Bush is a disaster that they don't even believe it's necessary to explain why. I'm not sure that's a winning approach, but I do think Marshall and Moore have put their fingers on what their side is thinking.

As it turns out, this is rather precisely the problem: Kerry didn't think the American people needed any persuading. Thank you, big media/lefty pundit coccoon. Now, months later, Jonathan Alter has noticed the problem:

Shrum's grand plan wasn't complicated. He figured that with most voters believing the country is on the "wrong track," all that Kerry had to do was establish his credibility as a potential commander in chief and he would winhence the "bio" convention. No need to respond directly to Bush ads sliming him for wanting to cut the same weapons systems that Bush's father cut. No need to explain how the Iraq war had been botched. No need to discredit Bush at all, because he was already thoroughly discredited.

Oh, well. The Shrum strategy was the product of short-term thinking (the assumption that Bush's unpopularity in the period of the Abu Ghraib Prison scandal would last until fall) and was reinforced by the sealed and often smug world of Democratic politics, where it was taken for granted that Bush was bad, bad, bad, and any reasonable person already knew why. Shrum correctly realized that a Michael Moore-style sledgehammer would do little to sway undecided voters who don't loathe Bush. But Shrum wrongly extrapolated from that point that Kerry had no need to indict Bush in easy-to-remember phrases that would stick. He once told me as much, and that name-calling wouldn't work in post-9/11 presidential politics.

That was wishful thinking.

Of course, it's a bit late now to fix the problem. But turning to the meta-issue, amazingly, this isn't the first time Alter has followed one of my trains of thought. On September 9, I wrote:

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:57 PM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Stale Humor . . .

. . . but still funny. Trolling through the demented Allahpundit's archives, I picked up this, this and this from the Democratic primaries. If you didn't see them then, go there now.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:23 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Microbial Theory

Let's consider exactly how bad things look right now for John Kerry in the Electoral College, by looking over RealClearPolitics' state-by-state battleground poll averages. Bush, of course, starts with a historical advantage: he needs 269 electors to tie, 270 to win, and if he holds the 2000 "red states," he gets 278. On the RCP scoreboard, Bush gets 291 if you count the states where his average margin is at least 3 points over Kerry.

With Ohio drifting away from Kerry and Wisconsin looking firmly planted in the Bush camp, Kerry's hopes are now totally dependent upon wresting Florida from Bush, while holding on to big battlegrounds like Pennsylvania (Kerry by 1.7), Minnesota (tied), Oregon (Kerry +0.7), and New Jersey (Kerry +1.4) (Michigan, at Kerry +5 now looks fairly safe for Kerry barring another big shift in the dynamics of the race).

But, leaving aside the issue of Maine and possibly Colorado splitting their electoral votes, consider this outcome - even if Florida gets away from Bush, he could still win with the following states:

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:36 AM | Politics 2004 • | Poll and Election Analysis | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Links 9/26/04

*Go read Captain Ed, and keep scrolling. There's just so much good stuff there I can't begin to link to it all.

*I've added Let's Fly Under The Bridge to the blogroll for Roland Patrick's unique combination of exhaustive examination of the "Bush AWOL" nonsense (with the benefit of knowledge derived from his own military experience) and his longstanding crusade to mock Brad DeLong. In this installment, he carves up the US News and World Report for misunderstanding Bush's TANG payroll records and service requirements. (Hat tip to the redesigned QandO - update your blogrolls! - for linking to Patrick).

*Geraghty notes more examples of Kerry's chronic indecisiveness, this time with quotes from exasperated party loyalist and Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell.

*Godwin's Law alert from Josh Marshall: "Can we re-check the sprinkler system in the Reichstag?"

*Drezner's got some great stuff on life in the campaign press corps bubble.

*The spate of retractions on stories harmful to Kerry on Friday seems like a sign of what the ex-Clinton guys like McCurry, Lockhart, Carville and Begala are good at - jumping all over the media to get their side of the story out or, in these two cases, to get errors fixed before they spread too far. Just because media bias, sloppiness and laziness so often tilts against Republicans, we shouldn't forget that Democrats get burned at times as well, and a Democratic candidate needs people to push back at the media.

By the way, I thought at the time that people might be misreading the Burkett paraphrase that later got retracted. Here's the original:

During a single phone conversation with Lockhart, Burkett said he suggested a "couple of concepts on what I thought [Kerry] had to do" to beat Bush. In return, he said, Lockhart tried to "convince me as to why I should give them the documents."

Some people read this as saying that Lockhart wanted Burkett to give the documents to the Democrats, but it always looked to me like he was saying Lockhart told him to give the documents to CBS. This is just bad writing, which leaves the reader in doubt as to critical facts (as Daffy Duck would say, "Pronoun Trouble!"). Anyway, the later retraction clarified that Burkett had told the reporter that CBS wanted the documents - and if that's what he really said, the reporter just goofed terribly.

*As long as John Kerry is in public life - at least as long as he fails to apologize for or retract his statements in the Vietnam Veterans Against the War - stories like this one will just keep coming (hat tip to Allah).

*And another point, albeit not from what you would call an independent source, on Bush's entry into the TANG, for those of you not sick to death of this:

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:17 AM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
September 23, 2004
POLITICS: Quick Links 9/23/04

*Ramesh Ponuru notes the Kerry campaign's misuse of a study whose author contends that it did not, as the Kerry folks claim, show that President Bush's Social Security reform plans would lead to massive benefit cuts.

What else is new?

*It's official: the Kerry campaign is raising the white flag in Arizona, Arkansas, Louisiana and Missouri, all once thought of as potential swing states. Kerry has pulled any plans for running additional ads in those states.

*Jon Stewart last night, on Rathergate: "To see fake journalism taking off like this is very refreshing."

*Progress in winning over African-American voters is, like the Yeti, a durable yet mythical figure in Republican circles. But hope springs eternal. Red State has a chart (the second one, not the first, which is a sample of 40 voters) that seems to show President Bush doubling or tripling his support among black voters in several states compared to 2000, mainly in the South. I'm not sure if this is reliable stuff, but if it is, I'd bet that military families are heavily represented among those willing to give Bush a hearing.

*Captain Ed's readers keep digging up new documents at the Navy Archives regarding Kerry's tour in Vietnam. This one relates to David Alston, who spoke persuasively at the Democratic Convention but has tended to tell stories about engagements where he and Kerry did not serve together.

*Wizbang sees Kerry throwing the Swift Boat Veterans into the briar patch.

*Try this one on:

The Commission on Presidential Debates told the Bush and Kerry campaigns Tuesday that it could not accede to their unusual request that it sign by Wednesday their 32-page agreement detailing parameters for the debates.

First of all, the commission said, it has to determine which candidates have enough support in the polls to qualify for the debates, which it does not plan to do until Friday.

They need a poll to determine if Kerry still has enough support to be included in a debate? ;)

*What is Kerry hiding? Quite a lot of things major candidates usually disclose, including medical records, tax and financial records, and military records. (via QandO). The press usually doesn't tolerate this - they didn't let go with Bill Simon's tax returns in 2002 or Jack Ryan's divorce records this spring (in each case, inflicting huge damage on the candidate), and we saw in the case of Paul Tsongas why the medical records of a candidate - especially a cancer survivor - can be a significant omission. Yet the media has given Kerry a free pass on stuff that he would have to disclose if he was running for Senator or Governor.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:04 AM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
September 22, 2004
POLITICS/WAR: Flip, Flop & Fly

Tracking all the Kerry flip-flops on Iraq is a hopeless endeavor, but here is a choice one. Kerry's speech on Monday:

The President claims [Iraq] is the centerpiece of his war on terror. In fact, Iraq was a profound diversion from that war . . .

Secretary of State Powell admits that Iraq was not a magnet for international terrorists before the war. Now it is, and they are operating against our troops. Iraq is becoming a sanctuary for a new generation of terrorists who someday could hit the United States.

So, what did Kerry say when he voted on the Iraq war resolution?

It would be naive to the point of grave danger not to believe that, left to his own devices, Saddam Hussein will provoke, misjudge, or stumble into a future, more dangerous confrontation with the civilized world. He has as much as promised it. . .

A brutal, oppressive dictator, guilty of personally murdering and condoning murder and torture, grotesque violence against women, execution of political opponents, a war criminal who used chemical weapons against another nation and, of course, as we know, against his own people, the Kurds. He has diverted funds from the Oil-for-Food program, intended by the international community to go to his own people. He has supported and harbored terrorist groups, particularly radical Palestinian groups such as Abu Nidal, and he has given money to families of suicide murderers in Israel.

Man, this is just too easy sometimes. I also found this amusing:

The President . . . should give other countries a stake in Iraqs future by encouraging them to help develop Iraqs oil resources and by letting them bid on contracts instead of locking them out of the reconstruction process.


The President . . . should use more Iraqi contractors and workers, instead of big corporations like Halliburton.

So, after all of Kerry's bluster about a coalition of "the coerced and the bribed," be wants to get more people on our side by . . . bribing them. But at least he's being consistent in calling for outsourcing jobs currently done by U.S. companies and workers, right?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:30 AM | Politics 2004 • | War 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Expectations Game

A few weeks back I noted the Bush campaign's strategy to lower expectations for Bush's performance in debates by creating a debate-about-debates dynamic that made it seem as if the president was afraid of too many debates; I also noted how hard it was for Bush's detractors to resist the temptation to fall into the trap by mocking Bush on this score.

The good news for Kerry supporters: Matt Yglesias isn't stupid enough to fall for the trap. The bad news: John Kerry is.

(Stephen Green notes about Kerry: "Man, I'd love to play poker with this guy." Of course, Kerry is the same guy who has now announced to the world that we should be willing to threaten war when we don't mean it, so his bluffing skills are as bad as his ability to recognize a bluff - "Gee, John, you put a lot of chips on this hand." "Yes, I'm bluffing.").

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:28 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
September 21, 2004
POLITICS: Question of the Day

Stuart Buck:

So this is what supposedly happened:

1) Burkett comes into the possession of documents that, if true, would damage Bush and aid Kerry.

2) Via Max Cleland, the Kerry campaign is notified that Burkett has some highly interesting documents related to Bush.

3) Via Mary Mapes of CBS, Joe Lockhart is notified in particular that Burkett had some "records" that would "move the story forward."

4) Indeed, Burkett "had agreed to turn over the documents to CBS" only "if the network would arrange a conversation with the Kerry campaign."

5) Lockhart, a very busy man, then calls Burkett.

6) Despite the fact that Lockhart would have had no reason for calling Burkett in the first place other than the story about National Guard documents, and despite the fact Burkett had already tried to get the documents to the Kerry campaign via Max Cleland, and despite the fact that he had made CBS promise to get him in touch with the Kerry campaign before he would release the documents, both Lockhard and Burkett somehow neglected to talk about the documents.

7) Instead, Burkett merely took the opportunity to tell Lockhart that Kerry needed to talk "more" about his "Vietnam experience," as if Kerry hadn't already emphasized that theme, and as if Lockhart had called Burkett merely to hear this sort of generic advice.

Are 6 and 7 believable?

Like I said about Sandy Berger's-pants-gate: man, Clinton scandals are just the gift that keeps on giving, aren't they?

Oh, and: could there be a clearer contrast between (1) the media presumption of Bush and RNC involvement in the Swift Boat ads in the absence of any evidence of same and (2) the media presumption that the Kerry folks had nothing to do with this even though key figures in the Kerry and DNC camps were talking to all the major players, including a known crackpot, at the critical junctures? Particularly given that Bush and the RNC have never tried to add the Swift Boat Veterans' charges to their own litany of attacks on Kerry, while the open attacks on Bush's Guard service have come in the form of Kerry speeches, Kerry press releases, daily attacks by the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, ad campaigns paid for by the DNC, speeches by Wesley Clark, Tom Harkin and other Democratic candidates and officeholders, to say nothing of veiled references from numerous speakers at the Democratic Convention. It's not like the Democrats can credibly say that they didn't ask Burkett about this stuff because they weren't interested in this issue.

Bill INDC has some good stuff too.

UPDATE: Wizbang has an entertaining trip into the Sixty Minutes wayback machine to visit with the original wacko who started all these anti-Bush "Fortunate Son" stories before committing suicide after his criminal record (for paying someone to commit murder via car bomb) was exposed.

SECOND UPDATE: Michele has a particularly egregious example of where liberal journalists are willing to find coordination.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:43 PM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Web of Connections

Well, we keep digging deeper on the web of connections between the Democrats and the forged documents used in CBS' hit job on President Bush.

First of all, beyond his statement on CBS Evening News, Dan Rather sat for a longer interview with local reporter Marcia Kramer of WCBS-TV here in NY (Kramer is best known as, among other things, Hillary Clinton's favorite reporter during the 2000 Senate race, which should tell you something). I didn't see a transcript, but you can go here and view the video.

Rather seemed genuinely contrite and apologetic, and kept saying there was no excuse, "this is not a day for excuses." But his factual assertions belied that:

1. He focused entirely on the idea that CBS had to change its story when it determined that Bill Burkett lied to them about the provenance of the documents. Still no admission that there was anything wrong with the documents themselves or that anyone else but CBS' own diligence led to the discovery.

2. Rather seemed to admit that CBS, or at least Rather, never saw anything purporting to be originals: "I believed in the authenticity of the copies of the documents we had"

3. Rather refuses to accept responsibility for putting the documents on the air over the objections of two of CBS' experts, and continues to insist either that the experts are lying now or that he personally was misled by his staff at CBS about what the experts were telling them. I haven't exactly transcribed this - I'm paraphrasing - "I was told that we had four experts who by and large agreed that the documents were not forgeries, probably weren't fake - two of those came back later and either changed their story or changed what I was and we were told was what they were saying"

4. Additional information on Burkett's additional source: Burkett told CBS that the documents came from a person (who Rather still won't identify) who would have had access to the original files and who was out of the country and CBS could not locate them.

But wait, there's more!

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:24 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
September 20, 2004
POLITICS: Josh Marshall's Timeline

Allah and Jeff Goldstein have been wondering about the timeline set out in the Washington Post for how CBS put together the "Sixty Minutes II" story, and what it means in the hunt to identify who was responsible for creating and disseminating forgeries. You'll want to read their whole analyses. Now, it appears that CBS will point the finger at Bill Burkett, see here and here, a guy about whom Kevin Drum - who interviewed Burkett in February - said

I talked with Burkett at length back in February, and speaking as someone who believes his story about Bush's files being purged, I still wouldn't trust him for a second if he suddenly produced a bunch of never-before-seen memos out of nowhere. If he really is CBS's "unimpeachable source," they've got some very serious problems with their news judgment.

Here's the basic timeline derived from quotes from the WaPo article, which I've excerpted and bullet-pointed:

*In mid-August, Mapes told her bosses that she had finally tracked down a source who claimed to have access to memos written in 1972 and 1973 by the late Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian, Bush's squadron commander in the Texas Air National Guard.

*During the Republican National Convention in New York [August 30-September 2], Rather got a call from Ben Barnes, a onetime Texas lieutenant governor and veteran Democrat who has known the anchor, a former Houston TV reporter, for 30 years. Barnes said he was ready to say before the cameras that he had pulled strings to get Bush a coveted slot in the Texas Guard in 1968. Mapes had long been urging Barnes to tell his story.

*On Friday, Sept. 3, the day after the convention ended, Mapes hit pay dirt. She told Howard her source had given her the documents.

*The next stop was Texas. Rather was in Florida, so CBS chartered a plane to get him to Austin. On Sunday, Sept. 5, he and Mapes interviewed Robert Strong, an administrative assistant in the Texas Guard during Bush's service there.

*Document analyst Marcel Matley flew from California to New York, and Rather interviewed him on Labor Day, Sept. 6

*On Tuesday, Sept. 7, as Rather sat down in a CBS studio with former Texas lieutenant governor Barnes, the top brass was turning its attention to the explosive story.

The story ran Wednesday, September 8.

So, that's it? Well, here's an item quoted by Goldstein that needs to be factored in:

In an Aug. 21 posting [on a Yahoo group for Texas Democrats], Burkett referred to a conversation with former senator Max Cleland (D-Ga.) about the need to counteract Republican tactics: I asked if they wanted to counterattack or ride this to ground and outlast it, not spending any money. He said counterattack. So I gave them the information to do it with. But none of them have called me back.

Cleland confirmed that he had a two- or three-minute conversation by cell phone with a Texan named Burkett in mid-August while he was on a car ride. He remembers Burkett saying that he had valuable information about Bush, and asking what he should [do] with it. I told him to contact the [Kerry] campaign, Cleland said. You get this information tens of times a day, and you dont know if it is legit or not."

Cleland, as we know, was in Texas August 25 to deliver a letter to the president's ranch in Crawford; on August 21, Cleland was in Wisconsin.

Anyway, that's all background here. Someone with more time to spend on this can connect these dots, but I'd like to add a few links to the fire:

*On August 22, with no apparent prompting from anything in the news, Josh Marshall, out of the blue, calls for Ben Barnes to come forward:

Now, as fate would have it, Ben Barnes is a Democrat. Was then, is now. And he supports John Kerry.

But he's never really spoken openly about how he helped Bush hop in front of everyone else or other aspects of the president's abbreviated military service, about which he is said to know a great deal.

Maybe now would be the time?

By August 27, still well before Barnes was reportedly in touch with Dan Rather, Marshall touts a Kerry campaign video featuring Barnes:

You'll want to link through to this one -- it's a video clip of Ben Barnes, the former Speaker of the House in Texas, the guy who got President Bush into the Texas Air National Guard.

I'm told the tape is from a recent Kerry rally . . .

[snip; includes Barnes saying, "I got a young man named George W. Bush in the National Guard when I was Lt. Gov. of Texas and Im not necessarily proud of that. But I did it."]

Now, I don't know what Ben Barnes looks like. And I do not independently know the provenance of the tape. But I've spoken to two sources who know Barnes. And they tell me that that is Barnes on the tape.

One of those two men is Jim Moore -- co-author of Bush's Brain. Moore told me this afternoon that the clip is from June 8th of this year, at a Kerry rally in Austin. Moore assures me that the tape is legitimate.

I placed a call to Barnes' office and left a message with one of his assistants; but the request for comment has not yet been returned.

Click through Marshall's site to see the video. Soon, Marshall was pushing the Barnes-is-talking story; by September 1, six days before Barnes supposedly met with Rather, Marshall reported:

A bit more on Ben Barnes, the guy from Texas who got President Bush into the Guard way-back-when.

Apparently, the attacks on Kerry's war record just proved too much for him. As we've noted previously, for almost a decade now Barnes has gone to great lengths to avoid causing trouble for the president on the Guard matter. And the Bush folks in Texas have made it clear to him during this election cycle that if he spills the beans about the president that they'll do everything in their power to put him out of business in the state (Barnes is now a lobbyist). And that heat has, I'm told, increased dramatically in recent days.

But apparently those threats haven't done the trick because he has already taped a lengthy interview slated to appear in the not-too-distant future on a major national news show in which he'll describe the strings he pulled to keep Bush out of Vietnam and apparently more.

(Between you and me, according to my three sources on this, Barnes told his story to Dan Rather -- remember, the Texas connection -- for 60 Minutes.)

(Allah noted a similar report in Salon that day). What does it all mean? Not clear yet. But Marshall's sources were clearly pushing Barnes to come forward and get him to talk to Rather, at precisely the time that Burkett was talking to Max Cleland and was, apparently, involved in getting the forged documents to CBS.

Developing . . .

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:28 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)
September 19, 2004
POLITICS: The Forgery Trap

This hypothetical scenario, which I linked to earlier, suggests (among other things) that the White House, while having no role in their creation, basically entrapped CBS into putting forged documents on the air:

They [CBS] come up with a clever idea: They'll get a reaction out of the White House. They decide to fax the memos to the White House and ask for a comment. It will place Bush in a terrible bind. After all, Bush could have no way of knowing that copies of the memos still existed or what other memos CBS might have. He'll have to come out with a mealy-mouthed statement about how it doesn't matter and he fulfilled his Guard obligation and this is dirty politics. Then CBS can move forward with the broadcast, having Bush's tacit admission that they are genuine. . . .


Karl Rove gets the faxed documents and goes running to Bush with the bad news. Bush: 'This can't be right. I never got any orders from Jerry Killian to report for a medical exam.' Rove: 'Well Dan Rather is going to be putting these on his 60 Minutes broadcast. He's got to have people lined up who will vouch for them.' Bush: 'Karl, Jerry would never write down anything like this. Somebody's feeding bulls**t to CBS.' Rove: 'Okay, let's start by calling in the FBI and checking if these memos are real.'

An hour later two high-power experts are pouring over the documents. Within fifteen minutes they're telling Bush and Rove that the memos are not only fakes, they are really, really bad fakes. Rove: 'How easy would it be for other experts to see that?' Expert: 'Anyone can see it. I can't believe that CBS found a legitimate expert to authenticate these. No professional is going to risk his reputation by saying that these are genuine, especially if he only has copies to go by.'

But what's the White House going to do? Rove expects 60 Minutes to show a small picture on the TV screen with a blow-up highlighted overlay of a couple of critical sentences from each memo. It won't be enough for experts to analyze. The general public will believe it, and White House denials will be brushed aside.

Now Rove comes up with a counter-ploy: Re-fax the documents to the rest of the news media. That way they'll have the evidence available for their own experts to analyze and knock down. Don't say much of anything; just reiterate the usual boilerplate that the President fulfilled his National Guard obligation and was honorably discharged.

The 60 Minutes crew is a bit surprised by the White House tactic, but immediately concludes that Rove is trying a pre-emptive strike, to minimize the significance of the memos. In a way it's even better than an angry response. It shows that the White House is shell-shocked! The White House reaction proves that the memos are genuine, despite the doubts which have been raised during the pro forma review by CBS' outside experts, and despite the denials of Killian's son.

The Washington Post's account seems to support this general theory, if not its specifics:

White House communications director Dan Bartlett had agreed to talk to "60 Minutes," but only on condition that the CBS program provide copies of what were being billed as newly unearthed memos indicating that President Bush had received preferential treatment in the National Guard. The papers were hand-delivered at 7:45 a.m. CBS correspondent John Roberts, filling in for Rather, sat down with Bartlett at 11:15.

Half an hour later, Roberts called "60 Minutes" producer Mary Mapes with word that Bartlett was not challenging the authenticity of the documents. Mapes told her bosses, who were so relieved that they cut from Rather's story an interview with a handwriting expert who had examined the memos.

At that point, said "60 Minutes" executive Josh Howard, "we completely abandoned the process of authenticating the documents. Obviously, looking back on it, that was a mistake. We stopped questioning ourselves. I suppose you could say we let our guard down."

(No word on whether pun intended).

As CBS pushed to finish its report, it was Bartlett who contacted the network -- rather than the other way around -- at 5:30 the evening before to ask whether the White House could respond to the widely rumored story.

And more:

Bartlett said he caught the president leaving for a campaign trip that morning and showed him the memos. Bush had "no recollection of having seen them," Bartlett said, and would not necessarily have seen papers from a commander's personal file.

Howard was struck by the fact that Bartlett, in his interview, kept referring to the Killian memos to support his argument that the president had fulfilled his military obligations.

"This gave us such a sense of security at that moment that we had the story," Howard said. "We gave the documents to the White House to say, 'Wave us off this if we're wrong.' " But Bartlett said CBS never asked him to verify the memos and that he had neither the time nor the resources to do so.

I note with amusement CBS' defense, in stark contrast to its sneers at the one-man-band nature of the bloggers criticizing it:

Mapes, an associate producer and a researcher were carrying the journalistic load. "The show is not so lavishly budgeted that we have tons of people doing this," said Harry Moses, a "60 Minutes" producer not connected to the story. "You do the pre-interviews yourself and then bring in the correspondent."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:38 PM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Steyn Challenge

Mark Steyn challenges CBS' typewriter "expert" Bill Glennon, who still insists that it was possible to create the now-infamous Killian memos with a 1972-vintage typewriter:

Look, if Dan thinks this guy's theory is correct, let's put him and his IBM Model D and me and my computer in a room at CBS News for an hour and see which one of us emerges with the closest replicas of these four documents. I'll give him ten thousand bucks for every memo he reproduces exactly, and round it up to an even 50 grand if he gets all four right.

Any takers, CBS?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:46 PM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Bear Baiters for Bush?

If you follow the Electoral College too closely for your own good, you may be aware that, if each of the two presidential candidates wins the vote in each of Maine's two Congressional districts, they are each awarded one elector, with the state's two remaining electors going to the statewide winner. Apparently, while John Kerry is still doing solidly in Maine, President Bush is running ahead in the state's predominantly rural Second Congressional District, a potentially significant win if the election swings back to being airtight-close by Election Day. To what does CNN attribute this?

Although Maine has voted solidly for the Democratic presidential nominee since 1992, this year has opened a window of opportunity for the president in the 2nd District, which is perceived as more conservative and supportive of the war in Iraq than southern Maine's 1st Congressional District.


According to the CNN Web site, large numbers of veterans who live in the 2nd District are the bulk of the support for President Bush. The network's analysts also speculated that hunters in the 2nd District who oppose a ban on bear baiting could also be presumed to be pro-Bush and will be helpful to the president on Nov. 2.


Is that anything like this?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:32 PM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: And Now For Something Completely Different

Add to the list of new government agencies to be added by John Kerry: the Ministry of Silly Walks:

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:04 PM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
September 18, 2004
POLITICS: Misguided Fox Hunters

Stuart Buck catches Kevin Drum and the New Republic making charges against FOX News - of promoting a doctored photo of John Kerry and Jane Fonda - without any supporting evidence. Buck goes through the transcripts and finds that FOX anchors mentioned that the photo was doctored and a hoax every time they referred to it.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:29 AM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Latest on Rathergate

*ABC has decided to go for CBS' jugular, and comes up with the man who actually got Bush into the Texas Air National Guard:

Retired Col. Walter Staudt, who was brigadier general of Bush's unit in Texas, interviewed Bush for the Guard position and retired in March 1972. . . .

"I never pressured anybody about George Bush because I had no reason to," Staudt told ABC News in his first interview since the documents were made public.


Staudt said he decided to come forward because he saw erroneous reports on television. . . .

Staudt insisted Bush did not use connections to avoid being sent to Vietnam.

"He didn't use political influence to get into the Air National Guard," Staudt said, adding, "I don't know how they would know that, because I was the one who did it and I was the one who was there and I didn't talk to any of them."

'Highly Qualified'

During his time in charge of the unit, Staudt decided whether to accept those who applied for pilot training. He recalled Bush as a standout candidate.

"He was highly qualified," he said. "He passed all the scrutiny and tests he was given."

Staudt said he never tried to influence Killian or other Guardsmen, and added that he never came under any pressure himself to accept Bush. "No one called me about taking George Bush into the Air National Guard," he said. "It was my decision. I swore him in. I never heard anything from anybody."

When he interviewed for the job, Bush was eager to join the pilot program, which Staudt said often was a hard sell. "I asked him, 'Why do you want to be a fighter pilot?' " Staudt recalled. "He said, 'Because my daddy was one.' He was a well-educated, bright-eyed young man, just the kind of guy we were looking for."

He added that Bush more than met the requirements for pilot training. "He presented himself well. I'd say he was in the upper 10 percent or 5 percent or whatever we ever talked to about going to pilot training. We were pretty particular because when he came back [from training], we had to fly with him."


Records show Bush stopped flying F-102As in April 1972. He has said he moved to Alabama to work on the Senate campaign of a family friend. Staudt retired from the Guard in March of that year and said he was never contacted about Bush's performance.

"There was no contact between me and George Bush ... he certainly never asked for help," Staudt said. "He didn't need any help as far as I knew."

He added that after retiring he was not involved in Air National Guard affairs. "I didn't check in with anybody - I had no reason to," he said. "I was busy with my civilian endeavors, and they were busy with their military options. I had no reason to talk to them, and I didn't."

Staudt said he continues to support Bush now that he is president. "My politics now are that I'm an American, and that's about all I can tell you," he said. "And I'm going to vote for George Bush."

Link via Allah.

*WaPo moves the ball ever so slightly by looking at Bill Burkett's rants in a Yahoo club. Money quote:

In e-mail messages to a Yahoo discussion group for Texas Democrats over the past few months, Burkett laid out a rationale for using what he termed "down and dirty" tactics against Bush. He said he had passed his ideas to the Democratic National Committee but that the DNC seemed "afraid to do what I suggest."

*A plausible how-it-could-have-happened scenario (link via Dales blog).

UPDATE: Allah has some pointed comments about Burkett's phone call to Max Cleland; he's right on the money in his point about Josh Marshall. And Mickey thinks Staudt could sue CBS, although the bigger question is why they never talked to him in the first place.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:38 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
September 17, 2004
POLITICS: Swift Dodge?

Has the Navy determined that John Kerry was entitled to his medals? An AP report seems at first glance to say so:

The Navy's chief investigator concluded Friday that procedures were followed properly in the approval of Sen. John Kerry (news - web sites)'s Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart medals, according to an internal Navy memo.

Vice Adm. R.A. Route, the Navy inspector general, conducted the review of Kerry's Vietnam-ear [sic] military service awards at the request of Judicial Watch, a public interest group.

Hmm, "procedures followed properly"?

Judicial Watch had requested in August that the Navy open an investigation of the matter, but Route said in an internal memo obtained by The Associated Press that he saw no reason for a full-scale probe.

"Our examination found that existing documentation regarding the Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart medals indicates the awards approval process was properly followed," Route wrote in the memo sent Friday to Navy Secretary Gordon England.

"In particular, the senior officers who awarded the medals were properly delegated authority to do so. In addition, we found that they correctly followed the procedures in place at the time for approving these awards."


"Conducting any additional review regarding events that took place over 30 years ago would not be productive," he wrote. "The passage of time would make reconstruction of the facts and circumstances unreliable, and would not allow the information gathered to be considered in the context of the time in which the events took place.

This is almost certainly the right decision as far as the Navy is concerned, but it does nothing to resolve the public question, which is dumped back on the voters to decide whether the facts matter and, if so, what they are. Not the reference, however, to "existing documentation" - I'm sure Judicial Watch will be hot to pursue whether everything available to Route has been made public.

UPDATE: Tom Maguire thinks this proves that the Navy has documents we don't, since there isn't sufficient public information to conclude that the proper procedures were followed with regard to Kerry's first Purple Heart.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:52 PM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Quick Links 9/17/04

*I had meant to tear into Kerry spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter's claim that "There was no terrorism in Iraq before we went to war," but Stephen Hayes had done it for me.

*Does Kofi Annan want Bush to win, or is he (more likely) completely oblivious to how little most Americans (even many critics or skeptics of the Iraq war) like having some UN functionary tell them that it's "illegal" for America to go to war with a country that repeatedly violated the terms of a cease-fire? The State Department fires back.

*Got your Florida campaign slogan right here: "[L]et them go naked for a while" may not exactly be "let them eat cake," but it's close.

*Not that Kerry himself is any better; he's about as convincing a populist as Prince Charles. Vodkapundit notes that Kerry calling Lambeau Field "Lambert Field" is hardly the first example of him botching the local color, citing his campaign's ignorance of St. Louis radio powerhouse KMOX and his misadventures with Philly cheesesteak. Of course, then there's touting "Buckeye football" to a Michigan crowd, misidentifying Eddie Yost as a Red Sox player . . . it's stupid stuff, and the Yost thing is particularly forgivable because it was from a years-ago memory, but it does bespeak a certain disinterest in connecting with people on things that should be easy to get right. But here's what's hilarious about the Lambeau thing: Lambeau is a French surname, and Kerry said it like one of those guys who deliberately refuses to pronounce a French name properly. If Kerry can't get a French name right, what, precisely, is he good for?

*Opportunity knocks: Bush and Kerry have each been invited to appear, separately, for half-hour segments on Black Entertainment Television (BET) to address questions of special concern to African-American voters. Bush should jump at this. Yes, any potentially hostile interview is a risk in the stretch run of an election. And yes, Republicans often eschew advertising and campaigning directed at African-Americans out of a rational short-term calculation that there are more likely votes to be won elsewhere. But this is free TV, it's just a few hours of the president's time, and it's a way to showcase his interest without having to get booed by an NAACP crowd.

*Hey Hey, Ho Ho. (But check out the definitive rebuttal in the second comment).

*Roll tape!

*The camera does not love John Kerry. Of course, the caption here suggests an improvement on current campaign tactics.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:01 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: 54-40, or Fight?

Bush leads 54-40 in a Gallup poll due out this morning, raising further questions about the sometimes wide variance in polling. Still, I'd be surprised if many presidential candidates have won after trailing by double digits in a Gallup poll as late as the middle of September. The electoral math is getting grim for Kerry; if Bush wins Florida and Ohio, it's very hard for Kerry to win, and Bush is looking stronger in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which would really lock down the electoral college.

But don't get cocky; Dales still sees a lot of states in play.

September 16, 2004
LAW/POLITICS: More Cracks In The Wall

Breaking news in the Valerie Plame case. DC District Judge Thomas Hogan yesterday unsealed this opinion (link opens a PDF file) requiring New York Times reporter Judith Miller to "appear before the grand jury to testify regarding alleged conversations she had with a specified Executive Branch official" and produce related documents; the court notes that Miller did not write an article but "spoke with one or more confidential sources regarding Ambassador Wilson's article, 'What I Didn't Find in Africa.'" The court concluded that requiring Miller's testimony was proper because "all available alternative means of obtaining the information have been exhausted, the testimony sought is necessary for the completion of the investigation, and the testimony sought is expected to constitute direct evidence of innocence or guilt." (Emphasis added).

Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports that one of its own reporters, Walter Pincus, has indicated that his source has revealed his (or her) identity already:

A Washington Post reporter's confidential source has revealed his or her identity to the special prosecutor conducting the CIA leak inquiry, a development that provides investigators with a fact they have been pursuing in the nearly year-long probe.

Post reporter Walter Pincus, who had been subpoenaed to testify to a grand jury in the case, instead gave a deposition yesterday in which he recounted his conversation with the source, whom he has previously identified as an "administration official." Pincus said he did not name the source and agreed to be questioned only with the source's approval.

"I understand that my source has already spoken to the special prosecutor about our conversation on July 12 [2003], and that the special prosecutor has dropped his demand that I reveal my source. Even so, I will not testify about his or her identity," Pincus said in a prepared statement.

"The source has not discharged us from the confidentiality pledge," said The Post's executive editor, Leonard Downie Jr.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:31 PM | Law 2002-04 • | Politics 2004 | Comments (19) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Quick Links 9/16/04

*Kevin Drum admits the obvious:

[I]t's a big mistake for us liberals to kid ourselves into thinking that Republicans win elections solely because they fool people into voting for them. It's not just that this is a debilitating mental attitude - although it is - but it's also not true. Our main problem isn't that this year's campaign has ignored the issues, our main problem is that the #1 issue in this campaign is national defense, and on that issue - like it or not - the majority of Americans favor the Republican position. If John Kerry wants to win, he should focus on the issues, but he has to focus on the issues that matter most in this campaign cycle.

It's all about 9/11, Iraq, terrorism, and national security, baby. This election is going to be won on that issue, and Kerry needs to convince the country that he can handle it better than Bush. And really, considering the botch Bush has made of national security, that shouldn't be all that hard.

Bottom line: Republicans aren't avoiding the issues. It's just that their signature issue happens to be the one people care most about this year. Democrats had better figure that out pronto.

(Emphasis in original).

*In a funny Monday G-File, Jonah Goldberg compares Dan Rather's decision to use and then defend the use of forged documents to the decision of the Hapsburgs to enter World War I:

He was the equivalent of some powdered-wigged fool who believed that Austria would come out on the other side of a short battle with its reputation enhanced. Instead, it revealed that CBS News is really the Sick Man of Big Media. . . it's clear that Dan Rather doesn't understand what's going on any more than those poor last dinosaurs understood why the tasty green fronds became so hard to find when it got cloudy. As an icon of the old world of big media, his self-inflicted extinction will surely be recognized as the end of not merely Dan Rather, but the age of Dan Rathers.

I don't have any better idea about what's coming next than the folks in 1914 did. I don't think blogs have the ability to replace CBS News any more than Gavrilo Princip and the Black Hand could replace the Hapsburgs. Blogs are great but they can't do the heavy lifting of investigative journalism. But it seems obvious to me that we are officially at the Goodbye To All That moment of old media.

*Allah has a real Columbo moment with the acronym "OETR." My main source on things military confirms this: "I have a half dozen OERs but I have never heard of OETR." (Link via Geraghty, who needs to get permalinks)

*Speaking of Geraghty, he has tons of poll news this morning. What does it all mean? Dales has the answers.

*My Pet Jawa has some background on Kitty Kelley. (via LlamaButchers).

*Funny Bushism in his speech to the National Guard (where he pointedly stated that "I respect and honor all of those who serve in the United States Armed Forces -- active, Guard, and Reserve."):

From its birth in the 1630s, the Guard protected the early colonists and helped win the War on Independence.

Um, wasn't that the war of or for Independence?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:51 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (4)

My law school classmate Orin Kerr comments on the CBS frenzy:

[L]et me see if I understand things correctly. A presidential election is less than two months away, and there is a war going on right now in Iraq. The war in Iraq raises profound questions about United States policy with regard to the Muslim world for decades to come. But instead of debating the war that is going on right now, we're debating the war records of the two candidates from more than three decades ago. Wait, no, that's too direct: we're debating one network's story about one candidate's war record from three decades ago. Wait, maybe that's too direct, too: we're debating the fonts on different typewriters that may or may not have been used to write a memo that led to a story about one candidate's war record from three decades ago. Yeah, that's pretty much it.

C'mon, folks: don't we have more important things to blog about?

Dan Drezner concurs. I see their point about the extent of the coverage, but:

(1) Most of us have blogged many angles of the Iraq war to death, especially the justifications for the war in the first place.

(2) Getting a good picture of the facts on the ground to blog about the war's continuing progress can be quite frustrating for the U.S.-based civilian observer. Part of the problem is that we are so heavily dependent on the media to give us an accurate picture of what is going on.

In that context, the fact that one of the three major networks - in a story immediately disseminated by many other media outlets (including on the front page of numerous newspapers) - is being exposed for having used forged documents, perhaps knowingly and almost certainly recklessly, in pursuit of what looks like a partisan and/or personal vendetta against the president, is tremendously important. The problems being revealed go to the heart of CBS' newsgathering and editorial decisionmaking practices, which in turn affects the credibility of the news we rely on to interpret so many other stories.

In a way, then, this is about the Iraq war. It's about everything.

(3) I'll add a third point: I can blog until I'm blue in the face about the Iraq war, as we all have, without doing much to change the world. But as with the Trent Lott story, the blogosphere has actually affected the course of this story. That's where the emphasis comes from - bloggers are always going to be most attracted to the stories on which they can actually have some impact or uncover some new facts.

(Of course, for some websites, this story is their sole reason for being).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:53 AM | Blog 2002-05 • | Politics 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
September 15, 2004
POLITICS: On Wisconsin

Millionaire construction magnate and former Army Ranger Tim Michels yesterday won the Republican primary to challenge Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold. The Feingold-Michels race, in a critical swing state in the presidential race, promises to focus heavily on national security:

Michels, the only candidate in the race with military experience, also argued his background was critical in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.

He ran an ad that featured the World Trade Center on fire to emphasize the dangers facing the United States and harshly criticized Feingold for his vote against the Patriot Act. The act broadened police powers to battle terrorism after the 2001 attacks.

All of Congress came together to pass the Patriot Act except for Sen. Feingold, Michels said.

Feingold has said he opposed the measure because it went too far in eroding civil liberties. Michels said that wasnt an acceptable position in a time of terrorism.

He voted no and thats really all that counts in the end, Michels said.

Yes, it's ironic to have a Republican, in this year of John Kerry, stressing his military record. But a military record remains a very good thing for a public official to have; it just can't be everything. Feingold's vote against the Patriot Act naturally invites a serious debate on the issue. It's also ironic to have a self-financed millionaire businessman running against one of the authors of the campaign finance reform bill that will only proliferate the number of such candidacies in the future.

Feingold remains favored to win, but polls have consistently shown that he was vulnerable; Michels will need to move fast to make an impression. Fortunately, Feingold called before the primary for five debates with the GOP nominee. I was a little disappointed here - I'd given money to Bob Welch (not the pitcher), a long-time Wisconsin state senator and conservative favorite. Either way, though, it will be a senate race to watch.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:36 AM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
September 14, 2004

Greyhawk, who's headed off to Iraq (drop some cash in his tipjar to help out keeping his site live while he's deployed), catches even RatherBiased.com missing a chance to rip an inflated claim by CBS News about its role in publicizing the horrors at Abu Ghraib. (Link via Instapundit).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:15 PM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Charlie Cook Unplugged

Wonkette, breaking with her usual practice, carries some actual political analysis from Charlie Cook of the National Journal (note that this is analysis someone else paid to get and then leaked to Wonkette):

Cook feels that the Kerry campaign has been overconfident. The Democrats should have attacked Bush on his weak points: the economy, health care and the deficit. Instead, they focused on Kerry's military past. Barack Obama's speech was terrific but didn't move ball forward at all for Kerry and was a waste of airtime. The Swift Boat attacks have been devastating for Kerry and he took too long to respond. As Cook put it, Kerry lost three pints of blood and you can only lose five before death. Kerry's campaign also looks a bit like Noah's ark, with everything in pairs: two consultants, two experts, etc. In contrast, Karl Rove can make a decision while shaving in the morning and have it executed before he pulls out of the driveway.


In response to a question about Kerry's ability as a "closer," with the '96 campaign against William Weld typically cited as evidence, Cook was quite skeptical. He felt that Kerry does not have a history of running good campaigns. Bill Weld was a moderate running in a liberal state, during a time when Newt Gingrich and his crowd were running amok in Washington. Cook feels it was the worst environment for a Republican to run in. Rather than Kerry winning, Cook feels that Newt lost it for Weld. In addition, Kerry didn't win the Democratic nomination; rather, Dean and Gephardt killed each other, destroying each other like scorpions.

A savvy poiunt about Obama, who gave a speech that left us all feeling very good . . . about Barack Obama. (See here for my critique of the Democtrats' convention strategy, although I hadn't pointed the finger at Obama). I also liked the plug for Real Clear Politics and its averaged polls. The Kerry Spot (a daily must-read these days) has more free-premium-content gloom for Democrats with a link to this FreeRepublic post reprinting an analysis of congressional races by Roll Call's Stuart Rothenberg.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:09 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Eric McErlain takes apart one of the stupidest political arguments I have ever seen, this Bob Harris post at Tom Tomorrow's place showing a still photo of George W. Bush playing rugby at Yale and trying to make out Bush as some sort of dirty rugby player. I'm no expert on rugby, but it always seemed like one of those sports where the technical term for someone who never played dirty was "loser."

Anyway, I emailed Harris some time back - he never responded - to point to this David Pinto post:

[Peter] Gammons and Kerry played hockey against each other in prep school, and Peter told me once that Kerry was the dirtiest hockey player he ever saw.

Lesson: maybe you don't want to make this an issue. Although McErlain links back to a post where he quotes Denis Leary making Kerry out to be a weak-minded, vascillating showboat as a hockey player, at least in his later years. So who knows?

Anyway, the best line about the whole Bush rugby thing comes from a commenter at Michele's place back in mid-August:

It seems like absurdly too much effort to spend on a stupid 35-year old rugby picture, but I saw a post somewhere yesterday saying that, like a lot of sports action photos, it might not even be what it looks like at first glance. The implied physics of the picture (assuming Bush to be throwing a punch) would have Bush and his fist moving in opposite directions, not a great way to hit someone (but, hey, Bush is dumb, so that would fit, I suppose!)

And, of course, it's a devastating picture, ruining Bush's rugbycentric strategy, which he planned to kick off at the end of the convention when he'd be joined by a dozen former Yale rugby players, his "Band of Ruggers."


Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:53 PM | Other Sports • | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: I Link, You Decide

Two more stories on the "AWOL"/medals issues, which I pass along without further comment:

*Vodkapundit notes the discovery of what at least purports to be John Kerry's after-action report on the engagement leading to the awarding of his Silver Star.

*A theory about some of the confusion in Bush's records and among the witnesses regarding his service in Alabama (Via Maguire).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:46 AM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL/POLITICS: The Ownership Society

Following up on an earlier post, a few diligent readers sent me links to this AP story observing that President Bush - unlike Senator Kerry - has raised a lot of money from baseball owners and, to a lesser extent, baseball players. Of course, given that a lot of these people know Bush personally from his days as owner of the Rangers, that's not all that surprising, nor is it surprising that the owners would, as a result, view Bush as being sympathetic to their interests.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:32 AM | Baseball 2004 • | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
September 13, 2004

Deacon at Powerline notes possible ways for CBS to feel the heat from its use of forged documents, including boycotts of their advertisers or FCC consequences. These are unrealistic and penalize innocent parties. The answer here is obvious. You are never going to get CBS or its affiliates off the air.

The goal - and one that's already been substantially advanced by this story - should be to convince other news outlets to view CBS News reports the way they currently view Drudge - as an indication of a possible story that requires further independent investigation, rather than something you can run with on tomorrow's Page One.

As we saw all too clearly on Thursday morning, a CBS News story is still seen by other news outlets, including the other networks' morning news shows and the major newspapers, as worthy of repeating without independent fact-checking. That is what needs to change.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:35 AM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Hopefully But Almost Certainly Not The Last Post About Bush's and Kerry's Service Records

As recently as five days ago, this, from Kevin Drum, was the motto of the Left in dealing with the dueling stories about (1) whether George Bush was given preferential treatment in joining the Texas Air National Guard and whether he fulfilled his service requirements to the TANG and (2) whether John Kerry earned bogus medals to get an early trip home from Vietnam:

This story is a perfect demonstration of the difference between the Swift Boat controversy and the National Guard controversy. Both are tales from long ago and both are related to Vietnam, but the documentary evidence in the two cases is like night and day. In the Swift Boat case, practically every new piece of documentary evidence indicates that Kerry's accusers are lying. Conversely, in the National Guard case, practically every new piece of documentary evidence provides additional confirmation that the charges against Bush are true.

As it turned out, of course, the documents Drum was discussing in that post were crude forgeries. Even apart from that, however, Drum is way off base in his analysis, as I'll discuss below. Now, we get a different tune from Matt Yglesias, who's been an unlikely bitter-ender in the forged-documents debate:

[S]eeing as how the White House hasn't bothered to allege that these are forgeries (George W. Bush being someone in a position to know, for example, whether or not Killian ever ordered him to take a physical George H.W. Bush [at a minimum] being someone in a position to know whether or not pressure was brought on Killian regarding the write-ups) I don't see a reason why CBS should need to produce a slam-dunk case. To have a real "he said, she said" she has to say something.

A third perspective comes from this comment by Oliver Willis (scroll down; it's in the comments section) that pretty well sums up the mindset of Willis, the rest of the Media Matters crowd and their ilk:

Frankly, my major beef with Bush is the dead soldiers in Iraq and the economic stupidity at home. All this other stuff is icing on the cake, if it sticks good, if not oh well. As long as its mud.

(You can see a similar approach in this DNC email and press conference Friday morning after the 60 Minutes documents had been fairly well exposed as frauds). Well, let's start with Drum's and Yglesias' points about the burdens of proof. And let's recognize the basic truth about these stories:

1. George W. Bush was paid by the TANG for a sufficient number of drills to meet all requirements, and was given an honorable discharge in 1973.

2. John Kerry was awarded three Purple Hearts, the Silver Star and the Bronze Star by the United States Navy, was granted permission to leave Vietnam early, and was given an honorable discharge from the Navy Reserves in 1978.

So before we go talking about documents and witnesses, let's recognize that the official records of both the TANG and the Navy reflect decisions made at the time to credit Bush with the service and Kerry with the honors they claim today. So of course, the burden of proof is on their accusers, especially given that there is (now that the Killian memos have been revealed to have been frauds) no sign that anyone questioned Bush's service prior to, I believe, his 1994 race for governor of Texas, and that most (though not all) of the questions about Kerry's medals were aired for the first time in 2004. How do those cases stack up?

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:25 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
September 10, 2004
POLITICS: What To Apologize For

Rich Lowry notes this, from a Washington Post story:

Aides say Kerry may soon apologize for some of his most heated comments during the Vietnam War protests of the early 1970s, a move that would rekindle the debate for a few more days.

The time to do that would be today, before the rally planned for Sunday in Washington, where thousands of Vietnam vets are planning to denounce Kerry. A little more from memory lane with Kerry's 1971 testimony will explain why:

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:02 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Freepers 1, Big Media 0

If you read political blogs other than this one, you have by now already seen some of the details of this story; it's such a perfect illustration of the speed with which the blogosphere can detect, analyze, and ultimately overwhelm a bogus story in the mainstream media. And it all started with one guy on a message board. Here's the timeline:

1. Stories about President Bush's National Guard service had been pushed very hard by the media back in February, but little new information had surfaced since then. Following a month of tough questions about John Kerry's Vietnam service, however, Democrats were desperate to put some heat back on the president. Enter Dan Rather, ever eager to move the ball against Republicans; "60 Minutes II" had a story in the works for some time built around an interview with Ben Barnes, a Texas Democrat who claimed he'd pulled strings to get Bush into the National Guard in 1968. Leaving aside the fact that Bush actually didn't need any help because there was no waiting list for people willing and able to spend a year learning to fly the F-102, Barnes has an obvious credibility issue: he's a high-ranking official with the Kerry campaign and is the campaign's third-largest donor/fundraiser.

Enter the memos: CBS pushed the fact that the story also included "newly discovered" documents from the files of Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, who died in 1984 (dead men dispute no tales). Even before it aired, lefty bloggers like Josh Marshall and Kevin Drum started hyping the fact that the story would be more than just Barnes. The documents weren't hugely damning, but they added just enough weight to some of the pre-existing theories about Bush avoiding a flight physical and getting favored treatment to keep the story moving. The story aired Wednesday evening. In apparent coordination, the New York Times and Boston Globe on Wednesday released new high-profile stories including a retired military officer's analysis that had apparently been in the works since at least February (more on that one later).

2. Having been launched by CBS, the story took off immediately, with none of the slow-boil skepticism that had been applied to bona fide eyewitness accounts of Kerry's service. Thursday morning, the Times, the Washington Post and the New York Daily News all ran CBS' documents story on the front page. ABC's The Note aptly summarized the instant media feeding frenzy (links omitted):

Bush's National Guard records played big on all the morning shows. Nothing new was reported, though we did enjoy the spirited exchange between titans James Carville and Tucker Eskew.

ABC's Terry Moran's wrap of Bush's military Guard records was the first stand alone package in GMA. Moran included sound from White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett claiming Ben Barnes was acting "on behalf of John Kerry" and reported in his live close that Lt. Col. Jerry Killian wrote in one memo that "I'll back-date, but won't rate," a statement that "raises the possibility that Bush's military records were falsified."

CBS' Bill Plante's wrap led the "Early Show." Plante reported that the White House says Bush did not have to take the annual physical exam he never showed up for because the Alabama National Guard did not have the kind of airplane Bush was flying. Plante also reported that the White House says they are trying to get all of his records released.

NBC's Carl Quintinilla wrapped both Kerry's and Bush's Wednesdays within the "Today" newsblock, focusing on Kerry first then reporting nothing new on Bush's Guard records. Quintinilla was the only one to include the new "Texans for Truth" ad featuring former Alabama Air National Guard Lieutenant Bob Mintz claiming he didn't remember Bush being there.

The New York Times and the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune and USA Today wrap the days' developments. LINK, LINK, LINK, and LINK

The Boston Globe 's Robinson and Latour ran the "60 Minutes" documents by military officers who said it "contain[ed] evidence that political influence may have come into play as he sidestepped his training requirements in his final two years of service, from May 1972 until May 1974." LINK

"Bush's service has been in dispute for years because of a six-month gap in 1972 that has not been fully explained by military records. Repeated news reports and document releases by the White House and Pentagon have not settled the question," writes James Rainey of the Los Angeles Times. LINK

Rainey's last graph calls the Globe's Wednesday "scoop" into question:

"Two retired officers interviewed by The Times on Wednesday and familiar with National Guard procedures differed as to whether Bush was still obligated, at that point, to check in with a unit in the Boston area."

The Washington Times looks at the Democrats' strategy. LINK

Rush Limbaugh calls it all a cheap media ploy. LINK

DeFrank, Meek, and Siemaszko of the New York Daily News report the Bush campaign was "rocked yesterday by allegations that the "Top Gun President was a substandard pilot who disobeyed a direct order while serving in the Texas Air National Guard." LINK

The big lefty bloggers jumped instantly into the breach, with Kevin Drum, Mark Kleiman and Oliver Willis, in posts too numerous to link here, calling Bush a criminal and a liar and accusing the Whiite House of a cover-up.

3. Before the papers had hit the stands, however, CBS had posted PDF copies of the documents online, however, and around 9pm Wednesday, one guy on a FreeRepublic.com message board was raising questions about their authenticity:

To: Howlin
Howlin, every single one of these memos to file is in a proportionally spaced font, probably Palatino or Times New Roman.

In 1972 people used typewriters for this sort of thing, and typewriters used monospaced fonts.

The use of proportionally spaced fonts did not come into common use for office memos until the introduction of laser printers, word processing software, and personal computers. They were not widespread until the mid to late 90's. Before then, you needed typesetting equipment, and that wasn't used for personal memos to file. Even the Wang systems that were dominant in the mid 80's used monospaced fonts.

I am saying these documents are forgeries, run through a copier for 15 generations to make them look old.

This should be pursued aggressively.

47 posted on 09/08/2004 8:59:43 PM PDT by Buckhead
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 11 | View Replies ]

Now, the "freepers" have taken more than their share of guff over the years, and since I don't go there I can't vouch for whether the bad reputation is deserved. But on this one, all it took was one skeptical guy - one more, apparently, than works for Dan Rather (at least when it comes to anti-Bush stories).

4. At 7:51 AM Thursday morning, the Big Trunk over at Powerline - which may well be the best single conservative blog out there - simply posted a copy of the FreeRepublic post and asked whether the CBS memos were genuine. As soon as I saw that post, I knew this was a big story - and apparently, so did everyone else. Blog after blog started linking to it, emails poured in, and the Big Trunk started updating with thoughts from people all over the country who had experience with typewriters and computers and could tell the various telltale signs that this was a Microsoft Word document created on a laser printer rather than a genuine typewritten document. The incoming feedback really took off once the National Review Online linked to Powerline's analysis both at The Corner and the Kerry Spot. Typewriter museums (did you know such things existed?) were contacted, bloggers produced exact duplicates of the memo on Microsoft Word, forensic document experts were interviewed (see this INDC Journal post for a particularly in-depth treatment), people familiar with the technology and terminology available to the military in the early 70s weighed in. Dan Rather's most persistent critics jumped aboard. By late yesterday, the original Powerline post had over 250 trackbacks; by this morning, nearly 500.

5. Then, the breakout: around 3pm, the Drudge Report linked to the Powerline analysis, flooding the site with so much traffic it crashed. By 9pm, the Weekly Standard had a column out with this tidbit:

A spokeswoman for CBS, Kelly Edwards, said she was overwhelmed with phone calls and did not respond to specific requests for comment.

6. By this morning, the Washington Post and ABC News were running with the story - WaPo had it on the front page - of how CBS may have been duped, and Killian's own son was disputing the documents' authenticity. John Podhoretz was retracing some of the timeline in his NY Post column. And now, for all of Rather's eagerness to put some pressure on Bush, the heat will instead fall on CBS, which at last check was simply insisting that it adequately sourced its story.

In just a day, one citizen's skepticism shook CBS and reminded the major media outlets of the hazards of running with a story just because it came from one of their own. Ten years ago, they would have gotten away with it.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:30 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
September 9, 2004
POLITICS: More Republican Liars?

In other wars, captured Americans subjected to the hell of an enemy prison were considered heroes. In other wars, they were not abandoned. In Vietnam , they were betrayed.

Little did the American prisoners of war imagine that half a world away events were conspiring to make their precarious situation even more desperate. That an American Naval Lieutenant after a 4-month tour of duty in Vietnam was meeting secretly in an undisclosed location in Paris with a top enemy diplomat. That this same lieutenant would later join forces with Jane Fonda to form an anti-war group of so-called Vietnam veterans, some of whom would be later discovered as frauds who never set foot on a battlefield. All this culminating in John Kerrys Senate testimony that would be blared over loud speakers to convince our prisoners that back home they were being accused and abandoned. Enemy propagandists had found a new and willing accomplice.

That's from Stolen Honor, a new documentary (independent of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth but featuring some of the same former POWs) expanding at length on the excesses of John Kerry's "war crimes" testimony and the harm it caused. Go here and see if you think these guys are just another bunch of lying, crooked Republican attack dogs. Just for one example of a guy who appears in "Stolen Honor" and has also supported the Swift Boat group, check out this bio on "Bud" Day, who doesn't strike me as the kind of guy you want challenging your activities in wartime:

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:21 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Debate About Debates

The "process" issues of a political campaign, in particular the "debate about debates," tends to bore me. But I do have one observation to offer. The Bush camp is floating a trial balloon about maybe only agreeing to two debates instead of three. My suspicion is that Bush is posturing about ducking a third debate so as to (1) signal to the press that he's winning (the underdog always wants more debates, so if the dynamic is Kerry pestering Bush for debates, the media will draw that conclusion) and (2) subtly lower expectations (Kerry can't simultaneously accuse him of being afraid to debate while building him up like Lou Holtz before the Navy game).

Of course, for this to work, the Democrats have to fall into Bush's trap and start complaining about Bush's reluctance to debate and pressuring him to do three debates. Fortunately, some of them, at least, are as knee-jerk predictable as monsters in a video game who fall for the same fake-out every single time. Go see Atrios and Oliver Willis fall right into the trap.

UPDATE: Mark Kleiman marches right into the trap as well. Where's Admiral Ackbar when you need him? These guys are just too easy.

SECOND UPDATE: For now, the Kerry camp sticks to the script:

[M]ake no mistake, George Bush is a skilled debater. In fact, he has never lost a debate in his entire political career.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:15 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Shorter John Kerry Foreign Policy

"[T]he United States of America never goes to war because we want to, we only go to war because we have to."

But the French and the Germans, well, they'd go to war if we asked them nicely.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:08 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Human Lives Are One Thing, But Money?

If you look at John Kerry's latest line of argument in yesterday's big Iraq speech, he gives a brief nod to the loss of life in Iraq:

More than 1,000 of America's sons and daughters gave their lives in service to our country. More than 1,000 sons and daughters, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters who will never come home to live the lives they dreamed of. We honor them, we pray for them and for their families, and we owe it to their memory and all our troops to do what's right in Iraq.

He clearly is tiptoeing around saying whether those 1,000 have given their lives in vain or for a noble cause. But he then spends the bulk of the speech griping about the bill:

America has paid nearly 90% of the bill in Iraq. Contrast that with the Gulf War, where our allies paid 95% of the costs.

George W. Bush's wrong choices have led America in the wrong direction in Iraq and left America without the resources we need here at home. The cost of the President's go-it-alone policy in Iraq is now $200 billion and counting. $200 billion for Iraq, but they tell us we can't afford after-school programs for our children. $200 billion for Iraq, but they tell us we can't afford health care for our veterans. $200 billion for Iraq, but they tell us we can't afford to keep the 100,000 new police we put on the streets during the 1990s.

This is a deeply morally offensive line of argument. The decision to go to war means the decision to sacrifice the lives of some number of our soldiers. That's a very grave decision. If the decision is worth making - if it is worth asking even one young man or woman to lay down his or her life for the greater good of the nation - it is petty and ungracious to complain about the bill. Yes, it's a lot of money. But it's only money. And if it's what needs to be done to win the war, then we who have asked for those sacrifices should spend that money without complaint. Think the war was a bad idea? Fine, tell us that. Want money for job training and after-school programs? Fine, tell us how you'll cut domestic spending, raise taxes or borrow money to pay for it. But don't dare tell us that we should pay for those things by haggling over the price of national security while our troops are dying in the field.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:59 AM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Long Arm of Grover Norquist

Krakow, Poland will rename a square after Ronald Reagan.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:57 AM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
September 8, 2004

Since people are still pushing the "Bush was AWOL" story in the absence of any supporting evidence, and in particular any evidence that Bush was even required to show up for any drills in Alabama in 1972 after four years of extensive service in the Texas Air National Guard, it's worth noting for contrast that there seems to be an absence of evidence that John Kerry fulfilled his contractual commitment to drill with the Navy Reserves during the time when he was busy being an anti-war leader, meeting with Vietnamese Communists in secret, and running for Congress. Jon Henke at QandO pulls together some links, including an analysis concluding that "Kerry, while in violation of his contract . . . was not legally required to drill and hence not AWOL." Which would not bother me one bit. Does it bother those who nitpick at the last year of President Bush's service?

(PS - Go here and read through my prior link-filled analyses on the "AWOL Bush" charge, in particular these fourteen questions. While we're at it, see here and here (Links via QandO and Bill Hobbs) and here - QandO is really on top of these issues - regarding the fact that Bush didn't bypass anybody on a waiting list to get into the Texas Air National Guard because so few people were willing, able and qualified to spend a year training to fly the F-102. Finally, recall that John Edwards - like Dick Cheney - passed up the opportunity to enlist and go to Vietnam).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:18 AM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (3)

Mark Cuban, trying his hand at politics, makes a serious error regarding drug company profitability:

One of the great lies of all time is that we have to protect drug company profits. . . . That if [the government] doesnt [protect drug companies from price controls], then the drug companies wont invest money in new drugs, and as a result we wont have the miracle cures, particularly those miracle cures that dont ever offer a complete payback on the cost of developing them.


Lets get real here. The day I believe that argument is the day that CEOs of public drug companies dont pay themselves, dont have bonuses and dont own stock in their companies.

They dont run their companies to make a profit. They run their companies to make Wall Street happy, to push their stock prices up, and if they are lucky, to hit the jackpot personally.

They know that in order for their stock prices to go up, they have to sell the future. If all they have to sell is the cash flow from their existing base of drug patents, they have a problem. Could you imagine the CEO of a major drug company saying, Well, we cant come up with any new products, and our R&D isnt really working, so we will just play out the patents on our drugs and pay out the cash to shareholders. Yeah Right.

They will do just what they are doing now keep on investing in their own R&D hoping they can hit a home run with new drugs, and when that doesnt work, they will use their stock and cash to buy other companies that have better prospects. In all cases, they hope the results will propel their stock and their own net worth.

They arent going to change how they do business at all. Wont happen. CEOs are a competitive bunch. You dont get to run a major corporation by not being motivated to succeed. A measure of that success is personal wealth.

As long as CEOs and those around them want to be rich, we can change the laws regarding drug pricing and nothing at all will changeNothing.

This is a perfect example of how a smart businessman can believe a stupid idea when it comes to politics. Cuban is right, of course, about the kind of motivations that make executives tick - like any other worker, they work to make their companies profitable because they are given incentives to do so, not out of some abstract love for their shareholders. And he's right that, if drug companies realized tomorrow that they could no longer expect future profits from large R&D layouts, executives would be loath to become doomsaying pessimists about their own companies.

But what would really happen is right under Cuban's nose, and he misses it: what does a company do when it realizes that its current business is throwing off profits that can't sustain in the future? Well, the most common response is what Cuban himself suggests: "use their stock and cash to buy other companies that have better prospects." In other words, diversify.

Which is precisely the point: if R&D in new drugs starts looking like a bad gamble, sooner or later drug company CEOs will devote more of their available resources to acquiring companies who do other things than invest in drug R&D, and less to that R&D. And, in the long run, we'll have fewer drugs produced. Not none; that goose won't stop laying golden eggs entirely. But the natural response of CEOs who want to stay successful will be to migrate their companies' capital investments away from a low-margin business. And we'll all suffer.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:07 AM | Business • | Politics 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
September 7, 2004
POLITICS/WAR: The Iraq Straddle

Kerry supporters have been howling since the Republican convention (see this EJ Dionne column on Zell Miller's speech for an example) that Republicans were somehow dishonest for suggesting that a Kerry Administration would subordinate its judgment to that of the UN or let decisions to protect U.S. national security be held up by the French.

In a lot of ways, this is classic Kerry non-definition: the man spends nearly all his energies (including those spent on Vietnam, which is deployed in the service of this endeavor) trying to explain what he doesn't stand for rather than what he does ("that dog won't hunt"). Let's see if we can unpack Kerry's semi-current Iraq position on its own terms and see if I can explain precisely why I find these cries of outrage - and, indeed, Kerry's entire position on the Iraq war - so spectacularly disingenuous.

1. Was Iraq A Sufficient Threat To U.S. National Security To Justify War? The Bush Administration and other war supporters made many arguments about the nature of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein to our national security (see here and here for some of my own thoughts on the subject), ranging from his pursuit of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction to his ties to international terrorists to broader arguments about his role in the region.

There is a coherent argument - albeit one I regard as dangerously irresponsible - to the effect that Saddam's regime was not a threat, and there are those who dispute particular items in the Administration's bill of particulars against him. But Kerry has not renounced his prior conclusion - underlying his vote in favor of authority to use force against Saddam's regime - that the regime posed such a threat. Despite generalized blather about "misleading the nation into war," Kerry has never, to my knowledge, made a serious effort to attack the factual underpinnings of the Administration's case, something that would be particularly difficult to do on the WMD issue given his own and Edwards' prior statements on the issue. He hasn't tried to deny Saddam's ties to terrorist groups and provision of safe haven to terrorists; that's a place Kerry, wisely, doesn't want to go.

2. Could Steps Short of War Have Removed The Threat or Revealed It To Be Overstated? Another of the "process" arguments before the war, and emphasized by some critics since, is that if the weapons inspectors or sanctions had been given more time, we would have discovered an absence of weapons - and not gone to war - or would have found some other way to defuse the multifaceted threat posed by Saddam's regime. Kerry has also not attempted to pursue this argument, perhaps recognizing the foolishness of arguing that we could at some point have taken Saddam's word - or the word of the inspectors he was actively working to deceive - that he was cooperating with inspections (when there's been substantial evidence since the war that he was doing anything but), and perhaps simply recognizing that Kerry would look foolish if he renounced his own war vote. Instead, Kerry has admitted that, even knowing what he knows now, he would have voted the same way. In other words, for all his arguments that war was unnecessary, Kerry hasn't made any effort to convince the public that the reasons he cited for voting in favor of war would or could have been resolved short of war.

3. Should We Have Waited For More Allies? Instead, Kerry's main argument has been that (1) we went to war without sufficient support from our allies and (2) things would have gone better, and easier, for us if we had waited to get that support. Of course, given what we now know about weapons inspections - i.e., that inspectors were never going to unearth a "smoking gun" - it is entirely implausible to suggest that "more time" would have resulted in a larger coalition. What was going to happen to change the minds of the war's critics? If the 12-year history of the conflict shows anything, it's that prolonging confrontations inevitably leads to fissures in the coalition encircling Saddam. Delay would only have led more of the allies to walk away from war.

In short . . . Kerry's position on the war, at least as set forth in his convention speech and some of his other efforts to explain it, amounts to this: we needed more allies, we shouldn't have gone to war without them . . . but we weren't getting them. If that's not a veto in the hands of our "allies," specifically those (France, Germany, Russia and China) with seats on the UN Security Council or leading positions in NATO, what is? (Howard Dean on Bill Maher's show the other night was focusing this point on Iraq's neighbors, but let's not pretend that any more Arab states would have lined up to give public support to the war).

P.S. - Of course, all this is an analysis of Kerry's position on the war as of his speech to the Democratic Convention, not the Howard Dean imitation he's now peddling. Bill Kristol notes that Kerry's current position is one he previously saw as so irresponsible as to disqualify one from high office:

JOHN KERRY said yesterday that Iraq was "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time." Translation: We would be better off if Saddam Hussein were still in power.

Not an unheard of point of view. Indeed, as President Bush pointed out today, it was Howard Dean's position during the primary season. On December 15, 2003, in a speech at the Pacific Council on International Policy in Los Angeles, Dean said that "the capture of Saddam Hussein has not made America safer." Dean also said, "The difficulties and tragedies we have faced in Iraq show the administration launched the war in the wrong way, at the wrong time, with inadequate planning, insufficient help, and at the extraordinary cost, so far, of $166 billion."

But who challenged Dean immediately? John Kerry. On December 16, at Drake University in Iowa, Kerry asserted that "those who doubted whether Iraq or the world would be better off without Saddam Hussein, and those who believe today that we are not safer with his capture, don't have the judgment to be president or the credibility to be elected president."

Kerry was right then.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:49 PM | Politics 2004 • | War 2004 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
September 6, 2004
POLITICS: "When am I gonna make it back to Haiti?"

In the pantheon of bad ideas: someone in the Kerry campaign deciding to call John McCain, one of the few Republicans who's had some nice things to say about Kerry, a liar. Powerline has the details and notes that cooler heads have (for now) prevailed.

If Bush's campaign did this to McCain, even for part of a day, the president would be hounded about it to his grave.

UPDATE: The relentless Captain Ed saved a cached copy of the page from Kerry's site. McCain's listed at #10-13:

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:59 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Targeting the Swifties

The Minute Man:

Kerry has missed at least half the point about the Swiftees - rebutting the truth or falsity of their claims is only a part of the story. John Edwards said to the convention something the Swiftees repeated in their first ad - if you want to know about the character of John Kerry, ask the men who served with him.

Well, even if the 200 Swiftees are lying, what does it say about Kerry's character that 200 of his fellow officers and sailors would come out of the woodwork and lie, cheat, and steal to keep him out of the White House? . . .

Dole made a related point with his "they can't all be lying Republicans"; some of the public probably figures, where there's smoke, there's fire.

And I don't have an answer for that, BTW. But proving the Swiftees "wrong" is not really the point - the point is, the guys Edwards would said would vouch for Kerry loathe him.

Of course, the truth or falsity of the claims about Kerry's medals certainly matter, although the Swift Vets' second charge - that Kerry betrayed and libelled them by his 1971 Senate testimony and by his secret negotiations with the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong while still an officer in the Navy Reserve - isn't subject to much in the way of factual disputes. And, as both Maguire and Captain Ed point out, there are still plenty of factual areas in which the Swifties or have either scored a hit or still have a ball in the air.

But Maguire's main point underscores why the Kerry camp has been so desperate to paint these guys as having been bought and paid for by the GOP - if the story is just "bitter ex-Vietnam colleagues smear Kerry," that's still bad for him. It's why Kerry can't just laugh it off and say, "well, it was a long time ago and people's memories always differ about things that happen in combat." It's why, in effect, Kerry can't let anyone believe that these 200+ Navy combat veterans are men of any honor at all, anything but cheap whores bought off for a pittance.

Which is not, to put it mildly, the posture you want as a candidate who's a putative champion of veterans. And certainly not if you're a candidate who said worse things yet about your military brethren all those years ago.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:34 PM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Not The Dream Team

You know, on watching the Democratic and GOP Conventions, a parallel occurred to me to explain why the Democrats, despite having a modestly well-received and tightly-disciplined convention, weren't nearly as successful as the Republicans. You see, putting together a good convention is sort of like assembling a good US Olympic basketball team.

The Democrats, like the US Olympians, started with a decent foundation: a two-time champion (Bill Clinton, Tim Duncan) and a guy with few accomplishments but much talent and potential (Barack Obama, LeBron James). But, like the US Olympic team with the likes of Stephon Marbury and Allen Iverson, the Democrats overloaded their dias with guys who were there more because they were big names and big egos than because they fit into a gameplan to win the fight they're engaged in. Thus, Al Gore. Thus, Jimmy Carter. Thus, Ted Kennedy. And, like the Olympians, they then sent these guys up there in circumstances (in the Dems' case, a stern warning against anger and full-throated Bush-bashing) in which they couldn't even play to their strengths.

The GOP had no such problem. Former presidents Bush and Ford and Bob Dole, the last three guys to lose a national election for the GOP? Love ya, guys, but no invite to the podium. Prominent congressional leaders like Hastert, DeLay, Frist, Santorum? All were deemed bad speakers (Hastert), too controversial (DeLay, Santorum) or both (Frist), and buried in the early evening or not asked to speak. Party maverick John McCain, liberal Republicans Giuliani and Schwarzenegger and Democratic defector Zell Miller? Asked to step up but limited to playing a role, setting up the president's message in the areas where they agreed with him. About the only "vanity" appearance that went over poorly was Bush's daughters.

The Democrats put on too many of their All-Stars without regard to how those guys would advance the ball with swing voters, yet kept them too muted (unlike Miller) to fire up the base. The GOP ensured that everyone at the Convention was there to set up the big man. That's a team - it's winning basketball, and it's winning politics too.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:10 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Kerry on the War Again

The Kerry Spot at NRO quotes this Rueters dispatch:

The Massachusetts senator, who has said he would have voted to give Bush the authority to use force if necessary against Saddam Hussein even if he had known at the time that the Iraqi leader had no weapons of mass destruction, has struggled to draw clear contrasts with the president.

"I would not have done just one thing differently than the president on Iraq, I would have done everything differently than the president on Iraq," Kerry said.

He denied that he was "Monday morning quarterbacking." The Bush campaign said Kerry had "demonstrated nothing but indecision and vacillation" on Iraq."

"I said this from the beginning of the debate to the walk up to the war," Kerry told supporters. "I said, Mr. President don't rush to war, take the time to build a legitimate coalition and have a plan to win the peace."

He said Bush had failed on all three counts. He called the president's talk about a coalition fighting alongside about 125,000 U.S. troops "the phoniest thing I've ever heard."

"You've about 500 troops here, 500 troops there and it's American troops that are 90 percent of the combat casualties and it's American taxpayers that are paying 90 percent of the cost of the war," he said. "It's the wrong war, in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Update your scorecards accordingly.

UPDATE: The Bush campaign makes a point I had thought of and Googled but couldn't pin down a quote for: that Kerry's "wrong war, in the wrong place at the wrong time" line is verbatim from Howard Dean's stump speech (Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd have also used the same line). Yearrrrgggggh!

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:14 PM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)

In an expansive conversation, Mr. Clinton, who is awaiting heart surgery, told Mr. Kerry that he should move away from talking about Vietnam, which had been the central theme of his candidacy

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:05 AM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Back Where We Started

Here's what I wrote June 17, 2003:

Let's face it: there's really nothing the Democrats can do to defeat George W. Bush in 2004. Which is not to say he can't be beaten, just that what can do him in is mostly a combination of external circumstances (the economy, setbacks in the war) and missteps by the Administration. The only Democrat I'd feared in terms of his ability to create his own buzz independent of pre-existing anti-Bush sentiment was John Edwards, but Edwards increasingly looks like just a pretty face who's in over his head.

57 days from Election Day, the dynamics of the race have not changed. Bush can still screw up (think of Ford in 76 freeing Poland in the debates), and external events can still do him in. But with a bit of a lead going (probably not the 11-point lead in the Time/Newsweek polls, but perhaps a real 3- to 5-point lead) I really don't think there's anything Kerry can do to change the dynamics. Kerry missed his chance at the convention to lay out a positive or coherent agenda, or clarify his position on the Iraq war; after the convention, it's nearly impossible to do another reinvention of the candidate. All Kerry has left is that he intends to attack Bush harder - but really, where can he go that he and Howard Dean and Michael Moore and MoveOn.org haven't covered already? That way lies only deeper into the fever swamps. Were I Kerry's advisers, I'd tell him to keep his dignity and hope the other guy screws up. But Kerry wants to believe he can still win this himself, and that will be his undoing; the harder he thrashes about, the more leeway he gives Bush in case Bush winds up needing it.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:56 AM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Beyond The Pale

The NY Daily News reports that an independent pro-Bush group, "MoveOnForAmerica[, ]led by GOP political consultant Stephen Marks", is preparing to run two controversial ads. The first targets the Democrats' embrace of Al Sharpton:

In the Sharpton ad, Kerry is seen shaking hands and embracing the black leader and a narrator asks grimly what role he might have in a Kerry administration.


In the Sharpton spot, the narrator accuses Sharpton of blaming the U.S. for the 9/11 attacks, calling Adolf Hitler "a great man," urging college students to kill cops and indirectly instigating a fatal fire at a Jewish-owned store in Harlem.

Fair enough - it's one thing for a party to put a Jesse Jackson or a Pat Robertson on stage, but giving Sharpton a prime-time slot and a nod in Kerry's acceptance speech . . . well, if the GOP did the same for David Duke, they'd deserve what they got. Of course, this is of dubious political wisdom, since the media will want to spin this as playing the race card (as opposed to the racist card) in ways they didn't when the NAACP ran those infamous ads against Bush in 2000. Which is bad; Bush has gone out of his way to avoid racial division, and is banking on Kerry having problems matching Al Gore's turnout of black voters in 2000.

The second ad is just bad:

[I]t invokes the name of Willie Horton, the African-American inmate who raped and tortured a suburban couple while on furlough from a Massachusetts prison.

Which might be a fair point, except the Horton-furlough case didn't happen while Kerry was Dukakis' Lieutenant Governor. Instead, the 'hook' is this:

In the new ad, a narrator says that in 1982, Kerry, as a private attorney, "successfully overturned the conviction of his client George Reissfelder," who had escaped in '74 while on furlough - "just like Willie Horton."

When Reissfelder was captured three years later, he tried to grab a cop's gun. The ad says he tried to shoot a police officer and pleaded guilty to that, but didn't serve his 15-year sentence.

His sentence, however, had nothing to do with the case that Kerry worked on with his law partner, Roanne Sragow, who was the lead attorney.

Sragow had been assigned by a judge to look into Reissfeld's '67 murder conviction - which turned out to be wrongful.

The ad admits he was cleared but calls him a "would-be cop killer," and points out Kerry was Dukakis' lieutenant governor.

This is precisely the sort of thing that Judge Frank Easterbrook has rightly decried when the Democrats have done it in judicial confirmation hearings:

I am especially distressed about a recent development in the nomination and confirmation process: holding against nominees the positions taken in litigation. It used to be understood that lawyers serve as advocates and make arguments in the interests of clients. It is not that we trust newly appointed judges to leave their old views behind them; the mind doesn't work that way. But statements in briefs are not the lawyers' "own" views to begin with (when in the SG's Office I filed briefs taking positions that I would not have supported as a judge).

It is bad enough to assume that a scholar who writes an article opposing rent control would automatically think as a judge that rent control is unconstitutional--the subjects are unrelated--but terrible to assume that a lawyer who (say) represents persons accused of committing securities fraud would then favor securities fraud while on the bench. Nonsense. Ex-prosecutors on the bench acquit defendants; former defense lawyers appointed to the bench convict defendants; proponents of public support for religious instruction still apply the Establishment Clause after appointment; and so on. There is a nasty side effect of condemning the lawyer on the client's account: ambitious lawyers will shy away from representing controversial clients. And as almost any cause or client can be depicted as controversial from some perspective... Do we really want this?

It's true that some clients are so vile they don't deserve a distinguished attorney's best efforts; I could imagine people I would refuse to represent. But the fact is, we shouldn't punish Kerry for representing a criminal defendant - especially when the guy may have been innocent and especially when it was his partner's client. And, of course, invocation of Horton's name will blunt the effect of the first ad, which at least seeks to make a legitimate issue of someone the Democrats should have denounced a long time ago.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:48 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1)
September 5, 2004
POLITICS: No Quarter

Ralph Peters, a former Army officer who's been a staunch supporter of Bush's strategic approach to the war on terror while fiercely criticizing Don Rumsfeld for what Peters views as an insufficient commitment to put "boots on the ground," tears into John Kerry's speech to the American Legion like there's no tomorrow. Some choice quotes:

John Kerry made his most disgraceful speech since he lied about atrocities to Congress three decades ago. By making promises he doesn't mean and can't keep, he tried to buy the votes of American veterans.

Had he offered each vet a $5 bill and a shot of whisky for their support, his performance could not have been shabbier.

From one Vietnam vet:

"A Kerry defeat would be the welcome-home parade we never had."

On the insurgency in Iraq:

Kerry said we should never go to war without a plan to win the peace. Agreed. But where was he 18 months ago, when such a criticism could have made a difference?

On Kerry's claim to have been fighting all along for veterans' benefits:

The only veterans' benefit young John Kerry fought for was the right of vets to be spit upon in public.

Read the whole thing.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:47 PM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
September 4, 2004
POLITICS: Schundler at the RNC

Check out RedState's interview with Bret Schundler, the man who lost to Jim McGreevey in 2001 and may yet be in line to win the New Jersey Governorship.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:14 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Hang In There, Slick Willie

Best wishes, of course, on a full recovery to Bill Clinton, who'll be having heart bypass surgery early next week. In the immortal words of Mark Steyn, "if we members of the vast right-wing conspiracy don't get back to our daily routine of obsessive Clinton-bashing, then the terrorists will have won." And in all seriousness, Clinton is - by the standards of the 2002-04 Democratic Party - a voice of reason in foreign affairs.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:24 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Learning To Think Long-Term

The Wall Street Journal's Holman Jenkins, in the subscription-only Political Diary (a must this season, I would add) had an important point about how current methods of governmental accounting obscure the real costs of transitioning Social Security to a private accounts system:

Point One: A promise to bondholders increases the deficit and the debt. A promise to future retirees doesn't.

Point Two: That's the kind of accounting peculiarity that, in the private sector, leads straight to the hoosegow. Thus the reported national debt is about $3 trillion, but the unfunded liabilities of Medicare and Social Security alone are $11 trillion.


The White House itself first put $1 trillion in play as the transition cost, but when measured in light of the $14 trillion indebtedness above, the figure is less impressive than it sounds. More importantly, we're talking about a "refinancing" here -- that is, trading an IOU held by future Social Security beneficiaries (due in, say, 30 years) for an IOU held by bondholders (due in, say, 30 years).

No change in the real net fiscal position of the federal government would be required, just an exchange of invisible (to the uninformed public) debt for visible debt. Better yet, done right, the deal could be a fiscal win-win: Future retirees would have a bigger nest egg (plus ownership and control of how they spend it down, rather than the government dictating terms of their bet with the mortality tables). Meanwhile, the real indebtedness of the federal government would actually go down, not up.

When you tinker with some of the present-value issues - which are beyond my expertise, I can tell you - I suspect the transition from spend-as-you-go to spend-and-borrow-in-exchange-for-cutting-future-obligations is not quite as costless as Jenkins makes it sound, but his fundamental analysis does make an important point about the degree to which the media overstates by orders of magnitude the nature of the transition costs. To my mind, if the transition is something that gives us a better system and fewer long-term costs to taxpayers, then it's worth incurring some additional costs now to put the system on a better footing in the long run.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:20 AM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
September 3, 2004
POLITICS: Sabotage

Does Bush pay Kerry for pictures like this?

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POLITICS: Inside the RNC, Part III

Bush's speech, I thought, was solid; it lacked a single huge flourish that would bring the crowd to a frenzy (the way, say, Zell Miller did with his "spitballs" line), but it didn't need to be poetry; it needed to tell people what Bush intends to do in the next four years, particularly on domestic policy; and it did just that. Bush needed to get first downs, not throw the Hail Mary pass, so to speak. He said, "Tonight I will tell you where I stand, what I believe, and where I will lead this country in the next four years." And he delivered it.

*Bush seemed to shrug a bit too often during the speech - it's a mannerism of his, but he seemed to use it a lot.

*Bush did a good job, I thought, of drawing together a single coherent theme to his various proposed reforms:

The times in which we live and work are changing dramatically. The workers of our parents generation typically had one job, one skill, one career often with one company that provided health care and a pension. And most of those workers were men. Today, workers change jobs, even careers, many times during their lives, and in one of the most dramatic shifts our society has seen, two-thirds of all Moms also work outside the home.

This changed world can be a time of great opportunity for all Americans to earn a better living, support your family, and have a rewarding career. And government must take your side. Many of our most fundamental systems the tax code, health coverage, pension plans, worker training were created for the world of yesterday, not tomorrow. We will transform these systems so that all citizens are equipped, prepared and thus truly free to make your own choices and pursue your own dreams.

*This one puzzled me:

In this time of change, opportunity in some communities is more distant than in others. . . . [W]e will create American opportunity zones. In these areas, well provide tax relief and other incentives to attract new business, and improve housing and job training to bring hope and work throughout all of America.

Aren't these called Enterprise Zones? What's Jack Kemp doing these days, anyway?

*I credit Bush's attack on Kerry's desire to raise taxes and to raise spending, but Bush would have a bit more credibility on the latter if he hadn't overspent so much the past four years and if there weren't so many places in the speech where I was holding on to my wallet. Show me the spending cuts!

*There are a lot of damning Kerry quotes to choose from; Bush picked two particularly good ones by honing in on the pot shot at Reagan (eight years of moral darkness, ) and the more egergious pot shots at our allies (coalition of the coerced and the bribed.). Both embody Kerry's sneering contempt in a way that can't play well with independent or undecided voters.

*Like Cheney and - from what I could see on TV - unlike Kerry, Bush knew to stop for a drink of water during his liveliest applause lines.

*If you couldn't tell at home, a few of the times when the crowd started chanting "Four More Years" in the middle of something Bush was saying - particularly during the section where he was contrasting the nations that have turned to cooperation in the war on terror - were efforts to shout down the protestors who got in (one of whom held up one of those infantile "Bush Lied People Died' signs - if it didn't ryhme, who would listen?). It definitely did interrupt the flow of the speech, but anyone who thinks this sort of thing will help Kerry defeat Bush needs to get out of Manhattan more. It should hardly bear reminding that even the furthest right wackos never tried to interrupt Kerry's or one of Bill Clinton's convention speeches. Fools.

*I thought the end of the speech went on too long, and there may have been a better place for the jokes. But Bush does self-deprecating humor quite well; it's one of his biggest contrasts with Kerry, who had almost no humor in his speech and who seems to have little or no ability to poke fun at himself (quite the contrary). That's a bigger distinction than it seems. And it's a bad one for Kerry; even Al Gore knew how to mock himself.

*Kerry's response was so predictable it could have been pre-programmed - he accused Republicans of (yawn) attacking his patriotism (Rueters, of course, took this unquestioningly as true) and then (yawn, stretch, rub eyes) on to Vietnam:

I'm not going to have my commitment to defend this country questioned by those who refused to serve when they could have and by those who have misled the nation into Iraq.

Speaking of Iraq, I had no problem with Bush not doing more to explain the ins and outs of the decision to go to war. 'Splainin' is for the debates, when Kerry will have to face questions on the same issues.

UPDATE: Is it too much blog triumphalism to point out that, before bloggers started digging up stuff like this, the President of the United States would not have used a 1946 New York Times article in a speech to the nation?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:56 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Inside the RNC, Part II

I was back at the convention last night. Thoughts:

*Man, we are so gonna win this thing. I've been holding off on the optimism for much of the spring and summer, but the contrasts between Bush and Kerry, from their personalities to the professionalism and discipline of their campaign operations, is all saying "victory" at this point in the game. I think Kerry needs a major external event to turn around that dynamic.

*Across the street from Penn Station, which runs under Madison Square Garden, is Macy's; Macy's has a big video screen that runs ads. When I arrived for the convention around 7pm, the video screen was running the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ad with Kerry's 1971 Senate testimony.

*It occurred to me that Zell Miller missed an opportunity in his riff on the Democrats' war dissent: besides Wendell Willkie, he might also have referred to Bill Clinton not challenging George H.W. Bush's decision to go to war in Iraq. The contrast would have been sharp, since Kerry opposed that war too and since it would have helped Zell underscore how a 1992 Clinton supporter became a 2004 Bush supporter. Then again, Clinton didn't quite support that war, either, so much as he ignored it because it was a dead issue by 1992.

*There are some things you can't do. You can't beat Democrats by promising to spend money. And you can't beat Republicans by wrapping yourself in the flag.

And yet, in a sense, it's almost beside the point for Bush to wrap himself in the flag. For a lot of Republicans, Bush is the flag - maybe not Old Glory, but at least the battle flag in the War on Terror. Bush has laid out a distinct and aggressive approach to fighting terror, most notably the doctrine of preemption, the "forward strategy of freedom" in the Muslim and Arab worlds, the "axis of evil," and the "Bush Doctrine" (you're with us or against us). Because of the root-and-branch nature of so much of his opponents' criticism of this approach, it has come to be identified worldwide with the person of Bush, and his defeat at the polls this fall would be identified everywhere with a rejection of these cornerstones of American foreign policy. Thus, if Bush goes down, it is very much the fall of the flag in battle - our enemies will exult, and our friends will worry about our commitment. Democrats may regard that as a harsh truth, but it's hard indeed to avoid it.

*The house was packed as it was not on Wednesday, and the delegations on the floor were far better organized in neat circular lines. I don't know if the folks at home could see the group - they had to be Texans - all sitting together with the red, white and blue matching outfits and white cowboy hats.

*The early speakers (former Texas railroad commissioner Michael Williams, Florida Senate candidate Mel Martinez) got more attention froim the crowd than last time, but they didn't have much new to say. During Martinez' speech I saw my first "Jeb '08" sign. It didn't look hand-made, either.

*Pataki's 9/11-heavy opening was cringe-inducing, but he warmed up as he slid into attacks on Kerry. He was wearing too much makeup, I think.

Then, the main event: the president's speech.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:34 AM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
September 2, 2004
POLITICS: Inside the RNC

Through the efforts of a friend, I managed to get into the Republican convention last night, and will be returning tonight. A few thoughts on the evening:

*I only had to go through security twice to get in; although security was wall-to-wall and very observant and had closed off many of the numerous approaches to MSG and Penn Station, the actual run through the metal detectors didn't seem as intrusive as the usual routine at airports and courthouses.

*My convention pass got me access to the press area behind the scenes, which means going past booths/tents filled with people from all the recognizable major media outlets, from newspapers like the New York Daily News to opinion journals like the Weekly Standard. But I wanted to see Bloggers Row, and eventually I followed the signs for the media until I got to Radio Row, where numerous radio stations are set up and broadcasting side by side. The blogger contingent was set up at a long patch of table off to the side - a small area crammed with laptops, but well-situated and visible. I was surprised at how many people were dropping by to see the bloggers, some of whom were quite smooth at setting up interviews. I got to meet all sorts of bloggers I had been in contact with by email but never met, including Alan Nelson from the Command Post, "Captain" Ed Morrissey from Captain's Quarters, Kevin Aylward from Wizbang!, Matt Margolis from Blogs for Bush, and David Adesnik from Oxblog. Roger Simon was probably the most recognizable in his trademark fedora. I also spoke with Hugh Hewitt, who had just wrapped up his radio show with an interview with John Fund; Hewitt is set up right across the aisle from the bloggers and is most gracious in person.

*Michael Barone dropped by the bloggers' area; there's a skill level involved in being a really high-level pundit that's truly impressive. Barone was peppered with questions from all sides and poured forth high-level punditry pretty much continuously, and was still doing so in a crowd when he headed away, talking about everything from the effect of down-ticket races (he cited Adlai Stevenson's gubernatorial campaign as particularly crucial to Harry Truman's re-election in 1948, complete with references to the number of electors Illinois had in that year) to the effects of abortion on national politics (he thinks Giuliani is such a star that we may see the first pro-choice GOP nominee in 2008). Barone reminded me of nobody so much as legal scholar Richard Epstein, who I met at a Federalist Society conference in law school, and who had a similar gift for rapid-fire extemporaneous opinions on every topic that passed his way.

*After that, I moved into the arena. A convention is a political junkie's dream come to life; there were familiar faces from the media and politics just everywhere, and if I was more aggressive about these things I could easily have struck up a few interviews (on one of the entrances to the Garden I was on line behind Alan Keyes). From my perch in the arena I could see interviews going on with Jack Kemp and Newt Gingrich, and watched Barone (again) and Candy Crowley and Rudy working the floor.

*Someone with a sense of humor set up the Al Jazeera booth right next to Fox News.

*The first two speeches I saw were Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey introducing her boss, Mitt Romney. Romney got a very warm reception, but it wasn't 10pm yet, and the crowd clearly was not into the early speeches; Healey in particular seemed to be shouting enthusiastically into an empty room. Same-sex marriage? not popular with Republican delegates. Healey's biggest applause line was her reference to how Romney "stood up to an activist court" to protect "traditional values." She did also draw a little reaction by noting that John Kerry doesn't talk much about when he was Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor under Michael Dukakis. Romney's speech seemed just wasted; he told a moving anecdote about a U.S. Olympic athlete who carried the tattered World Trade Center flag at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City, but nobody seemed to be paying attention.

*Then, John Kerry was given Zell. Zell Miller is not a guy you want coming after your candidate, as I remember well from 1992. I was surprised that Miller's speech (1) didn't do more to set out his Democratic bona fides (as he's done in op-eds for the Wall Street Journal) and (2) focused entirely on foreign policy. My wife, watching at home - after having seen Rudy and McCain Monday but skipped most of Tuesday - was worried that the convention has been too overwhelmingly focused on national security to the exclusion of domestic policy, although I suspect that that is partly to help set the stage for President Bush to set out his Big Idea agenda tonight (as Bush told Rush Limbaugh on Tuesday when asked about his domestic agenda, "I'm going to save some of it for the speech if you don't mind."). Miller's comparison of the Democrats of today to Wendell Willkie was rough stuff - the common Democratic complaint is that Bush has played politics with national security, but really, if the Dems had been as supportive of the Iraq war as they were in Afghanistan, the war on terror would be a much smaller issue. More on this another day, but it's precisely because of the political battles over foreign policy that this is such a predominant issue this year, to the point that convention delegates seemed bored during the domestic policy parts of Cheney's speech.

My wife worried that Miller came off as too harsh, and he was certainly rough: after he said, "nothing makes this Marine madder than someone calling American troops occupiers rather than liberators," I half expected him to add, "Senator, you messed with the wrong Marine!"

Miller had a field day with Kerry's opposition to various weapons systems, climaxing with "This is the man who wants to be the Commander in Chief of our U.S. Armed Forces? U.S. forces armed with what? Spitballs?" My wife said Miller was less prepared to deal with CNN interviewers later who pressed him with DNC talking points about how Dick Cheney as Defense Secretary had not pressed for some of those systems. That's poor preparation: this has been a Democratic talking point for months, and if you take the record seriously it's hard to put much stock in the notion that Kerry and Dick Cheney have similar records on defense spending and weapons systems. (This particular talking point is vintage Kerry; his campaign isn't willing or able to tell you what Kerry stands for, but is instead obsessed with trying to disprove anything that's said about his record).

This was also a good passage, tying together the long years of Kerry's vascillations on foreign policy and blunting his efforts to hide behind his Vietnam service:

For more than twenty years, on every one of the great issues of freedom and security, John Kerry has been more wrong, more weak and more wobbly than any other national figure. As a war protestor, Kerry blamed our military.

As a Senator, he voted to weaken our military. And nothing shows that more sadly and more clearly than his vote this year to deny protective armor for our troops in harms way, far-away. George Bush understands that we need new strategies to meet new threats.

John Kerry wants to re-fight yesterdays war. George Bush believes we have to fight todays war and be ready for tomorrows challenges.

*Then, Lynne Cheney, who told us that her husband "entered public life as the Gentleman from Wyoming." I know it's too long ago to be worth explaining the relevance to today of Cheney's term as White House Chief of Staff under Gerald Ford, but is it too much to ask his own wife to remember that he held the job?

*As for the Vice President, he was low-key as always. I was actually sitting next to Cheney's speechwriters, which was amusing, since they knew exactly what was coming and were chattering about various passages in the speech as it went along. His speech started with the much-underappreciated fact that Cheney himself, despite his current image as the Mr. Moneybags guy from Monopoly, is from relatively humble origins: "my grandfather didnt have a chance to go to high school. For many years he worked as a cook on the Union Pacific Railroad, and he and my grandmother lived in a railroad car."

Many of Cheney's lines were repeats of things he or Bush have said before, which was disappointing on one level, but a sign of both the consistency and the marketing savvy of the Bush team - they understand the importance of recycling key phrases to reinforce the public's image of what they stand for. (And, having done so, they don't blame those key phrases on "overzealous speechwriters").

Cheney told us that Libya's "uranium, centrifuges, and plans for nuclear weapons that were once hidden in Libya are locked up and stored away in Oak Ridge, Tennessee . . . " Gee, should he have just given us a street address? I sure hope they are well-guarded.

The foreign policy section of the speech bored heavily into Kerry, in classic Cheney fashion:

The Presidents opponent is an experienced senator. He speaks often of his service in Vietnam, and we honor him for it. But there is also a record of more than three decades since. And on the question of Americas role in the world, the differences between Senator Kerry and President Bush are the sharpest, and the stakes for the country are the highest. History has shown that a strong and purposeful America is vital to preserving freedom and keeping us safe - yet time and again Senator Kerry has made the wrong call on national security. Senator Kerry began his political career by saying he would like to see our troops deployed only at the directive of the United Nations. During the 1980s, Senator Kerry opposed Ronald Reagans major defense initiatives that brought victory in the Cold War. In 1991, when Saddam Hussein occupied Kuwait and stood poised to dominate the Persian Gulf, Senator Kerry voted against Operation Desert Storm.

After Cheney cited Kerry's experience as a Senator and a soldier, I half expected him to say: "a man with John Kerry's experience should know better." I was specifically disappointed in two things: first, Cheney should drop that line mocking Kerry's reference to a "sensitive" war on terror, which really is taken out of context; far more damning, in my opinion, was his reference back in June to "the real war on terror in Afghanistan and northwest Pakistan" and his claim that the Bush Administration had "transferred it for reasons of its own to Iraq." That's a stark admission of Kerry's fundamental unwillingness to accept the centerpiece of the war on terror, which is the idea of an offensive strategy of changing the conditions and removing the forces that support and nurture terrorists throughout the Arab and Islamic worlds, as opposed to concentrating solely on taking down those specific nations and organizations that can be proven to have already attacked us.

Second, even beyond the weapons systems and the $87 billion, I really wanted to hear more on Kerry's plan to gut intelligence spending in the mid-90s. I could also have done with some of Kerry's quotes about the Reagan policies that made such a difference in the Cold War; it's one thing to cite votes, but Kerry's speeches took some very tough lines against nearly every major controversial initiative of the Reagan years, from Central America to missiles in Europe. Still, there's only so much time, and you do have to cut to the chase.

My wife was concerned that there seemed to be a lot of empty seats in the hall while Cheney was speaking, although that was news to me where I was sitting. I'm also not sure the TV caught the full impact of the rows of people doing the tomahawk-chop-style "flip-flop, flip-flop" wave. Which played in with this:

Senator Kerrys liveliest disagreement is with himself. His back-and-forth reflects a habit of indecision, and sends a message of confusion. And it is all part of a pattern. He has, in the last several years, been for the No Child Left Behind Act - and against it. He has spoken in favor of the North American Free Trade Agreement - and against it. He is for the Patriot Act - and against it. Senator Kerry says he sees two Americas. It makes the whole thing mutual - America sees two John Kerrys.

Aside from the laugh line, this is clearly a central point to Cheney: a guy who can't keep his message at least straight enough that his supporters could answer the question "would Kerry have gone to war in Iraq" is never going to project the certainty about American intentions and resolve that is itself an important element of stability in foreign affairs.

All in all, an entertaining night, and one with a lot of red meat for the crowd; the parade of moderates was most definitely interrupted, and the base was happy. The stage is now set for the next-to-last major movement (other than the debates) of this campaign - the president's address to the nation laying out his agenda for the second term.

UPDATE: Will Collier at Vodkapundit follows up on my point above by refuting the spin on Kerry's opposition to major weapons systems.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:15 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (1)
POLITICS: A Revealing Moment From Josh Marshall

Reflecting on the latest shakeup in the Kerry campaign, Dr. Josh Marshall reveals more than he probably intended to in diagnosing the Democrats' counterproductive, morale-sapping tendency to panic and lose faith:

Politically, this is one of the worst things about Democrats -- and it has many sources. As a group they seem to have a great tendency toward becoming disheartened, turning on their candidate, doubting his strategy, doubting his advisors, and so forth. Unfortunately, the candidates and advisors have an equal tendency to be open to that kind of fretting. And with the media playing the handmaiden to the synergizing anxiety, the whole thing can become very demoralizing and damaging for campaigns.

Many folks look back and say Al Gore ran a terrible campaign. Maybe. Maybe not. For me, I look back and see something different. I remember a campaign that was far too sensitive to the spin and CW of the moment and thus capable of being buffeted by the smallest political squall. This, rather than any particular tactic or strategy, has always struck me as its greatest failing.

The Bush 2000 campaign was wholly different. They had many reverses. But there was never any serious question that a Rove or a Hughes would get canned. And if there was, the campaign sent out a clear signal that it would never happen. On many levels they were more disciplined.

That difference made a big difference in consistency of strategy and morale among the troops.

Replace "campaign" with "nation at war" and you have a pretty good summary of why the current leadership of the Democratic Party can't be trusted with the car keys in dangerous times.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:53 AM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
September 1, 2004
POLITICS: Like, Bogus

I caught only pieces of the three major addresses last night - Arnold, the Bush twins, and Laura Bush. The twins were pretty much the living embodiment of the phrase, "not ready for prime time." Instapundit rounds up the commentary, including an NRO reader describing them as "bad MTV VMA filler". If this is anything like what George W. was like at 22, it's actually rather frightening to think of him flying fighter jets.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:01 AM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)

Marty Noble of Newsday notes the political tilt of baseball players in general and the Mets in particular towards the Republican party:

Players rarely wear their political allegiance on their sleeves.

"But I'd be surprised if it isn't 4 or 5 to 1 Republican in the game," Mets catcher Vance Wilson said last week. "Not everyone is involved or up to date on what's going on, but of the ones who are, I'm sure it's heavy Republican."

(Link via Baseball Primer). Of course, Noble can't resist this dig:

The Grand Old Party appeals to those in the grand old game, if only because of their affluence. The average salary of a major league player, $2,549,363, connects more with Republican ways and the have-lots of the world.

Would Noble say the same thing about the overwhelmingly Democratic tilt of, say, movie stars? I'm sure making big money and paying big taxes does have something to do with it, but professional athletes have always been a conservative lot, since long before they made a lot of money, and I suspect that's been doubly true in times (like the present) when the principal political issue was war and peace.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:47 AM | Baseball 2004 • | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
August 31, 2004
POLITICS: Links 8/31/04

*Tim Blair notes that Kerry staffers have recently been admonished to be "more diligent about staying on top of the Senator's position." They'll need GPS for that one.

*QandO notices that John McCain has pointedly not denounced the Swift Boat Veterans' second ad, the one featuring Kerry's 1971 Senate testimony. Given the history there, this should not be surprising. Meanwhile, Wizbang reports that the Swifties are offering to drop their remaining ads if Kerry will meet certain conditions including an apology for his 1971 charges of war crimes.

*The Bush campaign, wisely, wants no part of Britney Spears at the GOP Convention.

*Jonathan Chait gets a convenient case of amnesia (subscription only):

Four years ago, Bush dismissed the attacks against McCain by insisting McCain's attacks against him were just as bad. Now Bush is using that line again, and McCain is repeating it. When asked about the discredited Swift Boat charges, McCain replied, "It bothers me that that is the case. It also bothers me that people connected to the Kerry campaign have had to do with attack ads against President Bush as well." You see, Bush's allies are accusing Kerry of lying about his war record and faking his wounds, but Kerry's allies are accusing Bush of weakening environmental regulations. So it's all the same thing.

McCain has even asserted that Kerry brought this on himself by emphasizing his record. "His critics are saying, 'Look, you made it fair game,'" McCain said. "I mean, that's very legitimate, and I think there's a risk that he took when he made it such a centerpiece. He may be paying a very heavy price." Uh huh. Four years ago, Bush made a big deal about his record as Texas governor. By that logic, then, it would have been "fair game" for critics to accuse him of using the governor's office for Michael Jackson-style sleepovers with little boys.

Leaving aside Chait's facile dismissal of the Swift Vets' charges, note how he assumes that all the attacks on Bush have been about such high-minded policy disputes as "accusing Bush of weakening environmental regulations." Apparently Chait has never heard of Michael Moore, or of the persistent and entirely unsubstantiated claim (made even by Kerry himself) that Bush was AWOL from his National Guard unit.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:03 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The "G" Word

Andrew Sullivan has often ripped President Bush for not using the word "gay" - I wonder if he saw Friday's USAToday interview (only an abstract is now available online, but the cached version is here for now), Bush addressed the same-sex marriage issue:

Bush said he has not discussed the amendment with Mary Cheney, but "of course I've heard from people that are my friends who are gay. ... I will encourage a debate in a way that doesn't divide people into camps and doesn't disparage anybody."

Not that this really makes a huge difference, but since Sullivan has marked this as an important yardstick in his estimation, it's worth noting.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:25 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: McCain Pulls His Punches

Fine speeches last night by McCain and Giuliani, both of whom made some necessary points about the war on terror and the war in Iraq. The two speeches were a reminder that, no matter how else people may try to spin their presence at the podium, the two were there not because of their moderation on some issues but because of their star power, their obvious political talents, and most of all their unrelenting hawkishness on foreign policy. There's a reason McCain has a big speaking role at this convention and Chuck Hagel doesn't.

McCain's speech, however, was also an illustration of why he is unlikely to find success again as a presidential candidate. Once upon a time, John McCain was a brutally negative campaigner, promising an end to "the truth-twisting politics of Bill Clinton and Al Gore." Lately, though, McCain has seemed to take to heart his own crusade against negativity, alternating between cheerleading and chiding President Bush while staying mostly silent on the sins of the Democrats. McCain's prime-time slot covered the important stuff - the foreign policy stakes, the absence of sensible alternatives in Iraq, and a well-deserved potshot at Michael Moore - along with a clenched-teeth tribute to Bush's leadership. I particularly liked this one shot at the Al Gore far left: "I dont doubt the sincerity of my Democratic friends. And they should not doubt ours." (Emphasis most definitely in original).

But a convention crowd wants more: an explanation of why John Kerry's competing vision (or lack thereof) should be found wanting. McCain mostly left that to Rudy. And if he seriously wants to be president, he will have to change that. Yes, it's true that Bush himself mostly avoids the big broadsides against Democrats, but he is willing to throw the occasional punch at his opponent. If McCain isn't willing to do the same anymore, maybe he doesn't want it badly enough.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:15 AM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
August 25, 2004
POLITICS: McQ Reads The Reports

One of the lingering debates on the Swift Boat story is whether the incident in which John Kerry pulled James Rassman out of the water - and won the Bronze Star - occurred under enemy fire or not; the Swifties say that there was no fire and that several boats (the captains of which have lined up against Kerry on this point) were at the scene for some time fishing the crew of PCF 3 (Kerry's boat was PCF 94) out of the water after it hit a mine and was disabled.

McQ over at QandO explains why the NY Times has (unsurprisingly) misread the Navy documents on Kerry's website to mistakenly claim that several Viet Cong were killed during the incident; McQ contends that the documents actually show that they were killed on land by soldiers the swift boats had been carrying earlier in their mission.

UPDATE: Don't forget to follow McQ's links; this and this present sober, clear-headed assessments of the available evidence regarding the March 13, 1969 engagement, with more supporting links. Frankly, this is getting to be an interesting "whodunit"-type story, even apart from its (tenuous) relevance to the presidential race.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:51 AM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
August 24, 2004

Watching Kerry on Jon Stewart - Stewart is totally in the tank for Kerry. Maybe that's not surprising; you don't expect tough questions on a comedy show. But Stewart makes it clear whose side he's on.

One interesting note: Kerry is starting to play the expectations game by noting that Bush has won every debate he's been in.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:20 PM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)

While we're in the pre-convention lull - and I assure you, faithful readers, that by next week I'll be back on the issues as far as political coverage goes - it's worth remembering what a fraud many of the attacks on President Bush's National Guard service have been. The Donovan pointed recently to an essay on Aerospaceweb.org (with useful, and let's face it, really cool pictures) on the F-102, Bush's aircraft, and on his service record. A few key excerpts (but make sure to go there and read the whole thing):

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:55 PM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Kerry Crack-Up

CrushKerry.com - not an impartial source, obviously - claims that the decision to threaten legal action against the Swift Boaters came from Kerry himself against the better judgment of his advisors. Here's what's interesting about Kerry wanting to use the courts to squelch criticism: remember the FOX lawsuit against Al Franken, which was widely reported to have been instigated by Bill O'Reilly? Remember the hue and cry on the left at O'Reilly over this?

*Matt Yglesias: "If this sort of thing is going to be typical of rightwing tactical thinking in the near future, then Bush is definitely going down in 2004."

*Kevin Drum endorsed attempts to shame the lawyers who filed the suit.

*Jack Balkin called it "A Fair and Balanced Attempt at Censorship" and added:

The most troubling aspect of the lawsuit politically is its attempt to harass a political opponent through the use of intellectual property laws. . . . We can only hope that Fox receives the bad publicity it deserves for filing this lawsuit; first, for being on the wrong side of this free speech controversy, and second, for trying to suppress people who disagree with its coverage of the news. It is particularly upsetting for a news organization to try to use the courts to suppress the speech of its political critics.

(See also Oliver Willis and Mark Kleiman)

Now, it turns out that the Democrats' presidential candidate is the same sort of glass-jawed bully that O'Reilly is. Oh, the irony.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:43 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Don't Know Much About Cambodia

Captain Ed, who's been one of the blogosphere's All-Stars lately, notes a Washington Post article that puts the final nail in John Kerry's claims to have a "memory . . . seared -- seared -- in me" of making an illegal border crossing into Cambodia on a swift boat during his tour in Vietnam.

UPDATE: But one of Kerry's "Band of Brothers," Del Sandusky, is sticking by the Cambodia story.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:24 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Quick Links

*Reuters doesn't know the difference between documents and evidence

*Joe Klein:

George W. Bush announced last Monday in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) that he wanted to bring around 70,000 troops home from Germany and North Korea over the next 10 years. In principle, that is not very controversial. The military and foreign policy priesthoods have favored that sort of restructuring since the end of the cold war. And yet, when Kerry spoke to the VFW two days later, he attacked Bush's position, using an argument with some merit but of microscopic import in the midst of a presidential campaign: he said it was a "hasty" and "political" plan and certainly not a good negotiating tactic to withdraw troops from Korea while we are trying to get the North Koreans to drop their nuclear program.

But oops. Some two weeks earlier, in an interview with George Stephanopoulos, Kerry had taken a different position: "I think we can significantly change the deployment of troops, not just [in Iraq] but ... in the Korean peninsula, perhaps, in Europe, perhaps." As you might imagine, the Bush campaign quickly pointed out the inconsistency.

The stumble raises two basic questions about Kerry's campaign. First, is he a latter-day Ron Burgundythe idiot 1970s anchorman of Will Ferrell's recent film who would read anything that appeared on his TelePrompTer? Did Kerry not remember what he had said to Stephanopoulos?

*This is unbelievable, and a good example of why Tad Devine is such a tool: blaming Bush for the Democrats' over-the-top rhetoric:

Now listen, I think we can understand Senator Harkin said something very tough today and I think I know why. Because this president and this vice president have so polarized this country, have so polarized this campaign, theyre bringing out the absolute toughest things on both sides.

Link via Hanks.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:30 PM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Candidate, Denounce Thyself

John Kerry is in a box. He's been calling on President Bush to denounce the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ad, although Bush's more generalized blast at independent "527" groups yesterday makes it harder to press that point. But what are Kerry's possible arguments for dismissing the Swift Boat ads?

1. It's Ancient History. This is the easy and logical response to attacks on something a politician did 30+ years ago under factual circumstances that have grown hazy: dismiss it as old news. Heck, Bill Clinton routinely called for people to "move on" from things he'd done while he was President. Indeed, even the Vietnamese think that the Vietnam War should be a non-issue in this campaign. But Kerry torched that bridge a long time ago; a man who introduced himself to the general electorate in July and made his Vietnam service literally the first thing out of his mouth, surrounded by his "band of brothers," can't plausibly argue that what happened in Vietnam means nothing to his campaign.

2. Independent Ads Are Bad. Given the vast array of anti-Bush spending over the past year - including Michael Moore pushing his movie's video release up to October - Kerry can't well denounce 527 groups and other independent actors in principle.

3. It's Wrong To Attack A Man's Service Record. Here's the biggest problem: if Kerry wants to stand on principle as saying you shouldn't attack a man's service record, he has a three-pronged problem: (a) he himself is attacking over 200 of his own comrades who are involved in the Swift Boat campaign; (b) he has to deal with his own past history of making false charges of widespread atrocities against American troops in Vietnam; and (c) he has personally attacked Bush's service record with the Texas Air National Guard. From Kerry's own mouth:

I think a lot of veterans are going to be very angry at a president who can't account for his own service in the National Guard, and a vice president who got every deferment in the world and decided he had better things to do, criticizing somebody who fought for their country and served

That was accompanied by this Kerry campaign press release entitled "Key Unanswered Questions on Bush's Record In National Guard." And, from Kerry's campaign spokesman, Chad Clanton:

Voters are going to have to decide: someone who volunteered to service their country when their country needed them or someone else who, you know, it speaks for itself. It is a contrast, it is a difference. There is no better test than whether someone is committed to defending their country than whether they've put their life on the line on the battlefield.

Were Kerry to take the same stand he demands from Bush, he'd have to denounce himself and his own campaign. Oops.

4. Attack The Financing. This has been Kerry's main tactic: focus on the Republican financiers of these ads rather than the men in the ads. Of course, Charles Krauthammer had the best response to this:

The Democrats have reacted to the Swift boat vets with anguished and selective indignation. This assault was bankrolled by rich Bush supporters, they charge. No kidding. Where else would Swift boat vets get the money? With the exception of the romantic few who serially marry millionaire heiresses, Swift boaters are generally of modest means. Where are they going to get the cash to be heard? Harold Ickes?

Anyway, unlike Paula Jones - about whom the charge may have had some credibility - people can't seriously believe that the 200+ Swift Boat Veterans, each one a man who served his country in wartime, have been bought off; they may or may not be the most credible individuals, but most of them seem to be gainfully employed, and some quite successful.

5. They're Lying. Of course, this is the bottom line, but it's a place Kerry doesn't want to go, because it means engaging the Swift vets on their terms: disputing whether the accusations are true. But it's all he has left, and now - with the campaign focusing on Kerry's anti-war activities, about which the only dispute is how clear it should have been to Kerry that his charges were untrue - even that is not a defense.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:16 PM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
August 22, 2004
POLITICS: Matthews v. Thurlow

I gotta say, on reading this transcript, Larry Thurlow - one of the Swift Boat vets - doesn't sound very credible to me, although it's hard to tell with Chris Matthews browbeating the guy.

UPDATE: The bottom line: even leaving aside the issue of the relevance of microanalysis of Kerry's war record to the campaign - I continue to think that Kerry's actual record is of little relevance, although if he's been lying about his record all these years that is something, whereas I also continue to think that Kerry's early-70s anti-war activities when he was preparing a run for Congress are much more relevant - it seems over-the-top for the Swift Boaters to be attacking every one of Kerry's medals. The attack on Kerry's Bronze Star (the rescue of Jim Rassman), of which Thurlow is a part, is especially central to this controversy; while the attack on Kerry's Silver Star seems mostly to involve a difference of opinion, there's a direct factual contradiction between Kerry and the other swift boat captains over (1) how many boats were present when Kerry pulled Rassman out of the water and (2) whether there was enemy fire at the time. Rassman seems like a sincere and truthful witness in support of Kerry on this point, but his vantage point may not have been that great - by his own testimony, he was under water for most of the incident and (correct me if I'm misreading this) may not have been able to tell the difference between enemy fire and fire from the swift boats at the shore - and John O'Neill has cited physical evidence supporting the Swift Vets' version of the event.

At the end of the day, it may be that some of the Swift Boaters are not being honest or don't remember things real well, although (1) that doesn't necessarily call into question the whole enterprise, since we've seen examples already of Kerry, to put it charitably, having inaccurate recollections of those events, and (2) I don't for a second think these guys have been bought off or that they are all partisan Republicans; it's much more likely that their primary motivation is bitterness at Kerry's anti-war speeches.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:27 PM | Politics 2004 | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Bob Dole Goes Postal

Bob Dole became the first major Republican to directly attack John Kerry's war record on Wolf Blitzer's show today, lighting into Kerry with startling ferocity:

BLITZER: First of all, Senator, what's your bottom line on this whole ad campaign?

DOLE: I think this can hurt Kerry more than all the medal controversy. I mean, one day he's saying that we were shooting civilians, cutting off their ears, cutting off their heads, throwing away his medals or his ribbons. The next day he's standing there, "I want to be president because I'm a Vietnam veteran."

And I think he's -- I said months ago, "John, don't go too far." And I think he's got himself into this wicket now where he can't extricate himself because not every one of these people can be Republican liars. There's got to be some truth to the charges. But this is on tape. This is on television. This is before the Senate committee.

BLITZER: Just to remind our viewers, this is when he came back from Vietnam. He testified in 1971...

DOLE: Ran for Congress.

BLITZER: Right. And he was quoting a whole bunch of other Vietnam veterans who opposed the war and making these allegations of atrocities, if you will, war crimes committed by U.S. troops. And a lot of people have always suggested that what's really angered these Vietnam veterans, the other side, is, not so much what he did or didn't do when he served in Vietnam, but what he did when he came back.

DOLE: I think that's true. And I think this ad's going to take -- it's going to be tough on Kerry because -- and he says, "Well, this is all hearsay," what he picked up from other veterans. But he said it. He said it before a Senate committee. It had worldwide attention.

BLITZER: The fact that he said on Tim Russert's "Meet the Press" a few months ago he probably went too far. He was a young man just back from Vietnam, and he probably shouldn't have said some of those things during those statements when he came home from Vietnam. Does that ease the responsibility that he has?

DOLE: Maybe he should apologize to all the other 2.5 million veterans who served. He wasn't the only one in Vietnam. And here's, you know, a good guy, good friend. I respect his record. But three Purple Hearts and never bled that I know of. I mean, they're all superficial wounds. Three Purple Hearts and you're out. I think Senator Kerry needs to talk about his Senate record, which is pretty thin. That's probably why he's talking about his war record, which is pretty confused.

BLITZER: You know, the American public seems to be paying attention to these Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads. There's a CBS poll that came out. I think this is the right poll. Here it is. Presidential choice among veterans, 37 percent support Kerry-Edwards, 55 percent Bush-Cheney. But after the convention it was at 46 percent. He seems to be losing support among veterans, which is an influential bloc of voters out there.

DOLE: You know, I think it's too early to tell what -- nobody maybe in six -- how many days left? Not many. There are eight weeks. Maybe this will be forgotten. Maybe there will be something else. But I think this has certainly damaged Senator Kerry. And I think it's partly his own doing. He can't lay out -- I remember in '96, I was the veteran in the race. Bill Clinton avoided the draft. And we didn't have all this trouble over my service versus his non-service. There wasn't much written about it. People accepted the fact that I had a record. Now there's all the talk about Bush's National Guard service. Has he told the truth? Has he released the records? And one way, I think, for John Kerry, who I consider to be a friend, is to maybe apologize to all these people for something he may have said at a very early age, and let us have those records he's given to the author...

BLITZER: Douglas Brinkley.

DOLE: Douglas Brinkley, the records and the journals...

BLITZER: Who wrote a book about his experience.

DOLE: Yes. But somebody ought to find out the facts. I think this is going to be -- could be the sleeper issue.


DOLE: . . . John McCain is absolutely correct. But as I recall, it was Terry McAuliffe who made reference to President Bush as being AWOL. They dragged up all the stuff. I think there were 80 stories in the media about the National Guard. There's only been about eight or 10 on the so-called Kerry flap.

So it seems to me they've initiated it, and now they've got into some rather murky area. But I don't -- I wish they'd forget it. It's not about whether or not you're...


DOLE: . . . . [T]hese same people now are going after Bush. I didn't see them going after Clinton in '96 because he didn't serve at all. They were going after me on my record. That's why I say we ought to get back to the issues. Let's talk about the issues.


DOLE: I don't quarrel with that. I said John Kerry's a hero. But what I will always quarrel about are the Purple Hearts. I mean, the first one, whether he ought to have a Purple Heart -- he got two in one day, I think. And he was out of there in less than four months, because three Purple Hearts and you're out. And as far as I know, he's never spent one day in the hospital. I don't think he draws any disability pay. He doesn't have any disability. And boasting about three Purple Hearts when you think of some of the people who really got shot up in Vietnam...