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.

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 Maine�s 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: that�s 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 Kerry�s and John Edwards�s hair, if they can penetrate the styling gel.
The above prediction needs to be able to withstand Democrat fraud, which I�m nervous about. If Tuesday goes off as smoothly as the Afghan election, we�ll be very lucky.
Usually after making wild predictions I confidently toss my job on the line and say, if they don�t pan out, I�m outta here. I�ve 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 doesn�t 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 don�t 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.

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.

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?

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, I�ve more or less said my piece about who I�m 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…

Continue reading Why Others Are Supporting Bush

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

Kay on HMX

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.

Dogs Not Barking

Looking back over my recent take on the election, I�m actually struck by some of the things I left out. Notably, the things we�re 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 don�t see coming or big areas that we are taking for granted because things are going fairly well?

Continue reading Dogs Not Barking

Europeans for Bush

As you can see below, I�ve paid some attention to who�s been endorsing who, but I confess to being pretty shocked that Germany�s largest, in fact Europe�s 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 paper�s 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.’

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.

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?)

BASEBALL/ 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.

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.

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.

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:

I�m pretty plugged into the vets community and I�ve never, ever heard talk like I�ve 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.

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.

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!

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.


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.

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.

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 don�t 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, I�m 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 terrorist�s head is stuck on pike, I�ll be more concerned with the fate of the GOP�s L/C direction.
Until then, I want a president that I�m sure will pull the trigger, when it needs to be pulled. That president is George W. Bush.

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.

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.”

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.

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.

Continue reading Why I’m Voting for Bush

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.

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 it�s worth – I�ve always thought leadership and management ability trump raw intelligence as a measuring stick for the Oval Office – but I�ve 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.

Do The Math

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?

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.

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.

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 you�re 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.

BASEBALL/ 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.

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.

The Candidates and the Church

With the election getting ever closer, I�m uncomfortable with a lot of criticism of President Bush�s or Senator Kerry�s 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 Lowry�s column from Friday on Kerry�s 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, Bush�s 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. It�s worth considering all three.

Continue reading The Candidates and the Church

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?

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.

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.

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.

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 isn�t 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.