Friday, April 2 2004
ADIOS, JOBLESS RECOVERY?: Big number today. We're officially moving to the Krugman Orange Alert, so keep your eye on how he tries to spin this into bad news for Bush.

DASCHLE SQUEAKING: Zogby's got him up 5.6% on Thune. Early poll. Giago effect not included. Reelect @ 48.8%, unfavorable rating @ 30%.

WILL THEY NEVER LEARN?: A new Badger Poll taken from March 23-31 shows President Bush opening up a 6-point lead on John Kerry in Wisconsin. As you know, the result from this poll is almost all post-Richard Clarke's testimony and from a state so closely divided Gore won it by a measly five thousand votes in 2000.

I don't want to make too much of a single poll, nor do I want to discount the effectiveness of the President's recent advertising campaign. But I do think there is a growing body of evidence that suggests not only that Clarke's testimony didn't hurt the President, but that the overall effect of the 9/11 Commission was positive for Bush.

As the numbers continue to come in, I think the Dems are starting to realize what a kamikaze death wish it was to try and take on Bush on the issue of national security and the war on terror.The Big Lie simply isn't selling. Who's brilliant idea was it to try and convince America Bush is soft on terror anyway?

On the other hand, the White House hasn't wowed me with their handling of the matter either. They're basically winning this battle in spite of themselves.

The reason is that I just don't think the public puts much stock in what the Commission is doing. I know I don't. The way the hearings are being conducted - in public and during the middle of a heated Presidential campaign - has one side trying to revise history, the other side trying to spin details, and both sides trying to hunker down in the weeds and avoid blame. Right or wrong, that's the way Washington works.

The bad news for Democrats is that the public doesn't give a rip about who saw what memo when in early 2001. Everyone knows that for many years prior to 9/11 the government wasn't as fully focused on al-Qaeda and terrorism as it should have been. They also know there is a significant difference between 8 years and 8 months. But that's all water under the bridge.

I think we're seeing a recognition that hindsight is easy, at times cheap and of limited value in general. Yes, we care how and why 9/11 happened. But we care more about making sure it doesn't happen again.

The one thing the Commission has accomplished is to reconfirm in the public's mind that 9/11 was a cataclysmic, watershed moment in American history that (as cliche as it sounds) changed everything. Of the two candidates running for President, only one shares that belief.

It was a strategic mistake for Democrats to think the 9/11 Commission would be fertile political ground for them and for failing to recognize how the Commission would ultimately play to Bush's strength.

Guess what? They're going to make the same mistake again later this year when the 9/11 Commission report comes out on the eve of the Democratic National Convention. Some people never learn. - T. Bevan 9:21 am| Link | Email | Send to a Friend

Thursday, April 1 2004
Yesterday's acts of savagery in Iraq leave me in no mood for jokes this morning. Peggy Noonan gets it right on - except she's not nearly Old Testament enough about it. The people responsible for yesterday's atrocities need to suffer, and suffer publicly.

A small, dark part of me wants us to respond with such raw ferocity so as to leave the Baathists and bin Ladenites stunned. It's not politically correct but I'll admit it: part of me wants to see those responsible stuffed with bacon and put before a firing squad; wants to see innocents of Fallujah sent packing; wants to see that hornet's nest of evil turned into the world's biggest asphalt parking lot.

It's not going to happen, of course, nor should it. Because unlike the inhumanity on display yesterday, that's not how we operate. It's the defining difference between us and them.

We have the power to raze towns, to destroy millions of people with the push of a single button, yet we don't. Our responsibility to civilization and to mankind prevents us from even considering the possibility.

There isn't any question, however, what Islamofascists would do if they possessed even a fraction of the power we have today. The Vatican would be a smoldering pile of rubble and Manhattan would be uninhabitable for the next 200 years.

Our respect for life and our obligation as a Superpower puts us at an operational disadvantage against the enemy. But it shouldn't prevent us from responding with a show of force and justice that will send a clear message to those in Fallujah and elsewhere that such actions simply will not be tolerated.

The sooner we force the thugs and assassins in Iraq to understand that we're not playing around and we're not going away, the more lives that will be saved in the long run.

UPDATE: Hard to believe, but true.

THE O'FRANKEN FACTOR: I listened to most of The O'Franken Factor yesterday. Obviously, I'm not the target audience so it's a bit tough for me to say whether his show (as well as the entire network) is going to have any staying power. From what I heard yesterday, however, I'd have to say it doesn't look too promising.

There's no question Franken is a smart, funny guy. But my initial reaction is that the format of the show just stinks. Co-host Katherine Lanpher, formerly of Minnesota Public Radio, serves more or less as Franken's foil for the full three hours. She takes the show to and from break, introduces guests and news items and then passes them off to Franken to freelance.

For those who listen to Howard Stern, it's like the last half hour his show when he does the news with Robin, except Franken's gig is six times longer and about fifty times less entertaining.

The highlight of the show (or low light, depending on your perspective) was the interview with Bob Kerrey. Kerrey was quite critical of the Bush administration on a number of things (especially their handling of the 9/11 Commission itself) but he refused to take the bait when Lanpher and Franken went off into loony land and started asking questions about whether Bush knew any of the bin Laden family members and/or was personally involved in arranging their flight out of the country on September 11 and implying that the joint testimony of Bush & Cheney was designed to shield President Bush because he's a moron (MoDo was obviously tuning in).

As you might expect, Michael Moore was much more responsive to these same type of questions when Franken & Lanpher interviewed him during the last hour of the show.

Another problem with the O'Franken Factor is that it just didn't seem to cover much ground at all. Unlike Rush Limbaugh, who flits from subject to subject using news reports from all around the country as segues, Franken and Lanpher spent almost the entire three hours droning on about the 9/11 Commission and what liars Bush and his people are. Franken cited a number of old news articles to support his arguments, but I don't think he informed his listeners of a single thing they probably already didn't know or hadn't already heard.

All in all, the O'Franken Factor strives to be funny and informative, but instead of blending those two characteristics into a quality form of satire (like the Daily Show, for example), the show seems completely disjointed by them. The result is three hours of jabber that isn't very informative and not very funny.

UPDATE: Looks like I wasn't the only one who wasn't impressed with Franken's show: here, here, here, here, and here.

COINCIDENCE: On the same day we post this article, the AP runs this. Dumb luck, I guess. - T. Bevan 12:35 am | Link | Email | Send to a Friend

Wednesday, March 31 2004
First things first. You'll see on the left hand side of the page we have a new ad up for TNR. Please be sure to click through and visit their site. Always much interesting stuff going on over there.

Second, be sure to check out the RCP Election 2004 page. Many interesting goodies there, too.

One of the most important stories, of course, is the decision of Indian activist Tim Giago to run as an Independent in the general election rather than mount a primary challenge to Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle.

The folks at the RNC and the RSCC were already salivating at the thought of Thune knocking off Daschle in November, so they must be standing in a puddle of their own drool today.

Also news is the new Keystone poll out of Pennsylvania. One month ago Bush trailed Kerry by one point (46-47). Today, Bush still has 46%, but Kerry has dropped to 40%. It's not all Nader, either. Ralph only got 3% in this poll.

G. Terry Madonna, director of the poll at Franklin & Marshall College, gives some analysis:

"It's been a bad month for John Kerry. He had that horribly weak explanation of his vote on the $87 billion Iraq package, and Bush launched a huge television campaign here, painting him as a flip-flopper with no values, and a big-spending liberal."

"Bush's negative commercials drove up Kerry's unfavorables and pushed some of his weak supporters into the undecided column," Madonna said.

Madonna believes Clarke's accusations that Bush dropped the ball on terrorism largely reinforced the views of committed voters on both sides, failing to pay a dividend for the Democrats.

That last sentence may be the most important one of all, and it echoes John's analysis below, so keep reading. - T. Bevan 11:38am | Link | Email | Send to a Friend

9/11 COMMISSION: I was surprised at the near unanimity among political pundits this weekend that last week's hearings had hurt the President. Some of the initial euphoria among Democrats and the press that Clarke had drawn some blood might now be tempered after the latest polls showing movement toward Bush and away from Kerry.

There a lot of reasons why the Bush-Kerry numbers have improved for the President and it would be mistake to draw the conclusion that Bush's numbers have gotten better because of the hearings. Nevertheless, the Democrats' big hope that last week was some sort of watershed moment where the President suffered a serious blow to the core of his Presidency doesn't seem to have panned out.

In regard to the hearings and Clarke's charges, there are two main factors that will make this issue a positive for the President in the long run. First, like I said last week, the more the public and the press is talking about al Qaeda, bin Laden, terrorism, 9/11, etc.. that is a major positive for the President. Second, Democrats are going to regret making this such a huge issue. By attacking the President's conduct before 9/11 they have opened the door for the Bush campaign to hammer back later this year and vigorously defend President Bush's record on fighting terrorism.

It is not hard to imagine potential commercials showing the 1993 WTC bombing, the Khobar Towers attack, the African embassies, the attack on the USS Cole and the feeble response by the Clinton administration. This stands in stark contrast to the attack on 9/11 and the subsequent invasion of Afghanistan, destruction of the Taliban, invasion of Iraq and capture of Saddam Hussein.

All this past week has done is highlight the differences between the Democrats and the Republicans on the approach to terrorism. Kerry and the Democrats argue for an approach that centers around law enforcement, money for first responders and cooperation with the "international community."

Bush and the GOP have a radically different strategy that treats terrorism as a war, where the U.S. will preemptively bring the fight to the terrorists and the states that harbor them.

After watching last week's hearings is there any doubt which approach would have had a better chance of preventing 9/11? The American people aren't stupid and no amount of hyperventilating by the press is going to convince them that the Clinton response to terrorism in the 1990's was superior to the Bush response today.

While the media elite and intellectuals on the left might recoil with horror at the Bush Doctrine, given a choice the American people are going to vote for a policy of preemption as opposed to Kerry's law enforcement approach. The past ten days have only highlighted that choice and that's ultimately bad news for the Democrats.

BUSH ADS TAKING THEIR TOLL: Kerry had a tremendous six-week run from Iowa through Super Tuesday, and that run was reflected in his head-head polling against President Bush. But the 12pt swing in the most recent Gallup poll has to be troubling for the Kerry campaign.

You know there is some real blood being drawn when today's Washington Post runs a front-page headline "Bush Ads Scoring Points - Negative blitz has wiped out Kerry's lead and damaged his public image:"

The senator from Massachusetts emerged from the primaries unscathed but still little known, a condition Bush's team set about to change with an aggressive plan to define the senator before he could define himself. A month later, more voters see Kerry as "too liberal," and a solid majority says he is someone who has changed his positions on issues for political reasons -- both charges leveled by the Bush campaign's daily attacks through ads and public statements.

Looks like the Bush campaign and this White House might be a little more in control than the popular political wisdom seems to think.

ROPE-A-DOPE?: In that vein, you have to wonder whether this whole Condi Rice episode was a classic rope-a-dope strategy from the beginning. Personally I doubt it was all preplanned, and I suspect the White House simply reassessed the cost/benefit analysis and decided that the policy gain in regards to precedent wasn't worth the political damage in continuing to insist Rice not testify publicly.

Regardless of whether it was planned or not, in many ways works out better for Bush as Rice will now have the spotlight all to herself and I suspect she will lay out a very powerful case for the President. - J. McIntyre 7:23 am | Link | Email | Send to a Friend

Tuesday, March 30 2004
In public and under oath. This is good news, because I think it wasn't a smart poltical move for the White House to have Condi Rice out in public doing shows like 60 Minutes and at the same time preventing her from testifying before the Commission.

The press and many on the left are licking their chops over the prospect of seeing Rice before the Commission, and there seems to be some anticipation that her testimony is going to somehow damage the President. The exact opposite is going to happen.

Condi will do fine - probably much better than fine. Of course Richard Ben-Veniste and Tim Roemer will do their best to score some cheap partisan political points, but Condi is more than capable of handling those two.

In the end it's going to be another day the media and the country will spend talking about George W. Bush and his prosecution of the War on Terror. As I've said before, that's a winner for him, not a loser.

THE BETTER MAN WILL WIN: Yesterday in Lawrence, Kansas, James Carville told an audience of KU students:

"Let me tell you what the truth is, John Kerry is a better man than George W. Bush."

Carville also offered a prediction for November:

"I'll say this publicly: Bush is going to lose," Carville said at the news conference. "As far as I can see, going around the country -- and I'm not covering anything, this is not an off-the-record prediction -- they are not going to win re-election. The country just doesn't have any appetite to continue this. America wants something different."

Sounds like James has been spinning so hard for so long he's actually spun himself into a state of denial.

Despite all of the terrible media coverage over the last few weeks, Bush's job approval remains solid at a respectable 49.4%, including 52% in Carville's own poll released last week.

Some other results from Carville's Democracy Corps poll: Bush's mean favorability rating was 6.5% higher than Kerry's (54.9-48.5), sixty-three percent of respondents said Bush was a "strong leader" and 52% said he "offers a hopeful vision for the future."

The numbers aren't all good news for Bush, but there is plenty of evidence available in the DC poll and elsewhere to suggest the country feels just fine about keeping Bush on as President for another four years.

GOOD NEWS FOR AMERICA: Looks like we can just about say goodbye to the World Church of the Creator. - T. Bevan 11:53 am | Link | Email | Send to a Friend

Monday, March 29 2004
Well, sort of. Hans Blix stopped just short of endorsing Kerry in a Q&A in this weekend's NY Times Magazine:

NYT: What do you think of John Kerry?

Blix: I welcome his attitude toward multilateral cooperation. I think he is trying to get back to the traditional U.S. attitudes.

I've said this a thousand times, so count this as number one thousand and one: those "traditional U.S. attitudes" that Kerry is "trying to get back to" - the same attitudes that certain European leaders so desperately want us to get back to - are partly responsible for the unfettered rise of al-Qaeda and the horror of September 11. Unless we want to repeat the same mistakes and tragedies visited on the world by terrorists in the last few years, we can't go back, only forward. - T. Bevan 12:10pm | Link | Email | Send to a Friend

ELECTION 2004: Denise Majette will run for Zell Miller's seat and Jim Kolbe will get a primary challenge from his right. Two of the many stories now up on the Election 2004 page.

RICHARD CLARKE MISLED ME: We put the quote up on the front page yesterday morning, but I want to spend a minute more on it here.

At the end of Meet the Press yesterday, Tim Russert asked what seemed like a throwaway question to Richard Clarke:

Russert: Did you vote for George Bush in 2000?
Clarke: No I did not.
Russert: Did you vote for Al Gore?
Clarke: Yes I did.

This caught my attention because I thought I remembered very specifically that Clarke told the 9/11 Commission he'd voted for Bush. Turns out I was wrong, Clarke only led me to believe that's what he'd said.

Here is what Clarke said on Wednesday when questioned by Secretary Lehman about his possible "credibility problem":

"Let me talk about partisanship here, since you raise it. I've been accused of being a member of John Kerry's campaign team several times this week, including by the White House. So let's just lay that one to bed. I'm not working for the Kerry campaign. Last time I had to declare my party loyalty, it was to vote in the Virginia primary for president of the United States in the year 2000. And I asked for a Republican ballot. "

Some people have emailed to say they don't think this was an attempt by Clarke to mislead. I disagree. Even if Clarke wasn't trying to leave the Commission and the public with the false impression that he'd voted for President Bush - which I think he obviously was - Clarke voluntarily served up his voting record (i.e. the fact he'd taken a Republican ballot) to innoculate himself against charges of partisanship.

The fact that he proffered one vote as evidence and kept the other one to himself until asked directly tells you just about everything you need to know. - T. Bevan 8:19 am | Link | Email | Send to a Friend

HOW IMPORTANT IS THE PATRIOT ACT?: Pretty important. But don't take my word for it. Last week 9/11 Commissioner Lee Hamilton asked CIA Director George Tenet a simple question: why were we unable to prevent the attack. Tenet said the answer had many layers, but here's one of the biggies:

But you also had systemically a wall that was in place between the criminal side and the intelligence side. What's in a criminal case doesn't cross over that line. Ironclad regulations. So that even people in the Criminal Division and the Intelligence Divisions of the FBI couldn't talk to each other, let alone talk to us or us talk to them. Systemic issues like that: Patriot Act absolutely essential...

The truth is, is here's the unassailable fact: The terrorist is a smart operational animal. He's going to figure all this out. He's going to figure out your watch list system's better or your visa system's better, and he's going to infiltrate your country with phony documents and passports.

And then the question's going to be: How good are you inside your country in understanding what these groups are doing? How good is your domestic intelligence capability?

All the bleating about John Ashcroft digging through your Blockbuster receipts is a load of bull. Much of The Patriot Act is little more than common sense, and we're tremendously lucky as a country we ended the grossly negligent practice of not allowing the CIA and FBI to share data before it contributed to the death of even more Americans.

KERRY AND THE PATRIOT ACT: John Kerry thinks The Patriot Act is too abusive - at least the way its being employed by this administration - and that parts of it need to be rolled back.

One thing he doesn't like is the way the Bush administration has dealt with detainees. That's a fair point, and one worth debating. At least it is based on legitimate facts.

But under a section on his web site titled "Prevent Unchecked and Unreasonable Invasions of Privacy" Kerry also claims that:

The spirit of the law has been abused by the Ashcroft Justice Department, which has taken every opportunity to limit freedom and civil liberties. Given these abuses, John Kerry believes it is necessary to scale back several provisions in the Patriot Act to assure our enhanced security does not come at the expense of our civil liberties. (emphasis added)

Where's the proof for this claim? There isn't any, of course. It's just a straw man for John Kerry, Champion of Freedom™, to knock down.

Kerry lists four provisions of The Patriot Act he'll fight to do away with in his first 100 days as President. Here's the first one:

MORE OVERSIGHT OF “SNEAK AND PEEK” SEARCHES. John Ashcroft has used new authority under the Patriot Act to perform “sneak and peek” searches without ever notifying anyone and without any judicial oversight. Agents can break into a home or business to take photos, seize physical property, examine and copy computer files, load a secret keystroke detector on a computer, or download the information from a previously loaded keystroke detector.

Kerry states definitively that Ashcroft "has used the new authority" of the Patriot Act to perform sneak and peek searches "without ever notifying anyone and without any judicial oversight." Notice Kerry doesn't cite a single example as proof, however, and instead reels off a frightening list of intrusive things agents "can" do.

The reason Kerry doesn't cite an example is because he doesn't have one. The odiously named "sneak and peek" searches are also known as "delayed notification search warrants" and they've been used to catch mob bosses and drug dealers for years.

And they do require judicial oversight. The Justice Department explains why delayed notification warrants are such a valuable tool in the fight against terrorists:

In some cases if criminals are tipped off too early to an investigation, they might flee, destroy evidence, intimidate or kill witnesses, cut off contact with associates, or take other action to evade arrest. Therefore, federal courts in narrow circumstances long have allowed law enforcement to delay for a limited time when the subject is told that a judicially-approved search warrant has been executed. This tool can be used only with a court order, in extremely narrow circumstances when immediate notification may result in death or physical harm to an individual, flight from prosecution, evidence tampering, witness intimidation, or serious jeopardy to an investigation. The reasonable delay gives law enforcement time to identify the criminal’s associates, eliminate immediate threats to our communities, and coordinate the arrests of multiple individuals without tipping them off beforehand. In all cases, law enforcement must give notice that property has been searched or seized.

John Kerry has never had a problem letting the DoJ use "sneak and peek" searches against drug dealers or child pornographers but when it comes to terrorists, he's up in arms.

Provision number two of The Patriot Act to be rolled back by President Kerry:

NO UNWARRANTED SEIZURE OF LIBRARY OR BUSINESS RECORDS. The Patriot Act enables law enforcement to obtain a vast array of library and business records with minimal judicial oversight. This provision permits the FBI to conduct fishing expeditions regardless of lack of suspicion. For example, an FBI agent could walk into a library and ask for records – a list of who has checked out what book – without having any clear suspicions of terrorism. Kerry believes that this broad authority to scrutinize the subject of library patrons’ interests is a threat to free speech and free thought. He will require a court order for the information and require the FBI to show that there are specific reasons to believe that the person is an agent of a foreign power.

Again with the scary hypotheticals about FBI agents digging through our library records. So far as I know there hasn't been a single documented case of this happening.

Notwithstanding, Kerry suggests there is now too little oversight for such law enforcement activities (even though a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order is still needed) and that we should toughen up the standard for such requests. This should warm the heart of anyone hoping to emulate Zacarious Moussaoui.

Kerry also wants to repeal the jackboot tactics of "unchecked roving wiretaps" and "blanket preemption of existing checks on local law enforcement."

My bottom line is pretty simple: I'm not a terrorist. I have nothing to hide from the government. Given the fact that I'm a citizen of a free country that is unquestionably at war, I'm willing to give my government a little extra latitude to hunt down, capture, and/or kill enemies who may be living among us.

Unless and until I see proof the government is truly abusing the extra privileges we're allowing them to do this job, then I don't have a problem. The fact is there are safeguards in place to monitor application of The Patriot Act for possible abuses, as well as a sunset provision at the end of 2005.

Obviously, there is a balance to be struck between freedom and safety. Of course we would all rather have more freedom. But if trading the slightest bit of it - which doesn't really affect our daily lives at all - helps in some way to save the life of even one of our fellow citizens from a terror attack, I consider that a no-brainer.

Last point: George Bush is constantly excoriated by liberals for using fear as a political tool. Yet here we have John Kerry painting one scary scenario after another designed to make Americans fear their government for short-term political gain, when the truth is that the only people who have legitimate cause to fear The Patriot Act are terrorists who wish destroy us. - T. Bevan 10:30 am | Link | Email | Send to a Friend

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