July 30 2004
THE KERRY MOMENT: John Kerry didn't hurt his chances
of becoming president last night. Problem is, I don't think
he helped them very much either. What I saw was a man rushing
through a rather long speech, as if he knew he had to get
it all crammed into prime time lest he be cut off before
the big finish.
and again Kerry plowed right over the audience applauding
his best lines. There was hardly any ebb or flow to the
speech; no place to catch one's breath, no moment where
Kerry took his foot off the gas to try and slow down and
get intimate with America. From about two minutes in, Kerry
was full throated and full throttle, and the effort and
pace at which he spoke showed in the way he began to perspire
and his voice seemed to grow more and more strained toward
far as content goes, there's really only one question worth
asking: did John Kerry convince enough moderates and independents
that he is a credible alternative to the current Commander
in Chief? For the moment I think the answer is "yes."
But I also don't think it's an impression that will last.
Kerry may have surrounded himself with veterans last night
and said the right words about strengthening the military
and fighting terror, but over the next three months the
public is going to learn a great deal about Kerry's record
that is at odds with the impression he tried to create last
biggest mistake of the entire convention was not running
the Kerry biographical video in prime time. It was brilliant.
The footage of Kerry fighting in Vietnam was mixed superbly
with clips that made him seem funny, warm, and strong. It
was a powerful piece of propaganda - much more so than Kerry's
actual speech - and most Americans never got a chance to
Kerry's daughters, who I thought both did a wonderful job
of opening an attractive, empathetic window through which
people could view their father. Even Max Cleland gave a
strong introduction that would have made a positive impression
other words, one of the biggest problems last night is that
America saw too much of John Kerry in person. Instead of
speaking for 46 minutes, Kerry would have been much better
off to speak for half that and to have used the video, his
daughters, and Max Cleland and his shipmates as surrogates
and character witnesses.
irony is that the Kerry campaign already knows all of this.
It's the strategy they've been using for the last nine months,
ever since Mary Beth Cahill showed up to administer CPR
to Kerry's presidential bid late last year. The simple truth
is that others
do a better job of selling John Kerry than John Kerry does
of selling himself.
night the Kerry campaign decided to change the formula.
The result is that Kerry's hour in prime time was not nearly
as effective as it could have been.
the five major speeches at the convention this year I'd
have to say Kerry's speech ranks fourth behind Obama, Clinton,
and Edwards. The only person Kerry performed better than
was his wife. But again, I don't think Kerry hurt his chances
last night so much as he
missed an opportunity to really put the pressure on
have to wait and see what the polls say. Zogby
is out this morning with a poll taken July 26-29 showing
a 5-point lead for Kerry.
points in the head-to-head race seems to me to be the break
even point for the Kerry campaign, so keep
your eye on the RCP Average. If Kerry and Edwards aren't
averaging at least a 5-point lead in this next round of
post-convention polls, I suspect you'll see the optimism
and confidence of the Democrats start to give way to doubt.
- T. Bevan 8:55 am Link
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July 29 2004
AVERAGE JOHN: Maybe my expectations for John Edwards
were too high. Or maybe he suffered in comparison to Clinton
and Obama. Either way, I thought Edwards'
speech last night was solid, but not spectacular.
speech finished a lot stronger than it started. Assuming
that viewers on the East Coast managed to stay awake through
the first 15 minutes - which included a bit of eye-glazing
wonkery - they did manage to see Edwards finish the speech
with a moving emotional allegory and some real passion.
far as I could tell from the reaction of the pundits on
television, everyone loved it. Chris Matthews gushed. John
Roberts, Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather, Judy Woodruff, Mara Liason
- they all felt the speech was effective. But watching from
my living room last night, I wasn't so sure I saw Edwards
at his best.
Kristol called it the most hawkish foreign policy speech
delivered at a Democratic convention since John F. Kennedy
in 1960. Maybe this is true, but Edwards' hawkishnesss seemed
phony to me. Kennedy was a real, committed cold warrior.
John Edwards voted
against supporting the troops in Iraq just nine months
ago to try and better position himself to win the nomination.
message to al-Qaeda that "we will destroy you"
didn't strike me as particularly convincing either. The
words sounded right but they seemed to lack a certain level
of seriousness and gravity. Maybe this is because of Edwards'
boyishness, I don't know.
the end, the only thing that mattered about Edwards' speech
is that he didn't make a catastrophic mistake. No one remembers
vice-presidential acceptance speeches anyway. Can anyone
recall what Dick Cheney and Joe Lieberman said four years
ago? Jack Kemp or Al Gore? Dan Quayle? Lloyd Bentsen? Me
the other hand, everybody remembers presidential nomination
acceptance speeches. John Kerry will give one tonight. It
will be his first real chance - and one of his only chances
between now and November - to speak directly to a large
part of the country and convince them he's the guy. It may
not be that all of Kerry's marbles are riding on tonight's
speech, but a lot of them certainly are.
Okay, okay. So some of you do remember what former VP nominees
said in their convention speeches. Judging from the emails
I've received, two most memorable were Dick Cheney's, "It's
Time For Them To Go" speech in 2000 followed closely
by Al Gore's 1996 exploitation
of his sister's death from lung cancer, which came as
of surprise given his previous boasts about having grown
up on a tobacco farm and the fact he'd taken contributions
from tobacco companies throughout his political career.
one seems to be able to remember a thing about Quayle or
Bentsen - except for the famous "you're
no Jack Kennedy" line in their debate.
BILL O'REILLY SHOULD READ RCP: Unfortunately, it
looks like Bill O'Reilly doesn't read our site. If he did,
he would have beaten Michael Moore senseless during their
"big debate" on the O'Reilly Factor Monday night.
As it turned out, O'Reilly choked time and again as Moore
hammered him with the patently disingenuous question "would
you sacrifice your child to secure Fallujah?"
addition to making the obvious points (which Michelle at
A Small Victory emphasizes here)
that our military is composed completely of willing volunteers
who are all adults pursuing what they believe is a vital
service and noble calling, O'Reilly should have used the
example of Iwo Jima that Karl Zinsmeister referenced in
our interview to flip Moore's question around and point
out just how preposterous it is when put in the proper historical
context: "Would you have sacrificed your son to secure
the course of 36 days in February and March 1945, six thousand
eight hundred and twenty-five of America's sons died to
secure a two-mile by four-mile piece of volcanic rock in
the middle of the Pacific in an invasion historians have
described as "throwing
human flesh against reinforced concrete." Not everyone
thought cost of Iwo Jima was worth it at the time.
in every war there are hundred of unheralded battles that
take the lives of soldiers which, when viewed in isolation
look disconnected from the whole. But trying to rip individual
sacrifices out of the overall context of a given war not
only demeans those sacrifices but distorts the war itself.
The securing of Fallujah is an important mission, and one
that will probably be seen as even more important 50 years
Moore would respond that Iwo Jima was part of a justified
war, whereas Fallujah is not. But that's simply Moore's
opinion - one that isn't shared by more than half the country,
by the way.
also gets us back to the central question of whether Bush
lied about WMD, which is the issue that continues to make
Moore look like a partisan buffoon by refusing to accept
or even acknowledge the continuing stream of evidence confirming
that Bush acted in good faith on the best information he
had at the time. - T. Bevan 9:55 am Link
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July 28 2004
BARACK OBAMA: More on Obama in a bit, but it appears
the hype surrounding this new face in the Democratic Party
is fully justified, something not a surprise to us here
in Chicago. Unquestionably the best speech of the convention
CANDIDATE'S WIFE: Tom's post from yesterday on
makes for an interesting read in light of her prime-time
speech last night in Boston.
always felt Teresa was going to be a liability, if for no
other reason than she is just not the average American's
vision of what a First Lady should be like. Whether that
is fair or unfair is another issue - and largely irrelevant
to the discussion of her political impact. The bottom line
is that together the accent, the money, and the attitude
produce a package that isn't always flattering to middle
I've always found Teresa Heinz Kerry to be interesting not
only because she is so opinionated and outspoken, but because
in some ways she doesn't seem too self-absorbed by the importance
of the campaign. That attitude can be refreshing in a primary
campaign with multiple candidates. It's nice to have someone
who is a little different. At some point, however, you would
expect her to understand the gravity and importance of the
situation that potentially awaits her should John Kerry
night was an opportunity for her to shed the impression
that she feels she is more important than her husband and
let the country see that she appreciates the magnitude of
what it means to be President of the Untied States. She
blew it. Last night's speech was all about Teresa. The more
you read, apparently, Teresa is all about Teresa. Coincidentally
it is eerily similar to the rap Kerry has in Massachusetts
where people always say his famous initials stand for 'Just
aside the psychoanalysis, it would have been nice to hear
a little more about the man who wants the country to elect
him president and a little less about Teresa's struggles
on her farm in Africa. I was struck by her comment that
the Peace Corps represents "one of the best faces America
has ever projected."
me, one of the best faces America has ever projected is
the face of a Peace Corps volunteer. That face symbolizes
this country: young, curious, brimming with idealism and
hope, and a real, honest compassion. Those young people
convey an idea of America that is all about heart, creativity,
generosity and confidence, a practical, can-do sense,
and a big, big smile. For many generations of people around
this globe, that is what America has represented: a symbol
of hope, a beacon brightly lit by the optimism of its
people, people coming from all over the world.
get me wrong, the Peace Corps is great. But I thought this
was a telling difference between where the heart and soul
of the Republican and Democratic parties are today. To the
activists in that hall last night and around the country,
the vision of young, idealistic Jimmy Carter protégés building
huts in impoverished villages around the world is exactly
what they think America's role in the world should be.
while Teresa and the Democrats were dreaming of the young
peace Corps volunteer I was thinking of our servicemen overseas
putting their lives on the line every day. I was thinking
of the hundreds of millions of people in the world today
over the last century who owe their freedom to the blood,sweat
and toil of the United States military.
be fair, the Peace Corps and the U.S. military are both
important faces of what is the ultimate strength of this
great country, but it is very telling that in a time of
war, when we have over 150,000 young men and women on the
field of battle in Iraq and Afghanistan the prime-time speaker
at the Democratic convention chooses to emphasis the smiling
Peace Corps student in Ecuador or Mozambique rather than
the gritty Marine in Fallujah.
to Teresa Heinz Kerry. I don't think people vote for President
because of the candidates spouse, but after last night's
speech it seems clear that Kerry's wife is going to be a
liability for him. The real question is how much and will
it matter. I'm not suggesting this is a big vote mover,
but in a race that could be extremely close, even 0.3% in
states like Ohio and Wisconsin could make all the difference
Pinkerton touched on this subject on Monday and George
Stephanopoulos on ABC's Good Morning America said
that Republican strategists felt it was the most politically
damaging speech to President Bush. Now I suspect when they
say the most damaging speech, that is in the context of
a night of speeches that did almost no damage to the President.
However, given the way the press covers the stem cell issue
it does have the real potential to be a wedge issue for
the Democrats that might be useful in moving some of that
critically important undecided 10%. J. McIntyre
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July 27 2004
TROUBLES: Teresa Heinz Kerry is getting it with
both barrels. There's this in the Boston
Herald and then this
from the July issue of Boston Magazine:
there's another trait that Heinz Kerry possesses, one
that the interviews have yet to capture, but which is
known to her employees, the sales clerks at stores where
she shops, and her Beacon Hill neighbors (and even their
children) — and which is likely to be exploited
by her husband's rivals for the presidency as the campaign
private as well as public events, Heinz Kerry sometimes
appears to operate at the very edge of what is considered
acceptable behavior, according to many people who have
seen her. At a campaign event in Boston earlier this year,
Heinz Kerry riled her husband's aides by dominating the
problem," says one woman who attended the event,
"is that she just doesn't stop talking." Kerry's
attempts to get a word in proved futile. Finally, he gave
up and went to the appetizer table. A few of the guests
rolled their eyes; one says she could swear she saw Kerry
rolling his, too.
all the negative publicity Heinz Kerry has received, the
issue of her temper has been left unexplored. She has
a sharp tongue and has been known to use it, particularly
when dealing with people in her or her husband's employ.
Former staffers for Senator Heinz, campaign workers for
Kerry, and salespeople at chic clothing shops frequented
by the heiress say she doesn't hesitate to voice her displeasure.
This conduct is so widely known in the retail world that
a woman who works in one Newbury Street boutique says
she's grateful Heinz Kerry does so much of her shopping
in Washington, and not here. Heinz Kerry complains about
everything from the kind of food and wine being served
to the time at which people telephone her home at night.
And she voices those complaints loudly and publicly, say
those who claim to have been humiliated by her.
talked to a friend of mine who interviewed Teresa and had
nothing but good things to say about her. My friend said
she was warm, funny, strong, and likeable in private. Unfortunately,
Mrs. Heinz Kerry doesn't project nearly the same image publicly,
if indeed that's really how she is.
way, another couple of outbursts like the one yesterday
and her behavior could become a liability for Kerry. It
won't help that the scrutiny of Teresa's temper will stand
in stark contrast to Laura Bush, who rarely (if ever) has
a bad word written or said about her.
don't vote for first ladies, but candidates' wives can certainly
leave either a positive or negative impression on voters
(as Hillary did in 1992 with "let them stay home and
bake cookies") which may help or hurt on the margins.
In an election that could be razor-thin - especially in
the traditional, values-oriented Midwest - John Kerry's
wife could end up costing him some crucial votes. -
T. Bevan 1:45 pm
NOTES: Let's just say the Dems are lucky the majority
of the country got to see Bill Clinton and not Al Gore and
Jimmy Carter. Clinton was his usual self: captivating, persuasive,
funny, and empathetic. His speech was partisan and tough,
but delivered without the eye-bulging, vein-popping shrillness
that has characterized the Dems for the last year or more.
Last night's line, "strength and wisdom are not conflicting
values" could and should be the signature of John Kerry's
campaign on the issue of national security.
you disagree with his politics or despise him personally,
you have to respect Clinton's political skills. He's simply
the best at what he does. He's the Michael Jordan of politics
and (to push the analogy deep into the weeds of basketball
trivia) when he's in the game Republicans always end up
looking like the
2000 when the country wanted him to just go away, Clinton
is going to be a valuable asset for John Kerry this time
around. The question is just how much effort he's inclined
to exert on Kerry's behalf given that it may possibly thwart
his wife's single minded ambition to be President for an
extra four or eight years.
Dems have to hope Clinton's performance was enough to wash
away the day's glitches. First, there was the Teresa
Heinz-Kerry "shove it" story, complete with
video that played in a loop all day long. Second, there
was the Washington
Post/ABC News poll released yesterday evening showing
Bush jumping back ahead of Kerry by 2 points and regaining
solid leads on some key internal numbers. Finally, yesterday
the public was exposed to this rather unflattering picture
of Mr. Kerry:
exactly the kind of stories you want in the news on the
opening day of your big convention.
this morning Andrew
Sullivan gushes over Jimmy Carter's performance last
night. I can only describe this as inexplicable and deluded
analysis from a Thatcherite gone wobbly. Anyway you want
to slice it, Jimmy Carter standing center stage talking
about strong national security is an absolute caricature
and a disaster for Democrats.
he is, I bet Karl Rove was doing back flips last night when
started lecturing America on how to deal with North Korea:
Korea's nuclear menace -- a threat far more real and immediate
than any posed by Saddam Hussein -- has been allowed to
advance unheeded, with potentially ominous consequences
for peace and stability in Northeast Asia. These are some
of the prices of our government's radical departure from
the basic American principles and values espoused by John
And Carter's got the Nobel Prize to prove it! Except for
the tiny, inconvenient fact that the 1994 Framework Agreement
was a total sham and the North Koreans played Carter and
"dancing" Maddie Albright for stooges. That's
some message, "John Kerry will return us to the
days when we felt more safe and more secure because people
were lying to us."
Carter is a nice guy. A sweet man. But I would think it
rather counterproductive to trot him out to undecided voters
in battleground states as an example of "security and
strength at home and abroad" or whatever the Democrats'
theme is. Who are they going to bring out next to project
strength, Warren Christopher and Janet Reno?
note: it looks like the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review had to
down the comments on Colin McNickle's convention blog
due to "inappropriate language" and personal attacks.
Seems like some Democrats are doing as Teresa does, not
as she says....
a reader sent the following email last night:
was watching Chris Matthews and he had a panel of political
commentators. One of the commentators was Ron Reagan Jr.
Ron was commenting on Al Gore's speech which had just
ended. Ron said and I quote:
"Now we know that Al Gore won the 2000 Florida election."
When he was questioned by Matthews regarding this statement,
Ron proceeded to state that a consortium of News organizations
held a recount and concluded that Gore won the vote count
Chris dropped the topic.
to be watching the exchange and I also couldn't believe
that neither Chris Matthews nor any of the other panelists
- including veteran reporter Howard Fineman - took issue
with or corrected Reagan's remark, which is the
exact opposite of the truth.
tempting to think Reagan knew the facts and tried to mislead
people about the outcome of the 2000 election. I'm inclined
to believe the opposite: that he's just a sloppy partisan
who made a buffoon of himself and wouldn't be anywhere near
a television camera to comment on politics if his last name
one last thing. You'll want to check out our revamped
poll page which we've designed to be a cheat sheet for
the coming election. It contains snapshots of everything
you'll need to stay on top of the numbers. We've added the
"send to a friend" feature to the page so be sure
to, well, send it to your friends. - T. Bevan 8:40
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July 26 2004
SAYS SUELLENTROP: Here's a bold sentence from Chris
Suellentrop this morning:
referendum on the incumbent is over. President Bush already
lost it. This presidential campaign isn't about whether
the current president deserves a second term. It's about
whether the challenger is a worthy replacement.
I'm sure that's going to come as news to44-45% of the public
who are rock solid in support of his reelection and the
49 percent of the public that currently approves of
the way President Bush is handling his job.
is trying to be cute, of course, but he's also got it wrong.
This election this November is still going to be a referendum
on Bush - though only for the ten percent or so of the electorate
who remain truly undecided. John Kerry may end up winning
the support of these voters on election day, but it's preposterous
to say Bush has already lost them - given that we haven't
had either convention or held any debates yet. -
T. Bevan 5:01 pm
WE GET TO THE BIG SHOW: We'll have more thoughts
on the convention later today. There are new state poll
numbers (see here,
and here) as
well as some national poll
results that came out over the weekend. Part II of our
interview with Karl Zinsmeister can be found (here).
posted Part I of the Zinsmeister interview over the weekend
if you can find an extra twenty minutes or so, I highly
recommend you read both parts. Karl's experience, insight,
and historical perspective produce the most forthright and
illuminating discussion of the situation in Iraq you're
likely to find anywhere.
show you what I mean, here's a clip from Part II where Karl
discusses the various factors that play into the press coverage
coming out of Iraq which many Americans (including yours
truly) find to be negatively biased toward the war, the
Bush administration, and good news in general:
factor that comes into play is a desire for instantaneous
results in the American public generally, not just in
the press corps. We’ve gotten used to these kind
of painless, antiseptic, immediate-gratification wars.
We’ve been spoiled in the Balkans and Grenada and
some other places and we’ve started to think about
war the way we think about the rest of our life: you pick
up the cell phone and you dial in the request and it’s
delivered to your front door and two days later you move
on to something else.
not the way wars go. Wars are much slower and sloppier
enterprises. Iraq is a very typical war and it’s
been done well, but I wonder if the public understands
or remembers anymore what a well-fought war is like.
been looking back at World War II recently and remembering,
for instance, the Battle of the Bulge. In the Battle of
the Bulge, American soldiers were sent to fight in waist-deep
snow with no winter clothing, and I’m thinking to
myself, “today, that would be reason to hang somebody.
What commission is going to attack them for that?”
at Iwo Jima. I believe 7,000 men were killed at Iwo Jima.
It's a four-mile by two-mile island in the middle of nowhere
with no resources. I wonder, would we, in our contemporary
worldview be able to look at that and say, "that’s
a glorious triumph for the US Marine Corps," or would
we say, "somebody’s got to be court-martialed
over that screw-up?"
think we’ve forgotten. One of the lines I quote
in my book, from a journalist named Michael Kelly, is
that you’ve got to accept death to defeat death.
And any society that’s lost track of that is in
a very precarious position because you can’t fight
really determined and ferocious enemies like Nazis or
kamikazes or mujahedeen unless you are equally ferocious
at some level and at some point.
you treat a war like a Superbowl, where you blow the whistle,
have your three hours and then blow the whistle and go
home again, you’re going to be frustrated and disappointed
because that’s not the way a difficult war gets
mutual friend Michael Barone has talked about the "zero-defect"
standard the media has today, where any mistake or any
disappointment or any mess-up in war is interpreted as
a disaster and somebody’s fault. Somebody’s
got to be blamed.
sometimes don’t know whether to giggle or cry when
I see this, when people in the media say, “Why did
we allow the looting to take place?” and I’m
thinking to myself, “Well, I guess at some level
we could be held to account for that but that’s
like saying, why do we let human beings be selfish and
do wicked things or be evil?” That’s just
the way human beings are!
there are some things you can’t control. Why didn’t
we anticipate the roadside bomb threat? Well, it had never
been done before. This is a new thing, you have to adjust.
In four or five years from now we’ll have figured
it out, but in the meantime you just have to gut it out.
is this impression among a lot of these reporters that
there was a bad postwar plan or there wasn’t any
postwar plan. My experience with combat is that the plan
goes out the window about five minutes after the fighting
starts. That’s the way combat goes, and that’s
the way combat always has gone. If you have this pointy-headed
expectation that a war is something you can plan out in
advance, write your thesis about and bring to a conclusion,
you’re going to be disappointed.
of this impression is a reflection of the fact that so
few reporters have any contact with military people or
military life anymore. It didn’t used to be the
case. It used to be that there was a lot of back-and-forth
between the elite colleges that produce our top rank reporters
today and the military. For example, seven hundred Harvard
graduates died in World War II. There was not a Chinese
wall that separated the world reporters came out of from
the world soldiers came out of.
unfortunately, that’s no longer the case. Most of
the reporters I met in Iraq don’t have any friends
at all who were in the military. They don’t have
any Uncle Louie who served. They have no contact with
the military whatever. They have very little knowledge
of who military people are or what military responsibilities
are, and that often leads them to unreasonable expectations
and bad reporting.
it’s a mixture of factors, but I think the first
step is for the media to acknowledge that they’ve
got a problem, that they’re not doing a very good
job, that the public is recognizing the problem, and that
they’ve got to figure out better ways to write about
wars in the future.
is much, much more. Don't miss it. - T. Bevan 8:45
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