Friday, August 27 2004
Four new major polls came out yesterday all showing a small lead for President Bush, except for the FOX News poll which has Kerry ahead one point among likely voters. (So much for the liberal gripes you hear about FOX's poll favoring the GOP.)

The poll dump yesterday seems to confirm the damage done to the Kerry campaign from the swift boat/Vietnam blowup over the last two weeks, as the following chart of our RCP 3-Way average indicates:

Even more troubling for the Kerry campaign, however, are the state polls of registered voters done by the decidedly not conservative Los Angeles Times that show Kerry trailing in Ohio, Wisconsin, and Missouri. It's not good news for Democrats when the front page of the Los Angeles Times runs a headline story, "Key Midwest Swing States Are Leaning Toward Bush."

Compounding the bad news for Kerry from the LA Times polls, a new IssuesPA/Pew poll of 861 likely voters in Pennsylvania shows President Bush ahead 45%-44%.

The concern for the Kerry campaign is these new polls showing the President ahead both nationally and in critical battleground states are occurring before next week's GOP convention in New York.

As Fred Barnes astutely pointed out on FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume last night, Kerry's call for weekly issue debates is a de facto admission by their campaign that they don't like the dynamic of the race as it currently exists.

The next three weeks will be crucial for the Kerry campaign. To use a sports analogy: they're no longer playing preseason games against Dean, Gephardt, Kucinich and Wesley Clark. Kerry is in the Superbowl now, and the reigning champs are staring to pound the ball up the field with a good deal of success.

Kerry and the Democrats are in a much more precarious position than the recently adopted Cook/Sabato/Broder conventional wisdom suggests. Senator Kerry must keep this race close over the course of the next few weeks, because if President Bush is able to build onhis new found lead Kerry's chances in November will be seriously diminished. J. McIntyre 9:47 pm Link | Email | Send to a Friend

Wednesday, August 25 2004
A question: imagine, just for one minute, what would happen if a few dozen of George W. Bush's former colleagues - from Harvard Business school, Harken Energy, the Texas Rangers, or from the statehouse in Austin - came together as a group to denounce his leadership skills and say he was unfit to be President.

Would big media ignore the group's story? Would The New York Times print a front page defense of Bush and try to cast doubt on the group's credibility by showing a "web of connections" to his opponent? If you answered yes to either of those questions you are, with all due respect, either hopelessly naive or living on Mars.

But that's exactly what we've seen with the Swift Boat Veterans. As Ralph Peters pointed out yesterday, the most salient fact of this entire episode is that the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth group exists at all. SBVT is an unprecedented rebuke of John Kerry's character, one that is over thirty years in the making and one that would have happened regardless of who was in the White House.

Personally - and I know many of you may disagree with me on this - I think the Swiftees made a mistake in questioning Kerry's medals. Most people aren't going to sit down and read Unfit for Command and thus aren't really going to absorb all the details of why he may not deserve a couple of them. (Public disclosure: I purposefully haven't read the book yet because in addition to already having done a good bit of personal research on Kerry's record, I wanted to experience the book's treatment in the media as most of the public would)

In the end, people generally tend to "trust the system" - whatever system that may be - and give the benefit of the doubt to the accused on the most basic of facts. One of the reasons the National Guard story never really hurt George Bush in a major way is because there was no getting around the simple fact he received an honorable discharge. To disregard this fact you'd have to start engaging in speculation and conspiracy theories, and people naturally tend to shy away from that sort of thing.

In the case of John Kerry, the basic facts are equally simple: he went to Vietnam and he won some medals while he was there. Irrespective of the circumstances surrounding each medal, unless the Swiftees can prove that Kerry won them in a way distinctly different from how everyone else won their medals (i.e. forged a report, etc), then Kerry is going to be more or less protected by the system and the public will probably give him a pass.

The problem is that by making so many detailed accusations, the Swiftees have allowed supporters of John Kerry and the press to conflate the truly important issues (like the "Christmas in Cambodia" lie and Kerry's antiwar statements) with the not so important ones.

For example, take the much-ballyhooed William Rood piece from the Chicago Tribune earlier this week. The Trib, which to my knowledge had not spent any time on the SBVT story prior to this, went with a double-front page defense of John Kerry. But both Rood's first person account and the news story that accompanied it focused exclusively on the February 28,1969 incident in which John Kerry won the Silver Star.

Even more specifically, Rood rebutted the SBVT charge that the person John Kerry killed that day was an unarmed teenager rather than a full grown VC soldier with a rocket launcher. This is so far down in the weeds as to be almost irrelevant - not to mention unprovable either way.

As I said, shifting the focus to such micro-details obscures the larger questions about John Kerry's character and motivation that should be occupying the public mind. What the Swift Boat Veterans do in a very compelling way is provide further evidence of the bigger picture that John Kerry has been, since his very earliest years, a shameless opportunist and a person of insatiable ambition.

The record is clear that Kerry had serious doubts about Vietnam before going, yet went anyway. Kerry and his supporters hold this up as a noble example of service to country. And indeed it would be - if that were the end of the story. But it's not.

Kerry conspicuously bought a video camera in Vietnam to record and reenact his exploits. He seemed excessively, even obsessively - interested in being awarded his first medal, a Purple Heart, for action on December 2, 1968. After winning three Purple Hearts he chose to leave at the first opportunity and then he immediately turned around and used his status as a decorated veteran to rise to fame by throwing these same medals (or someone else's medals and/or ribbons) away and by slandering his fellow soldiers.

And now, as with every run for public office John Kerry has ever made, he's draped those same medals around his neck, wrapped himself in the flag, and showered himself in the glory and sacrifice of service in a war that he and those in his party have hated and opposed for decades with every fiber of their being.

As Wretchard at the Belmont Club pointed out the other day, Kerry is a fitting symbol, if not the perfect one, for today's Democratic party:

If any proof were needed that the Sixties were dead, the subterfuge of the Democratic Party would be Exhibit A. Instead of running under their own colors, or barring that, changing them, they have decided to sail beneath a false flag, as if under a cloud of shame. That in itself is tacit admission that they can no longer walk in their own guise; and what is worse that they cannot look themselves in the face, nor go into battle daring to win nor willing to lose in their own name, as is the mark of men.

- T. Bevan 10:15 am Link | Email | Send to a Friend

Monday, August 23 2004
On Friday, and again this morning, Bob Herbert accused Republicans of conspiring to suppress the black vote in Florida this November. Later this week I'll take a closer look at Herbert's claim that Governor Jeb Bush and his Secretary of State, Glenda Hood, tried to specifically and secretly target African-American voters by concealing a "felon purge list."

For now, however, let's focus on Herbert's claim on Friday (repeated again today) that the vote fraud investigation in Orlando continues despite a letter from the FDLE on May 13, 2004 shutting it down for lack of evidence:

"there was no basis to support the allegations of election fraud concerning these absentee ballots. Since there is no evidence of criminal misconduct involving Mayor Dyer, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement considers this matter closed."

Herbert holds this letter up as a smoking gun and proof positive that the vote fraud investigation in Orlando is politically motivated and continues only because of Jeb Bush's desire to intimidate African-American voters. But again, Herbert is misleading.

The May 13 letter from FDLE only addressed the initial criminal complaint generated against Dyer. I've also been told the letter was written specifically at the request of the Mayor's office to help distance himself from the controversy. Here is how the Orlando Sentinel reported the release of the letter on May 14:

FDLE spokesman Tom Berlinger said the review of the complaint, done in conjunction with the Florida Elections Division, pertained only to Dyer and doesn't necessarily clear other people associated with the mayor's campaign.

Brian Mulvaney, Ken Mulvaney's brother, said he filed the original complaint alleging election fraud at the Orlando Police Department, which forwarded it to FDLE. He said Thursday he did not think FDLE conducted a thorough enough investigation to close the case.

"It's impossible they've concluded any investigation because they haven't sent one person out into the field to interview anybody," said Brian Mulvaney, who said he has received no correspondence from FDLE since he filed the complaint.

He says he and others have collected affidavits from voters who cast absentee ballots witnessed by Dyer campaign worker Ezzie Thomas. Those ballots, Mulvaney's campaign says, were improperly collected and filled out. (empahsis added)

On May 17, three days after Dyer leaked the FDLE letter clearing him of any criminal wrongdoing to the Orlando Sentinel, Ken Mulvaney's brother and his former campaign manager showed up at the FDLE office in Orlando with the 42 sworn affidavits they had collected alleging that Ezzie Thomas mishandled absentee ballots.

Based on that evidence, Orange County State Attorney Lawson Lamar, who Herbert fails to mention is both a Democrat and a longtime ally of Buddy Dyer, asked the FDLE to reopen the investigation.

On Friday I spoke with Jeff Billman, the reporter from the Orlando Weekly who wrote this detailed account of the matter. Jeff, who described himself and his paper to me as "pretty liberal" - has spoken to most all the principals in the case, including Ezzie Thomas. He said Herbert's claims are absolutely ridiculous and he's currrently writing a rebuttal to them now. We'll post it as soon as it's available.

One last thing: Billman said that Joe Egan, one of the lawyers representing Ezzie Thomas (and the firefighters union) has been shopping this "voter suppression" story around for a while now. But because the claim is so outlandish (not to mention irresponsible), nobody had been willing to take the bait until Bob Herbert came along.

Egan couldn't have found a better possible surrogate for the story. Herbert hates George W. Bush so much and is so intent on portraying Republicans as racist that he has no problem willfully misleading his readers as to the facts of this case.

Egan couldn't have found a more influential surrogate for the story, either. The day after Herbert slung the accusation of voter suppression last Monday, six Congressional Democrats (four of whom are black and five of whom are from Florida) used the misleading claims in his column to indignantly call for a federal investigation and to further inflame the racial fears and distrust among African-Americans everywhere.

Here is what Rep. Alcee Hastings had to say:

''This is just another example in the long list of efforts to stop black folk from voting. They can't stop us, so now they're trying to scare us. Well, it's not going to work.''

And this from Rep. Corrine Brown:

"I don't know who this is, and I don't know who these people are, but I want it to stop. I just don't want voters to feel intimidated. This goes back to the old Jim Crow days, and I would not think this would be going on as we speak in 2004."

That's an extraordinary statement coming from a Congresswoman whose district includes the west side of Orlando. This investigation has been going on for months and she doesn't have a clue? She needs Bob Herbert to tell her there is voter intimidation and suppression going on in her district? Corrine Brown is either completely incompetent or she's being willfully deceitful to rouse the partisan passions of African-American voters. I'll let you decide what you think is more likely.

We are definitely witnessing a case of fraud, manipulation, and intimidation - but it has nothing to do with what's going on in Orlando. - T. Bevan 10:15 am Link | Email | Send to a Friend

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